Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #12



Three years after the disappearance of his little brother, Georgie, twelve-year-old Wally Spoon hopes to build a new life in his new home, but the past isn’t as gone as Wally thinks. The trouble is just beginning when mysterious Uncle Simon, the man Wally believes took Georgie away, shows up in the neighborhood.

Things get even stranger as Wally discovers Phoebe Spider, a human girl adopted by the elf-like people known as the Timekeepers, and learns the truth: his house sits on a gateway point to the Timekeepers’ world, accessible through the spout of an old bathtub. Furthermore, Uncle Simon, a powerful magician, is planning to enter their world and steal a time machine, rewriting the past to suit his own ends. Wally and Phoebe trail Simon, hoping to learn his plans in time to stop him.

Wally wants to preserve the course of history, yet can’t help but wonder, if he could change time, would Georgie have to be lost forever? Wally must make the right choices. Time itself is at stake.

First 150 Words:

One shingle slid down from the roof, sailed past the cracked third floor window and landed with a tiny thump in a tuft of overgrown grass.
“So this is it?” Bea sneered.
Wally Spoon frowned at his twin sister. That was a bit unfair. Sure, they had just watched a piece of the roof fall right off their new house, but it wasn’t too bad. It was a big house, bigger than any house Wally had ever been in, and it might have been pretty nice back when it was built in 18-whatever. Fancy columns, for sure, though they were kind of dirty.
They climbed the stairs to the porch. Wally liked the stairs too and how they made an arch on the ground, though they had to hop over one broken step. He opened the creaky door. Some paint flaked off and stuck to his hand, but he wiped the hand on his jeans


Erin said...

1st Paragraph: Firstly, I think you do a good job of setting up the problem in your first paragraph. However, the first sentence is a little muddy in that it's difficult to tell who's the main character (George or Wally). Try starting with the main character instead: "Three years after the disappearance of his little brother, twelve-year-old Wally Spoon hopes to build a new life in his new home."

2nd Paragraph: The second paragraph gives us a lot of events, but not as much plot. To me, this sentence is the most important, "Wally and Pheobe trail Simon, hoping to learn his plans in time to stop him." You might try starting your second paragraph with this sentence, because after the last sentence in your intro paragraph, this seems like the next logical step. Simon, the man Wally believes to have kidnapped George, suddenly shows up in the neighborhood, so George and his friend Pheobe decide to follow him around. Then you can tell us what Simon's plot is: to steal a time machine.

Third Paragraph: In the third paragraph, the stakes should be really clear. What will happen if Simon succeeds, and what will happen if he doesn't?

Thank you for sharing your writing! I hope my comments help you out a little. Keep up the good work.

Christine Sarmel said...

Personally I always wish I could time travel ahead to the point where my query is already written:)

I'd love to see a little more focus on your MC. Is he ready to move on after the little brother? Or happy to be rid of an annoying sibling?

Introduce us to Wally, show us his conflict and then a clear vision of what is at stake. I have the feeling that defeating Simon may mean losing the chance to get his brother back, but it's not completely clear.

Best of luck with your query!

Katie Slivensky said...

Fantasy and time travel. Awesome. :)

I did end up a little confused in your query. I'd like to know what kind of world they live in so I can orient myself. The first paragraph could easily be non-fantasy. I'd love some fantasy hints right away!

You spend a lot of time setting up each character, but we get to hear little of the real adventure. I'd shorten up the first couple paragraphs and throw in some more lines about what the kids actually have to deal with on their journey. Concentrate on Wally's predicament and adventure. I know from experience it's hard to do a synopsis of a fantasy story in a query because there's worldbuilding to explain. I also know that you can get there!

I really enjoyed your first 150 words. I get a great since of Wally and Bea (who, interestingly, isn't part of the query). I also love the shingle falling off their house as our intro to Wally's world. Nice!

Katharina Gerlach said...

I love the concept and the sample, but the query could be a tad tighter. I don't think you could savely leave out the Timekeepers and just stick to the fact that there is a portal in time in Wally's bathtub. Also, you should make the stakes a little clearer. What would happen if time does no longer work the way we know?

Anonymous said...

I love portal stories, and I think they fulfill a wonderful role in MG -- getting imaginations going in complex, cause-and-effect patterns in kids' minds right in time for the years of schooling where they start to make their own discoveries! (Can you tell I'm a former teacher?)

There's a lot to love about this story -- missing baby brother, suspicious magical uncle, sneering twin sis. I love how family-oriented it is without your coming out and saying so.

150 -- It's well-written but a little heavy on the description. This might be a major revision, but have you considered dropping all the "Wally liked," etc. from your ms? More intimate POV when you just "talk" as the MC: "The stairs made a cool arch on the ground..." The rest of the 150 is clearly in his head already, so you can drop the liked, felt, thought, hoped, wished...I learned a name for all those verbs in writing grad school but I can't remember it now.

Same advice on the query -- though I find this task close to impossible in my own queries -- can you include more of Wally's voice in it? Easy example -- he probably wouldn't use the word Furthermore. "Yet can't help but wonder" is a little hard to tread and maybe not in a 12 yr old voice either. Little changes like that can go a long way toward achieving voice I think!

Good luck!!

Jayme said...

I would rearrange your query to get to the gateway more quickly. I would also trim things a bit. Maybe something like:

Three years after the disappearance of his little brother, twelve-year-old Wally Spoon hopes to build a new life in his new home. But when he learns his house sits on a magical gateway, accessible through the spout of an old bathtub, things get complicated.

On the other side of the spout, he meets Phoebe Spider, a human girl adopted by the elf-like Timekeepers who inhabit the land. But creepy Uncle Simon also shows up, raising Wally’s old suspicions about his brother’s disappearance. When Wally and Phoebe discovers Simon is a powerful magician who plans to steal a time machine and rewrite the past, they hope to stop him in time – but Wally can’t help wondering if rewriting the past is such a bad idea. He could have his brother back, but at what cost? Wally must make the right choice. Time itself is at stake.

I like your 150 but agree that you could tighten things a bit. For example:
A shingle landed in the grass right between Wally Spoon’s feet.
“So this is it?”
Wally frowned at his sister, Bea. Sure, they’d just watched a piece of the roof fall right off their new house, but [reason he’s upbeat -- for example: “…but renovating this old dump was the first thing their mom had gotten excited about since Georgie disappeared. The least she could do was try to be supportive.”]

I think it is most essential to establish Wally right away and to try to build a connection between him and the reader. The other description (cracked window, etc) can come in the next paragraph.

Hopefully that gets you started. I think you’ve got an interesting concept here. Keep at it! :)

Jess Schira said...

I think that you have a really good idea for a story. I love a well written time travel story. I don't really have anything to add to what has already been said by the earlier commenters regarding your pitch. I would like to add that in the first line of your excerpt there should be a comma between window and. I think the rest of your excerpt is phenomenal. Good luck!

Heidi Schulz said...

I love the concept of this story. It sounds like a lot of fun! (I also love the name, Wally Spoon. Great choice.)
The first paragraph of your query, while interesting, sounds a bit sinister to me. In your query letter, the genre will likely not be at the top of the page. Without knowing that this is fantasy off the bat, it sounds realistic and frightening.
That is cleared up when the fanciful elements are introduced in the second paragraph, but I'd like to see them a bit sooner.

I don't have anything new to add about your 150. I'd certainly keep reading.

Good luck!

Jessie Humphries said...

I don't even remember where I saw this story last. A long time ago it seems. Maybe a year ago or so I read your pitch. I don't remember. But I do remember loving it then and still loving it now. I love your title. Very MG.
Um, I think your query is pretty tight actually. I am instantly drawn in to the kidnapping of his little bro. I immediately want to hug him. And the stakes between saving time and finding his bro...ouch, that's hard. That is awesome.
As for your 150. I am wondering who Bea is since a twin sister was never mentioned in the query. That caught me off guard since I got the feeling in the query that he was all alone. And I don't know if I am totally pulled into the setting. I thought they were in the third floor room in the first paragraph. And then in the fourth I discover he is outside, climbing up the porch steps. I was definitely confused.
But I won't be forgetting Wally Spoon any time soon :)