chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

SVS 5: Bloodburner – YA Magical Realism January 23, 2014

Filed under: Blog,contest — chasingthecrazies @ 6:03 am
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Title: BLOODBURNER

 

Genre: YA Magical Realism

 

Word Count: 73,000

 

 

My Main Character is most uncomfortable with:

 

 

As a cutter, Ember finds solace in long-sleeved shirts. The fabric sticks to her healing wounds, but she can deal with that as long as her secrets are hidden. What she can’t deal with? Questions. Ember always prefers snow to sun. If everyone is bundled up, she doesn’t draw attention to herself – and with all the eyes that are on her already, she will take anonymity when she can get it.

 

 

Query:

 

 

Ember Monroe finds that if she tears at her skin, she can tear down the world.

 

If she’s honest, that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

 

Being a high school senior is hard enough for a normal girl, though Ember is not just a high schooler. At this point, she’s not quite sure what she is.

 

She’s the silly girl who tried to give Patrick Cole, THE Patrick Cole, a love note – the note that Jessica Lane intercepted and read to practically the whole school. Ember is the best friend of Elijah Wynters, the handsome Golden Boy-turned-Boo Radley. She’s the freak that needs to go to the counselor’s office once a week so they can check her arms for any signs of old habits; the weird girl whose Mom disappeared two weeks ago. She’s the survivor that walked in on a Reaper attack and the bearer of secrets that could unravel everything. She’s a cutter, a carver of reality and – since the day she brushed up against the magic of the Realm – A Bloodburner.

 

Blood that used to simply stain her sleeves now gives her the power to travel through the closed border between this world and the Realm. It is an ability possessed only by Reapers and used solely to collect Mortal Blood Debts accrued before the Truce. It is a power both Mortal and Realmer would kill for, a power that could rip the Truce apart forever.

 

With war smoldering on the horizon, Ember has to decide if she can trust a world she was taught to fear. When she must make a choice, she realizes the line between right and wrong is not as stark as the lines on her wrists.

 

Not everything she’s been told is true, not everything beautiful can be trusted, and while some things are stronger than they look…everything burns.

 

 

First 250 words:

 

                   

I didn’t mean to start it like this, all blood and ribbons, sliced down to the thick-threaded muscle that holds me together. I look like I’m being unraveled, and frankly, I’m a mess. But I guess there is no pretty way to start a story when you do what I do.

 

~

 

I stand in the bathroom stall, breathing slowly through my nose. The air smells like lemon scented cleaning solution mixed with remnants of cheap, cotton candy perfume someone sprayed too much of during the passing period. The bell rang fifteen minutes ago, and I know I should be in class. AP History. The ironic thing is the fact that it’s AP makes it easier to leave. Mr. O’Malley assumes we’re all serious students, go-getters, not-like-the-rest-of-them-ers. So when I ask to go to the bathroom fifteen minutes after a forty-five minute lunch break, he doesn’t question me. I make good grades and I’m in the Honor Choir. Last year, I went on the Red Cross Club’s relief trip to Nicaragua. No teacher ever questions me.

 

I pull a bobby pin out of my long, red hair. She wouldn’t want me to do this. That’s the thought I keep pushing back as it floats to the surface of my mind. She hated it when I did this.

 

I look at the bobby pin. It doesn’t look threatening. A sinking feeling twists in my gut, bringing with it images of the alternate reality I’m throwing away. The day could go differently.

 

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23 Responses to “SVS 5: Bloodburner – YA Magical Realism”

  1. Kalinda Says:

    Team Snow #6 here to wish you good luck in the upcoming mentor round! I’d love to connect on Twitter, so I can keep up with you after the contest! @kranky_crow

  2. Jeannine Johnson Maia Says:

    #teamsun member here. Love the intriguing fantasy twist on the cutting issue, and would definitely like to see how this story develops. Hope we’ll be able to read on one day. Your first paragraph for the 250 is powerful — it really makes me shudder. But I agree with some of the others that we could use less of the bathroom/AP class description and more about Ember’s powers — and what she’s going to do with that bobby pin.. (Shudders some more). Hope you go far with this!

  3. Hi! Mentor Rachel here to chime in. 🙂

    Very interesting premise. I’m into dark fantasy (My ms is about girls who eat people so…) so I was automatically drawn to this concept. But the query is so full of plot points we don’t need to know yet, that it jumbles up the stuff we do need to know. I realize how difficult a fantasy query is to write. It takes much whittling.

    Here’s a rough example of how I’d whittle it down:

    Ember Monroe finds that if she tears at her skin, she can tear down the world.

    She’s the freak that needs to go to her school’s counselor’s office once a week so they can check her arms for any signs of old habits. She’s a cutter, a carver of reality- A Bloodburner. (I’d talk more about the bloodburning.)

    Blood that used to simply stain her sleeves now gives her the power to travel through the closed border between this world and the Realm. (What realm? How is it different than ours?) It is an ability possessed only by Reapers and used solely to collect Mortal Blood Debts accrued before the Truce. It is a power both Mortal and Realmer would kill for, a power that could rip the Truce apart forever. (What is the Truce?)

    With war smoldering on the horizon, Ember has to decide if she can trust a world she was taught to fear. When she must make a choice, she realizes the line between right and wrong is not as stark as the lines on her wrists. (I love the lines on her wrist piece here, but the stakes here are too general.)

    Not everything she’s been told is true, not everything beautiful can be trusted, and while some things are stronger than they look…everything burns.

    Also, it’s hard to know where this story takes place. Ground us. Show us. It usually only takes a few words to let us know where we’re at.

    And your first 250 words are amazing. Good work! I totally feel your MC. If you have any questions about my feedback please feel free to tweet me.

  4. This premise is unique. How did her blood become magic? I like this one! Good luck!

  5. michelle4laughs Says:

    Very interesting how something that sounds like a contemporary topic suddenly angles into a fantasy. Good luck!

  6. Katharyn Blair Says:

    Thank you all! These comments have been SO HELPFUL! 🙂 Go Team Sun! 🙂

  7. Susie Says:

    I really like your idea. The query seems really long and it’s a bit confusing. I’m not actually sure what the stakes are. The third paragraph needs to be reduced. It “tells” a lot about the MC but it doesn’t consist of information regarding what the reader can expect. I do like the sentence, “When she must make a choice, she realizes the line between right and wrong is not as stark as the lines on her wrists.” That might be a great place to end the query.
    250–This is a great page. I love the opening sentence. it really grasped my attention. I do think the info while she is in the bathroom stall is a bit much. Also, every paragraph starts with “I”. Maybe you could reword the paragraphs and mix it up a bit. I am curious to see what happens next. Good luck.

  8. the 250 are very strong, you have a great sense of voice and the descriptions settled me into the scene nicely. Have you thought about cutting the very first section and starting right in the bathroom? Just a thought. As far as the query goes, I’m still a little confused about the realm. By cutting herself she can travel there? If so I’d take out the middle where you tell us about who she is (the best friend of..) and so on, or at least condense it, and focus more on how she can travel to another realm through this gift that is a very scary habit for teens in real life. Great premise, very unique, you’re definitely a gifted writer 🙂

  9. RobL Says:

    I’m another one who found the query a little confusing, but absolutely loved the first 250! In itself, the premise sounds great – contemporary issue with some unique side-effects. Love it!

    I really wouldn’t change much at all about the first 250, unless there’s some way to just move the bobby pin stuff forward a little so we can experience what happens. But your writing is tight, the voice is great and I’d read on without hesitation.

    It’s the query that through me. You have some great lines in there others have pointed them out. I felt that you were struggling to put too much in around them, however. I’d cut out a lot of the ‘what she is’ part and get right into the meat of her issues and what they mean to her.

    Good luck with this; it sounds like a fantastic read!

  10. Fellow Teamsun here. I have to admit the query didn’t really work for me, but when I read the excerpt, I was very intrigued. I like how everyone, even her teachers thinks she’s perfect when deep down she’s not. That’s going to make for a great mc. I think everyone can relate to the fact that were not always what we seem on the outside.

    In the query, I would be more vague about the the fantasy elements and few other things going on in the character’s life.

    In fact, I think you could eliminate the entire fourth para. without confusing the reader. From the first sentence of the query, I caught on that she’s a cutter. In my opinion, you should also get rid of the second sentence. It just doesn’t do anything for me and isn’t necessary. From there I think you should get right into the plot. I don’t think the other characters/subplots are necessary for the query.

    The following para after that (the fifth one) is the most confusing. I think its the one that needs the most work. The problem I think is that your giving too much detail when you just want to focus on the bigger picture. Otherwise, I have no idea what the Truce is or the Mortal Blood Debts, or why I should care. I think you just need to keep it simple.

    Keep this awesome sentence:

    “Blood that used to simply stain her sleeves now gives her the power to travel through the closed border between this world and the Realm.”

    Then go into something like: But her newly found power is more trouble than it seems. Soon it leads to war waged between a group of demons (not sure if this is accurate, just an example of how you could describe them)and whatever the other group is. The two rival groups have struggled to keep their truce for years…

    Honestly I don’t think you need to get much more into it than that. No need to describe how she discovers the ability either. What’s important is that she has this ability and gets caught up in a war between demons. After that, keep the rest, which I think describes the stakes perfectly and boom, perfect query!

    Hope this helps and good luck!

  11. Katie Bailey Says:

    Intriguing idea, and the idea of a cutter MC immediately makes me feel for her.

    There’s a lot going on in the query, so I can tell there’s a lot going on in your story, but is there any way you can cut out parts and simplify it? Trying to distill a complex story to bare bones is hard, and, sometimes, it’s easier for someone coming in blind, having never read the story, to focus on certain main aspects rather than all of the main aspects. Perhaps thinning this out and reworking it can make it a bit more engaging for fresh eyes.

    This sounds a bit more fantastic than magical realism. Would you consider placing it in “paranormal” or “fantasy?”

    As for the 250, I like it a lot! You’ve got a great style and a lot of voice. On a side note, I’m glad you’re showing her using a bobby pin. So many people don’t seem to realize just how many ways there are to mutilate. Yes, the way this 250 ends leaves questions…but it’s the first 250–it’s GOING TO. I know that, a few sentences later, we’re bound to both learn more and have more questions. That’s the nature of a story like this. Very nice work! Here’s hoping the best for you!

  12. EM Castellan Says:

    As your mentors have said, your query is too long and complicated, and this definitely sounds like a Fantasy to me. But you’ve got a great premise and I love the idea of mixing a contemporary issue with a Fantasy story. Your query has all the right ingredients, but you need to keep it focused:
    1) Your MC: who she is and what she can do
    2) What’s your MC’s main problem
    3) What is she doing to solve it
    4) What’s at stake is she doesn’t succeed.
    We don’t need names, we don’t need you to explain the Fantasy world you created in details. Just give us enough to make us want to read your pages.
    Good luck with the agents round!

  13. livibuglady Says:

    I really like the premise and the voice of Ember. She sounds fascinating and I want to get to know her.

    Query: There is a lot going on. You are dragging us into a world that is not our own. Especially in the query, I need to clearly understand what is going on and who it is happening to. I would just tighten it up and stick to the main points.

    250: Love her voice. I agree with a few others that I want to know what happens with the bobby pin. You might want to tighten the stall scene and give them a taste of what the bobby pin means to really hook your readers in.

  14. Query:
    • The first issue is genre – Magical realism has a subtlety to it, and it’s firmly grounded in our world alone. By definition, anything occurring in other realms or worlds, is fantasy. If this is happening in present day, you could call it Contemporary fantasy, but this doesn’t sound like magical realism at all to me.
    • There’s a LOT of names here – and only Ember’s comes back into play. Do they really need to be named in the query? If so, make sure they connect later in the query.
    • The first full paragraph feels passive. There’s no sense of momentum, and by this point in the query, there needs to be. I think if you rephrase some of this in more active terms that would help .
    • I’m feeling confused about what a Bloodburner is exactly and how cutting gives her that power. The details about the Realm and magic are very vague, but this is where quick, intriguing details are most necessary to show how the world you’ve built is different from other fantasy novels.
    • Who taught her about the Realm? Also why is she special? What makes her special aside from the cutting? How did she obtain this power people would kill for?
    • I don’t have a clear sense of the stakes, nor of what actually happens in the book – I think the vague, sweeping statements, while very pretty, should be cut and replaced with more plot (plot can be pretty too! :D)

    250:
    • I’d cut the intro. I don’t find it hooky, personally, and nothing happens. She’s a talking head.
    • Great sense of place in the next paragraph! Good hints at character, inner conflict, and great voice. Your writing is lovely! Really my big critique is that not a lot happens. if something big happens on the next line or two (like she does something awful with that bobby pin), you’re good, if not, you might be starting in the wrong place.

    Good luck!

  15. S.M.Johnston Says:

    Query

    Like the other mentors have said: the query is too long and has too many names in it. Focus on the core of your story and present the essence of who Ember is in smaller, more focused writing.

    I like how you’ve woven a contemporary issue into a speculative fiction setting.

    Opening

    I don’t think you need to separate the first par from the second. It flows fine.

    Basically, I love your writing and think it could captivate an agent too. Give it the query it deserves.

  16. Query: Your query really should be around three paragraphs. This is feeling much too long. The fourth paragraph could be cut in half. There are a lot of names to keep track of and they aren’t particularly important right now. That said, I really like the wording and content in your query. There’s just too much of it and it’s not connected well enough right now.

    First 250: I really, really like this. I would cut down the paragraph about the AP Class. I like the explanation about why she’s in the bathroom and how much she is trusted, but it goes on too long and becomes a distraction from the really juicy stuff that comes before and after.

    I totally want to know what she’s going to do with that bobby pin.

  17. Okay, this is a cool premise – I’m hooked.

    Query: You have a few really great lines, but it comes across as a story with BIG themes that you’re having a hard time putting into concise sentences. I needed to read it twice to ‘get it’ and I’m still a little confused (mostly about her world and the unfamiliar terms). I think it needs to be whittled down and simplified which I know is no easy task. It’s also pretty long. You might consider pushing those opening sentences into one paragraph. Also the second paragraph where you introduce us to Ember drags a bit, you could definitely pare that down. The ending is great and the stakes are pretty awesome.

    250: Love the opening sentences – haunting and beautiful. The rest is really great and I’d definitely keep reading. I would like to feel more of Ember’s emotion. Also, I agree with Liz, the stuff about her teacher and AP classes, etc…isn’t needed and isn’t overly compelling. The bobby pin though, we definitely want to hear about her plan with that.

    Good luck to you!

  18. Lanette Kauten Says:

    When I first saw that it was a cutting story, I was admittedly underwhelmed, but then when I realized that her cutting opens a portal to another world, I thought, “Wow! That’s unique.”

    Query: As I said, you have a unique concept, but it’s buried in this query. You’re trying to tell us too much in the short space. Focus on the basics, and I know my fellow mentors have already said what needs to be done. Start with a compelling hook and then show us what Ember wants, what prevents her from getting it, and what will happen if she doesn’t get it. Remember to be specific.

    250: You have some serious writing skills. I’m not sure about the opening because it feels like you’re removing the cobwebs before you start the story. However, that wouldn’t stop me personally from reading it.

  19. Lots of good advice already, so I’ll jump right in. First of all, I love the style and voice in your writing in both the query and the first 250. It’s eerie and intriguing, and it definitely draws me in.

    Genre: I’m not sure what makes this magical realism since there’s very clearly this other realm that is not the mortal realm. That to me says fantasy. But I only know your first page, so maybe I’m wrong. Just make sure the label fits the book.

    Query: “Blood that used to simply stain her sleeves…” I really think the query should start here. Everything else up until this paragraph is background information that doesn’t set up the stakes or tell us what the MC’s goal is. You can add one sentence on to the front of this paragraph about her being a cutter and how this act of self-harm turned into a door between this world and another. THIS is the paragraph that really draws me in and makes me want to know more. That being said, what IS Ember Monroe’s goal? What’s her obstacle? What’s at stake? These are the things the query should answer, and these are the elements that will show you’ve got the set-up, the conflict, and the final act.

    First 250: I’ll say it again, you have a wonderful style. I just want to know more. Instead of using word count on how easy it is to skip AP History, let us know why she’s cutting, especially if she supposedly doesn’t do it anymore (this I guess from the school knowing she’s a cutter). Or has she never stopped. I’m full of why. haha. I’m definitely hooked, but I’m left with lots of questions in the query and first page. If you can give the reader more answers (but not everything, of course), they’re gonna keep reading.

    Good luck. Lots of potential here for a knockout entry!

  20. I’m going to be honest – magical realism isn’t my thing but here goes: I really like your whole idea. I like Ember and the whole feel of her. But this query is really long and kind of bogged down. I don’t want to know what she WAS. I want to know what she is moving forward. As awesome as the voice is in the paragraph where you describe all the things Ember is, it’s just too much.

    I also don’t really understand the first two sentences and I don’t think you need them. I said this in another entry but simplify – what does the protag want? How does she get it? What stands in her way (the stakes)? Break that down and then go from there. And show us where the story is going. Focus on the magical realism elements, too, because it took me a long time to get to that point in the query.

    As for your first 250? You can write. I usually hate those introductory sentences like that but that one sliced me and I’d vote to keep it because it hooked me.

    I do not get this sentence at all: A sinking feeling twists in my gut, bringing with it images of the alternate reality I’m throwing away. The day could go differently.

    but I’m hoping you explain that in your next graphs or so. 🙂

    Overall, very cool idea. Just show that query who’s boss!

  21. amyereichert Says:

    Query: It’s too long and introduces too many elements. Simplify. I’m not sure what to suggest either. Is cutting a good thing for her? What is the even in the book that kicks off the story? In other words, finish this sentence: When ______ happens to Ember, she needs to do _______. (or something similar) That is your hook – without that the rest of the story never happens. From your query, I’m not sure what that is. I do like the sentence, “When must make a choice, she realizes the line between right and wrong is not as stark as the lines on her wrist.” I think that could be the ending to your query – you just need a different set up.

    250: Holy crap, great opening sentence. I like Ember’s voice. That paragraph thinking in the bathroom could be a bit shorter. Your last two paragraphs are very intriguing. I want to know who she is, and what is this alt reality she is throwing away. I’m very interested. Since we have such a short sample, we aren’t getting these answers, but I do hope we get them soon after.

  22. Katie French Says:

    Mentor Katie French here. Very interesting idea. Cutting has (unfortunately) become a big habit with teens (I’m a school counselor by day) and so you could have a big audience for this. I think the query runs too long. You start to lose me after the fourth paragraph. You don’t need to spend so much time talking about her ordinary world, so I would cut that down. Focus on the paranormal elements, so we know what we are dealing with. What does a Bloodburner do? What is she getting herself into?

    The voice in the opening page is compelling. I like that. I like your protagonist. Curious as to what follows. Good luck!

  23. Liz Fichera Says:

    This is compelling. Love the first sentence in this query. Made me want to keep reading. That said, ditch the fourth paragraph about Patrick, et al. I think you start strong but then try to tell every little detail about the protagonist in the query. Avoid that. Focus on the compelling bits. Focus on the hook and then end with what’s at stake.

    Regarding the excerpt, loved the opening line. But then I got lost in the bathroom stall. What happens after she looks at the bobby pin? I think that’s where you want to start your story.

    Good luck with this one and thanks for sharing your writing!


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