Monday, June 21, 2021

June 2021 Pass or Pages Entry #1

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Michaela Whatnall, Rebecca Podos, and Elle Thompson 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!

Entry 1: The Adventures of Imperceptibility Happenstance


Query:

 
In THE ADVENTURES OF IMPERCEPTIBILITY HAPPENSTANCE[MW1], daydreams of pirates and dragons become perilous reality for a young inhabitant of a Disenchantment-like fantasy world who is tricked into owning a magic lamp containing a dangerous djinn.
 
Mild-mannered Imperceptibility Happenstance has always dreamed of being an adventurer, and hopes the djinn lamp she finds will help her. However, the first wish granted[MW2] by the devious djinn has her press-ganged then cast adrift, ending up in the underworld, where she meets the dread Kharon (actually, it’s Karrin—everyone gets it wrong). When Imperceptibility reaches the surface world again, via the tunnels of the Humble Monks, she stumbles into a plot by a ruthless businessman to destroy a valley’s ecology.
 
She decides action is necessary[MW3], and assisted by a quantum dragon and a three-headed dog, as well as bearing delicious baked goods, she leads the valley’s inhabitants on an attack against his the businessman's stronghold.
 
Along the way, she finds out if she has what it takes to become a fully-fledged member of The Adventurers’ Society[MW4].
 
This comic fantasy novel, complete at 67,500 words will appeal to readers of Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching novels and viewers of Matt Groening’s Disenchantment[MW5][RP1][ET1].
~~
Michaela's comments: 
[MW1] Before I realized this was the name of the protagonist, this title read awkwardly to me.
[MW2] I’m curious about what her first wish was.
[MW3] This is a little passive. This query is relatively short, so you have room to expand here.
[MW4] Was joining this society her goal from the very beginning? If so, mention that at the top.
[MW5] You use this comp twice in the query—in case an agent doesn’t recognize the comp, I’d recommend switching out the first mention and sharing some details to define the world instead.
Rebecca's comments:
[RP1] This is an incredibly specific and subjective note, but the title did throw me for a moment; the fact that “imperceptibility” and “happenstance” are nouns is intentional, of course, but I was looking for some missing conjunctions, so I was off to a bit of a stumbling start. Again, completely subjective! But also worth considering whether the charm of the name is worth the confusion.
 
I like that we learn about Imperceptibility’s hunger for adventure, and I know the genre is kind of episodic by nature, and that it’s meant to be humorous and light fantasy. Still, I’d love it if the personal stakes were a bit more personal; if we could get to know a little about Imp, where she comes from, what it would mean to her to become a member of the Society, and what it would mean if she failed.
 
I would also specify that age-range, since the wordcount and content could apply to MG, YA, or adult (though the former seems more in MG fantasy range). I might like a more current comp as well; when you use a classic of the genre, it’s sometimes helpful to demonstrate that the story works in the contemporary market as well (but I love the show comp!)
Elle's comments: 
[ET1] This query cites the book as a ‘comic fantasy novel’, but you would really benefit from adding “middle grade” here, as that seems to be the case? I assume middle grade because both Pratchett’s and Groening’s comps are generally age categorized for young adolescents, I think. But that leads to a further potential problem: this query generally doesn’t feel like it has a clear age category. 67,000 words is a fairly average length for a middle grade fantasy, if potentially on the lower side (depending on who you ask). This vagueness about intended audience makes it hard to give clear notes on what direction to go in.

What purpose does ending up in the underworld serve Imperceptibility/the story? The query pitch doesn’t indicate much follow-through threading on how her start is leading to her eventually leading the fight against the environmentally destructive businessman, and it feels like the plot may be a bit wandering until we get to the surface. This may just be an element of the query letter to be refined! Overall, I’d say: make sure that Imperceptibility has a clear character arc to track throughout the book, and ideally one that goes somewhat beyond her simply finding an opportunity to take a stand. We know she wants to be an adventurer, so what’s stopping her in her personality? What personal achievements must she gain, or what character flaws must she overcome, and how do her encounters along the way contribute to this inner quest?

First 250 Words:


On one thoroughly normal morning in the Estalian capital of Pyrhia, Imperceptibility Happenstance was ambling through the market for her daily visit to the city’s central library, absent-mindedly munching an apricot croissant purchased from Pierre’s Patisserie.
 
She wore an ensemble of garish, clashing clothes, as was her customary mode of dress, for no better (or worse) reason than she liked bright fabrics.
 
Growing up in the Convent of the Ethynites’ orphanage in Pyrhia, where clothing was chosen based on functionality and availability, she had developed no fashion sense; nor had she any desire to spend time coordinating her clothing when she could be reading instead. When shopping by herself, her gaze automatically settled on the garment with the most vivid colours, so that’s what she tended to buy. This also made for speedier shopping than trying to choose among all the drab greys and browns and greens—she wasn’t very good at making decisions at the best of times, so shortcuts like heading towards the brightest colours saved a lot of time. The most important attribute of suitable clothing, she thought, was that it came with ample pockets—book-sized pockets, ideally.
 
The market in the desert city of Pyrhia might have been crowded and bustling, or it might have been empty in the oppressive heat of the morning, but Imperceptibility didn’t notice. As usual, she was busy daydreaming, valiantly defending her city from attack by fierce pirates as still fiercer dragons filled the sky[MW6][RP2][ET2].
~~
Michaela's comments: 
[MW6] Pass. Unfortunately, comedic fantasy is not the right fit for me.
Rebecca's comments:
[RP2] It would be a pass for me, though the genre just isn’t the best fit. But I’m also still not exactly sure of the age-range. The fact that Imp is shopping points toward at least YA or adult, but the language in the first paragraph, with lots of alliteration, makes it read young. Because of that, I would likely stop reading there.
Elle's comments: 
[ET2] I’d hone your narrative voice to be more comic and narrative than simply ‘telling’. I was surprised by the traditional style given the query pitch, and it feels like the narrative style may be out of tune with the query’s vision. I think this style of book would benefit from a conversational and playful narrator, one who perhaps is a close 3rd POV witnessing style that somewhat tells the tale to the reader, rather than a flatter narrative style.

Overall, this query is a PASS from me, but I think there’s great potential here for a really fun story, and for Imperceptibility to be an adventurous and clever young protagonist.

 

Results:

Michaela Whatnall: Pass
Rebecca Podos: Pass
Elle Thompson: Pass



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