Sunday, June 1, 2014

QK Round 1: His Little Human versus Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper

Entry Nickname: His Little Human
Title: The Black Dragon’s Mate
Word Count: 90,000
Genre: Adult fantasy romance

Query:

What a dragon wants, a dragon takes. Even if it’s a girl.

Sakina Sage, twenty-five year old diplomat with a degree in Dragonology, realizes exactly how true this age-old adage is when The Black Dragon, rumored to be the most bloodthirsty beast of the Dragon Kingdom, gets his claws into her and sweeps her off her feet. Literally.

Making a deal with the dragon is easy. Resisting his cantankerous charm for two whole weeks is not. But just when Sakina’s starting to believe she might actually be the perfect match for a dragon who may or may not eat people (she doesn’t want to ask), things go wrong. An aggravating discovery made in the Dragon Kingdom stirs up old animosities. Caught in the crossfire between dragons out for blood and a Government who wants her for leverage, Sakina will have to use all the diplomatic skills she possesses to prevent carnage and save her relationship with Drake.

As for Drake, he can sum up the situation in about three words. Two, if you’re not particular about verbs. Sakina…and mine.

First 250 words:

Excerpt from The GUAN Times (June 02, 1964)
“Today is the dawn of a new era.
The Great War has ended. The Peaceful Treaty of 1964 has been signed. This controversial treaty entitles a dragon to ‘full possession’ of any human he recognizes as a kindred ‘mate’, provided the human suffers no deliberate harm.  In return, the Dragon Kingdom shall not launch an offensive on the citizens of GUAN, but may reply in like if provoked.”

Comments on The Peaceful Treaty from all around the world

“We’re aware that some of the conditions of the treaty might seem…extreme. However, the Government pleads to all citizens of GUAN to understand that in the absence of a peaceful treaty with the dragons—at the rate the war was going on—the human race might well have been annihilated.”
Official statement by the President of GUAN

“It’s barbaric. Full ‘possession’ over the human? Has the Government gone mad?”
Annie Bézure, spokesperson for Women Rights Commission (WRC)

“Oh my God. That’s so hot. Have you seen how hot they are? I mean, sure, they breathe fire but that’s only in their dragon form and anyway, it makes them even hotter. Pun unintended. They’re, like, super hot, especially when human. I wouldn’t mind being their possession.”
Katy, teen pop star from Bargh, capital city of GUAN (West Division)

“Ummmm……ummmmm. Ummmmm…..yeah. Ummmmmm…”
Andy ‘Lion’ McDonald, reporter who was delegated to ask the dragons for a formal comment on the treaty and since his return, has been in a dazed state.


VERSUS


Entry Nickname: Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper
Title: Stealing Fire
Word count: 75,000
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Query:

Ella’s life for her father’s.  It’s the easiest decision she ever made.
 
When Ella traces her missing father to a decaying mansion, she's shocked to find him being held captive by a dangerous but devastatingly handsome man. He offers Ella a choice: Stay with him and her father can go free.
 
Lucian isn't just a crazy kidnapper wrapped in eye candy. He's the head of a group of shape shifters who live as humans by day and hideous monsters by night. Desperate to discover why none of his kind have been born in centuries, Lucian stole Ella's father, a scientist who’d previously worked with Lucian’s species on the fertility crisis. When Ella shows up and is immune to Lucian's powers, he sees a chance to get answers, certain the scientist hid them in Ella’s DNA.
 
Ella willingly trades places with her father and becomes Lucian’s prisoner. He gives her everything she could possibly want except her freedom. The more time she spends with Lucian, the harder it is to deny he’s a ruthless monster. Even so, with every sideways glance and accidental touch, she becomes more confused and Lucian comes closer to forgetting she’s not his.
 
But their days together are limited. Lucian has enemies, and they’ll do anything to keep his species from expanding. As they close in, Lucian starts to understand the safest place for Ella is far away from him. But a true beast would never give up so easily.
 
First 250 words:
Ella shoved open the door to the sheriff’s office, slamming it against the wall. So what if all the deputies were staring? Let them know she was angry.
 
Gus glanced up from his paperwork, a lazy grin planted on his face.  “Ella, if you really want to see me, all you have to do is call,” he said with his signature drawl that had all the girls in the small Maine town of Pine Springs drooling.
 
All the girls except Ella.
 
“Have you found Papa?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
 
Gus stood up from behind his desk, towering over her tiny five-four frame. “We were able to track his car down, but couldn’t find any sign of him. It’s sitting out in the middle of nowhere. He’s probably in the woods tinkering with some new invention or whatever the hell it is he does.”
 
Ella chewed her bottom lip. “He wouldn’t run off without telling me. I called the Lexington Hotel. He never checked in, and he was supposed to present at the science symposium last weekend. I haven’t talked to him in over seven days.”
 
Gus nodded like he was listening, but she recognized the glazed over look in his eyes. He’d already written her off. “Normally, that would all be quite alarming, but you can’t exactly call Dr. Murray ‘normal’.”
 
She clenched her fists and took a deep breath. “Why aren’t you taking this seriously?”
Gus moved to stand in front of the desk and set a hand on her shoulder.

18 comments:

  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes.

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    Replies
    1. Book Boyfriend ConnoisseurJune 1, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      His Little Human:

      You had me at dragons shifters! There's nothing I would change in this query. It's draws me in and definitely makes me want to read on. Unfortunately the first 250 doesn't. I personally think that this was the wrong place to start out. (or do you even need it at all?) I had to re-read it several times before I understood it was more or less a series quotes from people who I didn't truthfully care about. I love this premise too, and can really see what a good voice you have through the query, I just wish I could have met the characters first.

      Stealing Fire:

      More shifters, this time with a Beauty and the Beast premise. Love it. The query is good, but I've got a few concerns. The first line is great and sucks you right in. But that second and third paragraph (at least to me) need to be switched. I'm kind of confused as to why Lucian thinks Ella has the answers in her DNA. I know he mentions something about being immune to his powers, but what does that have to do with getting answers? The first 250 consists of five paragraphs, all having started with the name. I'm a stickler for switching that up so as not to sound robotic.

      Victory to: Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper

      Delete
    2. HIS LITTLE HUMAN

      Okay, I love this query, but for the love of all that is human (and not), please let us know in the query that Drake has a human form. Otherwise I’m picturing dragon and human getting busy, and that is a whole other genre all together. Otherwise, I really am hooked by this query!

      First 250
      Agree with Book Boyfriend Connoisseur that I love the newspaper quotes, but I really want to start off in the story with your characters rather than exposition about the dragon laws. I think the quotes would be great to come a little later, but I want to be rooted in the story first.

      BEAUTY AND THE CRAZY KIDNAPPER
      Woohoo. Love Beauty and the Beast!

      QUERY
      In the first paragraph you say “He offers Ella a choice: Stay with him and her father can go free.” What’s the other option? It’s not a choice if there is only one option.

      At the end of the query, we know the stakes for Lucian, but what does Ella have to lose? It’s obviously her story to begin with, so we need to know what her stakes are as well.

      FIRST 250
      Gahhh! I want to hear Gus’s line at the end because that will cement him as the douche we know he’s going to be. Can you shorten up the rest so we can get that last remark? Otherwise the end of the first 250 feels unfinished, like we’re waiting for the punchline. Ella’s got some great feistiness. Love this. Definitely agree on varying sentence structure and not always starting with the character’s name.

      These are so close, but I have to go with HIS LITTLE HUMAN as VICTOR.

      Delete
    3. THE BLACK DRAGON'S MATE:

      Query - First off, I'm totally with Captain Yawp, please tell us Drake is the dragon AND he's in human form because, well, yikes. Other than that, the query is great. We get a taste of voice and it's such a unique premise. The last paragraph really delivers.

      250 - Well written, but, again, I agree with the other judges... The newspaper quote was great, but a bit of a buzz kill after the query. Definitely use them later, but I'd rather step into the story. I would, however, keep reading.

      STEALING FIRE:

      Query: Retellings are big right now, and this looks fun. It seems you veer from Ella's story to Lucian's toward the end of the query which is hard to follow. Those details are good to know, but not necessary for the query. Maybe stick with Ella's story so the reader can relate and understand her stakes.

      250: Well written, but with repetitive sentence structure as already mentioned. Something is nagging at me about it feeling really close to the original telling. I'm not sure if it's the similar names, that Ella refers to her father as papa? But I can't help picture the Disney film adaptation. I am interested and would read on, but I'm not feeling overly pulled in.

      Great work and best of luck to you both. Again, a tough call, but VICTORY to HIS LITTLE HUMAN.

      Delete
    4. HIS LITTLE HUMAN -- Query is fun and really captures my attention, but I too feel that we absolutely MUST know beyond a shadow of a doubt about the dragon being in human form for the, uh, romantic encounters. Also, is the book as cheeky and humorous as the query? If it is, the query works well, if not -- I would tone down the humor in the query. (Can't tell from your first 250).
      First 250 words -- a clever start, but difficult for the reader to really engage immediately with the story. I wonder if you could save these newspaper headlines, etc. for breaks between the chapters and start with whatever comes after them? As it is, I just can't judge the actual start of your book by these 250 words -- they feel like "asides" or filler.

      BEAUTY AND THE CRAZY KIDNAPPER -- Query: I actually think you could cut the second paragraph and maybe just hint at why Lucian wants Ella and his "special nature." You could do something like: "Ella willingly trades places with her father and is imprisoned by Lucien, the head of a group of shape shifters who live as humans by day and hideous monsters by night." Then just leave out all the father being a scientist and DNA, etc. (Maybe slip in something very short and to the point about DNA research, but don't go into the detail). Jump into the 3rd paragraph and talk about Ellla and Lucian's relationship -- but try to keep it in Ella's POV. I do agree that we need to know what the stakes are for Ella at the end -- what does she stand to win or lose if A or B happens? Does she want her freedom, or does she want Lucian? Is there a real "war" in her mind and heart over this? Is her life in danger?
      First 250 words: I feel that you did bring Ella to life immediately -- I wanted to know more about her and what happened to her father. I think Gus might come off as just a bit cliché -- perhaps lose the "signature drawl" and just mention something more distinctive about him, then say that all the girls... etc. I also agree that the line about tinkering with an invention in the woods is odd -- not a likely place for modern scientists. Maybe just change it up to something like "wandering the woods thinking about his latest invention..."?

      Both are great, but because I actually feel like the first 250 words launched me into a story where I am invested right away in a character, I am giving
      Victory to: BEAUTY AND THE CRAZY KIDNAPPER

      Delete
    5. THE BLACK DRAGON'S MATE
      The tagline doesn't really intrigue me, I think because the whole dragon-stealing-a-princess thing has already been done, so a dragon stealing a girl doesn't really come as a surprise. Maybe just skip the "Even if it's a girl" part -- keep the suspense for a bit longer about what the dragon takes?

      STEALING FIRE
      Interesting twist on Beauty and the Beast! But what are the powers that Ella is immune to? Is this a dual-POV novel? Because I'm not entirely sure if this query is about Lucian or Ella.


      Victory to Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper

      Delete
    6. His Little Human: I think that the voice in the query is great so I was immediately drawn to that. I was surprised that it wasn't YA because given the voice and query, I'd assumed it was. Not sure if that's a big deal--I'm not that savvy on dragon books but I think it will appeal to those that are!
      As much as I enjoyed the query, I was a bit thrown off by the 250. I think the newspaper headlines are actually fun and clever but not a good fit to start and draw someone into your story, but that's just my opinion.

      Beauty & The Crazy Kidnapper: I really like this query-a lot. Love The Beauty & The Beast twist and think it sounds fun. The romance aspect has me so intrigued. You've done a great job laying it out simply but showing how your story is unique. My only two nitpicks though, are important ones. I think you could really do your ms more justice if you re-work the hook and the sinker (last line).
      Your 250 is pretty good--I would just take a look at structure as otters have stated. I also would do away with the question in narration in the second line. Tightening it up by omitting a little here and there (you don't have to show us there facial expression or body language with every line) will be a great way to speed things up so we can get more of Ella and Gus's dialogue.

      This was a tough one call because both queries sold me. But if I have to choose, VICTORY TO: BEAUTY & THE CRAZY KIDNAPPER
      xoxoSally Draper

      Delete
  2. HIS LITTLE HUMAN

    The query is great! Then the first 250 lose me completely. It's like unnecessary prologue. Worse, really, it's not even story. There's some cleverness in there, but I'm left without knowing what the story is going to be like because I haven't seen any of it yet.

    BEAUTY AND THE CRAZY KIDNAPPER

    Good query, but there's no stakes for Ella at the end.

    The first 250: The line about the signature drawl is trying to do too much. Using it to set the location makes it feel like infodump. And a drawl makes all the girls drool—except for Ella. So every girl in town is a drooling fool except for our heroine. I don't think it's necessary to put down the rest of the townspeople to make us root for Ella. And if this is her point of view, it doesn't make her feel very sympathetic if she sees everyone else as being beneath her.

    A moment later, Gus says "Normally, that would all be quite alarming..." and this doesn't sound remotely like someone speaking in a drawl. That's a big voice contradiction, and it makes me worried for how consistent the rest of the book is going to be.

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  3. His Little Human: I have to agree, I thought this was going to be the dragon version of dino-erotica when I first read your query. If you could just slip in a line about them shifting into human form, this will be a great query with clear stakes.

    I think I'm in the minority here, because I actually liked the quotes. But the sense I'm getting from them is that this is going to be a very tongue-in-cheek, humorous, read, but the query makes it sound more like straight fantasy (with dragon-shagging, of course). If the rest of the book carries on in the vein of those articles, I'd suggest bringing some of that humor into the query. Ultimately, I suppose I do agree that it'd be safer for querying purposes to start in the story itself and maybe work in those quotes later. But I did enjoy them, for what it's worth.

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  4. Oops, hit publish before I critiqued the second entry. Sorry!

    Beauty: This sounds like a really fun retelling, and I loved the line "crazy kidnapper wrapped in eye candy." I do agree that it sounds pretty close to the original story, though, and I'd suggest making it more clear in your query what's different and special about your version.

    For the first 250, I like that you've gotten straight into the action and set up tension between Ella and Gus, and the missing father definitely makes me want to keep reading to find out what's going on. I think you could tighten a bit here and there. For example, "Gus nodded like he was listening, but she recognized the glazed over look in his eyes. He’d already written her off." If you cut that last sentence, we as readers would infer that he'd written her off. Also, things like him moving to stand in front of his desk don't feel strictly necessary. And if you cut this down a bit, then you'd have room for the douchy Gus comment we're all anxiously awaiting.

    Good luck!

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  5. Both stories have interesting concepts.

    His Little Human: I agree with the others about mentioning that Drake shape shifts in the query. Also, "aggravating discovery" stood out to me since that makes it sound like it wasn't a huge deal, until I read the rest of the query.
    For the 250: I didn't mind the newspaper quotes, but fair warning--agents may consider it as a prologue.

    Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper: In the query, I'm confused about the "answers are in Ella's DNA."
    I love Ella's voice in the 250. Her frustration is very evident.

    Good luck to you both!

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  6. His Little Human
    I like the query, but will admit at first I read “Even if it’s a girl” as being a comment on the dragon’s gender (i.e., even if it’s a girl dragon) rather than a girl being the thing a dragon might take. Maybe consider rewording (tough, I know, because the rhythm of those first few sentences is excellent).

    I quite enjoyed the 250 as well. It’s a bit risky—that is, opening with an article excerpt and quotes/comments—but they were sufficiently entertaining (I even laughed out loud at the final two). Could probably drop the “of 1964” from “The Peaceful Treaty of 1964” though (as in, while it might be referred to that way in the future, it seems unlikely they would do so at the time).

    Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper
    I like this query too, but couldn’t understand why, if the scientist had worked with these creatures before, they didn’t just ask for his help again (i.e., instead of kidnapping him). I’m sure there’s a good reason laid out in the book for this, but I tripped on it here.

    I think the 250 works quite well. It starts us off right in the middle of the action and gives us an immediate understanding of the relationship between these characters. Ella seems spunky and strikes me as an interesting character to follow. I would suggesting changing “Papa” to “my father” though as the former makes her sound extremely young (to me anyway).

    Best wishes to both entries!

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  7. HIS LITTLE HUMAN

    I love your query. Love, love, love it! I’m afraid I have nothing that could improve it.

    And your 250 was a unique way to start and makes me want to read your book. I’m not even into romances! But after reading this, somebody, find me a dragon! :-)


    BEAUTY AND THE CRAZY KIDNAPPER

    I love this twist on a fairytale. And the elements of science really drew me in! What an intriguing story line!

    On the query, there are a few clichés. Devastatingly handsome. Eye-candy. Hideous monsters. Ruthless monster. I’d love to see you paint a picture for me to make it come alive.

    “Certain the scientist hid them in Ella’s DNA” – what are you suggesting, that Ella’s father has genetically modified Ella’s DNA? To find answers, is Lucian going to sequence Ella’s genome? Even if he did, what would that tell him? Has Lucian isolated a gene that determines whether someone is resistant to the lure of a sexy shape shifter? Can you clarify what he’s thinking here?

    I’m not skilled in this genre, but should their not be a little more sexual tension surrounding her confusion when he touches her?

    The first 250 were great. The parallel to beauty and the beast may be a little too close (with Papa especially), but it starts with the action, tells me who Ella is, and what’s going on.


    Excellent job to both of you. Good luck!

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  8. His Little Human:

    Loved the query. I agree about adding his human form earlier to avoid unwanted mental images :). The 250 is risky, and I'm not sure it's worth that risk. Also, the comments from the "pop star" seem like a modern voice, and if the story (or even just her words) is set in an alternate version of the 1960s, that doesn't work. But I'd still like to read more.

    Beauty & the Crazy Kidnapper
    There really are a lot of (too many?) similarities to the Disney version in this, especially the sheriff (Gaston?) and everyone else dismissing her concerns about her father because he's a crazy inventor. You expect some of that in a re-telling, but keep in mind that the Disney version isn't the original, so drawing on it too heavily stands out more than using elements common to all the versions. I like the tension of the opening and it seems like the perfect place to start to draw the reader in. One other nit: she bites her lip which makes her seem pensive or worried, but she's supposed to be mad and getting madder. I'd rather see her kick something or even swear. I can root for an angry MC, but if she goes mushy when everyone is being so jerky to her, she'll lose some of my sympathy.

    Best of luck to both of you.

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  9. Just a few quick comments as overall these entries are strong and sound like tremendous fun.

    HIS LITTLE HUMAN. I'd suggest dropping "Even if it's a girl." In addition to the possible confusion as to whether this refers to a dragon or its victim, girls are on the list of things I expect dragons to take. Also, I'd like a hint at why Sakina finds herself falling in love with Drake. Right now all I know is he's possessive, cantankerous, and has a limited vocabulary *BTW cantankerous charm made me think of grumpy, old men which probably wasn't what you were going for). I'm also in the minority here in that I loved the quotes - so funny. Maybe you could work them into an opening scene with Sakina. She's a diplomat, so maybe she's studying all the commentary on the treaty and reacting to it?

    BEAUTY: I was also confused as to what it meant to "hide a secret in her DNA." Also, the way the fourth paragraph is written it seems like Lucian's behavior gets worse the longer she knows him and its only a physical attraction that keeps her there. That would e quite different from the original. In the 250, I would drop "papa" - it just doesn't sound like the way a modern woman would talk to a law enforcement officer. Also, if Ella's father is a geneticist/biochemist/reproductive biologist as implied in the query, I doubt even an ignoramus like Gus would assume he was tinkering in the woods. That kind of science requires major infrastructure. Maybe he thinks he ran off with a sexy scientist he met at the convention or got a last minute invitation to an international conference or let the pressure of his speech get to him and went on a bender?

    Best of luck to both! I hope to read them someday.

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  10. His Little Human:
    Query - Fangasmic. I'm hooked. I want to read about dragon shapeshifters and their lovers. My only nitpick thing would be..."aggravating discovery"? Can we use a more powerful adjective there? If it starts to incite another war I'd like to see more drama with this discovery!
    First 250 - I loooooove this article-start. It's unique and fun and definitely brings us into the world without explaining too much and seeming info-dumpy. You also made me laugh with the teen popstar and it told me a lot too--dragons are HOT. Be forewarned though that a lot of agents like to see character in that first page...

    Beauty and the Crazed Kidnapper
    Query - Ah, nice spin on Beauty and the Beast. But because we kind of get that it's a spin on this fairy tale, maybe you can cut some of the stuff about him taking her father and really just focus on the species part? My point is that it's a little long so I think you can capitalize on the fact that we are familiar with the plot and stick to the stuff that makes it stand out.
    First 250 - Nothing really to say about the opening--it's great. I like that you jump into dialogue right away and we know what the conflict is so we're already drawn in!

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  11. His Little Human:
    Query - Ditto to all the comments about "let us know there's a human form" to Drake. Especially with the limited language skills that seem to be on display at the end, I really thought he was a possessive, unintelligent beast.
    250 - I'm in the "I love silly quotes" camp, but more specifically, I want this sort of thing to be what happens through the whole book. I'm kind of hoping that you're implying that periodically we'll get to read the ridiculous things the newspapers have to say about the plotline. If not, I agree it could come off as unnecessary prologue. As a small note, rather than the women's rights activist asking "what is the government thinking?" I was hoping for language that threw blame on a specific person. I think that's both truer to political discourse and also would be a nice world building moment. Be as specific as possible. Generally, love your humor. Good luck!

    Beauty and the Crazed Kidnapper:
    Query: Read the query and loved it. I have a very tense relationship with retellings. I LOVE them, but I'm also fussy and want them to be perfect. This one seemed like one I would enjoy.
    250: My concern was somewhat flipped from everyone else's. I'm not worried it's too much like the original, but rather too much like the Disney version. The parallels are really intense, right down to the names. Gus = Gaston, Murry = Maurice, Belle = Ella. They have all the same jobs and personalities. Gus even has his chorus of fawning girls that I'm now automatically assuming are blonde. I'm really really hoping you've mixed the rest of the story with lots of elements from other versions of the story, because right now, you might be treading too close to Disney. Gaston and Maurice, in particular are Disney property characters rather than public domain. They're not really part of the original faerie tale (the father is there, but he's usually a merchant or a king. Not a scientist). Otherwise, I feel like this is a book that would have to sell to Disney Hyperion in order to completely avoid allegations of copyright infringement. I think you can get away with being inspired by Disney's take on the story, just don't tread too close. Use the original versions as much as possible to distract from the similarities. I want this book to exist and would hate to see it trip up for legal reasons!

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  12. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 4, 2014 at 2:18 AM

    His Little Human –

    Query – I love the opening sentence. Succinct, and I get the central point of the plot.
    Is Drake the dragon? Tell me that earlier.

    I think the last sentence is strong, but it could feel stronger if you told me about how Sakina feels about Drake’s feelings. Does she like it? Is she afraid of him? You’ve given me the stakes and the conflict, but I would keep the focus on Sakina, because she is the center of this conflict.

    First 250 –
    I would not start this with an excerpt like this. It looks like plot dumping and my eyes immediately glaze over at the words I don’t understand. Excellent idea, and on the second pass I caught the voice and found it intriguing. However - as I said in the above comment about “Palm Beach”, I would not start the novel in a voice that will not last throughout the story. Take me in to the narration, let me be enveloped by the world. The jump out of this style can possibly be jarring. Remember – you don’t have a second chance at a first impression. This story is very intriguing and deserved a strong start that catches an agent’s eye!

    Beauty and the Crazy Kidnapper

    Query –
    This query is very clear, and I understand exactly what is going on. However, the parallels to Beauty and the Beast are so strong here and the market is very saturated with fairytale retellings. I would go through a few more times and make sure your voice really comes through, here. The language seems a bit bland. Give the agent a reason to believe that this story is different.
    I love this twist on Beauty and the Beast. If you played up your strengths, I really think this could get some serious attention.

    First 250 –

    I love that you jump straight in to the action, but I would give me a bit more about Ella’s feelings, here. Is this the first time she’s talked the Gus? If he’s been missing for seven days, the police would be obligated to act. If they found her father’s car, why is she having to come to Gus to get that information?

    Action and dialogue keep this first 250 hopping, but I need to be connected to Ella from the opening scene, and that means I need a little more with her. Getting in her head a bit would give us the perfect opportunity to give a little context. As it is now, this could be a really colorful screenplay.

    Both entries are amazing! But I have to make a choice... and I think that while His Little Human has amazing points for originality, I'm awarding Victory to BEAUTY AND THE CRAZY KIDNAPPER for a strong opening that hooked me in!


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