Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Face-Lift 1349

Guess the Plot

Cracked Reflections

1. A literary allegory about fractals and their impact on science and mathematics from the 1700s through the end of the twentieth century. Includes a room full of infinite clowns.

2. Taylor didn't think much of it when she broke her grandmother's mirror. At worst it was seven years bad luck. Except now it seems that a doppelganger is going around, doing terrible things in her name. Can Taylor find her other self before it's too late?

3. Amber's mirror is cracked. And in the thin hairline in the glass, she swears that she can see another eye, staring back at her...

4. Klutzy witch Missy breaks her magic mirror, releasing insane, distorted doppelgangers of herself. They band together, lock her in her swamp cave, and go about *shudder* doing good. Missy must enlist the aid of the brainless prince she turned into a frog while avoiding his romantic overtures if she's to remain the most feared witch in seven kingdoms. 

5. How can 13-year-old Kass convince her father she isn't crazy like her grandmother and her mother, when she can't even tell if the voices that only she can hear are real? And when she does crazy things like intervening in a melee between striking workers and scabs at a local mill?

6. When Queen Lillith's magic mirror shatters, she's left to reflect sorrowfully on her past actions and her many regrets. If only that huntsman had brought Snow White's REAL heart for her to devour... 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My name is Joanna Hoyt [You'll be signing the letter at the end, so unless you're so famous that your name is enough to hook the agent, this is a waste of space.] and I’m seeking literary representation for my YA historical magic realism novel CRACKED REFLECTIONS. [That was a lot of adjectives. Commas are needed with more than two. Better yet, you could say my YA magic realism novel set in 1912.] [Also, are you sure this is YA? Your main character is 13, which is a bit young for YA, and  you stated in your first comment about the opening (previous blog post) that you think this is a novel for adults. You seem conflicted about your audience.] I hoped you might consider it since your MS Wishlist includes historical fantasy and #ownvoices writings featuring disabled characters. 

Some of thirteen-year-old Kassandra Leonhart’s worries are shared by many of her neighbors, children of immigrants working in the textile mills of Guerdon, Massachusetts in 1912. Can her father avoid workplace accidents and mill lung? Can Kass persuade her new teacher that, though German, she’s not an ignorant foreigner, while also keeping up friendships with newer Russian and Italian immigrants? Can she keep up with schoolwork and also with the after-school job that helps feed her family?

Some of her worries are uniquely her own. Can she convince her father and sisters that she isn’t crazy like her grandmother and her late mother? How can she tell which of the images and voices that only she perceives are signs of insanity and which are glimpses of something real and important? [So far you've given us more questions than answers.] [Also, scanning down the page I see that this summary is too long, so I suggest we cram these two paragraphs into one sentence (Thirteen-year-old Kassandra Leonhart, a child of German immigrants living in Guerdon, Massachusetts, is worried that the images and voices only she perceives are signs of the insanity that runs in her family.) and get to what happens. 

Kass’ friends [If it pains you to add 's to a name that ends in s, don't give your characters names that end in s. If you stick with Kass, the possessive is Kass's.] and neighbors-- policemen, laborers, labor organizers, reporters from papers with radically opposing views, and all their children-- can’t agree about what’s real and important either. ["Real and important" is vague. I don't think we need that sentence.] When millworkers strike in nearby Lawrence, some see a peaceful revolution for justice, others a reign of terror brought on by foreign agitators. When another young girl is seriously injured at the mill where Kass’ father works, half the workers go on strike and try to keep the other half out and the militia are called in. Kass’ daily walks to work and school take her through the fighting that ensues.

First Kass tries to stay out of the fray. Then she intervenes in a melĂ©e to help a schoolmate turned millhand turned striker. When she recovers from her injuries she’s called on to testify about just what happened in the fight. She knows something the other witnesses don’t, thanks to her polyglot understanding and her position at a crucial moment. She understands what she saw differently from the other witnesses, partly because of her visions and voices. But if other people realize what she’s seeing and hearing they won’t trust her testimony; and she’s almost sure they should....

CRACKED REFLECTIONS, complete at 80,000 words, is a YA novel exploring the shadowlands between madness and insight, cruelty and justice, kindness and complacency, foreignness and belonging, childhood and adulthood. [Try to limit lists to three items, max. Beyond that they become boring. In this case, I think I'd just go with madness and insight.] The first chapter is pasted below.

A short story featuring Kass’ adventures, also titled Cracked Reflections, appeared in Enigmatic Mirror Press’[s] anthology Mysterion in August 2016. My short fiction has appeared in other pro publications including Crossed Genres, Daily Science Fiction, and Upper Rubber Boot Books’ anthology Broad Knowledge. I am also the author of the nonfiction book A Wary Welcome: The History of US Attitudes toward Immigration, published in April 2017. I share Kass’ struggles with anxiety, though not, alas, her flashes of clairvoyance.

Thank you for taking time to read and consider this query. I look forward to hearing from you.



Getting rid of the red should get this down to a reasonable length (some tweaking may be needed to smooth out transitions). 

Can you should find a way to work in an example or two of what Kass sees and hears, and why she's confident her visions are relevant? Does she have a track record for being right?

Possibly she knows who's guilty of something because she saw it in one of her never-wrong visions, but that won't fly in court, so she's considering lying under oath and saying she actually saw what happened? If that's what's happening, I'd spell it out so we appreciate her dilemma.


Anonymous said...

You've repeated yourself about the title and genre listing it at the top and bottom, you might want to pick one and remove the other.

I know who the main character is and sort of know what obstacles are facing her. I'm a bit more confused as to what's at stake and/or what the plot goal is meaning either what the mc wants most for the length of the story, or what they end up with having gone through the events of the story. Maybe try making those things a bit clearer in your next revision.

Good Luck

Joanna Hoyt said...

Thank you both. I will have another whack at this. I can cut the repetitions and the excessive piles of adjectives and questions--that's easy. I'll also try to put in the right details and get the query better focused--that may take a while.

I am indeed uncertain of my audience. It's the sort of book I would have read as a teenager and would read as an adult. I've heard that YA requires older protagonists. I also think Kass is dealing with some issues YAs might be dealing with or looking ahead to; before she strike starts she's adjusting to the work world and also trying to keep a foothold among rapidly diverging groups of friends, and during the strike she becomes a major financial support for the family (since her dad is out of work) and is also suddenly responsible for making some rather dangerous decisions with no clear right answers... But the query doesn't make that clear. If I'm going to try to pitch this as YA I'll rework the query; otherwise I'll aim for adults and focus the plot another way.

Thanks again.

St0n3henge said...

If you have a 13 year old in a time period when kids this age went to work in mines and helped support families, you may have a YA. Younger kids then took on more adult responsibilities and had more mature problems. I'd probably make it an adult novel only if you provide the points of view of adult characters as well, or if there is a lot of language and gore. As a last resort you could change the characters age. I realize that changes the mood of the story and many details.

I pretty much agree with EEs suggestions. After you condense it, we really do need to have an idea of what she's seeing/hearing and why a girl in this time period with a history of insanity in the family wouldn't just assume she's losing her mind.

Anonymous said...

I really like the query up to the paragraph that begins "Kass' friends and neighbors..." See, we're in a context with a lot of ethnic and social tensions. You do a great job of addressing the ethnic tensions above, without being pedantic, but this part just read to me like Boring History Lesson. And I love history! (Though not necessarily this period of it). Perhaps you could use one sentence to introduce the strike, without having to mention every single group with a stake in the outcome?

So it seems like you may have written this novel as a YA (?). How much does your protagonist age over the course of the book? Are you particularly tied to her being and staying 13? As written the story could easily be middle grade, but if you make her a few years older it could really enlarge your audience. As a reader I'm not too keen on kid protagonists, but this is VERY subjective. (I hated "The Book Thief," for example, so take what I say with a big grain of salt).

Cool premise for a story. I would add that if you modify your query to make it YA, you may also need to rewrite your story with a more YA tone. Read up on what the YA genre is.