Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #4


Genre: YA, Light SciFi
Word Count: 92,000


Sixteen-year-old Seneca Harvey is an involuntary superhero who can’t resist punking the bad guys to avenge their victims. But stomping on the manhood of men twice her size and mummifying gas station thieves with duct tape screams ‘I’m powerful and a little off balance. Please strap me in a kryptonite straight jacket.’

Seneca’s daytime role as the rambling girl that even teachers overlook is easy.  Eleven different cities in thirteen years with no one writing to say they miss her is a good sign she’s got the incognito thing down. But on random nights when other people’s Fear transforms her into a spectacle of immeasurable speed, strength and agility, incognito ain’t easy. The media is this close to outing her.

Their spot-on description leads John Randall, the investor whose experiments turned her into a freak, right to her doorstep. He wants a little return on his investment, in the form of Seneca back in his lab with chemical elements racing through her veins.

Next up: Impromptu move #12. And she’ll get right on that. As soon as she convinces herself that the chance to end Randall’s research isn’t worth the risk of becoming his lab rat again.

First 250:

I yank away the screen of my bedroom window, swing my legs over the sill and jump out into the night air. I have no idea where I'm going.

My feet hit the ground. It’s less of a landing and more of a jumping off point for my dash toward wherever the call of fear leads. Every hair on my body feels like a separate nerve. It’s like a tickle on the bottoms of my feet, except all over. With every breath, the familiar taste of metal on my tongue gets stronger.

In seconds, I make it about 30 miles away from my average Detroit suburb to one of those neighborhoods that my aunt and I cruise through trying to claim the best houses before the other one does. My heartbeat is furious as if it’s giving my muscles the strength they need to tear through my skin. I’m getting closer to fear’s call.

By the time I reach a huge lawn with skyscraper-like trees and a hidden drive, running isn’t enough to satisfy the hunger of the energy that rages through me. My feet, my ears, my muscles, my sensitivity to the fear that calls me— are all stronger, better, faster, more. I use the energy to launch myself up and through a second-story window of a city-block sized mansion. I somersault into a dark bedroom. Glass ricochets off my body, generating insect-like annoyances on my skin and then scattering across the hardwood floor.


  1. I love the premise of this. I did however feel like there was a lot of fluff in the query. It's packed full of voice, but there's little world buiding. I guess I wanted to understand her abilities a little better. Is it a chemical in her blood stream or mechanical parts that help her fight crime? And how did she get this way? How did she become a lab rat to begin with? But these are just my opinions... so subjective. I do love the voice.

  2. Interesting opening, though the query isn't really doing it for me. I like the premise and it's quite descriptive. City-block sized mansion was a good one.

  3. I think your query has great voice - a tough thing to do (IMO). The one thing I think you can pump up is the conflict - it feels like this story has a lot more danger than the query is letting on. Can you beef up what goes down with Randall so we really feel the stakes? I think adding maybe one more sentence might do the trick to add that extra bit of suspense.

    As for the 250, I really liked it. Again with the great voice, and you jumped me into the action without overloading me. I love this line: Glass ricochets off my body, generating insect-like annoyances on my skin. Nice job!

  4. A superhero with attitude -- I like it!! You've got a very distinctive voice (a good thing) but there are a couple of words that rub me the wrong way. "Involuntary" to me (IMHO) is an awkward word choice here - maybe using "reluctant" or something to that effect? Is the word "Fear" capitalized for a reason here? Unclear.

    From your writing sample, it seems to be written in the first person present - something that is extemely difficult to do well and can be disturbing to (some) readers. In this case, I think it works but I'd have to see how it runs through the story to know for sure. You do descriptives well, good premise -- good job!!

  5. What might help the query--which has great voice, which you don't want to lose--is to combine the first & second paragraphs and pare down; that way you show the superhero by night, student by day comparison all together. Then your new second paragraph will have more room to show the stakes, like what the return on investment is, and what will happen to your MC if she's experimented on. Why does she need to stop it? What else is getting in her way from staying away from the mad scientist guy? I think the more specific you can be about Goal, Motivation, Conflict the better.

    As a comment on the writing tense, I read lots of YA that is first person present. Most of the recent books I've read are told in that narration, and while I prefer not to write that way, it's definitely out there. If you find it difficult to keep your tenses straight, I think first person past tense is a little easier to grasp, which is why I write that instead.

    Good luck! I love the idea of a teen superhero.

  6. I love this premise -- and your voice, too. It comes through clearly in both query and pages, which is always a good sign.

    I'm in agreement with everything Stephsco (above) says -- combine the first two paragraphs, clarify your GMC. Additionally, I think you might want to consider altering the description of the conflict. If her decision to go back with Randall is made early on, then you might want to frame the story as her battle against him, not just whether or not she'll return to the lab, because it's her quest to defeat him that is the driving force in the story, not that single decision.

    On a line-editing note: if Fear is supposed to be capitalized, you might want to explain it. For example, "...other people's Fear, an electromagnetically charged aura, transforms her. (Obviously, this is my terrible example, but you get the idea.) Also, you might want to consider calling Randall an inventor, as investor gives the picture of a Wall Street banker, not someone who experiments on teenage girls.

    In the pages, your voice is fantastic -- we learn so much about Seneca just in those 250 words! The one thing I'd recommend is this: either explain a TINY bit about the call of fear, or use synonyms. You use the exact word multiple times, which is fine if you can clarify it enough so your reader understands it's a phenomenon, not just a description.

    Fantastic job -- I'm completely hooked!


  7. I agree that you could add more plot to the query, because you already nailed the voice in the first paragraph. But I LOVED the excerpt. I'm not big into superheroes, but I would definitely keep reading. Great job :)

  8. I love love LOVE this concept. The query was really fun. GREAT voice. I agree with what everyone else has said here- add some more plot and drama to it! Make the agents say "YES! I MUST discover what happens!"

    The writing is great and fun. I want to read it :)

  9. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment. You would not believe how many changes I've gone through with this query. But what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger, right? So back to the drawing board with this thing.

    Thanks again and good luck to all of you.

    1. Just wanted to say, the voice in your query made me laugh out loud. Nice work.