Monday, August 14, 2006

Face-Lift 156


Guess the Plot

The Guardian of the Flame

1. Melanie is touched when her school sets up an eternal flame to commemorate her twin sister's death in a tragic moose stampede. But when a prankster starts using the flame to project obscene shadow-puppets, Melanie's thoughts turn to murder.

2. The harrowing and poignant memoir of the bodyguard of The Torch's little sister, and the love affair that left him burned.

3. Eve and James adopt an adorable boy, with flaming red hair. They realize that they are in trouble, though, when the child's bed catches fire.

4. A teenager attending Dragonthorn Academy discovers he's adopted and his real father is a powerful and evil wizard. To defeat his father, he must find the "Flame of Prophecy."

5. It's tough enough being a prison guard. But when serial arsonist Bernie "The Flame" Fuoco moves into the cellblock, Gil faces his biggest challenge yet--putting an end to poker games played for matchsticks.

6. In 1973 the Vatican stockpiled enough oil to ensure the holy flame would burn for eternity. Then came the oil crash. Now the Holy See is home to to a brutal battalion of cut-throat priests who fight to the death to guard their oil and the holy Flame. Can a new pope bring an end to this madness?


Original Version

Dear so and so

I have recently completed my manuscript of approximately 86,000 words titled The Guardian of the Flame. It is the first of a planned series. It is a young adult fantasy novel about Oliver Peabody, a seventeen year old boy, whose mother died when he was ten years old, and whose relationship with his father has been less than ideal. The story is about Oliver's journey to find himself and the truth about himself, and begins at the end of Oliver’s third year at Dragonthorn Academy, after which he and his friends make their ways home to celebrate. [Who are you trying to kid? It's Harry Potter.]

Before the festivities, Oliver’s father reveals something deeply unsettling: when Oliver was one and a half years old, his mother and father found him in a basket, [It's Moses Potter.] his tiny arms wrapped around an old leather bound book, and a pendant around his neck. There was a letter in the basket from Oliver’s real mother that begged anyone who found the basket to take care of the boy, [Hasn't that idea been done to death?] and to give to him the items in the basket after his third year of High School. There was no explanation about herself or where Oliver came from in the letter. Oliver, though he is confused and troubled, takes the items from his father and leaves them in his room, then heads over to the celebration.

The festivities are cut short when Oliver discovers, after glancing up at his house (it stands over the ravine, where the festivities were being held), [They're holding festivities in a ravine? A deep, narrow gorge in the Earth's surface?] [If I knew I had to climb into and out of a ravine to attend festivities, I think I'd pass.] that someone is snooping around inside. His father is helping with the celebration, which means that all of the house’s inhabitants are gone. So he runs for his home, and finds that the person is there to steal the items he was given by his father. [Oddly, the items have been there about fifteen years, but he only now tries to steal them.] They have a short fight and Oliver chases the person away, but not before his confusion has reached its peak.

James Sarrlenn, a man who tutored Oliver in the fighting arts, meets Oliver right after the fight in Oliver’s own kitchen, and explains everything. Oliver is the son of Kazus, the most powerful wizard alive, and Emily Churchill, the only person who was ever able to defeat him. [There's no way someone named Emily Churchill defeats the most powerful wizard alive. Change her name to The Black Mamba.] They lived two hundred years ago, but Emily invented a device that worked as a time machine [although she was actually trying to invent dry cleaning]. As Kazus waged a war on the world, she worked hard to create and perfect it. In the process she learned when using her invention that, even though she would defeat him, he would return to his powers two hundred years later. She decided to send her son two hundred years into the future, to keep him out of Kazus’ reach during her own time, and to let him grow up so that he might defeat Kazus once and for all in another time. [What makes her think Kazus will also go 200 years into the future? Why does he? If he just sits around 200 years and then regains his powers, Oliver will now be 400 years in the future.] Sarrlenn tells Oliver that he is the only one with the ability to triumph over Kazus, and that he will have to go on a journey to find Emily’s invention, and defeat Kazus for the final time. [How does Sarrlenn know all this stuff, and why did he go to Oliver's house, when Oliver was supposed to be at the celebration?] But the question that arises near the end of the book is, will Oliver stay on the side of Light, or will his dark side take over? [Star Wars.]

His journey takes him to the home of a strange and disturbing potion maker, to the elf city of Elvenrooke [Lord of the Rings.] where a Council of War [Treasure Island.] takes place, and finally to the Crystal City, [The Wizard of Oz.] from where he and his friends were banned by its Prime Minister during the stressful Council meeting in Elvenrooke. It is here, in the Crystal City, where the purity of Oliver’s heart [Oliver Twist.] is tried. He is forced into battle with the Prime Minister of the Crystal City when he learns that the Minister himself is in league with Kazus. During this battle he kills the Prime Minister, and learns that there is a dark side to his own powers that cannot be ignored.

[You've got to come up with some names that don't sound derivative.

Elvenrooke -- Elvendale
Crystal City -- Emerald City
Oliver Peabody and his time machine -- Mr. Peabody and his Wayback Machine]

[Suddenly I have a nostalgic longing to see Mr. Peabody . . . Eureka! There's a DVD of 15 Mr. Peabody cartoons, and it's cheap. I'm ordering it. Even though it means tolerating the annoying Sherman.]

I have published work in the Austrian based Perplex Magazine

Thank you for your time; I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience.

Sincerely,

Just another Minion

*To Evil Editor: The title comes from the name of the time travel invention, which is called the Flame of Prophecy.


Revised Version

Dear so and so,

I have recently completed the first book of a young adult fantasy series about Oliver Peabody, whose mother died when he was ten years old, and whose relationship with his father has been less than ideal. Oliver's adventure begins
after his third year at Dragonthorn Academy, when his father reveals something deeply unsettling: when Oliver was one year old, his parents found him in a basket, a pendant around his neck and his arms wrapped around an old leather-bound book. A letter in the basket begged anyone who found the boy to take care of him, and to give him the items in the basket after his third year of high school.

Confused and troubled, Oliver's curiosity is finally satisfied by James Sarrlenn, who tutored Oliver in the fighting arts. According to Sarrlenn, Oliver was born more than 200 years ago. He is the son of Kazus, the most powerful wizard alive, and Emily Churchill, the only person who was able to defeat him. As Kazus waged a war on the world, Emily developed a time machine, which she used to send her son two hundred years into the future. Kazus has now returned more powerful than ever, and Oliver is the only one who can triumph over the wizard.

The Guardian of the Flame is complete at about 86,000 words. If you'd like to see all or part of the manuscript, I'll put it in the mail. Thank you for your time; I have enclosed a SASE for your reply.

Sincerely,


Notes

It was too long, and it was moving in baby steps, as if trying to state everything clearly so that even an idiot like Evil Editor would understand. No need to simplify the book for young adults, or the query for editors.

Naturally we'd like to know what's in the book, but we'll have to accept that that information is revealed on a need-to-know basis, and you don't think we need to know.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

So it's Harry Potter and the Time Machine. But if you have access to a time machine, why send your son 200 years into the future? Why not just go back and kill this Kazus fellow before he took over the world? Or at least send Harry, er Oliver, not quite so far in the future so he'll be full-grown when Daddy shows up to take over the universe again.

Bernita said...

Please, why is it important to state you have "just completed?"
It risks sounding as if you've not done revisions.
Perhaps better to state the novel is complete at x thousand words?

braun said...

Yes, to me this is an extremely generic YA fantasy, plus a time machine. What makes it different from all the other YA fantasy out there? Highlight those differences in the query letter.

spongey437 said...

Ummmm... my big question here was that he was the son of Kazus and EMily Churchill. Now if Emily defeated Kazus how did they have a son together? And if they were mortal enemies to the point where she vanquished him, why did they have a son together?

The revised version is much better as it doesnt even bother bringing up these questions which I hope are answered in the MS.

Cathy said...

[Who are you trying to kid? It's Harry Potter.]

I'm so glad you sait it, Evil Editor. When I read GTP #4, I thought: I hope it's not that one, 'cause that sounds too much like Harry Potter.

Dear author, on the importance of names... Please read Diana Peterfreund's Blog. I just read this yesterday and was impressed with her take on names. I agree with her method, actually. Think of what you want that character to represent... what they need to accomplish, and name them accordingly. I hope this link comes through.

http://dianapeterfreund.blogspot.com/2006/05/character-names.html

MaryKaye said...

The "child of two mortal enemies" bit is actually the most intriguing detail to me, but as it stands, wouldn't hold my attention when the rest sounds so generic. I'd fear a generic answer like "initially she didn't know that he was Evil".

A general question: If your novel sounds rather like Harry Potter, should you bite the bullet and say "While my story has some similarities with Harry Potter, it is set apart by A, B and C"? We're often warned not to draw attention to similarities, but when they are unavoidable (and anything involving an orphan teenage wizard at school is pretty unavoidable) is it better to address the problem directly?

MaryKaye

Anonymous said...

You missed one, EE. The story also seems derivative of the Terminator movies.

She decided to send her son two hundred years into the future... so that he might defeat Kazus once and for all in another time.

acd said...

I'm not getting a very good sense of setting from the query. Even if it's set in a fantasy realm, give us some idea of the time period and Earth civilization it correlates to. I'd be pretty sure this was modern-era (another HP similarity) if not for the ravine. And the baby in a basket. That should probably be done by adjusting your place and character names to ring a consistent bell in your readers' minds. Who can imagine Emily Churchill and Kazus on the same wedding invitation?

(Also, is it KAY-zus or Kay-ZEUS? One sounds like a cuss and the other like a sneeze.)

Anonymous said...

All of the one and half year old kids I have ever known would have
a. fallen out of the basket and drowned,
b. choked on the pendant,
and/or
c. torn up the book.

I stopped reading there.

Anonymous said...

OMG, I loved fake plot #1. LOL.

I knew it was fake plot # 4 because that seemed the most boring. I think it's a good exercise to write fake plots because it helps highlight what might not work, what's been done before, and what is hysterically funny.

And the competition for writing these fake plots has definitely increased. Good job to all the fake plot writers.

Author-I agree with all the other posts. It might have been fun to write, but it doesn't sound very different or unique. I like the name Dragonthorn, though.

magz said...

Gosh Mr. Peabody,
Send this one back please. It's so ernest it's painful!

Dear Author;
It's wonderful that you've written an entire book, and I commend you on your valient effort. Unfortunately, as others have said, this has been done before and is probably being done to death even as you read this.

It's not horrible, just seems to be lacking the hook it would take to make any reader of any age pick it up and keep reading. If I were an editor or agent, I'd suggest to you this:

Shelf this. Start your very next book today, for you seem to really enjoy writing. In a year or 3 reread this, and maybe rework it some. Best of luck to you... keep on writing!

jjhalloween said...

The title "The Guardian of the Flame" is too close to another fantasy title "The Guardians of the Flame" by Joel Rosenberg. Make sure to check your titles using Google and Amazon. Repeat titles are okay, but when they are in the same genre, you risk not looking coversant in that genre.

December Quinn said...

*snerk* Moses Potter.

I agree, though, it sounds a little like a pastiche of lots of other books. It may not be at all, but the query unfortunately makes it sound as if it is. Figure out what makes your book different and write about that. (And btw, I have a 20-month old and I agree with 5:43 anonymous. There's no way she would stay nicely in a basket on a porch unless she was drugged--but I assume it makes sense in the story.)


It's actually Rivendell, EE, not Elvendell. How am I the only one who caught that?

Anonymous said...

It is regrettable that the first draft of my query did not justice to the story! In truth (I promise this) it is not like Harry Potter, or terminator, or Lord of the Rings. Epic? Yes. Magic? yes. But this is not about a boy who learns he's a wizard and goes to magic school. It's not about a boy who was an orphan (that's not a plot point at all). It's not about wands and magic spells and all that what not. It's about the dark side of destiny and choices, of wars that start because of differing moralities, of giving in to one's dark side, and of learning crushing truths about one self. Obviously, I need to understand that these are the things I should be describing in my query. Thanks all, and keep the suggestions coming.

Evil Editor said...

It's actually Rivendell, EE, not Elvendell.

Actually, I wrote Elvendale, and of course I was referring to http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Shire/7433/haven/roald.html

December Quinn said...

Oh, of course. I forgot all about that guy and his Dungeon Master website. Silly me! :-)

nut said...

'Dear so and so'?

Urggghnut!

'Dear EE, the greatest editor that ever lived!' isn't that what you meant?

Woofnut: my verification is getting scary.

nut said...

'Moses Potter'!

EE, I might fall off the tree, and break my head, and its all because of you!