Friday, December 2, 2011

#31 YA Fantasy: Clear Cut

TITLE: Clear Cut
GENRE: YA Fantasy

When Nanoken enters the last stage of priestess training, she just expected to exorcise demons and other impossible tasks. She never expects to side with a slave and a mass-murderer against her high priestess.

I'm glad I'm not the only one to giggle when we realize the biggest test of our lives starts with drawing numbers out of a hat.

Our teacher Kitty, High Priestess Kiretel of the Light, holds it high. “I know, girls. Try to still your mirth.”

She nods toward the heavy iron door and my laughter dies in my throat. “Through that door are twenty prisoners sentenced to exile. Seven rapists. An arsonist. A pedophile. Seven murderers. Three mass murderers. And one man who tried to summon demons to possess his enemies.”

A low growl rises from many of my friend's throats. Serenity, the youngest to have completed training, leans close to me. “I'm scared,” she whispers.

I try not to envy the girl. She's twelve. I'm sixteen. It takes most of us six years to complete priestess training. There are five others my age. How'd she get here? “Don't be,” I whisper back, and put my arm around her shoulders. “They won't hurt us. They know better.”

“You do not know which crimes they committed,” continues Kitty. “Their crimes do not matter. Your goal does. They are all irredeemable. They have been brought here, from six countries, to see if one of our priestesses can redeem them.”

She presents the hat, a simple knitted wool cap like most of us have, to one of the seventeen-year-olds. Rosemary reaches in and selects a number.


  1. I'm pretty intrigued, but also confused. Some of this is cute and cheery, and then there are the rapists and arsonists. I'm not sure what to think. If your logline was a bit longer, I may be able to know which feeling to go with. I'm definitely curious!

  2. Very cool premise!

    Your logline is a bit short and a little confusing. I would love to know at least one of the impossible tasks Nanoken has to do. You have some room in your logline for a bit more. Tell us why she has to side with a slave and mass-murderer. Just a quick line.

    I like the scene you're setting up here! Nice job!

  3. I agree with the others about the logline being too short, but I do really like this one. The first page (actually, the first line) had me hooked, and when I read the logline again I knew I'd definitely want to read on.

  4. I do like the premis, but I'd have a hard time taking anyone named Kitty seriously. So I was thrown when the exiled prisoners came in. Also, your mc giggles in the first line - again, not the best way to show feminine strength.

    More importantly, it doesn't set the right tone, which is why I think some were confused. Every single word counts.

  5. I think that this has real potential but I agree with others that the tone isn't quite even enough or sober enough considering the setting. I would think the girls would be very serious, even afraid, rather than giggling. I agree with the dislike of "Kitty" as a name for the protag, but that's just me. But I see real potential in the premise -- it's the kind of thing I'd like to read. Good luck!

  6. - I'm glad I'm not the only one to giggle when we realize the biggest test of our lives starts with drawing numbers out of a hat.

    Given the gravity of the situation, I'd actually prefer to have the numbers drawn out of some formal vessel, especially since for some reason I get a modern ring out of numbers in a hat. It's natural for people to seek release in tension, but it's not a particularly compelling hook; I'd rather focus on "biggest test of our lives" than "giggling."

    - Our teacher Kitty, High Priestess Kiretel of the Light

    Agreed about "Kitty" also being a distracting nickname, although it says something that they're on a personal enough basis to be using a nickname.

    Also, if she's got an important title like High Priestess, and she's personally training these girls, it makes this that much more solemn of a moment, I think (and thus deserving of something more than a hat!).

    - I try not to envy the girl. She's twelve. I'm sixteen. It takes most of us six years to complete priestess training. There are five others my age. How'd she get here?

    I found this rather choppy; lots of short sentences. Although it did leave me seriously wondering how Serenity got here, and it's a nice touch in showing the protagonist overcome her envy.

    It also made me wonder how this interesting question didn't get asked, when apparently name and age were open info.

    - Their crimes do not matter.

    If the specific crimes don't matter, why are they listed and numbered? Maybe a more general listing that doesn't sound so comprehensively quantitative.

    I'm left with huge questions about this religious setup, which is actually a good thing -- it's what would make me read on.

  7. Oh, I LOVE this. Your opening line reminds me of the scene from HP Goblet of Fire when they draw dragons out of the bag. Totally ridiculous for something so life-threatening. I would giggle too.

    There is so much in this first 250 - I understand a bit of the world, the relationship between the girls, and the training they've gone through. It feels high-stakes despite the camraderie. VERY nice.

    I would love it if Serenity was the one to select a number first - maybe because of her young age or soemthing? That would really put me on the edge of my seat at the end of this first page.

    Unless Rosemary's going to bite the dust because she picked that number. Because I already like Serenity (she reminds me of Rue from THG a little.)

    So so much luck to you! Can't wait to read the whole thing when it hits shelves.

  8. I love your logline because it's just loaded with potential conflicts--the mass-murderer, the slave, the expectation of having to do "other impossible things."

    I love the premise of her being in charge of redeeming someone because it's not something I've seen before. Also I'm a total sucker for child prodigies (the 12 yo).

    All that being said, I do have a couple of suggestions.

    I was a little put off by the first couple of sentences, because the giggling totally counteracts any tension we're supposed to feel here. If you wanted to keep it, I recommend making it more of a nervous giggle (like they're anxious)to let corroborate that something important is about to happen. I also didn't like the high priestess's reaction--the way she says "I know girls" makes it seem like she agrees with them (and that they call her Kitty), is sort of buddy-buddy, but then she says "Try to still your mirth" which sounds really stiff. I also think this part (the high priestesses reaction) would be a great place to give us some more description of the kind of person Kitty is and her relationship to the girls. Here's a terrible example, but hopefully it'll show you what I mean: "Our high Priestess Krietel of the Light, also, on non-important days known as Kitty, tries her best to look stern..." except waaaay better :).

    I'm also a little confused by the "Low growl rising from many of my friends throats," it seems very aggressive for a group whose purpose is to redeem people, and who are expecting really bad people.

    And lastly, I think the line about the 12 yo "How'd she get here?" doesn't quite make sense given the context of the situation. Because Serenity whispers to her, I get the impression they know each other, but "How'd she get here?" sounds like she's surprised to find her there. And, since its something she's no doubt thought about before, it doesn't make sense that she'd waste a thought on it when something so important is about to happen.

    Ok, I know that sounds like a lot of criticism, but I did really enjoy it! I hope some of it helps!

    Good luck!

  9. I really like the setup, because I wonder how the priestesses are going to redeem the criminals. What sort of powers do they possess?

    That said, there are a couple things here that are leaving me confused. I'm not sure why they're giggling about drawing numbers from a hat considering the situation. Surely they must have had an idea what the test would be, and if it's the biggest test of my life and involved frightening criminals, I don't think pulling numbers from a hat would make me laugh.

    While I love the name Kitty, it seems out of place with the formal way the priestess talks to the girls and I'm not sure if it's right for this character.

    If the crimes don't matter, why are they listed with exact numbers? And if these criminals are capable of murder and awful things, how can they be sure they won't hurt the priestesses? I'm not convinced they do know better. And if they're irredeemable, how could they even be redeemed? I'm confused.

    I'm intrigued by Serenity. I wonder what kind of role she'll have in all this.

    I'd definitely read on for a bit. I'd like to know how these girls are going to face and help the criminals.

  10. I had the same reaction as a few others. I agree that making the laugh a nervous giggle would be more effective. If they're laughing, it dispels the tension, which is exactly what you don't want on your first page.

    I'm another one who didn't like 'Kitty'. It seems too casual for the situation.

    I also didn't understand why Nanoken didn't know about Serenity. She comforts the girl in a way that suggests they're close, or at least have spent some time together, but then doesn't appear to know how Serenity did her training so quickly.

    I'm also confused about what Kitty says. In one sentence she's saying all the criminals are irredeemable, then in the next she's saying they've been brought here to see if they can be redeemed. If they're irredeemable, how could be redeemed? Maybe you need to insert a qualifier into Kitty's first mention, eg. 'They are all otherwise irredeemable.'

    I like the concept but I think you need to keep your scene consistent, both in happenings and tone.

    Good luck for the auction.

  11. #31 CLEAR CUT
    Logline: The tense inconsistency in the opening sentence throws me a bit. There are provoking ideas here, but this isn’t as polished enough to have maximum impact.

    Line notes: I think this might suffer a bit from over-writing: for example, the paragraph that begins “I try not to envy the girl.” I would ask for trimming here, and leave some of this information for more natural reveals about the world as the story unfolds.

    I wonder about the level of fantasy here, too – it’s a surface thing, I suppose, but the introduction of nicknames, like Kitty, seems to clash with the heavier subject and themes you’re playing with. Just doesn’t seem to balance for me.

    Overall: The title doesn’t say fantasy to me at all. CLEAR CUT took me to logging first, and then to legal, as in a clear cut case. With that “courtroom” idea in mind, my one fear about this set-up is that it has the potential to carry heavy moralistic themes. However, it also could be very interesting and thought-provoking. All that said, I think this is one that I’d want to read more of to get a better sense of the tone and character and the journey here.

  12. Intrigued to see more of this!

    I bid 15 pages.

  13. I'm a very close friend to the author, and I do have to say that the first 250 words does not do this story justice. It has come so far from that very first draft written last November, and I'm proud that the author let myself and the rest of our writing group shove them into this contest.

    But, again, the 'they're irredeemable so let's redeem them' might cause issues. Perhaps they've been "called irredeemable" or something.

    Congrats on making it to the biddign!