Jun 1, 2016

QK Round 1: These Little Earthquakes vs. I Forgot to Close the Door

Title: Where the Waves Go
Entry Nickname: These Little Earthquakes
Word Count: 64K
Genre: YA Contemporary

Query:

After getting kicked out of the house, 17-year-old Charlie Elliott leaves her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and hops on a plane to Los Angeles. She’s running far away from her self-absorbed parents, the boy who broke her heart, and an addiction to alcohol that’s taken over her life.

Charlie is ready for a fresh start—the only problem is that she has no money and no plan. She stays with her aunt in Santa Monica while she tries to find a job, but a drunken misunderstanding forces her to leave. Unwilling to give up, Charlie sleeps in a lifeguard tower on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, sharing the space with a stray cat and a schizophrenic homeless man. Life on the streets is harder than anything she’s faced before, and she turns to drinking once again to numb her pain.

Fortunately, Charlie meets Les, an awkward, video game-obsessed 16-year-old who helps his mom sell jewelry on the boardwalk. Charlie crashes with Les when she gets sick (without his mother’s knowledge), and he supports her while her true recovery begins. But without a job or place to live, Charlie doesn't have long to decide whether she should go back to Ann Arbor and try again or stay in L.A. where she has nothing…except for Les.

First 250:

The familiar sting slides down my throat as I take a sip of whiskey. It’s sharp and hollow at the same time. I don’t wince when I feel it, not anymore. Instead, I find it soothing, knowing the relief that the sting will ultimately bring me.

The music is loud, some rap song I’ve never heard before. Stacey Harrington stands right in front of me but might as well be a thousand miles away. She’s saying something about the new exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, trying to sound intelligent and cultured. Normally, I would force a smile and tell her about the time I went to the Louvre in Paris. I’d talk about how tiny the Mona Lisa is in real life and pretend to be sophisticated and discerning, despite the fact that Paris is the only foreign city I’ve ever been to and it was back when I was ten.

But I don’t feel like playing that game. I haven’t felt like it in a while.

Stacey’s blonde hair is up in the highest ponytail imaginable, and over the top of her head, I see someone step through the front door. Suddenly, I don’t hear the music anymore. I don’t see Stacey, or smell the scent of booze and mildew, or feel the plastic cup gripped in my hand. Everything around me halts to a stop.

It’s Trevor.

His dark brown eyes scan the room like he’s looking for someone, the way he used to look for me.


VS


Title: Open the Door
Entry Nickname: I Forgot to Close the Door
Word Count: 51k
Genre: Young Adult Horror

Query:

In OPEN THE DOOR, generations of Ellen Lucille’s family have lived and died inside of a haunted inn, pruning shadowy wraiths that creep in during the night.  No one has ever left, ever felt the sun or smelt a fresh breeze.  The rules are quite clear.  If they ever leave, then so will an army of formless shadows.  An army that can possess a body or swallow it whole.

Her family’s legacy, though, will soon be broken – Ellen, 14, is the last of her line.  With only her dog, a two-way radio, and an ancestor’s diary for company, she must fight every day to keep the shadows, and the madness, at bay.  Because she can’t open the front door, not really.  Not when the eyes of her dead family watch from the walls.  But the days do seem to get longer, and nothing is quite as it seems.  As long as that door remains closed, she’ll never see another human being or civilization.  Yet freedom for her also means freedom for the shadows that scratch at the handles...and whatever else the inn holds secret.

First 250:

Every morning at six, after the sun rose, I used to wake to my mom climbing the stairs to my room.  I would leave on my overhead light throughout the night, and this particular morning it had burnt out before the gray of dawn could relieve the house.  With my blanket hugged tighter than burial shrouds, I waited by my door until two shadows crept under the crack.  I recognized the soft-leathered shoes they were attached to, but still waited for her faint knock.

“Ellen?” my mom whispered.  She had such a voice, a voice that could caress as easily as scald.  I remember that most about her.  “Ellen Lucille, are you awake?”

I threw open that door and ran into the lighted hallway, jumping into her arms.  Night’s dank shadows got burnt off and I swear I could see them steam from my skin.  My mom tsked and yanked shut the door.

After replacing my lightbulb with a new one, she took me downstairs for breakfast, which was always a bowl of cereal.  My dad was already there with his own.  He had a puzzled look on his face and had paused mid-chew.

“What now?” my mom snapped.  They had some mornings like that, where they wanted anyone else in the world to talk to.  To her, I don’t think there was anything wrong with my dad – the problem was that it was always my dad.  She loved him least whenever she realized that he always had the same face, the same clothes.

18 comments :

  1. Judges, please leave votes and comments as a REPLY to this comment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These Little Earthquakes

      This is in awesome shape. The query is really pitch perfect. A few things that could raise it to the next level, I could use more of Charlie’s character traits. Is she funny, sarcastic,, talented etc.? Add some voice and some more character development and you’ll be good to go!

      The 250 is also good and tight. I normally would worry about introducing two characters in the first page, but I think it works here.

      Open the Door:
      Very good and creepy! A few things. I don’t know what “pruning shadow wraiths” mean. I also want to know more about Ellen. How does she get food? I would also try to avoid clichés like “madness at bay” and “nothing is quite as it seems..” If you cut them out and include more specific information, it will be even better.

      In the 250: I would check to make sure you don’t repeat words too many times like “night” “burnt” and “shadow.”

      I also wonder about why you’re starting in that spot. It feels like a prologue, situated in the past. It would create more tension and creepiness if you started with an inciting incident, something that is going to start the story in motion.

      Overall, I think you both did a great job. I’m a sucker for ghost stories and this one has wonderful atmosphere. However, I have to vote for the one I think is the most polished.

      VICTORY to LITTLE EARTHQUAKES

      Delete
    2. LITTLE EARTHQUAKES:

      query - This is in pretty great shape as is. The only question I had was wondering if Charlie wants to recover. It may seem like a small thing, but, having some experience in this field, it’s important to note. If she wants to recover for herself, super. If she only does it because of Les, she hasn’t really grown.

      250 - I love this. The tension is there. The reader feels her emptiness immediately. Great work!

      CLOSE THE DOOR:

      query - I’m confused here. I know she has to stay inside or the wraiths get out. How many family members are in there with her? How do they….procreate….? Is she alone with the ghosts? Forgive me, but a book about a girl stuck in a house doesn’t seem terribly exciting, which makes me feel there MUST be something missing from the query. I think you have a solid idea and a really creepy one—and I want to care about it—but I need some more details about how this world works and how she’s going to get herself out of it. Why should I root for her?

      250 - I’m torn. I find Ellen’s voice somewhat flat but I like the way you’ve phrased things. The blankets as burial shrouds, for example. I like how her parents are tired of seeing only each other. It really hammers home the isolation.

      VICTORY to LITTLE EARTHQUAKES

      Delete
    3. FORGOT TO CLOSE
      Query: As a horror fan, your query really piques my interest. You effortlessly present a haunting, almost Gothic atmosphere in those few paragraphs alone, and that makes me want to read more. Additionally, Ellen’s situation comes across as unique. While it’s important to convey your story’s mood in the query, I also think your letter can benefit from some minor trimming. I don’t understand what “pruning shadowy wraiths” means, unless they’re like bramble that can be pruned with shears. As Tim Riggins brought up, I’m also curious how the family reproduces if they can never leave, and if they inbreed or just get cozy with their guests. For that matter, I’m also wondering about how they get their food and support themselves, because from what I inferred from the query, it doesn’t seem like they have many (if any) human guests.
      First 250:
      You have some lovely descriptions here, but the voice seems more mature than that of a fourteen-year-old. I’m interested in Ellen’s character and I want to learn more about her. I have mixed feelings about the way you began your story. It’s a cliché opening to have the character waking up and beginning her morning. I want something more interesting. However, since this is just the first page and I don’t have the chance to read more, you’re ultimately the best judge of this.

      LITTLE EARTHQUAKES
      Query: You have a fantastic query here, very well written, with the stakes clearly staked. I get a good idea of the protagonist from the query alone, her struggles, and what she ultimately wishes to achieve. The last line made me want to keep reading to find out which decision she makes.
      First 250:
      Your voice here is superb and realistic for a seventeen-year-old teenager. Right away, I know that she is no stranger to alcohol, and also have an idea of the kind of person she is. The interactions between Charlie and Stacey feel realistic and read like what I would expect from two teenagers.

      VERDICT:
      This was a difficult decision. Horror is one of my favorite genres and Ellen’s story seems fascinating, but I ultimately feel like the samples from LITTLE EARTHQUAKES are more polished.

      VICTORY TO LITTLE EARTHQUAKES

      Delete
    4. Congratulations to both Kombatants on making the cut!

      THESE LITTLE EARTHQUAKES sounds like a runaway story -- who hasn't dreamed of flitting off to California to escape the harsh realities of life? But I like that the author chooses to show us the less-rosy outcomes -- addiction, poverty, homelessness -- through the eyes of a midwestern teenager.

      That being said, I feel that the query is attempting a true synopsis here, and spends two and a half paragraphs telling us everything that happens in the book. The play-by-play is unnecessary: all we need to know is that the main character fled to California to find a better life, didn't find one, and now faces the hard choices of toughing it out or returning to her not-so-nice home.

      To me, the strongest looming threat is the MC's struggle with her own addiction, and the possibility that it will come back to ruin her shot at a new life. To me, that sounds for worse than having to leave her buddy and return to Ann Arbor.

      THE DOOR gave me chills just reading the query -- the author paints the haunting image of this house and its history exceptionally well. I love that the character is alone in a frightening place, and bears the weight of huge inherited responsibility on her shoulders. The query might suffer a bit from cliches (e.g. "nothing is quite as it seems."), and the title in the header does not seem to match the query.

      More importantly, however, I think the character's impossible choice -- stay here alone with the shadows and never see the sun, or escape and possibly unleash them on the world -- should be the focal point. We'd not only sympathize with her as a person who wants an escape, but also as someone carrying the terrible burden of keeping the world safe. But these are minor points; I'm already intrigued.

      Victory to: OPEN THE DOOR

      Delete
    5. I felt like the query for THESE LITTLE EARTHQUAKES needed a hook at the beginning, but I know how tough it is to come up with one when it’s not a high-concept story. This is the story of a girl fighting her addiction and trying to find some nepenthe to replace the alcohol in her life. A story like this needs voice and lots of it, which I found in the first page. I wanted to see some of that voice in the query. Without it, the synopsis reads a bit sleepy to me, and I wonder what would set this story apart from the teams of other teen-addiction books that are out there. Maybe change up some of the cliché language: Life on the streets is harder than anything she’s faced before <-- for example, maybe tweak this into something more voicey.

      The first page perked me up. And honestly, that last line sort of broke my heart. I love it!

      I FORGOT TO CLOSE THE DOOR has a fascinating premise! Oh my goodness, I love it! I wouldn’t change a thing in that query, which could easily be the back cover blurb of a novel.

      The first page threw me for a loop a little. The opening describes how Ellen used to wake—to the sound of her mom’s footsteps. And then there was a comment about her voice being something Charlie remembered most about her as if she weren’t around anymore. That pulled me out of the scene a bit, because I was thinking she must not really be there. But then she was at breakfast with Charlie’s dad, and I had this feeling I was missing something. Maybe instead of I remember that most about her, consider something like: That morning it was a welcome comfort. I do like the writing and I am curious, but I felt more confused than anything.

      Victory to THESE LITTLE EARTHQUAKES

      Delete
    6. These Little Earthquakes

      Query:

      Nice job! This query is in great shape. Maybe infuse it with a bit of her voice to show her personality.

      First 250:
      Here you show Charlie. I feel her emptiness. The tone perfect and I feel a sense of connection to this character.

      I Forgot to Close the Door

      Query:

      You set the gothic tone and gave me the creeps. It’s an interesting concept, but it left me wondering how procreated if nobody ever left the house.

      “No one has ever left, ever felt the sun or smelled (delete- smelt) a fresh breeze.”

      First 250:

      I was confused about the timeline. I wasn’t quite sure whether this scene was a flashback or set in the present. For this reason, I didn’t feel connected to the character. Rather than starting with a flashback, show her in the moment. If she’s alone, show it. Show her desolation and loneliness. Show us what she’s fighting against before she retreats into her memory of her mother. It will make her longing for companionship more poignant if we understand what she’s missing.

      Echo on “burnt”
      “particular morning it had burnt out”
      “Night’s dank shadows got burnt off and”

      Victory to These Little Earthquakes

      Delete
  2. These Little Earthquakes

    Some great voice in the first 250! Easy to bond with Charlie. That's good because no part of her struggle in the query really stood out as storyworthy to me. She could be one thousands of runaway teens sleeping on the streets every night across the country. What makes her different? What ought to make a reader feel for her, entice a reader to read her story?


    I Forgot to Close the Door

    "nothing is quite as it seems" Struck me as cliched. Like the concept laid out in the query and find myself drawn to Ellen's plight. But I'm left wondering just why she can't leave and the ramifications should she do so. I'd also like to know more about their reality. The outside world wouldn't let school-aged children be truant, so they're living off the grid somehow or in some sort of home-schooled arrangement. The first 250 gives us a bit of a glimpse into Ellen's world which seems to include additional insight into her world.

    ReplyDelete
  3. These Little Earthquakes: In reading your query and first 250, it’s hard not to like Charlie. She seems really genuine & authentic. In the query, I like how you outline how her journey unfolds, so we can get a clear picture of where she’s headed. I would like to get more of an idea of what sends her running. Was it the breakup? Her parents? A combination of a lot of things? Since many teens deal with these issues and don’t run away, was there one specific incident that sets her off? You might have already mentioned it in the query, but maybe place greater emphasis on it. Your first 250 is beautifully written. You really get a sense of who Charlie is, and also a glimpse into her past. Very well done!

    I Forgot to Close the Door: I love how well you set the tone for your book in both the query & first 250. I’m a little creeped out reading it, which is obviously your intent. I almost wonder though, if when you say her family’s legacy will be broken, if you’re giving away the fact that she will succeed in getting out of the house? I wasn’t sure if I read too much into that part or not, but maybe leave that out and leave the reader guessing if she will accomplish her goal, even if it’s just in the query. I think what you did very well here was establish the tone, but I almost wish there was more description of the setting. But since it’s only the first 250, maybe that comes soon enough after? Really great job. I would love to read more!

    ReplyDelete
  4. EARTHQUAKES
    Query: The query does a good job setting up Charlie and all the stakes. You have a great first paragraph that says a lot in a few sentences.The query covers all the bases, but some of it reads like a synopsis and could use some voice injected into it. That being said, the query works to make me want to see how you play out these elements.

    250: I love how you set up the character so well with the first few paragraphs. In the first, you show her experience with drinking. In the second paragraph, you give a great example to support the line “I don’t feel like playing the game.” Great example of show not tell. This is some powerful writing in the first 250 and I’d love to see more.

    CLOSE THE DOOR
    Query: Creepy atmosphere, and I’m intrigued by the last line saying that freedom means freedom for the shadows. It’s a great way to leave it and entice the reader. I also like the idea of the family never being able to leave the house (though I want to see a bit of what this means to their everyday life, not being able to go outside - food? Water?). I’d avoid vague language like “nothing is quite as it seems” (show us how it’s this way instead). Also, maybe add a bit of description on what the “army of formless shadows” is. Where did it come from? How does it keep her inside? Lastly, I’m not sure what “pruning shadowy wraiths” actually means.

    250: I like the tone and the style of writing you use. I wouldn’t start the book with her waking up in bed, but maybe with her opening the door, or some other action. The line “I remember that most about her” is a great one because it adds to the horror vibe. With the first mention of shadows burning off, you might add a sentence or two about the shadows — the first time I read this, I thought it was just figurative language. But after coupling this with the query, I see the shadows are what keep them there. I love the way you write the father eating the cereal and always having the same clothes, same face, and that there’s nobody else to talk to. Overall, great job!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Close the Door

    Query: I love ghost stories! I got a little confused, but with a little tweaking, I'm sure you could easily fix this. I would base more of the stakes in the end on a sentence stating: "If she opens the door...but if she doesn't open the door..." Since this is basically the name of your story and premise. Hope that makes sense!

    250: The last two paragraphs really seemed odd like they didn't belong to the story. I'd like to see in the opening scene the MC in the house now as opposed to the past. Save the backstory for later. Just so you know, I'd totally love to read this!

    Earthquakes

    Query: Try to focus on what's unique about your story. I feel like the last line should have more of what is at stake. Is there more to the story about the scizo homeless man? Suspense? Mystery and intrigue? Not that it's a mystery story:)

    250: Is this her life before she moves? I think it might be more fun or relevant to start out the scene having her on her way to LA or smack dab in the middle of trouble--no money, no plans, living in a lifeguard tower with a crazy man!! :) Overall these two entries are great and would love to read them both!

    ReplyDelete
  6. These Little Earthquakes

    Query: In the first paragraph, being kicked out and running far away from her parents seem like two very different things. Which is it? In the final paragraph, you can remove "(without her mother's knowledge)"; it's implied that her mom doesn't know what she's up to out in LA.

    I really like the premise of this, as I've always been drawn to stories about homeless youth. I would definitely read this.

    250: I love your opening! We learn so much about Charlie in this tiny snippet; her voice jumps right off the page and draws me in. Great job!


    I Forgot to Close the Door

    Query: This is a very interesting query! I love how spooky and unique it is; I got chills! You've done a great job of setting the scene.

    I'd get rid of the title mention in the first sentence and move that to your sentence about genre/wordcount (for when you have that sentence during regular querying); it's unnecessary where you currently have it, and makes the sentence longer than it needs to be. You can deliver quite a punch in the first sentence by getting straight to it: "Generations of Ellen Lucille's family have lived..." Also, the correct pasttense of "smell" is "smelled," not "smelt."

    250: The chronology of the first paragraph is confusing. First she's talking in general terms of what she used to do ("every morning," "I used to," "I would leave") but then she says "this particular morning" without ever having mentioned that she was thinking about one specific day. The rest of the paragraph uses regular pasttense about a specific memory. To make this all clearer, I suggest beginning by talking about the single event and weaving some of the generalities into it to show that she's remembering a particular day but there were some things about that day that happened often. In fact, you've already included a great example of this in the fourth paragraph: "After replacing my lightbulb with a new one, she took me downstairs for breakfast, which was always a bowl of cereal."

    Despite all that, though, this opening is great. Your words drew me in and I want to read more about this world that Ellen inhabits!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Earthquakes: I loved the 250; it gave me a clear sense of the world the character inhabited and what was at stake/needed to change for her--though it made me wonder about how the query and first page lined up. There's a lot of plot in the query, and thought I was interested in all of it, it led me to think the book would begin with her leaving (or just having left) An Arbor--is there a way to play with the query a bit to streamline it and get me ready for starting where we do? Is the inciting incident her getting kicked out of the house? Or is is her arriving in CA? Great last line in the 250.

    Open the Door: Loved this query. It pulled me right in with the stakes and situation and had the creepy tone I would expect for a book like this. The first 250, though, threw me off a bit. There is a lot of "don't start with someone waking up" advice out there, but it was the verb tense that threw me off. I get the sense the focus is on how things were and how things are now, but keep playing with how to show that. Awesome lines like the comparing the blanket to a burial shroud do a lot to show the contrast between "normal" and the character's normal, and I 'd love to see something like that show me the contrast between then and now.

    ReplyDelete
  8. These Little Earthquakes: In the query, I question whether you need the whole bit concerning her aunt. I feel like for the sake of the query you can leave it out. Also, and I can’t quite put a finger on it, but for some reason her ultimate decision at the end doesn’t make me wonder which one she’s going to choose. In a way she’s hit “rock bottom” either way, yet is still able to subsist somehow (thanks to Les), so it doesn’t feel like a big enough decision to me, if that makes sense. I dig the 250. The only thing is I don’t feel quite grounded in the scene. Toward the end of the page I’m starting to suspect it’s a party, but I really can’t know for sure, as it’s not made totally evident. On a very nitpicky front, it felt odd that Stacey’s ponytail is done unimaginably high up, yet Charlie looks right over it in the same sentence (was just an odd juxtaposition—seemed counterintuitive). Overall, interesting premise and solid writing.

    I Forgot to Close the Door: I really like this premise. Feels very unique. In the query, I’m honestly not sure what this phrase means exactly: “pruning shadowy wraiths that creep in during the night.” It’s hard for me to visualize and I’m not certain of the importance. Is it necessary in the query, at least? I also wondered how she gets her food and what happened with her family. Also—how did she get this dog if she’s always been stuck in this house? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around some of those things, which pulls me a bit out of the story. I thought the 250 were pretty strong, though I’m wondering whether it’s a flashback or if it’s in the present. There’s something a bit confusing going on there, I feel like, and even after rereading it a couple times I couldn’t quite figure it out.

    Two great entries, though, really. Interesting premises and good writing. Good luck to the both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  9. LITTLE EARTHQUAKES:
    I agree with several comments and have a few small things to add. This is already a strong query, the length is good and the sentences read well. The synopsis element isn't necessary. For the purposes of the query, it probably doesn't matter whether she stayed at her aunt's house and looked for a job or that they had a drunken misunderstanding. Where she's sleeping on any given night could be provided as a list, but the way this is written it feels like part of the plot (that life on the streets is harder than she thought-- which is why Les is important). That being said, if you take out all those words about where she's staying, you have a chance to inject more of Charlie's character and voice. Watch out for words like 'that' in a query. It's a bit of a voice stealer. I like your first 250 a lot. The voice is great and the scene is clear. The only part I would change about it is 'halts to a stop'. I would definitely keep reading. Good job!

    CLOSE THE DOOR
    I love horror, and I agree with other comments that you set the tone and atmosphere really well. There were some confusing sentences in the query (the first and last, specifically). I also think you could lose the word 'though' in the first sentence of the second paragraph. It might give the sentence a bit more punch and tension. First 250: 'soft-leathered shoes' didn't make much sense to me. It was also confusing whether an old memory was combining with a current one or what. I think it needs some tightening up, but I really, really liked the idea and the character set-up. Would totally read it. Great work!

    ReplyDelete
  10. These are both great entries... and very different from each other. You both did a great job. :)

    THESE LITTLE EARTHQUAKES

    Query: I agree with others who have said that the bit about the aunt probably isn't necessary. At first I misread your query and thought Les's mom didn't know Charlie was sick, but now I realize she doesn't know Charlie is staying with them. I'm intrigued by the concept, but I'm afraid your query doesn't show enough of what makes your story unique. Is it Charlie's voice? (Basically I'm echoing what someone else said re: this story may have been done before, so what's new about your take?) Don't get me wrong--I enjoyed the query... just want to give as much constructive criticism as possible.

    250: I really enjoyed your first page. Great voice, and it shows us a lot about Charlie. Well done!

    I FORGOT TO CLOSE THE DOOR

    Query: First off, I'm concerned about your book's word count... 51K might be considered a little low for YA, even if your MC is only 14. Otherwise, I enjoy the premise a lot. I'm confused, though... if the family has been stuck in this place for generations, how have the generations continued? Were they all relegated to the house when the MC was a baby, or have they kept the bloodlines suuuuper close? (Basically, I'm worried about the implication of incest.) Maybe outsiders have been allowed to visit? It might be worth it to clarify this. Otherwise, though, your query is extremely interesting!

    250: I echo the sentiment others have expressed about the timeline being kind of fuzzy in this page. "Used to" makes me feel removed from the present moment. I'm sure it's clarified in the next few pages, so it's hard without that context. Sorry to be so picky! I did enjoy your premise, but I'm worried that your first page isn't at the same place as your query, quality-wise. I wanted a little more of what was unique about the house and family hinted at in this page.

    Seriously, though... these were both great. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. THESE LITTLE EARTHQUAKES

    Query

    This is exactly the type of YA I pick from the shelf. You’ve presented us with a tight, strong query that touches on interesting, important aspects of Charlie’s journey. It certainly makes me want to know how she copes with the vulnerability of her homelessness and addiction.

    250

    …aaannnd you followed that query up with a terrific 250! You might take out the word “Instead” in your first paragraph. Stacy’s one-sided conversation with Charlie does a wonderful job of showing how Charlie’s alcoholism and inner pain have jaded her. The piece’s sensory details—booze and mildew, for example—add depth to the scene and invite your reader into Charlie’s evening, though she wouldn’t want to be there in real life. Your end sentence absolutely makes me want to read on, even knowing Charlie’s going to make my heart hurt.

    Excellent entry. Good luck (and I hope I don’t have to go up against you in this contest)!


    I FORGOT TO CLOSE THE DOOR

    My daughter is a big fan of YA Horror. I’m happy to tell her there’ll be another on the shelves one day.

    Query

    To start, the word “pruning” in regard to the shadowy wraiths puzzles me. I picture the family trimming them like bushes, and I’m sure that’s not what you intend. “Possess a body or swallow it whole” is a great, ominous way to end your first paragraph.

    In your second paragraph, “and nothing is as it seems” is weaker than naming another thing tempting Ellen Lucille, along with the longer days.

    250

    In your first paragraph, “and this particular night” reads like a tense change. To fix this, perhaps stop after “night,” cut “and,” and replace “this” with a capital “That: “…throughout the night. That particular morning, it had…”

    Third paragraph’s “got” could be removed to make the sentence crisper.

    With some word manipulation, you can remove some of the passive voice in this passage. For instance, in your fourth paragraph, you could change the first sentence to “…for breakfast, always a bowl of cereal.”

    We’ve been given no hint as to why Dad has a puzzled look on his face, and with Mom’s, “What now,” followed by the explanation of their marriage, it seems too long before we’re let in on the reason. Are you able to keep Mom’s “What now,” give Dad’s reason, and then is give the explanation of their mornings afterward? The explanation of the mornings Mom and Dad sometimes have—after its passive voice is worked on—serves as an effective and sad glimpse into the flawed marriage of Ellen Lucille’s parents—nice work!

    Good luck to you!

    ReplyDelete
  12. ------These Little Earthquakes-----

    I love the details about sleeping in the lifeguard tower with cats and homeless people great!

    But why does she get kicked out of the house?

    I think you might be able to tighten this query up a bit. And delete the part with the aunt. Get right to Les.

    First 250

    I love the sensory detail of the whiskey. I think you did a great job of capturing the character and you also created some suspense with Trevor coming into the room. GREAT!

    -----I Forgot-----

    LOVE THE SETTING!! This is creepy and awesome. I just want to know – where are Ellen’s parents? Are they dead?

    In the first 250… I wonder if you should say “my mom would whisper” “I would throw open the door…” etc… Because this all seems to be a memory.

    That said, is there a way you can start the story without a “waking up in the morning” scene? I know agents usually dislike that.

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