Friday, October 22, 2021

October 2021 Pass or Pages Entry #5

 

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Kaitlyn Johnson, Hilary Harwell, Michelle Hauck, Beth Marshea, Carlisle Webber, Cortney Radocaj, 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 5: Purecell

Genre: Fantasy

Query

For six hours a day, wielding a new list of names each morning, she[KJ1][CR1][BM1][CW1] convinces strangers to buy things[CW2]. As the top telemarketer at Kogane Services, Inc, she makes a living by knowing everything about others while staying invisible[KJ2][MH1].

One day, after a violent encounter with an old client[CW3], she wakes up locked in her apartment with nothing but a map and a strange[BM2] list of names. With no other[BM3] way out but a massive hole in her bathroom[CR2], she soon finds herself thrown into Purecell, an alternate world where humans no longer age, people must request identity/memory changes every few decades to ward off boredom or insanity, and a select few (lucky or not) possess Skill Stones—special body parts that grant unique powers from mind reading to self-duplication—which they use to battle for power and prestige as “Burners.[MH2][CW4]

To Faye’s horror, everyone in Purecell knows her—just[BM4] as one of the most brutal Burners[CR3] in history[MH3]. Wanted for crimes she escaped nearly two hundred years earlier which she has no recollection of, she soon finds herself chained to a chair with three options: Burn, Be Burned[CW5], or Confess. Until her executioner offers her a job in exchange for the list of names[CW6]. With an unexpected ally[CW7], Faye must now navigate this dangerous new world where everyone wants her dead to find the truth behind the strange list of names and who she really[KJ3] is.

PURCELL is a 130,000 word[KJ4] YA[MH4] fantasy[CW8] with a narrative style in the vein of Haruki Murakami and a fantasy world that cues popular Japanese animations like My Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen[CR4].

~~
Kaitlyn's comments:
[KJ1] Who is she? What is her name?
[KJ2] Start off with the telemarketer angle instead of list of names. That way, we don't begin confused. Ex: As the top telemarketer at Kogane Services, Inc., Faye makes a living knowing everything about others while staying invisible. 
[KJ3] Perhaps condense this to something like "To Faye's horror, everyone knows her here—as one of the most brutal Burners in history. Wanted for crimes she allegedly escaped nearly two hundred years earlier, she's left with three options: Burn, Be Burned, or Confess. But when the strange list of names opens the door to escape, Faye must navigate the dangerous new world where everyone wants her dead to uncover who she really is, who is on her list, and how she can get back home. 
[KJ4] This word count is too high for a YA Fantasy debut. Often, we're seeing editors ask for no more than 110k.

Hilary's comments: None

Michelle's comments:
[MH1] Very nice bit of character insight!
[MH2] I’d like to know more about what being a “Burner” is about. Maybe shorten the first and s
[CS3] econd sentence to make more room for that. 
[MH3] Nice twist!
[MH4] That’s on the long side for YA fantasy. 

Beth's comments:
[BM1] She doesn't have a name?
[BM2] Delete
[BM3] Delete
[BM4] Delete

Carlisle's comments:
[CW1] Name the main character as soon as you introduce her.
[CW2] What kinds of things?  
[CW3] A client of the company? Or someone she convinced to buy something? 
[CW4] Is Burner a position they get after gaining power and prestige, or do their skills as Burners get them that?
[CW5] What does this mean? What are the consequences of being burned?
[CW6] What names are expected to be on the list? 
[CW7] Who is it?
[CW8] This is far too long for a YA novel. Even though fantasy can be a little longer because you need more time and space to set up the world, for YA you want to stay around 90K or shorter. Also, since the main character already has a career in our world, this doesn’t sound YA, something backed up by your comparison to Murakami. YA is written and published for people ages 12-18, and the protagonists are usually 15-18 years old.

Cortney's comments:
[CR1] Who is “she”? I’m guessing there might be an opening paragraph before this one that was cut for the purposes of this contest where the MC’s name is given, but if there isn’t, I’d highly suggest putting that name here to ground us.
[CR2] This confuses me—are the doors locked? Did her apartment cave in? I feel like we missed a major piece of plot tension and conflict here (and thus a huge piece of motivation for the MC).
[CR3] I’m not sure what this term means, and it doesn’t really seem to be explained at all after this point in the query, either. I’d either give a brief, few word explanation after this so we understand what Burners are (are they criminals? Crime bosses? Something else?), or use a term that most are going to understand.
[CR4] I think on the whole this premise has potential, but I have a few issues with the way it’s laid out. There’s simultaneously too much detail and not enough—I’m not getting enough of Faye’s internal conflict/motivation, especially in the first half to set up the rest of the query, but then there are terms that are too specific for a query since there isn’t space to explain them (Burners, Burn, Confess, etc.). There needs to be a little more internal information, and fewer specific terms. Additionally, I was really thrown when I reached the end of this query and realized this is YA—nothing about this query reads as YA, especially since you start off with her working as a telemarketer. The word count is also way too high for YA, even YA fantasy. This absolutely reads as adult.

First 250 Words

My name is Faye Kirasaki, age 23, average chest[KJ5] size[BM5] and long black hair[CR5][CW9]. I’ve been told I’m perfectly normal. And I tell people I’m perfectly appropriate for this kind of work[CW10]. I sell things. Magazine subscriptions, daily salad delivery plans, special CD boxsets, a year’s worth of something you’d never think you’d needed until I told you about how it could change your life. There’s always a reason - that’s the slogan at Kogane Services Inc. Everything from fashion to toy guns, and all under 50,000 yen. I spend over six hours a day on the phone, talking to strangers I’ll never meet.

Each morning starts off with lists of raw information: names, jobs, interests, education, birth dates, hometowns. I go online and search for photos of people with the same names so I can put a face to a list of facts, first by full name, and if that comes up empty, then just by first name and occupation. I’ll keep the photo on the screen as I talk to the person on the phone so that I can imagine their facial expressions with the changes in the tone of their voice or diction. I make up anecdotes and backstories. I’ve learned so much about these strangers, weaving story upon story, that sometimes they come into my dreams, drained of color, and demand to see my face and hear my story. I’ve had tea with the same actress from Tokyo with Nanako Matsushima’s face, in three separate dreams[CR6][BM6][MH4][CW11].

~~
Kaitlyn's comments:
[KJ5] Why is her chest size necessary? I'm not sure listing her attributes and how "normal" she is opens this story the strongest way. Perhaps start instead with the Kogane slogan, and then bring in Faye's connection to that instead of listing those details. I'd love to see her actually in the motion of her days instead of being told how her mornings start.

Hilary's comments: I was dying to know who ‘she’ is in the opening of your query pitch. I’d definitely suggest introducing your protagonist sooner and more formally, and I also wanted to feel more of a connection to her in both the query and the pages.
 
Michelle's comments:
[MH3] Maybe more generic “men like this to go to hell” Since she might not ever see this particular man again. 
[MH4] I’m not sure I’m sold on the narrative voice, but I do like how you work little clues to her personality into the narrative. I will pass on this as I didn’t connect to the narrative voice. 

Beth's comments:
[BM5] No
[BM6] This isn’t the right story for me. I don’t love these kind of dystopian world stories that center around fighting, etc… But, I also think the sample has a bit too much of an infodump as introduction. Try to find a place in your story to that will help your reader engage with your character so that they’ll want to stick around to see what happens next. I’d also strongly advise staying away from physical descriptions unless there is a salient point to be made or it is relevant to the scene. 

Carlisle's comments:
[CW9] Why is chest size something that the narrator feels defines her? Without explanation, it feels like unnecessary sexualization.
[CW10] Here, “this” is a pronoun with no antecedent.” I think this sentence would make a lot more sense after the reader learns what the work is.  
[CW11] I think this passage would be more powerful if we saw the main character taking action, rather than telling the reader what she does. What if this scene were an actual interaction with a potential customer? That would give Faye the opportunity to act and narrate her thoughts in real time.

Cortney's comments:
[CR5] A couple things here: first, if your protagonist is 23, it’s definitely not YA, which reaffirms the feeling I got from reading the query. This book is adult, and you definitely need to start pitching it that way, or you’re going to have agents rejecting on the basis that it doesn’t feel YA since that’s what they’re thinking it is. Second, this opening sentence is going to turn off agents in a heartbeat, especially with the focus on Faye’s chest size (why is that, of all the physical details that we could get, the one that gets included here?); I don’t really care what your characters looks like or her age. I care about what being in her head is like, what her emotions and thought processes and her life is like. You’ll have a much, much stronger opening if you start in the middle of a scene (NOT, mind you, a super action packed one or the inciting incident, but one that allows us to get a sense of Faye’s life and circumstances).
[CR6] The same issue with the first sentence pervaded throughout the rest of these two paragraphs—it’s difficult for a lot of readers to get into a story when we’re immediately dropped into a bunch of info dumping. I’m not getting a sense of who Faye is as a person, what her actual POV is like and where she’s at during THIS current moment; I’m getting a rundown of her job description. I feel like this would work a lot better if we were actively in a scene with Faye, rather than getting a list of information about Faye and her job. 

 

Results:  [If you receive a "Pages!", click on the agent's name here or at the top of this post for submission instructions.]

Kaitlyn: Pass
Hilary: Pass
Michelle: Pass
Beth: Pass
Carlisle: Pass
Cortney: Pass

 

1 comment:

  1. Good information in this post. Thank you for sharing.

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