Sunday, July 26, 2015

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Wheeler Pitch

Name:  Eric Wheeler
Genre:  Middle Grade
Title:  Olivia Boogieman
With a mummy for a mother and a werewolf father, normal eleven-year-old Olivia Boogieman’s classmates think she eats PB&J (pancreas, brain, and jugular) sandwiches for lunch.  Olivia wishes for a normal life but ordinary families do not have a pet dragon in their back yards. 
Oliva gets a taste of what an ordinary family is like when a meddling social worker places her in a foster home citing, monsters should not raise a normal girl.  However, when horrible, vengeful things happen to girls that pick on her, Olivia discovers she is not as average as she thinks. She is a witch.  After Olivia’s parents admit they snatched her away from her witchy birth mother, Olivia flees to her birth land.  There, she finds ogres, trolls, and her birth mother, who wants to destroy any reminder of the child she never wanted.  Now Olivia must harness her new magical powers and fight for her life so she can reunite with the family that truly loves her.   

OLIVIA BOOGIEMAN is a middle grade urban fantasy novel complete at 36,000 words.


  1. Nice play on PB&J.

    I think you've done a nice job of A) condensing your story into a short query and B) touching on both the plot arc and Olivia's character arc.

    There's something about this line 'Olivia wishes for a normal life but ordinary families do not have a pet dragon in their backyard' that's getting me (besides the fact that back yards should be backyards). I may be nitpicking, but I think what it is is that you say 'Olivia wishes for a normal life' BUT 'ordinary families do not have...' and the second clause does not contradict the first one. The fact that ordinary families don't have a pet dragon in their backyards doesn't mean Olivia can't wish for a normal life.

    Perhaps rephrase to something like: Olivia wishes for a normal life, but the pet dragon in their backyard is a stark reminder she'll never have it.

    'foster home citing, monsters should' -- the comma should go after 'home'

    How does Olivia feel about being taken from her family and placed in the foster home? I get mixed vibes. You say 'meddling' which suggests she's not okay with it, and you get 'a taste of what an ordinary family is like' which is something she's always wanted, which makes it seem like a good thing.

    Is her birth land in the real world? Through a portal of some sort? You could say something like 'to her birth land, hidden in the Amazon rain forest' haha something like that.

    Because Olivia is the only character named, I think you could give the birth mother's name if you wanted to avoid calling her 'her birth mother' through the rest of the query.

    Overall, great job!

  2. This pitch does a good job at summarizing what happens in the book, but it is missing the character's struggle. It sounds like this struggle is to achieve a normal life, but then nothing below seems to work towards that. Also, as written, it sounds like the story really starts when she goes to look for her birth mother.

    I'd suggest you try to hone in on what she is trying to achieve here (in her outer arc) and then weave in how this fulfils the inner one. The need for family and acceptance is very important, but the conflict is more likely driven but what she is trying to achieve on the outside.

    Good luck!

  3. Cute opening sentence. I too like the spin on PB&J. As for the pet dragon part, what about, “Olivia wishes for a normal life and a normal family. One that
    doesn’t have a pet dragon in the backyard.”

    Consider breaking up the next paragraph into two to add some white space to the large chunk of text.

    I agree that the description of the social worker as “meddling” sends mixed vibes. If Olivia is getting her chance at a normal family, wouldn’t the social worker be her savior?

    However, once she gets a taste of a normal family, what then? Does she realize that’s not what she wants after all? Does she want her monster family back?
    Does she want to be reunited with her witch birth mother? Why does she decide to flee to her birth land? Establish her goal here.

    If she’s living with a normal family, how is it her monster family tells her about her birth mother? Does Olivia get to visit her monster family? Do they take her back?

    Overall, I think you’ve got some great lines in your query and I am still a big fan of your story. Just work on establishing Olivia’s goal and the stakes if she doesn’t achieve her goal.

  4. Hi Eric - you've already been given a lot of great advice here! The PB&J line is great. Much of the rest reads like a summary, and is not enticing enough. Melanie and Holly are exactly like - its the stakes and conflict you want to emphasize. It's a bit like the wizard of oz - she realizes that there is no place like home - which is great, but its the wonderful and terrifying things that happen on the way from home and then back again that grip us. So amp up those stakes and excitement and you'll be on the right path!

  5. You’ve been given some great advice already. Writing pitch paragraphs is difficult for me. I’ve read books and taken classes on the subject and it still remains elusive. But four major elements seem to be: Pertinent world building information, catalyst/inciting incident, stakes/conflict, and providing details about your main character.

    So, in light of the great comments you’ve already received, judging by the above criteria, and comparing your pitch to your first five pages, I’ll see what I can add:

    You’ve given us a glimpse into Olivia’s “normal” life, so we’re getting to know her a bit. (But I think I’d only use the word normal once in the first paragraph. You could use “typical” in the second sentence.)

    I think the catalyst is Olivia getting put into foster care by the tattletale’s mother. That definitely relates to the first five pages, as does her non-normal family and her feeling like an outsider. I got the same feel for her inner conflict in the first five pages and in these two paragraphs.

    I’m not sure about using the words horrible and vengeful. You want people to root for Olivia, so many softer words might be better?

    I’m guessing the story builds to the battle with her birth mom? Does she have to save her homeland by freeing them from the witch’s power?

    “However, when horrible, vengeful things happen to girls that pick on her, Olivia discovers she is not as average as she thinks. She is a witch. After Olivia’s parents admit they snatched her away from her witchy birth mother... “ I wonder if you could condense it a bit: However, when strange things happen to girls who pick on her, Olivia discovers she’s not as average as she thinks. Her parents rescued (maybe something that doesn’t imply kidnapped?) her away from her witch birth mother…

    You've got some great stuff here!

  6. Hi Eric,

    So I’m a little late to the game here, which means I agree with all of the above comments. Instead of reiterating everything they’ve said, I’ll just emphasize a couple points.

    One: LOVE the PB&J line—so cute!

    Two: When reworking your query, make sure you answer these questions:

    1) Who is your protagonist? (Olivia—you’ve done this. *high-five*)
    2) What is Olivia’s goal? (Right now, I’m not sure)
    3) What is standing between Olivia and her goal? (Unclear, because we don’t know what her goal is. I’m guessing it’ll be her birth mom, though.)
    4) What will happen if Olivia doesn’t achieve her goal? What does she have to lose? (That is, what are the stakes?)

    Finally, a few minor points: I’d recommend you use more conjunctions (can’t, don’t, won’t, she’s, etc.) to make the voice sound a little younger, rather than (“she is” “do not” etc.). And for the sake of parallelism, I’d make your first line “With a mummy mother and a werewolf father...” OR “With a mummy for a mother and a werewolf for a father…” Personally, I prefer the former because it’s not as wordy, but up to you.

    I hope this helps! I think your story sounds really fun and I wish you all the best!

  7. Eric,

    My first concern is the line but normal families don’t have a pet dragon in their backyards. I’m thinking ordinary families don’t have mummies etc. either. I go with something like: and ordinary families have dogs as pets. PB&J sandwich is good.

    Olivia discovers she a witch because horrible and vengeful things happen to girls who pick on her concerns me. Horrible and vengeful things conjure up for me horrible things like bludgeoning or stabbing. I think I would rephrase that to something like: when freakish things happen to girls who pick on her.

    I’m happy she realizes this family truly loves her and she wants to return to them.

    Oh I do agree with all the above comments. I wanted to add those that stood out to me. Good luck


  8. Everything's basically been said here, but I'm wondering if the dragons in the backyard line could have normal switched out with a more specific "non-paranormal" families (or whatever word you use to describe their kind in your book), because the normal here isn't humans, the normal is mummies, werewolves, shifters, etc. That signals the twist in perception a little more clearly.