Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Agent,

Nobody can see the portal to a parallel world that opens whenever Charlotte Ashdown is bored; that is, except Eleanor, her double in that world and the only other person who can see the portal. Charlotte’s parents worry that she’s talking to the air instead of making real friends at school and treat her like she’s broken. Fragile. A problem to solve. But Eleanor is Charlotte’s best friend--her only friend.

After Charlotte sees Eleanor getting bullied at school, Eleanor reveals that she believes the two girls switched worlds as babies. In Eleanor’s world, everyone has a power that is activated by a certain emotion, working like Charlotte’s boredom. Charlotte offers to switch places with Eleanor, pretend to be her, show off her portal power, and then reverse the switch. But nothing goes according to plan: Eleanor’s family can’t see the portal either, the bullies are merciless, Eleanor refuses to switch back, and no one at school will even talk to her. Unless Charlotte can make real friends--something she has never been good at--she could remain there as an outcast for the rest of her life.

THE WORLD IN THE WINDOW is middle-grade contemporary fantasy, complete at 44,000 words. It stands alone with series potential and presents solutions for bullying supported by current research. In addition to writing, I am a professional freelance copy editor, a piano teacher, and a mother of four boys.

Below are the first 250 words of THE WORLD IN THE WINDOW.



Chapter 1: Pants

“We can talk about anything you want to talk about,” Dr. Lawrence said. But what she really meant was, “Tell me about Eleanor.” It was so obvious. No matter what Charlotte said, Dr. Lawrence asked a question about Eleanor.

Charlotte said, “My birthday is in one month;” Dr. Lawrence asked if Eleanor’s birthday was the same day (it was). Charlotte said she hoped she didn’t have too much homework that day; Dr. Lawrence wanted to know if she had friends she wanted to play with after she was done. Charlotte said, “Not really.”

Mom always wanted to know if Charlotte had friends. She did have friends, sort of. There were kids at school who were fun to hang out with sometimes, but there wasn’t anyone like Marie had been in kindergarten and first grade, before she moved away. But really, Mom was overthinking it. Charlotte could hang out with Eleanor whenever she was bored.

Dr. Lawrence was a psychologist; Charlotte had read the word on the door and looked it up online after her last appointment. Mom called Dr. Lawrence a feelings doctor, which sounded like something you’d tell a four-year-old, whereas Charlotte was almost twelve. A psychologist’s job was to evaluate and study how people behaved, which Mom said meant they listened to people and helped them solve their problems. Charlotte didn’t need help solving her problems. Or at least not the problem Mom thought she needed to solve, which was seeing Eleanor. That wasn’t a problem.


LH said...

Yeah, I totally love this and am all in. The query works, it's clear, concise and gives me an idea of what's going on in the world and the first page builds on that beautifully.

You introduce your MC and only a couple other people so it's easy to understand where we are, what's going on, and how Charlotte feels about it.

I love this. Would 100% want to read more.

Holly Collingwood said...

Hi R.O.
Your query is very clear and easy to understand. The 'twin' on the other side of the portal is an interesting idea. I am curious to know more about how the portals work and curiosity is a good thing.

Starting your story in the doctor's office gives us good insight into Charlotte's character immediately. She's crafty and smart. I like her.
Good luck!

Lindsi said...


I'm really digging the concept and brief synopsis. I wish there had been more to read! I know bullying is an important topic, and I love how you've woven that into your story. I've been looking for more middle grade books to read to my son, and I feel like this would be perfect for them (and me).

You're query letter is direct and gives enough detail to outline your story, and you've included information about yourself that shows your qualifications and experience.

I feel like you actually gave away very little, but I feel so invested in the story of these two girls. I love this! Really.

Good luck!
Lindsi (L.R.)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Your query is quite strong. You've given us a good sense of Charlotte, the problems she's going to face, and the consequences of not solving those problems. The only thing I think you might need to tweak is the last summary line. How will making friends enable Charlotte to get back to her actual world?

I also liked your first page. Charlotte's matter-of-fact-ness totally comes through in the way you've written it. I did feel like the last paragraph jumped around a bit--it might be worth seeing if you can keep all of Mom's explanations grouped together and all of Charlotte's counter-explanations grouped together--but that's a very small thing. On the whole, I would definitely keep reading.

Good luck to you and THE WORLD IN THE WINDOW!

M.R. said...

I loved the first paragraph of your query; it made me want to read more. Overall, I thought it was clear and gave a good sense of what the book would be about.
The first pages were interesting and I liked how the reader knew why Dr. Lawrence kept asking about Eleanor without saying so. I'd definitely want to keep reading!

THE AGENT said...

You do a great job in your query of describing what sounds like a complicated plot! I love the theme of switching worlds only to find you preferred your previous life (if you've never seen Mirrormask, I definitely recommend a watch!) You tell me who the character is and what they want, BUT I think the query could be a little clearer on the stakes: what Charlotte has to do in order to get what she wants, and what will happen if she fails. How will making friends help her to switch worlds again? And wasn't she already an outcast in her former world? A little more on that, and I think you're good.

In reading the opening scene, I'll say that this is a particular red flag of mine, but is NOT shared by all agents. A lot of books will start with the character being interviewed by a psychologist as a shortcut to communicate their problems. Here, you use it to quickly establish that Charlotte doesn't have friends and this worries her mother, and to introduce Eleanor. But since this is MG, and immediacy of plot and voice is so important, I want to SEE that. See Charlotte with Eleanor, only to have her mother enter the scene, whereupon we realize that Eleanor might be imaginary, OR there might be something stranger afoot. That's just one example, but I'd really like to see this conflict in scene rather than in summary.