Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer '16 YayYA Entry #13: A COURT OF MIRACLES

NAME: Kit Grant
TWITTER: @kgtellsstories
GENRE: YA Retelling of Jungle Book & Les Miserables
TITLE: A COURT OF MIRACLES
PITCH: Jungle Book meets Les Miserables in dark 1830’s Paris criminal underworld. The youngest cat burglar in the Thieves Guild must find the sister that her father sold to a stranger for a handful of gold

FIRST 500 WORDS:
Father will beat us both if Ettie doesn't learn fast, and she is not a fast learner. I watch her out of the corner of my eye. She is struggling, the heavy weight of the iron jug full to the brim with water. Her small hands have never lifted such a weight. She doesn't know to lean it into herself and carry it on her hip as she goes. The water sloshes with her unsteady steps and she wobbles, almost falling in an attempt to right the jug.
Foolish. She's going to fall over. A hand darts out and grips her by the shoulder to steady her.
            "There little one, not quite used to waiting on tables are we?"
I freeze.
The voice is rough and warm. My heart sinks into my shoes.
No, no no.
I drop whatever I was carrying onto the nearest table, ignoring the protests of the clients and push through the crowded floor towards her.
The man reaches down to help her with the jug and she visibly relieved lets him take it from her.
Don't look at him.
She looks up, her golden curls escaping from her white cap. She is very small and he is a giant of a man. His face is tanned dark from years spent sailing. His hair is bleached white-gold by the sun.
He bends down, coming to her level, and even the long cording scars that cross his eye like stripes don't take away from his magnetic charm. He smiles at Ettie, a smile that is all teeth, and God forgive her, she smiles back.

            "What is your name?" he asks.
            "Ettie" I whisper sharply before she can speak. She turns to look at me.
Look at me. Don't look away.
She sees the expression on my face.
She sees I am afraid.
I reach out my hand to her.
'Come with me, you're needed in the kitchen.'
She hears the desperation in my voice.
The hand on her shoulder clamps down tight hurting her. She gives a little yelp. She knows something is wrong.
Don't worry, just look at me.
            "I'm sorry she disturbed you Mon Seigneur,' I say, barely looking at his face. Definitely not looking at the scars "I'll take the water. We can-"
His eyes flicker onto my face, focusing on the 5 dots inked onto my cheek; the mark of a Cat of the Thieves Guild.
            "My Lord Kaplan"
I have never been so delighted to hear my father’s voice.
"Is my ward bothering you?" 
The whole inn falls silent, and everybody turns to watch. My father is only a Guild Master. Kaplan is a Guild Lord.
 I take Ettie's hand. She's half paralyzed in fear. I smile at her.  
It's ok, lets go.
            "Your ward?"
Kaplan releases Ettie she falls into my arms. I pull her towards the door, dragging her away.

            "And how much can I pay to take her off your hands?"


REVISION:

NAME: Kit Grant
TWITTER: @kgtellsstories
GENRE: YA Retelling of Jungle Book & Les Miserables
TITLE: A COURT OF MIRACLES
PITCH:Jungle Book meets Les Miserables in the criminal underworld of 1830’s Paris. The youngest cat burglar in the Thieves Guild must find the sister who was sold to a stranger for a handful of gold.

FIRST 500 WORDS:

In my dreams I am still screaming her name.

I am running behind the carriage bare foot in the frozen snow. My voice tears at my throat as I call her name over and over.
 I am sure that she can hear me but she doesn’t turn. I can barely see the golden curls of her hair and the shadow of the man leaning over her. This monster that has bought her for a handful of gold coins.
The horses drag her further away, my limbs are like lead, stiff and slow, but still I run. I run even when the carriage has gone so far that I can no longer see it. I run as if I believed I could still catch it. I run as if to stop would be to give up on her. I run until all I can see before me is endless white. My knees buckle and I fall, sobbing, my hands trembling as they hit the icy ground.

The shock of the cold earth tears me from my sleep.

I am awake

1
Father will beat us both if Ettie doesn't learn fast, and she is not a fast learner. I watch her out of the corner of my eye. She is struggling, the heavy weight of the iron jug full to the brim with water. Her small hands have never lifted such a weight. She doesn't know to lean it into herself and carry it on her hip as she goes. The water sloshes with her unsteady steps and she wobbles, almost falling in an attempt to right the jug.
FoolishShe's going to fall over. A hand darts out and grips her by the shoulder to steady her.
            "There little one, not quite used to waiting on tables, are we?"
I freeze.
The voice is rough and warm. My heart sinks into my shoes.
No, no, no.
I drop whatever I was carrying onto the nearest table, ignoring the protests of the clients and push through the crowded floor towards her.
The man reaches down to help her with the jug and she, visibly relieved, lets him take it from her.
Don't look at him.
She looks up, her golden curls escaping from her white cap. She is small and he is a giant of a man. His face is tanned dark from years spent sailing. His hair is bleached white-gold by the sun.
He bends down, to her level, and even the long cording scars that cross his eye like stripes don't take away from his magnetic charm. He smiles at Ettie, a smile that is all teeth, and God forgive her, she smiles back.

            "What is your name?" he asks.
            "Ettie," I whisper sharply before she can speak. She turns to look at me.
Her eyes widen as she sees the expression on my face.

            "I'm sorry she disturbed you Mon Seigneur,” I say, barely looking at his face. Definitely not looking at the scars.

12 comments:


  1. Pitch:

    A 35 word pitch is closer to an elevator pitch than a Twitter pitch. Consider focusing on the character rather than the world to give us something to latch onto and relate the story within.

    Also, more concrete specifics help us orient. Jungle Book and Les Mis are very different stories you may be better off showing these elements rather than telling us.

    Rather than calling this a retelling, consider Historical or Historical Fantasy.

    Pages:

    This is strong, but you lose me about halfway through:

    She sees the expression on my face.
    She sees I am afraid.
    I reach out my hand to her.
    'Come with me, you're needed in the kitchen.'
    She hears the desperation in my voice.
    The hand on her shoulder clamps down tight hurting her. She gives a little yelp. She knows something is wrong.

    This whole exchange feels like head-hopping when I'd rather be trapped inside the MC's head. Her desperation, her hope at her sister understanding rather than the italics that read to me like she's reading her mind or even making her behave in a certain way. Unless that's a skill you're trying to communicate.

    As always, the opening is a slow build so it's fine that you don't have every aspect into it, but hopefully this perspective helps you see how an outsider might interpret the pages.

    Hope this helps!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, me again. It's great to see you here. Crazy coincidence, huh?

    Pitch: Good, though having read your query, I'm wondering if "sister" refers to Nina's actual biological sister, or Ettie, since both are sold. But someone who hasn't read the query and doesn't know that there are 2 girls sold wouldn't notice, though.

    500 Words:
    I noticed some grammar/punctuation issues, so you might want to run it over again with an editor or spellcheck. (Grammarly.com is good for this.)But here are some things I noticed. Nothing big, easy fixes, but it does distract from the otherwise great writing.


    "Father will beat us both if Ettie doesn't learn fast, and she is not a fast learner."--love the first line

    "There little one, not quite used to waiting on tables[,] are we?"--add comma

    The man reaches down to help her with the jug and she [,] visibly relieved [,] lets him take it from her.--add commas

    She is very small and he is a giant of a man.--not sure the very is needed here, it sounds weird IMO

    He bends down [CUT coming] to her level

    "and even the long cording scars that cross his eye like stripes don't take away from his magnetic charm."--Small point: if he has that many scars on his eyes, how is he not blind? Especially considering the level of medicine in the 19th century. Cheeks might be a better option here.

    "Ettie[,]" I whisper sharply before she can speak.--add comma

    'Come with me, you're needed in the kitchen.'--Why the single quotes now? This might be a regional thing, but you did double quotes for dialogue before, so I'm a bit confused.

    The hand on her shoulder clamps down tight[,] hurting her--how would Nina know? How is Ettie showing it? Maybe if you put the "gives a little yelp" in front of this line. Also, add comma.

    "I'm sorry she disturbed you Mon Seigneur,'--now you have single quotes and double quotes for the same piece of dialogue. Something is definitely amiss.

    Definitely not looking at the scars[.]--period

    "My Lord Kaplan[.]"--period


    Final thoughts: Loved your query, like these pages too. Most of the grammar mistakes and other little things are pointed out inline, so just take a look at those and you'll be good. I like the writing, and how the stakes are clear and something happens by the end of the 500 words (so you don't take too long to get into the action, and that's a good thing). I'm not wild about the italicized thoughts, interspersing the action, though. They feel a bit jarring, but that's just me. Is Ettie going to be sold off immediately after this passage ends, or later? Because it seems from Ettie's inexperience with the work that she hasn't been there very long, which means that she wouldn't have known Nina for very long either, and Nina wouldn't have that much of an incentive to rescue her without the emotional connection. Also, is the Tiger supposed to be evil Jean Valjean. He's exceptionally strong, he's spent a decent chunk of time in, well, if not exactly sailing then work related to boats, and in Les Mis he technically "buys" Cosette from the Thernardiers by paying off Fantine's debt.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Charis M. EllisonJune 28, 2016 at 8:44 PM

    I love the premise of your pitch, and it's a lot of information to squeeze into 35 words! I do think that making the words work a little harder would make a stronger pitch--'Jungle Book meets Les Miserables in the criminal underworld of 1830’s Paris', for instance, although that's largely personal preference.

    Your opening has a lot of strengths, the voice of the MC feels really solid! There are a few places where punctuation is missing--lines that could use a comma, sentences where the period got left off, etc.
    I did feel like the action was a bit confused, and you might try tightening things up and making it clearer--the MC's urgency got a little lost in the shuffle. I found the italics more distracting than anything, they feel a little superfluous.
    Best of luck! I hope this helps :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Kit,

    First impression: OOOOOO Les Mis and Jungle book.... Cool mash up

    For the pitch: why say the sister her father sold instead of just her sister who was sold by her father or something? That part had me rereading it over and over to figure out if it was someone else's sister or etc.

    For the 500: hmmmm, okay. So I get they're in an inn but I have no idea what the area is like or what time of day it is or where the characters stand amongst the crowds. All I see is an empty Prancing Pony and this tiger-eyed dude with two little five year old girls... Which I'm pretty sure I got wrong there but that was my fault. I'd tighten this up by giving us the characters emotions in her actions and less of her thoughts that don't make sense to us. We don't know yet who this guy is and she does so that automatically disconnects us without some kind of idea of what he's even doing and from her character. More confusing is his random contact and talking to the one sister... Do these dudes do that often, stare and approach random kids or is this something new to the MC? If it's new then maybe introduce the situation slower because a lot just happened in so little words that seemed too squished in there. In this case, maybe stretch the scene out in a few ways that helps others see what you see and get the feelings your character has, especially in first person, and to understand what's going on a bit better!
    It seems like you know what you want but you should just double check a few times to make sure that others know what you want because while you see every stitch in this guys clothes and every splash of water in Etties bucket, the readers are getting this from scratch and have to know what they're seeing to hook them to the story easier!
    Hope this helps!
    -Bethany (#12 and co-host)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Kit!

    So, I LOVE your comps. That's such an intriguing combination! And your opening definitely held my attention. The first sentence is a great way to drag your reader into what's going on, and the rest really delivers on the promise that first sentence makes. Your MC and her situation are relatable, and you've got lots of tension going on. All in all, a great begining, with just a few things to polish.

    I agree with Lana about the sequence towards the middle, which reads as follows...

    She turns to look at me.
    Look at me. Don't look away.
    She sees the expression on my face.
    She sees I am afraid.
    I reach out my hand to her.
    'Come with me, you're needed in the kitchen.'
    She hears the desperation in my voice.
    The hand on her shoulder clamps down tight hurting her. She gives a little yelp. She knows something is wrong.
    Don't worry, just look at me.

    I think you can easily fix this bit just by shifting the focus to your MC. Rather than having Ettie's reactions indicate what your MC is doing, zero in on your MC's actions. Use loaded language to heighten the tension, too. When you *do* want to show how Ettie's responding to the situation, show us physically, rather than telling us what her response is. Let us see what your MC would see, which will be more than enough for your audience. When faced with her sister's desperation, does Ettie frown? Look worried? Do her eyes widen? Does she take a step toward her sister?

    In 1st person POV, save words that describe an emotional state for your MC, and use physical indicators to give away emotions for non-POV characters, is what I'm trying to say.

    Besides that, there are just a few grammar slip-ups which have already been pointed out. LOVE this opening, Kit--I'd definitely be reading on at this point!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Pitch: Using “Jungle Book” makes me think your main character was raised by animals. That doesn’t seem to be the case, and after reading the first part I don’t see any connection to animals or the jungle at all. You might want to pick a different title unless there is something I’m missing. I like the setting of the Paris underworld and the missing sister (I love stories with sisterhood).

    The first sentence is great. Strong and full of tension.

    I’d like a bit more on the setting. It’s only from the dialogue that I figure out we’re in a restaurant or tavern. You don’t describe the surroundings at all. I don’t get a feeling for who else might be in the room either—I assume it’s crowded and noisy like a tavern would be but I don’t get that impression.

    The tensions is strong throughout the section. Your ending line is great too. I do want to know why Lord Kaplan is so bad, but you don’t have to tell me in these first 500 words if you’re planning on tell me soon.

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  7. This is really great!! I'm completely hooked by your pitch. The Jungle Book meets Les Mis is a fascinating concept.

    My critiques of the first 500 words are honestly pretty small. I would love a little more setting and a little less dialogue.

    In the sentence "the hand on her shoulder clamps down tight hurting her." I would delete "hurting her" because her yelp makes it clear.

    I'm also a little confused as to who is saying "Lord Kaplan" I also wonder why Ettie is so afraid and why she falls into the MCs arms. Though perhaps this will become clearer?

    Over all, I loved this and I think this is a really great beginning!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for sharing. I love your idea and you had me at JB meet Les Misreables. Very intriguing however I think your picture fall short after that introduction. I would tighten it to ensure you don't lose interest as you have a fabulous idea and your writing is very strong. I want to read more!! I would provide the age of the protagonist and include that she's the only one who can save or find her and is there something about making her dad pay for what he did? I was also confused about her being sold to stranger. It seems as if the protagonist knows of the Lord and so does the father. I think you do a great job at setting a scene - I was tense and wanted her little sister to not answer or look up. It made me think of Hunger Games - the protagonists relationship with her sister is very unforgettable and draws you in right away. I stopped reading wanting more and left with a strong take away of who the protagonist was - very solid voice. I think you can remove her inside thoughts - "she seems I'm afraid". Can you show this instead?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi, Kit! Great story you've got here.

    Pitch: I loved how you compared your story with two classics. Brilliant. And the way you hinted at the stakes without even mentioning it, superb!

    500 words: Though it's written in first person POV, it feels as if there's someone else inside our MC's head. Don't use italics to describe the narrating character's thoughts unless it's from third person omniscient POV.

    That's why it felt like a bit head hopping.

    I love the cliffhanging ending. Brought the conflict without telling. I actually felt the urge the MC felt to protect his sister.

    Is she his biological sister or just adopted one? Since they're both sold to criminals, both are possible.

    I noticed some punctuation issues. May wanna fix that during the revision. Also the genre sounds more like a pitch comparison than a genre. In retellings, vital characteristics of the original stories are included. But here, no actual animals raised our MC, and Mowgli didn't have any siblings. So you might wanna change the genre.

    Otherwise great story! Good luck with the revision!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Guys thank you all so very much for all your comments. I am grateful for each and every opinion.

    For anyone wondering, half of the story actually IS a direct allegory of the Jungle Book, Ettie is the ‘Mowgli’ - a naive innocent 12 year old girl introduced to a violent a criminal underworld run by criminal guilds. The Antagonist is Lord Kaplan nicknamed the Tiger (Shere Kahn) and Nina, our MC is Bagheera, she goes by the name ‘the Black Cat’. The story also includes humans based on Tabaqui the Jackal, Kaa, Baloo, The Bandar Log, Chil the Kite, and the Seeonee Wolf Pack amongst others.

    It is also clearly a retelling of Les Mis, same characters, just staring Eponine (Nina) and Cosette (Ettie) and all the usual gang plus new faces.

    Thanks again for all the feedback. The good & the bad, it all helps build a stronger story so YAY!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi!!

    Remember that all crits are subjective and that you are welcome to use or dismiss mine as you see fit for your story! Thanks for entering #YayYA!

    I love the premise. It's fantastic. There's a lot of Eponine retellings out there but this one is unique in that it's about her and the Cosette figure, not a love triangle. The mashup is so different as well. Everything about the premise screams unique.

    Your writing does need some cleaning up, though. Italics is reserved for internal thought or telepathic conversations. I can see that you're trying to emphasize the suspense and the heightened emotion in this scene. You're almost there! It just needs some polish!

    I don't think the word "clients" is the right one to use in reference to the inn's customers. It feels too modern and makes me think of retail or real estate or something. I also noticed some grammatical issues but it looks like the others pointed that out already.

    Happy Writing!!

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  12. Feedback on the revision:

    I like the brief prologue you added to the story. In particular, the opening line was good (although I also liked your original opening line.) However, it might be confusing that you time skip to the past in chapter one. Most prologues take place in the past, not the future. Maybe adding something like "x years ago" or whatever else you've seen other authors do? Maybe find a way to show the narrator is an adult in the prologue so we know that her as a child is flashing back to the past?

    Also, "Her eyes widen as she sees the expression on my face" flows better than your old version.

    Overall, I like the revisions!

    ReplyDelete