#BLOGPITCH Contest

#BLOGPITCH Contest

How cool is this! My #BLOGPITCH was one of ten chosen by the wonderful Authoress at Miss Snark’s Blogspot. Please visit her site for the other winning selections (Miss Snark’s Site.) For each critique you leave on the respective winning blogs, you are entered into a drawing for a 15 page line edit from the acclaimed Authoress herself. So, here we go:

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Dream_Assassin(YA SciFi)

Logline: A kill away from reaching the sandman discharge quota, a teenage dream assassin learns the outlaws he killed aren’t who he was told. And neither is he.

First 250: 

Four folders fan before me. Each contains a face. Each face is worth points. And after tonight’s shift, I’ll have enough points to purchase what I’ve wanted since I got here. Two quick raps at the door steal my attention. Recognizing the knock, I rub my eyes before blinking a few times. I don’t know how long I’ve been staring at the folders.

“Door open,” I say.

The voice-activated panel doesn’t have a chance to retreat before Z bounds into my room. A wonky grin stretches like a hammock between his ears as he slides to a seat on the edge of my desk, ruffling the folders as he scoots. “So… this is it.” He pumps his eyebrows.

I offer a thin-lipped grin and nod while reorganizing the folders. Cycling through the images once more, I study the faces of tonight’s targets.

“Come on, Ro. This is it! Tonight’s the night. Everything you worked for. Get excited!”

“Will you stop calling me Ro?” I say. “My name is Midnight.”

“For now it is.” He buries his crazy-long fingers beneath his rear and leans forward while swinging his feet. “What do you think it’ll be when you get out?”

I shrug. Once I’m out of the Sandman Corps, they can call me whatever they want.

“Think about it,” Z continues. “After tonight, you’ll roam Somnium Six a free man.”

OutFree… Words I’ve used a thousand times since the corps enlisted me. Now that they’re so close to being real, they sound more like a dream.

.∇.∇.∇.

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31 Comments

  1. Wow I love this. Great premise and great voice. I have one minor nitpick. There’s an awful lot of emoting going on in this section… (wonky grin, pumping eyebrows, thin-lipped grin etc.)

    “The voice-activated panel doesn’t have a chance to retreat before Z bounds into my room. A wonky grin stretches like a hammock between his ears as he slides to a seat on the edge of my desk, ruffling the folders as he scoots. “So… this is it.” He pumps his eyebrows.

    I offer a thin-lipped grin and nod while reorganizing the folders.”

    I’m not sure it’s all necessary. But otherwise, I’m intrigued. I want to know what happens to Ro/midnight when he gets out, or if he gets out. What he has to do to get out. I’d definitely keep reading.

    I wish you luck as you move forward with your project 🙂

    • Thanks Jamie! Yep, I can definitely see how I could focus more on the relationship and less on the individual emotions.

  2. I’m intrigued by your premise. What is a dream assassin and who are these dream outlaws? I’d want to read about them!

    The opening lines catch my attention right away. I want to know what he wants to purchase–his freedom? And where here is. I do think you could make some of it a bit more concise. For example, you show that the door is voice-activated by him telling it to open, so you could just skip to Z bounding into the room.

    And at the end, since your story deals in dreams, I think you have a real opportunity for word-play with that last line of the page. I’m not sure how, but something really impactful to grab an agent’s attention if you do any first-page contests once you’re querying. I really like the line about the wonky grin stretching like a hammock.

    Good luck with this!

    • Thanks for the feedback, Michelle, and I like the suggestion for cutting the redundancy. I’ll work on the last lines.

  3. Ooh, excellent opening! I’d keep reading, for sure. I’m not sure what to recommend to change because this looks pretty darn clean to me. Nice job!

  4. I agree with what others have said so far. Great world! I can’t wait to explore it, to find out why he has to serve in the Sandman Corps and why they kill dreams, as well as what Somnium Six is like. You start right where you should–the final night. This is it! I also love how the first four sentences build and unfold from one another.

    I have a nit-picky item: “The voice-activated panel doesn’t have a chance to retreat before Z bounds into my room.” If it doesn’t have a chance to retreat, wouldn’t Z run into it?

    My main question is how Ro/Midnight feels about getting out? Certainly it’s obvious that he’s excited to be free, but how does he feel about the actual work of killing dreams?

    • Thanks Jennifer! Yea, I had “barely has a chance” and/or “doesn’t fully have a chance”, and I changed it. probably should have left it in. Not all -ly’s need to die. You’re not being nit-picky at all. One wrong word/phrase in the first 250 can mean the difference between a request or rejection. As for how he feels–that’s part of the unfolding story, but it was just so hard to get relationship + world-building done in the first 250. Thanks so much for your input!

  5. One thing I notice was that you have “two quick WRAPS at the door” instead of “two quick RAPS at the door.” Other than that, I liked the characters immediately. They have an immediate chemistry. The premise is engaging, and your descriptions are wonderfully quirky and vivid. I would definitely read more.
    *Embarrassing Note: changed wrap to rap.

  6. Nice! Great voice and appealing characters. Z is fun but I think you could scale back some of the descriptors here. Maybe clarify the bit with the door not having a chance to retreat – didn’t quite get that. Raps not wraps too 🙂
    I like the implications given with the names Ro, Midnight and the new possibility. All kinds of backstory implied with bashing anyone over the head – well done.
    Love the dream line at the end – nice! Hope some of that helps you out – good luck with this!

  7. I love the idea you have here! The first 250 words move pretty decently fast, too, with a good feel. I do think you’re missing a bit of added detail that could ground the reader, and having the character be called both Midnight and Ro (where did that come from?) in already this short section is confusing, but otherwise, this is great.

    Good luck!

  8. The pitch is very cool, though I’m slightly confused by “dream assassin.” Does he kill people in dreams?

    I like the detail that he doesn’t know how long he’s been staring at the folders–it shows his obsession with them, that there’s something he desperately wants and all his attention is on it.

    I like the dialogue–it raises questions without being too confusing. I want to know what is real name is. I want to know why he has two names. I want to know more about Somnium Six. (Meaning I want to read on to find out more!)

    The voice is working great for me. The only thing that stuck out was the word “rear.” Doesn’t sound like something a teenager would ever say.

    Overall, I’m really intrigued by your pitch and first 250 and would definitely keep reading!

  9. Very captivating log line.

    “A wonky grin stretches like a hammock between his ears” this is a very odd description, and it kind of puts me off. As does “pumps his eyebrows.”

    This is an amazing premise, and I love the feel of the story, but the way you describes things seems to distract a bit from me getting involved in the story. Also, in the first paragraph you talk about points and the four folders. Those are very innocuous terms for what these photos represent (death). I just feel like you could come up with a way to discuss it that really smacks you in the face with the fact that this kid is killing people to earn his own freedom. The words “points” and “folders” just don’t evoke that punch that I was hoping for after that amazing log line.

    BTW, I love the header on your blog.

  10. Wheeler1992 |

    I’m not totally hooked but mostly because I can’t wrap my head around Science Fiction. I think it was over written at parts such as the thin lipped grin and such.

  11. Overall, this is a strong beginning. You seemed to have picked a good starting point, just as things are about to change. I had a couple of notes about some of the sentences.

    “Recognizing the knock, I rub my eyes before blinking a few times.” — The introductory clause doesn’t flow into the main part of the sentence for me. What does recognizing the knock have to do with rubbing his eyes?

    “The voice-activated panel doesn’t have a chance to retreat before Z bounds into my room.” — You don’t really need anything before “Z.” I think you’re trying to show that he’s coming in so fast, the door can’t keep up with him. But you can show the same energy just with the great verb “bounded.”

    “After tonight, you’ll roam Somnium Six a free man.” — naming the city feels unnatural, a little info-dumpy. Just “you’ll roam the city” or even, “you’ll be a free man,” seems more like how people really talk.

    This is some interesting worldbuilding you have going. Well done.

  12. I don’t think rear is teen-ish, but I love “crazy-long fingers.” I liked the part about the hammock grin. Instead of interrupting the flow, it made me take note of what a cool but unusual description it was. For a second, then, it took me out of the story, but I still liked it. I enjoy the first person present POV. Works really well. The dialogue flows naturally. I would like a little more impact from reading the first three sentences. The points make me think of a video game. I want to really feel he is killing. Make it a little more clear. Great job!

  13. H G Stevens |

    Your logline is fabulous – this is a story I’d definitely stay with. I love SF and like the wonky details. I’d like to know how many points each target is – how many he’s got would tell me how many targets he’s already hit – and how many is needed to earn his freedom – you get a lot of information in a very small space. I like the name of the city – it has sleep in it – so that tells the reader something else is going on – this is not LA or NY. I agree with most of the other comments – the door, etc. And yes, rap not wrap. Please stick with it – great promise!!!

  14. I don’t see how Z can lean forward to talk to Ro while swinging his feet. To me, this would mean he’s sitting on Ro’s side of the desk.
    Of course, you could always have him do that — actually sitting on the folders and irritating Ro more.

  15. I like the logline although I think I’d like to know what a dream assassin is fairly soon after starting the book.

    It’s a compelling opening. The main problem I have is that I was sure the MC was a girl until the very end of the excerpt where he mentions being a free man. Ro and Midnight could both be girls’ names too….

    Nice descriptions, especially the hammock-like grin. But don’t get so caught up in them that they stall the story.

  16. I’m just rubbing my hands together in glee at your first paragraph. I love it. It’s short and punchy. I want to marry it. My only suggestion for it is to split it in two to keep up the tension. Consider starting a new paragraph at, “Two quick raps at the door…”

    For your log line: starting with a subject, not a clause, makes it stronger. Consider something like, “Ro/Midnight is a kill away from reaching the sandman discharge quota when he learns the outlaws he killed aren’t who he was told. And neither is he.”

    I am practically SALIVATING over this, it’s so good. The sandman corps? Are you kidding me!?! I want to read the rest of this IMMEDIATELY!

  17. Laura Martone |

    Though I don’t read a lot of Sci-Fi, I’ve seen a ton of Sci-Fi flicks, so I’m definitely intrigued by your premise and the first 250 words. So many wonderful things pop out at me – the curious folder and points, the grin stretched like a hammock, and the awesome freakin’ names. As Maureen commented, “The Sandman Corps? Are you kidding me!?!” I, too, want to read this immediately – especially since, in a weird way, it reminds me of LOOPER. But I do agree with some of the other commenters, such as whether the MC is a girl or a boy.

    As for the plot details, such as what a “dream assassin” is, I certainly don’t need to know that in the first 250 words. As long as you explain it at some point in the novel, I’m good. Trust me – I’m already hooked.

    So, thanks for sharing your premise and prose – and congrats on being one of MSFV’s chosen ten!

  18. I also am very intrigued by this. I get a solid sense of Ro, Z, and the stakes right away.

    Some nitpicky things:

    Each folder contains a face or the image of a face? No need for the and at the beginning of the sentence “And after tonight…”

    How does Ro recognize the knock? Is it the rhythm, how loud it is? Why does Z knock? Why isn’t there a doorbell of some kind? If this is SF, I’m thinking the door is metal, maybe?

    I agree with the potential of the spastic Z running into the slow door.

    The hammock grin (loved this!) is wonky enough without saying so.

    You might say tight lipped smile, since you already use grin with Z.

    Nice job.

    Keep it up!

  19. Hi John

    You have me with this premise, about a sandman corps. I’m not 100% sure if he’s just killing dreams or killing the people and dreams are involved somehow, but either way, it’s an interesting idea. I don’t have a whole lot of criticism. You set up the conflict nicely. I’m guessing even though dealing with these four people is his ticket out of the corps, he’s on edge about it, which is a nice touch. He’s conflicted, either because he doesn’t WANT to deal with these people or he’s nervous about getting out. Maybe make what his fears or concerns are more clear?

    Some of the descriptions are strange – pumping eyebrows, smile stretching like a hammock – although they DO give a clear picture so I guess I can overlook it. But they did trip me up a bit while reading.

    I’m really hard-pressed to find anything else. This is a great opening, a great premise, and I’d definitely read the book, and see the movie when it’s made, lol. Good luck!

  20. This is really outside of my typical read, but I was still engaged by the plot. I have a picky thought about the logline. “Sandman discharge quota” sounds a little gross to me. Maybe that’s just me. Once I read your selection, I understood what that meant, but as an intro and stand alone…well. Also “who he was told” as a construction is a little awkward.

    The 250 words were intriguing, and even though we readers are dropped into an unfamiliar world, it is still clear what the stakes are and what is motivating this character.

  21. Great premise! You provide plenty of impending drama for the reader to forge ahead.

    Love the opening lines. I wish that I hadn’t read the logline first so that I could have experienced the full impact without knowing the premise!

    Agree that you can subtract some adjectives and the impact will be greater.

    Great job of planting important info in the first lines without dumping. The reader knows the MC’s name, the friend’s name, and the name of the city. Also immediately know that Ro/Midnight gets annoyed by Z, but maybe Z is a good friend to him.

    I’m not usually a SciFi reader, but I would definitely keep reading this!

    Like how you convey the MC’s hesitation in achieving the goal he’s been pursuing – finishing off those last cases. Sometimes reaching a goal is a scary thing and the reader can feel the conflicting emotions.

  22. I really like this piece! There’s so much about it that’s intriguing.

    I only have two nitpicks that other people haven’t brought up. “And after tonight’s shift, I’ll have enough points to purchase what I’ve wanted since I got here” – this is a personal pet peeve of mine, when something is tell-y but deliberately vague. I doubt Ro/Midnight would take the time to think “what I’ve wanted since I got here” – he would just think of what it is. He’s leaving it out to keep mystery for the reader, which means your voice is getting in the way of his… A better way to keep the vagueness and lose the tell-y feel would be for him to perhaps count the points, then think that they’re all the points he needs. That keeps the reader intrigued without feeling like he’s deliberately skirting the issue for our sake. Does that make any sense? Counting the points and thinking “That’s all I need”*** is something a character would naturally do, whereas the whole “Soon I’ll be able to get what I’ve wanted since I got here” is convoluted.

    Secondly, the fact that he rubs his eyes and looks up from the folders suggests he will turn his attention to the person at the door, but he spends most of the scene trying to ignore the guy and refocus on the folders. Just a little bit of incongruity.

    Other than that, it’s all the tiny little things (raps vs wraps) that other commenters have pointed out already. I really enjoyed this… somehow the character reminds me a little bit of Final Fantasy, though I can’t really put my finger on why. Anyway, seems like you have an interesting set-up, with loads of potential moral ambiguity (which I love). I would most definitely read on.

    ***you don’t have to take this specific suggestion. It is here merely for example purposes, as I wasn’t sure how to articulate my thoughts without it. It’s your story, feel free to use your own idea (or stick with your original if you so wish – my advice is purely opinion-based).

  23. What kind of magic did you use to set up your premise so quickly? I was like wow wholly stakes right in my face instantly. That being said (and I loved the first 250), I would need the next 500 words to shower me with bits of information that start to answer all of the questions you’ve set up in this first page. I feel like you’re going to do that though 🙂

  24. Debbie Dorris |

    I agree with Maureen Willmann. I want to read this NOW!

    I love the premise and the easy camaraderie between the two characters.The issues that caught my eye have already been address by other commenters (raps vs wraps, Z running into the door, using the word ‘rear’etc.)

    Great world building!Love the Premise and voice!

    Good luck to you!

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