Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pitchwars Query Critique – THE ORPHAN RESISTANCE

Here is another query critique for one of our pitchwars hopefuls. I’ve pasted the entire query and first page, then again with my comments. Thank you so much to Greg Schwartz for sharing with us!

 

In the near future, a catastrophic virus covers the world and decimates the American population, affecting only those who have entered puberty. Dubbed “Orphan,” the virus leaves the few survivors sterile and in need of constant transfusions. With uninfected children remaining as the sole source of clean blood, a rift soon forms between the generations leading to widespread violence and disappearances.

Ten years after Orphan, a boy wakes up in the back of a transport truck with no memories of his life. Upon arriving at a military installation, he learns his blood may contain the cure for those left symptomatic a decade earlier. Imprisoned in the bowels of the compound, the boy has no choice but surrender to the experiments of a strange doctor.

After spending barely more than twenty four hours captive, a botched breakout led by a dissenting faction of adults leaves the boy stranded on the surface. Alone in a world full of empty streets and abandoned buildings, fatigue and dehydration soon sap his strength. While hiding under a bush with his consciousness fading, two teenagers discover the boy and carry him back to their resistance: a group of children doing whatever it takes to survive in a world where the old prey on the young.

At 62,000 words, THE ORPHAN RESISTANCE is *Lord of the Flies* meets *The Hunger Games* with a touch of *Bourne*: a completed and polished YA post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel.

I am a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s English program with a specialization in creative writing. I have been writing for twelve years, eight of which have been dedicated solely to my own projects. I have had poetry published in the undergraduate journal Jabberwocky (Spring, 2014), and had my short story “The Girl of the Rising Sun” featured in a showcase (Spring, 2014).

Thank you very much for your time. I can’t wait to hear back and (hopefully) work with you!

Sincerely,
Greg Schwartz

 

1.

A violent bounce returned him to consciousness. 

Dull throbs echoed through his head. For several moments he could only grasp his own existence, until another bounce shook enough of the drowsiness away to offer some lucidity. 

His eyes drifted open to two bare feet—his feet, given how the toes wiggled at his command. He shifted his gaze and spotted a pair of black combat boots to the right, and then a pair of combat boots to the left. 

An ache in his back prompted him to try stretching, and the boy found himself wrapped in a white straitjacket. He strained against the restraints for a second or two, then submitted to fatigue. Neither pair of boots flanking him had moved an inch.

Steady rain pelted the roof and mixed with the loud drone of a diesel engine. The whole truck rattled and shook as it sped through the night.

Continuing to stare at his feet, the boy wondered where he was and—following that—where he was going. That made him wonder why he was going wherever he was going. As he tried to recall the events leading to his imprisonment, his body tensed with the realization that he didn’t know his own name.

The boy raised his gaze and found an unblinking pair of eyes opposite him. They belonged to a man—the darkness obscured most of his features, but the boy guessed he must’ve been in his forties. The silhouette revealed a cap and uniform, perhaps an officer’s. The world outside whizzed by behind the officer’s head, illuminated every now and then by orange streetlights. For a brief instant, the boy thought he saw the glint of stars stitched onto the man’s shoulders, but the darkness returned too quickly to know for certain.

 


And now with my comments!

 
 

In the near future, a catastrophic virus covers the world and decimates the American population, affecting only those who have entered puberty. Entered or gone through? Is this MG or YA…because if it’s entered than it would affect anyone over the age of 12ish? Dubbed “Orphan,” the virus leaves the few survivors sterile and in need of constant transfusions. Why are there few survivors…what else does the virus do? Seems important to get that info in here. If it’s called Orphan, (great name!) I’m assuming most of the adults are dead? With uninfected children remaining as the sole source of clean blood, a rift soon forms between the generations leading to widespread violence and disappearances. Why do the survivors need “clean” blood? I appreciate you trying to avoid an info-dump but this could use a few specifics.

Ten years after Orphan, a boy so a child, not a teen? wakes up in the back of a transport truck with no memories of his life. Upon arriving at a military installation, he learns his blood may contain the cure for those left symptomatic a decade earlier. Imprisoned in the bowels of the compound, the boy has no choice but surrender to the experiments of a strange doctor.

After spending barely more than twenty four hours captive, Very wordy, maybe just say soon? a botched breakout led by a dissenting faction of adults leaves the boy stranded on the surface. Alone in a world full of empty streets and abandoned buildings, fatigue and dehydration soon sap his strength. While hiding under a bush with his consciousness fading, two teenagers discover the boy and carry him back to their resistance: a group of children doing whatever it takes to survive in a world where the old prey on the young. But wouldn’t the teens need “clean” blood too? Needs clarification.

At 62,000 words, THE ORPHAN RESISTANCE is *Lord of the Flies* meets *The Hunger Games* The HUNGER GAMES are done and very overused…I would caution against naming them a comp title with a touch of *Bourne*: a completed and polished YA post-apocalyptic, dystopian dystopian has become a bad word in publishing, would just leave it at post-apocalyptic novel. Would rewrite to tighten up this sentence.

I am a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s English program with a specialization in creative writing. I have been writing for twelve years, eight of which have been dedicated solely to my own projects. I have had poetry published in the undergraduate journal Jabberwocky (Spring, 2014), and had my short story “The Girl of the Rising Sun” featured in a showcase (Spring, 2014). This is great!

Thank you very much for your time. I can’t wait to hear back and (hopefully) work with you!

Sincerely,
Greg Schwartz

 

This is overall very good with a few tweaks needed. The only general critique is that the boy seems to be very passive in this short summary…things happen to him instead of him making choices that push the plot forward. Not sure if it’s just in this summary or in your story, so you might want to think about that and perhaps tweak the short summary to make the boy more active.

 

1.

A violent bounce returned him to consciousness. 

Dull throbs echoed through his head. For several moments he could only grasp his own existence, until another bounce shook enough of the drowsiness away to offer some lucidity. 

His eyes drifted open to two bare feet—his feet, given how the toes wiggled at his command. He shifted his gaze and spotted a pair of black combat boots to the right, and then a pair of combat boots to the left. 

An ache in his back prompted him to try stretching, and the boy found himself wrapped in a white straitjacket. Would he know what a straitjacket was? He strained against the restraints for a second or two, then submitted to fatigue. Neither pair of boots flanking him had moved an inch.

Steady rain pelted the roof and mixed with the loud drone of a diesel engine. The whole truck rattled and shook as it sped through the night. The reader, and presumably, the boy, doesn’t know he’s in a truck. He should probably deduce this?

Continuing to stare at his feet, the boy wondered where he was and—following that—where he was going. That made him wonder why he was going wherever he was going. As he tried to recall the events leading to his imprisonment, his body tensed with the realization that he didn’t know his own name. But he knows what a straightjacket is and a truck? Perhaps he should realize this too.

The boy raised his gaze and found an unblinking pair of eyes opposite him. They belonged to a man—the darkness obscured most of his features, but the boy guessed he must’ve been in his forties. The silhouette revealed a cap and uniform, perhaps an officer’s. The world outside whizzed by behind the officer’s head, illuminated every now and then by orange streetlights. For a brief instant, the boy thought he saw the glint of stars stitched onto the man’s shoulders, but the darkness returned too quickly to know for certain.

This is a good scene but I feel the focus could be more on the boy realizing he’s 1)imprisoned 2)being taken somewhere and 3)has no memories. You can really hit these points harder…get some more of his confusion, maybe even panic. He seems very calm and assessing. He even realizes the one guy is an officer! I think that’s a little much. The hint with the stars on his shoulders is enough for the reader. The boys should be more concerned with other things…like wondering WTF!?

Also, a lot of action-y YA is in present tense…which lends itself well to keep pacing moving forward. You might want to consider seeing if that works for you.

 

Thanks again to Gregory Schwarz for sharing his work with us!

For the next query visit Kate on her blog on 9/22 at katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com and I’ll have another critique right here next Tuesday!

 

 

3 comments:

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