Monday, September 17, 2012

Rd 1 Agent Pitch Contest #21 - THE SIREN AND THE WHALE

The Siren and the Whale
MG fantasy
45,000 words

Query:

Twelve year-old Haitian orphan Marie's dreams come true in the siren’s undersea city—when everything real is at risk, she finds it difficult to wake up.

After rescuing Marie from a tsunami, the mythical siren promises to find her mother. All Marie has to do is stay in an underwater city and follow the siren’s rules. When she discovers a hallway filled with locked doors and a giant creature that frightens even the siren, Marie wonders what the siren is hiding. Her only friend is a girl who speaks in riddles and fears disobeying the siren.

Although the siren grants Marie the power to reshape the city to suit her imagination, Marie soon learns the siren’s gifts come at a terrible cost. As her dream city slowly replaces her memories of her past, Marie must face the ultimate decision: leave the city and lose her mother forever—or remain and lose everything else.

First 150 words:

Far below the ocean surface, off the coast of Haiti, a twelve year-old girl named Marie drifted along the currents. Dark waters wrapped around her like a cocoon as she slept fitfully. Her body twitched and jerked as images crashed and tossed in her mind. Children laughed and called her malsòti, or “weirdo”. An old woman with dreadlocks peered down over wire-rimmed glasses and scolded her for being disobedient. Their faces twirled and crashed together, becoming a giant wave that swallowed Marie, spinning her around and around until she couldn’t tell if she was up or down.
          
Help me! she screamed. Someone please help!
          
I’m here, dear one, a familiar voice said. I’ll protect you.
          
The waters in her dream parted, revealing her mother’s soft brown eyes that were the color of warm banana yam pudding. Thin lips stretched from one high cheekbone to the other in the most beautiful smile Marie could imagine.

10 comments:

SugarMagnolia said...

Thanks for participating! My plan is to read through all the entries and then begin my comments and critiques. I will give out my top ten my votes when I'm finished.

Best of luck to you, and stay tuned!

Mere Joyce said...

I really love the concept of this story...good luck!

Kathryn Rose said...

Really cool way with words here! I like your first 150. Good luck! :)

Cat said...

You perfected the query. It's lovely. I'm sooo looking forward to reading this.

SugarMagnolia said...

(Hi again! I plan to give out comments during this round, and then I'll give out my top ten votes as soon as I have critiqued everyone's queries.)

Very beautiful beginning, and I love the way you've used cultural references for Marie's description of her mother's eyes.

Your query is also very strong, too, and I can definitely see the difficult choice Marie has to make.

I was a little confused by the wording of your first sentence. I think you're *so* close there, but is there any way it could be rephrased to lose the dash? (I had to read the sentence twice to make sure I understood it.)

Besides that, everything looks great. An interesting concept, evocative writing and the promise of a great undersea story!

Angela V. Cook said...

I think this has great potential, but the hook (the first sentence in the query) right off the bat through me for a loop. It's one of those sentences you read over and over to try to make sense out of it. Like Sugar Magnolia said, it needs to be rephrased and lose the dash. It's just a really confusing start to your query. However, I thought the rest of the query was good!

The opening words confused me. What's going on? Is she dreaming? Hallucinating? I get that she's drifting around in the ocean and that she's screaming for help, but the rest of it had me saying, "Huh?"

Like I said, I think this is an AMAZING premise with great potential, but remember, you're writing for the 9-13 year-old crowd. If I'm confused, imagine how they would feel. I don't think you need to "dumb down" your writing, but just try to make it more clear and straight to the point. Keep the age of your readers in mind, because I don't think kids that age (and I have one) are going to understand what's going on. Of course, this is just one person's opinion, others may feel differently!

I hope this helps!

Dr. Milestone said...

Thanks Angela and Sugar Magnolia! That first line is an easy fix; if I take out the em dash and make it two sentences, that will probably fix it.

For the first 150, would this make it clearer by simply making a point that she's dreaming?

Far below the ocean surface, off the coast of Haiti, a twelve year-old girl named Marie drifted along the currents. Dark waters wrapped around her like a cocoon as she slept fitfully. Her body twitched and jerked as images crashed and tossed in her dreams. Children laughed and called her malsòti, or “weirdo”. An old woman with dreadlocks peered down over wire-rimmed glasses and scolded her for being disobedient. Their faces twirled and crashed together, becoming a giant wave that swallowed Marie, spinning her around and around until she couldn’t tell if she was up or down.

Help me! she screamed in her dream. Someone please help!



Do those little edits work? Or does it need more substantial revision?

Angela V. Cook said...

MUCH better. Have you queried this at all? I would try sending out about a dozen queries and see what kind of responses you get. Also, enter more contests, and utilize the forums on websites like absolute Write, Querytracker, and Agent Query Connect.

One more note on your opening query sentence--I think you need to do more than just make it two sentences. What do you mean by "everything real?" Are you referring to her real life on land or something else? And why is it hard to wake up? Because she LITERALLY can't wake up? Or because she doesn't want to face reality? You need to be a bit more specific there.

Dr. Milestone said...

I had one full request prior to completely revising the first three chapters (and a rejection), and then 2-3 form rejections. I'm seeking some more feedback on the first chapter through QT.

How does this sound for the opener to the query?

Twelve year-old Haitian orphan Marie's dreams come true in the siren’s undersea city. When she risks losing her sanity, her dream becomes a nightmare.


(The story is based on Haitian legend of the siren, who lures people underwater and then drives them mad. I'm going to mention this in the full query. There are several themes woven into the story to encourage discussion and thought, but I tried to make the story itself direct and exciting enough that kids can enjoy it without feeling there's a message being beaten into them.)

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