Friday, December 2, 2011

#37 YA urban fantasy: The Defenders

TITLE: The Defenders
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Toby McGovern inherits two things when his dad dies: super powers and a double life in a secret order. However, he’s much more interested in using his newfound skills to pop fakie ollies at the skate park and win over the queen of the social food chain than fighting crime—that is until the man who killed his father comes after him.

“Toby, don’t be rude; people are waiting,” snaps mom.

Begrudgingly I make my way downstairs. It’s been two weeks since dad died but relatives I’ve never heard of keep coming out of the woodwork. Mom insists the more the merrier but without merriment it’s just more people, and a hell of a lot more lasagna.

All they want to do is reminisce. None of them want to talk about the fact that he was killed in the highest security area of the city. Or that he was killed. Or that they haven’t found who did it. But that’s all I can think about.

“Ohhhhh Toby,” they say in one communal breath, their eyes widening as they take me in. I’m wearing the same recycled Cage the Elephant T-shirt and flannel pajama bottoms I have every other day. I make no attempt to tame my wicked morning fro’ hawk either. I feel like s***, no point in pretending otherwise.

You’d think I’d been assigned the role of grieving widow in this family drama. My mother is dressed up, her bobble-head nodding along agreeably to everything these people say. I don’t know how she does it. I’ve heard her crying in her sleep but by day she’s someone else, someone pleasant and agreeable and completely foreign to me.


  1. Wow. Great opening salvo. My only wish was there was more to read!

  2. Really liked this one. It's got pretty much everything.

  3. Very nice. You've painted a complex picture of grief with just a few choice words. More, please.

  4. I love this! You do a great job with his voice. Your word choice is perfect: "wicked morning fro-hawk" "Her bobble-head nodding along" and my favorite "More the merrier, but without merriment it's just more people." My only suggestion is "grudging" instead of "begrudging."

    Great job and good luck!

  5. I really like this, and you have a super-strong voice. My only thing-- and this is only because I'm an English teacher-- is that you should capitalize Mom and Dad, since your use of them suggests names not titles.

  6. Really fantastic opening. You have the voice nailed and the descriptions are great - I get such a clear picture of his grief. Great job and good luck!!!

  7. Great voice in this one! I like the concept--I'd be interested to see what the super powers are.

    Aside from some of the things others have already pointed out, I wasn't immediately drawn in by the first line because 1) It's dialogue before we've even met the MC and 2)"snaps Mom" is an antiquated way of formatting a dialogue tag. It's basically the same as saying: "said she".

    Such a small nitpick because it was a great opening scene overall!

    Good luck! :)

  8. I really enjoyed your 250--I thought it got better and better as it went along. I do agree with the commenters above about capitalizing Mom and "Grudgingly" instead of "Begrudgingly," but otherwise I liked what I read a lot.

    The logline, however, could be cleaned up a bit. I think you should make it clear in the first sentence that the secret order fights crime; that way, in the second sentence you can focus on the stuff he'd rather do...until his dad's killer shows up. (Also, a comma between "that is" and "until the man" would be welcome.)

    Good luck with this!

  9. Love this one! You paint such a vivid picture and the voice is so strong. I feel in these brief words that I really have a sense of your character. Great opening.

  10. Totally. Hooked. Amazing job. I love the way you use slang to give me a sense of your character's voice and perspective. You're able to convey that your MC is bored without boring me--very hard to do. I love the sense of his restrained grief. You don't belabor the point into melodrama, but the hints you give let me know that he's struggling.

    I agree with Tara that some hint at what he's "supposed" to be using his powers for would be good in the logline. I mean, I can assume that the secret order isn't all about fakie ollies and wooing women, but maybe they are? :)

    Can't wait to read more. Good luck!

  11. Can I just say I LOVED the lasagna line?? :D
    I think you've got nice nitpicks above.
    Great job. I think you'll get bids!!
    Good luck!!

  12. Wow! This is pretty incredible. I like Toby immediately. And how often can a reader really say that about an MC in the first 250 words? I want to read more!

  13. Interesting idea, and I'm excited to see what these new super powers are going to be.

    I had a bit of trouble believing the mom would be so flippant about things. I can definitely see her snapping at him, but I can't see her saying "the more the merrier." Everything else is spot-on, and I like how Toby's bored with it and sees through the whole social parade of people coming to the house.

    I like Toby and would read on. Nice writing!

  14. This is a really intriguing premise to me and the dry sense of humor makes it even more appealing. I love reluctant heroes.

    That said, I felt the first 250 were a bit flippant considering what has happened. I get the kid is angry, but shooting that anger at other people who are also grieving can come off as insensitive and makes your character less sympathetic.

    I do believe this is an easy fix. To me, these types of stories are all about balance. Balancing the negative/snarky with the positive/poignant. I think this balance is super important so that these types of characters don't get annoying with their constant negativity. So it's not that you need to cut down on his snark, but beef up his sensitive side.

    Of course, you may do this on the very next page. But it was something i noticed here.

    Good luck!

  15. I loved this. I didn't think he seemed flippant. I thought he seemed like someone who is genuinely grieving and who is confused how everyone else can try to small talk given the gravity of what's just happened. His voice really came through to me and a lot of his grief are in ways that you "show" us rather than "tell us." For example, he's still wearing his pajamas day in and day out. He's too depressed to keep up his appearance hence the "wicked morning fro' hawk." I thought it all worked.

    Sure, capitalize "mom" like a couple critiques mentioned but otherwise I think you nailed it.


    Logline: I’m interested, though I had to read twice for meaning. There are some grammar/parallel issues in the second half of the second question. I’d edit to: “he’s much more interested in using his newfound skills to pop fakie ollies […] and win over the queen [… ]than TO FIGHT crime – AT LEAST until…”

    Line notes: I’m not sure the way Toby talks about his mom -- “pleasant and agreeable and completely foreign” --in the last sentence is right for a young teen voice.

    Overall: In general, I don’t feel the teenager here yet. I feel greif, sure, but from the opening with Mom’s voice and scolding, to the word choices I highlighted above, I don’t see a boy's voice emerging to pull me along into a story.
    And I think I’d like to see some of the super powers (or exaggerated/out of the ordinary anything) at play from the start. If this is going to be a book that will pull in boy readers, you’ll have to do even more to get them to read than you have do to get me to want to read!
    Is there a better moment to start from? This scene might be more affecting elsewhere in the story.

    (PS -- No kidding, the word verification is autear. Please no tears, au! Edfear.)

  17. I was scrolling through the various entries and your logline intrigued me. It's definitely a cool premise and I'd be interested in learning more.

    The writing style really drew me in, the voice in particular. It's really hard to get a sense of voice and character in 250 words but you've managed to do it. Overall, everything just clicked for me. I feel like I know this kid from just this small snapshot. Great job!

  18. Paragraphs 2 and 3 completely brought me in. The third one, especially, hints at the overall story problem, but without giving too much background. Love it, love that tension.

    My one suggestion is to revise the first line - I had the same thoughts as Jessica Leake (above).

    Overall, though, the voice is excellent. I like seeing the world through Toby's eyes, and that's what makes me want to read on.

  19. This is excellent. Really engaging. I just want to read more. I love the voice. I also love the very subtle touches here in dealing with grief and losing a parent.