Thursday, August 26, 2010

10 Pitch Entry #5: Melissa Gill

Title: ZOMBIE RABBIT

Genre: Middle Grade/Adventure

Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit turned into a zombie because he failed to live up to his potential in life. He wants to move on to the Misty Meadow where good rabbits go when they die, but he’ll have to perform a dangerous task to do so. If he fails to complete the task by the next full moon, or if he dissentigrates completely before he completes it, he’ll have to go to The Hot Place, where he’ll be hunted by predators for eternity.

His task is to lead a group of zombies on a mission to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. They have to overcome a series of challenges inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, only for woodland animals. They also have to defeat the Lady in Pink (the LIP) who runs the lab and wants to use zombie animals in her testing. In the end they succeed through team work and sacrafice. Milo goes from loafer to leader and gets the chance to move on.

10 comments:

  1. I started giggling when I saw “Zombie Rabbit,” because seriously, that's awesome, and I was all set to giggle throughout the pitch, too. But about halfway through, I realized that I wasn’t actually sure if it was meant to be a comedy or a drama. With names like “Thimbleberry,” “the Misty Meadow,” and “The Hot Place,” I felt sure it was a comedy, but then, there wasn’t any comedy in the actual writing and it seems to have the potential to be quite dark in places. I ended up confused about where to categorize this in my mind. I do really like the idea of The Odyssey, though you don’t need to write “only for woodland animals” there. We get that it’s an adaptation!

    Also, spellcheck is one of those things I always see agents emphasizing when they talk about queries! There are a few things I see repeated in a lot of agent blogs, and that's definitely one of them.

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  2. HI Milo! :)

    My only complaint is that if it wasn't labeled as middle grade I wouldn't necessarily infer that it was. I mean, the story could be so diabolically brilliant as to work as a YA or adult, depending on how saucy funny and how darkly funny it got. And I think since it's a pitch there should be an overt (but not too overt) indication that it is, indeed, for middle grade and that it's not going to suddenly take a turn where it shouldn't for that age group.

    I'd snatch this book right off the shelf, or buy it sight unseen though, regardless of age appropriateness, because honestly, Zombie Rabbits? Could life get any more awesomer???

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  3. I love the concept of this book! I do have to agree with the first commenter - it's hard to tell what category this book would fall into from the query pitch. Also, I would strongly recommend cutting the last two lines - the pitch is meant to hook the agent to read more and telling them the ending is, as a general rule, a very bad idea.

    Best of luck!

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  4. 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.

    I have to admit – this query confused me. I saw a zombie rabbit for MG readers and thought of something crazy like Whales on Stilts. And I was ready for funny, for fantastical, for…well, over the top. And for something with a clear MG voice and feel. But the query didn’t feel at all MG. The themes and morals felt a bit didactic, and the names of the places felt very young. So…I was left scratching my head.

    If this is for MG readers – I’d guess 7-9 by the bunny and names, but the themes make me wonder if you think it’s for 9-12 year old readers – then I think the voice of the query needs to show you can write for that age group and the query needs to focus more on the action/adventure/humor than on the morals or themes.



    [I really think I’d suggest cutting the whole first paragraph and writing one that focuses on Milo’s POV, showing the adventure he takes, and any humor or voice you can get in. But, I will critique the paragraph anyway in case you choose to tweak].
    Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit turned into a zombie because he failed to live up to his potential in life. [might be more effective to show how he didn’t live up to his potential – in MG language – because right now, as phrased, I’d wonder if the author can successfully write for MG and if the book is didactic. So, maybe show Milo finding out he’s a zombie and why? Or what he faces now that he’s a zombie ] He wants to move on to the Misty Meadow where good rabbits go when they die, but he’ll have to perform a dangerous task to do so. [show the task – this is the meat and tension ] If he fails to complete the task by the next full moon, or if he dissentigrates [spelling errors are sometimes fatal to a query – proofread carefully. And while I like the stakes, show what task he needs to complete and then the stakes so they can feel more personal to a character the reader is engaged with] completely before he completes it, [try to revise to get rid of completely or completes – watch for those kinds of language repetition ] he’ll have to go to The Hot Place, where he’ll be hunted by predators for eternity. [feels like a morality tale, which again would make me wonder if it’s too didactic – so focus on story, and specific plot, rather than message or theme]

    (continued in next comment)

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  5. This is such a fun premise; combining creepy zombies with something as a cute and fluffy as a rabbit! And I love the idea of the rabbits going to battle with the LIP. I do think you could inject a little more voice into your query--maybe even try writing it from the rabbit's POV and then switch it to third POV. And definitely don't spoil the end for us.

    Best wishes with this. Very fun!

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  6. Ok, my continuation keeps disappearing. So...test post to see if anthing will stick.

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  7. Ok, trying this again - continued from my last critique post (I hope):

    His task is to lead a group of zombies on a mission to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. [ ok, so, now I see this paragraph is discussing the task itself in more detail - I think it would be more effective to cut talk of themes and message and instead focus on pitching the adventure in a more chronological and detailed pitch. Focus on what Milo actually does and show his stakes and personality through the specific plot points you include.] They have to overcome a series of challenges inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, only for woodland animals. [I'm conflicted over the Odyssey reference - I think I would leave that out, and instead include some of the tasks and let the agent see through the tasks the inspiration or parallells. Because if the aren't obvious, I'm not sure you need to mention the inspiration]. They also have to defeat the Lady in Pink (the LIP) [why do you need the (LIP) if you don't use it again?] who runs the lab and wants to use zombie animals in her testing. In the end they succeed through team work and sacrafice. [it might be more effective to end the pitch on a climactic scene or event, and make Milo's stakes if he should fail clear] Milo goes from loafer to leader and gets the chance to move on.

    so, overall, I think the query needs more focus on action and adventure, and that it would help to show some of Milo's personality and the voice of the book. In MG I thinkit's especially important to show the agent that you understand how to write for a MG audience by showing the voice of the book and MG plot elements in the query.

    Good luck!

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  8. Thanks for the help, everyone. Yep, after reading this version of my query, I realized that it is way to austere, to say the least. I like to think that Milo is a pretty funny rabbit.

    I do actually have versions of my query that inject Milo's sense of humor. But you have given me all some great suggestions that I know I can use to spice up the query.

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  9. I saw your tweet pitch at Market My Words and liked the one-liner, by the way.

    Milo Thimbleberry is a rabbit turned into a zombie because he failed to live up to his potential in life. He wants to move on to the Misty Meadow where good rabbits go when they die, but he’ll have to perform a dangerous task to do so.(what's the task?)

    If he fails to complete the task by the next full moon, or if he dissentigrates (spellcheck) completely before he completes it, he’ll have to go to The Hot Place, where he’ll be hunted by predators for eternity. (condense this: He wants to move on to the Misty Meadow, but unless he can fix what he failed in life, he'll be forced to spend eternity in the Hot Place, or something.)

    His task is to lead a group of zombies on a mission to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. They have to overcome a series of challenges inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, only for woodland animals.(cut the 'only for woodland animals')

    They also have to defeat the Lady in Pink (the LIP) who runs the lab and wants to use zombie animals in her testing. In the end they succeed through team work and sacrafice.(spellcheck) Milo goes from loafer to leader and gets the chance to move on. (I don't really want to know this - you're supposed to entice us just enough to want to read the book to know what happens. if you tell me, why should I read it? If this were the synopsis, I'd need to know, but not in the pitch.)

    I'll be honest, when I first read this I was sort of dumbfounded. I thought maybe you were trying to jump on the zombie bandwagon (sorry! just, the idea of a zombie rabbit sound so random!) But rereading it, I like how being a zombie is totally pertinent, and the Odyssey elements are cool. I'd like a bit more of the action, though.

    Good luck!

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  10. Again, thanks for the feedback. I tried to implement the suggestions. I hope this is an improvement.

    Death as a zombie is not going so hot for Milo the rabbit. His eyeball won’t stop bouncing on his face, and if he doesn’t find a way to move on to the Misty Meadow, he’ll have to go to The Hot Place. Being chased by predators for eternity would really stink.

    If he wants to move on to the Misty Meadow, he has to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. As usual, he spaced out when he was getting the directions. Now he has to figure this out the hard way. Lucky for him, he’s got a one-armed squirrel and his skeleton wife, an owl pellet, and a dried-out frog skin to help him. They’re sure to make all the difference in Milo’s quest.

    All he has to do is lead this group through a garbage dump full of rabbit eating rats and poopy diapers. Then get past a riddling fox, a wake of carrion-loving vultures, and a one eyed Rottweiler, to finally reach the human infested lab run by the dastardly Lady In Pink. But hey, they can’t get any deader, right? So what could go wrong? Oh yeah, if they don’t complete their task by the next full moon, or before they fall apart, they’ll wind up in The Hot Place.

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