Jun 25, 2014

QK Round 4: Tag, You're Dead VS BingBamBoomBFF

Entry Nickname: Tag, You’re Dead
Title: Tag, You’re Dead (originally The Game)
Word Count: 80K
Genre: YA Thriller


When six teenagers play Tag in present-day Chicago, there’s a twist from the childhood version…if you get Tagged, you get Dead.

The three "Its" have their reasons for buying a place in the Game: surgically-enhanced Brandy is dying to destroy a naturally beautiful girl; untalented Robin desires his target's position on the school basketball team; and brainiac Charles craves a battle against an intellectual equal.

Three hand-picked innocents play as “Runners,” under threat to their loved ones should they refuse to participate: lovely, small-town Laura; superstar athlete William; and Amanda, gamer extraordinaire. These three want only one thing…to survive.

As soon as the Runners receive the “Go” on smart watches locked onto their wrists, the Game rockets them through the city, from the El to Michigan Avenue to the Lincoln Park Zoo. There is no time to rest; every thirty minutes the Runners’ coordinates are transmitted to the Its, which diminishes the Runners’ chances of ever reaching Home Base alive.

The Game will not end until someone is Tagged, so the Runners must choose how to play: will they accept death, murder their Its, or find a way to use their individual strengths to stop the Game before anyone dies?

TAG, YOU’RE DEAD alternates among the POVs of all six players in the Game – who will live to see it end?

First 250:

Friday, 8:00 PM

“I can’t choose,” Brandy Inkrott said. “I want to kill them all.

“Tag,” her mother said from her brocaded antique chair. “You want to Tag them all.”

“No. I don’t.”

“Either way,” her father said, “I’m afraid you have to pick one.”

Brandy studied the images of the teenage girls on the screen. Brunettes. Blondes. Asians. Hispanics. Light-skinned. Dark-skinned. Every one of them gorgeous. Every one of them middle-class. No-names. None of them like her. “They’re all so perfect. Can I pick more than one?"

A woman’s voice pierced the air, emanating from Surround Sound speakers. “The price for two would be extravagant, Ms. Inkrott. Plus, Tagging more than one Runner would be difficult. Almost impossible.”

“I don’t care. I can do it.”

Her father shrugged. “If that’s what you want.”

“I suggest this,” the woman said. “Play this time with one. If you are successful you may play again, and then you can go after two. I know it’s tempting when you see all those beautiful faces, but you’d be setting yourself up for disappointment.”

“What do you know?” Brandy said. “You’re probably some fat old lady in a trailer park somewhere. I could Tag you.”

Silence sizzled over the speaker.

“I’m sorry, Madame Referee,” Brandy’s father said. “She didn’t mean it.”

“Did so,” Brandy said.

“Bran, honey, please.

The girls’ faces on the television disappeared, replaced by only one, which took up the entire surface of the eighty-inch screen. The woman shown there was incredible.


Entry Nickname: BingBamBoomBFF
Title: Sucker Punching Magic
Word count: 75,000
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy


Fourteen years ago, during the Y2K Scare, magic bubbled out of Milwaukee’s sewers. A third of the population changed into creatures commonly found in Fairy Tales. Seventeen-year-old Jude Kozlowski is one of the victims. Though his allergy to light causes him to shift into a troll, he wants the world to accept him as a decent guy, not the “who’s that tramping over my bridge” stereotype. But his huge frame and pistachio skin scare normal humans and his shyness keeps him from meeting anyone else. Even his part-time paper-pushing job has him working alone. Fitting in seems hopeless.

That is, until Luz Bangor crashes into his cubicle at First Metro Finance, thugs on her heels. When the Fairy Mob kidnapped her brainiac brother, Eric, she and her unpredictable magic became his only hope for rescue. Convinced a ginormous Loser-L clings to her forehead, she begs Jude for help.

Smitten and glowing over the unexpected chance to be a hero, he agrees. Then the villains snatch Luz. Like a knight sans the shiny armor, Jude pursues. He braves neighborhood vigilantes, a spoiled poodle and a troll biker gang to track Luz to Underhill, the fairy fortress. There, the unlikely pair must square off with the Fairy Godmother or lose Eric—and each other—forever.  

SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC is a YA urban fantasy of 75,000 words, which might also appeal to Middle Grade readers. It’s told alternately in Jude’s and Luz’s point of view.

First 250 Words:

The Number Ten shot by, ruffling Jude Kozlowski’s hair. He jerked his head up out of his calculus homework. Dang. He could blame a lot of things on The Fairy Tale Effect, the mutations that magic’s resurgence had caused, but missing the bus wasn't one of them.
On a clear afternoon in downtown Milwaukee, 6’2” Jude made a big target. Hard to believe the bus driver hadn't spotted him. Yet the guy hadn't even slowed.

Jude leaped to his feet. Book, paper and pencil in hand, he barreled down the sidewalk in pursuit.

He needed his job. The order and routine. The chance to be normal. If he waited for the next bus, he’d be late.

Heart racing, he dodged the parking meters and the guys who cradled cheap wine in paper bags outside the military surplus store.

Down the block, the bus’s brakes shrieked. Its axles groaned. The side doors disgorged a bearded dwarf in a trench coat.  Jude bounded over the dwarf and reached the curb as a woman wearing a Hamburger Heaven uniform hurried through the bus’s front doors.

Jude followed, but before his foot touched the step, the gnome at the wheel flinched. Eyes wide, he hastily cranked the Plexiglas doors closed. The reflection of Jude’s lumpy, pistachio green skin played over the window.

“I need a ride.” Going for friendly, Jude grinned. Wrong move. In the glass, his smile appeared strained—too full, a baring of teeth.


  1. Judges, please cast votes as a reply to this comment.

    1. Allusion AssassinJune 25, 2014 at 9:17 AM

      While I think BFF has come a long way, my pick for the final query standing from the very beginning has been Tag. The tweaks and rewrite it has gone through has only reinforced that for me.


    2. Princess PrimroseJune 25, 2014 at 9:43 AM

      Again, I'm just picking the stories I'd love to read at this point. And I've always been partial to...


    3. Such a difficult choice, but I'm sure both will get lots of agent interest. I am going with...
      Victory to BINGBAMBOOMBFF

    4. I've got a thing for Trolls so of course I love BingBamBoomBFF but Tag, You're Dead to too tough an opponent. I still love this entry so much.

      Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD

    5. Tag, You're Dead: The new title is much better, as is your query! However, I'd avoid the rhetorical question at the end. I'm still worried about the six POVs, but you went into a little more depth on the characters (especially the female gamer, which I love), and that helps a lot. In your first 250, you're missing the end quotation marks after "Can I pick more than one?" and after "Bran, honey, please."

      BingBamBoomBFF: The first thing I'm wondering while reading the first few lines of the query is WHY magic bubbled up in Milwaukee, and why its effect was to turn people into fairytale creatures, and what any of it has to do with the Y2K scare. It doesn't seem like a natural connection to me. I was confused as to why Luz thinks she's a loser. Also, to me this book sounds like it would fit in MUCH more as a MG novel (what a fun premise!) than as a YA. I really like the first 250! (Though again, this sounds more like an awesome MG novel.) One thing, though: I think you'd get more out of this if you skipped the "blaming it on the Fairy Tale Effect" line in the first paragraph, as it sounds like you're just squeezing that in to quickly explain why he's a troll (why would he try to blame it on the Fairy Tale Effect anyway? It's obvious from the story that he missed the bus because he was distracted. It doesn't feel like a natural thought he'd have at this moment).


    6. MRS N, the Query QueenJune 25, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      While both queries sucked me in, I am partial to the story that makes me crave to read more past the first 250.

      Victory to BINGBAMBOOMBFF!!!

    7. This is my first time seeing these entries. Both have unique premises and are well written. But, like the other judges, the decision was clear for me after reading the first 250.

      Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD.

    8. Congrats to both for getting this far. You are both awesome. I really want to read more of Sucker Punching Magic so . . .

      Victory to BINGBAMBOOMBFF

    9. This hurts me. It really does. I love both these entries and wish you both the absolute best in snagging an agent. But I must choose one ....

      I give VICTORY to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD.

    10. Girl with the Golden PenJune 25, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      Though Bingbamboombff is really cute and has a fun premise and got a few chuckles out of me, Tag had my heart from round 1. I love how it has evolved and it is EXACTLY the kind of thing I would read.


    11. Guest Judge Green Velvet here. Sorry for giving scanty feedback, I'm in a remote location and having tech troubles... This was the hardest match up for me. I really, really wish TAG, that your female protag wasn't the one killing over superficial appearances, it just feels so predictable - why not have one of the male MCs be the beauty-obsessed one? That would feel far fresher to me. BING I wish your MC wasn't so Shrekish, because again that made this story feel a little BTDT for me, granted with a twist. So, based solely on the ability of the first 250 to make me feel as though I'd read more, Victory to TAG, YOU'RE DEAD.

    12. These are such cool stories. I want to read both. But for me this one comes down to the voice that grabs me, so my vote goes to:

      Victory BingBamBoomBFF!

    13. Tag, You're Dead

      This is a MUCH better title and first 250. Missing quotation marks aside, you draw me in so much quicker. It's not some vague runner. After all, the reader might not have looked at the back cover...so this is great. It tells us what tagging is. It gives us someone to love to hate. Gosh I'm almost sitting here hopping a runner teams up with a different tagger. Is that awful of me? Strong writing here. Good idea. It's easy to see how you made it this far, ESPECIALLY with the changes.

      BINGBAMBOFF....you know its a super fun idea and story. I wasn't immediately drawn in though by someone missing the bus. Felt a little...spiderman. First one. Seen it before. So that wasn't awesome. I do think its wonderfully strong, with a clear voice. As for moving it to MG? Might be cute but would depend on the details. I think it is fine as YA too. So don't decide to change it unless you want to. It just might find more of an audience if MC was 13. I dunno. But then he wouldn't have been alive during y2K...so yeah. that's a big danger. Guess the Mayan thing could have sprung it off and you could set it in 2016 or something? Random brainstorming here from Sprocket. Feel free to ignore. it's fine the way it is.


    14. Both are such great entries! BingBangBoomBFF wow, you have worked hard on this since the first round! It looks fantastic now!
      But I'm going to give Victory To Tag, You're Dead, because I have a feeling it's a real page turner.

  2. These entries are both fantastic, and I wish you both so much luck. Basing my vote on the book I want to read most:

    Victory to...TAG, YOU'RE DEAD!

  3. Both these entries look like great reads, and I think they'll get lots of agent love. But I'm a sucker for fairy tales and trolls, so...


  4. Mrs. Malcolm ReynoldsJune 26, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    Love both of these... very original concepts.

    But VICTORY TO BINGBAMBOOF for an AMAZING revision! I totally see your world, now! Well done!