Saturday, May 23, 2015

Feedback Requests

Below are revised versions of the query and opening of Ratman's Revenge. The author would like any feedback you can provide.



Query:

Twelve-year-old Cody is sick of his too-busy-to-care divorced parents. When he meets two kids in the woods who can read minds and claim to live in a secret underground city, Cody decides he’s ready for a change. The kids take him underground where he discovers crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, and new friends with awesome paranormal abilities.

Best. Home. Ever.

Then the people who warn the city of natural disasters and invading beasts start disappearing. Cody sees his chance at fitting in and tries to find them. Instead, he finds Ratman—a deadly man-sized rat with creepy mind control abilities and an annoying habit of turning invisible. And since Cody is the only one who sees the freaky fur-face, his friends don’t believe it even exists. What’s worse, Ratman seems determined to exterminate Cody. Dang it.

But Cody can’t quit. His friends warned him that once he comes [came] down to the underground world, he could never go to the surface again. [How come his friends were able to come to the surface?] So, Cody decides to hunt down Ratman in time to save his new home from whatever disaster that whiskered weirdo is plotting—or at least before Ratman’s next attack actually kills him. [I don't see much connection between the two sentences in that paragraph. Is he hunting down Ratman because he can never return to the surface? Maybe it would be better to drop this paragraph and change the end of the previous paragraph to: 

And since Cody is the only one who sees the freaky fur-face, he decides it's up to him to hunt down Ratman and save his new home from whatever disaster that whiskered weirdo is plotting.

That would give you room to add a paragraph in which you tell us how Cody plans to defeat Ratman, what goes wrong, what will happen if he fails.]

RATMAN’S REVENGE is my upper middle grade magical realism novel complete at 69,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Opening

I dropped to my knees in the middle of the dog park, panting hard. Sandy, my golden retriever, ran up with a tennis ball clamped in her mouth. I grabbed the slimy ball and threw it. “Go get it.” She raced off with her tongue flapping.

Sweat dripped down my face and I wiped it with my t-shirt. Oh man, this sticky heat sucks. I glanced at the shady woods along the back of the park. The trees huddled together like giant green aliens—watching me. The leaves flickered in the breeze as if a million green fingers were reaching out, begging me to come inside.

Mom’s warning blared in my head. I mean it, Cody, she’d said a bazillion times. It’s too dangerous. Gangs and drug addicts hang out in those woods. You’re never to go in there. Understand? Never. Promise me, Cody.

Okay, yeah, I’d promised, but that was ages ago. I’m almost a teenager now. That’s different. Besides, my friends would be stinking jealous if I went in the woods without them. Sure, they were probably swimming in that freeze-your-toes-off lake at camp right now—lucky turds. The only water I’d get to swim in this summer was in the bathtub. But maybe this time, I’d have the best story to tell when they got back.

I shaded my eyes with my hands and stared at the creepy-cool woods. A green and brown blur darted between the trees then disappeared.

Whoa.


It's an improvement. I wonder if this would be even more engaging if it were told in present tense?

I drop to my knees in the middle of the dog park, panting hard. Sandy, my golden retriever, runs up with a tennis ball clamped in her mouth. I grab the slimy ball and throw it. “Go get it.” She races off with her tongue flapping.

Sweat drips down my face and I wipe it with my t-shirt. Oh man, this sticky heat sucks. I glance at the shady woods along the back of the park. The trees huddle together like giant green aliens—watching me. The leaves flicker in the breeze as if a million green fingers are reaching out, begging me to come inside.

Mom’s warning blares in my head. I mean it, Cody, she’s said a bazillion times. It’s too dangerous. Gangs and drug addicts hang out in those woods. You’re never to go in there. Understand? Never. Promise me, Cody.

Okay, yeah, I’d promised, but that was ages ago. I’m almost a teenager now. That’s different. Besides, my friends will be stinking jealous if I go in the woods without them. They're probably swimming in that freeze-your-toes-off lake at camp right now—lucky turds — and the only water I’ll swim in this summer is in the bathtub, but maybe this time I’ll have the best story to tell when they get back.

I shade my eyes with my hands and stare at the creepy-cool woods. A green and brown blur darts between the trees, then disappears.

Whoa. 


You could convert the first chapter and see if you think it's worth the trouble to continue.

8 comments:

Dottie D said...

EE you are fantastic! Thanks for posting this and giving your golden nuggets of wisdom.

I thought present tense was still frowned upon in MG, but I am seeing more and more of it published. If it will get my ms published, it would be worth the work to change it.

THANK YOU!

Evil Editor said...

Better confirm that others (especially yourself) agree that it's better in 1st person. I have, after all, seen only a few paragraphs.

InkAndPixelClub said...

See how it reads if you put the second sentence first and backtrack to the reasoning. Cody meeting the telepathic kids and deciding to move to their underground city is the hook, so you want to get there as soon as possible. Something like "When Cody meets two telepathic kids from an underground city, he can't wait to move there. He's sick of getting no attention from his too-busy-to-care parents."

The crystal caves could be interesting. I'm not sure if slugs-and-bugs soup is delicious or disgusting, so it's hard for me to see it as a selling point for the underground city. Cody's problem is that his parents are ignoring him and, according to the beginning, his friends have all scattered to various summer camps. He's lonely. So the main focus should be on his new friends and why it's so great having buddies who can read minds and...do whatever else they might do?

Cody getting an opportunity to fit in (or prove himself, which seems more accurate) is only exciting if we know he's having trouble fitting in. The previous paragraphs made it sound like everything was going great.

Whose mind/s is Ratman controlling?

I still need some clarification on why Cody's friends can't just read his mind and see that he did actually see a giant rat that tried to kill him. If Ratman can prevent other telepaths from seeing memories of him in someone's mind or if there's another reason why his friends don't believe him, that should be in the query.

"Dang it." is not the phrase I'd use if I learned someone was hell bent on killing me. I get that you might not want to make your story sound too serious or dire, but this is too casual for the situation.

If it stays in the query, the idea that this is intended as a permanent move to the underground city should come in sooner.

I'd try to flesh out the other two kids and Cody's relationship with them, as that gives us more reason to care about the fate of the underground city. While it's not hard to guess that Ratman is actually connected to the disappearing precogs, there's no clear connection between them in the query. Cody sets out to solve one problem and then that problem disappears and it's all about Ratman.

Dottie D said...

Thank you so much! you have brought up some great points. I'll try to rework this and address those.

Thanks!!

AA said...

"The kids take him underground where he discovers crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, and new friends with awesome paranormal abilities.

Best. Home. Ever."

Crystal caves and paranormal abilities, sure. But what kid would want to live off of bugs? If you're talking American kids, they pitch fits when their parents buy the boxed pasta-and-cheese product with the wrong character shapes. (Yes, I actually witnessed this.)

"Then the people who warn the city of natural disasters and invading beasts start disappearing."
What people do you mean? They need to be introduced before they disappear.

"a deadly man-sized rat with creepy mind control abilities"
What makes Ratman's mental abilities "creepy" while the Underground Boys' similar abilities are cool?

"How come his friends were able to come to the surface?"
This is a good question.

"or at least before Ratman’s next attack actually kills him."
I don't see how his first attack didn't kill him. We're talking man-sized, invisible rat with mind control abilities versus 12-year-old boy. How does Cody expect to stay alive?

This isn't magical realism, it's urban fantasy. Here's why:

Magical realism is a story that takes place in a realistic setting that is recognizable, incorporating impossible or supernatural elements where these extraordinary things are viewed as not just normal but also unremarkable, and thus, nobody bothers to explain why they exist or happen.

Your story is fantasy because the underground discoveries are remarkable to Cody and he is surprised to find that the underground city exists.

Urban fantasy is a genre that combines fantasy conventions with a modern setting.

AA said...

"The trees huddled together like giant green aliens—watching me."
This simile seems to come out of nowhere. I don't see why a kid playing with his dog would suddenly start seeing trees as aliens, unless somebody slipped LSD into his Kool-Aid.

"You’re never to go in there." This is ever so formal. Do moms talk this way? How about, "Stay out of those woods!"

Dave Fragments said...

I only have a few comments about the opening.
Keep the first two paragraphs. Drop the third and fourth paragraphs and move that fifth and sixth paragraphs up.

I think that "drops to knees" sets up the location. "Sweat drips" establishes something lurking. And "Shade my eyes" creates tension.

The third paragraph about the Mother's warnings is good for the story. You might put it after "Whoa".
However that paragraph about the other kids is distracts and pulls the reader's attention into other matters and not something hiding in the woods. I presume the "thing" hiding in the woods is the creepy Ratman. The bathtub and the cold lake and the lucky turds all distract from that in a bad way.

Komal Verma said...

With regards to the use of past and present tense, decide whether it best serves your storytelling as a whole: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2014/02/past-and-present-tense-which-why-when-and-how.html