Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Query Kombat Round 2: GG: Found Family vs #SexEd

Title: EXP

Entry Nickname: GG: Found Family

Word count: 52K

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary (#OwnVoices)


Fourteen-year-old Sai is one of the highest-ranked gamers on the Shadows of Shinobi circuit…but he can't go out in public without having a meltdown.

As a teenager with Autism, Sai battles crippling anxiety and underdeveloped social skills. But when Team Komodo asks him to become the reserve player on their semi-professional eSports team, those social skills are put to the test as he turns online acquaintances into real-life friends.

Thankfully, each member of Team Komodo is just as much of a fringe-dweller as Sai. They include a transgender jack-of-all-trades, a dating sim addict, a hyperactive community college dropout, a fake psychic and a thorny military reject. To earn his keep, Sai begins analyzing the team’s competition to increase their chances of winning. But as the team climbs to higher divisions, they’ll have to face stronger opponents.

Every member of the team knows that they can't afford to let their internal struggles get in the way of victory as they brave a grueling series of tournaments. If they win, Sai and his teammates inch closer to breaking into the pro scene. If they lose, it’s back to social isolation and working dead end jobs. The team will have to beat both their opponents and neuroses in order to keep the family together and make their dreams a reality.

EXP is a Contemporary YA novel complete at 52,000 words. This “found family story in an eSports setting” features neurodiverse characters, LGBTQ+ characters, as well as characters of color and is #OwnVoices for all three categories.

First 250:

A dim, somber candle wavered in the summer heat, illuminating all Psy needed to know about his new employer. The low-level crime lord in his dirty brown robe gave an almost toothless yellow grin that looked orange by the light of the candle. The wood on the sliding doors rotted with mildew. Psy could smell the high definition of the effect. In this new expansion, Meiji truly outdid itself with adding in more sensory details to gameplay. It was hard to believe that this alternate version of Tokugawa Japan was constructed from ones and zeroes.

Psy fingered the sickle and chain holstered at his hip that his real self had tied to hot keys. In the world of SoS, he was a competent ninja and master poison maker. For a few hours, he could forget about the cold oatmeal and empty friends list he had waiting for him in the real world.

The candlelight reflected on the faces of Psy’s randomized teammates, the ones who would be completing this NPC slimeball’s mission for him. In addition to a Sumo and Assassin, there was a master and apprentice Monk duo. Psy narrowed his eyes as he thought of all of the times the master could legally switch out with the apprentice in order to train him. Did they have to keep summoning and sealing the same spirit over and over? He turned up his nose as the greenest envy washed over him when he imagined the apprentice learning everything his master knew while he was all alone.


Title: Deafinitely

Entry Nickname: #SexEd

Word count: 79K

Genre: YA Contemporary (#own #dis #rehabilitated #WOC)


Lia Rossi plans on making the most of her junior year. Like, hello? She’s the new Social Coordinator, and her first order of business is advocating a Sex Ed program—for the Special Ed class.

This sounds sketchy coming from the town it-girl (read: party girl), but she really thinks anyone who wants safe, satisfying sex should be able to learn about it. Just as people start taking her seriously, the new girl in town, Fallyn, flat-out ignores Lia’s warm welcome into the student body. So Lia publicly humiliates her, like any sensible person at the top of the social ladder would. The only problem is, Fallyn’s Deaf, not rude.

Now, half the school, including the deaf and disabled students, are questioning whether Lia’s too shallow and ignorant to be anyone’s advocate. If she truly wants to be taken seriously—and if she truly wants to help fight a battle that’s not her own—Lia must do more than cross social divides. She must let the Special Ed students lead the way towards a sex and self revelation. No, scratch that. A revolution.

But if they fail, they will all reinforce the negative stereotypes society has placed on them.

DEAFINITELY has the air of Emma (Jane Austen), the activism of Moxie (Jennifer Mathieu), and the awareness of A Silent Voice (Naoko Yamada and Reiko Yoshida).

First 251:

I’m in the center of the Student Council office. Like, literally standing before President Brooke and Secretary Emilio. They look me over as if picking me apart, searching for any flaw they can and will find. Especially Brooke.

“Let’s cut the crap, shall we?” she says. “You want to get on the Council and you’re using the Special Ed class to get there. That’s new, I’ll give you that, but—” She narrows her eyes. “You’re a silver-spoon slacker. Good ideas, but no real execution.”

I gasp, blinking hard. I mean, damn. That’s no way to talk to her future Social Coordinator. An angry blush prickles my cheeks, and unlike Emilio, my skin’s not warm enough to cover it.

But I can’t snap on them.

Under no circumstances can I blow this interview. Not only do I need the Council’s resources for my Sex Ed campaign (#prioritiesONpoint), but I can’t go home with bad news. I haven’t mastered the art of crying beautifully yet, so no way is that an option.

I raise a perfectly arched eyebrow. “I don’t know about you, but sex will never get boring for me. This isn’t some little high school project. This is life, and love, and sex.

“For people with disabilities,” Emilio says, feeling the need to point out the obvious. He’s reviewing my proposal sheet and running his knuckle against his bottom lip, back and forth, back and forth, back. And. Forth. “Your proposal looks good, but I’m curious. Why do you care?”


  1. JUDGES ONLY: Please reply to this comment with your feedback and match decision. Thank you!

    1. Congrats on making it to round two of QK!

      GG: Found Family

      This is a great query. I think you do a wonderful job of introducing the cast without adding names to the mix, giving us the sense of what to expect from the story without confusion. Really great. Super nitpicky, but it should be dead-end for “dead end jobs” since it’s a compound adjective. The only other thing I keep wondering about is his role as a “reserve player.” If becoming a full-time member isn’t part of the stakes, I’d almost leave it out and just have Sai join the team. After that moment, I kept expecting the transition from reserve to full-time to be part of the driving force for the stakes. I’d also consider cutting “make their dreams a reality” as it’s a tad cliche and I think the weight of overcoming their neuroses to keep the family together is a stronger ending.

      You have two references to the candle in the first two sentences, so I’d cut one. (And technically a third in the third paragraph, but that’s far enough down that it didn’t immediately cause me to pause.) As a former raid leader for WoW and a lover of video games, I can totally picture this. The different classes, the descriptors — everything. Really nice work. I also like how you layer in the juxtaposition between what’s happening in the game and how it relates to him in the real world. Props!


      Is “Deaf” in “Fallyn’s Deaf” intentionally capitalized? I tripped over that part in the query. I’m not sure what the reference is (if it is intentional), so maybe consider cutting it.

      The voice in this is palpable, but I’m a little fuzzy on what the stakes actually are. I’m hoping it’s more than Lia’s integrity. Why is she so focused on doing this? Why is this so important to her, and what will happen if she fails? What happens if she succeeds? I’m not understanding how failing to promote safe sex will reinforce negative stereotypes associated with disabled students. I’m super for her advocating this cause, but I think understanding her motivation more will help heighten the stakes.

      The voice from the query translates perfectly in the 250. Well done. I don’t have much to say about this, other than I’m intrigued. You soundly ground us in her perspective almost immediately while delivering a dynamic on the council that I can see playing out well throughout the pages — nice work!

      Jeeeeezzz this one is difficult. I feel like one entry has such a solid and complete voice, but I’m a bit fuzzy on the stakes. The other just speaks to my heart as a gamer and has really firm stakes.


    2. GG: Found Family
      Query: Great premise and fascinating story. There is a lot of merit in your query. The one thing that struck me as off was the last line: “The team will have to beat both their opponents and neuroses in order to keep the family together and make their dreams a reality.” Since you say that all team members will have to beat their neuroses, it makes it sound as though being transgender is a neurosis. While I assume that is not what you intended, it is possible that some agents might have that impression.

      First 250:
      I love how you draw the reader into the alternate world from the get-go. It feels slightly off though, because it isn’t clear whether this is a virtual reality or if Sai is staring at a computer/TV screen and using a controller. Since you describe Sai’s actions in the game along with his thoughts/actions in real life, I think that it would help to clarify some things to avoid confusion.

      Query: Good, concise query with the stakes and issues clearly defined. Although this book is #ownvoices, its query strikes me as slightly problematic. Lia comes across slightly like a white knight, and as I was reading the query, I couldn’t help but wonder why this story is being told from her POV? The impression I got of Lia is that she is trying to fluff up her resume, and that she does not have any significant reason for wanting a Sex Ed program for the Special Ed class.

      First 250:
      I love how you carry over Lia’s voice from the query into the first 250 words. My one issue with this page is that Lia comes across as unsympathetic both in her attitude and in the cause she is trying to advocate for. I can’t help but feel like by trying to advocate for a Sex Ed program, she is saying that the students in Special Ed are unable to understand sex or consent without her guidance.



      I really love your concept! Your query is solid and clearly explains external and internal conflict and how they come together. I love your first 250, too, though I wonder if non-gamers would be a bit lost. I wonder if there’s a way to break up/explain just a tad more the gaming terminology?? Not sure on this!

      SEX ED:

      So, I can’t get past that the MC is the one telling this story and is not Special Ed. and that she has no personal reason for this quest. If she was trying to help a sibling or had a personal interest, it would be easier for me to become invested. Others may feel differently. This is my subjective take, and the first 250 don't help me feel differently. Maybe if there was a SAVE THE CAT approach where we see Lia doing something that makes her likeable I'd think differently, but when it starts with other people doubting her intentions and her not dispelling them, it's hard to come back from. Maybe add some character interiority that would give us a glimpse into her Why sooner?

      Victory to FOUND FAMILY!

    4. GG: Found Family: I was a little concerned about word count for this genre and almost expected a unique format but found myself really enjoying the manuscript. The query is really well written, and I think you have a solid handle on the stakes sentence especially, which is great for hooking that editor or agent. The voice and foreshadowing in these words are on point and I’d love to read more. Well done!

      #sexEd: All. The. Voice! Seriously love the premise here with a twist in having Lia be the potential mean girl and confronting her own prejudice. Your stakes line is spot on. The visuals and voice in the first 250 words is breathtaking and beautiful. You’ve really captured your main character and made the reader want to know more, even if we’re not sure we like her yet. Great detail and dialog make this feel really authentic. The only critique I really have is the third sentence is a little awkward, so maybe change it by removing “look me over as if” and just leave it as “They pick me apart, searching…” Overall, a great job!

      Such a difficult choice because these both deserve some professional love, but VICTORY goes to #SexEd.

      ~Red Ink Slinger

    5. GG: Found Family
      Your query shows a great concept with compelling stakes, but I’d like to see more specifics of the plot. The characters are in a series of tournaments, but are they working toward one tournament that’s more important than the others? Your query just feels too comprehensive.
      Your first 250 make it seem like this is a virtual reality game. If so, cool, but I didn’t get a sense of that from the query. The imagery is lovely. I like small details like cold oatmeal, and I immediately understand a little about how Psy views the world inside the game in comparison to real life.


      I really, really like this concept. Your query is good. I can’t think of any suggestions for it.
      In your first 250, “literally” is used in a weird way. I’m not extremely passionate about the misuse of that word, and I know it isn’t being misused here, but it doesn’t make the sentence any more impressive. “Searching for any flaw they can and will find” should be “searching for any flaw they can find”. I suggest making that sentence more dramatic. Why are they searching for a flaw? How does that make Lia feel? The sentence “That’s no way to talk to her future Social Coordinator” doesn’t make sense, because it seems like that’s exactly the job Lia is trying to get. So she won’t even be the social coordinator if she doesn’t impress Brooke. If Brooke’s talking to her like that, it’s because she’s not impressed. Lia in no way has the upper hand here. I could be misunderstanding the scene, but if she really does need to impress Brooke, this bit of hubris is based in a logical fallacy. Plus, I want to know why Lia is hurt by this: because it’s false, or because, on some level, she thinks it’s true. (I find those are the main reasons to get mad when someone says something bad about you.) You don’t have to tell us whether she thinks it’s true or false. This can be hinted through her actions. Ex: crossing her arms in a defensive stance vs. widening her eyes in shock. Then, why would Lia call her own eyebrow “perfectly arched”? If this is only here to establish Lia’s ego, I’d keep it. If not, cut it out.

      “Unlike Emilio, my skin’s not warm enough to cover it.” Does she mean brown enough/dark enough?
      The crying bit strikes me as strange logic, too; she doesn’t want bad news because she doesn’t want to cry, but doesn’t that make the news itself a bigger deal than the crying? The phrasing here makes it seem like refraining from tears is another goal by itself. “I can’t be sad, because then I would be sad.” Is Lia joking when she says #prioritiesONpoint, as in, her priorities are actually not on point? If that’s the case, I’d suggest putting that hashtag after the part about crying beautifully, since that’s more likely to be viewed as a weird and off-topic priority than the actual goal toward which she is working. That is, unless she means that she should be more focused on the Social Coordinator position itself than on that specific project. That whole paragraph is a good opportunity to give us a picture of Lia’s motivations on a deeper level.
      The MC very clearly states her goal to the audience on this page, but who she is as a character is not established enough for me to care yet.
      If Lia is an unlikeable protagonist, I’d be careful. I think it’s fine and sometimes really cool for protagonists to be unlikeable; we just need to be able to root for them. Based on your query, I think your MC will be just fine in this light. Her cause is good, so the reader will be able to root for her. I just hope that in the next few pages, we get more of a sense of who she is. Since the query implies that pride is a flaw of hers, I like that you’ve done a good job of establishing that from the beginning. Let us know a little bit more about her deeper motives—not just what she wants, but why. The potential is definitely there.
      Best wishes to both authors! This is a tough choice, and both of these are stories I’d like to read.

    6. GG: Found Family


      This is a nicely written query. The flow is clear, and I love how you introduced the cast without naming names (I always find having too many names in a query confusing). You might want to find a different word to “neuroses,” because using it makes it seem like being transgender is a neurosis, when it’s not. I know that’s not your intention, but it can easily be construed that way.

      First 250:

      I love how you interspersed the virtual world with Psy’s real world. You describe things well—though you might want to revisit the first paragraph, particularly its second sentence. There are just way too many descriptive words on this one.



      Love the voice on this one, but I am a bit concerned about Lia’s role. Is she also IN the Special Ed class? If she is, you need to be clear about it because it might give the impression of an abled popular girl “saving” disabled kids, like, they need Lia to advocate for them because they can’t do it on their own. WHY is she advocating a Sex Ed program for the Special Ed class? What is her motivation? You need to be clear on your stakes, and show us clearly that the special ed class won’t just be a “learning tool” for Lia.

      Here’s the thing, if I didn’t read “#own #dis #rehabilitated #WOC” in the genre section, I would immediately peg this as a problematic premise. Perhaps you can incorporate the “rehabilitated” aspect in your query? Remember, not all agents will understand those hashtags. They might think that Lia IS just a shallow girl, and not see that there might be more to her than that.

      First 250:

      You really have a great grasp of your writing voice. Lia is definitely an interesting anti-hero. I’m curious where this journey is going to lead her, but I still do wonder WHY it has to be the Special Ed class. I’m giving Lia the benefit of the doubt, but you need to imply somewhere that there is more to her motivation than what we’re currently seeing.

      Okay, this is a hard one. I’m really torn between these two, and this is totally a subjective vote, but I’ll have to give VICTORY to #SEXED.

    7. I'm having internet problems, so I will post a comment with feedback later.

  2. GG: Found Family

    As a gamer, I like this look at competitive gaming and gaming culture. It's a strange place with lots of spots of darkness and light, and the concept grabs me. Only issue I have is the stakes. "If they win" sounds like it's a single win required instead of a series of wins. I know it's to pair with the "if they lose" stakes for losing, but they have to win a lot of matches it sounds like, while one loss could end them.

    First 250, the problem I have here is that this game doesn't feel like a competitive esports game. This reads like it's an MMO like WoW. According to a esports ranking site, while WoW does have a competitive side to it, it is 16th on the list of total top earning esports games, with 87 tournaments since 2004. Meanwhile, Heroes of the Storm, WoW's MOBA companion, is #5 with 408 tournaments since 2015. Basically, MOBAs, shooters, and Battle Royales are where the pro circuits and large numbers of tournies are. Even if this game if your world's equivalent of WoW, there's just not much of a pro esports scene for that style of multiplayer game. The writing is excellent, great details, I just have a hard time suspending my disbelief with the type of game for what felt like high stakes competition in the query.



    I like the concept and see a lot of potential for Lia's growth in the query, and I love the sex-positive angle. I'm confused on the last bit of the stakes, though. It feels like it loses Lia and brings in the Special Ed students for stakes when they haven't been given much of a role up until then. I understand what you're going for by negative stereotypes, but I think the query either needs to be closer to the SE students for it to have much impact or for the stakes to be closer to Lia.

    First 250, I don't have much to say for this one. Great voice, gives a good impression of who Lia is, and the last line makes me want to know, yes, why DOES she care? Good start.

  3. Both entries are really polished, so I barely have anything to critique!

    GG: Found Family

    Query: Okay, it's sad for me but really good on your part that the only critique I found was that the word 'contemporary' shouldn't be capitalized near the end of your query. So good job!

    First 250: Again, not much to say except maybe you could watch your use of adjectives. For example, instead of saying its a 'dim, somber candle', just keep 'dim' and get rid of 'somber'.


    Query: Nice job letting voice shine through in the query! I like the concept and the uniqueness of it. I only have one tiny critique, in the second paragraph, 'deaf' shouldn't be capitalized.

    First 250: Just like the other comments, I have nothing to say. Bravo on the voice.

    Guess everyone has edited enough by this point because these entries are so good! Good luck to both of you!

  4. GG: Found Family
    I still love this query. I want to meet the “fake psychic.” They sound awesome. In the third paragraph, I’d take out the word “But,” from “But as the team climbs higher...” Since Sai is analyzing the competition, it makes sense that he’d determine the opponents get stronger as the divisions get higher—that’s also basic video game practice. Other than that tiny, picky point, this book sounds so good! I can’t wait to read it.

    First 250: I love the images you paint here. You do use the word “candle,” twice in quick succession. You could change the second one to “candlelight,” just to have some variety. I think you need a comma between Tokugawa and Japan, but don’t quote me on that. I like the “cold oatmeal” reference. It makes me wonder about his actual family. Really good beginning. Again, I’m looking forward to reading this!

    Query: This is a really interesting idea. Part of me wishes the story was from Fallyn’s POV, but I read the query twice and realized the intention here was to show what happens when you try to pick up someone’s else’s mantel. I like that Lia does things wrong, the first time, then realizes she needs to be a better ally, rather than trying to lead a group she isn’t a part of, her way. I don’t quite get the stakes at the end, since I’m not sure how failing to secure a new program reinforces negative stereotypes. Does this all become about more than a simple Sex Ed program? You hint at that, but don’t tell the reader enough to really get invested. I’d expand on the stakes at the end, to give a clearer picture of what the “final hurdle” is, and what “exactly,” is at stake. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) give away everything. Maybe Fallyn ties in at the end, not sure. I’d just make it all a little more specific.
    Small point: I think the capitalized “Deaf” after “Fallyn’s” is probably a mistake, but it was a confusing one. I’d just write it out at “Fallyn is deaf,” to make it clear.

    First 250: I like the opening. Lia’s voice comes through clearly. I’d love to know why Brooke thinks Lia has no follow-through, and you hint at her home life, which is also nice. The question Emilio asks at the end is one every reader’s probably asking at that point, so it’s well placed and compelling.

    Good job! Tough match-up!

  5. GG:

    I'm not a gamer and don't have any experience in that area, so I'll be honest, I was quite lost in your query and first page. If your target audience is gamers, then you're probably fine, but if you're wanting to appeal to a wide audience--even non-gamers--you might need to ground us a bit more in what is going on. (I read Warcross and didn't have a problem even though that whole book is about virtual gaming, so I don't think it's impossible to write a story that non-gamers can relate to).

    Sex Ed:

    I think this is a really strong query. "Fallyn's Deaf" the D should be lowercase. Also, I'm not really getting the stakes here... and I'm just really not understanding why Lia cares. If we know her motivations, we'll be able to get behind her. But right now I'm not seeing her motivation... because the voice and the descriptors you give her make her sound as if she doesn't care but then we're expected to believe she randomly cares about the Special Ed kids' sex lives? It doesn't jive together. I think the reason she cares is the most compelling thing here and if you give us that, this query will be gold.

    Love your first page. Perfect pacing, awesome voice. I can totally picture everything as it happens.

    Good luck to both of you!

  6. GG: Found Family

    Query: I think you do a good job of previewing your story, and the writing is strong. I just have a few little nits. I’m not sure that you need the ellipse in the first sentence. I get what you’re going for; I just don’t know that it’s that effective, or really that you need it. The sentence is strong enough on its own without any dramatic flourishes. I’m also not sure you need to list your full cast of characters. There’s too many of them to really connect with any of them, so I didn’t think it added too much to the query. But seriously, great job!

    First 250: I really liked how you wove in the video game elements, rather than just coming out and saying “he was playing a video game.” I think you might talk about the candle too much, in my opinion; consider instead describing other elements of the environment. The writing is tight here, too, though I don’t know that I have a great sense of the MC’s personality or voice from this snippet alone. I’d want to read on to get to know him, though, and to see more of this video game world you’ve created.



    Query: Great voice right off the bat! Although, as with your Kompetitor (see what I did there?), I don’t know that you need the dramatic flourish with the em dash on your third sentence. The pause read strangely to me, and I think the sentence is punchy enough without it. I was also wondering why you’ve capitalized “Deaf” in one place and not in the following paragraph. Lastly, have you considered using more person-first language in your query? Instead of “disabled students,” for example, use “students with disabilities.” On the whole, though, great query.

    First 250: Dang, Brooke’s going for the throat right off the bat. It almost felt a little too abrupt for me. In media res is fine, but I think you lose a little bit of the context more lead-in would provide. Even just a sentence two more about Brooke’s body language (which might also help you slip in another setting descriptor or two, because I don’t know what the Student Council office looks like) would give a little more build-up without slowing your pacing too much. But that’s also very subjective, so please take it with a grain of salt. The voice was awesome! We get a good sense for the narrator’s personality right off the bat, and I want to read on to see her answer to Emilio’s question.

  7. Fellow Kombatant here!

    GG: Found Family
    I remember giving feedback on your story the first round. Congrats on making it to round 2! I'll try to stick with commenting on your new stuff, rather than rehashing my thoughts on what's stayed the same.

    I like the adjustments to your first 250 a lot. They give me the reminder that as immersed as Psy is in the game, the outside world is much different than what's in front of him. I also like the way you still give us the details of how the monk duo's relationship works, while relating it back to the isolation that Psy feels.

    This is a minor thing, but with your last line, maybe say "while Psy was alone," rather than "he," since the pronoun could just as easily refer to the apprentice.

    The query I think is pretty similar to what I saw before. (Note: Not at all saying that's a bad thing! If there's one thing writers shouldn't do, it's change stuff just for the sake of changing it.) I think adding the line about "keeping the family together" was a smart choice on your part. It shows there's more at stake here than just making the pros or not. (I still want more specifics on their internal struggles, but maybe I just like to see characters arguing.)

    You already know my thoughts on the awesomeness that is your query, so I'll jump right to my thoughts on your first 250 words.

    I absolutely love Lia's overconfident attitude. I mean, I know from the query she's going to get taken down a notch, but she's not the type of character I want to see fail and stay there. I want to see her pick herself up, realize her faults, and work to change them. I love the "back and forth" line as well. In past tense, I would probably call it overkill, but in present tense, it pulls me into her head and it works. (That being said, I could see lines like that slowing down the narrative if used too much, so it might be something to keep an eye on in the larger manuscript.) Personally, I liked Brooke's bluntness. It shows she knows that Lia is largely self-motivated and isn't playing her game.

    Nit-picky punctuation stuff: I think "That's new" should end in a period, and there doesn't need to be a comma after "good ideas."

    A small note on the query, since another Kombatant brought it up: I know there's good intention behind person-first language, but since this is #OwnVoices, I'd say go with your personal preference.

    That's all I've got. I know everyone is saying this about every entry, but this is a tough match-up, and I wish both of you the best!

  8. Found family
    I love this query, great stakes, great idea, great pg, everything. LOVE. Only thing is that it reads a lot like READY PLAYER ONE in terms of plot (band of misfits play a video game to win an important prize). I might lay out some of the twists here so you can show it’s a unique angle on that trope and not just a version of it.

    Great scene-setting, I would introduce more action faster, the reader may expect that after the query. A lot of thinking and pondering, prob. too much for my taste. Also I don’t know how a candle can be somber.

    Fun query! I love the sexed angle and she’s a fun pg. I’m not sure I understand the conflict, b/c I always tend to have problems if the conflict can be resolved by explaining a misunderstanding or offering an apology. I might lay out why those aren’t options for the pg here. I also found the following sentence vague: “She must let the Special Ed students lead the way towards a sex and self revelation.” I’m not sure what that means.
    I really liked these pages. Great voice and good intro to the world. They pulled me in. Not much to add here.

  9. Fellow Kombatant feedback (so feel free to take / leave whatever advice I give!):

    GG: Found Family

    Query: This is really tight, I can’t see much to improve on here at all. I love the heart behind the story. I would like to maybe see the stakes being raised another notch at the end. Maybe one of the other teams tries to blackmail / bribe Sai into helping them win. Maybe they could offer him something he really wants. Is he willing to give up his friends for what they’re offering? Would he lose his friends if they found out his secret? Make it something that means he’s seriously torn.

    First 250:
    A dim, somber candle wavered in the summer heat, illuminating all Psy needed to know about his new employer [maybe put in a sentence here as to the reasoning behind taking the job—give us a sense of the stakes / adventure set before Psy]. The low-level crime lord in his dirty brown robe [sometimes less is more—we want to get to the action, unless the descriptors have special significance then keep] gave an almost toothless yellow grin that looked orange by the light of the candle. The wood on the sliding doors rotted with mildew. Psy could [almost? Unless we’re in the future & smells have somehow become integrated into the gameplay experience] smell the high definition of the effect. In this new expansion, Meiji truly outdid itself with adding in more sensory details to gameplay. It was hard to believe that this alternate version of Tokugawa Japan was constructed from ones and zeroes [nice! Love this!].

    Psy fingered the sickle and chain holstered at his hip that his real self had tied to hot keys. In the world of SoS, he was a competent ninja and master poison maker. For a few hours, he could forget about the cold oatmeal and empty friends list he had waiting for him in the real world [nice!].

    The candlelight reflected on the faces of Psy’s randomized teammates, the ones who would be completing this NPC [I’m not much of a gamer, so I don’t know what this means] slimeball’s [assume you mean the crime lord?] mission for him. In addition to a Sumo and Assassin, there was a master and apprentice Monk duo. Psy narrowed his eyes as he thought of all of the times the master could legally switch out with the apprentice in order to train him. Did they have to keep summoning and sealing the same spirit over and over? He turned up his nose as the greenest envy washed over him when he imagined the apprentice learning everything his master knew while he was all alone [although this tells us about Psy, it feels like a bit of a tangent that may be better feeding in later—at this stage I want to know what’s going on in the virtual world].


    Query: Oh, I love this so much. Lia sounds like the kind of character I can really identify with. I’m rooting for her every step of the way.

    First 251: Love the silver-spoon slacker comment. The opening works really well to set the scene for the story. Maybe you can make the first line a bit punchier to get to pull the reader into the heart of the story straightaway, but I’m being super pernickety there. Voice is brilliant. And the teachers are great.