Thursday, August 26, 2010

12 Pitch Entry #2: A Grey

Title: Amarok and the Gone Missing Girl


Genre: Young Adult

What would you do if something that frightened you more than anything, suddenly became someone you didn’t want to live without? Ansel Whitetree is an introverted albino Athabaskan Indian who’s more than happy to stay out of the public eye. But when a delirious runaway girl shows up in his parents storage shed, he’s forced to choose between letting her stay, and calling the police. What starts out as an act of kindness quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love.

Determined to save the girl, who he’s nicknamed Catskin, from her lingering demons, Ansel soon finds himself in a struggle between what’s always been, and what might be. In doing what’s right for Catskin, he’s forced to face what has always frightened him the most. No one ever said love was easy, but Ansel knows that love is worth fighting for. If, of course, he and Catskin can survive the changeover from who they were to who they’re becoming.

12 comments:

  1. Very cool! And I love the name "Catskin," it's very evocative. Makes me want to know why he's nicknamed her that!

    One thing I see a lot of in blog entries posted by agents either commenting on or critiquing queries they receive is that they’re not big fans of starting a query or pitch with a rhetorical question (“What would you do…” etc.). This one is especially tricky because it’s also difficult to understand, comprised as it is of generalities instead of specifics, i.e., “something that frightened you more than anything” and “someone you didn’t want to live without.” Instead I think you could really start with the inciting incident of the piece, like “When introverted Ansel Whitetree discovers a delirious runaway girl hiding out in his parents’ storage shed…” That’s what’s really interesting, and what the story’s really about!

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  2. What would you do if something that frightened you more than anything,(comma not needed here) suddenly became someone you didn’t want to live without? (Cut!! Rhetorical questions are never answered the way you think they'll be, and this one's too vague anyway.)

    Ansel (love the name) Whitetree is an introverted albino Athabaskan Indian (I had to read that a couple times to take it all in. introverted in unnecessary if you go on to tell us he's happy to stay out of the public eye.)
    who’s more than happy to stay out of the public eye.

    But when a delirious runaway girl shows up in his parents(insert apostrophe) storage shed, he’s forced to choose between letting her stay,(comma not needed) and calling the police. What starts out as an act of kindness quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love.(cool)

    Determined to save the girl, (how? what does she need?) who he’s nicknamed Catskin, from her lingering demons,(sounds cliche, what specifically is her problem?) Ansel soon finds himself in a struggle between what’s always been, and what might be.(too vague)

    In doing what’s right for Catskin, he’s forced to face what has always frightened him the most. No one ever said love was easy, but Ansel knows that love is worth fighting for. If, of course, he and Catskin can survive the changeover from who they were to who they’re becoming. (this is vague and I'm not sure what it means. who ARE they becoming? what's forcing this change? what's the plot? this is all premise, really.)

    Good luck!

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Hmmm...my first comment disappeared...so, sorry for the confusion and let's try this again:

    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.

    Oveall, I was intrigued by the story and think some agents might scroll down to the pages as is. But, I think for many it is too vague. More specific plot events - focused on the cause or effect of Ansel's actions - would make the query more effective. See some bracketed comments below.

    What would you do if something that frightened you more than anything, suddenly became someone you didn’t want to live without? [I’m one of those perverse people who take rhetorical questions as a dare to be rude – I think they rarely work, and this one really isn’t a good hook for the story that follows, which is actually stronger than the vague question – so, in case that’s not clear, I’d advise cutting it] Ansel Whitetree is an introverted albino Athabaskan Indian who’s more than happy to stay out of the public eye. [a bit too many modifiers there, and then not much character or plot detail – I’d rather know something about why he wants to stay out of the public eye or how, etc. make him do or desire something to show character and stakes]. But when a delirious runaway girl shows up in his parents storage shed, he’s forced to choose between letting her stay, and calling the police. [why? Why can’t he just tell his parents and let them decide? See, the stakes aren’t clear. Maybe if I understood something more about Ansel – his primary problem or desire before the girls complicates his solving/getting it, maybe I’d understand the stakes] What starts out as an act of kindness quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love. [I think to make this work, it would help to show him falling for her or risking himself – like by showing a decision or plot event that demonstrates his falling or risk - instead of merely telling]

    (Continued in next comment)

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  5. (continued from last comment)

    Determined to save the girl, who he’s nicknamed Catskin, from her lingering demons, Ansel soon finds himself in a struggle between what’s always been, and what might be. [so, I’m into the second paragraph and I really don’t know much about what actually happens because it’s very vague – ie, what does Ansel actually do and why – not everything, of course, but some select, specific plot events] In doing what’s right for Catskin, he’s forced to face what has always frightened him the most. [still too vague – tell the agent some of the interesting, shiny secret bits to entice them] No one ever said love was easy, but Ansel knows that love is worth fighting for. [the cliché of love not being easy and him vaguely knowing it’s worth fighting for really doesn’t help me know what the story is about – again, need more specific plot of what Ansel actually does – not everything, but a taste of Ansel actively doing things that show the vague falling in love and risking] If, of course, he and Catskin can survive the changeover from who they were to who they’re becoming.

    Some say queries should read like book cover blurbs – I disagree – in most cases they need to be mores specific than book cover blurbs and show specific action to effectively pitch a story. From this, I really have no idea what Ansel does or why – the pitch could mean he does almost anything…and so some specific details are needed. Again, the good news is I think it’s a great framework of what I suspect is a very interesting story, but it’s a bit like being too far away to know – like watching a movie trailer shot all in really, really long shots so you can only barely make out the characters doing something – bring the shot in closer and give the agent some specific scenes to taste, so they can get the flavor of the action of the book.

    And good luck!

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  6. I think Ansel sounds like a noble and fascinating character. I'd like more details in the query about the struggles faced by Ansel and Catskin. I think it's easy to assume that life as an albino would be difficult, but I don't know how Native American's, and this tribe in particular, view physical difference like that. That might be a sign of enormous power or spiritual gifts... which would lead to issues as well.

    This is a chance to read about and learn about something so different and fascinating, I can't wait to read it. There's definately not anything else out there like it.

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  7. What would you do if something that frightened you more than anything, suddenly became someone you didn’t want to live without? [Wow, confusing. And actually sounds like it doesn't fit your pitch below -- I was expecting a transforming monster or something. :) Suggest cutting.] Ansel Whitetree is an introverted albino Athabaskan Indian who’s more than happy to stay out of the public eye. [Introverted is redundant here.] But when a delirious runaway girl shows up in his parents storage shed, he’s forced to choose between letting her stay, and calling the police. [The "forced to choose" phrasing doesn't seem quite right here. Why can't he shove her outside and lock the door, or ignore her? Suggest something like: When a delirious runaway girl shows up in his parents' shed, Ansel can't make himself call the police…] What starts out as an act of kindness quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love. [Nice.]

    Determined to save the girl, who he’s nicknamed Catskin, from her lingering demons, Ansel soon finds himself in a struggle between what’s always been, and what might be. [Ooo, really vague. So vague I'm not sure it's worth saying. But nice nickname.] In doing what’s right for Catskin, he’s forced to face what has always frightened him the most. [Also vague, though I assume you're referring to Ansel's avoidance of the public eye. Suggest just saying it outright.] No one ever said love was easy, but Ansel knows that love is worth fighting for. If, of course, he and Catskin can survive the changeover from who they were to who they’re becoming. [Still more vagueness.What fight? What changeover? What might they become? Maybe you could give some detail on the first obstacle. Is he going to have to do an interview on TV? Locate Catskin's parents? Go shopping at the store he's avoided all his life? Or maybe the ultimate conflict is more compelling -- face up to someone he's been afraid of forever, take on a leadership position, leave the only area he's ever known.]

    Overall, I think this is probably a cool story, but it's hard to see what kinds of events happen.

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  8. Okay so by unanimous suggestion, I've trashed the opening question... some things just sound better in your mind... and I've reworked the rest of the pitch. This has been a great experience and I'd like to thank everyone who gave me feedback. Feel free to leave more after reading this reworked version. I must say that I sort of astonished myself with my own vagueness... which is funny since I'm often told that I'm too blunt and forthright when speaking to people. Anyway, here goes, please let me know what you think:



    Ansel Whitetree is an albino Athabaskan Indian who’s more than happy to stay out of the often judgmental public eye. So much so, in fact, that when a delirious runaway girl breaks into his parents storage shed while he’s home alone, he chooses to let her stay rather than call the police. What starts out as an attempt to avoid attention quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love.

    Even Catskin, as Ansel nicknames her, believes that she’s too emotionally broken to ever regain a normal life. Ansel refuses to accept that possibility and devotes himself to helping her sort out the fears she won’t explain to him. Discovering Catskin’s past in an effort to help her forces Ansel to conquer his own longstanding fears of exposure. Simply loving her won’t solve the problems caused by her refusal to face her past, and when a near drowning leaves Catskin unconscious it’s up to Ansel to make contact with that past.

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  9. What would you do if something that frightened you more than anything, suddenly became someone you didn’t want to live without? [I totally love the meaning behind this statement, but the words "something" to "someone" felt awkward to me. Perhaps there's another way to say it, like: "suddenly became the thing you couldn't live without. And her name is Catskin." Just a suggestion]

    Ansel Whitetree is an introverted albino Athabaskan Indian who’s more than happy to stay out of the public eye. But when a delirious runaway girl shows up in his parents storage shed, he’s forced to choose between letting her stay, and calling the police. What starts out as an act of kindness quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love. [the word delirious is certainly intriguing but it also makes me question why he would fall in love with her so quickly. Especially if he's so introverted]


    Determined to save the girl, who he’s nicknamed Catskin, from her lingering demons, Ansel soon finds himself in a struggle between what’s always been, and what might be. In doing what’s right for Catskin, he’s forced to face what has always frightened him the most. [I love this part. This sounds more like the beginning and how he's going to work out his own personal demons.] No one ever said love was easy, but Ansel knows that love is worth fighting for. If, of course, he and Catskin can survive the changeover from who they were to who they’re becoming.

    Sounds fast paced and intriguing! Plus I adore love stories. Maybe hint at Ansel's personal demon to give us a taste of his fear, and I'm in.

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  10. Okay, so I posted my comment before reading through the others (I didn't want to be influenced) and missed your new one. I'm so sorry. I love some of the new changes, but I think you can still make the sentences punchier. I don't know if you need judgmental in the beg. Staying out of the public eye already suggests his aversion and that there's a problem. I love the depth of his devotion to helping her with her past and how it pulls him out of his own, and yet if she's shared no information with him at all, how's he going to do it? Or maybe that's the whole wonderful mystery. :) Great rewrite.

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  11. Ansel Whitetree is an albino Athabaskan Indian who’s more than happy to stay out of the often judgmental [I'd cut 'often judgmental', it's sort of a given.] public eye. [I'm guessing you mention the fact he's an albino Athabaskan Indian to explain such a deep-seated fear of notice, since it's not relevant to the pitch otherwise. If that's so, I'd reword this for more punch: Ansel Whitetree hates the judgment forced on him because he's As an albino Athabaskan Indian, and will do anything to stay out of the public eye. etc]

    So much so, in fact, that when a delirious runaway girl breaks into his parents[add apostrophe] storage shed while he’s home alone, he chooses to let her stay rather than call the police. What starts out as an attempt to avoid attention quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love.[much better.]

    Even Catskin, as Ansel nicknames her, believes that she’s too emotionally broken to ever regain a normal life.[POV jump, keep it w/ Ansel - and why does she think that? the way it's worded, everybody else thinks so too.]

    Ansel refuses to accept that possibility and devotes himself to helping her sort out the fears she won’t explain to him. Discovering Catskin’s past in an effort to help her forces Ansel to conquer his own longstanding fears of exposure. [nice.] Simply loving her won’t solve the problems caused by her refusal to face her past, [no because they're completely separate things. don't see how loving her would do that... I'd cut this part.] and when a near drowning leaves Catskin unconscious it’s up to Ansel to make contact with that past.[hm.]

    Overall this is much better, but I want more specifics on the action Ansel takes to help Catskin. Also this makes me wonder about your timeline - is the action of the story Ansel trying to contact people from Catskin's past and the results, which is sort of what it sounds like as written, or does that come later?

    The first para is fine, but the second one needs a bit more tightening.... (grain of salt rewrite disclaimer and all that)

    Ansel refuses to accept what Catskin, as he calls her, believes: that she is too broken to have a normal life. He devotes himself to helping her sort out fears she won’t explain to him. But when a near drowning leaves Catskin unconscious, Ansel must conquer his own longstanding fears of exposure to make contact with her past. [Line about how he'll try to do that and the exposure it will bring.]

    The story sounds really good, definitely emotionally invested in these two based on the pitch.

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  12. Okay, I've tweaked my pitch some more and I'm reposting yet again. Thanks again everybody! This is SO helpful! Oh, and Jess, thanks very much for mentioning the apostrophe in 'parent's' once more... I am, at times, such a dork... Alright, here goes:



    Ansel Whitetree is an albino Athabaskan Indian who’s learned the hard way that it’s safer to stay out of the public eye. His aversion to strangers is so strong that when a delirious runaway girl breaks into his parent’s storage shed while he’s home alone, he chooses to let her stay rather than call the police and cause a scene. What starts out as an attempt to avoid attention quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love.

    Catskin, as Ansel nicknames her, doesn’t think she’ll ever regain an emotionally normal life, but Ansel refuses to accept that idea and devotes himself to helping her sort out the fears she won’t explain to him. When a near drowning leaves Catskin unconscious, Ansel must conquer his own longstanding fear of exposure to make contact with her past and the people in it. Which will mean somehow explaining to Catskin’s millionaire parents where she is and why she’s afraid of them.

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