Sunday, June 4, 2017


Question: So in my end paragraph as you'll see that I included comments about the representation that's in my story. And yes, I'm trying to think of a less generic title. But anyways, do you think it's alright to put that there? We need representation in books and I know that many agents and readers are looking for that, so I thought it might be a good idea.

Dear Hungry Query Shark,

All that beautiful and intelligent Tinkerbell wants is to survive, though granted she does it differently than other UnSeelie Fae. Neverland is a fun-filled wonderland, and Tinkerbell has happily spent her centuries luring children there with the help of her brainwashed, broken, and beloved Peter Pan. There children are safe from that nasty outside world full of horrific pain, and can be carefree and always happy. Until the day prior to their thirteenth birthday.

That sound you hear is me screeching with frustration at "beautiful and intelligent." Wait, I hear you saying, what?? How can that be bad??

It's not so much bad as boring.  Compare it to "brainwashed, broken and beloved" or even better "useless, nasty, scum filled" both of which are MUCH more interesting. And I have a real thing about female characters being described by how they look first, rather than what they do. You've escaped the full cauldron of rage with "intelligent" but you're still in the soup cause intelligent really doesn't have much zip.

If Tinkerbell is your main character, you want some zip in her description. You do NOT want boring.

You could actually chop that entire first sentence and be better off.

But now some useless, nasty, scum-filled imaginary friend by the name of Wendy has come along. She thinks Tinkerbell’s Neverland is barbaric, that Peter Pan needs to be saved, that Neverland needs to come crashing down and Tinkerbell must die. So naturally, Tinkerbell wants her gone. But paradise has gotten boring, so she decides upon a game rather than just sending the snivelling little thing to whatever afterlife imaginary friends have.

This is vivid writing. I love it. I'm not sure I completely understand why Wendy hates Neverland, but I don't really care. Right now I'm enticed. That's all you need.

Thus it’s a chess game to keep control over Peter Pan; whoever captures the king’s his mind wins the chess game. If Tinkerbell wins she’ll make sure a fate worse than evisceration awaits her opponent. But if Wendy wins, one way or another Neverland will fall.

It took me a second to realize that Peter Pan and "the king" are the same guy.  You can avoid that by using him, rather than calling Peter Pan by a new designation in the same sentence.

In short form writing like query letters, one trick for clarity is not calling the characters more than one thing.

NEVERLAND is a 61,000 word YA psychological thriller retelling of Peter Pan, and is told from the point of views of both Tinkerbell and Wendy. There are examples of racial diversity as well as LGBTA+ diversity in my manuscript, as I believe diversity in literature is essential. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


As to your question: I think this is a nice concise way to alert agents and editors that your book is inclusive. And yes, editors are telling us they're looking for inclusive books, so it's a good idea to have it there.

I don't hate the title. 

This needs some polishing up, but after that I think it's ready to go out.


Heath Quinn said...

Been following your critiques for eight years or so. Your perceptions cut like a hot knife - cleanly, yet smoothly, and, actually, gently. A joy to read. Thank you.

Daisy Bateman said...

Isn't Peter Pan still under copyright somehow? Not sure of the details, but that would be a bigger issue than a dodgy first sentence.

Steve Stubbs said...

I know enough French to know what "Fae" means, but some of your recipient agents may trip on that word. You can make this more readable by using the English "fairy." Unfortunately, if you want to be "diverse" that word may not be good, either.

You might want to be certain Walt Disney does not have a copyright on Tinkerbell. I know they were trying to get a permanent copyright on Mickey Mouse a few years ago. You can parody or satirize a copyrighted character but there are all sorts of esoteric rules and judges seem to make them up as they go. It's risky. Read some iof the cases and you will see what I mean. MAD magazine got away with a parody of "Mickey Rodent" but a porn maker got hammered for putting a parody of Mickey Mouse in a porn flick.

If you want to play with the title, I can think of all sorts of ways. Consider:


Theresa said...

My first thought was the copyright issue, too. My second thought was how fabulous to have this story told through Tinkerbell's eyes. (Or maybe this was my first thought and copyright second.)

Mister Furkles said...

You might want to change the term 'scum-filled' because it may bring to mind the term 'scum bag' which is not what you mean--I hope.

You must purchase the rights to PP if published in the UK. Check out Neverpedia among other websites.

And I for one, hate with a deep passion anything political in fiction. Maybe others feel differently. Maybe editors love it. It usually reduces reader interest.

Stephanie Cain said...

I can't say for sure, since it was written in England, but in the US, anything published before 1923 is not protected by copyright. Thus Ben-Hur and Uncle Tom's Cabin, for example, are public domain. I would guess Peter Pan isn't copyrighted--but Tinkerbell could be, if she isn't a character in the original novel.

Mora Green said...

I'm sure anyone who reads fantasy, especially YA fantasy, would know what Fae is. It's not my usual cup of noodles, but I'd read the hell out of this. I love the voice.

I got nothing on the copyright, other than vaguely remembering that proceeds from Peter Pan were supposed to go to an orphanage, at least at some point. But I'm also sure you've researched that, having written a novel about it.

Personally, I also side-eye these diversity checklists, but I know YA does them frequently and enthusiastically, so you totally should include it. I do like that you include it in the end, rather than trying to describe your characters by their race/sexuality/whatnot. I have great hopes that in a couple of decades some good change will emerge from this trend, ridiculously overdone as it is now.

Love the query, would read it in a heartbeat!

Frances Elizabeth Schwab said...

points of view not point of views

GrubStLodger said...

(Reposted because I realised I left some bits out).

Peter Pan has a special copyright because the royalties was given in perpetuity to the Great Ormond Street Hospital - this only applies in the UK and can't stop people retelling the story if they hand money over from that country's sales.

Brittany said...

Judging by the absolute flood of Peter Pan retellings on the market right now (I can think of about half a dozen without checking), it's definitely not a copyright issue. I guess my question would be how the representation fits in? There are only three characters in the query and I don't get a queer/POC vibe from any of them. If it's just in secondary and background characters that's fine, but I'm not sure I'd mention it in the query. Agents who are specifically looking for that sort of thing might be disappointed if they've gotten their hopes up and the diversity is only incidental.

Gigi said...

@Daisy, there have been a bunch of Peter Pan retellings (several from the perspective of Captain Hook!), so I don't think this'll be an issue for the OP. It certainly never hurts to check, but she's probably okay.

Unknown said...

Thank you for all your comments on this you guys!! (I'm OP by the way) and @Gigi and @Brittany Constable are right, Peter Pan is under its special copyright where you're good as long as you give some of the money to the Children's Hospital. And @Brittany Constable, Wendy is actually a lesbian and several of the main secondary characters (including Tiger Lily, and she's in an actual Native American tribe rather than being a caricature) are POC along with LGBT+, so agents definitely won't be disappointed. Don't worry there! But it's casual rather than sexuality or race being plot points, and going "Wendy the lesbian" or something of the like would be uncomfortable. And thank you for the compliments @Mora Green, and thanks for your title suggestions @Steven Stubbs, I'm just trying to find any title that fits and isn't so bland. If any of you are interested enough to want to keep an eye on this, my blog is and has info about this as well as my novella that just got published.


ML said...

I find it more than a little disturbing that some find the author's inclusion of diversity to be political. As if the intentional attempt to understand and represent a wider spectrum of humanity, in its myriad iterations and experiences, is somehow partisan and contentious or unbecoming. Instead of, ya know, essential for a writer, i.e. a purported student of the human condition. Yikes.

Kate Halleron said...

The title that popped into my head for this was 'BREAKING NEVERLAND'. Use it if you like it.

I think it sounds very interesting.

Anonymous said...

First of all, fantastic pitch, this sounds amazing. As far as copyright goes, the original novel is okay because it's in public domain. According to the Guardian, you are free to write a book based on Peter Pan without donating anything (it's only if you do a stage play that you HAVE to donate, and even then the requirement is limited to artists in the UK).

As far as diversity goes, it sounds like you know what you're doing. Just make sure you do the research on whichever tribe Tiger Lily belongs to, maybe visit the tribe's website too. The website American Indians In Children's Literature is a good resource.