Thursday, August 26, 2010

17 Pitch Entry #17: Jessica Tudor

Title: MERCY


Genre: YA magical realism

The first time, Madelyn drowns accidentally. The second time, her twin sister Camilla lets it happen, a choice that could pull her under.

Eighteen-year-old Camilla Jay can rewind each day if she chooses. After Madelyn’s death, getting through the day is hard enough once. Then she finds notes hinting that Madelyn knew what would happen. As though Camilla’s guilt wasn’t strong enough. She’s flooded with doubts about her ability, their relationship, and her identity. The only way she can find peace is to answer Madelyn’s question: Why did Camilla go back if she wasn’t going to save her sister? Even she doesn’t know, but she’s determined to figure it out.

17 comments:

  1. I love the hook, but I would drop the "a choice that could pull her under."

    The first time Madelyn drowns in as accident. The second time, her twin sister Camilla lets it happen."

    That is a shocking, attention grabbing hook. I want to read more after reading that.

    But I'm a little confused by this query. So Camilla can turn back time. Check. Madelyn is dead. Check. But Camilla reads a note from Madelyn? I'm a little confused at that. I think that paragraph could use some tightening.

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  2. I agree, drop the "a choice that could pull her under." It makes the hook more snappy.

    If I say this in a store, I'd pick it up. It sounds exciting!

    The only thing is the last paragraph. Do you mean that Madelyn knew what would happen BEFORE she died, or after, like she's a ghost or something?

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  3. I agree with dropping the 'a choice that could pull her under.'

    Without it, the hook is great!

    I do have other issues though:

    If Camilla can rewind the day why doesn't she save Madelyn? And if she doesn't save Madelyn, why is it 'hard enough' to get through the day without her? If having her sister dead bothered her, she'd just save her, right?

    I really want to like the premise, but being an identical twin myself, I simply can't get around the idea that Camilla doesn't save her sister and can't articulate why she doesn't.

    The very fact that I find Camilla's abandonment of her twin is inconceivable makes for a great plot. You've introduced this unexpected theme, and yet given no indication of a cliche 'good twin/evil twin' theme. There are many books out there with 'twin' stories, but this idea stands out.

    You're going to have to get something into the pitch to smooth out the transition between Camilla letting her twin sister drown, and the fact that even Camilla doesn't know what she did it. Otherwise it falls flat.

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  4. Hi! This is a good start, but I don’t think you’re giving us enough information here.

    How long has she known she could reverse time? Did Madelyn know? Does she lose memories of what happened when she goes back? Why doesn’t she know why she didn’t save her sister? Did she go back? Or does she not remember going back? Does she not want to go back and face what happened? Is she worried about what she might find? Why hasn’t she gone back again to save her already? What are the consequences for Camilla? Her goals? Her motivation? What is the conflict? Her not knowing what’s going on? Or why she didn’t help her sister?

    As you can probably tell, I have a lot of questions regarding the plot of the story. I can’t tell what it is from this. I also don’t know what the conflict is. If it’s that she doesn’t know why she didn’t save her sister, then I’m not sure that it’s enough to pull a story along, since a trip to the past is all that’s needed to find out. If there’s more, we need to see it.

    SOMEWHAT REVISED PITCH(using what I know):

    The first time, Madelyn drowns accidentally. The second time, her twin sister Camilla lets it happen.

    Eighteen-year-old Camilla Jay can rewind each day if she chooses. After Madelyn’s death, getting through the day is hard enough. As though Camilla’s guilt wasn’t strong enough, she finds notes (where were these notes? Where did they come from? Were they from Madelyn? If so, how? Did she know before hand? Was she a seer? Or after, like she’s a ghost or something?) hinting Madelyn knew exactly what would happen. She’s flooded with doubts about her ability, their relationship, and her identity, she knows the only way she can find peace is to answer Madelyn’s question: Why did Camilla go back if she wasn’t going to save her sister?

    She doesn’t know, but she’s determined to figure it out. (I’d like a hint of the consequences for her here. I think you need a third paragraph here to tell us more of the plot.)

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  5. Thanks, everyone.

    I thought the 'rewind each day' would be clear that she can ONLY rewind one day - up to twenty-four hours, that's it. So that's why she can't just go back and redo it again.

    Will work at making the rest of the plot clearer... it's tricky because the timeline in the book goes, well, forward AND backward, so summarizing it has been a real challenge.

    To be clearer - we start halfway between Madelyn's death and the climax at Christmas, with the first note. As Camilla goes forward collecting the notes and unraveling mentally because of them, the narrative is interspersed with scenes moving us backward toward what really happened and the reasons why.

    Perhaps I should have put 'literary' in the genre? *g*

    (And as an identical twin, too, I wanted the chance to explore the complex love/hate relationship that can develop, because it's never clear-cut.)

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  6. You do seem to have a complicated plot here, Jessica. One difficult to lay out in such few words. It is intriguing though. It sounds like it has a strong character-driven plot and I would want to read it. Good luck!

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  7. The first time, Madelyn drowns accidentally. The second time, her twin sister Camilla lets it happen, a choice that could pull her under. (Love this opening it's intriguing and unexpected, I agree you can probably drop-a choice that could pull her under. It adds more punch w/out it.)

    Eighteen-year-old Camilla Jay can rewind each day if she chooses. (wow that's quite the gift)After Madelyn’s death, getting through the day is hard enough once. Then she finds notes hinting that Madelyn knew what would happen. As though Camilla’s guilt wasn’t strong enough. She’s flooded with doubts about her ability, their relationship, and her identity. The only way she can find peace is to answer Madelyn’s question: Why did Camilla go back if she wasn’t going to save her sister? Even she doesn’t know, but she’s determined to figure it out.

    (I think this is really good, I'm just not sure why I should feel compassion for Camilla if she allowed her sister to drown)

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  8. Oh! If anyone wants to read a piece of the first chapter, Sarah LaPolla posted it: http://bigglasscases.blogspot.com/2010/08/mercy.html

    Thanks, Charlie. You provide a good point - I should take the space to make her more sympathetic given how horrible that comes off! Being in her head for so long I don't see it. :)

    There's a minor romantic thread, too, as she falls for the only friend who doesn't abandon her after Madelyn's death. I do have a plot, I swear. ;)

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  9. The opening is a great hook (though I agree with what's been said about "a choice that could pull her under").

    I think there's a danger in any time travel (or time replaying?) book of timeline confusion, and I was very confused when I read this pitch. I'll try to explain why, though my thoughts are still really jumbled.

    I don't know if Madelyn goes back with the intention to save her sister and THEN finds a note, which makes her change her mind--or if she goes back to save her sister, doesn't for some reason (and why?) and then LATER finds a note--or if she goes back knowing she's not going to save her and does it just to watch (urk) and then finds a note later that MAKES her guilty... Or any of a number of other possibilities.

    I think as it is the pitch is SO short and snappy that it leaves us lacking the information we'd need to actually understand what the book is about. You've got a lot of room to play with, in terms of expanding a little on some of the ideas, which are really interesting even if they are confusing to me. But then, I may just be really thick, not understanding!

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  10. I think you've gotten some good comments here. I would personally like the opening hook to clarify that this is Camilla's story. When I read Madelyn first, I think this will be her story (there are lots of talking dead girl stories, so just because she's dead doesn't mean this isn't her story - lol). Something like: The first time Camilla's twin drowns, it's an accident. Or whatever.

    Interesting premise, though! :)

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  11. Okay, I've reworked the pitch and I think it's stronger now, but I'd love feedback on it - and I have some specific questions. ... the one-liner opening from the old one I thought I'd keep for the hook. But does it still make sense with the new pitch, or does it raise too many questions that don't work with the new version?
    ----

    Eighteen-year-old Camilla Jay has the power of second chances. She can rewind up to twenty-four hours and change the course of events. A tragedy like the death of her twin sister Madelyn shouldn’t be possible, but it happens. Twice.

    While cleaning Madelyn’s room for her fragile mother, Camilla finds notes her sister wrote before her death. Madelyn might have known what would happen, but if that’s true, she would have said something. Camilla must confront her grief – and her actions at the accident, both times – if she’s to understand her gift, her relationship with Madelyn, and herself.

    Unraveling mentally, Camilla goes on a quest to collect anything Madelyn might have left her. In doing so, she is forced to consider everything that has led her here, what really happened, and why.

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  12. Hi Jess,

    First, let me say that I think your premise is excellent. I've caught a few little niggles on your revision. Hope they help!

    Eighteen-year-old Camilla Jay has the power of second chances. [This is a little unclear -- it could mean either that she gives them or gets them. Tweak it a little bit.] She can rewind up to twenty-four hours *and*[to] change *the course of*[delete] events. A tragedy like the death of her twin sister Madelyn shouldn’t be possible, but it happens. [Why shouldn't it be possible? Doesn't follow logically, only that it should be reversible.] Twice. [Is it irreversible? Why does she stop trying? Needs a transition sentence.]

    While cleaning Madelyn’s room for her fragile mother, [Don't need this. Focus on finding the notes] Camilla finds notes her sister wrote before her death [Self-evident, focus on her secret foreknowledge.] Madelyn might have known what would happen, but if that’s true, she would have said something. [Unnecessary.] Camilla must confront her grief – and her actions at the accident, both times [expand on this] – if she’s to understand her gift, her relationship with Madelyn, and herself.

    Unraveling mentally, Camilla goes on a quest to collect anything Madelyn might have left her. In doing so, she is forced to consider everything that has led her here, what really happened, and why. [This last sentence is too reminiscent of the close in your last graph. Close with the twist instead. Agents will be looking for that.]

    The story is clearly there, but you just need to tweak this a bit to eliminate questions and highlight the twist. (There is one, right?)

    Martina

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  13. Jess - I'm so sorry I missed critiquing this one last night! And after all your help with my query (which BTW nabbed me a full request yesterday....) Here's my input (based on your revised one in the comments) This sounds like a great story. I would definitely read on.

    Eighteen-year-old Camilla Jay has the power of second chances. She can rewind up to twenty-four hours and change the course of events. A tragedy like the death of her twin sister Madelyn shouldn’t be possible, but it happens. Twice.

    While cleaning Madelyn’s room for her fragile mother, Camilla finds notes her sister wrote before her death. Madelyn might have known what would happen, but if that’s true, she would have said something. Camilla must confront her grief – and her actions at the accident, both times ( would twice be more concise?) – if she’s to understand her gift, her relationship with Madelyn, and herself.

    Unraveling mentally, Camilla goes on a quest to collect anything Madelyn might have left (to) her. In doing so, she is forced to consider everything that has led her here, what really happened, and why.

    (So even though she can rewind time, she can't save her sister?) This really sounds like a great story!

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  14. Okay, I'm sold! I really love where you're going with your pitch! It's much more clear and concise now. I agree wholeheartedly that a book dealing with time travel of any sort is very difficult. I'm very impressed with the change between your two pitches... I hope mine improves as greatly... :)

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  15. Awesome job Jess. You have a great hook and what sounds like a real intriguing story that keeps you going till the end. Sorry I'm so late to this. I've been out of town. I can't wait to see it on the shelves. The above comments have offered great advice. I think you'll go far with this.

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  16. Hi. This is MUCH better. I LOVE the new opening and the second paragraph, but I’m lacking some of the plot. What are the consequences here? What happens if she doesn’t find the answers? What if she does? What were her actions? What does your protagonist want? What does she have to do to get it? What happens if she fails to get what she wants? (the stakes) I think once I see this, this will be a kick butt query. Can’t wait to see it. :D

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  17. "While cleaning Madelyn’s room for her fragile mother"

    Why is "her fragile mother" important here?


    "Unraveling mentally"

    Why is she doing this? She already knows she has the ability to rewind, right? I don't get why the mental spiraling is happening.

    Otherwise, it's great as it stands.

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