Sunday, June 17, 2007

Face-Lift 357


Guess the Plot

The Ivory Tower

1. An actual tower made of ivory looms metaphorically over a dying land in which zombies and an ice goddess try to keep a young wizard and a guy named Harold from saving the world from a mysterious plague. Also, gnomes.

2. After years of planning, Jason finally opens his upscale BDSM club 'The Ivory Tower'. But when the mayor dies in the dungeon, Jason and his clientele are branded immoral killers. How will he prove he's really the town's whipping boy?

3. The world outside her window beckoned, and Professor Horn fled The Ivory Tower to experience another way of life. Now that she knows people have to work hard out there and no one is impressed with her credentials, she can't wait to go back to her cluttered office in the Economics Department.

4. Big game hunter Dirk "Blowgun" Pratt spends a year trying to poach the elephants of the savanna armed with an empty toilet paper roll and a supply of licorice jelly beans. But the gentle animals lose patience with Dirk's shenanigans and impale him upon their tusks for a ride on . . . The Ivory Tower.

5. Ivory Tower is the hottest thing to hit Triple-X since Busty Bundtcakes. Everyone thinks Ms. Tower’s name is due to her pale Scandinavian skin and her phenomenal height, until they see her perform! It seems that Ivory is equipped for every occasion.

6. Homicide detective Zack Martinez loathed the conceited professors at the local university. And not just because he lost his ex-wife, Marie, to Marcus Denethen, head of the History department. When Marie and Marcus are discovered naked and drained of their blood in the stacks of the school library, suddenly Zack becomes a suspect.


Original Version

All David wanted was a simple life and time to grieve. When his mother died and his sister ran away, there wasn't time for such self-indulgence; the same plague claimed his uncle Merric—the town's priest and David's magical instructor. [Whattaya mean "the same plague"? You haven't mentioned a plague.] From the age of ten, he worked night and day to shield his hometown from sickness and famine.

Five years later, life has settled down, and he wants nothing more than to settle down with it, spending his days chatting with local farmers [I can buy into a world in which magic is real, but a fifteen-year-old kid who wants nothing more than to chat with farmers? Come on.] and honoring local gods. It is not to be.

His coming-of-age ceremony is interrupted by Harold, a traveler who claims to have known Merric. He confirms David's suspicion that Merric was not a hedge-mage [Hedge-mage: a gardener who's a wizard with pruning shears.] but a full wizard, and reveals what Merric never had the chance to: a prophecy that holds only David can heal the spreading wasteland in the east. David protests, but when he learns that the plague was actually spell sent by his enemies, [David has enemies? He's a kid; how did he get enemies?] David realizes he has no choice but to leave home.

Soon he's headed east to unearth the Book of Life, a spellbook with which he is meant to heal the land. Adventuring life isn't easy. He is attacked repeatedly by bandits, gnomes, and undead. [Undead?! There's your hook, right there, and you've buried it in the middle of paragraph 4. You've also left it somewhat vague. The reader can't tell from the word "undead" whether you're referring to people who are vampires, people who are zombies, or people who are alive. Just as a science fiction author will refer to normal people as "humans," hoping the agent will think, Ooh, humans, I wonder what they're like, and request the manuscript, a fantasy/horror author will refer to normal people as "undead," hoping the agent will think, Ooh, undead, could be zombies, and request the manuscript. It's a ploy as old as the hills, but it continues to pay dividends.] To save a friend, he must risk his soul confronting [Hillary,] the Ice Goddess herself. When he finally reaches a safe haven, he learns that he has been challenged to a duel [He learns this? If you're gonna challenge someone to a duel, etiquette demands you do so in person, not place a personal ad.] and has two months to make up for five years of missed training. [Two months?

I challenge you to a duel.

Accepted. When?

Let's see, my inlaws 'll be here the rest of the week, and I'm already dueling Rodriguez next Friday . . .

I've got two weddings the week after that.

Now we're running into the holiday season.

Gimme a call in a couple months, I'll see if I can clear some time.

You're on.]

David learns to deal with physical assault, but the real dangers aren't physical. [I beg to differ. The dangers are always physical when there are zombies around.] He soon discovers that everyone has secrets, and he doesn't know where to turn.

Harold, the leader, [The leader of what?] is secretly the eastern prince—and even more secretly, adopted. [More secretly than secretly? ]

Raven, the bitter sorceress, is in fact his lost sister, transformed beyond recognition by her lust for power.

David was raised to mistrust wizards and hate kings, [I was raised to trust Mr. Wizard and to love Elvis.] but is on his way to becoming both. Neither Raven nor Harold told him that the Book is not just a tool of healing—it's the weapon with which he must unify the continent.

None of this prepares him for the greatest betrayal of all. When he finally reaches the ancient spellbook, he meets the writer's ghost and learns the final secret. The prophecy was a fraud, penned only to coerce him into service. [Is this a betrayal of David or of the reader?]

The Ivory Tower is a 120,000 word humorous fantasy that addresses the question: "What happens when the prophecy isn't true? When the unlikely hero is really is unlikely?" [Come again?] It's a broad satire of quest stories—the Smalltown Savior, the Thing of Power, and the Lost Heir are all here, and all tweaked so as to reveal their underlying absurdity. Comic relief comes in the form of David's sardonic first-person narration, [If you need to put comic relief into a comedy, it's not funny enough.] but the story is not simply a big joke. It's also a coming-of-age tale about the value of choosing one's own goals and making one's own way.


[Title Note: The Ivory Tower is an actual tower, made of Ivory, that existed long ago. Although they never visit the site, the tower looms metaphorically over the characters. To Raven, who has spent years searching for it, it represents magical knowledge. To Harold, the adoptive prince, it represents his nation's fallen grandeur. [To me it represents 250,000 dead elephants.] Most tellingly, it was both built and destroyed by the Book, and serves David as a symbol of the dangers of power.]


Notes

I'm not in the camp of those who believe a humorous book demands a humorous query. But it should at least describe situations in which the reader can see the potential for humor. The book you describe sounds like the book you're supposedly satirizing. I'm more interested in how the plot's been tweaked to reveal the underlying absurdity.

To make the query funnier, always refer to Harold as "a guy named Harold."

It's too long, and it has so many paragraphs, you'll end up skipping about ten lines. Combine some of the short paragraphs. And don't bring in so many plot elements.

The third paragraph was well developed, each sentence following logically from the last. The fourth paragraph is a list of events, no development, and less interesting. Two or three well-developed paragraphs makes a more impressive query than a lot of underdeveloped ones.

34 comments:

Dave said...

I need to know a few pertinent facts (wink).
Does this - only David can heal the spreading wasteland in the east... - mean that there is hope for Passaic NJ (it is a wasteland to the east)...

[Hillary] my, my, my, my, my!

And finally, real advice.
This story sounds like fun and I like the author's writing. It's got humor and all the elements of good satire. But please, author step back and take a deep breath. This query is written inside the forest and you need to step back away and rewrite it. I've done this very thing too many times not to recognize it. I still do it write too many words, so you're in good company.
(oooh the minions will throw brickbats at that thought, I bet.)!

Perhaps you can start with your thought "What happens when the hero really is just a commoner? Or when the prophecy proclaiming him king and savior is a pack of lies? Harold, a talentless sheep farmer has to find out."
and flesh it out from that POV.

Beth said...

The most surprising sentence in this query was this one:

The Ivory Tower is a 120,000 word humorous fantasy

Coulda knocked me over with a metpahorical ivory tower. I didn't get any sense of satire or humor in that query.

Which is waaayyyyyy too long, and tells too much of the story. There were too many places where the storyline left motivations foggy and logic in the dust.

I suggest you start with the paragraph that describes what sort of book this is (tweaked to answer EE's concerns), then condense all the rest into one paragraph that introduces setting, character(s), and major conflict, in a colorful and intriguing way.

Beth said...

Dave said: "What happens when the hero really is just a commoner? Or when the prophecy proclaiming him king and savior is a pack of lies? Harold, a talentless sheep farmer has to find out."

Good suggestion. Already I'm hooked.

150 said...

To me, the most intriguing part of this was the kid having to give up his childhood to keep his village alive. Then it became a standard Hero's Journey...and then it became a spoof. I'd read that first book, but give the other two a miss.

All of which might just be a way of telling you to give us the nature of the book right up front.

Orion said...

I didn't realize quite how excessively long it was. I was somehow convinced that it was no longer than some of the other longish ones, until I saw it in EE's format.

I'm rewriting it now for brevity, as well as moving the genre information to the beginning. Speaking of which, how did y'all like the description of what I was trying to do? I worry that it may be a bit pretentious...

The duel will probably not make it into the revised version of the query, but in case anyone cared, here's the explanation:

A challenge to a duel doesn't need to be made in person, it can be a letter naming the time and place of the challenge. Since wizards' duels take some preparation and the distances involved make speedy delivery impossible, the challenge was sent *well* in advance of the actual day.

David doesn't know he's been challenged because it was sent to him in care of Raven, who didn't actually give it to him.

Rei said...

I strongly second Dave's suggested opening para. I would scrap your entire current query. I'd use Dave's opening plus *one* paragraph.

phoenix said...

What Dave, Beth and EE said. Plus:

I would call it a "spoof" right up front. Consider that "humorous" implies a whole different direction. Plus, with "humorous," you have to use a whole lot more words to essentially say it's a spoof. And unless you're submitting to university presses (Bored of the Rings comes to mind) or agents not known for handling fantasy, I would shy away from saying "underlying absurdity" (however true that may be) when flagrantly discussing some of the genre's well-known works. Readers of the genre will accept a sympathetic spoof with open arms, but will not read anything that truly ridicules their taste or the books they love. I don't think that's your intent (although I'm making the assumption your target audience is readers of fantasy; if not, who else?), so just be careful of word choice.

I'm also not buying the statement that the book is more than satire, but also a coming-of-age morality story about choosing your own path/destiny. That's because the Hero's Journey is always about choice. A Hero is the one who can make the selfless choices. Those who can't are, well, the hedge-mages of the world. No matter the prophecies, no matter the task, a Hero must voluntarily choose to take each step. So a Hero can never really be considered a Hero until the end of the journey. In that sense, juxtaposing your statement about making one's own way against "not one big joke" seems to be advocating living a selfish, it's-all-about-me life. Again, not what I think you had in mind. Just be sure you clearly understand the conventions you're satirizing and be sure it's clear in your query. If I made it down to the last paragraph of your query as an agent who represents fantasy, these points -- as presented -- would be auto rejects for me.

Love the duel date dialog, EE!

GTP #3 is great (so true to life!).

jennie said...

Ivory Tower? Why am I reminded of the Neverending Story, which also has an Ivory Tower, an unlikely hero, a wasting plague on the land, a book, etc..

150 said...

Speaking of which, how did y'all like the description of what I was trying to do?

It seemed pretty clinical to me, and a little wordier than it should be--trying too hard, especially, as EE noted, The book you describe sounds like the book you're supposedly satirizing. How about, "The Ivory Tower follows the classic Hero's Journey while acknowledging--and winking at--the underlying absurdity of its tropes."

pacatrue said...

Hi author,

I like the *idea* of what you are trying to do quite a bit. I had a similar idea a year or so ago that was supposed to satirize the idea of the great evil overlord on a volcano. Evidence of this on my own blog here. However, you have done much better than me in that you actually wrote the thing.

I don't have any new advice to offer you. The comments here seem good, the rewrites you mentioned seem the right direction, and so have fun with it.

takoda said...

Is this really a spoof on Fantasy? Ha! Sounds great--and could be very funny.
I second Dave's suggestions.

Is Harold really a sheep farmer? How about spoofing some of the names? Like "Woolliam" the Sheep Farmer....that's lame, but you get the picture.

Lord of the Strings. A parallel world inhabited by puppets.

Harry Hotter. Episode 20, in which he chases babes.

Those are the only 2 Fantasy movies I can think of.

Good luck.

pjd said...

"Alas, poor Merric! I knew him, Harold. A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent hedgerows, he hath borne me on his sheep a thousand times, and now how abhorred in my imagination it is!"

EE, I think you've got "hedge-mage" wrong. A Hedge-mage is an accredited investor who invariably makes money on unusual and/or risky investments. Like a 120,000 word spoof. (Is it really 120,000 words? Bored of the Rings is only 42,000 according to amazon.com.)

Loved all the GTPs again--they have seriously improved since the clarion call went out! Laughed out loud at #5.

EE, very fine form this time. I am tempted to like the humor of the query because I laughed so much at the comments. But really, I only laughed at the comments... the query fell flat for me, even after I found out it was satire. After I found out it was satire, the only parts that made me smile at all were the gnomes (possibly due to EE's treatment in the GTP entry) and the "even more secretly" bug.

If this were 45,000 words, I might consider picking it up. But I'm not likely to invest the time to read a 120,000 word satire unless I'm guaranteed a side-splitter every few pages. (If I recall, Bored of the Rings had a side-splitter every few words. But I was twelve at the time, so anything involving the word "fart" was a side-splitter. What I'm saying is that my judgment may not have been entirely reliable.) I think phoenix explained the difference between spoof and ridicule quite well.

And I don't really buy the fact that it's both satire and legitimate fantasy. The Princess Bride managed to pull it off (with the added bonus of using the name Humperdink instead of the more mundane Harold), but from the query I'm doubtful that you've managed it. My suspicion is that either the humor is too subtle or the satire is much too long.

Orion said...

Hmm... one issue that is coming up as I revise the query is that I don't have the vocabulary to describe exactly what I'm doing here.

It is *not* a spoof, at least, not what I think of when I think spoof. It's not Bored of the Rings or Monty Python; in fact, in its original conception it was straight-up quest fantasy. I found the original version lacking a little something. When I switched from third-person to first, I discovered to my delight that David was actually a pretty funny guy, and that, like mos tof us, he uses humor as a defense mechanism.

The jokes aren't the *point* of the story, though, just a glaze on top for added flavor. And the plot isn't necessarily a *parody*. Really, what I did was deliberately reverse genre conventions whenever possible.

Thus, instead of the dramatic revelation that a character is royalty, I have the dramatic revelation that a character is *not* royalty. Instead of a true prophecy, I have a lie. Instead of the restoration fo an old line of kings, I have the creation of a new republic.

That said, the story is meant to be internally consistent and take itself at least somewhat seriously.

PS --

The gnomes aren't funny. They're predatory beast-men made of dirt.

Orion said...

Revised Query

Where there’s a prophecy, there’s a “chosen one”—usually a snot-nosed kid. Ignorant and unprepared, (s)he still prevails against staggering odds. This success occurs because the “chosen one” turns out to be a natural hero. This is very convenient, but also very improbable. The Ivory Tower is a 120,000 word humorous fantasy that explores what happens when the appointed hero isn’t very heroic.
David, a wizard’s apprentice, was ten when a virulent plague killed both his mother and his master. There was no time to grieve; it took all his skill to keep the disease from wiping out his entire town. Five years later, things are finally looking up. Between presiding over holiday feasts, starring in the town’s annual opera, and dancing with all the farmers’ daughters, David is finally beginning to enjoy himself.
His coming-of-age ceremony is interrupted by Harold, a traveler who claims to have known David’s master. He says that a prophecy holds only David can heal the spreading wasteland in the east. David protests, but learns that the plague which killed his family was a magical attack. David accedes to Harold’s demands rather than continue to endanger his hometown.
It is immediately clear that he is not the hero they had hoped for. He’s not even sure he wants to be. In fact, his greatest fear is that he will one day come to enjoy an adventurer’s violent lifestyle. His recalcitrance is justified when he discovers he is being used. His comrades expect him not only to heal, but to conquer. Worse, the prophecy itself is a fraud penned to coerce him into service.
David fins himself with quite a conundrum. Which is more selfish: To go his own way and let his friends down, or to persevere in pretending to be that which he is not?

.....

I should still be shorter, I know. Am I on the right track?

pjd said...

The gnomes aren't funny. They're predatory beast-men made of dirt.

Well, there you go. Predatory beast-men made of dirt is pretty funny to me. I mean, as long as they're chasing someone else.

Sorry I got it so wrong, Orion. I am having a very difficult time really understanding what you're up to. I mean, I get it intellectually, I guess. Have you tried writing the query in David's voice? If it worked for your book, maybe it would work for your query.

Perhaps this is one of those fictional autobiographies we just finished talking about. Perhaps you should try selling it that way. (Dear agent, Having just discovered I'm not actually supposed to save the world, I wrote a book about it. My sister, the frustrated sorceress, thinks I should just go back to the sheep, but...)

Anonymous said...

If not for the EE comments I would never have stuck around long enough to make it through that plot description. And heroic fantasy would be right up my genre. I'm not an agent, I don't know if they demand humor in queries pitching humorous books, but the alleged presence of humor probably shouldn't be the most shocking plot twist in your query, as it was here.

The "it's not a spoof" comment is a little scary, too close to the dreaded i-don't-even-know-what-my-book-is statement that you never want to send an agent. "I tried to write X but it all came out Y" is another variation on that same theme. Maybe you didn't start with a spoof, but it is a spoof now, right? Or at least it's more like a spoof than anything else the English language has a ready word for, yes? When the agent calls editors to say what she's pitching, she's going to say, "it's a terrific spoof", is she not?

If so, then your new mantra can be, "I wrote a spoof." And when some dolt says it seems more like you tried to write a serious novel but lost control -- you can give them a blank stare like they must be mad and say, "Spoof," then swirl your martini to the other side of the room where all the sophisticated people are.

phoenix said...

The gnomes aren't funny. They're predatory beast-men made of dirt.

An orc by any other name...

Well, now I'm confused. Your comment says Harold gets the dramatic revelation that he's not royalty and that the government being established will be a republic. Yet the query states he's on his way to becoming a king. Since the two paragraphs before that one seemingly relate truths, then a reader would also logically think this 'graph, including using the Book to unify a continent, is true, too.

And then there's the lie at the end: That the prophecy was just a ruse to coerce him into service. Your comment indicates a new replublic is created rather than the kingship mentioned right before. Does this new republic get led by David? If so, then he IS following a destiny -- if not a prophecy.

I'm sorry, I'm not feeling the Princess Bride thing shining through at all, either from the query or your comments. So I'm not "getting" a feel for your book at all.

PJD: On a roll tonight, are we? Love your hedgemage def/simile :o)

Xenith said...

You could start with "The Ivory Tower is a 120,000 word fantasy that addresses the question: "What happens when the prophecy isn't true? When the unlikely heroreally is unlikely?"

I think that sets the tone without you having to say if it's humorous or spoor or whatever.

phoenix said...

Just read the revise, and it's still not working for me. Maybe my confusion about what the book is supposed to actually be comes from the fact that I don't know how it ends.

David is being used. Got that. He's pretending to be something he's not. Not understanding what he's pretending to be from the query. But how does it all resolve? If he's not a hero, then does the plague wipe everyone out in the end? Who do his comrades expect him to conquer and are they the "good guys?" In the end, is everything left in chaos because David is not a hero? Or by his unheroic inaction only do the good guys win?

Without that piece of the puzzle, I guess it's hard to offer comment on what the book may or may not ultimately be "about." Because as I pointed out before, a Hero can only be judged a Hero at journey's end.

takoda said...

Oh God, predatory beast men made of dirt--ROTFLMAO! Now I know what to call my boys!

Sorry, but I can't think of a possible scenario where dirty beast people are scary!

You know, you're really funny even when you're trying not to be. Just go with it!

Cheers,

Evil Editor said...

I should still be shorter, I know. Am I on the right track?

Yes. It now sounds like it was written by a writer. I'm starting to think it should be called a fantasy. Especially if the unlikely hero ends up prevailing against staggering odds. Here's your new version with a few cuts to shorten it:


Wherever there’s a prophecy, there’s a “chosen one”—an unprepared, snot-nosed kid who prevails against staggering odds because he's a natural-born hero. How very convenient. But what happens when the appointed hero isn’t exactly heroic?

David, a wizard’s apprentice, has just turned fifteen. Between starring in the annual opera and dancing with all the farmers’ daughters, he's enjoying life. Then some guy named Harold shows up, claiming that only David can heal the spreading wasteland in the east. Why him? David wants to know. "It's been prophesied," Harold informs him. End of discussion.

As David reluctantly battles his way eastward, he begins to enjoy the adventurer’s violent lifestyle--until he discovers he is being used. His comrades expect him not only to heal, but to conquer. The prophecy is a fraud, penned to trick him into service.

The Ivory Tower is a 120,000-word fantasy in which an unprepared, snot-nosed kid must decide whether to go his own way and let his comrades down, or to persevere in pretending to be that which he is not. Thank you.

Marissa Doyle said...

Orion, is what you've written here something on the Terry Pratchett-ish side, with David as a sort of Rincewind character? His books are snort-coffee-out-the-nose funny but with a deep, often philosophical stream running underneath the humor. You could use that comparison (or at least go to Amazon and read up on how his books are characterized).

Orion said...

What happens? He finds the Book, and decides that he just isn't interested in that kind of power. He gives the book to his sister (the one who ran away to seek fame and fortune). He uses it only once, to send himself home.

I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan, though I am deliberately *not* imitating him. Since he's got the fast-paced, zany fantasy market sewn up, I'm trying for something a little more subtle and leisurely (though I *do* expect the book to get shorter as I revise).

Evil Editor said...

The question is, can you convince an agent or editor that fantasy readers who've followed your hero on a 100,000+ -word adventure will be satisfied with his decision to say, "Screw this," and transport home?

phoenix said...

EE: You did a nice turn with the query in tying it together given the elements to work with. And Orion, it's a great start. But honestly, still yawn. The "As David reluctantly battles..." paragraph is where the wow factor needs to be, where the glazy-eyed agent/editor will jerk upright, spill their coffee, and grab the telephone to beg for pages. But in all the versions, it's just so ... flat.

Nothing in these queries shouts, "Hey, read me, I'm different from any other fantasy in the slush!" Same setting. Same snot-nosed kid. Same reluctance. OK, really hard to tell, but maybe the end is different. David turns his back on the power and goes home. Now, Dorothy did that in the Wizard of Oz. She could have taken the Wicked Witch of the West's place. But no, she chose farmlife in Kansas over fame in Emerald City. And we all cheered, right? But the story was structured to make us believe that Dorothy, the small-time farm girl who becomes the reluctant Hero, belonged on that farm in Kansas, not in Emerald City.

Now, it may be extraordinarily well done in your book, but in the query and in your explanation, I'm not seeing the payoff. What's the "Aha!" moment? What's going to make the reader sit back and go, "Wow, funny story AND a satisfying ending! When's this next author dude's book coming out?"

Make me see how you accomplish that in the query.

150 said...

I dunno, EE, I was pretty happy when those two little hairy guys destroyed their MacGuffin and just went home.

I would want to know that David went through some serious growth, though, and that he returns to his village with something--new knowledge, respect for the humanity outside his borders, or whatever.

Evil Editor said...

Yes, but did David destroy his? Or did he give his sister the book and tell her to fix things?

150 said...

Ah, see, I was assuming that David fixed things on his own without Book-related help and THEN went home. The ending you assumed would be much less satisfying, I agree.

pjd said...

But if David doesn't fix anything and instead just leaves the big honkin' wasteland in the east for his successor to clean up, the book's release in October 2008 will be very timely and topical. Particularly if the successor is a bitter sorceress "transformed beyond recognition by her lust for power."

Orion, I like your revision better and even more the efficiently pruned EE version. I'm still with phoenix, but it does seem that you're getting closer.

Orion said...

The political situation in the book is pretty complicated, and there simply isn't space to explain it in the query, which is why I decided not to address it in detail. If you're interested, here it is:

David is supposed to use the book to unify the continenet and reign as king of the entire land. On the other hand, Harold is all set to inherit the one nation that the wasteland is in. Both discover they're being used. David goes home, while Harold says, "Screw this, let's have a republic!"

David does *not* heal the wasteland; however, the quest for the book wouldn't have succeded without him, and now that his sister has it, *she* can do it. He's not *making* her do the work, he's *letting her*. She was always jealous of him, because *she* wanted to be the hero.

He marries a princess who shares his distaste for power; they live in his hometown. He uses the magic he learned on his adventure to make his town healthy and wealthy; she puts her administrative training to work as the town Mayor.

phoenix said...

I'm really trying hard to like this. But from your last comment, I see why the resolution paragraph keeps falling so flat. Where's your climax? Is there one? Is the ending more than a bump in the story followed by a long, mediocre denouement? And quite honestly, the more I read about the story, the less funny and fulfilling it sounds, and the more mired it becomes.

I was all onboard for a nice, sympathetic satire that you just needed to tweak into a hook that described well what you were trying to accomplish. Maybe some objective outsiders like the folks over at Critters could help you find the focus and plot points in the story that would help make your query shine. But I think it's going to take critiquers actually reading large chunks of your book to really help out. Sorry.

author said...

Thanks much for your help with the old version -- I've completely overhauled the book itself, so thought I'd float another query by you. Note that, if the intro graf's gimmick just doesn't work, I believe the query stands without it.


The Ivory Tower – Query (Revision)

"My name is David… commonly called the Godspeaker. Not that you needed me to tell you that. I just want you to know, being the "hero" is not what the talespinners say it is. Okay, I dueled Sardit to the death. Yeah, I sold my soul to an ice goddess. And, if you want to get technical, I did run off with a princess. I didn't ask for any of it and it didn't make anyone better off. Now gather round, my children, and shut the hell up. And don't ask me how Raven's looks live up to the tales; she's my sister, creep."

The Ivory Tower, the tale of a predestined hero who's completely unsuitable, is an 80,000 word high fantasy narrated by the sardonic antihero.

A spiritual cancer afflicts the nature kami of the Eastlands. Affected regions blossom into jungle before crumbling into lifeless desert. Choked by refugees, the Eastern emperor fears only the gods can save his kingdom now. Unfortunately, without the Book of Stars, only record of the lore by which the gods were made, they aren't inclined to be helpful. A prophecy tells that only the Godspeaker, a youth born to a certain house in a remote village, can retrieve the tome and save the land. That youth is David, a wizard's nephew who was to have been groomed from birth for his role. His uncle died when he was ten, leaving him responsible for his village's welfare and completely unaware of the role he was born to. At fifteen, he is wise beyond his years... and lacking the magical education of any magical Journeyman.

On his 15th birthday, he is whisked off on his quest by the Eastern prince and a magician, secretly his runaway sister. When it comes to magic, he catches up quicker than anyone could hope, saving a friend's life by outwitting an ice goddess and his own in a lethal spellduel. However, he doesn't take well to the adventuring life; nauseated by blood and uninterested in power, he doubts that he is the hero they're
looking for; especially when he learns that he is expected not only to heal the plague, but to unify the continent. When he finds himself using magic to fight his political adversaries, he begins to fear the man he is becoming.

Matters come to a head when he learns that the prophecy is not a record of the future but the propaganda of a power-hungry ghost, written in order to manipulate him into service. Armed with that knowledge, he is now free to choose his fate and make his own way—but who, if not him, will save the East?

Title Note:

The Ivory Tower stills plays a mostly metaphorial role, but I managed to get him to find the bloody place and make his stand there against a goblin rush.

talpianna said...

I still don't see any reason to like or admire David, so I'd give this one a pass.

It seems that what you are writing is an epic fantasy with an ironic hero, and Northrop Frye won't let you do that.

I have an excellent YA fantasy around here somewhere in which the hero knows perfectly well that declaring him the "Chosen One" is a setup, but he goes along with it to see what the situation is. He comes out of it well not because he's heroic, but because he's very intelligent and a good judge of character. These are the qualities I miss in your hero.

Sarah Laurenson said...

The intro does seem off to me. I get an immediate dislike for David out of it. If that's what you're going for, you succeeded. Would not make me want to read the book though.

What's a kami?

I like this part:
When he finds himself using magic to fight his political adversaries, he begins to fear the man he is becoming.

I think this is a large part of the conflict - his fight to stay true to himself despite that outside pressures. This makes his struggle more identifiable with 'everyman'.

His uncle died when he was ten, leaving him responsible for his village's welfare and completely unaware of the role he was born to.
A 10 yr old runs the village? Is that what this means? No other adults step up to the plate and they're all fine with resting their futures on his shoulders?

Overall - without the first paragraph, I might ask for pages, but I'm not an editor or agent.