Thursday, August 26, 2010

8 Pitch Entry # 51: Liz Heinecke

Title: MERLIN'S DAUGHTER
Genre: middle grade fiction

From a granite slab where she’s hanging out with her sister, Jess is literally blown away. She wakes up on an ancient stone table next to her sister Piper and a teenage boy named Will, who joined them just before they vanished. Standing stones surround them, but Jess is sure they’re not in England when they’re attacked by strange wolves. They stumble on Moonstone Castle and discover a society where the adults have been spirited away by Merlin’s son.

Teenage girls have taken over the stone fortress and forced the boys into servitude. Jess butts heads with teen-queen Trina and makes friends with the outcast Seila. The residents of Moonstone Castle all have horses, and Aisling, the black stallion Trina covets, chooses Jess as a companion. The jealous teenager exiles Jess and her friends to the wild mountains, where Seila leads them to her father Merlin’s magical oasis. The friends search for a magic stone as they prepare for a journey that will lead them to old England to find Merlin and his son.

8 comments:

  1. From a granite slab where she’s hanging out with her sister, Jess is literally blown away. (awkward. why mess with the structure like that?)

    She wakes up on an ancient stone table next to her sister Piper and a teenage boy named Will, who joined them just before they vanished. (vanished or *literally* blown away?)

    Standing stones surround them,(what do they have to do with anything) but Jess is sure they’re not in England when they’re attacked by strange wolves. They stumble on Moonstone Castle and discover a society where the adults have been spirited away by Merlin’s son. (I feel like you used a lot of words just to say They vanish from our world and find a castle...etc.)

    Teenage girls have taken over the stone fortress and forced the boys into servitude. (interesting) Jess butts heads with teen-queen(tween-queen, maybe? you don't give us ages but since it's MG I hope Trina's not really a teen-queen.) Trina and makes friends with the outcast Seila. (though this could all be cut...) The residents of Moonstone Castle all have horses, and Aisling, the black stallion Trina covets, chooses Jess as a companion. The jealous teenager exiles Jess and her friends to the wild mountains, where Seila leads them to her father Merlin’s magical oasis.(you could condense all that to, When the horse that tween-queen Trina covets chooses Jess as its companion, Trina exiles Jess and her friends, where fellow outcast Seila ...)

    The friends search for a magic stone as they prepare for a journey that will lead them to old England to find Merlin and his son. (What does the stone do? Why do they need to find Merlin and his son? What's at stake here? You spent most of your pitch on set-up. I want more meat!)

    You might try summarizing the story from Jess's POV and seeing where that goes?

    Good luck!

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  2. I agree with most of what Jess said above, especially explaining what the magic stone does.

    We really need to know the stakes. I'm wondering how they were just whisked into this magical world, with no explanation of how they're going to get back.

    It's an exciting premise, but the query can be tightened a bit.

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  3. I think using "literally blown away" is confusing, and not enough of a hook. How was she "blown away"? She ends up on a stone table in a place that is not England. How are the stone table and the standing stones significant? Ancient ceremonies? Do Jess and her sister have some sort of interest that plays into this, if so bring the ideas together.

    You mention Will in the hook, but I was looking for how he fit in when the teenage girls force the boys into servitude.

    I am not sure where the horses play in. If it is significant to the story,add that in to show why there is conflict.

    Good start for MG. I think people who write YA might be unsure of the difference in the two genre's. I would love to seesee how your finished query tunrs out. I like your premise.

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  4. Ooh, this sounds like a fun read!

    I think the first sentence needs to have more of a hook--literally blown away was a little confusing for me and I didn't really quite get what happened. The rest of your query reads very much like a synopsis--yet I don't really understand who's the MC, what's at stake for them, and what's the consequences if they chose X or Y. I sense there's conflict here, but I'm not sure what it is.

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  5. Others have already noted the issue with the first sentence.

    Is the "ancient stone table" actually ancient -- as in very weathered -- or is it just the kind of stone table used in ancient times? I can't generally tell that something is ancient just by looking at it, unless it's really beat up.

    Found myself curious throughout about Jess's age. This is listed as middle grade, but everyone whose age is mentioned is a teen.

    I like the set up, with the adults spirited away and the girls in charge, though I hope the story explains how the girls managed this, as teenage boys are generally pretty strong and aggressive. Magic?

    I'm not sure the detail with the horse helps a lot with the hook. Just butting heads with the ruler and being exiled might be enough, and leave you with space to describe more of the plot and stakes. Is it dangerous in the wild mountains? How does this world relate to the real world? Are Merlin and son needed to return home?

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  6. I had the same problem with "blown away literally." It stopped me from reading the rest while I tried to figure out if you meant they were blown away by being shot, or by a strong wind, a magical being's breath...? I also wanted to know more about where they were, what the granite stone was, were they researching something, exploring? Also "granite slab" brought to mind a cemetery. Perhaps adding a bit about what they are doing in the first place will set up for the adventure to come and can show us a bit about who they are and what they want.

    Standing stones surround them, but Jess is sure they’re not in England. [But she didn't have time to figure out where (or when) they are before they have to run for their lives from a pack of strange wolves.] They stumble on Moonstone Castle and discover a society where the adults have been spirited away by Merlin’s son. (cool set up)

    I'm not sure what the horses have to do with anything except causing conflict which leads to exile. It feels awkward and confusing as written. I agree that you need to show us what's at stake. Why are they seeking the stone? What will it do for them? Send them home? If they find Merlin and his son, will they set things right at the castle? Will they bring back the adults? Will they then be able to go home?

    I love the subject matter and the premise sounds interesting. Give us more about their conflicts and goals, and you'll be good to go.

    Hope this helps. Good luck!

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  7. OK. I have similar advice for you that I gave Valerie in entry #49. The main problem with your pitch is that you are giving me as summary of your story, but you're not pitching it to me. I think this is a common misconception when you write a query for the first time, so here's my advice on where to start!

    Write one line, 25 words or less if you can, which states what your story is about. Who is your main character, what does she want/what happens to her, what are the obstacles, how does she go about accomplishing her goal. THIS will be the kernel of your pitch, which you expand from there.

    This pitch read very scattered for me. The best I can make out for a one line summary would be this: "Jess is whisked away to a magical realm where teenage girls have taken over a castle which holds an ancient secret that has something to do with Merlin and his son."

    To be honest, I'm not sure how close I am. You have so many names and so many elements and it's very difficult to keep them all straight. So start with that breakdown of Who Jess is (we don't even get an age or a sense of her age in here) and what she wants then expand from there bringing in only the most important elements and characters. Good luck!

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  8. I was very excited by the title and quite curious to read about "Merlin's Daughter." But then the pitch kind of lost me and I couldn't figure out who Merlin's daughter was for a while and why the book was named for her.

    That aside, there are definitely elements in your pitch that sound awesome: a castle run by teenage girls (an interesting twist on "Lord of the Flies"), all the guys as servants (what happens to Will?) and the journey through the wilderness in exile.

    With all of these interesting plot points, I'm sure your story will be quite entertaining. A little more depth into why this quest matters would go a long way toward strengthening this pitch.

    Good luck!

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