Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Anonymous Agent,

THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON is a 70,000-word, young adult dystopian fantasy novel. It can stand alone, but has trilogy potential.

If sixteen-year-old Lori Gibbs fails to impress the judges in Easten’s Talent Show, she’ll hang. She can fly though, so she’ll probably impress.

What she can’t do is sit back while they hang her new best friend, a fellow contestant. Davis is a smart, timid boy whose talent is holding his breath. While he thinks he’ll impress, Lori knows his talent is just as lame as his love for Easten and even lamer than the kid who can pick up marbles with his toes.

Lori decides she’ll share her powers with Davis during the show and convince the judges they can both fly. If she doesn't try to save him, she'll lose her only friend and become a part of the system she's vowed never to follow. But if she gets caught, she'll hang alongside him.

Lori confides her plan in two other contestants: her roommate, and the guy stealing her heart. Unbeknownst to her, one of them is a spy.

The first 250 words are below. If you would like to request more pages, please let me know. Thanks for your time and consideration!



My talent was about the only thing that made my parents happy. And in my sixteen years of experience, I had learned their happiness usually ended in my suffering. So when they called me for dinner, their voices high and excited, a hard knot formed in the pit of my stomach.

I walked into the kitchen where they sat at the table, holding hands and smiling. The knot in my stomach grew.

“Lori,” Mom said, “come eat.”

I stayed where I was. Our best silver platters were piled high with fish, chicken, and rice. Fruit and rolls topped our porcelain bowls. And our crystal pitchers were filled to the brim with tea. Eating well was not rare for us. Eating for a family of ten was.

Dad cleared his throat. “Your mother and I,” he said, “have decided--”

“Wait until she sits,” Mom said.

I didn’t sit, and I didn’t touch the food. It wasn’t like it was poisoned. If I died, my talent would die with me, and then I’d be about as valuable as the platter of dead fish. But if they were going to wait until I sat to tell me what they were about to tell me, I’d stand for the rest of my life.

They exchanged a glance and then looked back to me.

Dad sighed. “It’s time,” he said.

I leaned against the table and tried to soften my glare. “Time for what?” I asked, even though we all knew I knew.

“We’re registering you in the Talent Show,” Mom said.


Kristy Shen said...

Great concept! I really love your short and snappy sentences ( I'm addicted to fast-paced writing).

Your 250 words are very intriguing and I love the characterization.

Query is really great too. My only concern is how believable it is that she'll hang for falling to impress in the talent show. If it's a totalitarian society, it's believable but I'm not sure if that comes across in the query. But I don't think it's a big deal because you probably develop the world in your novel so the reader will believe it when they read it.

I love your title. Very memorable!

Deserae McGlothen said...

For some reason, this query didn't completely capture me, and I think this is because we're introduced to this as a YA novel, but it has more of a MG feel.

I read through the whole thing and the strength is in the sample page. There's characterization and interesting images... It says there may be merit here, but the query lacks the same pizzazz.

Just from what I'm seeing, I think it's because of the intended audience. For some reason, I can't see a 16 year old attending (or being interested in) a Talent Show of Doom, but a 12 yr old? Sure. I am a big fan of middle grade reads and I think Lori and Davis could thrive there. As a YA, this query doesn't work for me, but as an MG? I could probably love it.

Great sample and wishing you all the best,
P.S. When a saw "spy" I thought immediately of espionage. I wonder if "mole" or " of them will betray her" will work better. It's a small thing and just something I noticed. Good luck author! My fingers are crossed.

CallMeKarma said...

Love the premise here, as it felt a bit Hunger Games/Divergent-ish.

However, I do agree that it feels more MG than YA - there's an edge missing in both query and sample (although that may come later past the first 250 words!). If hanging is the consequence of failure, than the talents need to have more depth/possibility than picking up marbles with toes, in my opinion.

But I would read on, because I'm curious to see how you handle the world building and the talent show. Well done!

Nazarea Andrews said...

I'm gonna agree with the previous comments--this has a MG feel to it. I like the premise...if it's for an MG audience. I don't buy it for YA.

I like the 250--what I'm seeing of the character is really promising. But again, it feels MG. Nothing wrong with that, especially since that market isn't so heavily saturated with dystopian. Could work in your favor. Good luck! :)

SStokes said...

Hi K.A.! I really liked how your first 250 kicked off. I like the juxtaposition of her parents happiness meaning bad news - it does a nice job of setting up their expectations and how they impact your MC.

I like your hook - hanging for a talent show is an attention grabber - but the second sentence felt a bit soft. i'd recommend you punch it up a bit. Maybe something like: lucky for her, her ability to fly means she's likely to score big with the hard to please judges.

I do see where the MG notes are coming in. Could you call it something other than a talent show? If you gave it a darker name you might relieve some of the youngness. I'd also consider removing the marble line and replace it with something that would resonate more with a teen talent.

But I think this is a cool concept, and you've got an interesting beginning. Lots of great stuff to work with. Best of luck with this!

A.J. Locke said...

The premise is definitely interesting, but I feel as though the query needs to be fleshed out a little bit more, for one I wasn't sure about why the talent show is so important and why the punishment is to be hung (if you mean this literally), and if so, why would her parents want to register her? Do they have a choice or is it mandatory for some reason? If it was because the winner and their family got wealth or higher status despite the risk of hanging then that would help, but I'd like to understand more about why participating in the talent show is necessary. The biggest issue I had with the query is the lack of stakes, or not understanding why hanging is the result of not doing well.

The Agent said...

I was immediately drawn in by the hook here--I love stories about competitions where failure means death.

But I had trouble getting into the rest of the query, I think because the world wasn't fleshed out well enough. At first, because Lori could fly, I thought this was fantasy, then it seemed dystopian, and the "circus" vibe feels a little too lighthearted for a contest with such high stakes. Especially given the crowded dystopian market, I think it's really important to explain, even in a brief query, what makes the world different, so that it has a coherent "feel". Especially in science fiction and fantasy, the setting is key, so I really wanted to know more about it. What level of technology is there? What's the political system? Is this medieval fantasy, or futuristic fantasy, or…? The setting and voice are what will set this story apart: the premise is fairly classic.

I thought the first page was quite strong. I particularly liked when her mother said "Wait until she sits"--that felt very poignant and real. But the reveal at the end, about the Talent Show, didn't feel quite as strong as the set-up before it.

This is a tough genre to break into, and I think this query needs to highlight what makes this project unique a little more to make it stand out.

J. Kaitlin Adams said...

Thank you all so much for your comments and critiques! I'm incorporating them into my query and first page now. Good luck to everyone!