Friday, October 23, 2020

October 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #5

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Dr. Uwe Stender, Kelly Peterson, Shannon Snow, Jennifer Herrington, and Torie Doherty Munro for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!


Query letter

Dear Agent,

With[TDM1] braces on her legs and a smile always at the ready, eighteen-year-old Selene Evander is the perfect prop for her father’s mayoral campaign[JH1]. Although she’s tired of pretending, tired of the gilded prison of her penthouse, it’s only thanks to her family’s wealth and prestige that no one knows the truth: Selene is an AI, an altered individual, with the power to see into the future.[SS1][JH2][KP1]

She isn’t the only one. Thousands of AIs call the city of Polaris home, living apart from the rest of the city’s population in slums cloaked by the haze of nuclear fallout. Selene never goes there. She never goes anywhere, trapped by the secret that would jeopardize even her progressive father’s campaign[SS2]. But when her father is assassinated and her mother is kidnapped, Selene is thrust into the brutal world she’s been shielded from her entire life.[JH3][TDM2][KP2]

All she knows is that a gangster named Adrian ordered the hit[KP3], and her visions draw her to the Neon Tiger, a bar owned and operated by an AI gang called the Pack. With the Pack’s help—and the tutelage of their aloof but beguiling leader[TDM3]—Selene can take Adrian down and avenge her father’s murder. But as she descends deeper into Polaris’s criminal underworld, she discovers Adrian isn’t her only enemy—or the deadliest. Faced with mounting hostility toward the city’s AIs and growing evidence of a political conspiracy[KP4], Selene must harden her heart and spurn her sheltered past to uncover the truth—or else risk losing her newfound family to another fascist’s gun.[SS3][JH4][KP5]

Uwe's comments:

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Does she not see her parents getting killed?
[KP2] How so? Do they find out she’s an AI and throw her into that world? Or is she still hiding who she is? Can you explain?
[KP3] My question is that if she doesn’t seem to care about her father and mother because they don’t care about her…why should she care who killed them? The opening of this pitch acknowledges that she knows she’s being used. What are her feelings towards this? What’s her motivation and emotional tension?
[KP4] Why does she hate her own “people” so to speak, if she’s an AI?
[KP5] Who is her newfound family? I like the stakes, though!
Shannon's comments:
[SS1] My first thought when I read the last sentence or paragraph two was why didn’t she see her father’s assassination coming?
[SS2] There may be some missed opportunities to condense and tighten here. This sentence references she never goes anywhere and why, but it’s also mentioned in the first paragraph. So, there is redundancy here that could potentially be condensed. Additionally, I wonder if the sentence introducing her as an AI could possibly be connected and condensed with the first sentence about AIs in the second paragraph.
[SS3] It’s always helpful if you put in some comparative titles, or a sentence such as, “fans of… will enjoy this…”

Jennifer's comments:
[JH1] Great opening line!
[JH2] Interesting twist here.
[JH3] Great paragraph here. It gives agent lots of needed details.
[JH4] This was an interesting query, but we don’t have any other details such as the genre, word count, or comparative title. There is no pitch sentence and it’s missing the pleasantries to close the query letter.

Torie's comments:
[TDM1] Lead with title/genre/word count!
[TDM2] There is a lot of buildup to get to the inciting incident here, and some of it feels repetitive – Selene has to live a lie, and feels trapped by it. I’d be tempted to try to get to the assassination/kidpnapping sooner, and reveal more details about the world and the way AIs fit into it as evidence of the brutal word Selene finds herself thrust into.
[TDM3] This is a pretty minor quibble, but it’s not clear here what Selene needs to learn from the leader of the Pack.

First 250 Words

Mother and I sit at the back of the stage, drowned in father’s shadow. He is not[KP6] a very burly man, but for what he lacks in stature, he makes up for in charisma. When Dr. Grigori Evander speaks, people listen.

Three thousand of them, in fact. That’s the official estimate for today’s gathering in Tenebra Square. Millions more are streaming the broadcast from the comfort of their homes, the footage provided free of charge by the Arctura Public Access Network. News drones from around the world fly overhead, eager to capture footage for their own highlight reels. Albia, Caledonia, Espalona, Nihon, Goryeo, Zhonguo, Kievek, Lagossa, and more[SS4]. They are all present at today’s rally.

As a former superpower of the world, whatever happens in Arctura is front-page news. Everyone wants to see what we will do next, our once-glorious nation reduced to a single city-state. Whosoever[SS5] controls Polaris controls the country, with the mayor having nearly as much power as the president—our federal government in shambles even so many years after the war.[US1][SS6]

This is why my father must win. If he doesn’t, I shudder to think what our future might hold.

Father grips the sides of his podium. He leans into the microphone so the soft timbre of his voice can be heard clearly. “Arctura was once a country that offered safe haven to anyone and everyone. No matter your race, your creed, your gender, Arctura would welcome you with open arms.”[JH5][TDM4][KP7]

Uwe's comments:
[US1] This is all TELL, and  not SHOW. I lost interest here.

Kelly's comments:
[KP6] Is there a reasoning for the propriety here? It doesn’t read quite as fluently because you’re not using contractions, so I was wondering if there’s a reason for her propriety! =)
[KP7] I have to ask why the whole beginning is more about her father than her. We don’t know her emotions or how she feels about anything that’s happening. I want to be pulled into the main character with her emotions and connection to her father and her country. This reads a bit more like an info-dump. Can we cut back a bit on the information that’s given here and sprinkle it within the first chapter or two instead? This will allow you to focus on your main character’s drive and motivation instead of the world, effectively pulling your readers into your character. In order to become fully involved, your readers will want to attach themselves to your character in order to root for them and their journey. If you try to attach them to the world, there won’t be quite as much attachment or stakes and you will end up losing your readers. Focus on both external and internal (emotional) stakes and motivations here! With this said, I’m going to have to regretfully pass!
Shannon's comments:
[SS4] Too many names. Name 3 or 4 and then use the “and more.”
[SS5] I don’t know if this was intentional, but this seems like an antiquated word choice. It stopped the flow of the reading.
[SS6] The first part of this sentence and the second part after the em dash.  The second part doesn’t seem to support the first part in any way and seems unrelated.  Should it have said that the federal government “IS” in shambles?

Jennifer's comments:
[JH5] This was an interesting opening and it gave a good glimpse into the political worldbuilding. I didn’t feel connected to Selene in the opening paragraphs.

Torie's comments:
[TDM4] This opening is doing a lot of heavy-lifting in terms of world-building, and the narrator gets a bit lost in the shuffle. I know a lot about the political situation of her world and even a little about her father, but I don’t have a clear sense of who she is.


Uwe Stender: Pass
Kelly Peterson: Pass
Shannon Snow: Pass
Jennifer Herrington: Pass
Torie Doherty Munro: Pass

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