Two 12/year-olds are press-ganged into being the protagonists of an unfinished fantasy novel: one to be the hero, one to die. #PitProm
I am seeking representation for my metafictional middle grade fantasy novel, TITLE PENDING, which is complete at approximately 84,000 words.
Twelve-year-old Main Character and Dead Boy forgot their real names when they were summoned to be the protagonists for an unfinished fantasy novel. Scared and confused by this new world where everyone is named after their role in the story, they just want to go home. Except that's not possible, not until they defeat Villain and the plot is finished. At least, that's what Traitor Figure tells them, and who knows if he's trustworthy or not.
But when Villain unexpectedly abandons his invasion of The Good Kingdom and sends the rising action downhill, the kingdom is thrown into a panic. Without a good antagonist they can't make a plot worth reading, and their world will fade away into the obscure nothingness that awaits all forgotten stories. So our young heroes‒‒along with a disturbingly ladylike Feisty Princess, a Mentor Figure with a false beard, and several other supposedly 'traditional' characters‒‒are sent off on a quest to find Villain and fix the rapidly unraveling plot.
Readers who enjoy the satirical comedy of BROODING YA HERO: BECOMING A MAIN CHARACTER (ALMOST) AS AWESOME AS ME and the fantastical world and narrative style of THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING will appreciate the much shorter title of TITLE PENDING and probably the contents within as well.
As for myself, I am a Philadelphia native with a B.A. in English Writing from Wheaton College. A few my short stories have been published in literary magazines such as Sun & Sandstone and Kodon. Thank you for your time and consideration.
First Ten Pages:
In which something sinister, violent, and vaguely supernatural happens as part
of the book's hook, which compels you to read the rest of the actual novel.
Plot Hook woke up that morning, as always, with a vague sense of dread. However, this was perfectly natural when the ultimate purpose of your life was to die in some nasty, horrible way, so the dwarf didn't think much of it.
He got out of his cot and shrugged on the dented steel breastplate and greaves that composed the entirety of the uniform he'd been issued before being packed off to the lonely watchtower at the edge of the Dark And Scary Forest. Plot Hook didn't mind being alone. He'd been allowed to bring his personal book collection with him, and the solitude provided him time to read. Even so, when he'd heaved the enormous trunk onto the boar-cart, his mother had shaken her head sadly, sure that all those expensive books would be lost or destroyed in the inevitable carnage. Nobody knew exactly how the dwarf was going to die, but everyone was sure that it would be fittingly shocking, and that meant violence on a grand scale.
Yawning, Plot Hook walked down the steps from the loft where he slept and made himself a pot of coffee. The room below his loft was a simple kitchen with a small table and only one chair. Plot Hook never got any visitors. Once the coffee was brewed, he poured the entire pot into a mug the size of a flower vase, along with two sizable dollops of cream and a single teaspoon of sugar. He checked to see that the thermal enchantment on the mug was still working. The last time the enchantment had given out the coffee had grown cold within an hour, spoiling both the coffee and Plot Hook's entire day. But there was nothing to worry about today. The enchantment was still running hot.
Plot Hook tucked his book under his arm and, mug in hand, made his way up the winding staircase, past his loft and up to his post at the top of the tower. The building where Plot Hook lived and worked was small by watchtower standards, just a rough stone column thirty-five feet high and twenty feet around. But when the dwarf opened the trapdoor and stepped out onto the viewing platform, he had a clear 360-degree view for miles around, both of the Dark And Scary Forest in front of him and the Peaceful Buffer Zone at his back.
Plot Hook settled into the armchair in the center of the otherwise empty roof. The military-issue canopy, complete with the latest in anti-weather enchantments, kept the normally chilly air quite cozy and snug, something for which he was constantly grateful. He swiveled his chair so it faced the forest, away from the rising sun, and opened his book to where he'd left off last night. Nothing ever happened in the buffer zone, just rabbits frisking, birds singing, that sort of thing.
Nothing much happened in the forest either, for that matter. Although there was occasional roar of a troll, and at night the wolves could make quite a racket howling at the moon. But all in all, Plot Hook's life at the watchtower was as peaceful and relaxed as the day he'd arrived over a year ago.
However, like all forms of earthly peace, this one was only temporary. As the yellow rim of the sun crept out from the underside of the earth, Plot Hook spied something over the pages of his book. It didn't look like much, only a black dot in the distance. At first the dwarf wasn't even sure it was there at all; it could have just been a trick of his imagination. But the more he stared, the more he was convinced that this was no trick of the eyes. He watched the speck for some time, the seconds turning into minutes, the minutes chugging along into hours. It was definitely growing larger. Occasionally he would try to resume his reading, but his eyes skimmed over the written lines without actually absorbing their meaning. So eventually he gave up and watched his doom approach.
At first Plot Hook thought it might be a dragon. A dragon would certainly qualify as a kingdom-destroying disaster. But as it drew closer, he saw that it was flying far too slowly to be a dragon. Moreover, it didn't have wings. It actually looked more like a lump of coal. Plot Hook realized that he was annoyed. This was taking a really long time, and he couldn't even get a proper look at whatever this thing was. He didn't have a field glass, though it seemed obvious in retrospect that he should have been given one. As it was, he just had to content himself with squinting and waiting.
After another hour had passed Plot Hook decided he had the shape of it. It was a giant floating Evil Lair. The approaching object looked like a castle hewn out of a single black rock the size of a small mountain. And as if the ominous black coloring wasn't enough to give it away, Plot Hook could now see the outlines of several pointy towers. The dwarf figured it was about time he made his report, so he reached under his chair and pulled out a small wooden box. He pressed his thumb against the side of the box, which sprang open at his touch, revealing a small crystal orb. Plot Hook took the orb out of the box and held it to his lips.
"This is Guard Whose Death Is The Signal Bad Things Have Started to Happen And The Plot Has Begun." Considering the gravity of the situation, the dwarf had decided to use his proper name instead his less formal nickname. A few seconds later there was a crackling noise from the orb, and a small voice, echoic and distorted like someone speaking from inside of a church bell, answered.
"We hear you, Plot Hook. What's the situation?"
"It looks like today's the day," Plot Hook said. "I've got a visual on a giant floating castle. Never seen anything like it before. Looks like an Evil Lair if you ask me. At its current speed, I'd say you've got perhaps ten days before it reaches the castle."
"Any hostile activity?" The voice, distorted though it was, still sounded disturbingly eager to Plot Hook.
"Nothing yet. But if I haven't checked back in with you in an hour, assume the worst."
"Will do!" The orb fell silent.
Plot Hook set the communication crystal down and looked back to where the Evil Lair loomed. It was close now, less than a mile. For a moment Plot Hook considered running. If he ran down the stairs and legged it across the Buffer Zone he could probably find shelter somewhere before the Lair reached him. Nothing that big would land just to search for one measly dwarf. And besides, he'd done his official job. He'd warned the kingdom.
Yet Guard Whose Death Is The Signal Bad Things Have Started To Happen And The Plot Has Begun hesitated. If he didn't live up to his name, then what was his purpose? He glanced at the book in his hand, only thirty pages left. Surely his death could wait until after that?
But when he stood up, and something caught his eye. Now that the Lair was close enough, Plot Hook could see what looked like a half-dozen polished tree trunks protruding from niches in the stone walls. It was such an odd sight that, despite the imminent danger, Plot Hook stopped in his tracks to take a closer look.
The bolt of olive lightning that hit the tower was almost as big as the tower itself. There was a boom of thunder that set the creatures in the Dark And Scary Forest to howling in fear. The Evil Lair passed over the smoking crater where Plot Hook's tower had once stood and glided steadily on towards the defenseless Kingdom With A Name That Is Just A Random Series Of Syllables That The Author Thought Sounded Cool.
In which the main characters are introduced and characterized, followed by something dramatic and unusual, and you decide whether or not you want to keep reading this book.
In the grand tradition of these things, this particular story begins Once Upon A Time. As for the location, it began in Vaguely Midwestern Small Town in the USA. It was Friday in late May, and even in the early morning the spring day was showing summer tendencies. It was the kind of day that sweats sunshine and pants a hot breeze thick with the scent of newly blossomed flowers.
Our protagonists were walking to School Named After Some Long-Dead White Guy. Before the plot starts back up, a brief description of the heroes is warranted. The one on the right is Main Character. You can tell because he's taller. (That's not the name he goes by right now, but to keep things from getting confusing later on, we'll stick with calling him Main Character from the beginning). He's a decent-looking kid, just enough to be admired but not enough to alienate him from the reader. Perhaps a little too skinny, but that's normal for a seventh grader. He's got tousled, sandy hair and soft, blue eyes. Fate has decreed him to be a hero, though he doesn't know it yet.
The boy beside him is shorter and a little out of shape. He's baseball player fat, like Babe Ruth. We'll get to his name later. (It's awkward, but it's only until chapter 2, so bear with it). He's got thick, black hair, the kind that never really needs combing, and brown eyes so dark they may as well be black; these eyes are hidden behind a set of square-rimmed glasses. He's very funny. He's also fated to die before the end of this book.
The boys arrived at school fifteen minutes before the bell rang, just enough time to weave their way through the crowd, hit up their lockers, and settle into their usual seats in homeroom. Or it would have been.
"Hey, dweebs!" The postpubescent boom of Generic Bully's voice parted the crowd of children like an Old Testament miracle, leaving Main Character and his friend in direct line of sight.
(Of course his parents were not quite horrible enough to name their child Generic Bully. But that is what he is. So, that is what we shall call him until the Author does enough research into baby names to pick one. Now, back to our tale).
Main Character groaned aloud, cursing their bad luck. Usually their tormenter was late to school, but today it appeared he'd been waiting for them. Generic Bully was a large boy, with stooped shoulders and a potbelly already starting to bulge from underneath his shirt. He marched toward the pair, palm extended.
"Where's your lunch money?"
In silent response, the boys held up their bagged lunches.
Bully frowned, as if he found the idea of bringing a lunch from home personally offensive. "Okay then, hand it over. Not you!" He glared at Main Character. "Your mom's a terrible cook. You, what do you have?"
The dark-haired boy glanced inside his bag. "Sorry," he said, an edge of defiance in his voice, "just pig's feet today. Ow!" He rubbed his shoulder where Bully had punched it. "Fine. Egg rolls, cheesy potatoes, and oxtail soup. Oh, and a Capri Sun," he added, somewhat wistfully.
Main Character seethed as his friend's lunch was placed reluctantly in the bigger boy's hand.
Generic Bully opened the bag and inhaled like an addict breathing in paint fumes. "Smells delicious. See ya later, dorks."
As Bully turned away, Main Character took an unconscious step forward, paper bag clenched in his fist like a weapon. But at the last moment he came to his senses and stopped. "You know," he muttered as Bully vanished in the crowd. "One day I might just kick him in the nuts. That'd show him."
His friend patted him on the shoulder. "We both know that wouldn't end well. Besides, he'll be heading off to high school next year. Let's just keep our heads down and stay out of his way until then."
Main Character shook his head. "That's not good enough. What he's doing is wrong."
His bespectacled companion just shrugged. "Well, until you decide to grow a bigger spine and fight him, or lose what little you have and tattle, you're in the same boat as the rest of us."
Ms. English Teacher's class was the last period at the end of a very long day. Finals started next Wednesday, and the kids were beginning to feel the anxiety that comes with all big tests. Aware of this, Ms. English Teacher had set aside the last twenty minutes of class for any review questions the students might have.
Main Character sat in his chair by the window, wishing that she had just let them leave early instead. The sun was bathing the world in white-gold light. A breeze stirred the emerald leaves so that Main Character swore he could hear them rustling through the thick glass of the window. He sighed. He wanted to feel the sun on his skin. Instead there was only the nasal intonations of Teacher's Pet.
"Excuse me, teacher, but could we go over Freytag's Pyramid again?"
Ms. English Teacher smiled. "Of course we can." She took up a piece of chalk and quickly sketched a design on the board and labeled several points.
Teacher's pet continued to talk as Ms. English Teacher's chalk scrapped along the board. "So, I know exposition is the part where the author sets up the story for the audience." But what about stories that aren't told chronologically?"
Main Character stopped listening. They'd already gone over this stuff a long time ago, multiple times. She was just trying to suck up to the teacher by asking questions that made her look smart. The questions she was asking definitely wouldn't come up on the final. He looked over at his friend, who was making a great show of paying attention while actually doodling a Chinese dragon in the margins of his notebook.
The hefty boy noticed his look, and an unspoken message passed between them. He adjusted his glasses and looked around the room. It didn't take him long to notice Nervous Classmate Number Eight. Nervous was staring dejectedly at his notebook, mechanical pencil tilted in his limp hand, the picture of resignation. He'd asked so many questions this year that Ms. English Teacher had started passing over his upraised hand in favor of other, faster students.
The dark-haired boy tilted his head ever so slightly in Nervous' direction. Main Character nodded, and during the next lull in the lecture, he raised his hand.
"Could we go over the difference between colons and semicolons again?"
Everyone groaned. Except for Nervous, who looked unabashedly relieved. He'd been confused by colons and semicolons ever since Ms. English Teacher had gone over them in February.
This was a game Main Character and his friend liked to play. Whenever Teacher's Pet got carried away with asking useless questions, Main Character would ask about a subject another student was struggling with. It wasn't a very exciting game, but it helped to pass the time before the final bell.
Generic Bully was waiting for them by the front door after school ended.
"Thanks for the lunch, doofus." He tossed the paper bag back to its original owner, who caught it against his chest and looked inside. It was empty except for some dirty containers. "Make sure you get those back to your mom now," Bully said with a deep guffaw. "Wouldn't want her asking any questions about her missing Tupperware. See ya Monday." And he walked away with a bounce in his step that belied his heavy body.
The boys watched Bully leave with dull, sullen eyes. Then they turned and walked down the front steps toward home. Birds were singing, the sun was shining, and all around them their classmates were chatting about their weekend plans. Several of them waved, mostly Main Character's friends from the baseball team. The boys barely noticed. Bully had put them both in a foul mood.
"What a tool." Main Character looked around angrily. His gaze settled on a tuft of grass growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. He destroyed it with a single savage kick. It didn't help much. The feeling of helplessness he'd felt in front of Bully still clung to him like a foul second skin.
His friend watched as the green stems flew up into the air then drifted down to the concrete. "Forget about it. How about we just head back to my place and get something to eat?"
Main Character agreed, but he couldn't resist pointing out that he had offered to share his own lunch.
His friend wrinkled his face in disgust. "I'd rather starve."
Main Character winced. "She's not that bad of a cook."
"She made you tuna casserole with raisins and Cheetos. Come on, let's cut through the woods to my house. I'm hungry."
The Grove Named For A Local Folktale stood between the cul-de-sac where the boys lived and school. Legend had it that twenty years ago some students had tried to cut through the woods after vandalizing the school and were never heard from again. Like most folktales, it was utter nonsense, disguising a different kind of danger. But the boys did not know about the danger, because it was disguised. As often as not, they avoided the grove, not because of any story, but because it was filled with insects and undergrowth that made for an uncomfortable journey. But it did cut their walk from twenty minutes to ten, and they were eager to get home.
There were three things one noticed when entering the Grove Named For A Local Folktale. First, the light faded, as if God had turned down the sun's dimmer switch. The second was the smell. There was no trace of hot asphalt or gasoline in the air of the grove. Instead the rustling breeze carried with it the earthy scent of mulch and the lighter aroma of new leaves. And lastly, so subtle that it almost went unnoticed, there was the absence of outside noise. It was as if the trees absorbed the sound of cars and pedestrians. All of these things combined to turn any trip through the grove into a surreal experience. Even though the boys knew that civilization was just a few hundred yards away; it was as if they had stepped into another world.
Which perhaps explains why it took them a few minutes to realize that was exactly what they had done.
Welcome to the final round of pitches!
Agents and Publishers,