Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #77

HEIRS OF WAR, PROPHECY ORDAINED
YOUNG ADULT FANTASY
145K WORDS

Query:

Prophecies are overrated. Ariana thinks that they are no different than the horoscopes in the back of Seventeen Magazine. She doesn’t realize that her striking lavender eyes and the birthmark shaped like a pentacle on her wrist mark her as the fifth daughter of the most powerful bloodline in all the worlds. Her birth means the beginnings of an ancient prophecy foretelling the end of the war that has been escalating for generations.

Ariana leads a normal life for a teenager, ignorant of the sisters she has been separated from since birth and the destiny they share. She has never even crossed paths with her twin sister Zelene, who has led a life that belongs in the plot of the most tragic of Lifetime movies. Neither knows of the existence of Estridia, the world of their birth, but they are about to find out.

As their fates finally catch up to them, their lives are forever changed. Ariana is captured by enemies that hope to take her power for themselves. Zelene is taken back to Estridia where a loving family welcomes her with open arms and she is reunited with the three other girls of her generation. Together they make up the prophesized five, but without Ariana as the fifth they are doomed to fail. Now they must find a way to come into their powers and save her before time runs out. But when the good guys are proving to be not so good and the bad guys seem to have the wrong methods but the right ideas, where does that leave them?

HEIRS OF WAR, PROPHECY ORDAINED is a young adult fantasy novel with elements of suspense, action, and romance. Fans of the SWORD OF TRUTH series might also enjoy HEIRS OF WAR, PROPHECY ORDAINED.

FIRST 150 WORDS:


“NO! Not my child! Please, not my child!”
Solanna curled into herself, the agony of her loss twisting through her body with the pleas that continued to pour out. She was begging anyone and everyone that came into her sight to tell her that she was mistaken, that her firstborn daughter was safe and sound. Her shoulders wracked with sobs as she clung to the bars of the crib her baby had been sleeping in. She sunk to the ground, screaming for her child over and over again. The whole of Anscombe had been stirred by the sounds coming from the nursery of the main house.

Varrick knelt in front of her, his face twisted with guilt. "I am so sorry, Solanna," he whispered as his trembling hand hesitantly reached out for her. He dropped it before it made contact with her strawberry-colored hair, his temptation to smooth it fading as her brother in law approached with one of his own infants in his arms.

9 comments:

Jessica L. Foster said...

Cool concept. It sounds exciting.
is the story told from both twin's pov? It isn't clear who the main character is from the query. It sort of feels like a bit of both.
It might be better to tell how Ariana learns about her sisters rather than just that she doesn't know about them.
Also, maybe show the good guys being bad and the bad guys being good. What makes the character decide this?
Also, 145K is a bit long for a YA novel, even for fantasy.

Is the 150 words a prologue? I was confused because the character isn't either of the characters mentioned in the query. If it's a prologue, that's fine that it's not, but if it isn't it is a bit confusing.
(Well worded, exciting confusing).
Some agents have different opinions on including the prologue as chapter one or not.

Liana Brooks said...

I'm reading and commenting as I go...

---Query---

145k is too long for any YA and most adult fantasy. I don't know what the book looks like, but you could chop it in half and have two full YA fantasy novels.

Interesting opening paragraph, you have the inherent set up, but I'm guessing that someone with a star birthmark and purple eyes will think they're special.

The second paragraph is superfluous. You're just throwing nouns at me and I'm losing focus.

"...lives forever changed." Is tragically cliche. You can do better than this.

Okay... you have a good idea for a query but it dances around the subject and doesn't actually tell us about the MC. Ariana is the main character, yes? Then make her the focus of the query. Tell us about her personality, what she sees, and what she thinks. Filter it all through her perspective and cut the word count in half.

---First 150---
This is a prologue, isn't it?

It's a prologue. You pitched this whole fabulous teen story about a purple-eyed girl who reads 17 Magazine and then you pull a Bait and Switch and give us a prologue.

---Overall---

Pass. Both query and the first 150 work hard to obscure the MC. You don't want to tell me about Ariana, and I can't be bothered to care. Everything sounds like books I've read before. Without a connection to the main character, without getting any idea what her personality is like, I have nothing to latch on to and nothing to persuade me to read more.

I recommend reworking the query and considering skipping the prologue even you send out sample pages. It's technically legal, and it might get you a full request.

Good luck.
- L

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

I can't say it any better than Liana already has. All that needs to be in your query is what the MC wants, what's keeping her from getting it, and what happens if she fails. The rest, no matter how interesting, is simply getting in the way. Strip this puppy down to its bones and then add the meat. You've got a great idea - let it shine! As far as your first 150, there's lots of prologue debate - you'll have to go with your gut on this one. However, in a short sample like this, it may be advantageous to go with your first chapter instead, especially if it opens with your MC. Best of luck!

~Shiela #69

Cheryl Hettick said...

I like your first two-sentence hook but I would shorten and change it slightly to give it more punch: Phophecies are overrated. Ariana thinks they're no different from the horoscopes in Seventeen magazine. But she doesn't know her lavender eyes and birthmark are a sign she's the fifth daughter of a powerful bloodline foretold in an ancient prophecy.

If you shorten your query by distilling it down into the most important elements and make it flow better, it will pop! Hope this helps and I'd love feedback on mine (#80). Cheers!

Mara Valderran said...

Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the input. Ariana isn't the only main character. The story is centered around the five girls, but Ariana and Zelene take center stage more often, which is why the query focuses on them. It's told from third person omniscient.

I know the WC is high. :( I'm trying to cut it, but I doubt I will be able to cut it down to the standards for a new YA writer. It wouldn't work as two books, though I appreciate the suggestion.

Yup, the first 150 is the prologue. I can easily switch that to the first chapter if it isn't frowned upon. The first chapter focuses on Ariana. Should I post that on here as a comment or just leave it be?

Anonymous said...

I like your query’s hook – though I think you could combine it with the second sentence if you wanted (re-working it just a bit) for some extra punch. Wait. Now that I re-read it, I’m wondering if the reference to “Seventeen Magazine” is a good idea though because that suggests the story is set on our world—not the one(s) you’ve created.

The rest of the query makes sense which is pretty impressive given your world(s), but I wonder if you can get to the conflict without giving so much exposition. Maybe you can’t. The query is on the longer side so if you can cut more quickly to what your protagonists have to do/decide (the main conflict) and the stakes, I think that might make for a stronger query. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how you’d do that (yes, I am an amazing critique partner—I know). What if you simply say that the sisters were separated at birth, one having grown up in splendor, the other in squalor, but now due to __ they are thrown together and must ___. Something like that only less cliché?

The first 150 words are fine though it seems like you got cut off before the scene really got started. I wouldn’t mind some more imagery of the baby being taken away (oh my God that sounds so awful! I’m going to hell!).

Best of luck!

-Craig # 76

Mara Valderran said...

No worries, Craig. If you are going to hell for saying you want to see that then I am sure I will be there for writing it!

I reworked the query using some of your suggestions and also switching to the first 150 of chapter one and posted it on my blog (http://maravalderran.blogspot.com/2012/09/query-draft-3487.html). I also changed it to New Adult. I'm planning on submitting it for the pitch contest tomorrow so any last minute suggestions are more than welcome! Thanks again for all your pointers! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey,
I just checked out your new version and think it is an improvement for a number of reasons. The main thing is, I understood everything and the plot came through just fine. The only other thing you might want to finesse is making sure that we know what your main character must choose/do. Right now, it is about stuff that happens to her or around her, but she's not the one pushing the story forward.
Looks good!
-Craig

Rebecca Enzor said...

Love the mix of fantasy and contemporary in the query.

The only part I thought could be stronger was the last line: "But when the good guys are proving to be not so good and the bad guys seem to have the wrong methods but the right ideas, where does that leave them?" You really need to punch us with the stakes here. What's going to happen with the world and the family if they fail.

The 150 sounds like a prologue, but most agents don't like those, so you have to be careful. Especially since you don't mention either character in the query.