Welcome to the feedback reveals for the first round of Pass Or Pages in 2018! Many thanks to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. Props to the authors who were brave enough to submit. We hope everyone learns something new this week!
Entry # 5: THE DYING CITY
18-year-old Livvy loves her life with a clan of itinerant horse riders.[KA1] Unfortunately, when a government official catches her using illegal magic,[KA2] Livvy is forced to leave her family and journey to the capital city of Trillia to register as a mage.[LM1] The city is nature-loving Livvy’s nightmare: a crowded labyrinth of stone and living metal where nothing green grows.
Someone[MF1] in the government finds her substantial power threatening, and Livvy is nearly assassinated while trying to register. [LM2] Now a wanted fugitive, [LM3]she flees into Trillia’s underground, where she joins a local gang for protection. While she likes her new street-smart friends and is increasingly attracted to the tough but tempting girl who leads them[KA3], Livvy doesn’t plan to stay. She’ll rejoin her clan as soon as she figures out who wants her dead--and how to escape the city without them noticing.
Livvy isn’t the only one in danger; the clockwork[MF2] city itself is dying. The iron trees and mechanical animals are rusting, the buildings are crumbling, and the streetlights haven't worked in years. Worse, a deadly magical plague has begun spreading through the darkened streets. All Livvy wants is to return to the wilderness, but she soon realizes that her magic is tied into the very walls and stones, and that she has the power to bring light and life back to Trillia.[LM4][KA4][MF3]
[KA1]: Me too! I’m already interested.
[KA2]: If the magic is particularly cool, it might be good to give more than just “illegal magic”.
[KA3]: A name, please!
[KA4]: This is a great example of how far voice and character can take you. With some of the others I was in a loop of “Who? What? Why?” as I kept questioning the logic of the story in the query. But when I’m truly swept in by a great detail here and there (horse clan! street gang! magic plague! clockwork city!) and a character I already want to get to know, I don’t really care if I understand what’s happening by the end (to a certain extent). I’m willing to find out in the pages as long as I get to read more about your MC!Moe's Notes:
[MF1]: Who someone?
[MF2]: Can you move this up somehow? I actually had a very different setting in mind, even with you saying stone and living metal in your first paragraph.
I will ask, too, is this intended to be a bit of steampunk? Because those are a very tough sell right now. I’d try and come up with a way to have it feel steampunk (if that’s what you’re going for) without it being actual steampunk.
[MF3]: Just make sure we do get our stakes in here and we know what the eventual bad guy is. I applaud you trying to keep the number of characters in the query to a minimum but make sure we do know who your protagonist and antagonist are!
[MF4]: So is there a love triangle?
[LM1]:Why? I also really dislike the term ‘forced’. It is so frequently used in queries and suggests a lack of agency for the MC.
I’m flying down a dirt road under the blazing sun, so certain of my skill and the strength coiled in my muscles that I want to shout in triumph. Every hunt makes me feel this way: achingly alive and centered in my identity. That confidence comes partly from the[LM1] horse beneath me. I named her Starlight in a fit of whimsy, although she’s a plain bay dun with lopsided ears. She’s strong and lean and loves to run, and on her back, I’m no longer a creature bound to earth, but something with wings.
I let out a whoop and give the mare her head, standing in the short stirrups while we gallop down the path. I nudge her off the track, into the grass, and pull an arrow from my quiver. The grass barely slows her, but it’s short here, the silvery stalks only reaching to her knee. The fox is a barely visible streak of brown in the distance, but as I sight down the arrow, I know it’s mine.
The beat of hooves behind me softens as my companion’s horse also plunges into the grass. He’ll be too late, though. My arrow is already singing through the air. It strikes the fox in the side.
I crow and pull back a bit, giving Corsun the chance to catch up. He’s beside me in a moment, bronze face gleaming with sweat, his reckless grin making me want to be even wilder.
Kurestin's Notes:Love it! Hope I can see more!
I really love the voice for this. I have nothing to really add. For me, I’d want to see a revised query to have a bit better idea of the plot and how things work (and if it’s steampunk or your own sort of worldbuilding).
[LM1]: This is very minor, but use of “the” rather than “my” makes me feel quite distant from the horse and makes me feel your character is also quite detached from her as well.
Kurestin: PAGES! Please send the full manuscript as an attachment to email@example.com.
Moe: PASS But please query me if you revise your query letter, using my Query Manager. Put "Pass Or Pages" in the "Referred By" section.
Lindsay: PASS I didn’t have complaints about this first page, it just wasn’t particularly stand out to me.