Wednesday, June 1, 2016

QK Round 1: Humanimals vs. Battle Royale

Title: The Wildlife Preserve for Mostly Human Kids
Entry Nickname: Humanimals
Word Count: 79,000
Genre: MG Fantasy

Query:

When Ricky Chase turns twelve, he learns about the world of Legionnaires, boys and girls who change into animals to battle evil, and he is whisked from his home to train at the American Preserve in NYC. Expecting a gothic fantasy castle, Ricky’s is surprised to find that the Preserve is a Daft-Punk-style New York Times skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, with techno music, auto clothing, airvators (elevators of air), and water slides that go from floor to floor on demand, all for the purpose of training the world’s most elite children in the unique craft of channeling their inner animal. Not only do Legionnaires develop their animal’s coolest abilities, but their dietary preferences as well—hopefully Ricky becomes something other than a beaver.

While Legionnaires can only channel one animal each, their enemies change into grotesque combinations, becoming fierce chimera-like warriors. Ricky struggles during his first year and ends up changing into more than one animal, casting suspicion that he is an enemy spy. When his new best friend, a Korean girl who transferred from the Asian Preserve, goes missing, he not only has to prove his innocence, but master his abilities, and channel his true animal or he’ll never defeat the real spy and save her in time.

First 250:

Ricky gazed down through his second floor window at the bustling Manhattan streets and wondered what life was like for the fourteen-thousand other foster kids in the city. The morning sun cast long shadows as people pinballed down the sidewalks, scurrying off to wherever it was they went on Sunday mornings.

The alley across the street loomed dark and quiet as usual, until a teenage boy emerged into the light and locked eyes with Ricky. He wore blue jeans and a gray hoodie, but instead of shoes, he had huge webbed feet, like an enormous bullfrog, and his hands were massive, red lobster claws.

Ricky chuckled and gave him two thumbs up for the costume. Maybe he was a foster kid too, and made extra cash dressing up for tourists in Times Square. The boy's lips curled back like a wolf protecting a kill, his eyes still locked on Ricky.

Ricky glanced over at Carlos who sat on his bed sketching a giraffe in a tuxedo. “Hey, come check out this guy’s costume.”

Carlos nestled his pencil behind his ear, its yellow shaft contrasting with his black hair. He bounced over and gazed out the window with Ricky. The boy was still there, but his lobster claws and webbed feet were gone, replaced by regular hands and shoes. Ricky shook his head. Impossible. He'd only glanced away for a second. He pulled off his glasses, cleaned the lenses with his t-shirt, and slid them back on. Same. How had he changed so quickly?

VERSUS

Title: THE LAST PRINCESS
Entry Nickname: BATTLE ROYALE
Word Count: 67,000
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy
 
 Query:
 
Twelve-year-old Cat Brökkenwier wishes her life was a fairy tale because she believes she sees magical creatures everywhere. But home school in the suburbs falls way short of satisfying her over-active imagination, and her obsession begins to influence her schoolwork and the family business. Her mother, fed up with Cat’s head-in-the-clouds attitude, takes away her treasured books and tells her it’s time she grew up.
 
After weeks of living up to Mom’s fun-sucking expectations, Cat snaps. She sneaks into the garage to rescue her beloved books while the family sleeps and stumbles upon an ancient diary all about the fae. Cat embarks on a quest to learn more and meets a centuries-old dryad who tells her the faerie-folk were real but they’ve blended in over the years until they look almost human, and Cat can spot them because she’s one of them. Oh, and since she has royal blood and this “fae-dar,” she’s a candidate to become the last Princess of the Fae.
 
Now, Cat must earn the favor of the cliquish fae-born and united them before her rival, a goblin prince, uses his sinister magic to turn them into an army ... to destroy the humans.
 
 
First 250:
 
An ogre. Definitely.
 
I could just see him through a gap in the plywood. He was standing at the end of the alley behind our booth, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts and gnawing on a big, greasy turkey leg. He had a hook nose and black hair, and one bushy eyebrow all the way across his forehead. Black hair curled on his long arms and legs, too. Classic ogre.
 
Of course, to everyone else he just looked like a regular guy. You know how some people can look up at the clouds and find elephants and pirate ships and bunny rabbits? Me, I look at people and see fairies and dwarves and trolls. And they’re everywhere.
 
I made another mark on my tally sheet and hid it under my homework. Besides the ogre, that made three pixies, one sprite, two elves, and that lady who might have been a gnome. All before lunch. Weekends at the fair always brought them out.
 
Feeling a twinge of guilt, I looked down at my homework. I was homeschooled, so Mom would be the one reading my paper – and the only thing I’d written so far was, “Catherine Brökkenwier, age 12.” I was supposed to be writing a report on Windsor Castle in England. But instead, all of these fairy-tale people just reminded me how I wasn’t a princess in my own fairy-tale castle.
 
They say, “Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.” Yeah, I’m not seeing the downside there.

19 comments:

  1. Judges, reply here with your votes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bernadine HarrisJune 1, 2016 at 9:15 PM

      Okay, I can see why I’m the first commenter. This is a really hard match up. Please keep in mind that both MG and fantasy aren’t my expertise when reading my thoughts.

      Humanimals

      I don’t have a lot of notes on the actual pages. I think you do a great job of setting up Ricky and his world without it feeling too much like an info dump. I actually work in the city, so I love the imagery of people pinballing down the sidewalks. And the reference to all the characters who have taken over Times Square. My main thoughts were on the query. I love how subtlety you acknowledged the sure-to-happen Harry Potter comparisons with the “expecting a gothic fantasy castle.” I’d reword the beaver line so it’s more from Ricky’s POV: Ricky hopes he becomes something other than a beaver. I wanted to know more about the enemies in the query, specifically I wanted a name from them and maybe a line about their life’s goal: for instance, to eliminate all kids? Turn them into one of them? I’d also look up dividing up some of your longer sentences. Some are a bit wordy and make it a bit hard to read.

      BATTLE ROYALE

      I think the voice is super strong here. I got such a great sense of Cat. I love the imagery of an ogre wearing a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts and gnawing on a big, greasy turkey leg. I would another line a bit to: That made one ogre, three pixies, one sprite, two elves, and that lady who might have been a gnome. The only thing that really felt out of place to me was the last line. The quote just felt a bit awkward to me.

      I had a few more concerns with your query. I wanted a bit more details, because the details are what are going to set your story apart and make people want to read the great pages. Give us a taste of exactly how her obsession begins to influence her schoolwork and the family business. Can you explain the quest more. Like is it this land? Another land? I also don’t think you need the “Oh” part. Finally, the Mom’s fun-sucking expectations made me laugh a little too loudly.

      As I said, this is a really tough battle. You guys both have great books that I would love to give to my niece and nephew one day. But ultimately, I’m going to with the one where the voice felt a tiny bit stronger for me…

      Victory: Battle Royale

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    2. Humanimals: Intriguing concept! It took me a bit to follow along, I feel the opening could use some tightening and perhaps a little more voice, it seems too matter of fact for something that Ricky knew nothing about.

      I love your 250! What a wonderful introduction into Ricky and his about-to-change world!

      Battle Royale: I’m a little confused, how does Cat meet the dryad? I feel the reveal that Cat is a Fae is understated, I’d love that to be more powerful, for us to get the feeling she already knew she had this fae-dar (I feared I was speculating here, until your 250, definitely bring this out!), and her reaction to the news herself.

      Excellent 250! Lots of voice from Cat and I love how you show us her world right from the first words. A nitpick, I wanted to remove the “could just see” and “was standing” in the second paragraph to strengthen the language.

      I swear, the hosts are enjoying the torture in these match ups! I really, really, REALLY want to choose both these entries, and it really pains me that I can only choose one. Victory to Battle Royale.

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    3. Oh, wow! These are both great.

      Humanimals:

      I love the query in general. You give a great sense of setting, conflict, and stakes. My suggestions for the query are only a few: First, I'd mention that Ricky finds out HE is a Legionnaire, not only that they exist. Second, I LOVE that you're going for a little voice and humor with the beaver line, but it feels a little forced to me. I'd say something like "Legionnaires take on all of their animals' traits: abilities, weaknesses, even diets--Ricky hopes he doesn't get stuck as a beaver." (That's a little awkward too, since I just made it up off the top of my head, but more of a natural lead-in from the abilities, and more of Ricky's POV?) I'd also maybe go into detail on the enemies a little more--why are they enemies? What's so bad about them? Is there a name for them, this world's equivalent of "Death Eaters" or "Sith" or whatever? I'd like to have some kind of name for them to contrast with "Legionnaires."

      As far as the first 250, I love the strong image of the boy with the webbed feet and claws, and I think it gives a good, ominous indication (much like some of the opening chapters of Harry Potter!) that Ricky's life is about to be changed by things he doesn't quite understand. The VERY FIRST LINE is a little lackluster for me. I wish something HAPPENED there. Instead, it feel like you're just saying that today was another day, and working in the fact that Ricky is a foster kid. I would EITHER start with the boy across the street, mention right off the bat that there was a kid with webbed feet, OR, follow Rowling's example and start with a "Nothing was ever going to happen to Ricky, just like it never happened to any other foster kid" opening that also sneakily makes it obvious that this is not true. I'd also like to know who Carlos is.... foster brother? Other than that, I think you're off to a great start.

      ***

      Battle Royale:

      I love how you start off with an introduction to the character that's very easy to identify with, set up both an intermediate and a long-term goal, and stakes. The idea of having to win over the clique-ish fae-born is great, and reminds me of Hermione's and Draco's arcs from the Harry Potter books (yay!). The main advice I'd give about the query is that some sentences seem a bit longer than they need to be. You could probably cut the first sentence off at "fairy tale," for example, and the sentence beginning "Cat embarks on a quest" could be split into at least two shorter, more concise sentences.

      The first 250 are interesting. I love the subtle way you've introduced the setting... do Cat and her mother work at a fair? I'm not sure the physical description of the ogre needs to be as long as it is... it would be fine anywhere but the first page, but you're putting that little bit of distance between the reader and Cat at the beginning of the story... I want to get to know HER? Her immediate goal here is also a little weak. Wanting to be a princess seems a little young for a 12-year-old, and impossible (as far as she knows) enough that I want to know what she wants in REAL life here (to be reading a book? To finish her paper? To convince her mom that ogres are real?). This reminds me a lot of the opening of Labyrinth, which is great! ...but that seemed a bit young for the character too. Possibly also a matter of personal taste.

      ***

      These entries are both amazing, and I'd probably keep reading both if I were an agent. But since I can't vote both, I'm going with the concept that seems a little fresher, and a little less "chosen one"... so, largely a matter of personal taste:

      Victory to.... HUMANIMALS!

      Delete
    4. Humanimals:

      I really want to read this, NOW! The world you’re building is sketched so well in the Query and First 250 that I can see it clearly, and I feel as surprised as Ricky discovering it. Just a few notes… On the query, I agree with the other judges that while the beaver line made me laugh out loud, it feels a little forced. Try switching it up so it’s in Ricky’s voice - “Ricky hopes he doesn’t…” I’d also add my vote to giving us a little more on the big bad. What does the enemy want? Why are they spying? I think if you do that, it will also strengthen the stakes line. On the First 250, that pinball line is fantastic! I’m in SF, not NYC, but the same visual holds true. And it's particularly good for an MG voice. That's an analogy a 12 year old would make. I am a little confused as to where Ricky is, though. In a different foster home? Otherwise, his voice rings true and the humor and wonder are there already. Great job!

      Battle Royale:

      The voice in the First 250 is spot on. Hilarious imagery while also giving us an eye into Cat’s frustrating circumstances. She can see all these wild things and she can’t do anything about them. Moreover, she’s made to feel guilty about it. As with Humanimals, I’m a little confused as to where she is. At the fair? That seems to be the case, but she’s doing homework. In a booth then? Just a technical point. Otherwise, this definitely hooks me. It doesn’t seem to sync up with the query, though. The First 250 reads like she already knows she’s magical; the query like she doesn’t discover that for a while. Also in the query, I’d like to know a bit more about the rival and why it matters to Cat to protect the human race.

      Victory to Humanimals!

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    5. HUMANIMALS & BATTLE ROYALE:

      Well, this is a first. My suggestions are essentially the same for both in that the 250s are great. They pull in the reader with interesting details and totally give a voice to the MC. Great, great job! As for the queries . . .

      They both have strong first paragraphs, and then, for me, kind of veer off. In Humanimals I think you need something about the overall purpose of the Humanimals—what they’re fighting and why a spy is so devastating. Why are there enemies? What’s the conflict between the groups? Also, what is Ricky accused of? Killing his friend? Overall, I think that can be tightened/better explained.

      In Battle Royale, the jump to the dryad needs to be clearer, and “embarks on a quest” and “learning more” are way too vague since MG characters are always embarking on quests. Does she travel to another land? How does a dryad come into the picture? Like in Humanimals’ query, I think there needs to be some clarification and more specificity as to the basis of the personal conflict and stakes. (also, should be unite, not united).

      Ugh. This one is so close. I’m going to have to go with the concept I’d prefer to read simply because you tied on 250 and tied on query. So . . .

      VICTORY TO BATTLE ROYALE!

      Delete
    6. Wow! Really tough match.

      I think the other judges have done a wonderful job in thoroughly analyzing some of the issues here. I’d basically reiterate what Buttercup says below. I think the first 250 words of each entry are marvelous. On the query side, I agree that Humanimals could use a tad more voice and Battle Royale would benefit from a bit more clarity (Bernadine’s analysis is great).

      I love both entries but I must say that I am so totally smitten with the concept of Humanimals that I have to give it my vote!

      Delete
    7. I can see why this one has been giving other judges so much trouble!

      HUMANIMALS - I think this is basically the perfect concept for a MG book. The one thing I think is missing from the query is the WHY. I don't know why the legionnaires exist and why they need to train. I also don't get much voice from the query.

      BATTLE ROYALE - Also a good concept, though I've seen it many times, so I want to know why your story is different from other fae books. What makes is stand out?

      For concept, I'm going with VICTORY TO HUMANIMALS!

      Delete
    8. Jumping in on the last day to vote! Since the 250s for both of these entries draw me in equally, I’ll focus on the queries in my critique, then overall for voting. I didn’t read other comments and apologize if I repeat.

      Humanimals:

      What a cool premise! My only concern is that your query seems to bog down with worldbuilding details about the school, and we lose Ricky’s voice. I think you could easily fix this by presenting the worldbuilding from his pov. Keep him present in the query and show the world by how it impacts him.

      Who is the enemy that can change into grotesque animal combinations? Is the world at war? A little more detail about who the enemy is and why it’s important to defeat them may add to your stakes.

      I also think you should bring his friend into the first paragraph, so we have an idea who she is from the start. Then, when she’s kidnapped, we rooting for Ricky to save her.

      Battle Royale:

      In my opinion, you’ve got too much going on in your query. The first part shouts contemporary, and I love the part about her saving her books, but I’m jarred when this turns into a quest to earn the fae’s favor, unite them, something about a prince, and an army bent on destroying humans.

      Because this is a fantasy, I believe you should get to the fantasy elements sooner. I’m going out on a limb here, but suggest you cut the first paragraph and begin with her stumbling on the book about the fae, then use the rest of your words to build the fantasy world, so that when we’re presented with the fabulous stakes, they have meaning.

      I really can’t decide who to vote for! Each entry is equally excellent. But, since I have to, I’ll award Victory to:

      HUMANIMALS!

      Delete
    9. Strange--I usually don't like shifter stories. Or Fae stories. I've just been tired of both, but each of these entries has such charm!

      HUMANIMALS has a nice query that sets up the MC and builds the world right off the bat. This has a sort of younger X-MEN feel to it. Everything’s fairly clear, and the beaver comment made me chuckle. The first page was charming. The one thing I missed was Ricky’s reaction to the snarl and maybe a little more white space. I did like that he gave the kid a thumbs up. Maybe after that he’s thinking:
      Wow, he’s really going for it.
      “Hey come check out this guy’s costume.” Ricky motioned Carlos to the window.
      That’s just me brainstorming a way to get more white space and maybe a reaction to the snarl.

      THE LAST PRINCESS – also a charming premise laid out well in the query, which also introduces the world, stakes, and MC. All boxes checked. I love how much I hate Cat’s mom for taking her books. Who does that?!? But I felt like I’ve read this storyline before, and I’m wondering how it will stand out, and I’m thinking if Cat is a powerhouse character, then maybe… just maybe… Alas, as well-written as the first page was, it just didn’t have the punch of a big personality that I’d want in a fae story. For example, maybe replace “Feeling a twinge of guilt” with some kind of super-personality inner thought that really gives a glimpse into how Cat thinks and introduces her quirkiness. I just felt like I wanted a bit more voice in this first page.

      Victory to HUMANIMALS

      Delete
    10. HUMANANIMALS
      I love the nickname. Very fun!

      Okay, onto the query.

      To start, I feel like you’re missing a hook. Something that snazzy and awesome that makes us want to read more right off the bat.

      The first paragraph has a lot of information, but I feel like it’s world setting, so a lot of stuff is just being described. I’d really like to get into the inciting incident a bit faster so I know what’s going on within this awesome world you’ve created.

      Once you get to the second paragraph, I think it’s great. I finally get some details on what the book is about, but I think it comes a bit too little too late. I have no connection to the Korean Girl, no idea who his master is, and the stakes, at least to me, fall a little flat because of it. I’d really like to know more about the story and less about the setting.

      First 250

      I see where you’re going with this, but you’ve basically just got Ricky doing a lot of ‘looking’ to open up the scene. I also feel like the protagonists name is not only overused, but it comes at the beginning of the sentence quite a bit. You need to work on rearranging the syntax to give a variety of sentence types. Getting rid of filter words is going to help in that aspect.

      I’m assuming this is setting up for Ricky to find out about his abilities, so I think you’re at the right spot, I just feel like it needs a bit of tweaking so the reader isn’t just ‘looking’ at everything so much. It might even work better if you start with him asking Carlos to come and see the costume, as opposed to giving us three paragraphs of description to start.

      I really like this concept, but I feel like the opening is just missing something.

      VS.

      BATTLE ROYAL

      Query Crit.

      I like the first line, but I think it can be a bit stronger. As it stands, it’s a bit passive, and I think with some tweaking you can make it a strong hook, especially by giving it a more active stance. The second sentence is a bit choppy. You start with a conjunction, which in my opinion can weaken a sentence, and then you have two more conjunctions (and) within the same sentence. The syntax is awkward, so you might want to break it up and see if you can work on that a bit.

      The second paragraph is a lot stronger than the first, and really pulls me into what’s happening. We’ve got the inciting incident, but I also feel like there’s so much left out about the goblin prince—if he’s her rival why are we only getting information on him at the last line? I think if you take away some of the back story you can start us off closer to the inciting incident, and open word space so you can get some important information in there. At this point, I want to know about this prince, why he’s the rival, and why he wants to turn them into an army to destroy humans. That’s the meat of your story, so that’s what needs to be in the query.


      First 250
      This is another case of ‘looking’ with nothing actually happening. It’s great she sees an ogre, but something needs to be happening other than just looking. You also have a habit of starting sentences with conjunctions, so you might want to work on avoiding that. At this point, I also feel like this one starts in the wrong spot. I’d glance over this trying to find some action to pull me into the story. Does her mom catch her after this? Do they get into an argument about how she’s not allowed to have her books? Even as they’re arguing does Catherine see the ogre standing behind he mother, which makes it hard for her to believe that her mother’s lecture is right? I feel like there’s so much more the character can be doing besides ‘looking’, and I’d really like to see that in the opening 250.

      Again, love the idea, and I know that it’s fantasy, but there’s too much scene setting and looking.

      This is a hard one to match up. Both need a bit of work to get it to the next level in the query, both have characters just ‘looking’ in the opening pages, and both are really awesome concepts.

      GO-GO GADGET VICTORY TO BATTLE ROYAL

      Delete
  2. Fun entries, guys! I would read both of these books.

    Humanimals: Regarding the query, I know it’s a bit inferred, but maybe make it clearer upfront that Ricky is a Legionnaire. I also wanted a tad bit more info about the chimeras. They felt stuck in there—where do they come from, what makes them evil? And my last thing would be to perhaps streamline the whole query a tad; cut a few things that aren’t really necessary (like how Ricky expects the school to be a gothic fantasy castle) to make it punchier and more concise. Really like the 250! I only wanted to a bit of a hint dropped in about who Carlos is. I assume he’s a friend and is an orphan like Ricky, but I would rather know for sure upfront. Really fun concept, though, and great writing overall!

    Battle Royale: I think the query is well-written in general, but this is the part I get thrown for a loop: “Cat embarks on a quest to learn more and meets a centuries-old dryad.” What does embark on a quest mean—what does she do, exactly? Read the diary? Find the owner of the diary and ask him or her about the fae?” I need a connector here, as I’m a bit lost. Also not sure what “fae-dar” is (maybe explain a bit?). Lastly, small thing: place a comma after “and stumbles upon an ancient” because otherwise it sounds like the family is doing that in addition to sleeping . Cute 250. Do kids write how old they are on their assignments? I thought it was more like current date, assignment title, etc.

    Good luck to both you of guys! Fun concepts with excellent writing.

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  3. Humanimals: I love the title! I can see it really grabbing my attention as I walk by in a bookstore. The whole concept/story sounds amazing, and I really get a feel for the world you’ve built in the query. I almost think the first sentence of the query could be broken into two. Also, I wonder if there is a way to move your hook—Ricky saving his friend, proving his innocence--up higher in the query, rather than at the end of the 2nd paragraph. As for your first 250: your opening sentence says a lot about your character as well as the setting. I’m immediately drawn into this world and wondering more about Ricky. The first 250 seems perfect for a MG audience: you see your MC, see a strange character out the window with webbed feet, see the feet turn back to normal, the MC wonders what the heck happened – I bet a MG reader will love that and be drawn in immediately too. The only thing I might suggest would be to put more about how Ricky feels in there, though you might already do that beyond the 1st 250. Very, very well done!

    Battle Royale: I love your story idea. You set readers up to discover many conflicts here, but I love the fact that there is one that kids could immediately identify with: struggling to be themselves when others (including parents) are trying to make them into something else. I really get a feeling for your character’s voice in the query, which is so great & so important. My only critique would be to somehow condense the first two paragraphs, so we see more about where the story is going more quickly. Also, to maybe mention how Cat begins her journey. Is it through the book? Or will she actually leave home physically? As for your first 250: I absolutely LOVE the opening. Readers will immediately get drawn in and wonder about an ogre. I honestly can’t find anything to suggest in your first 250. I wish I could be more helpful, but I think it’s awesome as it is. Great work!

    These are two seriously strong entries. I'm glad I don't have to pick one! Best of luck to both! I really hope to see these published so I can read the rest.

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  4. Humanimals: I love the title! I can see it really grabbing my attention as I walk by in a bookstore. The whole concept/story sounds amazing, and I really get a feel for the world you’ve built in the query. I almost think the first sentence of the query could be broken into two. Also, I wonder if there is a way to move your hook—Ricky saving his friend, proving his innocence--up higher in the query, rather than at the end of the 2nd paragraph. As for your first 250: your opening sentence says a lot about your character as well as the setting. I’m immediately drawn into this world and wondering more about Ricky. The first 250 seems perfect for a MG audience: you see your MC, see a strange character out the window with webbed feet, see the feet turn back to normal, the MC wonders what the heck happened – I bet a MG reader will love that and be drawn in immediately too. The only thing I might suggest would be to put more about how Ricky feels in there, though you might already do that beyond the 1st 250. Very, very well done!

    Battle Royale: I love your story idea. You set readers up to discover many conflicts here, but I love the fact that there is one that kids could immediately identify with: struggling to be themselves when others (including parents) are trying to make them into something else. I really get a feeling for your character’s voice in the query, which is so great & so important. My only critique would be to somehow condense the first two paragraphs, so we see more about where the story is going more quickly. Also, to maybe mention how Cat begins her journey. Is it through the book? Or will she actually leave home physically? As for your first 250: I absolutely LOVE the opening. Readers will immediately get drawn in and wonder about an ogre. I honestly can’t find anything to suggest in your first 250. I wish I could be more helpful, but I think it’s awesome as it is. Great work!

    These are two seriously strong entries. I'm glad I don't have to pick one! Best of luck to both! I really hope to see these published so I can read the rest.

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  5. Humanimals: I think your query works really well. Pulled me in right away. And the 250 was great. It was a bit eerie and I loved it! I don't really have any suggestions for you, I think it's great the way it is. :)
    Battle Royale: I love your query! I would definitely read this book! It actually reminds me a little of the movie Paranorman. Very unique premise! Your 250 has a very clear voice, and I'd definitely keep reading. She did seem a bit older than twelve years old though, but not by much.
    Man, you both have super strong entries! Good luck! :)

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  6. A tough match-up! There is so much I like about both of them! I definitely want to read both.

    Humanimals: I love the fun world building details in your query. So hard to do! I agree with commenters above that I would add the idea of Ricky being a Legionnaire. I also wanted to know more about why these two groups are fighting. What’s at stake if one side loses the fight?

    I like beginning the book with the mysterious appearance of this webbed-feet boy, but I think it might be stronger if you start with the strange boy and move to Ricky second. You can include the foster kid idea with something as simple as “Ricky leaned out the window of his foster home and locked eyes with etc.,”

    Battle Royale: I love the humor in your query: fae-dar, fun-sucking expectations! I would break up the first sentence into 2 ideas. A few questions as I read: Is her imagination really crippling the family business? Why is she working at 12? I was also confused about what world we are in once she meets the dryad. Does she find the dryad in a fairy realm? Or is everything still happening on earth?

    I loved the top of your 250, but her ambition to be a princess in a castle left me with a few questions. If fairy-tale characters are walking around in our world, are there really castles out there for her to inhabit? Is her ambition to be a princess less of an ambition and more of an idle wish? I guess I am unclear about whether she wants to be a princess walking around incognito (like the ogre) or if she wishes something even more impossible (that fairy tales are real and she is living in one of them). Are there incognito princesses walking around with the incognito ogres that she has seen? Essentially: does she believe being a princess is an attainable goal?

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  7. Humanimals: Query: This is just me but I get tired of kids turning twelve and coming into powers. Ever since Harry Potter I seem to see it a lot more. If they have waterslides to travel on, does that mean they are always wet and the ground slippery? I don't think you need to mention his best friend is Korean. It makes it seem like you are adding diversity for diversity sake. It's fine if she is Asian but it doesn't seem like it needs to me mention in the query to move the plot along. I like the line about how he hopes he doesn't turn into a Beaver. It makes me wonder what he wants to turn into. I think the stakes are high in the fact that everyone thinks he is a spy and he has to not only save his best friend but also clear his name. 250: I am drawn in with the first 250. I like how you set the scene and how he sees the guy who he thinks is in costume. I think it would be cool if Ricky sees the Legionnaire but his friend can't.

    Battle Royale: Query: What girl doesn't dream of being a princess and a Fae one at that. I think you set it up good, but I would like to see more specific stakes other than wipe out the entire human race. It seems to broad. 250: I like how she sees people as goblins, trolls and fairies. the first 250 really drew me in and mated me want to read more.

    Good job to both of you.

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  8. HUMANIMALS

    Query: I really like the concept, but in the query you get into the trap of listing cool things instead of sticking to the plot. If you cut out some of the unnecessary tidbits describing the school and streamline the query to focus on your MC, I think you will have an excellent entry.

    250: Good job setting up the story and ending at a point that makes me want to turn the page. Nicely done.

    BATTLE ROYALE:

    Query: the opening sentences are kind of clunky. I think if you rearrange the words, it might make it easier to read. Something like, but in your own words: Seeing magical creatures everywhere she looks, twelve-year-old Cat Brokkenwier wishes her life was a fairy tale, but the home-schooled, suburban life she has is nowhere near the fantastical life she needs…

    250: I really like your opening line, and the rest of the page doesn’t disappoint. You have a great first page, now I think if you work on the query a little more, you will have an awesome entry.

    Good job both of you and good luck. I can see why the judges are so divided on this.

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  9. Humanimals

    Oooh! A shifter tale! Me like! I suggest breaking up the first sentence of the query. Oh, and definitely the next one too. And my novel features several Korean characters too, so I'm enjoying the multi-cultural angle as well. That first paragraph's last sentence needs breaking up too. Does a twelve year old boy *really* ponder the plight of his fellow foster kids? "Pinballed" provided great imagery! First 250's last sentence of the second paragraph--you know the drill.


    BATTLE ROYALE

    I like Cat already, a dreamer girl. Snapping and then sneaking into the garage don't seem to jive well. Perhaps Cat has had enough and then sneaks into the garage, or snaps and blows up at her mom. A run on sentence in the second paragraph of the query should be broken up. "fae-dar"--priceless! Wow, love the opening of the first 250. Would she look down at her paper and mull how she's just written her name and age or state them as you've written? The first 250 has a great end, as she's about to find out!

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