Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Mr. Taylor,

I'm currently seeking representation for my 96,000 word young-adult sci-fi novel, Deadly Nightshade. Deadly Nightshade may appeal to readers who enjoyed the narrative voice of Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me and the moral conflict and speculative aspects of Marvel’s Jessica Jones.

Whenever fifteen-year-old coder Morelle Noire looks into someone’s eyes, she hears a number from one to ten, quantifying the total good or evil in their soul. This makes finding friends complicated--not to mention looking in the mirror. Especially since every time she does, the numbers remind her that she’s the most evil person she has ever met.

When her mother forces her to go to summer camp, all Morelle can do is try to keep her head down and make it home in one piece. Instead, she makes an unexpected friend in Cain Adler, the only person whose number she can’t hear, and witnesses the suspicious suicide of the camp nurse. As Morelle investigates the camp’s questionable history, a fellow camper poisons her with Deadly Nightshade berries, landing Morelle back home in a coma. Once she wakes, Morelle discovers she left camp with not only a near-death experience, but incredible telekinetic abilities. To make matters worse, the very public discovery makes her a wanted weapon.

After news of her powers reaches military ears, Morelle is strong-armed into joining a secret task force, where she’s handed a moral dilemma in the form of a gun and training that enables her to live up to the dark destiny her number imposes. As Morelle grows more powerful, the once simple choice of giving in to or fighting against her number becomes increasingly uncertain. When the program’s director assigns her to a perilous field mission instead of letting her go home, Morelle must take charge of her fate and decide: Will she risk her own life and the lives of those she loves? Or will she take another life and risk becoming the monster she sees when she looks in the mirror?

I’m pursuing a major in English at the University of Washington in Seattle, and have also completed two middle-grade fantasy novels. Deadly Nightshade is the standalone first book in a potential trilogy, and I have outlines for the second and third books.

Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!



My mom’s last words to me before I leave are “I love you.”

My last words to my mom before I leave are “I’ll see you later, I guess.”

I wonder how long it’ll take for that to haunt me.

Now I’m stepping up the stairs to the bus to summer camp, duffel bag slung across my back, the haze of the last twenty-four hours swimming around my head like a cloud of smoke. I still feel the way my throat stung when I tried to echo the words back to her, the way my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth when I tried to turn an ‘l’ into an ‘ove’; when I couldn’t. I remember the afternoon before, the way it all spun and how the floor fell from my feet when she told me she was sending me away the next morning, “for my own good.”

“It’ll be healthy,” She said. “Spending some time outside, maybe even making some friends.” But I know what she meant. You can’t go on alone like this forever.

I remember what I said, all I could say after the two-minute silence. “Please.” And what I meant. I wasn’t alone until now.

She said she was sorry. She meant that she was not sorry enough.

I look around the back of the bus. The seats are about half full and I don’t recognize any of the faces, although I don’t let myself look long enough for anyone to look back.


Lm Hersch said...

I must say, the premise of this is very, very, VERY unique. There is so much potential here, it makes me extremely curious to see how the story unfolds.

I've got so many questions, too! How does she know that one number is evil and one is good? Is it possible that she's got them confused, maybe based on some inherent self-doubt, where she's actually good but believes she's bad? Does Morelle ever struggle with what she's supposed to DO with this power? Does the "military" convince her by giving her a sense of destiny? What about Cain Adler makes Morelle unable to hear his number? Does he have superpowers of his own?

Does the camp's "questionable history" matter for the plot of the book? Does the "suspicious suicide?" How does her new found abilities reveal themselves "very publicly?"

For someone who is socially removed by her skills, how does this affect her "moral dilemma" in joining the military? Why does the military hand her a gun if her telekinetic powers are what attracted them to her in the first place? I was thinking you were going for a DeathNote type thing, or do something where Morelle may try to "reverse her number" and change her fate by killing all the "bad guys" and become "good." If she already believes she's the most evil person she knows, then what risk is there in becoming "the monster she sees when she looks in the mirror?"

When I read your query, I read a lot of plot points, but didn't get a feel for the actual character development or conflict. Some of these plot points really don't matter right now - they're more at home in a synopsis.

To me, what would really hook me is to know HOW all these elements will affect the characters. Personally, the entire third paragraph is not very important, at least not in a query. I'd keep the second paragraph, it sets up the story very well.

When you say completed two MG novels, are these published or no? If they are not published, don't mention them.

Spring Paul said...

I love your first 250. The voice pops right out, and I think everyone can identify with trying to say something and not being able to express themselves. There are hints in this beginning that something happened before the book started, and that has me very intrigued.

I think the concept of her hearing numbers is interesting. I do wonder if "Deadly Nightshade" is redundant, since many nightshades are poisonous?

I'd definitely read it if I found it on a shelf. Good job!

Cpoe2Books said...

While detailed, the query jumps around quite a bit. I've been told repeatedly not to overload my queries with information or characters. Also, at the beginning of the query, I got the impression the numbers indicated actual wrongdoing, but by the end, the numbers seemed predictive, as in a predisposition to wrongdoing whether action had been taken or not. Perhaps that was simply intentional though.

I have to say on a personal level I am not overly fond of the present tense style in writing. While it is necessary for scholarly work, I prefer books written in the past tense. A change in tense might also lend itself to more options in the narrative. Since you tell the story in first person, the reader anticipates the character is still alive when past tense is used, but you could keep the final choices of whether she turns evil a mystery to the very end—the difference between hero and antihero.

Good luck with your writing.

Brent Taylor said...

I don't know that I'd request this, just because it doesn't seem like it aligns well with my personal taste. I agree with the comments above that we could use a little more characterization here; you give us a detailed look at the plot, but perhaps that could be scaled back a bit and those saved words could be used to give us a closer look at the internal struggles at play in this novel.