Monday, May 21, 2007

Face-Lift 337

Guess the Plot

The Demon's Bane

1. After her best friend is possessed by a demon, Nerea travels to Lectros to train at summoning demon-fighting angels. But the demon, cast out of Nerea's friend, possesses her lover and follows after Nerea. Will he kill her before she becomes . . . the Demon's Bane?

2. Aleister Blanc—oppressor of the damned, master of the infidels, and the half-human offspring of the succubus Satonis—exerts supreme dominion over the realm of darkness. Yet with all his power, Aleister is slave to the most hellish of human curses—the dreaded sphincter of flames, the bonfire of the buttocks . . . the anal inferno.

3. His beat is the inner city, and he sees it all: vampires, zombies, werewolves -- but mostly demons. In fact, they call him Demon's Bane because he's sent so many back to the Netherworld. When the ultimate challenge becomes the ultimate temptation, can Bane hold on to his reputation . . . and his heart?

4. Memnok the Lazy enjoys his quiet existence terrorizing mortals with thoughts of procrastination. But when The Man Downstairs summons him to train an over-ambitious new demon, his underworld is turned upside down. Can Memnok find a way to tame the new guy’s insatiable bloodlust before it sparks a new round of mass exorcism?

5. Zubba complains about his job a lot, but he doesn't really mind the ash or the heat. He knows he's pretty lucky to have a job at all. But when he gets trapped in the brimstone with a young upstart called Bill, he admits the truth: the crank phone calls from St. Peter are really starting to wind him up.

6. Richard Fudge runs Fudge Pizza like an outpost of Hell. No one dares oppose his whims -- until he hires the meanest cashier in the world: tyrannical spinster Joan Winesap. When Richard makes fatally snarky remarks, Joan realizes she must destroy his precious little pizza kingdom, then take over the world.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The Demon's Bane is an adult high fantasy novel of approximately 117,000 words.

Nerea is a young slave living in a remote, northern village named Hillensom. While serving in the home of the local earl, her life is kept busy with her various responsibilities and a somewhat-reluctant relationship with Jachan, the earl's son, much to the disapproval of the other slaves. [Do they disapprove of the relationship or the reluctance? What would happen if she refused him?] On one winter's night, Saska -- her only childhood friend -- is possessed by a demon, although this attempted possession is thwarted by the village priest. [Who is thereafter known far and wide as The Demon's Bane.] This is followed by the surprise arrival of a mysterious woman named Hanna and her angel companion.

Hanna is a summoner, one of the few women that can call angels -- mighty warriors of the gods -- to earth, and together fight against demons, evil summoners, and others that serve the fallen god Onago. Hanna [, known far and wide as The Demon's Bane,] has come to test all eligible women to see if they have a summoner's power. Despite her skepticism at the existence of gods or angels, Nerea finds that both she and Saska possess the potential to become a summoner, [but only one of them has the potential to become . . . the Demon's Bane.] [This is like how only Buffy could be the slayer.] and now they must travel across much of the known world to the holy city of Lectros to be trained. [Trained by Giles, the librarian of Lectros.] Jachan, now bereft of his reluctant lover, is offered an opportunity by the demon that was cast out of Saska to recapture Nerea, but at the price of allowing the spirit to reside in his body. Overwhelmed by his anger at Nerea's "kidnapping," Jachan agrees only to discover that there are other summoners hunting Nerea as well.

During her journey, Nerea will be helped by others in her quest: Saska, who also wishes to be trained as a summoner; the priest Denson, who knows much about Nerea's past; the angel Seth, and his summoner companion Arentil; Melody, Arentil's book-wise granddaughter, and even the goddess Yethde, who directly opposes Onago's plans for Nerea. Hounded at every step along the way while avoiding capture or murder at the hands of Jachan and the enemy summoners, Nerea will learn about her history, her power, and why she is the latest in line to be called "the Demon's Bane."

Thank you again for your time, and I hope to see your response on the blog very soon.



Nerea, Jachan, Saska, Hanna, Onago, Arentil, Melody, Yethde, Denson, Seth, the local earl, a village priest, Hanna's angel companion, the demon that possessed Saska, other slaves, demons, angels, summoners, gods, and all eligible women. If there are that many characters in the query, I'm thinking the book has as many characters as the final battle in The Return of the King multiplied by the number of rejection slips that get mailed from New York in one year.

What are Onago's plans for Nerea?

Your plot, basically, is: Slave girl Nerea goes off to train as summoner. Her lover, thinking she's been kidnapped, allows a demon to possess him, so that he can follow her and punish the "kidnappers." Nerea meets many obstacles on her journey. Then . . . tell us what happens after she becomes a summoner. Five or six characters is plenty for a query. We're more interested in what happens than in your many characters. Also, it's much easier for EE to make fun of your ridiculous plot than of a list of characters.


Anonymous said...

"Richard Fudge runs Fudge Pizza like an outpost of Hell."

I am still laughing!!!

Anonymous said...

Whoa, this is fascinating! On a hunch, I googled the name Joan Winesap, thinking it was more than just a cute name in the Richard Fudge GTP. Guess what came up? You got it, the beginning of a circuitous trail unveiling the real identity of Miss Snark, along with a picture of the lovely literary diva arm-in-arm with you got it! GC himself. Maybe the poster of the Richard Fudge GTP was actually Miss Snark. Clues abound and this is shaping up like the Beatles mystery all over again. I can’t tell you how many hours of my life I wasted studying the album covers of Abbey Road and Magical Mystery Tour.

Anonymous said...

Number #5 GTP! Most excellent!

ME said...

Now I'm feeling a little tense, but I attributed it to your tendency to shift tenses. I'm not a fan of fantasy, but I can definitely see why you would call this "High". Sorry I can't be more helpful, but I am Lectros intolerant.

Anonymous said...

Anon!! Let's stay on thread here! Since there are nearly as many characters in this guy's story as there were on the MMT cover, I am sure there must be some relevant connection you could make. As for me, I was mesmerized by the cover of "The White Albumn".

150 said...

(The southern village is named Andthensom.)

Author, a reluctant relationship with your owner's son is called "rape". He can take whatever he wants, so he wouldn't be reluctant, and she would either agree or be forced--"reluctant" is a middle ground. Skipping across the realities of slavery like this killed my suspension of disbelief almost immediately. It could be fine in the book, but the wording doesn't seem to reflect a realistic dynamic between them.

On that note, you don't mention how she stops being a slave. Or does she do all this traveling and learning while still being owned?

You might want to scrub this for weak phrases. Things like "various responsibilities", "this is followed by", even "the surprise arrival" can be made snappier with more details or stronger words.

Good luck!

Dave said...

Regarding GTP #2 - Howards Stern did this on the MTV Music Awards one year.
Regarding GTP#6 - In a small town near here, a pizza parlor about 200 feet from a Church and grade school sold special pizzas with packets of cocaine. You can't believe how pissed off the police, tha mayor, the state legislature, etc... were when they found out.

Regarding the query - tooo many names, insufficient plot. EE's GTP is a good place to start with fewer names. Look at the current TV hit that ended tonight - Heroes - it used a catch phrase "Save the cheerleader... Save the world..." That was it. That was the entire plot of the season.

I'm not suggesting that you use only one line, but with a title of Demon's Bane, you have to reveal the Bane right away. And only three characters really count to the story. "Nerea, aided by the angels she can summon, rescues her friend Sescha and her lover Jachan (better not let the letter "f" get near that name) from the (what fate) of the evil Demons and saves the world at the same time."

Those are the three characters along with the Demons and the Angels. It's best to group them into stark B&W groups like that.

If you don't think it works, think of Tolkein - "Frodo and his best friend Sam must travel to the ends of middle earth to destroy the evil Lord Sauron." That's the simple version that you must create for your novel and then sex it up like advertising copy (ugh, gag, shudder) for the query.

phoenix said...

Oh, me *groan, groan*

Author, what is Nerea's quest? Simply to make her way alive to the school where she'll be trained? Is this a story of the journey being more important than what's at the end?

So Onago and the demon want Nerea's hide, but they're too inept to catch her? Why didn't the demon possess her to begin with? How does a slave come to have so much freedom? And, of course, if Saska's possession is thwarted, then (a nit) she was never possessed, was she?

Aside from the name list, this query could be tightened up considerably.

"Shortly after a priest thwarts a possession-by-demon of Nerea's best friend, Saska, a mysterious woman and her angel companion not-so-coincidentally arrive to test eligible women for summoner power."

Scrub it, tighten it, then let us see it again...

Anonymous said...

Counting characters in queries goes about like this: one, two, three, four, many. People are attentive to the first three or four as individuals. Add more and they just enlarge the confusion, er, crowd. Especially if their only distinction is a difficult name like these ones you've slung out.

Robin S. said...

GTP #2 - I can't stop laughing.

"Aleister Blanc—oppressor of the damned, master of the infidels, and the half-human offspring of the succubus slave to the most hellish of human curses...the bonfire of the buttocks."

Holy crap - I'm so glad I'm not in my office this morning. I wouldn't want to be taken in for 'observation'.

takoda said...

I really need someone to explain the fantasy genre to me. No offense to the author, because my eyes glaze over during all the fantasy openings/queries.

But I do have a serious literary question: Where's the emotion? The attachment the reader needs to feel to the character? Is Fantasy by definition driven by plot?

I really am curious. I'm not trying to slam the genre. I just don't get it.

Thanks for any clues....


AmyB said...

This is one of few queries that didn't make my eyes glaze over, and that's saying something since I often come to this blog late at night after my brain is fried from my own writing. It read smoothly, I found it easy to understand, and I thought the idea of Jachan letting a demon possess him in order to recapture Nerea sounded fun.

I agree with the others, though, that way too many names are being thrown at us. I'd like to know less about the setup and more about the central conflict. If the relationship between Jachan and Nerea is complex and interesting, maybe that would be a good focus.

phoenix said...

A primer for Takoda:

As in any genre, good High Fantasy should have good characters with emotional depth. Like the old mythologies, the best fantasies focus on humanity's relationship with the unexplainable, and with characters struggling to carve out a sense of place and civilization for themselves and their people in a universe determined to keep them subjugated and animalistic in nature. World-building and plot are highly visible, but still should take a back seat to character development.

Unfortunately, the genre has a lot of stock characters now, and people attempting their first High Fantasy novel seem to fall into one of three traps:

1) They rely on stock characters to populate their story and, in doing so, neglect to breathe new life into old characters.

2) They come from role-playing backgrounds where the "plot" is paramount -- what happens externally to the characters is much more important than the characters' internal struggles and journeys.

3) They focus on the fantasy elements of the story to the exclusion of making characters 3-dimensional and real.

My couple of pennies, FWIW.

That said, I don't necessarily think this author's story suffers terribly from any of the above. Rather, I think the author is neglecting characterization in the query to get in plot details simply because it's easier to distill plot than emotion, even though the inner journey is often the most compelling part of any novel. And that's a trap a lot of writers in a lot of genres seem to fall into.

December Quinn said...

I think at its base this could be interesting, but agree there's too many characters in the query. It confused me.

In a small town near here, a pizza parlor about 200 feet from a Church and grade school sold special pizzas with packets of cocaine.

Lol Dave, for a minute I thought that said "pockets of cocaine", like, baked in to the crust, and I thought, "Now that couldn't have tasted good!"

Um. Not that I would know.