Monday, September 03, 2007

Face-Lift 413


Guess the Plot

Sands of Stars

1. When Thia and her husband both fall for the same man--one who happens to be two men sharing the same body--an interesting relationship develops. In the desert sands. Under the stars.

2. When a well-known bloggist begs his minions to send fake plots for a title with absolutely no meaning, will they rebel? Or will they cave in like the panty-waisted minions that I--that they are--and concoct some blathering nonsense?

3. Erich Mortensen is outraged when Tom Cruise refuses to give his autograph outside the premiere of Ang Lee's Tom Thumb. Mortensen returns to his lab and devises a way to turn celebrities into stone -- but that's only the beginning.

4. Dr. Dave Bowman steps into space in this long-awaited science fiction sequel. But HAL has been demoted to a housekeeping robot, concerned only with the cleanliness of the starship floors. Will Dave's constant tracking in of debris be his final undoing?

5. Stars don't really have sands, beaches and oceans. But Friendly Bob's real estate business, selling bridges and swampland, has petered out. Can he turn things around with his Proxima Centauri beach condo offering?

6. When lightning strikes sand, it turns to glass. So what might a falling star do? Teenage misfit and beach bum Elly Prickett is about to find out.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

“Sands of Stars” is a romantic fantasy complete at 100,000 words.

Thia refuses to give up on Jeren. She doesn’t care he is a noble of the City and she is a poacher from the Wilds. [Strike one.] She even manages to ignore the fact his mother refers to her as “Jeren’s feral little pet.” [Strike two.] But when she finds him in bed with man on their wedding day, [Strike three, red card, technical foul, penalty box, ejection, game over.]


[Thia: WTF!

Jeren: Thia! Okay, I know this looks bad, but--

Thia: We've been married a half hour!

Jeren: And it's been great. But have you seen the abs on this guy?


Thia: I don't care what his . . . Whoa! Slide over, Romeo.]

her stubborn streak really kicks in.


She spoke the vows and she never goes back on her word. [Stubborn is one thing, but I don't think "for better or for worse" is binding when you find your groom reaming the caterer before the reception's even over.]

Determined to salvage her marriage, she travels with Jeren on his next assignment- envoy to the Prince of the desert country. When Jeren sets his sights on the captain of the Prince’s guard, she resolves to keep her husband out of the captain’s bed- even if she can’t keep Jeren in hers. But the good captain has his own secret: he is not quite human. Instead he is [a weredingo.] two men- Seth and Ryn- sharing one life and one body, whose differing sexual preferences have led them to swear to a life of chastity. [Chastity won't cut it in a romance; go with weredingo.]

As Thia’s marriage continues to deteriorate she finds herself turning to the captain for comfort. She grows closer to Seth, a feat made more challenging as Ryn warms to her husband’s advances. [At the same time?] When Thia finally discovers Seth and Ryn’s secret she realizes she’s done it again- fallen in love with a man who can’t be wholly hers. [Regarding the vows she spoke and will never go back on, I take it there was nothing in them about not falling in love with someone who's not quite human?] But the time is coming for Seth choose between becoming one with Ryn and destroying his other half to claim a life of his own. In the end, part of Seth’s choice rests with Thia. [How come Seth gets to choose? Doesn't Ryn get a vote?]

Will she be able to give up a good man, when she still can’t let go of a bad one? [I think she should dump all three of them and marry a human.]

Thank you for your consideration.

[The title of this WIP comes from settting- most of the story takes place in the desert and the stars are amazing in the desert-- silly but true.]


Notes

Are Seth and Ryn both conscious at the same time? If not, what's the point of the chastity vow? If so, what happens when they both try to talk at the same time, or when they're driving their car and Seth wants to turn right and Ryn wants to turn left?

Will romance readers respect a character who tries to hold together her marriage to a guy who cheated on her on her wedding day? This would concern me.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yipes. What concerns me about this query is that I can't see how the plot can resolve in a satisfying way, unless Thia DOES dump all three and find a nice human. And in the meantime she sounds like someone you just want to slap some sense into. If that's not the case in your story, then you need to rewrite the query so that Thia doesn't come off sounding like the world's biggest idiot.

And, yeah, consider adding a weredingo.

-mb

WouldBe said...

EE, weredingos are real. Get on with your life.

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, I am sure your story is not about masochistic women with martyr complexes, but your letter gives that impression. In fact, your heroine comes across as Too Stupid To Live (TSTL).

What kind of idiot will put up with the b.s. your heroine does? You need to convince me the story makes sense and make it appeal to me. And I suspect that most of the elements you list should not be in the query. Out of context, they are a bit off putting... like I said, I am finding the heroine TSTL based on them.

What is the story here? She finds true love despite a bad start with that first marriage? How does the tale end? Happy or sad? I get the impression this is a romance, but the elements you give us in the query indicate some kind of erotica, heavy on the B&D and slash. I suspect that isn't the market you are trying to reach.

WouldBe said...

This tale seems more like a travesty than a romance. So I assume the target will be fantasy or SF publishers. Or does the romance market now admit self-mocking humorous pieces?

Anonymous said...

Even the explanation for the title doesn't improve it. The original version, Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand, is better.

Dave said...

Sounds like a French sex farce to me. Or maybe the reincarnation of the "Carry On" Gang.

I knew a young lady who divorced her husband for running off with the "other man"... She really took it harder than if he had run away with another woman. It wasn't pretty (as they say) and there was no possibility to joke about it with her.
Death was a distinct possibility if anyone said:
"Gee Mary Jane, I hear your husband Tom ran off with Harry because he liked his Dick better than your Virginia."
Those words should never be uttered!

And I hope Anonymous didn't have a straight face when Anonymous said Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand, is better!
Uh, pocket billards anyone?

Ello said...

I got to agree with writtenwyrdd, I'm pretty much hating your protagonist and you've given us nothing sympathetic about her to help us swallow her senselessness. I mean I know there are women like this out there, but I really don't want to read about them. You have to tell me a sympathetic and believable reason for her continuing with the gay husband for this to even get us to the next stage of your story. ANd the humor that you are using to set this up makes her really unsympathetic. SHe just sounds like a stubborn idiot who thinks her husband is not gay, just swinging through another door, or she is a golddigger who wants to marry up. Either way, you've set her up to be really unlikeable which is not how you want to start the query. Maybe Jerren saved her, maybe they are best friends, maybe he is the only man she thought she could love, whatever it is, give us something to empathize with her on. The next part is just weird to me. So the captain is a split personality? His split personality is coming on to Thia and her husband at the same time? This is too weird for me but I can see you making an interesting story if your protagonist is more sympathetically portrayed.

You also want to proofread your letter again as you had some grammatical issues.

Elissa said...

I have to agree with most of the posters here. This won't fly with romance readers. Rule #2 for romantic fiction: No infidelity. (Rule #1 is a happily-ever-after ending) Now, if you changed it so that Thia and her no-good husband manage to reconcile because of the joint loving of a good two-men-one-body, and go the menage-a-trois/quatre kink route, you might be able to pull it off with one or two select publishers.

Also, it's not clear in this letter what the half-man (Seth? Or was it Ryn? Sorry, I forgot) is having to decide between. Is it continuing as is vs. "killing off" his co-habitant? Or something other than that?

Church Lady said...

"In fact, your heroine comes across as Too Stupid To Live (TSTL). " Written

Unless, Written, the heroine is a character who morphs into a weredingo.

The climax occurs when all of them bed each other.

-The captain (s) (By the way, don't kill off half of them. Having two is what makes this fun!)
-The feral pet, who is actually a weredingo. It seems it doesn't matter what sex weredingos are, given all I know about them.
-The nobleman. Gee, he's kinda boring now, isn't he. Either give him two penises or cut him from your story.

Phoenix said...

Hi Author: If you're targeting a publisher like Loose ID, then don't be concerned with the nay-sayers about this being a "proper" romance. At it's core, the storyline seems perfectly appropriate for that line. However, I am giving the book the benefit of the doubt because your query does leave open some plot and motivation holes that need to be filled.

Right now, the query gives us no reason other than Thia's stubbornness for her staying with Jeren. Does she really love him? She married above her station -- is THAT why she stays with him? How about Jeren? He married below his station and apparently against mom's wishes -- does he truly love her, or is his a marriage of convenience so that he can pretend to be straight among the peerage?

Then, right after they arrive at Jeren's next assignment, the query says Jeren already has designs on the captain and that Thia knows it. Yet she seeks out the captain for comfort. Do you see where WW is getting the TSTL idea from? It probably makes sense in the book, but the query isn't giving us the right motivation.

The whole Seth and Ryn choice thing at the end isn't at all clear as to what's going on or why. I haven't a clue why a choice must be made or how, but I'm sure it's integral to the ending. Can you be a little less vague about it?

Your last paragraph turns the whole romance convention on its head. The question "will she be able to give up a good man" makes it sound like that's the choice she must make. But it seems if Seth gets rid of Ryn, then Thia gets Seth all to herself, and that he can be wholly hers. Why should she give him up? I don't think that's the path you're meaning to go down, though, is it? Surely she needs to find some way to reconcile all so that she can wind up with the man/men she loves. For a Loose ID book, they will all four wind up in bed together in a communally satisfying HEA. But there needs to be hint in the query of Thia either having a clean break from Jeren or some sort of reconciliation between them.

Robin S. said...

And GTP # 2 is a good one. About the thoroughly panty-waisted minions - sometimes you can't help but cave. Looks like you did, too.


This is a hoot:

"Thia: We've been married a half hour!

Jeren: And it's been great. But have you seen the abs on this guy?

Thia: I don't care what his . . . Whoa! Slide over, Romeo.]"


OK - I agree the female "lead" in this shindig seems hellbent on being a weakling. However, I gotta say I got a litle excited, thinking about the possibilities and permutations with the Seth/Ryn guy. Damn. Maybe, as phoenix pointed out, this works with a non-traditional romance crowd. But I agree This needs to get her freaking act together, and make the most of what she may be, uh, handed. And dump that fool of a new husband. Now.

Or is Seth/Ryn gonna stay split for them? I'm not a big fan of sharing.

God, this feels like a weird soap thing. I'm so confused.

Anyway...I agree with others, Thia needs to look less like a ragdoll in this query. I think Seth would be much happier that way.

Anonymous said...

The writer here--
(Boy I'm I glad I stayed Anonymous for this one!)

Seriously, thank you for your comments.
Good to know that the title was uniformly hated.
This is more "fantasy" than "romance." Not erotica at all.
The husband isn't gay- but bi and does love her. She stays with him because she loves him and she's too stubborn to give up. But his infidelity eats at her and she begins to question even his friendships with other men. The husband isn't patient or mature enough to handle her anger and the marriage fails.

Anonymous said...

(The writer again)

A big part of the reason I posted this is because I needed feedback about describing the dual nature of the captain. I can see from the responses I've some work to do.
I'll try again, and if anyone is game, I'd love to hear some suggestions to reword it-

Seth and Ryn are two men who share one body and one life. They take turns "living" that life, so sometimes you are talking to Seth and othertimes you are talking to Ryn-- but there are no physical cues to the change. Kinda like split personalities. The one who is not in control gets bits and pieces of the other's memories and emotions, but there is no direct communication between them. Their life is a constant balancing act- made more difficult because one is straight and one is gay. Which is why they swear off sex- much easier that way- but falling in love is harder to ignore.

The "magical" explaination is that they are an immortal that cyles from being "one" powerful creature to "two" almost human creatures. At the end of that cycle they have to chose if they are going to become "one" again-- losing the little seperate identity that they have-- or destroy the other to have a "normal" life. Due to "magic" Thia is the catalyst for that choice, although her husband plays a part as well.

More confusing?

Anonymous said...

If this is a fantasy, the story elements need to be integral to the story you are telling. Which means you need to show that in the query.

Perhaps take the fantastical elements and emphasize them and how they work with your plot. I'm a fantasy/sf person and I didn't get that this was supposed to be a fantasy and not a maybe-paranormal romance. Because the only fantasy element seems to be the split personality guy-- who seemed human enough despite the problem of being two people in one body.

FWIW, I think the biggest problem with the query is that you haven't shared what the story is. Maybe, if you can't decide, start with the ending. Where to your characters end up? Why did they end up there? THAT's probably the story you need to put in the query. Then figure out what the hook is.

Elissa said...

I agree with Anon. 1:17.

If this is more fantasy than romance, then what's the non-romance plot? As presented in this query, the book is all about Thia's relationships with these various guys.

And from the query, I have a hard time buying that Thia's hubby loves her. He couldn't even keep it in his pants on his wedding day? Way to show your love, buddy.

Anonymous said...

Phoenix-

Thanks for your specific thoughts-

Need more background on Jeren and Thia's relationship- Check

Need to make clear that although Jeren is attracted to the captain, he does not act on it until late in the story- check

Need to rethink of how to describe Thia's friendship turned love with the captain- check

Need to come up with a better way to describe the Seth/Ryn thing- this one is really tough, see my post above.

As for Thia, she's really not TSTL. A quote, said to the husband--
“After what you did I should be able to sh#t in a pot, call it stew, and you should eat it without a word. And give me a smile when you're through.”

I guess part of the problem is that this query gives the impression I'm going for kink- I'm not. Instead I'm writing a story about
1) How infidelity can destroy a marriage, even with the harmed partner wants to forgive.
2) The challenge of making someone you love (and in this case are stuck share a body/life with) happy, went it requires making yourself miserable
3) That love can help you change, but all the work that goes with it is up to you.

And no, the ending isn't a happy one.

Thank you for your help!

Anonymous said...

Robin,

---However, I gotta say I got a litle excited, thinking about the possibilities and permutations with the Seth/Ryn guy. Damn.---

Thanks! It is a hoot to write, never boring.

This is actually Book 2. In book one the split person is a woman, both sides are straight- but one falls in love with a man the other hates.

The idea that your body kissed/made out/had sex with someone that you loath- that you wake up and that person's arms are still around you, that your body has that hazy-good-will feeling. . . it is almost like rape.

But for the other half, to be in love, but never show it for fear of upseting the person you share your body/life with. . . that seems almost as bad.

And to be the person caught in the middle, never knowing if you are going to wake up with your love or a woman who would just as soon kill you. . .

writtenwyrdd said...

"If this is a fantasy, the story elements need to be integral to the story you are telling," should have read "the fantasy elements should be integral to the story you are telling."

And, reading your last post that explains the dual personality guy, you might start the letter with something that references the big choice she's got to make around the men. I think I'd play down the menage a whatever in the query and emphasize the emotional stakes.

anon 1:17

writtenwyrdd said...

stupid blogger. I keep hitting the return key and sending before I'm done. I meant to say I was anon 1:17, and hadn't signed on accident.

Robin S. said...

Hi anon author-

I'd like a copy of that first one, please, when you sell it. Just let us know when it's up on Amazon, 'K?

This reminds me (only a little bit) of me a hile back- I learned never to date two people at the same time unless they had the same name- (say, David and David, that one worked out well)- 'cause I couldn't screw up and call them each other's names.

I learned this by having two guys take me out in one weekend, Jake and Joe, and, you guessed it, called each of them the other guy's name. BUT if they'd been in the same body- then, no
problem-o.

Damn. Sometimes fantasy really is better than reality.

Thanks! Just let me know when this comes out.

Phoenix said...

Another couple of thoughts after reading your posts, Author:

1) Who is your target audience? Traditional fantasy readers aren't necessarily going to read a message story about the nature of infidelity. And romance readers aren't going to love a story that doesn't end happily. This will be a tough sell in the traditional market. Not because of the subject matter, but because it doesn't follow convention.

2) The cardinal rule for fantasy is not to write a fantasy when the story can be told in a non-fantasy setting.

3) It seems that your themes/messages may violate #2. How infidelity can destroy a marriage, even with the harmed partner wants to forgive. This certainly doesn't require a fantasy setting. The way your query is currently organized, it puts Thia and her marriage at the heart of the story. But a LOT of ordinary folk have been in Thia's sandals.

So why is this a fantasy? Because it also explores The challenge of making someone you love (and in this case are stuck share a body/life with) happy, went it requires making yourself miserable through Seth and Ryn. Why are THEY not the MCs and central to the story rather than Thia? It seems THEY are your hook. Yet in your query, it sounds like one is considering offing the other.

Interesting. If this is Book 2 and the books' common theme is the struggles of the immortals, then why Seth and Ryn aren't considered the MCs in this book is really befuddling to me.

FWIW: I certainly didn't get the impression this story is erotica at all. As for "kinky," well, given the setup, you certainly can't fault the reader for reading "kink" into it. But then, we all have our own definition of what "kinky" is, and I didn't see this as over-the-top kinky in any way.

But I digress into story territory and out of queritory. Many times when we see queries for romances, we minions must counsel the authors to concentrate more on the characters and less on the plot. Yours, which you claim isn't romance, suffers from the opposite: too much concentration on characters and not enough on plot, so it comes across as a romance. WW has it right: more plot, please. Oh, and perhaps change it to: fantasy with romantic elements.

Dave said...

Did you ever think that this should be in the query in some form or another?'

The "magical" explaination is that they are an immortal that cyles from being "one" powerful creature to "two" almost human creatures. At the end of that cycle they have to chose if they are going to become "one" again-- losing the little seperate identity that they have-- or destroy the other to have a "normal" life. Due to "magic" Thia is the catalyst for that choice, although her husband plays a part as well.

it is, after all is said and done, more of the plot than Thia's marraige to Jeren. Apparently, Thia's drive to catch Jeren, is all backstory and the important philosophical love question comes about when she meets the dual-personality and forces him&him to decide what He&He wants to be.

And I don't mean this in a silly way. Your romance is the love between Thia and Seth. BECAUSE, Jeren is a bounder for cheating. Seth doesn't cheat but Thia might have to give him up - sad story. Or Seth might marry Thia and they live happily ever after.

Robin S. said...

Dave, I think this makes great sense, and ties in with the plot points stuff WW and phoenix pointed out.

The paragraph you point out does seem to be a cornerstone of the plot. And maybe the previous book as well.

Anonymous said...

(The writer again)

Phoenix,

Originally, I wrote the first book with the split person/s as the MC. It didn't sit right and I ignored it for 18 months and started on the story I queried. After working on Thia's story I realized that everything flowed better using the "normal" person as the MC. The split person is tough to center things around because you end up with two people competing for the MC role and the tug of war which results dilutes the story.

So I started all over with Book 1, writing it with the normal person as the MC. All of the critters that have seen both versions, like the new one better.

But in the first book I have another plot line to frame out the normal person, and perhaps that is what is missing from Thia's story.

Mmm, I will have to think on that.

But, do you think that it would be off putting to query around the split person, even if the MC is the normal person?

As for my target audience- I'm still pollyanna enough to be writing to please myself. But Bujod's "Sharing Knife" and Anne Bishop's "Sebastion" are the last two books I read.

PS- Thank to everyone- this is extremely helpful!

Anonymous said...

Robin,

Around here I doubt it, but I gotta ask- do you seriously like the premise? Or do you think it sucks?

Just curious!

Anonymous said...

Dave-

The problem is that I've been told the explanation makes my query too long to be viable.

Maybe I'm getting bad advice.

Any thoughts?

Robin S. said...

Hi author-

I seriously like the premise, all kidding aside.

But you need otherd to help you with the query- that's definitely not my strong point - phoenix and Dave, especially- have given you good framing ideas here,in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Author,

I was just about to suggest that you make the split person the MC! Oh well.

I think the problem is that, if Thia is the main character, then you have to tell us why it's HER story, even if the thing that hooks our interest is this split person.
How does Thia change, what is her crisis, what does she do to change her world? And while you're at it, make sure we don't think she's an idiot.

Good luck with this. I do think there's something interesting in here, if you can just figure out how to explain it all.

-mb

Dave said...

Too long? Cut it down. Write it out long and then start to chop. It's hard but you can do it. You wrote two novels. that means you can write this letter.

Try starting something like this:
Shortly after finding her husband Prince Jeren in bed with another man on her wedding night, Thia finds her soul mate in the Captain of the Prince's Guard. But Captain Seth is not what he seems. He is rare being that begins life as two personas. He is both Seth and Ryn. Ryn is falling in love with the Prince.
Will Seth's love of Thia be the catalyst for him to live life with one persona? Or will thia and Prince stay together and doom Seth to share a life with Ryn?


That's rough and it might be completely wrong, but it is a start. You have to put that in your own words and keep it on a page.
You can add the "dear editor, kiss, kiss, hug, hug, title, a fantasy novel of nnn words" and the "Thanks for your consideration. A SASE, is enclosed," when you are done with the middle part.

Anonymous said...

Your story reminds me of Sharon Green's Terrillian series. She's very good at writing fantasy based around hot and heavy relationships that are unusual.

Maybe reading some of her flap copy can help you with how to frame the query. I suggest reading her books since you are possibly writing in that 'genre'.

Sarah

Bonnie said...

I have a good feel for the personal interactions and the emotional turmoil, but is there a, like, plot or something? Or do they just sit around angsting about whose bed to be in?

batgirl said...

Anon 10:56 - *waves at fellow Samuel Delany fan!*
-Barbara