Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bouncer Post #138

Genre: YA Contemporary/Supernatural
Word Count: 76,000


Seventeen-year-old Natasha Bassett’s decision to take her dead brother’s place in a production of Hamlet raises ghosts, in more ways than one.

After a transplant concludes her battle with a genetic heart condition, Natasha has a ton of plans. Unfortunately, they are all for her twin brother, who died before his name made it to the top of the transplant list. The twins used all their limited energy preparing his application for the London-based theater program he dreamed of attending. Armed with his acceptance letter and her own determination to fulfill her brother’s last wish, Natasha binds her B-cups and books a plane ticket. Getting Nico’s name on the cast list somewhere shouldn’t be that hard. She still has his voice in her head, and it’s not like anyone will mind having the lively, talented Bassett twin back.

At least, that’s what she thinks until Nico’s voice goes from disembodied and encouraging to embittered and embodied. The spirit insists that it will haunt her until she lands the lead, a casting choice that will be made via a program-wide vote. To her fellow performers, Natasha is a thoughtful, witty actor who is more suited for Ophelia than Hamlet. To Natasha, being associated with the suicidal Danish chick means her castmates have accepted the way guilt and ghosts influence her behavior. She starts to think this is worth being followed by a vindictive facsimile of her brother—until he threatens the main contender for Hamlet. To save her friend, Natasha must find a way to live out the Bassett Twins’ final plan, even if it means being overshadowed by a brother no one else can see.

I am a member of SCBWI and an MA/MFA candidate in children's literature at Simmons College. My blog, "Sense and Disability" chronicles my misadventures as a young woman with a disability

First 250:

The other passengers from my Boston to London flight were met with frantic sign waving, shrieking, and one cinematic flying leap. No one was immune to the insanity, not even—

“Oi! Bassett! Over here!”

Not even bespectacled men would normally seem like stuffy professor-types. I braced myself for my own embarrassing-yet-endearing display, spun my luggage cart around, and my godfather stopped jumping like a maniac. His arm had frozen above his head in an abortive wave. He looked like he’d seen a ghost.

In a way he had.

It didn’t take a face-to-face encounter with an ephemeral being to make someone feel like they were being haunted. The sensation could come from tripping over a pair of abandoned shoes in the foyer, catching a whiff of cologne on an old coat, or reading a name printed on an official letter. I hated the sensation so much, but I’d purposefully charted a course that would inflict it on other people.

The closer I got to my godfather, the paler he became, until his skin tone matched the crisp white paper of the acceptance letter in my bag. My luggage trolley fought to list to the left, preferring to join an Indian family standing nearby. I didn’t blame it.

“Hi, Willis,” I said. Maybe I should have waited to make my transformation. I’d ducked into the family restroom on the way to customs to eliminate any chickening out opportunities. I’d been too focused on my own anxieties. Typical of my post-Nico mindset.


  1. I had to drop in and tell you how much I love this entry! The way casting and the MC's own self-awareness are intertwined, the way there are parallels to be drawn between her and her brother and Ophelia and Hamlet...but not in an "ew!" way.

    Is this sentence missing the word, "who"?

    Not even bespectacled men [who] would normally seem like stuffy professor-types.

    Your voice and descriptions are great. Best of luck to you!

  2. Whoa. Loads of tension. Nice job and good luck.


  3. Wow, this is really fascinating. The query was complex, and I'm feeling a little thrown into the scene, but I kinda love books that grab you like that and set you dying to know more! #146

  4. What a great story idea! I would love to see what happens!
    I thought the query well-focused and interesting, and your MC voice drew me in immediately.
    ~Just Jill

  5. What a cool concept! The first 250 drew me right in. This story will be a wild ride!

  6. Your query is very dense, and I found it somewhat confusing. You’re both giving too much (unnecessary) information and giving too little.

    Some “big picture” questions your query had me asking:

    - What are the odds that twins – let alone fraternal ones – would have the exact same genetic disease, at the same age/time, with nearly identical progression? (I'm thinking low)
    - Why would her brother’s last wish to get the lead in Hamlet? That's very specific, especially since I'm fairly sure drama schools don't post their play plans that far in advance
    - Why would a ghost haunt someone just to get the lead in Hamlet?

    These might be the wrong questions/irrelevant to your manuscript, but they are the ones I got from the query. So you may need to tighten the query to avoid confusion. Also, I can tell this is a Twelfth Night retelling -- put that in the query! It's a huge selling point.

    I have a LOT of specific suggestions for tightening/condensing (including getting rid of a lot of the third paragraph), but my bigger question is whether it is 100% necessary that your MC have had the same genetic disease but lived. I think that point, which is very unlikely and also very melodramatic, would make me disinclined to read. I’m all for survivor’s guilt of a twin, but her also almost dying of the same thing stretches logic for me. (unless you make it a tragic accident. That I would buy)

    I liked your 250, but I did find them jarring. I think you may be dropping the needle on your story one scene too late. I would ease the reader into your concept, etc. by maybe starting on the plane as it's landing/taxiing -- it gives you a real opportunity to introduce your MC, her situation, where she is going... and then when you get to the arrival, we know who her grandfather is, and where, and there's context. I had to read the first few sentences twice just to get that she was coming through the airport arrivals.

    But I really like your concept! I think when the query is tightened, you'll be golden.

  7. I was confused a bit too. I like the idea that she is taking the place of her brother in the play. Maybe have him already cast in the role when he dies. I'm not sure the theatre wouldn't know this though. So the brother is now a ghost?