Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Feedback Request


The author of the book whose query is posted just below this post has submitted a revision:


I made a few changes to the plot. Instead of Leslie being choked, it's Tony being brutally beat on by his father. Leslie [Spoiler alert] gets her father's gun and shoots her father.

 Here's the revised query:



Dear Agent,

When Tony's back is against the wall, his little sister Leslie is there to save him; she shoots their abusive father to death. Tony realizes that the police will find the dead body and look for the shooter. And if they catch them, they'll separate the siblings by taking Leslie to juvenile and Tony to a foster home. [I've seen "juvie" used as slang for juvenile detention center or juvenile court. Is the noun juvenile ever used to refer to a place? In any case, juvie isn't a place I would expect a seven-year-old girl to be taken. Then again, I wouldn't expect her to have access to a loaded gun or the skill to use one, either.] No way is he letting that happen, not when he and Les can just blend into the streets. But how long can a sixteen-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl survive in cutthroat northeast Bed-Stuy? 

Luckily, while on the run, they stumble upon a nice family—Will and Rita Thompson—that’s willing to take them in. But they don't know Tony and Leslie's past. All they know is the two kids and are without a home. When a home invasion robbery ensues, it's Tony's turn to do something incriminating. [You mean something illegal?] The police eventually arrive on the scene and Will hides both children in the living room closet to protect them from an interrogation. [You'd better tell us what it is Tony did that Will thinks shouldn't be revealed to the police. When your home is being invaded, you're allowed to do a few things that might otherwise be considered crimes. As you are when your brother is being attacked by a drunk bastard.]

Leslie makes a noise and the police are on to their game. Tony can’t just stand by and let them get caught. But the only way out just might land them in a hole bigger than the one they’re already in. [The way out of a closet is usually the way you went in. Is there a trap door that opens over a pit?]

US AGAINST THE WORLD is YA realistic fiction, set in an urban landscape during the 1990’s. It is complete at 78,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,


Notes

You've taken us a little further into the story. A family takes them in, but soon they are apparently on the run again. I'm not sure anything they've done requires them to live on the streets, but I guess it's what Tony believes that matters.

However, they need a goal, beyond evading the cops. Does Tony think they can survive on the streets until Leslie is an adult? Probably not, so what is his ultimate plan?

24 comments:

InkAndPixelClub said...

Writing and sending a revision immediately after receiving feedback is usually not a good idea. You need to take your time, think about the advice you got, write, revise, and check for errors. An agent or editor who sees a sentence like "All they know is the two kids and are without a home." will assume that the manuscript contains an equal percentage of similar mistakes.

If you're still deciding whether Tony or Leslie shoots their dad, you may need to focus on revisiting the book before you worry about querying.

Be specific about what's happening. Language like "When Tony's back is against the wall" doesn't tell me anything. What we need to know is that Tony's dad is savagely beating him and Leslie shoots their dad to save Tony. Keep the descriptions straightforward so your reader is clear on what's happening.

Do Tony and Leslie spend any time on the streets, or do they go straight from dad's corpse to a loving couple who takes in street urchins without asking questions? If they do have to tough it out on the streets for a while, what happens? If they don't, then drop the line about how long they can survive there.

There seems to be a lot of bad decision making going on in this story, and not in the "that was a dumb thing to do, but I understand why the character did it at the time" way. There's still no clear reason why Tony thinks the police would want to arrest and prosecute and seven year old for killing her father to stop him from killing their brother. (Possible solution: Dad was an ex-cop who always told them other cops wouldn't believe them about the abuse and that they'd be taken away by CPS and treated even more horribly.) And now you have Will Thompson making an equally dumb decision to hide the kids when the police show up to investigate whatever it is that happened after the home invasion. Why can't he just say "My wife and I have been caring for these two kids, somebody broke into our house, and Tony here....shot the perp, or something?" Does he know now that they're on the run from the cops? Does he think CPS is going to ship the seven year old off to juvie? And then Tony's solution to being trapped in the closet while the cops are coming to investigate is what? Shoot his way out? I'm rapidly becoming convinced that this kid isn't smart enough to survive more than three chapters.

Author said...

The very last thing I want is for my book to sound unrealistic. So I changed Leslie's age. Hopefully you find it more believable. If not, do you have any suggestions as to how I make it a more believable story?

The reason why I say survive on the streets is because they have nowhere else to go until they stumble upon that family. But since their time on the streets is so short lived, I shouldn't even include it. And as far as the ultimate goal, Tony just wants to find somewhere to go where they'll survive and won't run into the police until he becomes an adult. Or does it need to be developed more?

Here's the new query:


Dear Agent,

When Tony's back is against the wall, his younger sister Leslie is there to save him; she shoots their abusive father to death. Tony realizes that the police will find the dead body and look for the shooter. And if they catch them, they'll separate the siblings by taking Leslie to juvie and Tony to a foster home. No way is he letting that happen, not when he and Les can go on the run. But how long can a sixteen-year-old boy and a fourteen-year-old girl survive with nowhere to go?

Luckily, they stumble upon a nice family—Will and Rita Thompson—that’s willing to take them in. But they don't know Tony and Leslie's past. All they know is they are two kids and without a home.

When a home invasion robbery ensues, it's Tony's turn to do something incriminating. He shoots the robber, but the partner escapes. The police eventually arrive on the scene and Will hides both children in the living room closet to protect them from an interrogation.

Leslie makes a noise and the police are on to their game. Tony can’t just stand by and let them get caught. All Tony wants is to find a home for him and his sister until he's an adult at least. But they have to make it out of the closet first.

US AGAINST THE WORLD is YA realistic fiction, set in an urban landscape during the 1990’s. It is complete at 78,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Evil Editor said...

They might separate the kids because it's hard to find a foster home for two, but if Leslie saved Tony's life, they aren't going to put her in Juvie. You don't shoot your father because your brother's back is against the wall. You shoot him because he's trying to pummel your brother to death.

Stumbling upon a family willing to take in two teenagers seems unrealistic. How old are the children in this family? I assume there's at least one if you call it a family.

If you want to foster children, isn't it safer to go through the proper channels so you know something about the kids?

Grateful as I might be if the kid I took in prevented a home invasion, the fact that he brought a gun into my home would convince me to get him out, not to protect him from a police interrogation.

They have to make it out of the closet? Are they going to shoot their way out?

Even if you can make it all sound plausible, I wouldn't call it realistic fiction.

You can't just change Leslie's age from seven to fourteen by changing one word. A fourteen-year-old uses different idioms, has a different vocabulary, has a different attitude toward her sixteen-year-old brother, can contribute to the mission in more useful ways than a seven-year-old. Most of what Leslie says and does throughout the book will need to be changed.

Anonymous said...

Suggestion on the query: try to give bare facts, add voice back in when it has the details you want. A lot of the words you're currently using don't work very well.

Examples:
"back against the wall" -- could mean anything. Say exactly what's happening.

"do something incriminating" -- definition of incriminating: make (someone) appear guilty of a crime or wrongdoing; strongly imply the guilt of (someone). He's not doing something incriminating. He may be committing a crime depending on the laws in that jurisdiction.

"on to their game" --almost fits, but the connotations are something I would associate more with a direct ruse someone is running in plain sight, not hiding kids in a closet

Other notes:
Why doesn't the family try to get legal help for the children? I know why the kids don't want it, but I'm assuming we're dealing with responsible adults with the family.
Why would the kids need to be protected from an interrogation. Especially at the ages of sixteen and fourteen, the kids could just claim to be the children of the family (adopted if race/age is an issue)
Getting out of the closet is probably not the best note to end your query on, especially not with the alternative definition of that phrase.

How to make the story more realistic:
Interview police, average people, children of the appropriate age (what would you do if...). Forget they're characters you're trying to shepherd through a plot and use common sense. Find a writer's group and ask their opinions. Assuming you still don't see problems, post a detailed synopsis and we'll tell you our opinions

InkAndPixelClub said...

Author, the fact that you have made two substantial changes to the narrative in as many query revisions (Leslie shoots Dad to save Tony instead of Tony protecting Leslie, Leslie doubles in age) leaves me even more convinced that your book isn't query ready. Ideally,the issues with a query are problems with getting the right parts of the story down in a compelling way while keeping the length to a page or less. If the critiques of the query are causing you to go back and change the story, then you need to work on the story. Just the two changes you've made in the query will likely require a major rewrite. If you have trouble looking at your work with a critical eye, find some beta readers to test read your manuscript. Don't query until you're at least 99% sure that the story works and is as good as it can possibly be.

SB said...

I'm pretty much just going to second what everyone else has said. This has way too many problems. It looks to me like the book isn't ready to be queried yet.

Also, a note to EE: some parents do teach their young children how to use guns, but those are usually the responsible gun owners who are trying to teach their kids gun safety and proper handling, and not the type of people who get drunk and beat their kids.

Anonymous said...

Author, I assume that you do mean to address the plot and character changes you've made in your query via a rewrite of your book. We uncover a lot of fundamental problems in these critiques, and we've raised the possibility of somehow critiquing plots and concepts and premises before authors write books. (I guess that "somehow" is that authors find out we're available to do this and flock on over to us.)

If you figure out a better plot, maybe write it up as a synopsis -- the type you would submit to an agent -- and try offering that to us?

Nom De Plume said...

I'm the author who posted the query. I'm going to be completely honest and say this: The book is far from finished. I'm only on page 23. I WOULD NOT query an agent with an unfinished book or even a finished book that still has problems. Queries shed light on problems with the book, which is why I chose to post my query. I wanted feedback to see if it was a workable story.

With that said, that's why I've been submitting the revisions to my query so fast. I just need help fleshing out the story and making it more realistic.

@InkAndPixelClub - What is so unrealistic about him being afraid of the police catching him and his sister? He might not have shot his father, but he could be feeling guilty about what happened, not to mention scared and sad. These emotions can cloud his judgement. His thoughts are irrational because of the situation he's in. Everyone doesn't think logically. I've read many books where the protag thought irrationally. And then they realized they shouldn't have been thinking that way. You never know how you'll think until you're in that moment.

I sense sarcasm from this line: do they go straight from dad's corpse to a loving couple who takes in street urchins without asking questions. If you have a problem with the premise, why not just say so? Instead of bashing elements of my story, it would really help if you provide some suggestions as to how I can make it better. Or you could simply just state it doesn't work.

And I did consider Will Thompson saying, "My wife and I have been caring for these two kids, somebody broke into our house, and Tony here....shot the perp, or something?", and maybe I should have. But either way, Tony would still be taking a risk of the police recognizing him as the missing kid from the news.

Does he know now that they're on the run from the cops?

No, he doesn't. But he knows he's scared. And he might even suspect Tony is in some kind of trouble.

Does he think CPS is going to ship the seven year old off to juvie?

Please stop with the sarcasm.

And then Tony's solution to being trapped in the closet while the cops are coming to investigate is what?

There's no solution. It's not even his idea anyway. Even still, he ends up getting caught. There's no solution. It was just a bad decision. But either way, whether he hid in the closet or not, he would have faced the risk of the police recognizing him and his sister as the two missing kids from the news.

I'm rapidly becoming convinced that this kid isn't smart enough to survive more than three chapters.

That's nice. A sixteen-year-old kid who has not yet developed the ability to think on his feet made bad decisions in some very tough situations that he's never found himself in before. But if that doesn't make him "smart enough", then it doesn't make him smart enough. I'll make sure to change those decisions he makes.

Nom De Plume said...

@EvilEditor - How old are the children in this family?

They don't have kids on their own. I'll change the word family into husband and wife.

If you want to foster children, isn't it safer to go through the proper channels so you know something about the kids?

It hasn't even gotten to that point yet.

Grateful as I might be if the kid I took in prevented a home invasion, the fact that he brought a gun into my home would convince me to get him out, not to protect him from a police interrogation.

Well, the man has a gun himself. I don't see why he would put Tony and his sister out over that. After he finds out the kid has a gun, he's supposed to just put them out even when they know they're good kids that come from a broken home? If you say so. I'll change that part if it's a glaring problem.

They have to make it out of the closet? Are they going to shoot their way out?

No, they're going to get caught. I don't know if those questions were meant as sarcasm or not so I'll give a non-sarcastic response. I was trying to build tension by hiding them in the closet. But I guess I watch too much TV.

Even if you can make it all sound plausible, I wouldn't call it realistic fiction.

Then, what would you call it?

You can't just change Leslie's age from seven to fourteen by changing one word. A fourteen-year-old uses different idioms, has a different vocabulary, has a different attitude toward her sixteen-year-old brother, can contribute to the mission in more useful ways than a seven-year-old. Most of what Leslie says and does throughout the book will need to be changed.

The book isn't finished so I haven't even fleshed out her character at this point. The age change doesn't make much of a difference.

Nom De Plume said...

@Anonymous - Why doesn't the family try to get legal help for the children?

But would a family from a rough neighborhood really think like that? It seems that they would be trying to evade anything pertaining to "legal". But that's just me.

I know why the kids don't want it, but I'm assuming we're dealing with responsible adults with the family.

So they wouldn't be responsible adults if they gave two kids a place of refuge? The family knows the kids don't have any parents. How else can they help other than taking them in when they have nowhere to go?

Why would the kids need to be protected from an interrogation. Especially at the ages of sixteen and fourteen, the kids could just claim to be the children of the family.

Yeah, but what if the police recognize them as the missing children whose father was just shot to death?

Getting out of the closet is probably not the best note to end your query on, especially not with the alternative definition of that phrase.

You're right.

How to make the story more realistic: Interview police, average people, children of the appropriate age (what would you do if...).

Ok. No problem.

Forget they're characters you're trying to shepherd through a plot and use common sense.

Are you suggesting I'm not using common sense? I mean imagine someone in a situation where they fear being separated from their sister. What will they do? Just stay there and get caught? And imagine a kind-hearted family that meets two kids that have nowhere else to go, no family or relatives at all. They don't have to know they're on the run, but nevertheless they still take them in. How is that not common sense? Would you expect the family to just let them go, unsure of what dangers the kids will run into? Oh, I know, you probably expect them to call CPS so they can whisk them away from their troubles.

Find a writer's group and ask their opinions. Assuming you still don't see problems, post a detailed synopsis and we'll tell you our opinions.

Ok.

@SB - Some parents do teach their young children how to use guns, but those are usually the responsible gun owners who are trying to teach their kids gun safety and proper handling, and not the type of people who get drunk and beat their kids.

The father hasn't always been a drunk. When he wasn't spending most of his time drinking, he taught both of them how to use guns. But even if he didn't, you act as if no one can learn to use a gun on their own. It's not rocket science. There are other ways to learn how to use a gun such as having bad surroundings, watching someone using a gun around you etc. It's not that hard.

I'm glad to be getting feedback, but I feel kind of attacked. Call me defensive, but I get a sense that some of you use sarcasm to critique work. I can take criticism, but does it have to drip with sarcasm and even question my ability to use common sense?

Still, I'll tough it out until I get this story right.

Matt said...

I think the facts that Tony lives in a bad neighborhood and he distrusts police are important. If you lead off the query with that I think people will better understand why he makes the decision to run.

Since the story is in the building phase, have you considered making Tony's Dad a cop? He could be sort of like Denzel in Training Day.

SB said...

Author, you are indeed being extremely defensive, and that is 100% the wrong way to approach criticism. First of all, you should have told us you're only just starting to write the book. That information dramatically affects the feedback we're likely to give you. Second, have you read the feedback from this site? It tends to run pretty sarcastic. Know what you're getting into and do a little research. Third, I don't know about others here, but I don't have time to waste giving feedback to someone who's so defensive about receiving it, so while I could give you some more specific feedback and responses to what you're saying and where you're planning to take your story, I won't.

Nom De Plume said...

@Matt - You're right. But for some reason, I assumed others would deduce that the story takes place in a bad neighborhood. That was a bad call on my part. And actually, his dad being a cop is a good idea. I'll definitely consider that.

@SB - I knew this blog was sarcastic in a way. But not in the way that would insult my intelligence or even the protagonist's intelligence. When I read phrases like "use common sense", it raises a red flag to me.

Yes, I should have stated that the book was far from finished. My mistake.

And when exactly were you going to offer "specific feedback and responses"? Because all I read was this: I'm pretty much just going to second what everyone else has said. This has way too many problems. It looks to me like the book isn't ready to be queried yet.

Okay, you're saying what others have been saying. Nothing new. Nothing specific.

Also, a note to EE: some parents do teach their young children how to use guns, but those are usually the responsible gun owners who are trying to teach their kids gun safety and proper handling, and not the type of people who get drunk and beat their kids.

To me, this is bashing. This isn't helpful criticism. This is derisive criticism. It's snide, sarcastic, etc. This doesn't show me that you're willing to help me in the first place. It's not specific feedback. Be sarcastic, whatever. But with that, you could help by providing suggestions on how I could make my story better. So go ahead, don't give feedback. You obviously haven't offered any in the first place.

I clearly stated that I will make some changes in my story based on feedback I've received from others, but as I said, the sarcasm is totally unnecessary. And I have the right to state my opinion just as you have yours. Sure, this blog may be known for sarcasm, but that does that make it right? Call me defensive, whatever you want. I'll take the criticism because I know that in the end, it will make me stronger. And maybe I am defensive, but that's my natural reaction to feeling attacked. It's something I have to work on in my writer's journey because I'm fully aware of the fact that I shouldn't be defensive if I want to get better. But also, there's nothing wrong with a reader reassuring the writer who's feeling frustrated with a story or helping them out when they need it, NOT kicking them when they're down.

I didn't expect anything to be sugarcoated, but I didn't expect things to be salty either. What's wrong with a little in-between?

Nom De Plume said...

Here's the revised query, EE:

Dear Agent,

When Tony's father is savagely beating him, his younger sister Leslie is there to save him; she shoots their father to death. Tony realizes that the police will find the dead body and look for the shooter. In his rough neighborhood, everyone makes it their mission to avoid the cops at all cost. To make matters worse, Tony’s father is an ex-cop himself. He always told Tony that other cops won’t believe him about the abuse, that the CPS will take him and his sister away, and they will be treated even more horribly. No way is Tony letting that happen, not when he and Les can go on the run. But how long can a sixteen-year-old boy and a fourteen-year-old girl survive with nowhere to go?

Luckily, they stumble upon Will and Rita Thompson who are willing to take them into their home. But they don't know Tony and Leslie's past. All they know is they are two kids with nowhere to go.

When a home invasion robbery ensues, Tony shoots the robber, but the partner escapes. The police eventually arrive on the scene. They recognize Tony and Leslie as the two missing children from the news. Will Tony and Leslie find a way out of this situation or will they end up wards of the State?

US AGAINST THE WORLD is YA (subgenre), set in an urban landscape during the 1990’s. It is complete at 78,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,

Anonymous said...

WOW. Not since the days of the Black Mage . . .

Author, this site is administered by someone named "Evil Editor." You are invited to "submit to Evil Editor," and a look around the site suggests that means more than simply clicking "Post." Commenters are known as his "minions." Those flaming red flags aside, how you could read the previous critiques here and not expect some cutting wit to be used on your own submission is beyond me -- unless you thought your story was so good that it was critique-proof.

The questions others asked are reasonable. This is what happens when you introduce holes in your logic, whether they apply to your plot or your characters: you imply crazy outcomes.

I'm not going to argue with you about your plot, except to say that many of your answers and defenses are still unconvincing to me.

Evil Editor said...

First of all, author, let me refer you to the top link in the sidebar: "Submit to Evil Editor." If you click it and scroll down to #5, you'll find the following advice: If you disagree with Evil Editor, strive to see where you've gone wrong. If you disagree with a commenter, remember, it's just one person's opinion. It's your book. A consensus of opinions may indicate that you have a problem worth addressing.

In other words, it's your job to decide which comments are useful and to ignore those that aren't.

You offer this example of criticism that bothers you:

Also, a note to EE: some parents do teach their young children how to use guns, but those are usually the responsible gun owners who are trying to teach their kids gun safety and proper handling, and not the type of people who get drunk and beat their kids. To me, this is bashing. This isn't helpful criticism. This is derisive criticism. It's snide, sarcastic, etc.

This comment was clearly (see first 5 words) directed at me, not you, in response to my stating that a seven-year-old wouldn't have easy access to a loaded gun.

To answer some other questions you've brought up, you don't need another genre word besides YA. YA is a genre. Writers often add "fantasy" or "science fiction" or "romance," but even that shouldn't be necessary if the plot summary has done its job.

Whether I own a gun or not, I don't allow a sixteen-year-old kid to move into my house with a gun. Especially in a rough neighborhood. I'd be worried that he'd kill me and my wife just for the thirty dollars in my wallet. Show me your gun and you're back on the street. (Also, no need to mention that the robber's partner got away.)

Most of what you call sarcasm isn't sarcasm. You need to read between the lines. The questions we ask about your plot may be questions that will occur to the agent you're writing to, except the agent won't ask you. The agent will simply think This makes no sense, and move on to another query.

For instance, I asked:

They have to make it out of the closet? Are they going to shoot their way out?

You answered:

No, they're going to get caught. I don't know if those questions were meant as sarcasm or not . . .


My questions were a response to this part of your query:

The police eventually arrive on the scene and Will hides both children in the living room closet to protect them from an interrogation.

Leslie makes a noise and the police are on to their game. Tony can’t just stand by and let them get caught. All Tony wants is to find a home for him and his sister until he's an adult at least. But they have to make it out of the closet first.

Instead of wondering if I'm being sarcastic, interpret my questions to mean: They're in a closet and the cops know they're in the closet, so either explain Tony's option besides standing by and letting them get caught, or don't say that he can't stand by and let them get caught.


In one version of the query you state: And if they catch them, they'll separate the siblings by taking Leslie to juvie and Tony to a foster home.

Yet later you respond with:

Does he think CPS is going to ship the seven year old off to juvie?

Please stop with the sarcasm.

To call that question sarcasm is to suggest it's ridiculous to think CPS would ship Les to juvie, yet you've already stated that Tony believes they'll do so.


That all said, the most recent version is an improvement, although once the book is written you'll want to condense this into one paragraph so you have room to tell us what happens after they're taken away.


People who comment on this site are taking valuable time out of their day, often in an attempt to be helpful. If their comments aren't helpful, instead of complaining, ignore them. It's not like you paid for their advice.

Nom De Plume said...

I'm not going to argue with you either. I never said my story was critique-proof. If I actually thought that, I wouldn't have posted here in the first place. I'm simply just asking for clear reasons as to why my logic isn't working. If all you can offer is sarcastic and snide comments and not tell me why exactly my story is unconvincing, it's not going to help me. And it also suggests that maybe that's not even your intention. I could be wrong, but that's how you and others have come off. Someone said above "use common sense" like I don't have common sense or something. Should I really accept feedback from people who insult my intelligence like that? I don't think so.

And I am well aware of the name of this site. You don't have to put it in quotations like I don't know. You don't have to spell it out for me. I'm an intelligent person. Don't insult my intelligence. I'm well aware that I chose to post here but honestly, it was only because other forums I've been to weren't as active. I'm still researching other active critique sites. And just because I knew this site was like this doesn't mean I should just accept it. I may have read other authors' stories get critiqued sarcastically, but I never know how that would feel until my own story was critiqued. I stated how I felt and I'm not wrong for that.

I understand if no one wants give any more feedback now because I have so adamantly defended my story. But if the author doesn't stand up for their story, no one else will. I'm not just gonna sit here and let people take stabs at it as they so please because they want to and because they enjoy doing so. One gives criticism because they're trying to help the author towards a greater goal, not to get a good laugh at someone's story. I know the difference and I'm not feeling that "welcome, we're here to help" vibe here. Like I said before, I have the right to feel that way.

Yeah, it's criticism that I really need. But it's HOW one dishes out the criticism that is effective. You can say that's how that site is until you're blue in the face, but that still doesn't make it right.

Nom De Plume said...

@EvilEditor - In regard to that comment from SB(Also, a note to EE: some parents do teach their young children how to use guns, but those are usually the responsible gun owners who are trying to teach their kids gun safety and proper handling, and not the type of people who get drunk and beat their kids.), I am aware that they were addressing you, but this was about my story. If they found a problem with it, I feel that they should have addressed me with it and explained why it's a problem.

If those statements weren't sarcasm, then I withdraw my grievances towards them. I have no problem with improving my story and accepting feedback. And if someone must use sarcasm, I feel like they should still point out the things that were wrong with the story and suggest ways in which I could fix it. But in no way is anyone obligated to help me improve my story. However, if one takes the time to post in this thread and say there are so many problems, then why not give suggestions on how I can fix those problems? That's all I'm saying. I'm done with the issue.

Okay, you state that it's unrealistic for someone to allow an armed kid to stay in their home and that you wouldn't allow it. That problem is fixed. Will doesn't even have to face that situation so it is not an issue. Is there anything else that you'd suggest I change before I complete the synopsis I'm working on?



InkAndPixelClub said...

@Nom de Plume - If you want feedback on the whole story idea, I'd suggest submitting a synopsis. But I think it might be too early for you to be seeking feedback. If you believe that you have a good idea for a story, then you're better off spending your time writing it and sorting out the problems as they become apparent to you rather than asking other people to look at the early framework and point out problems. I'd suggest you start with research. Your story includes a lot of sensitive subjects - child abuse, teen runaways, CPS, perceptions of law enforcement - so you'll want to learn all you can about these subjects so you can handle them sensitively and realistically. This could change some of the basics of your story dramatically, so you may want to start before you get too far into the writing.

As for the latest draft:

"Tony realizes that the police will find the dead body and look for the shooter." This is a little confusing. The body is presumably in their house, so how will the police find it anytime soon? You could instead have Tony realize that the neighbors must have heard the shots and will call the cops, though if everyone in the neighborhood avoids getting involved with police, this might not be the case.

"He always told Tony that other cops won’t believe him about the abuse, that the CPS will take him and his sister away, and they will be treated even more horribly." Too much going on for one sentence. Focus on one thing that Tony's dad told him, or at least split this into two sentences. A specific example of what Dad told is kids would happen to them would help to show what Tony is afraid of.

The good news is that I now understand Tony's mindset. This draft makes it clear that it's Tony who believes that CPS will separate them and charge his sister with murder where the previous draft had you the author stating that as fact. I may not agree with Tony's decision to run, but I can see why he made that choice.

"Luckily, they stumble upon Will and Rita Thompson who are willing to take them into their home." This may be where research will help. Look into Good Samaritans who help teen runaways and how they do it. My gut feeling is that Will and Rita would be more likely to drive the kids to the nearest shelter than to invite them into their home, but you may find that the latter is more common than I think.

Since Will and Rita don't get mentioned again in the query, there's no need to reveal their names. "A kind couple" will suffice.

How much time is passing between these events, by the way? Do Tony and Leslie find shelter with the Thompsons right away, or do they spend a few nights on the street before they'real taken in? I'm more inclined to feel sympathetic towards them if they have to tough it out on the streets for a bit than if they have the good fortune to find a nice place to stay immediately. And how long are they there before the robbery?

"When a home invasion robbery ensues" sounds awkward to my ear. Call it either a home invasion or a robbery. Or just say "When robbers break into the couple's home."

Dump the second robber from the query.

I wouldn't end the query here. Since you've said the kids get caught, my guess is that most of the book is about them surviving CPS and the criminal justice system. The query you have is more of a setup for a book about kids on the run, which is probably part of the reason so many of us thought that Tony was going to shoot his way out of the closet in previous drafts. (I also thought that because the kids have already solved two problems by shooting people, however justifiable it may have been.) If the rest of the book is about the kids' struggles in foster care, I'd try to get to that sooner. If you don't know what the rest of the book will be about yet, I'll point you back to my initial advice to put the query aside and get to research and writing.

Evil Editor said...

What I was saying was that the comment was NOT about your story. It was about my comment.

Also, regarding your previous comment, putting quotation marks around the title of my blog is not an insult to your intelligence. Quotation marks belong around the titles of all short stories, poems and songs, just as we italicize all book and movie titles. If the powers that be have decided which category a blog belongs in, I missed it, but for all I know the rule differs depending on what country you live in, so let's just accept that "Evil Editor" is a title and requires some form of punctuational respect. I'm astounded that Blogger didn't tell me "punctuational" isn't a word.

It's hard to answer questions about what's wrong with your story when you haven't written much of it. I'm not crazy about the kids shooting people. If the father is abusive enough, that might be reason enough for the kids to leave home, even if they haven't killed dad. In which case they would have less reason to worry that the cops will recognize them. Whether this is relevant depends on whether the story is about what happens to them in police custody or in their foster home(s) or when they run away again or.... We need to know more about where you're going.

Anonymous said...

Author, what you take for sarcasm and snideness is, as I pointed out, the outcome of your logic holes. I'm sure you've heard an exchange like this:

A: He was shot by an armed gunman.
B: As opposed to an unarmed gunman?

A: We'll meet at 7 A.M. in the morning.
B: As opposed to 7 A.M. in the evening?

And so on. Spelling out the illogical implication is the briefest, most effective way I know to illustrate exactly what's wrong with an illogical proposition. Taking it as mean-spiritedness is a mistake.

Anonymous said...

How to take criticism:
You can rant about how your feelings are hurt and nobody understands and you're totally justified in complaining that you're being treated the same as everyone else. This doesn't encourage people to help you. Or help you become a better writer.

You can grow a tough skin and ignore how mean everyone is and how they don't understand you. This doesn't help you become a better writer or get you anything out of the criticism.

All anyone here knows about you or your story is what you wrote. Try looking at what you wrote and looking at what they wrote and see if you can shift your perspective to theirs. Turn your sarcasm meter off for this exercise.

Being able to see a situation, comment, person, etc., from different perspectives will be a lot of help if you're serious about writing.

Also, you seem to be conflating common sense and intelligence. I have a friend who would be considered intelligent by most people. He disabled at least four complicated safeguards and stuck his hand in a machine because a part was stuck. The end of his finger was sliced off.

Meanwhile, back to the plot:
At age fourteen I could (and occasionally did) pass for someone in college. Yeah, I have trouble seeing anyone in a rough neighborhood taking in two young adults and asking no questions. I also have trouble seeing someone who's lived in a rough neighborhood all their life having nowhere to go. Especially if their father is chronically abusive, the streets outside are not going to be unfamiliar territory.

Think about your characters' backgrounds and resources. Do they have friends? Are they in a gang or do they know anyone who is? Do they have any other relatives they could maybe go to? Do they know which local members of the nefarious pawn brokers association don't ask questions? Do they know how to steal a car? Think about the mindset they're likely to have. Can't trust cops, ok. What about other adults? If all adults are the enemy, a nice couple who takes them in are idiots they can rob blind. BTW, nice couples who regularly help stray teens would realize this.

What happened to my friend:
The doctor reattached his finger and we eventually stopped calling him Frodo.

Komal Verma said...

Having read all the comments on this author, I suggest you don't post a query just to sanity check whether your outline works or not. It's something I've learnt - that is, write the whole story, all of it, in first draft form (so not precious about whether it's written beautifully or even necessarily logically) and only then can you really see what story you have in front of you. Do the characters motivations work, does their dialogue ring true, do they have to be at that particular setting right then and there - what about the pace? etc etc etc. Even writing a step-by-step outline would be helpful for this, you don't need to have full prose but it should most definitely go from beginning to end in the most a-b-c-d-e format as possible.

You just don't know what you have to work with if you've only written a part of it and you're still wondering about the plot itself. To me it's as if one has decided to design the coolest car ever and they've only just started working on the engine at the same time one is pitching to investors, trying to sell it on the cool design when the design hasn't even been worked out yet.

Of course, that's not to say others haven't written stories or produced stuff this way but honestly, it just seems as if you want people to comment on the logic, give you suggestions and then you take those suggestions on to make a story (some minions have been really kind, offering up the dad being a cop, him making his kids think that the CPS will come after him - which you've subsequently absorbed into your latest incarnation).

I'm sure there are writers groups that can help you bash out a workable outline/plot - some minions have even kindly asked you post the synopsis and they'll give you feedback :) I can honestly say that this is one site that is truly patient and helpful.

Most of this was all down to misunderstanding because none of us knew that we were reviewing a query for a book that has yet to be written.

One thing that becomes abundantly clear about query letter writing - don't assume anything (e.g that it's obvious the kid comes from a bad neighbourhood etc etc). Therein lies the part where reviewers will ask the questions, particularly about the logic - or rather the gap in the logic - and if it's not explicitly stated, don't expect anyone to make the leap and put it together. I make that mis-step all the time, e.g. everyone knows Ancient Greek city states right?

Nom De Plume said...

I appreciate everyone's feedback and I sincerely apologize for being extremely defensive about the criticism I've received. Yes, it was a mistake for me to behave that way. Not that I'm making an excuse, but I'm just starting out and I still have a lot to learn about taking criticism for my writing. I am still learning how to be objective about my work. This experience is helping me do that.

I have taken a few days to think about the problems with my story that I refused to see before. Now I see them and will be working on them. A revised story will fix the problems you commenters pointed out. I will be posting a full outline on the entire story just in case someone sees a new problem or inconsistency within the new story, but it will take a while.

Thank you for your patience. :)