Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Face-Lift 200!!

Guess the Plot

The Sosunda

1. A new dance craze hits the tiny Carribean town of Port Au Feu. But tourist Staci Mesa discovers that it's an invitation to death when she meets a handsome zombie in the hotel bar.

2. In this fast-paced novel of the wunda down unda, Australian deep-sea diver Stryne Hardly takes us on a thrill ride to find and rescue the trapped occupants of a tourist submersible in the Great Barrier reef. Will he reach them in time? Or will their SOS become SOL?

3. A London man escapes from the dreadful routine of writing propaganda for the government into a blissful orgy of the poet's life.

4. Freedom is the message, and the messenger is a child who speaks to God Herself, a child known as . . . the Sosunda.

5. Desperate to rescue his beloved car from the repo man, Jose decides to take a job as a male stripper in his cousin's new business. Dressed as a masked Spaniard, he drives the ladies crazy as . . . the Sosunda.

6. Hannah Quinn is drawn into an underworld of secrets and passion that threatens the entire city when she investigates the origins of a mysterious building in the center of Rome, a building known as . . . the Sosunda.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Thank you for your wholesomely terror-inducing blog. May your minions continue to strike fear into the inept and inane.

Delaem, daughter of the Governor of Burramesh, is going to court. She has a contract for a marriage to a handsome courtier and a will to explore the world beyond the walls of her provincial city.

But when her mother arranges one last gift for her daughter, Delaem's certainties begin to fray. [Her certainties? Begin to fray? Not sure what that means.] Her lessons in the "easing" of men are learned too well. [Easing of men? Is that the same as pleasing of men? Are these lessons the gift from her mother?] When all her attention should be focussed on her betrothed, Delaem can only dream of Shapeis, the head-horned servant employed to teach her. [Head-horned? Is that the same as horn-headed?] [Would you describe Shapeis head as looking more like a rhinoceros, a bull, or a trumpet?] [If the lessons are the mother's last gift, what mother, even if she has the gall to hire someone to teach her engaged daughter the art of man-easing, would hire a horn-head? What does an alien from Planet X know about what men want?]

Shapeis has problems of his own. [For starters, he's head-horned.] The servants in the city are finding themselves a new religion - her name is the Sosunda, [Her name? The religion is female?] the child who speaks to God, and God has a message for his chosen people: freedom. Between his lessons with the Governor's daughter, Shapeis learns about the history of his people, the genetic wrongness of his creation - and the increasing desire he has for his aristocratic pupil. [Apparently he's not just horned; he's horny.] [Not clear what the part about the new religion has to do with Shapeis's problems.]

Beyond their knowledge, the world is changing. Life has never been easy on this planet: a new plague has evolved in the southern ports, and the Empire will destroy cities to halt its progress. Fearful that illegal servant movements are threatening his city, the Governor orders their termination.

Escaping the city, Shapeis [Why is he escaping, if the plague is beyond his knowledge?] discovers an alien world where survival depends on knowledge and cooperation. [He wanders onto the set of Survivor, Cook Islands.] For Delaem, too, survival has become more than deciding which dress to wear for breakfast. Both have to grasp new strengths and skills.

Yet no skill can stand firm before the plague. It stalks the city's unwashed streets, killing all in its path. Despite the Governor's every effort to contain the disease, the news of its presence within the city walls travels fast beyond them.

The Empire must act - the disease must die, as must the city and all within it. [All within it will die. The plague kills all in its path.] If the surviving servants are to fulfil their dreams, they must reach the safety of the mountains before the the soldiers arrive. [But our main characters escaped the city two paragraphs ago; are they still our main characters?]

One man will not listen to prophecy. One woman will not accept defeat. Only when these two people learn to work together and respect each other will any life - master or servant - be rescued from the fires and fevers of death. [Are we talking about Shapeis and Dalaem? I thought they were in love. Why wouldn't they already respect each other?]

"The Sosunda" (working title), my first full novel, is a 90,000 word work-in-progress [Work-in-progress? Have you finished writing it? Are you up to 85,000, or 8,500? As you won't be sending the query out until the book is ready, no need to include this.] for which I hope to find representation in due course. My previous writing experience has ranged from drafting government propaganda [I write for Fox News.] to writing and publishing my own poetry. I hope you find my first serious foray into writing interesting enough to ask for a further 750 words.

As stipulated in your post, the opening paragraphs of the first chapter follow.

And many thanks for taking the time to read my submission.


It's too long. Too much of it is vague. You need to distill it into specific, clear information. Something like:

When a plague strikes the walled city of Burramesh, the governor's daughter, Delaem, heads for the hills with her head-horned man-easement tutor, Shapeis. Also, a Sosunda.

Maybe there should be more about the Sosunda in the query.

Just tell us who we care about and why, what their problem is, and what they do about it. You should be able to do this in fewer paragraphs.


Dave said...

Just a question for EE:
Is Stryne Hardly's nickname Balls?

Anonymous said...

Delaem, yet another name that would be better spelled backwards: Mealed.

Say it with me out loud: "De laem, main character."

verification word: alpzfu
The sublime ability to climb mountains.

xiqay said...

I stopped reading the query about half-way through. Even EE's humorous comments couldn't get me to continue. I don't like the weird names (I realize they are de riguer in fantasy). I couldn't really stay tuned to figure out the set-up. Sorry.

Give me Jose, the male stripper trying to get the cash for the repo man. That's my type of story!

Anonymous said...

So I'm spending twenty minutes reading back and forth, trying to figure out which GTP is the real one - and it's none of them! Nice trick for the big 200. Guess you should have called this one Guess the Author?

Anyway ,all that aside, I'd probably be more interested to read this in its original language.

Evil Editor said...

So I'm spending twenty minutes reading back and forth, trying to figure out which GTP is the real one - and it's none of them!

Huh?? It's #4. Which came from this part of the query: ". . . her name is the Sosunda, the child who speaks to God, and God has a message for his chosen people: freedom."

Anonymous said...

...her name is the Sosunda, the child who speaks to God, and God has a message for his chosen people: freedom.

Oh. I thought that was metaphorical. Damn. Now it all makes sense.


Anonymous said...

Y'see, I thought it was #3, based on:

My previous writing experience has ranged from drafting government propaganda to writing and publishing my own poetry.

It's time to be quiet and drink my milk now, isn't it?

xiqay said...

I plead guilty to submitting fake plot #3. I remembered the "sosunda" from the crapometer I think (and googled it to get more info). I realize that was rather low and apologize. But at the time, I thought it was funny.

Anonymous said...

Shapeis and Delaem, arrrrgghhh! What's wrong with having names people can pronounce?

Is writing government propaganda a real job? Where do I sign up? I could have a blast with that one.

As for the story and query I'm pretty much with everyone else so far, except maybe a little more confused. -JTC

acd said...

I always recommend starting with the sentence: "I am seeking representation for my erotic fantasy novel, Sosunda, complete at 90,000 words." It sets up the mindframe for the genre. If it's not complete, of course, you shouldn't be querying.

I agree that the story needs to be described much more clearly.

On the names, you'll be loathe to do it, but please consider changing their spellings. Your protagonist could be pronounced:

De-LAY-em (delay 'em?)

And the other:


You can narrow down the options by changing vowels to be more intuitive for an English-speaker.

Don't forget to take out that "first 750 words" bit from the actual query!

Anonymous said...

This certainly was a doozy for #200. I agree with everyone about the horrible names. Then there's the horrible conotation of saying you wrote "propoganda." A real writer of propoganda should know better how to spin that into something positive. ;-)

Congrats on making it to 200. I'm proud to admit 1.5% of them are mine.

BuffySquirrel said...

Miss Snark, Kristin Nelson and other agents-who-blog suggest you don't need to say in your query that you're seeking representation. They know that already. Starting with the title, genre and length is probably a good idea, tho'.

~Nancy said...

I was hoping it was either #1 (zombies!!) or the one with the male stripper...but it was the one which made no sense to me.

Maybe the writer's close to completion on this and just wanted an opinion - but she/he definitely shouldn't mention that it's a work-in-progress (of course, it should be completed).

Perhaps English isn't the writer's first language (which would explain stuff like "head-horned")?


Rei said...

Actually, the bit about writing propaganda was one of the things that I found most interesting -- which was immediately negatived (and then some) by the "published my own poetry" part.

There could be a good book under here, but we'd never know. It's too vague during much of the query -- but, author, don't add to it! Cut from it. Anything that could raise a question that you don't have space to answer, cut it out. Mutilate your plot if you have to. Hack off 3/4 of what happens if you have to. Just don't leave us with a bunch of "now what the heck does that mean?" questions in our head.

I agree about the names. SF/F names don't have to be hard to pronounce. In mine, the main chars' names include Yuri, Vandt, Ien, Nalin, Terga, Dag, Tybyl, Tarai, Samei, and other equally pronouncable names. You can look at major published SF/F and see the same thing: Frodo, Gandalf, Samwise, Galadriel, Aragorn, etc for Fantasy, perhaps Ender, Bean, Hyrum, Bonzo, Petra, Dink, etc for Sci-fi. For myself, at least, these are much more pronouncable than Delaem and Shapeis. Shapeis especially bugs me, because it starts off with a pronouncable word, but then makes you wonder whether you should actually be pronouncing the "e" when you see "eis".

Kate Thornton said...

I kept wanting to pronounce Shapeis as Sharpei - then I visualized a wrinkly dog.

Chumplet said...

HAPPY 200!!!!
This query made me tired. Reminds me of Conan the Barbarian, somehow. Don't ask me why - I probably just didn't get enough sleep and everything just melted into a few beings wandering across some desolate landscape on some kinda quest... zzzz. Huh?

Some of those names could be used for the word verification.

Kathleen said...

I did get a couple fliers in iambic pentameter from the Social Security Administration recently....

Shelby said...

Kate Thornton: ME TOO! And I'm guessing that a wrinkly dog is not what the author is shooting for. I realize that the genre calls for creativity in that area, but at least give readers a fighting chance. Even JK Rowling admits that she would have re-named Hermione if she knew it was going to cause such confusion early on in the series.

beth said...

My previous writing experience has ranged from drafting government propaganda [I write for Fox News.]

Alas, EE has himself fallen victim to propaganda.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I'd like to know what government the author writes propoganda for. Lesotho? Tigre? The Evil Empire of Buramesh?

I was under the impression that having unrponounceable names (like X’qhâghö and nLftisòrnjh)was just as mandatory in fantasy novels as bad prose and incomprehensible plots. You can hardly blame the author for following the conventions of his trade. I'm sure when he writes poetry he doesn't churn out 13-line sonnets.

I don't think it's fair to drag Tolkien into this. Most of the names cited he borrowed from Old Norse literature, and those that he did make up out of whole cloth were done so in accordance with specific phonological rules. That's a far cry from the random-letter-generator most SF/F authors use.

Oh, yes, the query. This is no way to start: "Delaem... is going to court. She has a contract for a marriage to a handsome courtier " This sounds like it's supposed to be a joke, a play on the phrase "going to court" (which nearly all modern English speakers will understand in its judicial sense) and "courtier". If this is a joke, it's a bad one. Combine these sentences to read: " Jane Smith [note name change], daughter of a Renaissance duke of Milan [note alteration in setting], has a contract for marriage [hey, we are very judicial, aren't we?] to marry a handsome young courtier." I'm afraid the rest of the query is up to you; I'm too busy.

HawkOwl said...

The sad thing is, there is such potential in the idea. It's like the one with the unusually intelligent camel... Lots of cool ideas, but the query is written in such a way that it's hard to believe the author could put together a novel.

However, Miss Snark was just saying how the crappiest query letters often come with the best sample chapters, and vice-versa, so maybe the novel rocks. I'd ask for the chapters and synopsis.

Rik said...

Many thanks to EE for the excellent feedback, and to the minions for the advice. Having read the Guess the Plots I wished the story was going to be #1 rather than the rather dreary SF #4 that I've actually drafted!

The comments about the names is very useful - especially as they can be changed very easily.

This was my first ever attempt at a query letter (for Miss Snark's recent crapometer, where it didn't get picked for review). Coming back to it cold, I can see how poorly it reads - I'll need to learn how to distance myself from the novel when pitching it for sale to an agent, aiming for the hooks that would get people to buy the book rather than trying to confuse and bore them.

Thankfully, my poetry is better than my propaganda (though please don't tell my employers that).