Sunday, September 23, 2007

Face-Lift 424


Guess the Plot

The Danthian Viper

1. Petty thief Dalin Archer fears he will never get out from under the thumb of master criminal Finneas Montague, the notorious "Danthian Viper." But the tables are turned when Archer suddenly morphs into a powerful shape-shifting magician.

2. Two peoples, one rich in technology, the other steeped in mysticism, battle over a crystalline creature with the power to harness time: The Danthian Viper!

3. Gaston Wells has driven the Ferrari, the Aston Martin, and the brand new Porche Carrera GT. All stolen of course. Now he wants to drive the Danthian Viper. Trouble is, the car is sentient: it knows when it's being stolen. Can Gaston convince the Viper to unlock the doors before he's caught, or is he doomed to take a ride up the river?

4. World peace made the top-secret viral engineering facility at Danthe obsolete before it was even completed. But now someone has reactivated the old codes and Megan Chen has two days to stop them from exposing the world to . . . The Danthian Viper.

5. Rebel automaker Henry George's Danthian Viper convertible has been plagued with mysterious glitches from the start. Can he unmask the traitor on the assembly line before another Viper owner is killed by a faulty ejection seat?

6. Cleo wasn't a shy girl. A princess couldn't afford to be. Yet a visit by the prince of Danthia has her running in the opposite direction after swapping identities with her maid.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation for my fantasy novel "The Danthian Viper," complete at 120,000 words.

Dalin Archer should never have made that bargain with Finneas Montague-and now he's got a death sentence over his head.

He thought Finneas was doing him a favor. Since Dalin's dismissal from the Duke's household, he'd been scratching out a living on the streets, resorting to petty theft to keep starvation at bay. When Finneas offered him an enormous sum to help out on a thieving job, Dalin thanked the Mother for his luck. But it was the wrong sort of luck: during the course of the job, Finneas killed a man and framed Dalin for the crime. [Consider changing the first plot sentence to: Dalin Archer thought Finneas Montague was doing him a favor; now he's got a death sentence hanging over him. Then put the next paragraph in present tense.]

Dalin manages to escape execution, but he can't escape Finneas, who has further plans for him. [Whattaya mean, he manages to escape execution? How? And whattaya mean he can't escape Finneas? Why not?] Dalin can't believe he ever believed this man's lies. Finneas is amoral, obnoxious and domineering. He's investigating, through illegal means, a cabal of twisters-powerful shape-changing magicians [If you're going to investigate a cabal of powerful shape-changing magicians, it's best to do so through proper legal channels--unless you want to be changed into a horned toad.] -who are taking advantage of a disputed succession and have designs on the throne. Finneas forces Dalin to assist him by acting as lookout while Finneas breaks into houses,

[Finneas: I'll be breaking into a few houses, and you will assist me.

Dalin: Ha. Last time I assisted you, you framed me for murder.

Finneas: I'll pay you well.

Dalin: That's what you said last time. I haven't seen a dime.

Finneas: If you refuse to work this job, I'll . . . I'll frame you for murder!

Dalin: All right, all right. You do have an honest face. I'll trust you this once.]

and by impersonating people Finneas is too old to pass for himself.

[Finneas: Today you'll be impersonating Lady Gwendolyn.

Dalin: Why don't you impersonate Lady Gwendolyn?

Finneas: I'm fifty years old. She's only forty-six.

Dalin: But I have a mustache!

Finneas: So does Lady Gwendolyn.

Dalin: But I'm six-foot-nine!

Finneas: Doctor Smythe will take care of that. Did you bring the saw, Doc?]

But as they settle into an uneasy working relationship, a miracle happens: Dalin discovers he has a backbone, and Finneas, a conscience.

[Finneas: Suddenly I feel really bad about investigating this cabal of powerful shape-changing magicians. I'm going to confess.

Dalin: But they'll kill us if you tell them what we've been doing.

Finneas: We? I'm going to confess what you've been doing. Perhaps they'll reward me. Oh, and if they let you live, wait till I tell you about our next job.]

When Dalin's latent magical ability surfaces and he becomes a twister himself, [he decides against thanking the Mother, at least until he sees how it goes this time.] the power structure in their relationship is turned on its end. Dalin is no longer under Finneas's thumb-in fact, Finneas is at his mercy. But the cabal of twisters Finneas was tracking have become aware of his meddling. They are determined to eliminate him, and Dalin as well. If Dalin and Finneas want to survive, they'll need to set aside their differences and face this common enemy together. [This is one impotent cabal of powerful shape-changing magicians if they can't take down an old man and a gullible kid in the blink of an eye.]

"The Danthian Viper" is my first novel. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


[The title--"The Danthian Viper"--refers to Finneas's criminal persona. Yeah, I need a better title.]


Notes

Not clear why Finneas is investigating a cabal of powerful shape-changing magicians who have designs on the throne. Is Finneas in the employ of the throne? Does he have his own designs on the throne?

Also not clear is what hold he has over Dalin.

Who's the Mother? Their god? That's almost as lame as last time, when it was "Most High." I liked it better when gods were named after planets.

Follow my lead and always refer to them as a cabal of powerful shape-changing magicians (or shape-shifting wizards) instead of "twisters." I would expect to see a cabal of twisters on a dance floor, or pretzeled around each other at a party.

Once Dalin is a twister, what does he need with Montague?

Whose houses are they breaking into? The magicians'?

The story sounds interesting, but the answers to some of my questions seem more important than some of what's here. And as it's already long enough to fill a page, here's some stuff that can go:

"The Danthian Viper" is my first novel. I look forward to hearing from you.

Dalin can't believe he ever believed this man's lies. Finneas is amoral, obnoxious and domineering.

and by impersonating people Finneas is too old to pass for himself.

Also, both "He'd been scratching out a living on the streets," and "resorting to petty theft to keep starvation at bay," give us the same impression, so one of them can go.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love fantasy. And I think there's some very interesting things going on in your book.

But this query is seriously confusing me.

The first sentence is, I assume, your hook. And yet, reading further, that seems to be before a major turning point in the story (when the balance of power shifts). So I'm not sure this is an effective hook.

If Dalin is so abused by Finneas, why is he entering into this uneasy working relationship? I hate to think he's that stupid.

Maybe your hook is more along the lines of being careful whose toes you step on today because they just might belong to the ass you'll have to kiss tomorrow.

Finneas is happily using and abusing Dalin and Dalin is going along with it for some unknown reason. Then Dalin becomes one of the people that Finneas has been trying to investigate.

Does Dalin actually join up with the twisters? And then his inside knowledge of Finneas' activities is what tips the group off? Does he take matters into his own hands and smack Finneas upside the head to get his attention? If Dalin doesn't join the twisters and they come after Finneas, why is Dalin also a target since he is a twister?

I can buy Dalin starting to mature and discover he can stand up for himself as normal character growth. I can see where there are hints of this as a possibility in the query. I don't see the same for Finneas. You paint him as amoral, obnoxious and domineering. I don't see any groundwork for him to develop a conscience. I do see the possibility that when the power shifts to Dalin, that Finneas, being the die-hard manipulator, realizes he must change his tactics and act like he has a conscience.

120,000 words is hard to distill to one page. Good Luck!

Sarah

Dave said...

Finneas is amoral, obnoxious and domineering. Hmmm. sounds like my first wife,

Finneas wants the power that Dalin ends up with. What is that power and why is it so important to Finneas and later on Dalin. How does Dalin change the world or change himself from beginning to end of story?

WitchEmber said...

When I was writing my guess-the-plot for this title, I Googled "Danthian" and came up with this: Danthian Homepage. I immediately assumed your book was based on this... whatever this is.

Anyway, just a heads up that there are other Danthians out there.

Ali said...

I'm not a big fantasy fan, but the relationship between the two main characters intrigued me.

The term "twisters" might work in your novel, but in a query it left me confused. I kept picturing non-human cyclone-type things, and when Dalin turned into one, I pictured him swirling away like a tornado. A twister just doesn't sound like a person to me.

I had to look up cabal in the dictionary and it seems like a cabal is a clique or conspiratorial organization. I don't understand how Dalin could become a twister if the twisters wanted to be rid of him. Is it like the new guy going out for the team, and the coach picks him but the other players hate him? If so, who picks him? It seems like becoming a member of the group you're investigating would be a major plot point and you might want to flesh it out a little more. Maybe you need more details about that and fewer about how he gets involved with Finneas?

AmyB said...

Yeah, so this is my impossible-to-query novel. The problem is that the setup is complicated, and the central conflict is complicated, and it's impossible to describe both in one query letter. I've tried query letters that just provide the setup, but then I get people complaining that I don't talk about the central conflict. In this query, I attempted to provide both, but I had to leave a lot out, and clearly it's just confusing.

EE:

[Consider changing the first plot sentence to: Dalin Archer thought Finneas Montague was doing him a favor; now he's got a death sentence hanging over him. Then put the next paragraph in present tense.]

Do you mean I should eliminate the information in the third paragraph entirely? (about how he was a petty thief and Finneas hired him?)

Not clear why Finneas is investigating a cabal of powerful shape-changing magicians who have designs on the throne. Is Finneas in the employ of the throne? Does he have his own designs on the throne?

Finneas is a work-for-hire thief. He was hired to steal an incriminating letter that had fallen into the wrong hands. He steals it, has to kill someone in the process, and frames Dalin for the crime. Dalin is sentenced to death.

Meanwhile, Finneas, out of curiosity, reads the letter he stole. From the letter, he learns of the twister plot--and also that his sister, who is married to a prominent politician, is one of the people the twisters are targeting.

He decides to do a U-turn on the whole thing. He wants the letter back in the "wrong hands," so he sends it back to the guy he stole it from. Then he breaks Dalin out of prison because if he doesn't, and the letter turns up again, the authorities will know a second man was involved in the crime, and Finneas would rather the blame stayed on Dalin.

This leaves him in a fix--Dalin knows too much to be set free, but Finneas doesn't really want to kill him either (it was easier when the authorities were going to do his dirty work). He decides to bring him to a crime lord in a neighboring city who will swear Dalin into service and keep an eye on him. While they're en route to the neighboring city, Finneas tracks the twister cabal, because he wants to protect his sister. Since Dalin is with him, and he wants to keep an eye on him, he forces Dalin to assist him in the investigation.


That's the setup that launches the central conflict. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to condense it for the query. I wonder if I'd be better off not providing the setup at all, and hinting at it as if it's backstory.

I'll answer other comments tomorrow; I need sleep.

Andrew said...

Newbie alert!

Well was flitting about here and since we're all just trying to get out of our office jobs I thought I'd throw in me tuppence worth - and as it's free it saves me 2p too..heh

Anyways, I know the feeling, I've revised my query about 213 times, but it seems a little too long and a little too specific. Every agent blog, writing tips site advices brevity (something I'm awful at) and when I see what they post as succesful queries, you see what they mean. just some examples.

"Dalin manages to escape execution" - it'd be pretty short novel otherwise

"Dalin can't believe he ever believed this man's lies" - It's a 'specific' feeling and therefore not necessary.

"Finneas forces Dalin to assist him by acting as lookout while Finneas breaks into houses, and by impersonating people Finneas is too old to pass for himself." - Again, if they are doing something covert the reader will assume you'll exapnd 'inside' the book.

I wont comment on the finer points of the plot (it always seems 'wrong' when it's squashed down into 150 words) and assume it's all worked out nicely, but try and keep in mind that the only things you don't want people to read inside the book are your hook and the main characters makeups. The rest of it should be a theme or a thread of what is happening touched with some general pointers as to whats happening. To nick an example off another blog:

"When the first in a string of ritual murders lands on her desk, Luna discovers that a daemon is running wild" Just one word (ritual) is all that's needed. turns out that the deaths are all female werewolves killed by evisceration etc etc....but none of that is needed. It just wastes space and looks clunky.

So in one sentance you've got the entire plot summed up to a T, there's no need to embellish it. Chuck in some info about the characters, something that highlights the problems needed to be faced and a line foreshadowing whats to come in the big finale. Job Done!....I'll do a brief rewrite cos I'm at work and I'm bored...heheh

----------
Dalin Archer should never have made that bargain with Finneas Montague-and now he's got a death sentence over his head.

When Finneas makes him an offer he can't refuse, Dalin finds himself following the obnoxious, domineering criminal on an ambissious mission. The Target: a sect of shapeshifters with ambitions of government. The Patsy? One Dalin Archer.

With the state after his head Dalin is forced to return into the employ of the man who framed him for murder, and soon the shape-shifters want him dead as well.

But Dalin is learning a secret about himself that could cause Finneas to reassess his position in their uneasy relationship, and upset the sect's plans also. That's assuming either of them live long enough.
----------

See even thats a bit clunky....but you get the drift right?....You're selling the idea of your book, not the plot....thats for the full MS request to do

It's a likeable idea, just make sure it doesn't end up with a rejection letter

Good luck!

Robin S. said...

Hi Amy,

Wish I had something to say that might help. All I can say is - good luck!

Hi Andrew- I like what you said about selling the idea of the book rather than the plot- I have to say I'd much prefer that- but I've been getting the impression that some plot points are necessary in a query- at least enough to show there is an actual working plot.

If it was all down to voice and a well-written premise, I'd be a lot happier.

Evil Editor said...

Do you mean I should eliminate the information in the third paragraph entirely? (about how he was a petty thief and Finneas hired him?

No, that's the one that I'm suggesting putting in present tense. In fact, it might be best to start with that paragraph:


Dalin Archer has been barely scratching out a living on the streets, so when Finneas Montague offers him an enormous sum to assist in a burglary, Dalin jumps at the opportunity. But during the course of the job, Finneas kills a man and frames Dalin for the crime.

Unexpectedly, Finneas then breaks Dalin out of jail and demands that he assist on one more job, investigating a cabal of powerful shape-shifting wizards who are using Finneas's sister in a plot to gain the throne.


That backstory uses less space, but still answers the questions of how Dalin escapes execution and why Finneas cares about the twisters. And now you can present the central conflict.

BuffySquirrel said...

Finneas breaks Dalin out of prison so the authorities won't know he has an accomplice.

Ummm....

Dave said...

AmyB,
Think about the plot this way - The theft of a letter turns into murder and intrigue for thieves, Dalin and Fineas. The letter reveals a plot to overthrow the Duke and replace him with a shape-shifting wizard using Fineas's sister.

What you have is a story of court intrigue with fantasy elements.

This isn't a court drama like legal court with judges, but a king and queen court with spies, plots, betrayals, severt passages, spy holes and all that good stuff. The magicians are color and the thieves are bad guys turned good.

Andrew said...

Hi Robin

By no means am I an expert on this...I've fretted and worried probably a lot less about how to catch and agent's/publisher's than a lot of the people here...I'm effectively regurgitating what I've picked off the blogs.

From what I've gleaned and the examples they used that caught their eye, it is a recurring theme that better you are at ticking the important boxes (interesting characters, Great 'Hook', good summation of plot/theme...) then the less you need to say around these things and can work on putting them across in your 'voice'.

The point I was trying to make is that superfluous information, such as mimicking people older than you, just sounds like you're buying time to think.

On the point of essential plot areas that ought to be mentioned, well, EE's example above shows how well that can be condensed into a few unobtrusive words. Other key plot specifics can be slipped in to either the hook, introducing or explaining a character, the last 'cliffhanger' line....

To hark back to that example I used before with the 'ritual' killings. The final line is something like --"but they end up chasing a danger far more human than any of them suspected"-- That is such a key plot item but its just tucked in there nice and neat saving some big explanaition about how Dave the Janitor is mimicking demonic actions because of an obsession with the occult.

AmyB said...

Sarah:

If Dalin is so abused by Finneas, why is he entering into this uneasy working relationship?

He doesn't have a choice at the time. He has a death sentence over him and needs to leave town, but he has no money, no horse and no provisions. Finneas provides these things. He also threatens to track Dalin down and kill him if he tries to run off. Dalin, at one point in the novel, actually does run off, despite the threats.

Does Dalin actually join up with the twisters?

No--I can see this is a common point of confusion in the query. He develops magical ability, but he does not join any organization. Developing magical ability becomes a serious problem for him because magic is rare in his country and those who possess it become highly visible public figures sworn to service of the Crown. He cannot afford such visibility because he has the death sentence over him and may be recognized--but it's treason for him to conceal his ability.

Dave:

How does Dalin change the world or change himself from beginning to end of story?

Here's Dalin's arc. He's grown up as a servant and has internalized that role. He sees the society he lives in as fair and just--until he's thrown out on the streets for something his father did. He's then overtly exploited by Finneas. Finneas's overt abuse and the things Dalin sees and experiences as they investigate the twisters cause Dalin to be more and more aware of how the society he lives in is actually very unjust, and involves the exploitation of a large underclass (including him) by a privileged few. Dalin starts fighting back--he stops allowing himself to be used by Finneas. Then when he develops magical ability, he is instantly catapulted into the ranks of that privileged few. He has to decide if he wants to be part of it--whether he can exploit others the way he was exploited before--and is there an alternative?

Thanks, everyone, for your comments! I'll reply to the rest later.

Robin S. said...

Hi Andrew-

What you said - "better you are at ticking the important boxes (interesting characters, Great 'Hook', good summation of plot/theme...) then the less you need to say around these things and can work on putting them across in your 'voice'" - sounds good to me.

Hope you stick around here!

Hi Amy-

This - "Then when he develops magical ability, he is instantly catapulted into the ranks of that privileged few. He has to decide if he wants to be part of it--whether he can exploit others the way he was exploited before" seems very important to me, as it speaks to a very basic choice, and addresses your protagonist's human nature- what he's made of, underneath the story.

AmyB said...

Writing queries for this novel feels like throwing spaghetti against the wall. Is this any better? It starts with EE's condensed setup, and then goes on to emphasize the character dynamic and theme more than the plot.

--

Dalin Archer has been barely scratching out a living on the streets, so when Finneas Montague offers him an enormous sum to assist in a burglary, Dalin jumps at the opportunity. But during the course of the job, Finneas kills a man and frames Dalin for the crime.

Unexpectedly, Finneas then breaks Dalin out of jail and demands that he assist on one more job, investigating a cabal of powerful shape-shifting wizards who are threatening Finneas's sister in a plot to gain the throne.

Dalin’s fed up with thievery, and he’s especially fed up with Finneas, who’s obnoxious and domineering, and cheats at cards. But with a death sentence hanging over him, he needs the ticket out of town that Finneas can provide. The sights he sees while assisting Finneas open his eyes to the fundamental injustice of his country, the exploitation of a nonmagical underclass by a magic-using aristocracy. He starts pushing back, refusing some of Finneas’s more unreasonable commands, and earning Finneas’s grudging respect.

Then, to Dalin’s surprise, he develops magical ability of his own. With his newfound power, he’s no longer under Finneas’s thumb. Further, he’s eligible to join that magic-using aristocracy—in fact, it’s treason if he doesn’t. But can he really turn around and take advantage of others the way he’s been taken advantage of? Plus there’s that pesky death sentence.

Meanwhile, he has a more pressing concern. The cabal of wizards he and Finneas were tracking have become aware of their meddling, and are determined to eliminate them both. If Dalin and Finneas want to survive, they’ll need to set aside their differences and face this common enemy together.

Evil Editor said...

Sounds much better. I would remove the phrase "the fundamental injustice of his country."

Andrew said...

Yeah I agree with EE

I'm amazed how much easier it is to trim someone else's query down than your own (I suppose in the same way it's easier to tell someone else to lay off the pizza and excercise more..hehe)

It's a git trying to trim down your own stuff, you always think everything is absolutely necessary, up until the point someone says "there's no need for that in the slightest" and it becomes blindingly clear.

It's getting there Amy, still needs to lose a few pounds of flubber.

One thing though, you need to get set in your mind what your hook is. At the moment it's "guy on hard times is paid to commit crimes but is stitched up".....not that unique

But...."Criminal developes shapeshifting power that, by law, means he must join government although they want him dead."......now thats a hook!!!

Keep trimming, condesing, rephrasing....think where you can save words and say that something about your book is different or bigger or better and you'll be fine cos it sounds like there's a good plot going on there and plenty of action.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'll say one thing: EE has a knack for making the GTP for the real story sound too silly to believe. That one was the one I figured absolutely had to be fake.

I agree with anonymous' comment in the first paragraph. Your query confused me, but it sounds like there is some interesting stuff in the commentary.

In my personal opinion, which may be completely wrong to your book's social and political set up, the thing that this query lacked is a framework in which Dalin's new abilities are hung. I mean, that's some awesome power, and yet you do not indicate Dalin becomes sucked into the machinations. If he becomes against them, he obviously has been recruited in some fashion, and then rejects them? This seems logical and would be an important point to mention in the query...

But I did have trouble following this, so perhaps I misunderstood.

writtenwyrdd said...

"This leaves him in a fix--Dalin knows too much to be set free, but Finneas doesn't really want to kill him either (it was easier when the authorities were going to do his dirty work). He decides to bring him to a crime lord in a neighboring city who will swear Dalin into service and keep an eye on him. While they're en route to the neighboring city, Finneas tracks the twister cabal, because he wants to protect his sister. Since Dalin is with him, and he wants to keep an eye on him, he forces Dalin to assist him in the investigation."

Amyb I just read your explanatory post, and I think the above paragraph might be the problem. You likely have too much set up in your book. This whole bit is probably tipping the beginning of the novel into the middle, where the complications on the main plot problem are supposed to be dealt with.

In terms of discussing the book plot in a query, you might just mention the salient points, which are 1) former theif Dalin gets pulled into a political morass by involvement with Finneas; and 2) What they need to do about it. Because the main plot is Dalin dealing with the mess he's stepped in, from the sounds of things.

I can't help thinking, however, that while Dalin is the pov character, Finneas sounds like the main character; and this can complicate the query as well.

AmyB said...

EE:

Thanks, will do.

Witchember:

When I was writing my guess-the-plot for this title, I Googled "Danthian" and came up with this:

My novel has nothing to do with what's on that website. That's the problem with made-up fantasy names--all the ones that roll off the tongue reasonably well have been used before. All that's left if you want to be unique is names like Smebanrak and Und'hat.

Buffysquirrel:

Finneas breaks Dalin out of prison so the authorities won't know he has an accomplice.

Ummm....


It's done in a way that makes it look like Dalin escaped on his own. It's actually not a dramatic rescue at all--Finneas just pays off a couple of crooked guards.

Andrew:

But...."Criminal developes shapeshifting power that, by law, means he must join government although they want him dead."......now thats a hook!!!

Glad you like the new query better. But actually, for me, that's not the hook. For me, the hook is that these two guys with a contentious, messed-up relationship are in deep trouble and have to work together to get out of it. It doesn't seem to be the strongest of hooks, so I'm glad the crisis Dalin ends up in is also interesting.

Thanks for everyone's comments.

AmyB said...

Writtenwyrd:

Amyb I just read your explanatory post, and I think the above paragraph might be the problem. You likely have too much set up in your book.

The setup takes about 4 chapters, which I think is part of why I'm having trouble with the query. But I don't think I should cut those chapters from the book. The first two chapters contains three minor plot twists in quick succession, followed by a major one (Finneas's betrayal of Dalin) at around the 50-page mark. I think those chapters are really fun and I'd hate to have to treat them as backstory.

I do think the setup is overly complex, but since everything builds on the events in those early chapters, if I snip a few threads in the beginning, the whole thing unravels. If I throw out the setup I'll end up having to rewrite the whole thing. I think I'm better off trying to sell this one as it is, and while I'm collecting rejection letters, write a completely different book. One that queries better.

In terms of discussing the book plot in a query, you might just mention the salient points

Yeah, maybe I could cut down on the setup a bit more, in the query. But I do want to set up the contentious relationship between Finneas and Dalin, because for me, that's the hook.

Andrew said...

Such is the fun of this Amy, everyone's got wildly different ideas and we could all be right or all be wrong.

Great thing I've been reading off the blogs and agent sites and so on is that you can resubmit if you change your query or hook or whatever after a few months. Great news if you've got 3-4 angles you can sell your idea on

Andrew said...

Yeah, maybe I could cut down on the setup a bit more, in the query. But I do want to set up the contentious relationship between Finneas and Dalin, because for me, that's the hook.

I think this 'set up' is becoming something that is overshadowing what could be a good hook. Just hit the agent/publisher with it, *wham*, like a wet fish.

When I read the back of novels (well I almost never do that now for the same reason I avoid film trailers I want to see) it's not why something has happened that catches the eye - it's the fact it has happened.

An agent will assume you will fill in the backstory/set up well opr they won't be representing the book anyway. Try this for instance.

How do you take on a second job with a man who framed you for murder on the first?

Simple, but there's your hook. You don't need to know why Dalin took the first job, or why he's back working for him again thanks to jail break. This is what will keep the Agent reading or, if your hook is good enough, decide she's already going to request the MS

example, on one blog an agent requested a sample of 50 pages because the first line contained the words "Sentient, shape-shifting rock"

If you're worried about explaining how your hook came about then you're probably not delivering it right

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this helps, but I played with several versions and explanations and put them together in a different way, then tightened it all up. Some parts still need work.

I really like this story line and hope you can pull off the query!
Sarah


A bargain with Finneas Montague left Dalin Archer with a death sentence over his head. He’s fed up with Finneas, who’s obnoxious and domineering, and cheats at cards, but Dalin needs the ticket out of town that Finneas can provide. So when Finneas demands that Dalin assist on one more job, investigating a cabal of powerful shape-shifting wizards, Dalin accepts.

Magic is rare in his country and those who possess it become highly visible public figures sworn to the service of the Crown. But the cabal of wizards are threatening Finneas's sister in a plot to gain the throne. While assisting Finneas, Dalin becomes aware of the exploitation of the nonmagical underclass by the magic-using aristocracy.

Then Dalin develops magical ability of his own. With his newfound power, he’s no longer under Finneas’s thumb. Further, he’s eligible to join that magic-using aristocracy—in fact, it’s treason if he doesn’t. But can he really turn around and take advantage of others the way he’s been taken advantage of? Plus there’s that pesky death sentence.

Meanwhile, he has a more pressing concern. The cabal of wizards he and Finneas were tracking have become aware of their meddling, and are determined to eliminate them both. If Dalin and Finneas want to survive, they’ll need to set aside their differences and face this common enemy together.

Phoenix said...

Hi amyb:

I think you may be looking at the hook as the overarching theme or plot of the story. These two guys with a contentious, messed-up relationship are in deep trouble and have to work together to get out of it. That may be your one-sentence summary of what the book's about, but is it the hook? How many buddy flicks could be summed up with that sentence? Actually, how many couldn't?

The hook is what's unique about that relationship. What makes your story different from every odd-couple buddy story being pitched? It's the thing that makes the agent think, "Wow, that's kind of cool. I don't think that theme or plotline has been done quite like that before."

Andrew has offered a couple of good angles you can try to round out your hook.

Here's my attempt at a rewrite (oh, just saw Sarah offered you one as well!):

When criminal mastermind Finneas (aka the Danthian Viper) frames petty thief Dalin Archer and hangs him out to be executed, Dalin feels only hatred for the man. But things become complicated when Finneas breaks him out of jail. Dalin knows there has to be a catch. And there is. Finneas needs Dalin as a henchman in his investigation of a cabal of powerful shape-shifting wizards who are threatening Finneas' sister in a plot to gain the throne.

What Dalin discovers as Finneas' assistant is the extent of the exploitation of a nonmagical underclass by a magic-using aristocracy. Having come from that underclass, Dalin's work becomes personal, his goals the same as Finneas'. Gradually, they develop a certain amount of respect for each other.

That is until Dalin discovers his latent magic. With it, he can now join the magic-using aristocracy. If only he didn't have reservations about taking advantage of others the way he's been taken advantage of. And of course there's that pesky death sentence still hanging over him.

Meanwhile, he has an even more pressing concern. The cabal of wizards he and Finneas were tracking have become aware of their meddling and are determined to eliminate them both. If Dalin and Finneas want to survive, they’ll need to set aside their differences and face this common enemy together.