Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Pitch para - Your Bed of Heather

A pitch paragraph for you this morning.

YOUR BED OF HEATHER by Lorraine Blencoe  – YA historical fiction
Lorraine’s pitch paragraph:
This is an emotive and captivating story about a teenage German boy during World War 2. He can see the world around him changing and one day his father tells him he must leave their hometown, using false papers, and disappear. The only way to do this without arousing suspicion is to join the army. He has to trust his father's reason for thrusting him into a world of bullying, air raids and death. Erik gets wounded and while at a field hospital in France, falls in love with a nurse. Then he manages to be captured by the allies and while at a PoW camp in the UK his past catches up with him. He finds out about the act of sabotage committed by his father and ultimately kills his childhood best friend, the symbol of everything Erik despises about what Germany has become. Once he has done that, there is no future for Erik.

My comments: 
1. We need to know the age of the boy – he falls in love with a nurse, but this is a YA book, so age of main character is crucial. If you say “boy’, we will tend to think younger and then be confused by the falling in love with a nurse bit.
2. “There is no future for Eric” – too bleak and vague to end with. We need to know more about that.
3. “He has to trust his father” – I’d like a sinister hint at this point that there’s a reason why he shouldn’t (as we later discover.)
4. A few clunky or unstylish words: “gets wounded”, “manages to be captured”. Should be “World War Two”.
5. Some early parts are too vague or unemotive: “the world changing around him”, “boy during World War 2”, especially compared with the very dramatic action of the second half. I don’t like “emotive and captivating” as the two adjectives to sum up the book. Much better to show us by the action/words the nature of the story, rather than tell us – because we only have your word for it.
6. I don't like the title for YA - sounds like soft historical romance.

My suggested revision:

“Erik is seventeen [?] when the World War Two turns his life upside down. His father, hiding a dangerous secret, tricks his son into joining the army and leaving home on false papers. Erik’s new life lurches from harsh bullying to terrifying air raids and the horror of watching his friends die. He is seriously wounded and, at a field hospital in France, falls in love with a nurse, but the relationship is cut short when Erik is captured and sent to a British PoW camp. Here he discovers the secret behind his father’s terrible act of sabotage and ends up causing the death of his best friend. [This isn’t right but I would need more information.] Now Erik has to face up to the dark side of his own country. He must find a way to make amends, or he won’t be able to live with himself or his past. [I’d like another sentence here.]

Please comment, clever people. And, if you're interested in Lorraine's book and reading an extract, here's the Amazon link.


Keren David said...

I'd like a little more setail on the Nazi side of things. After all this isn't just any old army that Erik is joining. Seems to me that this book could be about the experience of the ordinary German soldier pushed to commit terrible atrocities, and I'd like to know how much the author will go into the horrors and the dilemmas of his role.

catdownunder said...

I am a bit confused as to why Erik needs to go if it his father who has done something. Is he in danger? And I am assuming Erik kills his own friend although I first read it as being his father's friend?
And I think I am with Keren on this one - could you say a little more about the Nazi aspect?

Keren David said...

In fact, on reflection, I'm concerned about the word 'bullying' used in this context altogether. Who is bullying whom? Do we care about bullying when millions of people are being killed by Erik and his colleagues in industrialised genocide? As currently written it's more WW1 than WW2 for me - although then he's less likely to be a PoW.
Also unsure how he gets from a field hospital in France to beign a prisoner in the UK (did this happen?) Why is there no future for Erik? Surely good to kill someone who has become the symbol of Nazi Germany?

Nicola Morgan said...

I agree with Keren about needing to be much clearer about the moral and ethical dimension and which aspects of that will be covered. Especially for YA.

Cat - I had the same confusion re whose friend was killed, and in fact i got it wrong first time.

Anonymous said...

The word 'bullying' struck a wrong note for me too. We're talking about the Nazis - bullying is too mild a word to describe them! I agree with Nicola that we need more information about whether or not the father is trustworthy and why he might be sending the boy away. You describe the best friend as a symbol of all that has gone wrong in Germany. I would hesitate to use that description in a pitch as it may suggest to an agent or publisher that the character is a cipher and not well-rounded. I'm not suggesting that this is the case, just that the wording could make him sound that way.