Thursday, August 26, 2010

11 Pitch Entry #1: Jessica

Title: TAG-19

Genre: YA thriller

Sixteen-year-old foster-care veteran Kae Ringer is already having a bad week, when she looks in a Philadelphia newspaper and sees her face under a murder headline. The victim’s name and hair are different, but the face is hers. Within a day, she goes for a run and returns to find her latest family brutally murdered. Kidnapped and taken to Switzerland, she learns her secret twin was a student-employee of a special school. Liberta is a residence and training ground for operatives known as Technical Assistance Guides; her sister Charlotte was known as TAG-19.

The Headmaster covers up Charlotte’s death from the rival agency that ordered the murders, and wants to train Kae to take over TAG-19’s duties. In mourning and danger, Kae cooperates. With a newfound sense of identity and purpose, Kae begins to investigate clues about her birth and plan revenge on the killers. Small problem—with Kae walking around, the spy who killed her twin thinks he missed his target. Now he’s waiting for the right moment to finish the job.

11 comments:

  1. Whee, so excited to start commenting!

    This pitch really grabbed me from the first line! I think the idea is really interesting and even though I don’t usually read thrillers, this is intriguing enough to make me set aside that prejudice.

    That said, I think it could be simplified a little bit. Although it was interesting it actually took me a second read-through to actually understand what was happening when she saw her face under a murder headline. The first time I read it I actually thought she was in the papers as the murderer, not the victim. I also don’t think you need to give a name to Liberta or the Technical Assistance Guides in the query, as it clutters up the need-to-know information. For example, you could just say “She learns her secret twin was a student-employee of a special school for undercover operatives.” Likewise, instead of learning two names for her sister (Charlotte and TAG-19) we can just get Charlotte--that only gives us two names to have to remember through the query.

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  2. Sixteen-year-old foster-care veteran Kae Ringer is already having a bad week, (*TYPO* - no comma needed here) when she looks in a Philadelphia (does it matter where? She's going to Switzerland in the next para) newspaper and sees her face under a murder headline. (Great first line, though it's not clear if 'she' is the victim or the suspect. I thought someone had killed her lookalike at first.)

    The victim’s name and hair are different, but the face is hers. Within a day, she goes for a run and returns to find her latest family brutally murdered. (Unless she is kidnapped during the murders, what does it have to do with anything?)

    Kidnapped and taken to Switzerland, she learns her secret twin was a student-employee of a special school. Liberta is a residence and training ground for operatives known as Technical Assistance Guides; her sister Charlotte was known as TAG-19.(I had a note that grammatically your 'was's should be 'is's until I read the next bit and realized Charlotte was dead. This is unclear in the first sentence.)

    The Headmaster covers up Charlotte’s death from the rival agency that ordered the murders, and wants to train Kae to take over TAG-19’s duties. (That's a lot to process in one sentence - so the lookalike WAS the victim, from the mention of murder in the earlier sentence I had assumed TAG-19 had killed the family, there's a rival agency (huh?) and they know that the rival agency ordered the murder. PHEW.)

    In mourning and danger, Kae cooperates. With a newfound sense of identity and purpose, (I don't see how being given a number and told to take over for the twin you never knew you had gives you a sense of *identity*.)

    Kae begins to investigate (investigates?) clues about her birth and plan revenge on the killers. Small problem—with Kae walking around, the spy (huh? is that what a TAG is?) who killed her twin thinks he missed his target. Now he’s waiting for the right moment to finish the job. (I like the last two lines, nice energy.)

    The energy and voice are good, I'd just want the info streamlined.

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  3. This is definitely one of my favorite pitches. You have me really wanting to read it! Another strong girl story, LOVE IT!!! I only spotted a couple of things that I would change. Anything in [brackets] indicates delete

    Sixteen-year-old foster-care veteran Kae Ringer is already having a bad week, when she looks in a Philadelphia newspaper and sees her face under a murder headline. The victim’s name and hair are different, but the face is hers. THE NRXT MORNING[Within a day], she goes for a run and returns to find her latest family brutally murdered. I WOULD GIVE A BETTER TRANSITION HERE Kidnapped and taken to Switzerland, she learns her secret twin was a student-employee of a special school. Liberta is a residence and training ground for operatives known as Technical Assistance Guides; her sister Charlotte was known as TAG-19.

    The Headmaster covers up Charlotte’s death from the rival agency that ordered the murders, and wants to train Kae to take [over] TAG-19’s PLACE[duties]. In mourning and danger, Kae cooperates. With a newfound sense of identity and purpose, Kae begins to investigate clues about her birth and plan revenge on the killers. Small problem—with Kae walking around, the spy who killed her twin thinks he missed his target. Now he’s waiting for the right moment to finish the job.

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  4. I'm intrigued by this, and I'm not normally one for thrillers, but I'd totally check it out!

    Thats said, I agree with most everything already mentioned by commenters, and I would add that I have mixed feelings over Kae's emotional state.

    I'd definitely change 'latest family' to 'current' family. Latest sounds so uncaring and unattached.

    I would also think carefully about how you represent her discovery that she had a twin she never knew. Here it comes across as very inconsequential, in an 'I got into this hot mess because I had this identical twin I never knew about' sidebar sort of way. I know it's simply a pitch and you can't cover the gamut of a person's reactions and emotions in it, but you might want to say something along the lines of 'reeling' instead of 'mourning' when you discuss Kae's mental state.

    Look for other's remarks on this matter (if they have any on it) because I happen to be an identical twin, so my issues with it might not, in reality, be issues but personal reaction, and I don't want you to change something based solely on me, if that's the case.

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  5. The query makes me feel like the story will be inconsistent. Here are some of my notes and questions the query raised:

    ** Veteran feels like a word for someone that works in foster care, but since we know she's 16, I guess this indicates she's been shuffled around a lot. Is there maybe a different word you could use?

    ** I would think most people would find the photo amusing since they're not dead. At most they would say, man, I look a lot like that girl.

    ** If the hair is different, I don't know that someone would immediately pick out the resemblance, since
    hair can change how a face is perceived.

    ** Why was her foster family killed? It feels a little contrived. If the killer knows where to find her, they also know its not her real family and would have no clue about her real family (especially if she's an orphan.) So wouldn't they just try to kill her.

    * Also, since they know she's in foster care wouldn't they know she's not the same girl and doesn't have the same training?

    ** Why does Kae plot revenge? Revenge is deeply personal. This is for a sister she didn't know and a family she probably didn't have an emotional connection with. Since she is a veteran of foster care, she is probably jaded by this point in her life.

    ** Why would this lead to cooperation. To me a much more logical reason to cooperate is that the people who killed her sister think they missed the mark.

    ** The best part of the query are the following lines. It provides a sense of immediacy and danger. I would keep them and try to eliminate the questions above:

    Small problem—with Kae walking around, the spy who killed her twin thinks he missed his target. Now he’s waiting for the right moment to finish the job.

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  6. As always, my comments are a reflection of my subjective opinion. So, while I have put on critique-like-an-agent hat, it is still my subjective take. :) And I'm verbose, so I'll break my critique into two comments.

    Overall, there’s a lot to like here, with an interesting character and a conflict-rich situation, and I think I would scroll down to the included pages as is. But, I do think the query could be tweaked to work harder for you. So, see my bracketed comments below.


    Sixteen-year-old foster-care veteran Kae Ringer is already having a bad week [since you don’t explain how she was having a bad week, and it doesn’t seem relevant to the query, I think that part can be cut], when she looks in a Philadelphia newspaper and sees her face under a murder headline. [I like the idea of her seeing herself, but it’s lost in the sentence as drafted – consider if there is a way to make the opening sentence spotlight the info – ie, cut extraneous detail, have a more effective lead in…] The victim’s name and hair are different, but the face is hers. [I like this sentence, and the detail that shows that while it looks like Kae, it clearly wasn’t Kai, but I would look in the next version to see if it needs to stand alone, or could be combined with other info for a harder working sentence]. Within a day, she goes for a run [why do we need to know she went for a run?] and returns to find her latest family brutally murdered. [Not sure you need the murdered foster family – maybe – depends on what else you want to include. If you are just tweaking this query, I’d keep them, but then trim some of the other less relevant detail]. Kidnapped and taken to [I think these next two sentences could be combined for conciseness. And some of the information cut, like I don’t think you need both the sister’s name and her code name, and could more concisely learn of the training/school] Switzerland, she learns her secret twin was a student-employee of a special school. Liberta is a residence and training ground for operatives known as Technical Assistance Guides; her sister Charlotte was known as TAG-19. [ok, so, overall, there’s some great info and detail in the first paragraph, but because some of it is extraneous and not really adding to the tension of the pitch, it actually slows it down. I think you could get in the necessary info more concisely, and leave yourself more room for the cool stuff Kae actually does, because in this version, Kae is fairly passive]

    (continued in the next comment)

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  7. (continued from the last comment)

    The Headmaster covers up Charlotte’s death from the rival agency that ordered the murders, and wants to train Kae to take over TAG-19’s duties. [for maximum engagement with Kae, stay in Kae’s POV and focused on what she does and why – make her active!] In mourning and danger, Kae cooperates. [this sentence is sort of a throw away – it doesn’t really tell us what she does, ie, how she cooperates – so, cut words elsewhere and show at least some of the cool stuff Kae actually does – I think queries are really effective when every sentence focuses on cause and effect – ie, what the character does and why, or what her actions cause. And be specific!] With a newfound sense of identity and purpose, Kae begins to investigate clues about her birth and plan revenge on the killers. [Again, this would be more engaging if in this paragraph there was more of a sense of what Kae actually does – ie, one or two specific climactic events/decisions that show Kae actively cooperating, actively trying to solve these mysteries, etc] Small problem—with Kae walking around, the spy who killed her twin thinks he missed his target. Now he’s waiting for the right moment to finish the job. [I like the sense of danger, but I’d be more engaged if it ended focused on Kae and what she is or will do].


    So, overall, a lot to work with, including a really interesting sounding character in Kae thrown into a situation ripe for conflict – but as pitched, Kae is fairly passive – she observes, finds, is kidnapped, and ultimately vaguely cooperates, vaguely investigates, and is the passive stalkee. To up the interest and tension, get to her decision to cooperate much faster, and then show what she actually does – what she actually does is what will make this more interesting and engaging. But a strong start with a lot of good to work with – ask yourself why every detail is needed in then pitch (some can be there for character, but make sure they really work), and cut what can be cut so that you can devote those words to showing a glimpse of Kae in action.

    Good luck!

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  8. Sounds great. Possibly a little tightening?

    Sixteen-year-old foster-care veteran Kae Ringer is already having a bad week, when she [delete: looks in a Philadelphia newspaper and] sees her face under a murder headline. The victim’s name and hair are different, but the face is hers. Within a day, she [delete: goes for a run and returns to] find(s) her latest family brutally murdered. (Vague -- murder is usually brutal. Any compelling details?) Kidnapped and taken to Switzerland, she learns her secret twin was a student-employee of a special school. (I stumbled at the transition between these two sentences, but maybe that's just me.) Liberta is a residence and training ground for operatives known as Technical Assistance Guides; her sister Charlotte was known as TAG-19.

    The second paragraph is good, though if it's possible to I'd like to learn a little about about the operatives and what they do. Hard to tell if this is good vs. evil, or just power games among equals.

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  9. The story sounds pretty intense which is good. I got the gist of the story, but I'm concerned that I had to read that first paragraph a couple of times to do so and then I wasn't absolutely sure if I had it just right.

    You could tighten this more and take out extraneous info that doesn't add to the knowledge of the plot. For example, no need to say she was already having a bad week because we don't know what that's about and it adds nothing to our understanding of plot.

    "Within a day, she goes for a run ..." This makes it sound a bit cavalier for something so gruesome and awful. Be careful to show the true depth of the character's emotions. And if she is being cavalier, find a way to tell us why. Try to capture the voice of the character.

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  10. My suggestions:

    Sixteen-year-old Kae Ringer is having a bad enough week without seeing her face on the news under this headline: Murdered. The victim’s name and hair are different, but the face is Kae's. The very next day, she comes home to find her foster family brutally murdered. As if things couldn't get worse, Kae is kidnapped and taken to Switzerland. Here she learns her secret twin was a student-soldier of an elite school: Liberta, a residence and training ground for operatives known as Technical Assistance Guides. Her dead twin sister Charlotte was known as TAG-19.

    The Headmaster of Liberta covers up Charlotte’s death and wants to train Kae to take over TAG-19’s duties. In danger from the rival agency that ordered the murder, Kae cooperates. With a newfound sense of identity and purpose, Kae begins to investigate clues about her birth and plan her revenge on Charlotte's killers. Only one small problem—with Kae walking around, the spy who killed her twin thinks he missed his target. Now he’s waiting for the right moment to finish the job.

    I tried to keep your same language, but attempted to simplify some of the sentences and strengthen some of the word choices.

    Great premise! I'd love to find out what happens!

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  11. Thanks everyone~ your suggestions have been incredibly helpful!

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