Friday, December 2, 2011

#48 YA, Science Fiction: Anomaly

TITLE: Anomaly
GENRE: YA, Science Fiction

Sloan's not a killer. So when she's next to get her brain scanned for the new government initiative, Project Reform, she never expects to end up in the Desolate, an island full of teens who have been marked as future killers. After someone starts drugging teens in the dorm with something that turns them into actual killers, Sloan has a decision to make--save the Desolate, or let the drug do its job and take everyone out.

I think my mom’s craptastic advice is what I'll miss most. Mom pulled up to the airport terminal as a huge plane flew overhead and almost shook the car off the magnetic track.

“Remember what I said about goodbyes,” Mom said in a somber tone, her tan hands wringing the steering wheel. We’d said goodbye before but not like this. Not where we wouldn’t know when we would see each other again.

“Never say it unless you mean it,” I said in my mock-mom voice.

She pinched my chin between her fingers and yanked me toward her, giving me a quick glare that disappeared into warmth behind her eyes. “Don’t sass me, mija.”

“Well, don’t tell me the same things fifty times, then.” I grinned, but I let it fade as she let go of me.

“Only fifty? I’m losing my touch. Let me know when I’ve reached a hundred.” She paused and stared out the windshield, her face swept up in concern. She turned toward me. “You’ll be late.” She wrenched the car door open and I followed her into the airport.

I mistakenly thought she would impart some infinite wisdom on me as we stood in the entrance.

I was wrong.

She tugged down on my shirt that had bunched up in the car and cocked her head to the side, her fake-blonde curls bouncing around her shoulder. “Don’t forget to—”

“Eat your green-biotics,” I finished for her.

She frowned and gave me the mom-eye.


  1. Your logline totally SLAYED ME. N' I love the opening line ("craptastic," so COOL!) n' the bad-a** character you've created. Would KILL to read more!!


  2. I like the premise and the voice a lot. I'd definitely read on. Love "the mom-eye." lol

  3. I like the premise. I have an issue with the last line in the logline: Sloan has a decision to make--save the Desolate, or let the drug do its job and take everyone out.

    To me it doesn't seem like that's much of a choice. She's your MC so I would assume she doesn't want to kill everyone...

    For the 250 words...I love the voice. I'm confused because the first line is in present tense and then the rest is in past.

    I can totally envision this scene. Love it. I'd keep reading.

  4. Great voice, although I think the word craptastic has a shelf-life of about five years, so I hope this is the not-so-distant future. Also, the name Desolate sort of makes me think this is similar to Divergent. Which, don't get me wrong, I loved. I'd read on!

  5. Really love the concept. It definitely stands out. I would like to read on, good job!

  6. You've created likeable characters, and you have some phrasing gems, but also a couple of misfires. Here's what jumped out at me:

    1. In your logline, the last line shows a motivation problem because if she lets the drug to its job, it would also take her out, right? But I don't get the sense that she's feeling suicidal.

    2. Some love "craptastic" but I've already seen it in an opening in this auction, and I don't think the advice is craptastic. I know you are trying to show voice with this word choice, but I personally don't think it works here.

    3. The punch of the second sentence, which serves to put us right into the Sci-Fi realm, is lost. I'd reword slightly as:

    "We pulled up to the terminal as a plane rumbled overhead so low our car shuddered on its magnetic track."

    4. Superb imagery with mom wringing the steering wheel.

    5. You first mention saying goodbye as a word choice, then mention it as an act: “Remember what I said about goodbyes,” Mom said ... We’d said goodbye before but not like this."

    Maybe say, "We'd spent time apart before, but not like this."

    6. Your actions descriptions are disjointed. "She pinched my chin between her fingers and yanked me toward her," makes me picture her yanking the child by the chin. I think she probably cupped her chin in affection and then pulled her in close by the shoulders? I am trying to picture it...

    7. Mija is her name/nickname? Needs a capital first letter (probably just a typo.)

    8. The dialaog between them is great, really captures their relationship and is real-sounding. That is hard to do, so good job!

    9. Another problem with action description here: "She turned toward me. “You’ll be late.” She wrenched the car door open and I followed her into the airport."

    Something happened between mom turning toward her and then wrenching open the door and walking away. She had to have gotten out of the car at some point. Why even mention the turning (which seems irrevelant). Just get her out of the car already. Maybe she comes around the outside of the car and opens the door as she says "You'll be late" then turns on her heel, leaving Mija to follow. The trick here is to picture it like a movie playing in your head. Only describe the actions that move things along. I think you had mom turn toward Mija because you needed a beat between dialogue. But it seems weak as-is.

    10. Here, you say the same thing twice: "I mistakenly thought she would impart some infinite wisdom on me as we stood in the entrance.

    I was wrong."

    You don't need "I was wrong." Since you already say you were mistaken in the previous sentence. When you repeat a concept, it loses strength unless it is done very deliberately.

    11. You do have unique phrasing that pulls me in. Like "mom-eye". Keep that going, and use it to your advantage.

    Best of luck!

  7. Logline: is that a choice? Of course she's going to save the Desolate, otherwise you wouldn't be writing this. What's her real issue? Surviving, proving she's not a killer, organizing the other teens, what?

    Excerpt: I enjoyed this. I get the idea she's looking back a bit, since you start with her saying she'll miss the advice. I'm not sure if that's on purpose or not, if you want it to seem like it's being narrated from the future. However, I would say that-- with that logline-- I wouldn't keep reading. So far as I can tell, she's going to be late for something at the airport, and it must be some sort of test. Seen it a million times.

    This is well-written, but I think it needs to be a bit more enticing.

  8. I love the voice and the premise! I'd totally read more!

  9. Great voice and intriguing premise. I'd definitely turn the page! <3

  10. Wow, this Alaina person seems to be missing the "constructive" part of "constructive criticism." And I've seen her do this on some of the other entries, too. :(

    I think the hook in the log line is excellent! If you want to revise it, you could better explain her alternatives to saving the Desolate.

    Also, the beginning has a strong voice. A little more tension could be infused with her upcoming trial, but even so, the voice carries it.

  11. The spooky drug-to-make-people-killers is a great hook! I also like the world set-up here, with the magnetic thing pulling the car, as well as the green-biotics (hilarious term). Then, thrown into the mix, a mother's universal concern at saying goodbye. Well done!

  12. Great premise!! Brain scanning for government initiative and teen killers--sounds very Jason Bourne, awesome stuff!
    I loved your excerpt, too. The relationship with her mom is very cute and believable, I liked their banter. My only qualm is the opening lines. I'm not sure you need them. I really got into the story with the excellent dialogue, so I'd suggest starting where her mom speaks (strong opening dialogue for a scene like this), and moving the description of the airport and the car on the magnetic track down a few lines, because you do need those. It just seemed like when Mom speaks, that's where your story really starts. Loved it from there!

  13. Really, REALLY great voice. I love the mom-daughter relationship and the characters already have a wonderful depth to them just from the first 250 words. Wonderfully done!! About your logline, though, I liked it a lot--but I want to know why she has to make the decision. Why does she care about the Desolate? Is it a boy? ;)

    So, yeah, wonderful voice, and I would definitely keep on reading. :D

    Great job and good luck!!

  14. Great concept, and I love the voice! I'd definitely keep reading. Good luck!

  15. Your logline sucked me right in! I think the line about an island full of teenage killers pretty much ensured my interest from then on.

    The voice was very authentic--I especially like the line "Don't sass me, mija." I can practically hear her accent ;). Also loved the "well don't tell me fifty times, then" line since I can definitely relate! Ok, pretty much, I just loved the dialogue, period.

    Great job cluing the reader into the fact that this is Sci-Fi with just a few unfamiliar things: car on the magnetic track and green-biotics.

    Despite the lack of action in the opening, I would definitely read on for the voice alone!

    Great job and good luck!

  16. I agree with Laina about the logline. We know she's not going to let everyone die (that would make a short story and an unsympathetic and shortlived MC), so could you either show how she intends to catch the killer or mention that even though she is conflicted about whether to let them die she has to do the right thing?

    Apart from that, the premise sounds awesome, and I liked the voice in the excerpt.

  17. This is an interesting conflict a bit like Minority Report--is someone who hasn't yet committed a crime still guilty? And are they worth saving? Very cool idea.

    The first sentence sets me in present tense, and then the next is past tense. Careful with the shift since this is the reader's first impression. Also, this may be just me, but using "craptastic" in the first line almost struck me as imitation teen voice versus authentic. Maybe waiting until later in the book to use it might help?

    The magnetic track and other SF details were nicely woven in, and I love her mother's voice and personality.

    I like this opening as is, but I wonder if there's a way to add a little tension of what's to come. How is this goodbye different than any other airport goodbye in a YA novel? You want it to stand out right away. Could you mention a detail of Project Reform, if that's where she's headed? Even better if she's already on her way to Desolate. You're really good at weaving the little things in that hook the reader--like the magnetic track--so I'm sure it would be easy to sneak in some hint of what's to come.

    Good luck!

  18. The log line did get me interested. I do like certain elements that show that this is futuristic and science fiction, but the main character seems a bit flat to me in the bit that's posted. I know it's the first 250 words, but I would have liked to see something on why she is at the airport and how she feels, not just 'here I am at the airport, and mom is saying goodbye like she'll never see me again". When I pick a book up off the shelf, the first thing I read is the back - your logline got me to read on. What I usually do from there is read the first page. If this was a book in a store, I wouldn't end up buying it because the first page didn't grab me. It is your choice as the author, but I think there needs to be something more with why she is at the airport in the first place.

  19. I've had the opportunity to read a bit more of this than the 250, and I'm so excited to see it here! I'm a sucker for this kind of book and this one doesn't dissapoint!

    Go sci-fi! YAY!

    Best of luck in the auction today!


  21. Man! I showed up an hour late because of an early morning meeting and so far 3 of the ms I wanted were gone even before I got to the office. Sheesh. *kicks the dirt*

  22. #48 ANOMALY

    Logline: I found this interesting, but I got bogged down in details that weren’t quite clear to me. “Someone” drugs the teens, or is that the purpose of sending them there, for their latent tendencies to be unlocked or for them to be destroyed? And does the last line mean Sloan’s contemplating taking the drug and killing everyone else (wait, but she’s not a killer!), or letting all of the others kill each other? I'm SURE there's another solution. :)

    Line notes: I tripped on Desolate as a noun instead of adjective a couple of times. Don’t get me wrong, I'm not above verbing a noun or nouning a verb, but I thought the Desolate might be the people instead of the place.
    Watch out for the redundancy in the “I mistakenly thought”… “I was wrong” line.

    Overall: I’m intrigued by the futuristic setting, and I like the way you’ve gently woven in details that are building this slightly unfamiliar world. It sounds like there are some high stakes, and I’d be interested to know more about the world and stakes you’ve created.