Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Face-Lift 243


Guess the Plot

Sari's Ashes

1. Two sexy archaeologists defy taboo and dig into the volcanic ash below Mt. Sari in search of buried temples -- until the angry mountain god awakes, determined to destroy them all.

2. In the world of Sari's Ashes, no one can break his word once he's given it. Needless to say, this world sucks, so a wizard tries to find a spell that will reverse the untenable situation.

3. The women's rights movement in the USA saw women burning their bras in protest. When women in India rise up and burn their saris, they cause quite a different kind of stir.

4. When a masked burglar steals the cookie tin filled with their pet's cremated remains, 11 year old twins Tim and Tom make a pact to get them back -- no matter what.

5. When they burned the ritual cloth, the smell was bad enough. But having to deal with the aftermath meant unleashing the Charwomen of Doom, wielding their deadly scrub brushes.

6. A buffoonish Boring-on-End cab driver unwittingly causes a twelve car pileup in front of the airport. Who could have predicted the chain of events he set in motion when the embers of his flicked cigarette blew into eyes of a doughty spinster in a primrose Jaguar?


Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am looking for representation for my fantasy novel, Sari’s Ashes. The manuscript is complete at 71,000 words, and I have a first draft of a sequel, Sari’s Tears. [Later will come Sari's Saliva, Sari's Urine, and Sari's Toenail Clippings.]

In some ways, an oath is a kind of magic, a prophecy we make and intend to fulfill. Our promises reach through time to snag some part of our future selves and compel our actions. Even then there is an element of choice, a decision we make to either hold to our oath or to break it. [Evil Editor once swore an oath never to eat pizza again; he has broken the oath at least once a week for the past thirty years.]

But what if we did not have that choice? In the world of Sari’s Ashes, swearing an oath is truly magic. The gods themselves force you to fulfill that oath, no matter the good or evil that might come of it. [At what point do the gods step in? Does your phone call to Domino's get redirected to Overeaters Anonymous? Do thieves hold up the delivery guy and take your pizza? Or do you get to see and smell the pizza before being compelled to stuff it down the garbage disposal? Are you allowed to scrape off the toppings and just eat them?]

Long ago the wizard Faulk made a rash oath to a master that pushed him to commit many vile deeds. [He vowed to become a used car salesman.] When his master died, Faulk dedicated his life to finding a spell that would once again allow people to choose whether to keep their word. [And thus was born the trillion-dollar divorce industry.] But when he severs the link between his world and the gods, he also cuts the ties that hold society together.

As a result, Niall, the assassin that failed to stop him, and Ilyena, the wizard’s daughter, [I would mention Niall's assassination attempt in the previous paragraph; then you can just call him Niall in this paragraph.] struggle with their new freedoms and choices in a world that is falling apart. As what they loved is destroyed, will they find the strength to build something new?

I have enclosed the first fifty pages and a complete synopsis of Sari’s Ashes. I hope this sample encourages you to read the rest of the manuscript.

Thank you for considering my request.

Sincerely,


Notes

Who or what is Sari?

I'd prefer less of the metaphysical/philosophical basis behind the story (and the vagueness), and more concrete facts about what happens. What was Faulk's rash oath? What vile deeds did he commit? How about an example or two of how the world is falling apart thanks to the new order.

Fifty pages is a lot to send on an initial contact. Presumably that's how much they ask that you send?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fifty pages? Aak!

I gather things are different in the U.K., but in North America, you're setting yourself up for an auto-reject if you send any more than five sample pages before someone asks to see the work.

Anonymous said...

Darn, I like my spinsters "doughy" better than "doughty".

Anonymous said...

Every oath is fulfilled no matter what? Seems a little problematic when people catch on and swear all sorts of things. What happens when I swear I'll never die and someone else swears I will? etc

acd said...

I'm with anon 8:57 -- it seems so open to creative abuse. "I swear I'll get to Mars before I die!" "I promise everybody forty acres and a mule." "So help me God if you eat the last Ho-Ho I'm gonna boot you to the curb." If it's somehow not able to be used like this, I'd mention why in the query.

Anonymous said...

If the agent's website says to send 50 pages, as some of them do, you should send 50 pages.

Operationally, I couldn't envision how this god enforced oath thing would work. Only got the sketchiest sense of the characters. An example would help.

bunnygirl said...

Faulk dedicated his life to finding a spell that would once again allow people to choose whether to keep their word

So his life goal is to make people free to lie and break promises?

You may want to work on how you phrase this, so as not to give a wrong impression.

Anonymous said...

What happens if someone swears an oath to break their oath?

Anonymous said...

Given the comments of anon 8:57 and acd, I think this would make a great comedy. -JTC

Bernita said...

Sari's Ashes, Angela?
One somehow expects, from the title, Sari to be a character, yet she(?) is not mentioned in the query.
Or is "Sari" the name of the country/world/dimension/universe?
Perhaps a little less explanation of the philosophy and a little more about the characters?

HawkOwl said...

What EE and Bernita said: more Sari, less lecturing about oaths. Also, 71,000 words is mighty short for a novel. And, I pretty much agree with the "how is that gonna work?" line of reasoning. I'd make an oath to earn $80,000 a year starting today and for the next 30 years. Booyakasha in da shizzy!

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice? "Niall" and "Ilyena" are both important minor characters in "Wheel of Time". I don't think naming your characters after other people's characters (especially ones with silly names like "Niall") is a good idea.

HawkOwl said...

Speaking of Niall, is this the query letter that goes with the opening we had before with a guy named Niall (who was writing very fast while trying to work as fast as he could which made him have to write fast so he was writing fast)? If so, I didn't like the opening, either. If not, then Niall is the new Amelia Pettipants.

batgirl said...

Niall's not a silly name, it's a perfectly ordinary Irish name. Just because Robert Jordan has no originality in his naming system does not prohibit other Irish boyos from being named Niall.
Ilyena I dunno. Sounds Slavic, sounds as if it exists in the real world as well.
Personally I dislike mix'n'match cultures in naming more than I dislike seeing a fairly generic name recur from one generic fantasy setting to another.

Pamela Dean had a different (but also odd) god-meddling system in The Dubious Hills, where only one person in a given community could feel pain, and so was in charge of letting everyone else know when they'd burnt their hands on the stove and so on. That somehow worked within the story, so conceivably this might as well. It needs to be more convincing in the query, though.

Anonymous said...

2. In the world of Sari's Ashes, no one can break his word once he's given it. Needless to say, this world sucks, so a wizard tries to find a spell that will reverse the untenable situation.

"Needless to say, this world sucks..."

Priceless!