Pitch: To Dream of Sky (Sci-Fi Fantasy)

Title: To Dream of Sky
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi
Intended Audience: YA/late teens
Length: 80K

Summary

All her life, Rowan has grown up hearing her father’s stories of Alitheia, the parallel world of technology and magic hidden from Earth and its population. When his death in an earthquake plagues her with nightmares and leaves her mother afraid and unwilling to talk about magic, Rowan thinks her life can’t possibly get any worse.

Until, when she is sixteen, she summons magic for the first time. Despite all her mother’s efforts to keep her safe, her magic is tracked by the Alitheians and she is taken away from home against her will. Brought to the runecasting academy of Alitheia, she finds the people she’s feared for so long aren’t actually dangerous; they’re runecasters just like her. As she finally learns to use her magic for the first time, it’s hard not to be allured by the mystery-entrenched North Academy and Alitheia’s stunning cities of architecture and technology. But despite the things she’s learned and the friends she’s found, there are several things she can’t get past—like the unexplained murders of several academy students, how everyone seems to know her name, and why her mother fears the place she feels could finally be home.
Confronted with the possibility that the academies aren’t what they seem, Rowan starts an investigation of her own and uncovers the truth behind Alitheia’s centuries of war.

When Rowan is framed for the murder of several academy students, she must flee back to Earth to avoid facing the punishment of a crime that isn’t hers—death. And in the process, she discovers that her own magic has far deeper roots than what she’d imagined; for she’s the Soothsayer, one of the few ancient roles passed down through Alitheia’s history and whose arrival is a foretelling of war.

As a time manipulator, she’ll play an important part in the conflict she knows will come. But if the North Academy has its way, she’ll never survive to see that destiny through. And the academy isn’t her only threat, for as the Soothsayer, other rogue Alitheian sects will seek to use her abilities for themselves.

When she is captured by the Alitheian rogues and caught in a fight between the academies, Rowan discovers she still has allies in Alitheia: her friends and runecasting instructor are trying to clear her name, and with Rowan’s help, they do—just in time to stop her death at the hands of the academy.

When the murderer is caught and the Alitheian rogues stopped, Rowan’s life finally returns to some sense of normalcy. She knows, however, that it’s not. Not only does she suspect the academy had a hand in her father’s death, but a war is coming—and in the light of everything she’s seen, Rowan is no longer sure she’s fighting on the right side.

Major Plotlines/Arcs to Conclusion

Plotlines:
During her time at the academy, Rowan observes that what they are being taught isn’t true and that the world she knows isn’t what it seems. With her friend Alec, she investigates and finds not only that the academy wars of ancient history are still ongoing, but that she is the prime suspect for the murder of several academy students. When she is framed as the murderer, she must escape the academy and survive on Earth while Alec and their runecasting instructor Darien try to clear her name before she is killed.

Character Arcs:
Over the course of the story, Rowan works on getting over her insomnia and accepting her father’s death, concluded at the end of the story when she dreams of the sky again like she did when she was a little girl (hence the title). She also has to grow to accept her powers as the Soothsayer and decide for herself who to support in the war between the academies.

Notes/Unique Things

Notes: This is the first book of a series of five, which is why several plotlines are unresolved such as the death of her father and the war between the academies. There are also a lot of smaller plotlines I couldn’t squeeze into the summary.

Worldbuilding behind the academy wars: the different sectors of Alitheia are essentially indoctrinated to hate the other sectors. This cycle has continued for thousands of years, battles breaking out constantly over different catalysts like the Soothsayer and runestones (ancient powerful artifacts that grant immense power - think Infinity Stones).

Unique: I haven’t been able to squeeze much worldbuilding in the summary, but Alitheia is a world with futuristic technology (holograms, drones, etc) and ancient magic (runecasting, elemental magic, light-bending).

I’m looking for any way to improve that I can. Also, one question: are the stakes too small? The only thing really at threat is Rowan’s life, and for a fantasy story as such I’m afraid it’s not enough.
Thanks!

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I’ve always found that the most compelling stakes are the ones that are personal to a specifc character. A giant war might start? Meh. That war might tear apart a family and pit two brothers against eachother? Now we’re talking. As such, your MC’s life is plenty high for stakes. It might not be much in the grand sceme of things, but it’s huge for her and devestating should she fail. In any case, it looks like the stakes will be escalating in the next books so it’s good to give yourself somewhere to grow.

Anyway, just dropping in to say that I though this sounded very intriguing!

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Thanks!

Generally speaking, “another world” (isekai) type stories fall into two camps: exploration of what it means to suddenly be in a world that shouldn’t exist or power trip fantasy. For this plotline, it’s somewhat unclear which plot is being applied. The character seems to fear the world but is also asking all about it and fascinated by it. Her father dies but it doesn’t seem to trigger anything or relate to anything (I would think losing the person who was your connection to magic would have more meaning).

Once in the world, there doesn’t seem to be a focus on them being super powerful or being very fascinated by the world or confused. Instead they get caught up in a murder plot. This is fine but you wouldn’t need any of the other world plotline. Just start it in the fantasy world and have them attending the academy.

This is also part of why the stakes feel small. They have no relationship to the character and their personal journey. About the character I know:

  • Her father knows about a secret magical world and tell stories that fascinate her
  • Her father dies in a natural disaster
  • She accidentally casts magic
  • She is confused and fearful at the sudden appearance of magic people to take her to their magic land

Now, the first two have a relation, the last two have a relation, but the four are not related and conflict with each other. More important, a random murder plot and framing has nothing to do with those initial stakes and character moments set up at the start. Something has to connect them to their world. For example:

Her father tells her about magical world and it fascinates her. When he dies in a natural disaster, she is convinced that the magic had something to do with it. She goes through his old belongings until she finds a way to get to the other side. Once there, she finds a world in turmoil and war, with rogue sorcerers vying for control over their regions. They think nothing of their constant warfare but it is having an effect on Rowan’s world, causing natural disasters. She then sets out to try and settle the wars via…

And then whatever whatever, doesn’t matter. That has a continuous narrative throughline that always ties back to her original loves and intentions.

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A lot of the things you pointed out that needed fixing do show up in the story, I just haven’t been able to make the pitch reflect that. It’s a power trip fantasy. Her father’s death does relate to both Rowan’s trauma, her fear of Alitheia, and is the primary reason for why Rowan is framed in the murder plot.

Because of her father’s death, her mother has been fearful of magic and the world of Alitheia, as unlike Rowan, she knows that the runecasters of Alitheia were the ones that killed Rowan’s dad. Even though she never told her daughters the truth, she did instill a distrust of magic and Alitheia. This leads to Rowan investigating the North Academy when she’s brought there because she knows that something is wrong. That investigation leads her to uncovering the war her father partook in and is another factor in her being framed for the murders. This leads to her being hunted by the academy and discovering her abilities as the soothsayer (hence the power trip).

The conflict and stakes do connect to her personal intentions because she wants to figure out her father’s past and what happened to him. As this is the first book in the series, she won’t the entire truth immediately. However, the readers do find out that her runecasting instructor, Darien (the one that helped her clear her name and was generally the mentor figure of the story) was the one that killed Rowan’s father. When Rowan does come to realize this in the second story, not only does it conclude her investigation into her father’s past, but it’s the final straw to shaking her loyalty to the North sector and realizing that she’s on the wrong side. This, though, is a storyline for the second book.

My problem is that I don’t have the slightest clue how to fit the right information into a 500 word pitch that also needs to cover the plot. The storylines of both worlds, her powers as the soothsayer, and the murder plot are all essential – I don’t know which to remove from the pitch without compromising some part of the plot.

Thanks for the advice, it’s brought to light that I need more obvious correlation between Rowan’s trauma regarding her father and what happens in the story. I’ll get to work on fixing that!

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Alright, I’ve changed the pitch to reflect your suggestions. Hopefully it addresses most of your concerns, as now, Rowan’s motivation from her father’s death directly causes the murder plot and framing. Her personal journey (finding out who her father really was and investigating his past) leads her to finding out the truth about the academy and Alitheia’s wars and is why she is framed.

. . .

All her life, Rowan has grown up hearing her father’s stories of Alitheia, the parallel world of technology and magic hidden from Earth and its population. When his death in an earthquake plagues her with nightmares and leaves her mother afraid and unwilling to talk about magic, Rowan thinks her life can’t possibly get any worse.

Until, when she is sixteen, she summons magic for the first time. Despite all her mother’s efforts to keep her safe, her magic is tracked by the Alitheians and she is taken away from home against her will. Brought to the runecasting academy of Alitheia, she finds the people she’s feared for so long aren’t actually dangerous; they’re runecasters just like her.

As she finally learns to use her magic for the first time, it’s hard not to be allured by the mystery-entrenched North Academy and Alitheia’s stunning cities of architecture and technology. Here, Rowan finally has the chance to learn more about her father and what happened to turn her family against Alithiea, seeking answers to the questions she’s had ever since the earthquake.

But her investigation into her father’s past reveals that Alitheia is not the perfect world it seems to be. The ancient wars between the academies are not just something of an ancient history to learn in class—they’re still happening, and what they were taught was a lasting time of peace is merely an uneasy ceasefire, erased from Alitheia’s history.

Soon, academy students with powerful abilities start turning up dead, murdered in an attempt to end that ceasefire and throw Alitheia into war. Unbeknownst to Rowan, her father betrayed the North Academy, and Rowan’s investigation has drawn her directly into the murderer’s path. As the daughter of a traitor that’s been digging through the academy’s secrets, she’s set herself up as the perfect person to frame.

As a result, Rowan must flee to Earth to avoid the punishment of a crime that isn’t hers. She has a way out—her father’s friends from the South sector can protect her from the North—but doing so risks upsetting the uneasy ceasefire between the four Alitheian sectors. Unwilling to risk war, Rowan gives herself up to the North, knowing full well it could end in her death.

Before that can happen, Rowan’s friends and runecasting instructor from the North Academy break her out. As one of them has powerful abilities that mark her as a target for the murderer, they hatch a plan in the short time they have before the North discovers them. Together, they catch the real killer and clear Rowan’s name.

Once the murderer is caught, Rowan’s life finally returns to some sense of normalcy. She knows, however, that it’s not. Not only does she find reasons to suspect the academy had a hand in her father’s death, but a war is inevitable—and in the light of everything she’s seen, Rowan is no longer sure she’s fighting on the right side.

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