Monday, April 02, 2007

Face-Lift 306

Guess the Plot

Empath's Lair

1. Interior decorator Claire Holloway can't decide whether to change professions or commit murder when her new client keeps saying, "It just doesn't feel right."

2. Psychic Sylvie Hughes prepares a seance for her most handsome client ever. Can she raise the ghost of Jack Tornado's great great great grandfather and convince him to reveal the location of his lost California goldmine?

3. Rookie elephant handler Kurt Howard travels to India to learn from The Empath, a legendary mystic who can read animals’ minds. But will a romantic entanglement with The Empath’s daughter ruin Kurt’s chances of achieving elephant-handling glory?

4. Belinda has always been a gifted psychic. When she finally realizes her dream of opening a metaphysical shop, she thinks her life is complete. But a new, discount psychic is moving into town, threatening to crush her fledgling business. What can Belinda do to save . . . Empath's Lair?

5. Mirella Glenmore isn't sure whether she should tell everyone she's an empath, or keep it to herself. Is it more fun to have a secret, or to be admired as someone special? When her uncle vows to exterminate all empaths, suddenly the answer is crystal clear.

6. Deep in the Earth's crust, scientists hell-bent on world domination are breeding the perfect weapon: an army of middle-aged women with obscenely large frontal lobes. The plan: hijack the pop-culture talk show machine on every major continent, bringing the world to its knees with irresistible hour-long cry sessions.

Original Version

Imagine that throughout your life you shared the emotions of everyone around you. [The first thing I'd do is quit my weekend job in the funeral home, and become a gigolo.] If a coworker broke up with her boyfriend, you felt her sadness. [On the other hand, I'd be uniquely positioned to comfort her in this time of need.] Every time your neighbor came home angry, you yelled at your spouse. Each day was like a roller coaster in the dark—you never knew what was coming next. [I would think an empath would have a better idea what was coming next than anyone else. For instance, if I was waiting in line to mail a package, and a disgruntled postal worker came in to shoot the place up, I would sense his anger and immediately hide behind the fattest person in line.] Now imagine that your uncle and his church were out to kill you.

Mirella Glenmore, daughter of the king, doesn't have to imagine it. She lives it every day. [Has she mentioned this to her father, the king? Because historically, kings have taken a dim view of those trying to kill their daughters, and kings do have access to armies, dungeons and guillotines.] She was born an empath, physically indistinguishable from everyone else, but able to sense their emotions in the same way others hear or see. [Through her ears and eyes?] Her uncle, the archbishop of a radical new church, has vowed to exterminate all empaths in the hopes of ending a terrible plague that is strangling all life from their homeland. [Is there a reason to believe killing empaths will end the plague?] When Mirella is betrayed and her secret gets out, it sets into motion a calamitous series of events that promises to change the balance of good and evil forever. [Is it desirable to maintain a balance of good and evil? Isn't reducing evil as much as possible a better idea?]

Empath's Lair (F--84,000wc) is the tale of a complicated world where nothing is as it seems. [Nothing?] Friends become foes, heroes become villains, and a sworn enemy becomes Mirella's most intimate lover.

I am a former journalist and book editor.

I have enclosed the first chapter. I have the full manuscript ready to send upon request. Thank you for your time. I hope to get the chance to discuss Empath's Lair with you in greater detail soon.


Killing all empaths would be difficult, as there's no way of knowing who's an empath, and the empaths can feel your murderous intent. You walk into a tavern, keeping your sword hidden behind your back, and it goes:

You: Are there any empaths in here? I need an empath for, um, an important and high-paying job. In fact, two or three empaths would be even better.

Bartender: Sorry, no empaths here. Shouldn't you be trying the tavern across the street?

You: Which one?

Bartender: The Empath's Lair.

This is brief enough as it is, but the first paragraph has nothing to do with the book. It merely explains what an empath is. The third sentence of the second paragraph explains this again. If you start out with: Mirella Glenmore, daughter of the king, is an empath, physically indistinguishable . . . you'll have lots of room to tell us about the plague and the calamitous events and the intimate lover.

Or, if you want to stick with a more casual tone, you could use one of these openings:

Mirella Glenmore thought being an empath was pretty cool, until her uncle embarked on a quest to exterminate all empaths.

Being an empath isn't all it's cracked up to be--especially when the church proclaims that all empaths must die at the hands of Borgo the Disemboweler.


December Quinn said...

Yeah, I think the fact that your MC is a Princess lessens our suspense a bit. Why doesn't her father the King just have her Uncle thrown in a dungeon? Why don't they just tell him he's going to kill his niece?

I don't think the story sounds bad, but you need to explain that stuff.

Also, what does "F" mean before your word count?

Bernita said...

EE hits the two main disconnects for me.
Do not most people know what an empath is?
So why go on about it?
And the reason why empaths, of which there are a number, should be considered responsible for a plague.
Don't generalize about "good and evil," give us an idea of what sort of shit she gets into.

Anonymous said...

I'm not clear on whether the "empath" gig is supposed to be she's got a magical telepathic superhero power or if she's just a normal person. Does everybody else around there have to be told "I'm sad" or "I'm happy" or "You're boring me to death" in order to have any clue? Is this troublesome uncle a Duke, a Prince, a Wizard or just another unroyal thug?

My guess is that this book wants go into the Fantasy section. But if "I know how you really feel!" is the strongest magic in there, I'd be wondering why you didn't either crank up the power or just cut the "super" theme and make it a historical romance with a villainous Duke. And if that's not the strongest magic in the book, I'd be wondering why the strong stuff didn't make it to the query...

takoda said...

I struggled with the same things Bernita did. Is your book finished? Would you consider making her a character who wants to learn how to 'become' an empath, and goes through various struggles? Becoming one sounds more interesting than already being one.
Just an idea...Good luck!

Dhewco said...

In some realms, the church is outside of the King's authority and can only be subject to its own authority. (remember Henry II tried to control Thomas a Beckett, but failed. The Archbishop refused to give Henry control over Church personnel. Of course, Henry eventually, after a long time, declared he wanted to be 'rid of this priest.' Beckett was killed in a church. The point is Archbishops, like the uncle, can have tremendous power to block royal will. If the father feels that the Archbishop is doing God's will, and if the father is faithful, he might be willing to sacrifice his daughter for the good of the realm.


Rei said...

world where nothing is as it seems.

As EE's comment hinted at, this is cliche and hyperbole. It's like, to paraphrase Dave Barry, saying "You can't overstate the importance of X", where X is something like "good grammar". Of course I could. I could say, "Bad grammar is the leading cause of death of adults between the ages of 26 and 65," or "Bad grammar was one of the primary causes of World War II."

whitemouse said...

Your whole plot is summed up in this sentence:
When Mirella is betrayed and her secret gets out, it sets into motion a calamitous series of events that promises to change the balance of good and evil forever.

Problem is, that sentence is vague. Give us some specifics, so we can tell whether the book has an engaging plot in there somewhere.

phoenix said...

One thing SF is very good at is drawing attention to current issues by couching them in terms of issues happening in another time or on another world. The strong parallel to the religious right's outrage against gays shortly after AIDS became an epidemic is fairly clear in your query. (This *is* intentional, right?) AIDS was at first thought to be a behavior-related "plague" so it was easy to target a certain class and make generalizations about anyone who contracted AIDS.

But it isn't clear what behavior might transmit plague among empaths. An illness linked to the empath chromosome could be believable, but genetic disorders are not contagious, although they could be passed on to offspring. So the plague idea is a bit questionable. Or is it the "if she's a witch, she'll float when thrown into the lake" mentality? If a person has the plague, they must be a closet empath? But if the plague is already strangling all life from their homeland, then what's the logic behind killing all the empaths? Non-empaths must be carriers now, so isn't it all too late? And who's still left alive to carry out this vendetta if all life is being strangled? (Please watch the hyperbole throughout the query.)

Of course, reasonable people act in illogical ways all the time, especially when frightened and staring at death. Before Jonestown, I would probably have dismissed a query about a group of cultists who could be led to kill their children then suicide en masse as far from believable.

Others have pointed out the vast benefit of more plot details in your query. Something like the following could also help set up the claim in the query that nothing is as it seems (although you will want to use very specific examples around what you mean by that -- "heroes become villains" is much too general).

When a radical new church accuses empaths of causing a devastating plague, the archbishop wields disinformation, misinformation and religious fanaticism to convince the populace there's only one answer: extermination.

AmyB said...

Does she just sense the emotions of the people around her, or does she actually experience them? The first paragraph makes it sound as if she experiences them, but I don't get that impression from the rest of the query. If she actually becomes angry when others around her are angry--instead of just knowing they're angry--you might want to emphasize that more, as it's an unusual twist. It seems like it would make her highly vulnerable to manipulation.

I agree with others that the first paragraph really isn't necessary and what we need in its place is more detail on the main character and the actual plot.

Dave said...

I stand in defense of an Empath caused plague.

Salem burnt witches for witchcraft and as we all know - there ain't nos such thing as witchcraft.

And the Black Death was thought to be caused by vapors and emissions in the ether.

Empath Plague is entirely believable in the world of persecutional mumbo-jumbo.

December Quinn said...

AIDS was at first thought to be a behavior-related "plague"

AIDS is a behavior-related "plague"--it's transmitted through unsafe sexual behaviors or unsafe hypodermic needles. AIDS is 100% preventable for most people (I'm not talking about children who get it from infected mothers here, and I'm not condemning anyone, simply pointing out a fact.)

If the King is in on it, or agrees with the Uncle, that's a great twist, and it should be mentioned in the query. If he isn't, whether the King has power over the Church or not, the King should be able to protect his daughter, even if it means sending her away. He's rich and powerful.

Thomas Becket wouldn't allow Henry to put priests in jail, no. But he wasn't trying to hunt down and kill Henry's subjects, either. I think things would have been a bit different if he had been. The difference was, the Church's law over the priests came first, but Henry's rule over his subjects also comes first. I'm not saying your scenario is an impossibility, just that if that is the case, it should be mentioned in the query.

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm thinking that Henry II didn't allow himself to be flogged as a penance for Becket's death because his authority exceeded that of the Church....

Took another Henry to sort that out.