Monday, January 14, 2013

Bouncer Post #11

Genre: YA Thriller
Word Count: 72,000 


Former computer prodigy, seventeen-year-old Pete has felt like a one without a zero ever since a solar storm knocked technology off-line and plunged the world into darkness. Craving order in the post-Flash chaos, Pete stays sane by following three simple rules:

1. Go to work. (Ignore the fanged human-beast hybrids lurking in the shadows.)
2. Forget about technology. (Ignore that your brain has started working like a computer.)
3. Don’t interfere with ex-girlfriend Jeze’s life. (Ignore that she’s the only person you’ve ever trusted.)

He’s doing a fine job of surviving until the creatures he sees out of the corners of his vision stop ignoring him. Desperate for answers, Pete turns to Jeze for help, not realizing just how dangerous the search for the truth will be.

When Pete shows up running from invisible monsters, all Jeze wants to do is dump his crazy ass on somebody else. After all, crazy is crazy is crazy, and she’s got enough to worry about when her days are full of the one thing she hates the most—the dark. But then Pete’s apartment is bombed, and Jeze starts to believe his monsters are real. Scarier still, Jeze realizes that she’s crushing on Pete, even though caring for people always leads to loss. That loss comes quickly, since whoever is controlling those monsters snatches Pete to get at something implanted in his brain.

If Jeze can’t get to him in time, he just might die, and with him her chance of happiness--and oh yeah, the freedom of the world.

First 250:

I hesitated in the dark foyer. Headlamps passed by me on their way to the even darker mid-morning outside. Footsteps stirred dirt from the floor, and dust floated through the yellow beam in front of my eyes.
I turned my key in the rusted-out mailbox so hard I thought it might snap.

Nobody else stopped to check their mail. Why would they? The U.S. Postal Service had stopped delivering mail two years ago. Call me an optimist. Scratch that. Call me a creature of habit. I shuddered. On second thought, don’t call me a creature of anything. 

My eyes darted around the small entryway. Get ahold of yourself, Pete. Even if you saw something in here, that wouldn't mean that it really exists.

I turned the key harder. The door to my mail slot popped open. Key still intact. I looked inside. Nothing. I stuck my hand in, just to be thorough, and it brushed against something folded along the side of the mailbox. There was something there. Something that hadn't been there yesterday.

I snatched my hand back as if it had been bitten by a spider—a scenario which, after all, held the higher statistical probability. I bent down to shine my light into the rusted box. Empty. Had I imagined it?

That wouldn't exactly have been out-of-character for me either.


  1. I liked this! I thought your query did a great job setting up your story, and showing us that it's a dual pov. I also loved your first 250! You do a great job of weaving in world-building while giving us a strong picture of Pete at the same time. I love that he still checks the mail even though there's no more USPS!

    Great job! Good luck!

  2. I'm totally hungry to know what happens next. Spider? Letter? I love the first 250 words of this MS.

    As far as the query goes, I'm intrigued. I'm wondering about what kind of world this is, what's going to happen to Pete when (clearly) his rules go awry, and how he and Jeze are going to save the world.

    If I was an agent, I'd totally request this one.

    1. Kris--thanks for being awesome. I think you would make a kick-butt agent, if you ever wanted to broaden your scope.... :)

  3. I loved your first half-sentence, the comment about a one without a zero. :) This is a really neat concept, and one of my hero soft spots is for tech whizzes (even former ones). I thought your first 250 were quite strong, and the idea of the hero still checking his mailbox two years after his last letter, and of finding something, was intriguing.

    I was a little bit confused by the query; I couldn't quite grasp what the plot arc was, the inciting incident(s) and complications. I think there were two reasons: I wasn't sure whether the monsters were real, the result of the solar flare, or a product of Pete's mind; and the query contains two points of view without a really obvious switch. Personally, I don't think you need to show both points of view in the query - pick the one with the stronger story arc (the one who has the biggest decision to make/biggest stakes) and just focus on them for the query. By the sounds of it, the other character will be mentioned anyway. I like the voice of the first half of the query, with Pete's POV, but felt it got muddied in the second half when you switch to Jeze's POV. If their story arcs are equal, I might suggest sticking with Pete's POV for the whole query.

    Good luck from entry #1!

    1. Saybe--Good points! Thanks for commenting, and good luck!

  4. I'm totally a sucker for postapocalypse stories. I don't think there are nearly enough of them, and so you are in the lucky position of writing something there's not a lot of out there already. Go you! Also, your voice is kick-ass, which is really a hard thing to develop, and you're 100% there on that. I love that the character doubts his own sanity. I love that he does everything he does anyway, even if it doesn't make sense. I think you definitely have a lot going for you here.

    But as refreshing as your writing is, I do think this needs some tweaking. Your query, in my opinion, is trying to do a little too much. I like the 3 rules you have outlined, but the asides you've tacked onto each one diminish the overall effect. I'm just coming to grips with a techie in a no-technology world when I get saddled with fanged human-beast hybrids. If it were me, I'd scale that back to a shadowy mention of things that go bump in the night. You just need a hint of them to get your reader wanting more. You don't need to lay everything out all at once.

    I'm of two minds (ha!) about including Jeze's perspective in the query. I agree with a previous commenter that you don't need it, but I have seen it work in other queries before. The deciding factor, I think, should be whether you can make her part more interesting. As it stands now, the only thing we know about Jeze is her reaction to Pete--we don't know anything specific about her desires/goals/daily life. If she'll only be acting as a foil for Pete, then we don't need to hear from her in the query really. But if she has her own equally important and totally separate agenda/conflict, then she probably needs to be included.

    As for your first 250, you already know how much I like your style. Short sentences. Several of them fragments. Excellent work. I also like that you don't spend too much time in his head. He's simply interacting with his day. He's not narrating, he's experiencing, and we're experiencing with him. The small nods to backstory are short and to the point, which is how I like them. The only thing I might question is why you chose to start the story here? Is the imaginary note in the mailbox important somehow? If so, why are we shown it only to have it snatched away from us? I'm not saying you should change it necessarily--it's hard to tell with only the first 250 words if something's going to end up being important enough to act as the first scene. But do keep in mind that the reader is now placing a lot of importance on that mysterious note, and if it doesn't show up again at some point, you run the risk of confusing the reader.

    All that being said, this is a great, great entry, and with a few tweaks I think you could really get some mileage on that query! Good luck!

    1. Bouncer Zapfino--thanks for the love and for the thoughtful crit. :) I find your take on Jeze's section of the query useful, and I agree with that assessment. Now, just to figure out how to weave that into the query!

      I really appreciate the time you took to respond to my entry. :)

    2. I also wanted to mention that receiving the letter is the inciting event which ultimately (because Pete doesn't want to be incited) knocks Pete from his routine.

    3. You're very welcome! I think you are incredibly close with this. I, too, was rejected from my first query contest, and now I've sold that same book to a publisher. And from what you've written so far, as well as your professionalism and understanding of craft, I really do think you're on the verge of great things. Keep going!

  5. Heather, thanks for your leaving a comment on my entry and for your kind words. For whatever it's worth, while reading your opening, I found myself wondering why Pete's checking his mail if there hasn't been any for what seems like awhile. At least for me, habit only goes so far over time. Not sure if my reaction's unique to me, but there it is for what it's worth. Best of luck.

  6. Heather, really, really enjoyed this. I'm a sucker for a good postapocalyptic story. It's one of my favorite genres. Loved the rules in the query--reminded me of Zombieland, which I love.

    I like the routine of checking the mailbox--kind of like he wants to salvage something from before--totally get that. And love the mystery you've already raised with the disappearing envelope.

    And as to your offer on my post (6), I am totally interested :)