Friday, November 28, 2014

(47) YA Contemporary: STICK FIGURE

TITLE: Stick Figure
GENRE: YA Contemporary

When 16-year-old Elizabeth lands in an eating disorder clinic, she's determined to get out and win back her ex. But when anonymous gifts arrive in the mail, she’s forced to question everything she believes.

No one told me that when I got skinny I’d grow fur. Tiny translucent hairs, fine like white mink, appeared on my arms, legs, and face, giving me soft blond sideburns no girl should have. When I looked it up, the fur turned out to have a name—lanugo. Babies are born with it. Anorexics grow it.

My first thought? What a pain in the ass.

My second thought? So far, so good.

After all, I knew I had to suffer to be beautiful. Of all the things Mom said to me, I understood that this was true. If you wanted people to notice you, want you, admire you, envy you, want to be you, you had to sacrifice. Easy? No. But that’s why people called it suffering.

And even if all your suffering seemed to get you nowhere—well, nowhere except the Wallingfield Psychiatric Facility’s Residential Treatment Center, remember this: There is always success hidden in failure. After all, you might be locked away, but you’re still a size zero.

“I hate this hair.” I’d been at Wallingfield for exactly 21 days when I brought up my fur in group therapy. I don’t know why I chose that moment; maybe it was because the circle felt cozy that day, with the chairs pulled into a tight circle and our knees curled up to our chests to stay warm even though the baseboard heaters creaked and groaned all day.

Or maybe it was because I’d followed the rules, eaten my meals, and they were still there. I wanted to shave every single disgusting one off, except that a razor was sharp, and they didn’t let us have anything sharp at Wallingfield.


  1. We're immediately right inside the mind of this character, and she's a bit broken, and I love that!

    The logline is a little vague - I'd like to know more about what happened with her and her ex, and the part about anonymous gifts just confused me. Would a hospital accept mail with no return address? Or are they really coming from the inside? A specific detail about even one of the gifts would add a lot, in my opinion.

    But this is great, and I'd read it!

    Good luck in the auction!

  2. Good premise and I'd read on. I felt like I knew this kid since it's first person and she discloses her problems right away. You might consider keeping it close, instead of switching to "you" in the fourth paragraph. "There's always success hidden in failure. For example, "Though I'm locked away in the Wallingfield Psych Center (I wonder if an anorexic MC would string it out) I'm still a size zero...."
    21 days seems like a long time for inpatient treatment for anorexia.
    Good luck!

  3. Love Elizabeth's voice. Very authentic. And calling the hair "fur" is so in keeping with her voice and age. I'm drawn right in to your story and am ready and eager to meet the other characters in that circle. Great work! Good luck.

  4. This is my kind of story! Great voice, that drew me in right away.

    Quick note about the logline..."she's forced to question everything she believes," is probably not specific enough for Agents. It could apply to many different stories, so I might show something specific to Elizabeth's own story.

    I love your excerpt. Strong voice, subtle humor and lots of personality. The paragraph that begins "And even if all your suffering..." was a bit jarring since she spoke to the reader. I liked the personality shown in this passage, but, especially on the first page, it pulled me out of the story...and I was really in it!

    Overall, excellent! I can't wait to read it once published. Best of luck Tuesday!

  5. This sounds like a really original take on this theme. I love the way your character draws me straight into her world. There are some very poignant parts like "I knew I had to suffer to be beautiful'. I'm really intrigued about what those anonymous gifts are.

  6. Good premise, and I love Elizabeth's voice. I immediately feel like I know her. Also a great sense of pacing to this first page, you manage to tell us a lot of information without it feeling like a lot, because you've woven it through with her commentary.

    I'm a touch confused by the log line's ambiguity--I want to know if she wants to get better, or if she just wants to get OUT, and the thing she's forced to question/face is the fact she's sick, or if it's something else, so a touch more specificity there I think would help. It's a tricky line but with an eating disorder, I'd really want to know as an agent or potential reader if we're going to be aligned with Elizabeth I think I'd want to know a little bit more about where she is headed mentally.

    I guess what that leads to is that I can't tell from her tone in these opening pages if she's bitter about the sacrifices she made, or if she's only bitter she's stuck here.


  7. I really like your premise and think you did a great job of establishing your MC's voice in such a short amount of time. I am very intrigued by what these "gifts" are. Great job and good luck!

  8. An interesting premise and a great voice. But I thought the story started in parg 5 with 'I hate this hair.'

    Everything before that is explanation, and you don't need it. Any time you find yourself explaining something for the reader, that's a good sign that what you're writing is totally unnecessary. Your characters live in their own little word. They shouldn't be leaving that world to chat with the reader in her world. Stay within the story.

  9. I liked the opening paragraph. I don't think you need the two question/answers that follow. I'd hop right to the next paragraph (removing "After all" first).

    The use of the "maybe" approach slows me down. I'd state as fact her observations about why she's talking about it now. After all, she does seem to know, in spite of saying "I don't know why I'm chose that moment."

    I'm interested in this story and curious about what happens next.

  10. I think the second line of the logline is a bit too vague to hook me, but the first was strong.
    I really like the voice of the first few paragraphs, but I would get the 2nd person bits back into 1st person as other commenters suggest. I also found it jarring when the dialogue started. Is there a way to give us a sense of setting earlier?
    Other than that, I am really interest in watching the growth of a character like this and would love to see more. Best of luck!

  11. Love how you reveal the MC as she obsesses about the hair. I imagine that's very fitting for a girl who would also obsess about food.

    Great line about how they can't have sharp objects.

    Only picky criticism - repeating 'circle in the second to last paragraph.

    Only suggestion - you could reference the other people in the room in some way. Either with her having a thought about one, one making a comment about something unrelated to the hair issue, or the MC observing someone. Not saying it's necessary but could add some context, i.e., whether she's established any friendships, kept to herself, or if she picks apart the other like she does herself.

    Would definitely read on.

  12. I love how authentic the voice is right from the start. As a reader who doesn't know much about eating disorders, I totally trust that the main characters, and you as an author, are experts. I'm happy to go along for the ride with this character to see what happens next!

  13. Wow, the logline really grabbed me, and so did your intro! Elizabeth has a strong voice that really commanded my attention. I also like that this story deals with what happens after an eating disorder is diagnosed and (hopefully) treated. Many books focus on the before, so it's good to see spotlight on the after.

    My only real quibble here is the ambiguity issue brought up above about Elizabeth's initial state of mind and whether she wants to overcome her anorexia or if she's resistant to recovery. I would put that info up front in any kind of pitch for sure, as it really sets up her central character conflict. And I also think this could be a little more clarified on the first page, as we quickly go from Elizabeth talking about making sacrifices to be beautiful, to her being upset that her "fur" is still growing even though she's eating. These two comments are a tad at odds, so I want to know whether Elizabeth is conflicted about the recovery, all for it, or completely resistant.

    Overall, I am really impressed with this opening and want to know more. Good luck!

  14. I was very drawn in by your work and would absolutely want to read on. I also actually wanted to see you switch the order of the two sentences here: “'I hate this hair.' I’d been at Wallingfield for exactly 21 days when I brought up my fur in group therapy." I felt that it flowed better for me when we stay in the current of her voice. I also wanted to know how much weight she had lost when she chose to be "skinny." Good luck!

  15. Your protagonist's voice is very authentic and compelling; well done. I'm intrigued and would definitely like to read more. Her personality and her tendency to fixate on things is quite clear in this first page. Good luck in the auction!

  16. Hi
    I'm your tweet diva for the contest.
    Good Luck!


  18. CLOSED. Full goes to Carly Webber.

  19. Full.
    Just saying, you're supposed to have 5 bids and THEN the full...