Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Query 52: Redux

The S-Word

Seventeen-year-old Lizzie is the Prude of Verity High, until a tryst with her best friend's boyfriend transforms her into Queen of the Sluts. Suddenly she’s the most hated girl in school, and BFF Angelina can’t look her in the face. It’s only when the S-word starts showing up on Lizzie’s belongings – her notebooks, her locker, even her car – that Angelina considers coming to her defense. But by then Lizzie has broken under the weight of her classmates’ torment, and she commits suicide before Angelina has the chance.

Furious at herself for abandoning her friend, Angelina digs into the private lives of Lizzie’s tormentors, determined to expose their secrets as a form of karmic justice. But all of her digging unearths something she never expected: Lizzie kept more secrets than anyone, including the secret of what really happened the night she was branded a slut. Now Angelina’s not just angry, she’s fuming mad, and she’s about to unleash her fury on the boy who hurt Lizzie the most.

The S-Word is a YA novel complete at 55,000-words.

Comments

Ooh, I'm really liking this! That is, up to the very end. Left like this, it sounds a bit Carrie. And I don't think that's how you mean this to come off. I wouldn't back off the harshness of the unleashing her fury, but can you add another sentence that softens it and turns the focus away from images of pig blood and wholesale slaughter at the prom? Maybe something about what the consequence of all this will wind up to be for her?

This is, of course, not something I thought about for your last revision, but different day, right? And if she does go all Carrie on the boy's butt, then OK as is.

The only other thing I see missing here is why Angelina would consider defending Lizzie. I can see her hating herself after the fact, but someone who doesn't have a forgiving nature would have a hard time defending someone who'd wronged her, especially when it's at the "words" stage. It could be as simple as, after the defense line, adding something like: "After all, she'd been ready to break up with the guy anyway, and Lizzie really had been mortified, apologizing all over herself." This would help us sympathize with both Angelina and Lizzie.

In "But all of her digging" I think you can delete "all of".

Just about there, IMO. What do the rest of you think?

19 comments:

Matt said...

Does the uncovering of Lizzie's biggest secret (date-rape?) and the revenge all come at the end? Or does Angelina discover these things midway through the book? That information is important because it changes this from a YA mystery to YA revenge.

Of course, you can relay that information without explicitly telling us, which you may have done. As it appears, I would say 90% of the novel is mystery because you end abruptly at the revenge line. Is that what you intended? I only ask because earlier iterations left me with a different impression.

If this is more a revenge story, you have room enough to add a third paragraph and allude to the true denouement.

I didn't have trouble with Angelina's change from forgiving to vengeful. I though it gave weight to Lizzie's secret.

Technically, this is finely written. I would not have put that comma in the first sentence, but I understand why you did.

Michelle Massaro said...

The problem I'm having here is that the query starts in Lizzie's POV and we are eager to go on a journey with her. But then all of a sudden she's dead and the real story is Angelina's.

It's a pretty strong query but that bait-and-switch thing might not work for ya. Can you rewrite paragraph 1 from Angelina's POV?

Seventeen-year-old Angelina's BFF Lizzie is the Prude of Verity High, until a tryst with HER boyfriend transforms her into the Queen of the Sluts. Now Lizzie's the most hated girl in school, and Angelina can't look her in the face.

I think this would keep the reader (agent) where you want them, instead of jarring them from one story to another.

Excellent job on this so far, though!

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Much better, I agree with Michelle on the pov switcheroo and her contribution.

I question the use of the phrase "karmic justice" which is getting what you deserve as a result of how you performed in your previous existance.

(I could chase this further and say L's suicide was a result of her karmic justice, which defeats the story.)

Maybe "justice" is enough and avoids a philosophical can of worms.

Almost there. The work you've done on this is outstanding.

Chelsea P. said...

Yay, great comments! I do like Michelle's suggestion a lot (and the suggestions of others who pushed me in this direction.) I have feared in the past that opening with "Seventeen-year-old Angelina's BFF Lizzie" was too busy for the opening -- something that could make an agent go "What the . . ."

But with these suggestions in mind, I think I've come up with something that might work:

"Angelina's BFF Lizzie is the prude of Verity High, until a tryst with Angie's boyfriend transforms her into Queen of the Sluts. Suddenly Lizzie is the most hated girl in the senior class . . ."

That indicates age without a sudden detail explosion. What do you all think? Does the use of "Angie" throw you off? Have I Finally Figured It Out!?

Thanks to all :)

Michelle Massaro said...

Chelsea, I think that works. "Angie" does not throw me off, and I don't think the specific age is important to the query. I think high schoolers fooling around is a good enough frame of reference. Good job as far as I'm concerned! =)

Chelsea P. said...

Thank you so much! :)

Matt said...

Where did my comment go?

Phoenix said...

@Matt: That's weird. Your comment showed up 3 times in my email, with the 3rd time an hour later than the others. I didn't delete it, I promise! Here it is:

Does the uncovering of Lizzie's biggest secret (date-rape?) and the revenge all come at the end? Or does Angelina discover these things midway through the book? That information is important because it changes this from a YA mystery to YA revenge.

Of course, you can relay that information without explicitly telling us, which you may have done. As it appears, I would say 90% of the novel is mystery because you end abruptly at the revenge line. Is that what you intended? I only ask because earlier iterations left me with a different impression.

If this is more a revenge story, you have room enough to add a third paragraph and allude to the true denouement.

I didn't have trouble with Angelina's change from forgiving to vengeful. I though it gave weight to Lizzie's secret.

Technically, this is finely written. I would not have put that comma in the first sentence, but I understand why you did.

Phoenix said...

Ah, there it is, Matt. Found it (all 3, actually) in Blogger's spam folder, which I don't normally check (Note to self: start checking!). It must corral them there when it stutters and tries to post something multiple times. Since I still get the emails, I assume everything's posting OK. Sorry!

I can't remember ever deliberately removing any comment here except for ones that posted multiple times. So if any don't post, PLEASE send a tickler (like Matt did here).

Chelsea P. said...

Hey Matt,

I'm glad your comment showed up! I always appreciate the things you say.

In terms of the mystery/revenge thing, Lizzie's secret comes out toward the end. I have considered classifying this as "YA mystery" rather than "YA" but I'm not completely sold on the idea.

I actually went back and forth on that first comma quite a bit. Technically it isn't needed, but without it I feared the sentence was too busy. I could be over-thinking, though. (It's been known to happen!)

Thanks for your help :)

Phoenix said...

Re: comma - I'd delete it.

Re: Angie at the beginning - Using Angie doesn't throw me off at all. I do believe You Have It :o)

Chelsea P. said...

Yayyyyy thanks!

Chelsea P. said...

Taking a different tack. I think this is much simpler:

When seventeen-year-old Lizzie commits suicide, her BFF Angie is devastated she wasn't able to prevent it. So what if Lizzie spent too much time with the prom queen's boyfriend? Her classmates had no right to brand her "Queen of the Sluts." They certainly shouldn't have written the s-word on all her belongings. It even showed up on her car! In the span of a month, the bullies at Verity High turned Lizzie into a pariah, and Angie felt powerless to stop them.

Not anymore.

Fueled by her anger, Angie begins investigating the bullies who tormented her best friend. Her goal is to expose their secrets as a form of vigilante justice. But her digging unearths something she never expected: Lizzie kept more secrets than anyone, including the secret of what really happened with the prom queen's boyfriend. Now Angie's not just angry, she's fuming mad, and she's about to exact revenge on the boy who hurt Lizzie the most.

The S-Word is a YA mystery complete at 55,000 words.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Chelaea,
Applaud your massaging. Good job, I like this better. The streamlining has focused this story - it reads well. The voice is stronger although it is lighter. Truer.

Matt said...

Hey Chelsea,

I prefer the original provided you change the first sentence to starting with Angie and removing the comma before until.

Phoenix said...

I slept on this as there was something niggling at me about the revise. It's simpler, yes, and cleaner -- but to me it simplifies A's story too much. She's seems more removed from the bullying -- an outsider looking in rather than a more intimate player. Would A be more concerned she couldn't stop the bullies from the outside or that she was a better, more supportive friend on the inside to help Lizzie weather the storm. Much less circumspection in this version, so makes this feel even more like a revenge story.

As your versions go along, they seem to be be settling more into the revenge/Carrie motif rather than the YA mystery and why-do-kids-bully storyline.

Take a bit and ask yourself where and how you see this being marketed. Would you rather your story be compared to Carrie or to Speak? Which do you think agents and editors are more eager for? Which do you think kids are eager for?

Chelsea P. said...

Ooh, conflicting opinions. You guys always give me good things to think about.

Phoenix said...

We aim to confuse ;o)

Chelsea P. said...

Haha! It can be nice to hear differing opinions, honestly. I can be a hint too eager to please when it comes to people's suggestions, so when people disagree it forces me to really step back and analyze things on a deeper level.