Saturday, April 07, 2007

Face-Lift 310

Guess the Plot

Through the Veil

1. Jody Winesap tries to remember anything that would help her locate that guy she met at Woodstock, for the sake of their son, Sunbeam Starchild. The boy has grown into an insurance executive who calls himself "Todd Johnson" and can't stop talking about market share. If Jody can reunite him with his father, Prince Sequoia, there might be hope for him yet.

2. Martian Princess Cora desperately wants to avoid what she sees Through the Veil: an arranged marriage to the cross-eyed, drooling Prince of Titan.

3. Michael Roberts loves his job as a CIA agent. But when he is assigned a new post in Iran, he gets more than he bargained for--he must pose not only as a private citizen, but as a woman! Fully cloaked in his burqa, no one will ever know except his "husband"-- but when he falls in love with a beautiful Iranian woman, all bets are off.

4. Slavenka Philopovna wants a storybook wedding so much she becomes a mail-order bride. But as she dresses for the wedding, she realizes she's never even seen the man she's about to marry. Can she make a quick getaway if she doesn't like what she sees . . . through the veil?

5. Amelia McDonald's brother has been kidnapped by monstrous creatures, and the only way to save him is to follow him "through the veil" into the fairy kingdom. But now Amelia has her own problems: she's being hunted, by the entity known only as . . . The Steward.

6. Annette has been planning her wedding day since she was five, and when the date is finally set with super hunk Stud Ripken, all her dreams are about to come true. However, her veil is so thick she finds herself having just said "I do" to 3-eyed Orville in the wrong church. Will she get a refund from the wedding shop? And will she find love with Orville?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

The daughter of a fairy princess can expect certain perks: first pick of the season's Spinken-spun silks, preferred seating at the Moonspring Renewal Festival, and not having to obsess about looking fat in a puffy pink bridesmaid dress. Unfortunately, nobody told thirteen-year-old Amelia McDonald about her royal heritage- she doesn't even know fairies exist- so obsessing is just what she is doing when her days of blissful ignorance come to an abrupt end. [I don't care if she knows she's the daughter of a fairy princess or not; if she looks like a pregnant water buffalo in the pink dress, she'll obsess. Any female would, perks or no perks.]

Amelia is busy bemoaning her father's upcoming wedding to her town's Martha Stewart when Morta, a know-it-all fairy with a regrettable chocolate allergy, crash lands in her room. Just as Amelia is warming to her tiny visitor, the two discover that Amelia's brother Sam has somehow managed to get himself kidnapped [He's been kidnapped. Why make it sound like it's the victim's fault?] by monstrous ice-flecked creatures called dureks. [How do they know who kidnapped him? Did they find a trail of ice cubes?] Determined to find Sam, Amelia uses a charm to disguise herself as a fairy and, despite her inability to fly without running into things, she and Morta journey into the fairy kingdom.

As if one [her] missing brother wasn't [weren't] problem enough, Amelia soon learns that the fairy world isn't all buttercups and Tinkerbells; it is often [it's also] bone-chilling dureks and fairy-eating trolls. Worse, she is being hunted by the Steward, an ambitious fairy who is not about to let anyone interfere with his plans for Sam, [I don't see a ruthless, ambitious guy calling himself "the Steward." It would be like Martha Stewart declaring that henceforth she wanted to be known as "the Stewardess."] and the Wanderer Silira, a charmcrafter who has done something evil enough to warrant eternal banishment from the kingdom. Only if Amelia can stay a step ahead of them- and manage to subsist on the less-than-satisfactory local diet of nuts and berries- can she hope to be reunited with her brother.

Through the Veil is a 70,000 word standalone novel for young adults with fantastic series potential. [Unfortunately, very few young adults have fantastic series potential.] Thank you for your consideration, and I hope for the opportunity to speak with you further about this project.


* The Veil (invisible to humans) is a cascading curtain of shimmering light that separates the mortal world from the fairy kingdom.


Not bad. Nice tone, nice specifics. I'm not crazy about these names: the Steward, dureks, the Wanderer Silira, Morta. The minions who agree with me are in charge of coming up with better names for you.

We don't need to know about Amelia's diet. Telling us she needs to find a way to defeat the dureks would be more dramatic than telling us she must withstand an unsatisfying diet of nuts and berries.

We also don't need to know about Morta's regrettable chocolate allergy, but at least that's mildly amusing.

It would be funnier if Amelia's father were marrying the real Martha Stewart.


Leah said...

I really, really, really wanted it to be plot number 3.

The trouble with this and with portal stories in general, is that it's hard for me to see how yours is unique in the context of the query.

I'm a big fantasy/sci-fi fan, and I've figured out what the books I like have in common. The worlds they exist in are detailed enough to feel real.

That doesn't mean I need a huge exposition dump; Arthur Clarke always made me feel at home in a couple of paragraphs, but I do need to know more about how this works and why I care.

I would cut the whole first paragraph, which doesn't tell me anything new about fairies, in favor of some specifics. Tell me why 'the Steward' kidnapped the brother, so it doesn't feel like a convenient way to kickstart the plot.

I'm always on the lookout for good fantasy, so I wish you the best of luck, but right now, there's not enough to grab my attention.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like fun. The names could be different, but at least these are pronouncable and you didn't call anyone "Puck".

Re: the "portal stories" issue. If you go to the YA section and start reading the back covers of all the fantasy books, you will soon notice the majority of them have a modern main character who somehow gets involved in "another world". So don't let anyone tell you this kills your book. However, when you read several of the "most popular" and "less popular" books in the YA/middle grade fantasy ilk [and I mean current titles, not old stuff like Narnia or Alice in Wonderland] you will soon notice the best sellers are more likely to have a main character who inhabits only 1 world, not necessarily this one.

Books about yet another modern youth going through a door to meet & greet a parade of members of the McMagic family we all know so well from Classical, Celtic, Grimm Bros, Oz, and Vampire mythology, tend to be less popular because they have so little of substance to distinguish them from each other and nothing significant to add to the originals.

Somewhere in paragraph #2 I started wondering what age group you were aiming at, a question which continued to distract me to the end. It might be helpful to put that at the beginning, to orient the reader. Also you might consider other titles. This phrase is not very unique [see Google] and the most common meanings of "the veil" these days are not relevant to your story.

Anonymous said...

Not a bad query, but I agree that it needs something more unique to make it stand out. Kidnapped family members, magic/fairies, and an evil being chasing them are all genre standards. I'm not saying I don't love that type of book, too. But agents/editors get a million-zillion queries for this general plot daily.

Your unique bits -- the chocolate allergy, poor flying skills, and the nuts-and-berries diet suggest this is going to be funny. If so, bring that out more. I was at a SCBWI conference last weekend, and I can tell you that most fantasy queries sound heavy. But kids love humor.

Also, the query makes this sound MG, not YA. YA usually involves more teen-angst issues such as relationships, vocation, parental control issues, etc. MG usually is more straight adventure and external conflict but without edgier themes.

Good luck!

phoenix said...

At the risk of making one Anonymous roll their eyes and think, "Not again," I'm going to have to say this query does not make this book sound YA but Middle Grade. I had this same observation about "The Vember Mill" query.

Why is that important? It demonstrates to an agent/editor that you know your audience, and since promotion is likely to be on your shoulders, you'd better know who you're wooing on mySpace or YouTube. Your query should reflect the tone and age-appropriateness of the story. And there are many, many agents who represent YA but not MG.

Thirteen is a very questionable age for the MC of a YA.

That said, a little sharpening and your tone will be just right for an MG query. That you HAVE a tone will put you leagues ahead of most other queriers.

The one thing I didn't understand from the query is whether Amelia is a fairy. You lead off making it sound like she's the daughter of a fairy princess. Why does she look human? Morta, a fairy, is tiny and has wings. So why does Amelia need a charm to disguise herself as a fairy if she is one? Wouldn't she actually be in disguise as a human?

Dibs on writing GTP #3!

writtenwyrdd said...

I think this query really starts with the second paragraph. I liked the information, and this sounds like a mid-grade book to me that I might even read as an adult. I would, however, avoid using the name Tinkerbell, even in reference. Additionally, the names are pretty hokey. Truthfully, the only name I didn't want to gag at was Amelia's name, but considering all the Amelia Pettipants stuff we've had on here, it's a near thing...

simonbun said...

"Dureks" sounds too much like "Daaleks" to me, and then I start picturing fairies being chased by homicidal salt shakers. Not good.

pacatrue said...

Plot number 3 really is pretty nice. It seems to be CIA-thriller-in-Iran meets Tootsie. But I do think Dustin Hoffman is getting too old to star in it.

BuffySquirrel said...

Dunno about dureks sounding like Daleks. Sounds more like Durex to me.

Margaret said...

Dureks made me think Daleks, too. But I like the humor in the query. Too much fantasy for young people is dreadfully earnest.