Thursday, February 19, 2015

Entry #33: NECESSITY

83,000 words
YA Dark Fantasy


Seventeen-year-old Mel Frost is struggling to ignore the Norns screwing with her life.

The Asgard may have been gods here on Earth a thousand years ago, but times have changed and so have they. Their promised end is coming in a final battle that will shake the nine worlds, and Mel’s small Iowa town remains trapped in the middle.

Mel has hated Wolf Elder since pre-school, but after Odin teaches her the trick of freeing her soul from her body it heads straight to Wolf. Mel soon discovers Wolf’s parents’ need for revenge is fueling this war, and they’ll use their own son to get it.

Mel’s denial runs deep, but for Wolf and their friends to have a chance, Mel must accept that the future needs her.

ABC's Once Upon a Time meets Grimm's Teutonic Mythology; this story will appeal to fans of Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS.

First 250

I feel their eyes on me. It's enough to make my skin crawl. They all want to know what comes next, but I can't tell them.

“Wake up, Mel,” a whisper, soft and warm, snaps my thoughts back into line.  I could swear I was in the meadow, but, no, this is English. Last period. Classmates. That’s who these eyes belong to. I’ve done something to get their attention.

I could swear I was just standing under my tree. I can almost feel the mist holding back the fire.

“Miss Amelia.” Mr. Albright says from the front of the class. I blink at him, trying to figure out why he’s saying my name, or at least what he was droning on about. I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing here.

“Amelia Frost,” Mr. A repeats, the disdain in his tone ringing clear as he resorts to my full name. “Perhaps you might indulge us by actually paying attention to my class rather than daydreaming.”

“What?” I ask, as eloquent as always.

“It is your turn to do the reading.” Mr. A grins in a way that is clear he’s pleased with himself, but there’s ice flowing in my veins. I start to shake my head, but he continues, his eyes on the stupid book he carries with him everywhere, “I don’t see a participation score for you. You do intend to graduate? Don’t you?”

Graduation. Eight weeks. That’s definitely something I should do. Cap, gown, all of it.


  1. I can't help but root for anything that has a book by Maggie Stiefvater as a comp title.

    The pitch leaves me wondering why Mel would want to free her soul in the first place. That seems drastic enough to warrant an explanation of her intentions if the word count limits will allow it.

    On a smaller level, the ending to the second sentence in your pitch seems like a perfect segue to describe exactly how the gods have changed.

    The first 250 give me the utmost sympathy for the main character. (But clearly not because I was ever woken up by a teacher's question in high school.) It includes the right mix of personality and mystery to make me want to read more.

    1. Now that I trust myself to answer! Thanks so much for the feedback! I did have some stuff about the gods in that second sentence, but pulled it out after doubting myself. Ah, the torment of word limits!

      And, I may be over-reaching with the mention of the soul at all. Always the dilemma between what makes my story different and what draws a reader in. I'll keep thinking!

  2. Pitch: It's definitely intriguing, but it also raises some questions it might be better to answer. How are the Norns screwing with her? What is she denying? How does her freed soul head to Wolf? Is her soul now inside Wolf's body? I'm definitely interested in these concepts, but need a clearer picture of how it all works. (Also, this is nit-picky, but I believe Asgard is the world of the gods, not the name of the gods themselves.)

    First page: Some great scene-setting here. We instantly know she's in a familiar classroom but has just has an unfamiliar experience, juxtaposing the real with the fantastical.

    1. These questions help so much! Now to decide if I want to answer these questions, improve reader comfort with them, or not have them raised in the first place.

      Ah, the eternal torment of the pitching author.

    2. Also, you're ENTIRELY right about Asgard, that should be Aesir. My only excuse is that I wrote the pitch with a 100 degree fever, and my shame at making such a basic mistake will haunt me for years to come.

  3. Has a hint of Percy Jackson verses gods in a final battle, winner takes all feel to it in the first sentence of the Pitch. Even the first scene in her school has a bit of the PJ touch.
    I have to ask: Wolf Elder - really a wolf in this or just a name? (My first vision is an old Indian man)
    In the second paragraph they dislike each other but then they are fighting together to save mutual friends.
    I really had to dig a bit to understand the Pitch.
    Why is her soul leaving her body, and is there a little love tension between her an Odin, or are you doing a Twilightesk love triangle?
    Like the opening scene on your first page. The dazed replies made me smile.
    A fellow competitor and writing friend.

    1. I have to admit, the thought of a Mel/Wolf/Odin love triangle frightens and confuses me to no end. It was certainly never my intention. Wolf is a family name, his overly clever parents thought they'd be even more clever and use the local language word for Wolf like they did for their last son who died in mysterious circumstances.

      I'm glad you like the opening! I'll think if I can make the pitch less confusing for you, or less open for interpretation.

    2. I eagerly wait for the romantic twist in this one... 'she falls for the Iowa farm boy, because he is from a long line of simple men who have never killed anyone.' J/K Anyway I look forward to seeing your revisions.

    3. He's not a farm boy, and the very short line of men he comes from is about as far as you can get from simple, and killing is pretty common for them, actually. ;) Let's put it this way... one of his brothers is a horse.

  4. Ah! You had me at THE RAVEN BOYS. I think you did a really great job with your query. 150 is so few words and I feel like fantasy writers have it tougher than most because you have to do some world building in addition to the basic plot and character summaries.

    I thought your 250 was great. The only thing I wanted to note was that I wasn't quite sure if I'm intending to take it that Mel thought she was literally in a meadow or that this is more of a daydream scenario and I'm wondering of there might be something minor you could do to point me in the right direction.

    But great job and best of luck! :)

    1. I admit, it took a LOT of hubris to compare my story to THE RAVEN BOYS, but I think it fits. And you're right, this is my first pitch with worldbuilding in it. It's such a delicate balance!

      As for the first 250, you're exactly where I want you to be! Not knowing if Mel is hallucinating, thinks she's hallucinating, or is actually in two places at once is precisely the ride I'm taking you on.

      Thanks so much for the feedback!

  5. Hi, Lana! I'm a random-thoughts kinda critque-er, so here's hoping you can follow... :)

    Ooo, Norse mythology! Fun! I love the whole freeing-her-soul-and-it-heads-to-her-enemy thing. Very intriguing--primed for romantic tension, my favorite! But then, just when you hook me with that, you drop Wolf's involvement in the second half of the pitch. I get his parents' motivation and a reference to "Wolf and their friends," but I think I want more!!

    Comps are great!

    There might be one or two times in the pitch where you can replace "Mel" with a pronoun.

    I lost the Norns in the pitch. They're only in the first line. Kinda sad about that....but is that a problem?

    OVERALL--PITCH: Super intriguing but I get a little lost in how everything connects plot-wise.

    Now on to the first 250 words...

    I really like the first line. I think it sets a nice tone for your novel--at least from what I understand about it from the pitch.

    Who whispers? A friend? Maybe it doesn't matter...

    Consider mentioning her nickname "Mel" sooner so as not to confuse the readers with two names they don't immediately connect, especially since Mel=Amelia isn't as widely known as Nikki=Nicole or Tim=Timothy or something like that.

    Same with "Mr. Albright" and "Mr. A"

    "What?" I ask, as eloquent as always. -- HA! But drop the first "as" or else you'll have to say "as eloquently as always" and that doesn't read as smoothly, at least for me it doesn't...

    "Graduation. Eight weeks. That’s definitely something I should do. Cap, gown, all of it." --Love it! Great voice!

    OVERALL--FIRST 250: Enjoyed it. Nice voice. You might consider cutting some of the back and forth with the teacher just to get to juicier stuff w/ Mel--but only to better showcase your novel with the first-250-words limitation. But, just so you know, that last line would have me totally turning the page. I definitely want to read on!

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback. It's the eternal struggle in the pitch of telling the story versus teasing the story.

      Is the whispered Mel not clear enough that it's addressing her? I'll have to consider that if that's the impression its giving off.

  6. As for the first 250, I agree with fellow writer above. Pitch-wise, it was great potential and I LOVE anything that spins mythology into the modern world, but it does struggle for focus, and I think that's the main issue.

    It begins with a great hook:
    Seventeen-year-old Mel Frost is struggling to ignore the Norns screwing with her life.

    You've probably study mythology, so "Norns" is familiar to you, but you have to think of readers. There's no reason to say that even those with a mythological background should guess what this is, as your world-building may have a different twist. Therefore, I'm expecting the next sentence to clarify, and I expect these Norns to be the center of the conflict for the entire story. Unfortunately,it doesn't really clarify, but goes on to another plot point. Before that can be clarified or connected to more, we then leap onto yet another plot point which is not explained in connection to the last or the next.

    There are several great, interesting conflict going on, but we don't know which is the most important. Is it the end that's coming, or the fact that Mel is trapped in a friend's body? What is the end? The conflict depends on a certain opposition, and we don't know what it is. There are too many details in conflict with each other instead of presenting a conflict. This in mind, all it takes is a revision that clearly shows the conflict and reorganizes the other issues as stakes propelling the story forward. That's the real treat here: organize the stakes to propel the conflict, not create several conflicts that compete with each other.

    Once it's more organized, the many things I'm confused about will disappear. Remember that ANYTHING that's brought up needs to 1) make sense in the scheme of the main conflict and 2) give the main conflict greater stakes. Those are the keys to a good pitch, a great novel, and interested parties (such as agents, eh? Eh?).

    Now just a few notes:

    "Mel has hated Wolf Elder (Who?) since pre-school, but after Odin teaches her the trick of freeing her soul from her body it heads straight to Wolf (we still don't know if this is even a girl or a boy. Or an actual wolf). Mel soon discovers Wolf’s parents’ need for revenge is fueling this war, and they’ll use their own son (Ah, there's the gender. But it could still be an actual wolf) to get it."

    "Mel’s denial runs deep, but for Wolf and their friends to have a chance, Mel must accept that the future needs her (This last hook is a little lack luster. Remember that an MC must make change, so the action give her here is of absolute importance. Here, she just has to accept the future needs her. Is that really the main conflict? Or is it setting out to sacrifice herself for the sake of her friends? Facing death to defeat a great evil? Setting out to end herself so her Iowa town won't meet the same ends? See how those are all way more interesting than "accepting"? Keep in mind Campbell's Hero's Journey: acceptance comes before the driving issue. Acceptance is such an early stage, and it's not the one readers are interested in. Besides her own denial, what is she fighting? Unless her denial IS the conflict, in which case that needs to be apparent from the beginning and throughout. Of course, you know your story best, so I'm sure you know the main conflict :) Just make sure WE do, and that details don't crowd it, but propel it forward.)"

    "ABC's Once Upon a Time meets Grimm's Teutonic Mythology; this story will appeal to fans of Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS." Love this bit. Good comp titles and marketing eye :)

    Alright! That all said, I think this sounds very exciting, and I'd certainly sit in Walmart reading it while I sat on the bottom shelf, so good luck!

    Loking forward to your help! And I wish you all the luck in coming rounds! :D

  7. Pitch:
    I echo Leslie's points on the pitch. I think it's a great concept, but parts are a bit vague. I do like the comps at the end, but I'd also recommend maybe cutting them for now and using that word count to answer some of the questions Leslie brought up. =)

    First page:
    You write "I could swear" twice near the beginning, and it seems a bit repetitive. I love the narrator's sarcasm, and the present tense gives the action a sense of urgency. I struggle with the idea of beginning with waking up from a day dream, though. On one hand, it tells us that the character isn't so into school. On the other, I think a little more action at the start may be better for the story you described in your pitch. Food for thought. Good luck!

    Domenic (#28)


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