Friday, November 29, 2013

(56) YA Magical Realism: THE MILLINER'S SON

TITLE: The Milliner's Son
GENRE: YA Magical Realism

Without love from his family, sixteen-year-old Theo hides himself in his music. When a series of thefts rock his Parisian neighborhood and leave the father of the girl he loves dead, Theo must step into reality. But reality isn't full of love—it's full of magic, dark magic connected to the thefts and deadly magic his parents may be using themselves.

Thursday after school, and Theophilus Chapelier, with a black leather bag slung over his shoulder, meandered through the same narrow, winding cobbled streets, humming along to a favorite tune on his iPhone. He knew by heart every chapel and convent he passed, every mansion converted into a hotel, every jewelry shop and chic boutique, every tearoom and upscale brasserie.

Parisians showed off their hats—cloche felt hats, cadet caps, berets, and fedoras. How many were made with his father’s own hands? He could guess if he wanted to, but he didn’t care to know. Not today. Maybe not ever?

A hat maker deserved respect locals would say. The craftsmanship deserved respect. However, one could easily go mad, making hats all day and night.

Under a clear sky and warm light, a pleasant breeze flirted with Theo’s dark hair. He pulled down his headphones. The main streets buzzed with locals and tourists.

Theo stopped at a local patisserie and ordered a slice of wood-fired pizza, his favorite. This was the first café his parents had taken him to for a family brunch out. He couldn’t help but wish to share a meal with his parents rather than eat alone. He wanted his parents to know how much he needed them. He let himself dream about this for a moment.

The honk of a car horn pulled him out his thoughts. As he devoured his slice of pizza in three bites, he glanced at the old man holding a newspaper in front of him. The headline read: LOCAL GOLDSMITH MURDERED.

An intense curiosity came over Theo.


  1. I find myself wanting to know more about Theo in these opening paragraphs. You do a great job of introducing his surroundings, and also his father, but I want to know more about what makes Theo tick. There is, of course, room for that beyond the first 250 words, but give us a few glimpses into why we should care about him. Perhaps the love of music mentioned in the log line?

    I do think that bringing in the local murder so early on is a smart way to hook us into the story.

    Best of luck!

  2. Intriguing pitch.

    I agree about maybe making more of the music--you say he's listening to a favorite tune, but maybe give us more details about that. What sort of music is it?

    I also felt like your first sentence is kind of long. I think it's missing a word, but I'd cut "and" instead of adding one and I'd cut "with a black leather bag slung..." to make the sentence shorter and get us into the setting which is intriguing.

    I don't really understand the point of the hats here and feel like that could come way later.

    I'm intrigued by why he's at a place his parents took him to (though "first cafe his parents..." confused me--I know I wouldn't remember the first cafe my parents took me to because I would have been very little, and I don't think it's necessary) that he'd rather be at with his parents--I think that gives us a bit of insight into who he is and also makes me curious about why he's not with them.

  3. I thought the log line worked pretty well to give me an idea of what this is about. I would have liked to have know what he hopes to do and what was at risk. What would happen if he fails?

    The first 250 words don't do a lot to create any tension or suspense. We do have that theft at the end, but in the context of that first page, it has nothing to do with him. There isn't a lot that draws me in.

    On the other hand, I liked the description and the writing well enough that I would give it more time.

    Good luck!

  4. I felt your first line could be tightened. Can you think of a way to reword it and take out some of the commas? Maybe the 'black leather bag' description could come later (he reaches into it to get $ to pay for the pizza?).

    I would change the "?" to a "." after "maybe never" - I think that would give me more of a sense of his apathy towards his dad.

    Great description of the street scene. I could easily visualize the setting. Exciting premise. Good luck!

  5. The logline intrigues, although "dark magic" and "deadly magic" feel repititious.

    The writing is confident, and the details are well conveyed, but I'm wondering where the conflict is. So far we have a young man wandering the streets and eating pizza. Granted some stories require a slower start than others, but even a litte direction would be helpful.

    Although the opening hasn't quite hooked me, I would probably read on based on the logline, because the overall story does sound quite interesting.

    Best of luck with it!

  6. The grounding here is very good and has a nice mix of details that gives Paris an old/yet new feel (the cobblestone streets and the iPhone)

    To give the opening a little more hook, I suggest starting the opening here (because this is where the story starts):

    As he devoured his slice of pizza in three bites, he glanced at the old man holding a newspaper in front of him. The headline read: LOCAL GOLDSMITH MURDERED.

    Then weave in these Parisian details within the scene as Theo is doing something to investigate.

    The detail is great and grounds me perfectly, but it needs to be broken up a long the way with dialogue and inner monologue to help the reader connect to the character. I feel like this could be done easily by shifting around the paragraphs.

  7. I really liked the description of Paris in the first paragraph, but after that, there wasn't enough happening to hold my interest. You have four paragraphs of introspection, with no real tension. In the paragraph about Theo's parents, I feel I'm being told that he's lonely, but I don't really feel his loneliness. The headline intrigues, but I don't know what it has to do with Theo.

    I think what you have here could be condensed to get more information about that headline unto the first page, which would probably draw the reader in more.

  8. I echo what others have said: I absolutely love the way you've drawn me into the setting. I was immersed in Paris right away.

    However, I too want to see more of Theo and how he interacts with this atmosphere. In the logline, you said he's hid himself in music, so maybe show us more of this music and how he filters everything he sees and how he interacts with the outside world through music. It'll show us not just the surroundings but your MC as well.

    Good luck!

  9. I love the quality of the writing, and the descriptions are masterful, however it feels a bit digressive to me. I think you wander off track with whole hats thing and this opening would be stronger without it.

    I enjoy quiet openings and don't think you need to start with something shocking, however the reader should feel some tension coming from the character. It's too pleasant as it is now, too relaxed. We get the murder headline at the end of the excerpt, but it's so out of the blue that it's jarring.

    Best of luck in he auction!

  10. Like the title, the premise, and the MC's name.

    The first sentence is a little choppy and over-commalated (my new word, as if you're trying to pack a little too much in. I am getting a strong sense of issues with a parent/parents (they're not spending enough time with Theo)--which is a little at odds with the meandering and humming a favorite tune. A little more sense of dissatisfaction would give me more to sink my readerly teeth into.

    Best of luck!

  11. I think it would be stronger if dropped the two paragraphs about the hats. That felt very out of place, and interrupted the current action for no apparent reason.
    The end shows this could go somewhere interesting.

  12. You have fantastic details. I could clearly picture the setting.

    The first sentence felt a little long and I got a bit lost. I had to read it twice to understand.

    Your MC has an awesome name. I did like the part about the hats, but maybe it would be better a few pages later? Good luck!

  13. I quite like your logline, and you've done a nice job of setting the scene, but I can't say that the first 250 drew me in. I feel very distant from Theo. I wonder if a bit of reorganizing might help, even saving some of the details that help to set the scene for later, when they're more directly relevant. (The hats, for example. I suspect the comment about going mad will become relevant, but for now, I'm far more interested in learning about Theo than I am in what Parisians are wearing or that his father makes hats.)

    Although this might sound a bit silly, given the brevity of what you were allowed to provide here, I'd like to see how Theo's physical movement moves the story forward. In reading this, I feel as though he's walking down the street in order to set the scene. Perhaps if you started with the headline, as Valerie suggested, it would provide Theo with a reason to get up and start moving through the city streets.

    I also wonder, if music is really how he deals with absentee parents and a lack of love, if it might not be helpful to show that here. He feels a pang, sitting down at the memory-laced café, and responds by turning up his favorite song and losing himself in the lyrics. Just a thought, but given your logline, this seems like something he might do and would go a long way toward introducing us to Theo--both his personality and his situation.

    Very interesting premise. I'm certainly curious to know more about what his parents have been up to.

  14. I think there are almost too many sentences in this opening. I also think there are too few.

    I would like more. More Theo (not just a throwaway phrase in the very first sentence about his black bag, and why exactly are you using precious first sentence words on a black bag? If you're bringing up a black bag in the first sentence of a book it better have a bomb in it. Or something equally meaningful later in the story). What I mean by 'more Theo' is you spend one precious phrase about him (that black bag) in the first paragraph and then give us real depth about Paris immediately after. And what I meant by wanting 'more' is that I still want more Paris as well as more Theo. And that's just the first paragraph.

    I feel as though you could have spent the first 250 words SOLELY on that first paragraph: More Theo. More Paris.

    Then, moving on to the second paragraph: More on hats. What is a 'cloche felt hat'? And only 4 kinds of hats? I'm going to assume that Theo spent a great deal of time watching his father make these hats. I wanted to feel that, I wanted to see that and know exactly how ambivalent Theo is now to all those hats. (so that ? definitely needs to go, as previously mentioned in other comments)

    Going even further, I'd like more on him eating alone, his dream about his parents. Not just telling us in one sentence, but showing us in 3, 4 or more.

    Finally, you end with the murder (which, like another commenter said, could really be the beginning and everything else could be woven in wonderfully). You then tell us about 'an intense curiousity' (spelling?) That just has to be shown. Show us how he reacts. We don't necessarily need to know why he reacts the way he does just yet but we need to feel it. We need to be intensely curious right alongside Theo and right now I feel as though I'm merely watching him from afar. Again, I want more.

    Why do I want more? Because I love the log line, love the concept. Finally, just a wonder: does he PLAY music or just LISTEN to music? I'm just trying to figure out how, exactly, he's hiding in his music.

    More, please, thanks.

  15. The premise interests me and the story has potential but, based on the logline, I wonder if the story starts in the right place. The murder is the hook, I presume, and although it has nothing to do with Theo at this point, it's the tension that's missing from the beginning paragraphs. Everything before that seems like it could be worked into the story as the story progresses.

  16. Hi there!

    I find your log line/pitch intriguing—but I feel that you’re copping out on me a bit. Does Theo have/use magic himself? It seems strange that he wouldn’t know that his parents have magic if he lives with them—although it sounds like they aren’t particularly close from your pitch. What is the reason behind their distance?

    Your sentences are very long. I would recommend trying to break them up. Remember that causing the reader to break their attention enough with complicated sentences and unnatural pauses often takes them out of the story, rather than keeping them immersed!

    I’m interested in hearing more about the girl that Theo loves. Who is she? How long have she and Theo known each other? If she’s such an important part of the story thread, you should allude to her and Theo’s feelings in your chosen excerpt. Hook me into their relationship and make me care enough about Theo’s love that I’m devastated along with her when she loses her father.

    Build the Parisian street scene for me more. I’ve been to Paris and I know what it looks like—but I don’t think that a reader who has not been privileged enough to visit the city would have picked up on your nuances and descriptions as much as I did. Help me to breathe, live and fall in love with Paris. Make Paris just as much of a character in this story as Theo!

    Best of luck.


  18. I LOOOOOVE Paris. Been looking for a Paris book for a year!


    The full goes to Josh Getzler!