Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #31

Genre: YA fantasy
Word Count: 76,000


Sixteen-year-old Wren is Tainted.

Unlike the other survivors of the toxic explosion, Wren’s body isn’t disfigured by hideous black spider web scars. Her skin is pale and perfect—and dangerous. Her icy touch causes excruciating pain for everyone she touches, but her flawless skin is the reason she wasn’t banished with the other Tainted. Still, she’d give anything to walk through her town without inducing the usual cringes and gasps of fear.

When a town leader declares that the Tainted are diseased and demands the normal townspeople purge them, Wren barely escapes to search for them. What she finds are not the battered people she expected. They are knife-wielding, eager for a fight, and welcome Wren into their hidden home with scarred arms. Then Wren meets Asher, a normal boy whose aid has kept the Tainted alive since the explosion. If she ignores his exasperating confidence and knack for getting under her skin, she’s almost eager to have him around.

But the battle between the Tainted and the townspeople is ballooning out of control. As the fires of slaughtered Tainted bodies burn at night, and more of her new friends leave to save the others, Wren realizes her new life could crumble into the ashes. Unless she can do something she never wanted to: utilize her skin’s terrible power and fight back.

First 250:

Three layers of hand-knit sweaters and my gloves protected my skin. I tweaked the silk over my wrists, ensuring that no portion of my flesh was exposed.

“You’re too cautious, honey,” Jolie said. Her soft, clumsy hand pinned my mother’s old jade brooch to my outermost sweater. “Everyone knows what will happen if they touch you.”

“Accidents happen,” I said firmly. Actually, an accident hadn’t happened in years thanks to my layering, but I didn’t dare risk it. It’s not as though I could overheat, anyway.

I saw Jolie’s lips purse in the silver-framed mirror by my bed. Her full face was fatigued from a morning volunteering in the kitchen. One frizzy knot of hair stuck out of her brittle blonde bun. She’d been my caretaker for a decade, yet I didn’t think I’d ever seen her hair out of that bun.

I smiled, contemplating how much trouble I’d get in for snatching the tie away. Since Jolie was the only person who could touch me without any painful consequence, she’d probably chase me down with the broom.

My grin was all it took to wipe the pout from her expression. Simple, hair-brained Jolie. Her Scar never altered her cheerful view on life.

Her fingers prodded against the back of my neck as she adjusted the sweaters. I experienced no heat, no cold. Just the pressure of her touch on my skin.

Neither of us had felt temperature for ten years.


  1. I really like the start of this query and there’s not much about this that I would change. What feedback I would give is to get Wren’s voice into the query to make it really standout in another market that tends to be overcrowded, because it sounds like a mash-up of dystopian, fantasy, and paranormal.

    Voice is hard sometimes to get into a query. I’d suggest writing it 1st person, from your heroine’s POV, as if she had to tell people about her life, and then flip it over to 3rd person.

    I also like how the first 250 ends. I want to know why they haven’t experienced the temperature.

    Very interesting premise. I would like to read more.

  2. Interesting premise. The 250 is what really sucked me in, especially your last line. Good luck!

  3. I thought I already commented on this one - it really stood out for me when I read the entries earlier. I like the premise very much.

  4. I remember this from WriteOn. I liked it then, and i like it now. Did you change the last line? Something about it feels even more powerful than I remember from the first time - nice job!

    I also enjoyed the first 250 - I think they do a nice job of setting up your MC's situation. Well done all around!

    1. I did change the last half of the query since WriteOn. I'm so glad you like the change!

  5. I really like the premise of your story!
    The last line of your "first 250" definitely makes me want to read more.There is emotion within your writer's voice and as a reader I love that!

  6. I like your first 250--I can tell why you made the agent round, so congrats.

    A few suggestion to consider in revising:

    I don't think this line is needed: “Everyone knows what will happen if they touch you.”
    It feels like exposition, and you say enough elsewhere in this passage to show that the MC touching something is not a good thing. Take this out and I think it will flow better.

    It threw me off that Scar is capitalized; if it had a name like Birth Scar or whatever type of origin/meaning the scar has, I think it would work better. Right now we don't know the mythology behind the scars so capitalization of it feels odd. I would also suggest continuing the dialogue in those last paragraphs so continue the feel of something currently happening instead of just story set-up.

    Overall, this is strong. Good luck!