Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer '16 YayYA Entry #6: The Mirror Crack'd

Name: Leanne Schwartz (@LifeBreakingIn)

Genre: Fantasy

Title: The Mirror Crack'd

35-word pitch: Teen Lady of Shalott lies her way into Arthur’s court, Cinderella spearheads a revolution, Snow White hides a beastly curse, and all fight evil queen who’s using magic glass to conquer and control their world.

First 500 words:

Over and under, warp and weft. Mal’s fingers flew across the loom, hurrying to finish. She grabbed her scissors and snipped the threads, tying them off in knots. She pulled her embroidery panel from its frame and stitched it into place upon the woven border. Out the window, the sky lightened over the fields that lay across the river. Time to go.

Tossing her work over the back of her wooden chair, Mal launched herself around the room, gathering supplies and plunking them all into a small chest open in the center of the round tower room. The last was the new weaving, folded hastily. Mal hauled the chest down the winding stairs, out to the muddy bank. She hefted it into the small boat tied there and shoved off. Drawing the paddles from their locks, she steered towards the dock on the opposite shore.

She was still tying up her boat when she began calling, “Sir Plyn! Sir Plyn! I need you!”

The gray-haired chamberlain of Shalott came running through the stone archway of the large manor house on the hill overlooking the river. His maroon tunic waggled as he scurried down to where Mal waited.

“What is it, Lady? What is the matter?”

Mal indicated the chest in the boat. “I need someone to prepare for my departure for Milstock. Have this loaded up and horses—”

Sir Plyn held his hands out. “Lady Malory, you know that your brother stated that you are to remain at Shalott—”

“Yes, to finish the tapestry for the new king. Which I have, and now I must leave if I am to arrive in time for Thom to present it. Please, call Mitchel or Kevin at once.” She yanked the chest out of the boat.

Sir Plyn’s harried look turned pained. “Lady Mal, Lord Torre said nothing of this to me.”

Mal let the chest thud on the dock and strode past Sir Plyn, avoiding his eyes. “Yes, well, it was a surprise for Thom, too; I told him only this week, when I realized I wouldn’t finish in time, and so he said it would be such an honor to give it to the king, it would be all right if I brought it along as soon as it was done.” She didn’t stop, all the way to the manor door, Sir Plyn huffing up the hill behind her. She went on, into the warmth of the stone kitchen. “After all, Thom’s nervous about fighting before King Arthur. If Kevin readies the horse right now, all should be well.”

She stopped in the middle of the kitchen, before the roaring fire, turning to face Sir Plyn. She took a breath, and let her lips spread into the sweet smile that worked every time she needed something.

Or nearly so. It failed when she pleaded with her older brother, Thom, to attend the Milstock tourney. Of course, Thom wouldn't want Mal anywhere close to the king, not after the threats she’d made.



REVISION:

Pitch:

Seventeen-year-old Lady Malory of Shalott expects to rescue her friend from an oppressive lord; instead she uncovers a plot against Arthur and must choose whether to save her friend, home, or the fragile new kingdom.

First 500:

Over and under, warp and weft. Mal’s fingers flew across the loom. She grabbed her scissors and snipped the threads, tying them off in knots. The work never seemed so tedious. She pulled her embroidery panel from its frame and stitched it into place upon the woven border. Out the window, the sky lightened over the fields that lay across the river. Time to go.

Tossing her work over the back of her wooden chair, Mal launched herself about, gathering supplies and plunking them all into a small chest open in the center of the round tower room. The last was the new weaving, folded hastily. It would serve, well enough to save Brynn. Mal hauled the chest down the winding stairs, out to the muddy bank. She hefted it into the small boat tied there and shoved off. Drawing the paddles from their locks, she steered towards the dock on the opposite shore.

She was still tying up her boat when she began calling, “Sir Plyn! Sir Plyn! I need you!”

The gray-haired chamberlain of Shalott came running through the stone archway of the large manor house on the hill overlooking the river. His maroon tunic waggled as he scurried down to where Mal waited. This would be too easy.

“What is it, Lady? What is the matter?”

Mal indicated the chest in the boat. “I need someone to prepare for my departure for Milstock. Have this loaded up and horses—”

Sir Plyn held his hands out. “Lady Malory, you know that your brother stated that you are to remain at Shalott—”

“Yes, to finish the tapestry for the new king. Which I have, and now I must leave if I am to arrive in time for Thom to present it. Please, call a stablehand at once.” She yanked the chest out of the boat, not waiting to see if he swallowed her lies.

Sir Plyn’s harried look turned pained. “Lady Mal, Lord Torre said nothing of this to me.”

Mal let the chest thud on the dock, pushed her red hair from her face, and strode past Sir Plyn, avoiding his eyes. “Yes, well, it was a surprise for my brother, too; I told him only this week, when I realized I wouldn’t finish in time, and so he said it would be such an honor to give it to the king, it would be all right if I brought it along as soon as it was done.” She didn’t stop, all the way to the manor door, Sir Plyn huffing up the hill behind her. She went on, into the warmth of the stone kitchen. “After all, Thom’s nervous about fighting before King Arthur. It’s vital I arrive in time, but if I leave right now, all shall be well.”

She stopped in the middle of the kitchen, before the roaring fire, turning to face Sir Plyn. She took a breath, and let her lips spread into the sweet smile that worked every time she needed something.

Or nearly so. It failed when she pleaded with Thom to let her attend the Milstock tourney. Of course, Thom wouldn't want Mal anywhere close to the king, not after the threats she’d made.

14 comments:

  1. Pitch: I'm a HUGE King Arthur fan (as you could probably tell from my entry, #4), so the instant I saw that name in there, I was like, 'yep, I'm gonna love this one!' :D Just one question, is 'evil queen' her name or just a description? If it's her name, capitalize it. If not, you need 'an' before 'evil queen'. Other than that, I love this pitch!

    500 words: Ooooh, your MC is cunning, I can see it already. A fast talker, quick thinker, and she knows how to manipulate people with a sweet smile. Very nice. I like her already. :) I've got a good feel for her already, but I think the only thing that you might be lacking is a little more voice from her. Just to give it that extra kick. I'd definitely read more though, awesome job! :)

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  2. Pitch:

    I think you're trying to put too much into a single pitch. You have definitely got the cool specifics, but I don't have a character to latch onto. Is Mal your MC? How do these things relate to Mal? Who is Mal? Why do I care about these things happening to her at all?

    If you can anchor me in a character AND the story simultaneously you're farther along. Let go of a couple of the cool to get me someone to connect to and I think you've got it.

    Pages:

    This is a strong use of 3rd person with good loaded words that give us the descriptions from the MC's perspective!

    Without more, I'm not sure if this is starting close enough to action. If you're consistently getting feedback that it's a slow start evaluate your first couple chapters and see if you can move the opening along a little bit.

    Hope this helps!

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  3. Pitch: I LOVE fractured fairy tales, and love that yours focuses on women. This is an automatic win for me and I will be completely biased toward your story. :)

    500: Nice use of a widening lens to start the story.

    I’m trying to think of crits, but most are minor line-level things that are hard to convey in this sort of critique. Basically I’m as happy as a kid with a chocolate ice cream cone.

    My reaction when Sir Plyn tries to tell her to stay: excuuuuuse me? Nuh uh. I’m very interested in seeing how you manage the gender issues in your retelling as that’s an aspect of writing fantasy that’s become important to me. Why are we always writing women as the oppressed ones?

    In all seriousness, you have a very well done opening here that strikes a nice balance between description and action. You don’t try to add too much too fast, and there is a sense of place being developed.

    The last paragraph unlocks a major conflict of the story and has me wanting to read more.

    This is sure to be a fun book. Great job!

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  4. Pitch: There’s nothing I love more than a solid mashup and yours sounds amazing! But I think the others are right, and you should try to focus in on the main character and what her struggles are (But I totally understand your desire to want to include all those other fun characters in as well!)

    500- word:

    I think you start off the first paragraph very well. I can picture her working feverishly. You might want to consider cutting “hurrying to finish.” I think it flows better without it and you actually show she was hurrying when you take her quick actions along with the line “time to go” into consideration. A perfect way to show rather than tell :)

    Also, the line “all should be well” throws me off a bit, but only because her proper speech makes me feel like she’d use the word “shall.” But that is just a preference of mine.

    I love the way it ends! You’ve painted a picture of a seemingly docile girl sitting in her room stitching, and then close with “and btw… she wields death threats like a BA!” I love it!

    Overall I think it is great and I would definitely keep reading.

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  5. Pitch: This sounds like a great fairytale retelling! The pitch is clear about the hook and the stakes and just needs a slight adjustment at the end to fit in “the evil queen”.

    500 words: I really like how the story opens with the weaving being finished and then jumps immediately into action. The writing and dialogue is well done and all flows together well. When I first read it I didn’t have a good sense of what Mal is feeling during the opening. Is she lying to Sir Plyn? Is she nervous about what she’s doing? Is she taking a massive risk? Her voice starts to come through more strongly towards the end with the line “She took a breath, and let her lips spread into the sweet smile that worked every time she needed something. Or nearly so.” It would really strengthen the opening if there were a few more little suggestions of her character like this in the earlier paragraphs.

    The other thing I noticed was that there are quite a few character names introduced. Mal’s bother is referred to as brother, Thom and Lord Torre (I think?) which confused me a little the first time I read through. It might help to make it clear that Thom is her brother a little earlier.

    Overall this is a really great opening and I’d keep reading :-)

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  6. Yippie! Fairy tale retelling! Fairy tales are not my favorite, but their retellings are.

    Pitch: You pitch only gives us fragments of your story. A pitch must include: 01) MCs, 02) Conflicts and, 03) Stakes. From the pitch, it seems as if this will be a multiple POV novel. That Cinderella, Show White and Lady of Shallott will be the MCs. You gave us the conflicts of each characters plus stakes (evil queen conquering their world) but I just don't understand what does Cinderella's revolution, Snow White's curse and Lady of Shallott's going to Arthur's court have anything to do with it?

    500 words: From the get-go I can sense that Mal will be a strong character with resonating voice and sharp intellect. Is she the teen Lady of Shallott? I like that only two characters are present here but there were lots of names mentioned whose relationships with the MC aren't told. I did the same with my 500 words (I introduced too many characters there) and the critiquers were right.

    Otherwise you've got a promising plot and premise with promising characters. Best of luck with your revisions!

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  7. I agree with the other pitch advice, so I won't be redundant, other than to repeat this: I love mash-ups :) But I would say the pitch isn't reflective of your writing style...it seems a bit disjointed in comparison to your prose (see below)

    First, I was struck by your sentence variance. Good job. You've developed a mix of short and long sentences, and used alternative phrases to start sentences or add description in a way that isn't jarring. 50 House Points to you. And strong verbs.

    This opening flows well and jumps right into a journey, one that is "kind of" forbidden, so you set up some early conflict and stakes. I agree with an above commenter that maybe a few too many characters thrown out in a short burst, maybe see if you can break that up or push off an intro or two until later...

    Good stuff, the 500 words seemed short, which is a great sign that you had my attention...I definitely would've read further.

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  8. Pitching. I would make a slight change. The last line is wordy and I don't think you need the magic glass. And flight the evil queen who is close to conquering their world. What a great idea and the use of fairy tale characters has been well received lately. I think you may be writing to upper MG instead of YA. I typically don't love third person but your writing style grabbed my attention. My only advice would be to have more action start right away and connect me to the MC. I would have read more if there were more to read. You are a very descriptive writer. I wish you all the best and I hope I get to read this one day.

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  9. Hi Leanne!

    I am sitting underneath a print of John Waterhouse's Lady of Shalott painting as I type this, so it will not come as a surprise to you that I REALLY LIKED IT.

    You did an excellent job of conveying the hurry that Mal's in, both to finish her tapestry and to get away from the manor without too many questions asked. I got a great sense of place from the way you described the setting, and of Sir Plyn. A quick bit of description as to Mal's appearance wouldn't go amiss--just one piece of information, that could be fleshed out later, like the length or color of her hair--don't get too bogged down with that, because too much character description off the bat isn't a good thing! But a quick detail would help the reader form a picture of her in their mind.

    Besides that, I love it. Your voice is strong, and Mal's a very compelling character. Excellent job!

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  10. Charis M. EllisonJuly 2, 2016 at 1:18 AM

    Wow, there's a lot going on in your pitch! I'm interested in all of it, though, you have my attention.

    I really like your 500 words! I'm really interested in Mal and her schemes, and curious to see how all these threads of fairy tale and legend work together.
    Great job!

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  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!

    Pitch: You've got the right set up but I would suggest to make the stakes more personal to your MC's than just "save the world." Save the world for stakes is very frequent in pitches and agents like to see stakes more close to home for your MC. Otherwise you've got an interesting set up. It makes me think this book is going to be like Disney Princess Avengers or something :D

    First 500:

    You've got yourself a clever, manipulative MC on your hands, here. Maybe emphasize that even more. Let her laugh evilly to herself, give her some internal thought. Make her personality shine a little clearer, or as bright as possible. That will make your readers want to turn to the next page. That's my only suggestion, as your writing is, as far as technicalities go, clean.

    Happy writing!! :)

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  12. Thank you all, so much! I really appreciate the time you took to offer such thoughtful feedback. It was all spot-on. I actually thought I'd already cut the "hurrying to finish" line, in fact! I don't know that I've pushed the voice far enough in this new version yet (and last night I did add a quick bit about her hair; forgot to copy it to my email), but your notes have started me off on a good new round of revisions.

    I've been struggling with either focusing on Mal or including the other fairytale characters in pitches and queries. So this was good practice for focusing just on my Lady of Shalott.

    And, yay, Arthurian stories and Waterhouse paintings! ;) I feel like Anne Shirley acting out the Tennyson poem, with similar results sometimes, ha.

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  13. I like it! You take us right into the action already with a clever and interesting heroine.

    I haven't read the original, but here's my feedback on the revision:

    The line "The work never seemed so tedious." took me two reads before I read if you meant WAS or WASN'T tedious.

    You pack a lot of information into the dialogue, which makes it long. Maybe some of this can be broken up or clarified in Mal's thoughts?

    These are pretty minor comments. Overall I'm definitely interested in what will happen next.

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  14. Thanks; that was a line I added based on feedback, so that's very helpful to hear it needs tweaking.

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