Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #76


TITLE: Fractured Myths
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasty
WORD COUNT: 83,000
QUERY:

When sixteen-year-old fantasy fiction fan Alanna O’Connor sees Vikings, medieval knights, and mythological creatures step from a void into her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, she thinks it’s a miracle . . . until they try to kill her. All her drama—being stood up on her birthday, designing a new tattoo, even the rush from meeting an interesting and potentially decent teenage boy—falls aside as she fights for her life and sanity. Terrified and plagued by the thought that she had somehow caused this myth invasion, she teams up with the one person she hopes she can trust: the newly arrived (and completely baffled) King Arthur. While battling warriors and beasts, they develop a friendship and confront the frightful truths they discover: Arthur has fractured memories and is a fictional version of himself and Alanna was born in the mysterious Otherworld that is home to the attackers, her parentage a mystery. Rattled by these bombshells, Alanna and Arthur confront their fears, defeat the legion of monsters and the evil wizard Merlin, and step into an enigmatic future.
 

FIRST 150 WORDS:

            “Wait a bloody second,” Alanna said. “You mean you got zapped by lightning doing this?” She turned around and braced her arm against the castle’s sandstone wall, blocking Dr. Zoë Bailey’s path. “As in, you were setting up this same contraption we’re working with right now, then Boom! God went Old Testament on you?”
            Zoë tried to dodge Alanna, but her bob and weave attempt failed. Coming to a full stop, she shifted her duffel bag on her shoulder, jostling her laptop, cables, and other equipment. She avoided the girl’s eyes. “I never should have mentioned the lightning—the accident. It was—”
            But she was cut off when Alanna clapped her hands directly in front of Zoë’s face and screamed, “That’s pure dead brilliant!”           
            A few tourists bumped them as they passed under the stone arch of Froog’s Gate. Alanna keeled sideways against the wall, but her smile was undaunted. 

13 comments:

T Y said...

To start, I love the setting of your novel. Anything set in Scotland is a win as it has not been done in YA and I'm interested to experience what it's like to live in modern-day Edinburgh. The mention of fantasy fan fic, Vikings, medieval knights are all alluring and I'd read on because of that. Your premise intrigued me.

Your query, while sweet and too the point, needs emphasis on stakes. For example, if Alanna is into fan-fic, why does she want to battle all these creatures. I can infer that some of the creatures are wreaking havoc on the city, but I don't get a sense of conflict. Who is the villain? What will she lose? Her life? The world? Why is the myth invasion a bad thing?

The last part of your query reads like a synopsis.
" confront the frightful truths they discover"--> too general and I'm sorry...cliche. Maybe you could eliminate this entire part and just dive into the 'frightful' self-discoveries.

-"Rattled by these bombshells, Alanna and Arthur confront their fears, defeat the legion of monsters and the evil wizard Merlin, and step into an enigmatic future."--> You don't want to tell the agent how the story ends, drop in an evil wizard out of the blue, resolve the conflict, end with everything coming up roses. In fact, you should strive for the OPPOSITE. You need to end with tension--hair-pulling tension.

Hope this helps! You have a promising gem of a story in there and I can't wait to see it polished.

Ranee` said...

Sorry for a super-long comment. I like to add my thoughts to the sentences themselves. (My thoughts in parenthesis)

When sixteen-year-old fantasy fiction fan Alanna O’Connor sees Vikings, medieval knights, and mythological creatures step from a void (Maybe more specific? I'm not totally sure what this means.)into her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, she thinks it’s a miracle . . . until they try to kill her. (I think this is a fantastic hook. I definitely want to read on) All her drama—being stood up on her birthday, designing a new tattoo, even the rush from meeting an interesting and potentially decent teenage boy—falls aside as she fights for her life and sanity. Terrified and plagued by the thought that she had somehow caused this myth invasion (Specifics: why would she think this?), she teams up with the one person she hopes she can trust: the newly arrived (and completely baffled) King Arthur. (I think that up to this point the query is right on track, but after this is seems to go off track a little.) While battling warriors and beasts, they develop a friendship and confront the frightful truths they discover: (The colons are a bit overused. I think one per the query would be enough.) Arthur has fractured memories and is a fictional version of himself (Not sure what this means.) and Alanna was born in the mysterious Otherworld that is home to the attackers, her parentage a mystery. Rattled by these bombshells, Alanna and Arthur confront their fears, defeat the legion of monsters and the evil wizard Merlin, and step into an enigmatic future. (One of the query blogs I've read mentions leading with the "hook" -- you have a really great one -- and ending with the "sinker" -- and if you could read your hook and then go straight to the sinker, it would make sense and give the reader a sense of the stakes in the book. Sort of your one to two sentence teaser. A great "sinker" would really knock this query out of the park. Good luck! This book looks good and I would want to read it.)

Donea Lee said...

Ah, I LOVE King Arthur mythology!! And this is such a great twist on it - making Merlin evil...nice! Everything I've read makes me want to read on - I'm hooked. But - I would like the query part broken up a bit. And maybe even more specific. There seems to be a lot of generalizations where details would sell this story even better. Why does she think she may have caused the myth invasion, for example? What happens right before the void opens? And did you give us the ending there in the last sentence? I'm not sure you want to do that in your query. I can see an agent going, "Oh. So they defeat the bad guys, huh? Pass." From what I hear/read - always leave them hanging! :)

I also love the voice in your first 150 words ~ and we get a sense of setting already. The only bump is that the pov wasn't entirely clear. Some of the wording could make it from Alanna's and sometimes from Zoe's. I would make the pov crystal clear if you're telling this in 3rd person.

But - great start and concept! Best of luck to you! :)

Mara Valderran said...

I agree that I really love the premise and think you have a great hook, but the query needs more. I put my thoughts in brackets.

When sixteen-year-old fantasy fiction fan [I think this sentence feels like a tongue twister when I am reading it. Is there another way to say fantasy fiction fan?] Alanna O’Connor sees Vikings, medieval knights, and mythological creatures step from a void into her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, she thinks it’s a miracle . . . until they try to kill her. [Again, great hook! I think you should follow up with why they are trying to kill her. Maybe now would be a good opportunity to introduce evil Merlin] All her drama—being stood up on her birthday, designing a new tattoo, even the rush from meeting an interesting and potentially decent teenage boy—falls aside as she fights for her life and sanity. [Did the decent teenage boy stand her up on her birthday? It's nice to know what is going on in her regular life before this starts, but that part is confusing] Terrified and plagued by the thought that she had somehow caused this myth invasion [Why does she think this?], she teams up with the one person she hopes she can trust: the newly arrived (and completely baffled) King Arthur. While battling warriors and beasts, they develop a friendship and confront the frightful truths they discover: Arthur has fractured memories and is a fictional version of himself and Alanna was born in the mysterious Otherworld that is home to the attackers, her parentage a mystery. [I feel like this is too much information in too short a span. These are very important things. Arthur has fractured memories and it sounds like he is a shadow of his real self because of this--great source of drama and plot. Alanna's parentage is unknown but she is from the Otherworld--how does she find this out? Is this why she thinks the myth invasion is all her fault?] Rattled by these bombshells, Alanna and Arthur confront their fears, defeat the legion of monsters and the evil wizard Merlin, and step into an enigmatic future. [This last sentence doesn't make me want to read the story because I feel like I know how it ends. The good guys win--yay! But what do they have to go up against? Why is Merlin evil? What are his motivations? Is Arthur struggling to fight because he is a fictional version of his actual self? Does Alanna have to step up to the plate? How is she dealing with all of this and the battle that ensues? Give us more on the fight against Merlin and what leads up to it to reel us in even further. I feel like a good query should leave you with questions that you want to find the answers to, but not too many. You've got a great premise and a strong hook with interesting characters and plot elements, but I'd like to see the query fleshed out a little bit more.]

Jessica L. Foster said...

Your first 150 words is great. The voice is awesome. I wasn't sure how to picture Zoe's bob and weave though. It also feels strange that we get Zoe's last name and not Alanna's, but that didn't stand out a whole lot.

The query is cool. I love the first line. I was just reading along and then the last part of the first sentence is sort of bam! It really gets your attention.
But the big o block of text is hard to read. Maybe break it up?
Also, having a character with mysterious parentage is sort of cliche. It might be fine if it's well done in your book, but mentioning it in the query letter might scare agents away.

Christy said...

I agree with the comments about not giving away the ending in your query and I want to know why she is fighting against the intruders. There are some editing issues, especially with commas, and some of the sentences are hard to read as a result.
Your voice in the 150 words is strong. It may even come off a bit too strong. I don't really know if I will relate to Alanna because she might come off as obnoxious. Perhaps tone it down a bit and continue to show us her personality throughout the book. Also, I am assuming that Alanna is the POV character, but it's hard to know because you focus so much on Zoe's pov. BTW, I really like Zoe, even after just the little bit I know about her. I am relating to her more than Alanna.
Great setting and such a fun premise! Good luck!
(#74)

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

You had me at Fan Fic and Edinburgh! I love your query opening - great voice and nice character. I have to second what's already been said about your stakes: they are not very clear yet. What does Alanna want? What does she have to do to get it? What happens if she fails? Right now she's battling monsters and making friend with King Arthur - which I love - but this does not a plot make :) Show why they battle, to what end, and what's the big bad awaiting their failure. I bet it's great!

I loved the opening to your first 150. I like Alanna's spirit and enthusiasm as well as her Scottish dialogue. God went all Old Testament... lol! Fantastic voice and very funny. I'd read on. Best of luck with this!

~Shiela #69

Cheryl Hettick said...

Wow - what a great premise! I am fascinated by the story but I think there is too much going on in the query. First of all, I would cut out the "fantasy fiction fan" - too many adjectives in the first sentence can overwhelm the reader. I can follow somewhat the plot flow but you start to lose me in the last 1/3 of the query. As far as your first 150 go, your writing has lots of punch but personally I'm not a fan of starting a book out with dialogue, but that may be just personal taste. One thing you may want to watch out for, with each new speaker, you need to start a new paragraph. Hope this helps! (i'd appreciate it if you would also check mine out - I'm number 80)

Liana Brooks said...

Reading and commenting as I go...

---Query--
I think the query might give too much away. You've summarized the book, and it sounds fabulous, but there's no hook. I'd cut everything after "While battling warriors..." and just leave the opening.

--- First 150---
I'm confused... I have no place setting, no description, nothing that grounds me in place. Zoe and Alanna are just talking heads in a dark room. Well, there's a castle. I recommend working in a scent or a few colors to help ground the opening scene.

Good luck!
- L

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

In your query, there should be commas in the first sentence around the name. When sixteen-year-old fantasy fiction fan, Alana O'Connor, see

Also as the query is meant to entice, you might reconsider the last sentence where you give away the ending. Show the stakes of what happens if she loses and what she gains if she wins.

Your query came out as a block of text. That could have been a formatting error on the entry. Query shark preaches on having white space. That means adding some paragraphing to your query so it isn't one block of text.

I love your location. This sounds like a really fun plot.

Tamara said...

LOVE the first 150. It gives an instant sense of the character and you have an excellent voice.

I don't have anything to say about the query that hasn't already been said. Sorry! It just needs to be broken up into paragraphs and have the tension at the end amped up.

It sounds like you're almost there though. I just want to say that I LOVE the concept of this story, especially Arthur being a fictionalized version of himself. Too cool.

If you revise the query and you want to run it past someone, feel free to hop over to my blog and post the link in the comments. I'd be more than happy to take a look at this again. Also, if you just want to meet some new writer friends, I'd love it if you'd stop by to say hi.

Good luck with this--it sounds like SUCH a fun story.

Tamara said...

P.S. I meant to tell you that I also think this is an awesome title. The title was what made me click on it. Nice job!

Rebecca Enzor said...

First, this is Fantasy YA, not Contemporary YA - so you may want to change that for the contest.

Second, it sounds like such a fun book!

You have almost another hundred words you can use to expand on the query (~250 is the norm).

Also, you seem to give away the ending: "Alanna and Arthur confront their fears, defeat the legion of monsters and the evil wizard Merlin, and step into an enigmatic future." Give away the ending in the synopsis, not the query.

For the 150, I'm not sure a 16 year old would act like that before a Doctor (unless it was someone she was very familiar with, in which case she wouldn't think of them as "Dr. so and so"), but if she does, it certainly tells us a bit about her personality right from the get-go!