Thursday, September 9, 2010

6 Pitch Entry #1: Jessica

Title: TAG-19
Genre: YA thriller

While a kidnapped foster-care teen trains in espionage and struggles to discover her true background, an assassin plots to kill her…for the second time.


  1. I think in a blurb as short as this, it means that every word counts--the mention of "foster-care" in this makes me think that is a big part of the story, in an after-school special way, whereas I didn't get that from your longer synopsis.

    It might help to try and make the character a bit more active. Instead of "an assassin plots to kill her" maybe something like "she must escape an assassin's attempts to kill her." That way it puts the focus on what your protagonist has to do in the plot. As it is now, the assassin seems to be the most interesting and active character in the blurb!

  2. This captures my attention for sure. I agree with Meagan about using "foster-care." I'm not sure if it is helping or needed here. I also like her suggestion about the assassin line and putting the focus on the MC.

    This looks like an exciting read!

  3. Ditto--keep it from the MC's viewpoint. HER goals, her obstacles. One thing that differs from the original is that there's no mention of her twin--and that she was killed. You sort of hint at that with the last part, but what that sentence technically says is that the assassin PLOTS to kill her again. Not that he KILLS her again. I think it'd have more impact and interest to know he's already killed "her." Yes, but I know, that's difficult to get into one sentence! Luckily, your query can be more than one sentence.

  4. I'm far from an expert, but in my opinion the best loglines do four things:

    1. Introduce the primary POV character (and sometimes, but less often, characters).
    2. Introduce the primary conflict.
    3. Include an emotional element, something the reader can react to emotionally, as it's the emotional response that often triggers interest.
    4. And, the most effective loglines accomplish 1-3 in an easy to comprehend (on the first read!) bite of information.

    It's usually easier to draft an effective logline for high-concept stories, as those high concept elements, by definition, often are easy to comprehend and cause an emotional reaction.

    Regardless, the exercise of drafting a logline for your story can be helpful in thinking about the conflicts, and if nothing else, it can give you a succinct and clear answer to the question, "What's your story about?"

    So, Jessica, looking at your logline:

    The first thing I noticed is that I had to read it 2-3 times to really understand it. So, it doesn't really meet number 4. But, the good news is that I think it's simply too packed with information (and in this case, modifiers - common issues in loglines). With some judicious trimming, I think you'd have at least a more clear and easily understood logline.

    So, in looking at what to cut, I wonder if "kidnapped foster-care" is needed - neither seems essential to the real core of the conflict/primary plot arc expressed in the pitch, which to me appeared to be Kae's need to train to stay alive and to learn about what happened to her sister. So, I'd consider dropping the "a kidnapped foster-care" so to highlight her training in espionage and the great end of the logline, that the killer is trying to kill her again.

    The espionage training and the assassin both are both elements that cause that adreneline response to danger - good emotional triggers. And the "again" is an interesting twist, and coming at the end, can up the ante and make pull the reader in more, since it's unexpected in an otherwise somewhat common thriller set up of training while escaping danger.

    And by including the reference to either kidnapped or foster care, I think you run the risk of misleading the reader by leading with two things that really have more to do with the set up than the conflict, especially because it makes your MC seem sort of passive at the start. And both can cause the immediate reaction to suggest it's a problem novel, more than a kick-ass espionage thriller.

    Having said that, the mention of her training in espionage and an assassin trying to kill her... again, do have high hook value - especially if you put the active focus on Kae, ie, she is training in espionage and working to investigate her true past, while... as opposed to making it seem like she is passively taken somewhere.

    So, great start that with some trimming and refocus could be a really tight and easily understood logline. :)

  5. I agree you don't need to keep the kidnapped or foster part in your first sentence because you can get them in later in the query, which I think is good. Especially being in foster care, even if it's the back story, is a different family situation. Also the plotting to kill her for the second time was confusing. It made me think of the rewind stories where someone relives their life or day a second time which isn't your story.

    How about: While a sixteen-year-old teen trains in espionage and struggles to discover her true background, she must thwart an assassin who doesn't intend to miss his target a second time.

    Or: While a sixteen-year-old teen trains in espionage and struggles to discover her true background, she must thwart an assassin who thinks she's the real target.

  6. E. M. Kokie's suggestions were spot on!

    Your MC shouldn't be timid and neither should this logline. Let her jump off the page/screen, give us her name and get her into action!

    I agree that the "kidnapped foster-care" bit is important to the story, but not to the quick pitch. And how exactly to phrase the part about the assassin killing her twin, the wrong target? Well that's a bit tricky.

    How about:
    Sixteen-year-old Kae will have to master the deadly arts of espionage and discover her true past if she is to survive an assassination, for the second time.

    I love the idea! It's just a tough one to cram into a logline. But then again, that's why we're here, right?


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