Thursday, August 07, 2008

Face-Lift 553


Guess the Plot

Blood Dragon

1. Deep within the caves of a land in the east, WhoMoon's tribe has kept the bloodline flowing and the blood oranges growing for honored guests since time began, according to the ancient ways. But WhoMoon decides to leave, risking all for the unknown rather than certain death as the next virgin sacrifice for: The Blood Dragon!!!

2. Dracula always wanted a pet, but dogs and cats just weren't cutting it. When he stumbles across a dragon hibernating in the Carpathians, he decides he's finally found an animal companion worthy of him. But, feeling peckish, Dracula makes the mistake of biting the dragon, creating a vampiric menace. Can he prevent the countryside from being sucked dry by . . . The Blood Dragon?

3. When Keira moves to Utah it's to be close to her intended, Flynn Doyle. But it's not long before she falls in love with someone else, someone who's not as handsome and charming as Flynn, someone who's a bit of a rogue, someone who happens to be . . . a dragon.

4. Dr. John Ross is the leading expert in the field of blood disorders. But when a new plague begins sweeping the nation, even he is stumped. With people dying as their blood boils them alive from the inside, Ross must figure out how to destroy the deadly virus known as . . . The Blood Dragon.

5. The Ruby Dragons are losing the war with their hereditary enemies, the vampires. But when Drakkar, the Ruby Dragon Prince, is attacked and turned, the clan's problems really suck--literally. Can Drakkar slake his dragon-sized blood lust? Or will he give in and turn against his own kind?

6. Kwai-Tong Kim is a martial arts master, with black belts in three disciplines. When he refuses to do a hit for the Yang Wan gang, his bride is kidnapped. At least, that's what the script says. But Kim has other ideas.


Original Version

I hope you will consider Blood Dragon, a YA contemporary fantasy finished at 65,000 words.

Keira Connelly's parents moved her to Utah for one thing: [They figured it was the one place in the world they wouldn't have Mormons knocking on their door.] Flynn Doyle, her intended. [That sounds too much like Laura Flynn Boyle.] Despite his charm and good looks, Keira hates Flynn [Why?] and is desperate for any other option. At school she finds that option in Rune Inger [Anagram: ruin genre.] —a rogue dragon raised by humans. [It's always a little embarrassing when your intended dumps you for a dragon.] [As a human myself, I can say confidently that if humans are raising a rogue dragon, it's because they plan to barbecue it.] Bound by the strict code of her own dragon Clan, Keira knows Rune is forbidden, [Whoa. Keira's a dragon? When were you planning to mention this? This isn't something you toss in after saying she moved to Utah and she's engaged to the charming Flynn and she's in school. This is something you open with: Scaly fire-breathing dragon Keira is in Utah for one reason: to burn Flynn Doyle to a crisp.] but can't help feeling drawn to him and the chance at true love he offers.

Torn between duty and desire, Keira pushes her feelings for Rune away and tries to love Flynn—something she'll be forced to do in the future anyway. She discovers affection for her intended, but her love for Rune is hard to shake. And when Flynn takes her to Salt Lake City for a night on the town, [she decides it's the last straw. I mean, come on! Salt Lake City?] her love for Rune only multiplies when he saves the betrothed couple from a vicious black dragon. [Rune just happens to be in Salt Lake City too?]

Keira's life is complicated more by her budding dragon talents—talents that haven't been seen in the dragon world for more than a generation. She could be the next Blood Dragon—the bane of black dragons and the hope of her kind. But Keira hasn't fully transformed yet, leaving her vulnerable and volatile. She'll need the help of her entire Clan if she's to ever know what being a full-grown dragon feels like. [If she's so vulnerable and so important, would they let her go to school or on a date to Salt Lake City?] And she'll need all her strength and cunning to discover a way to choose her own path—a path she's determined to walk with Rune.

Sincerely,


Notes

The query isn't bad, but it might be a good idea to address some of the questions I've asked or am about to ask.

How big are these dragons? If they're the size we normally associate with dragons, a classroom with twenty dragons would have to be the size of a football field. And I wouldn't want to be in the classroom where they're learning to breathe fire.

In the history books dragon's read, do the knights ever slay the dragons?

I'm not sure why the main characters are dragons. They seem to be facing issues that young adults face, and you're writing for a young adult audience. Would young adults rather read about dragons than young adults? Are you trying to get a message across, and afraid young adults will feel you're preaching at them, so you disguise the message in a dragon book? Perhaps the query should explain what dragons bring to the table.

To put it another way, Keira is Buffy, she needs the help of her Clan (Giles) to become the Blood Dragon (Slayer). But it's easier to identify with teenager Buffy than with dragon Keira. Maybe it should be middle grade, if it doesn't get too lovey-dovey.

If dragons were having fights on the streets of cities, humans wouldn't put up with it. We have weapons with which to take them out, and I don't mean flamethrowers.

Did Keira's parents move to Utah with her? It's not clear from the way it's worded. Is her Clan in Utah? If so, why wasn't she with them to begin with? If not, how can they help her?

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

This letter doesn't make the story sound very compelling. It sounds more like it was a contest to write a paragraph including teenagers, a dragon and Utah.

Need to boil down and clarify the basic plot lines.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Scaly fire-breathing dragon Keira is in Utah for one reason: to burn Flynn Doyle to a crisp.

Truly wondrous this morning, EE. What an opening sentence.

I love dragons. I collect them - the small, non-living kind. I write about them in my middle grade fantasies. Can't remember them being in YA, though they abound in adult SF.

I would like to see a description like EE has here of what these people/dragons are. It sounds like they're some sort of shape shifters who become dragons as they grow older. Is Floyd also a dragon? I didn't get that from the query. What I've got is some confused images of dragons and humans becoming mates. Very confused images.

Kiersten said...

Ah, good points, EE.

Natalie, how can you make it clear that Keira and the dragons also have human form? Because obviously that's not coming across.

(By the way, folks, I've read this and it is GREAT--all of your questions are answered in the book, EE.)

(And FYI, Mormon missionaries even knock on doors in Utah, believe it or not. You can't escape.)

Natalie said...

Well, I have some work ahead of me:)

My dragons have a human guise, so they aren't walking around high school as dragons, but as humans. And they hide as humans because of those dastardly dragons slayers from way back when almost killing all of them. They gain the power to transform into their dragon form in their late teens and then go back and forth between forms.

Her Clan owns the western half of the U.S., so her whole family moves to Utah to in hopes that she'll get to know Flynn and accept him.

When they fight in cities, they are in human form.

And they let her go to SLC because they don't yet know how important she is and she's supposed to be safe with Flynn.

Back to work for me:)

Natalie said...

Okay, new first paragraph. Hopefully this clears things up right at the beginning.

Keira Connelly can finally smell the alluring scent of gemstones—she knows she’ll be able to transform into a dragon soon. This should make Keira happy, but she knows she’s only that much closer to being forced to accept her intended, Flynn Doyle. Despite his charm and good looks, Keira hates Flynn because he is her only choice and becomes desperate for any other option. At school she finds that option in Rune Inger—a rogue dragon her Clan permitted to live in their territory. Bound by the strict dragon Code, Keira knows Rune is forbidden, but can’t help feeling drawn to him and the chance at true love he offers.

writtenwyrdd said...

This sounds rather like Jennifer Scales and The Ancient Furnace.

A couple of things. First, the mention of Utah and Salt Lake City seem extraneous, like the mention is supposed to assist you in selling the story. It would, if this is targeted to LDS youths. Otherwise, maybe don't mention more these names in the query.

Second, the letter gives us the events, but not the whys. I'd like to know why it's important to be near her betrothed, who her betrothed is and why they must get married. Also, maybe mention that your protagonist is also a dragon.

I think the basic story sounds workable, but the letter isn't making your story's specialness come through.

benwah said...

Allow me to reiterate what I said about a recent query: every damn school seems populated by wizards and werewolves and...now dragons. Oy.

Are these dragons out in the open? Living with humans (a la Eric Garcia's Anonymous Rex books?) or is it a complete dragon society? And if it's dragon-land, why Salt Lake City?

I never knew dragons followed the practice of arranged marriages.

150 said...

Actually, kiersten, it's pretty obvious that the dragons have human form. What's not obvious is why they would ever take dragon form when they live in Utah, go to high school and have nights out on the town in Salt Lake City. Give us a few examples of how being a dragon matters.

Anonymous said...

Still way too much detail. This is a query letter, not a synopsis.

Nick said...

I'm not sure if she will be able to fit this information in, but Dragons (with their magic) took the form of humans because of being hunted down by Knights. So they try to remain hidden so as not to all get killed, especially with all the technology humans have now. They can still shift into dragons, and become dragon-sized when they do so.

Nick said...

Oops you already covered that.

Dave F. said...

I don't know why Utah and Salt Lake City are important to the query and as the setting. BTW, I have nothing against those two places. Part of my question is that all of the names seem to be Scottish or Irish and I never thought that Salt Lake City was the center of migration of those two countries.

This is a story told many times. The "old country" arraigned marriage where the bride loves another. The fact that this story has dragon clans doesn't change the basic story. Tell us a bit more about Keira. She is the center of the story.

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

Kiersten - a woman I knew in college was sent on her mission to...SLC. She was somewhat disappointed.

OP - is this going to be a trilogy? I think 'Blood Dragon' as a title sets up nicely for that (Blood Dragon, Iron Dragon, Pyrex Dragon, that sort of thing).

Natalie said...

Thank you WW for the advice. I think mentioning Utah was my pathetic attempt at showing it takes place in a real world setting...didn't work, took it out.

Benwah, well, now you know how the dragons roll. Sorry I write contemporary fantasy, can't really change that part.

I refined that first paragraph again, which I think is where the problem rests:

Keira Connelly finally smells the alluring scent of gemstones—she knows she’ll be able to transform into a dragon soon. This should make Keira happy, but she realizes she’s only closer to being forced to accept her intended, Flynn Doyle. Keira wants to marry for love—not because her Clan is dwindling and they need to breed. At school she finds a new option in Rune Inger—a rogue dragon her Clan permitted to live in their territory. Bound by the strict dragon Code, Keira knows Rune is forbidden, but finds herself drawn to him.

Dave F. said...

Natalie, step back from the written word and your manuscript. You are standing in the trees trying to describe the forest. You are mired in details.

This happens all of the time because the author knows the novel too well. There isn't an author on this board who hasn't done this.

You've written a good letter but it isn't selling the story.

Try a completely different opening and see what happens: EE gave you one to start (bless his heart ;)
Scaly fire-breathing dragon Keira is in Utah for one reason: to burn [her betrothed] Flynn Doyle to a crisp.

Or try starting with my silly line: "Nobody believes in the Spanish Inquisition or arranged marriages and Keira hates her prospective husband, Flynn. Dragged to her betrothed's ancestral home, she longs for her true love, Rune Inger."

PS... EE is right Flynn Doyle sounds like Laura Flynn Boyle and distracts. I mean really distracts as bad as Flynn Zits or Flynn Pimpleby (sorry)...

And to my mind, "Rune Inger" sounds like Inger Stevens and brings to mind adolescent sexual fantasies I used to have. (again, sorry to inflict that image into your mind.)

Evil Editor said...

When they fight in cities, they are in human form.

They seem always to be in human form. Under what circumstances do they change to dragons?

Renee Collins said...

Natalie, I think you have already made some great improvements.

Maybe you could start with a more general sentence, to sort of set things up. Like:

To save themselves from extinction, the Dragon clans of North America long ago used their magic to develop human forms. Now, the dwindling Emerald Clan seeks to bethroth spirited Keira in an arranged marriage that is anything but appealing to her. Every sign indicates that she's about to finally develop her dragon form--the growing pains, the dreams. She can hardly resist the sweet, pomagranete smell of her ruby ring. Her life was just about to get interesting. Getting engaged to cocky Flynn Doyle is the last things she wants to do. And besides, Keira wants to marry for love—not because her Clan needs to breed. At school she finds a new option in Rune Inger—a rogue dragon.

Okay, I'll stop now. Sorry, don't mean to rewrite your whole query. Also, I suppose it might be unorthodox to start with a broader scope, but maybe that would put things into better perspective before you start to tell the personal interplay.

Natalie said...

Thank you so much Dave, very helpful comments! I'm looking over some of my older drafts and trying to refocus this thing. It's hard because there are essentially two stories--the love story, and the fighting black dragons part.

Seems like I need to give the black dragons more attention so it's clear they do have a reason to transform--to fight/hunt them.

I just cut Flynn out, so that issue is solved:) Perhaps I'll just use Rune's first name, lol.

Stay tuned, people. Maybe I'll get close next time I post it;)

Kings Falcon said...

The story sounds like it could be really interesting. After all, who doesn't love dragons? The query is pretty clear, but I don't think it's doing your story and justice.

I keep reading this and wondering who/what is the protagonist? The first 2/3 of the query makes the novel sound like a contemporary romance, but you called it YA. Then the last 1/3 of the query comes in about her destiny and some presumed threat to her reaching maturity.

What's the main through line? Is it her choice between her intended, Flynn, or the rougue she falls in love with? Is it the threats against her life and the transformation into the Blood Dragon? Try to focus on the main plot thread and why things happen.

Good luck with the revisions

Natalie said...

Thank you, Falcon. I think you hit the big problem, and I think I've fixed it in this new draft.

So, is this any better?

A minty emerald in history class, a vanilla diamond in biology—Keira Connelly finally smells the alluring gems she's been waiting her whole life to smell. She’ll be able to shift between human and dragon soon. But more than any of these intoxicating smells, it is the rogue dragon Rune Inger’s earthy scent that has her captivated every time he’s close. Angry that Keira is straying from her intended mate, her Clan forbids her to see the Rune.

When a black dragon enters their territory, Keira’s dwindling Clan must ask Rune to help them hunt down the dark menace before it starts killing humans. The prices for his services? Time with Keira. Her Clan begrudgingly agrees, and she and Rune easily fall for each other. But knowing she can never truly have Rune, Keira futilely tries to accept her intended and push Rune out of her heart.

Keira’s life is complicated more by her budding dragon talents and keen sense of smell. Her Clan thinks she could be the next Blood Dragon—a dragon born to hunt black dragons. But Keira is still a vulnerable human, and the black dragon wants her dead before she can take her true form. Keira will need the protection of her entire Clan until she is powerful enough to destroy the black dragon. And she’ll need all her strength and cunning to discover a way to choose her own path—a path she’s determined to walk with Rune.

Evil Editor said...

This has cleared up my questions. It has a couple typos ("prices," and "the Rune," which I assume doesn't need "the.")

You might change "The prices for his services?" to "His asking price?" to clear up whose idea that was.

I'm not clear on why an entire Clan of dragons can't hunt down the black dragon without Rune.

Natalie said...

Arg, I read it three times and still can't find the typos. "His asking price?" is great, thank you!

They need Rune because they are a very small Clan and black dragons are more powerful than normal dragons. Would saying "Keira's small Clan" instead of "Keira's dwindling Clan" make that clear enough? Or should I go into that more?

beth said...

I'm assuming it's an arranged marriage...but I don't really get from the query what the MC's feelings about the marriage are. Is this traditional in her society? Is it expected? What are the consequences if she refuses? Did she know about it previously?

And I'm with EE on the "why do they need to be dragons" question.

Here's my take on the revised one:

A minty emerald in history class, a vanilla diamond in biology—Keira Connelly finally smells the alluring gems she's been waiting her whole life to smell. She’ll be able to shift between human and dragon soon. Much better! Maybe add: "just as her Clan of shape-shifting dragons has been waiting for" But more than any of these intoxicating smells, it is the rogue dragon Rune Inger’s earthy scent that has her captivated every time he’s close. Angry that Keira is straying from her intended mate, her Clan forbids her to see the Rune. These three sentences throw me--from reading the original, I feel as if I've lost the plot. For one thing, you introduce Rune without telling us the backstory that you said in the original. How about something more like: When her family introduces her to the fiance they've arranged for her, Keira is ambivilous to her family duty to join the Clans and distracted by the intoxicating scent of newcomer Rune"

When a black dragon enters their territory, I don't know that black dragons = bad. How about "rival" dragon? Keira’s dwindling Clan must ask Rune why? As in, "must ask super-strong Rune" or something to help them hunt down the dark menace before it starts killing humans. The prices for his services? Time with Keira. Her Clan begrudgingly agrees, and she and Rune easily fall for each other. Don't like "easily fall for each other" How about their love grows, or something?But knowing she can never truly have Rune because of her arranged marriage, Keira futilely tries to accept her intended and push Rune out of her heart. To me, this paragraph is a bit wordy and long...get to the point quicker, imo.

Keira’s life is complicated more by her budding dragon talents and keen sense of smell. Her Clan thinks she could be the next Blood Dragon—a dragon born to hunt black dragons. Condense this: As Keira's powers develop, her Clan suspects she might be the next... But Keira is still a vulnerable human take out human--confuses the plot. Just say she's vulnerable or not yet fully developed., and the black dragon wants her dead before she can take her true form. Keira will need the protection of her entire Clan until she is powerful enough to destroy the black dragon. And she’ll need all her strength and cunning to discover a way to choose her own path—a path she’s determined to walk with Rune. My biggest problem at this point is that I don't see the connections. What is the connection between Flynn and Keira (why does she have to marry him, and why can't she chose her own mate). What is the connection between Keira's big fight for survival and Rune? To me, you have two stories: Rune and Keira's romance and Keira's development into a dragon. How are these two elements connected?

Kiersten said...

Also, wow, just when I thought I couldn't love EE any more, he goes and references Buffy. Wonderful.

Shiny new query! Okay: "Keira Connelly finally smells the alluring gems she's been waiting her whole life to smell"

I would change to "Keira Connelly is nearly overwhelmed by the alluring gems she's waited her whole life to smell" which loses the smell-smell repetition.

You've got some other words that are repeated in close proximity to each other--another smell, several dragon. It's not a huge deal, but it's always distracting to me to read the same word over and over.

Then again, I'll just shut up. Send me the query when you've got it where you want it, and I'll do a line edit then. It'll be easier.

And seriously, guys, this is one of the best YA novels I've read in a long time. Whatever questions you've brought up work and work well in the manuscript. Keep an eye on Natalie. She's going places.

Dave F. said...

Your 3:13 version is much better. It lays out Keira's story and that's its job. Good work.

Natalie said...

Aw Kiersten, my champion! Thanks, lots of repetition, you're right.

I'm refining from Beth's comments, so thank you Beth for taking a nice close look at both. Hopefully this will somehow represent the book in a few more drafts.

Anonymous said...

Okay, if this is a doomed love, we need to know if the problem is resolved Romeo and Juliet style (tragedy) or HEA (which is much more YA.)

Overall, you bring up many more useful details. I think my original objection was the details were the wrong ones.

Try asking yourself what the main plot element is. Is it the romance or the need to battle evil dragon enemy? That will determine which type of story you are selling and which details need to be in the letter--because you want the letter to show the genre to the agent as well as make them want to read. But so long as you get them wanting to read it you are ahead of the game. Keep trying. This does sound like a lovely story.

writtenwyrdd

BuffySquirrel said...

Why don't they just point out the black dragons to the humans? Screaming "witch!" or "gay!"or "polycotton shirt!" should be enough.

talpianna said...

Jo Walton's TOOTH AND CLAW is Anthony Trollope's FRAMLEY PARSONAGE, only with dragons. Walton says this book is "the result of wondering what a world would be like if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology." It works well, though I haven't read much Trollope, so I don't know if his characters eat each other very often.

Phoenix said...

Hi Natalie: I really like your premise! I think your second version is better but still just a bit wordy. Cut more to the chase and, like WW recommends, choose which story line to highlight.

Here's my go at it (like you need anyone else to muddy the waters).

When 16-year-old Keira Connelly catches the minty whiff of a cut emerald in history class, she knows it won't be long before she'll finally be able to shift into her true dragon shape. But puberty for this shifter also means the earthy scent of Clan outcast Rune Inger sends major tingles up her soon-to-be-scaly spine every time he's close by.

Trouble is, the Clan has another mate in mind for her.

In fact, the Clan think she could be the next Blood Dragon - one born to hunt killer black dragons, like the dark menace that soon shows up in Clan territory targeting Keira's all-too-human classmates. When the black dragon discovers her Blood potential, he plots to slay the vulnerable human Keira before she can take her true form.

Now Keira will need the - admittedly pleasurable - help of Rune, the protection of her people, and her own strength and cunning to stay alive long enough to finally transform into the being that could bring either hope or doom to her dwindling Clan.

Complete at 65,000 words, BLOOD DRAGON is a YA contemporary fantasy. I look forward to sending you the manuscript.

Whirlochre said...

This gets better with every re-draft, which is good news as it seems you have a decent story. Romance and Dragons — could almost be an RPG for girls.

BuffySquirrel said...

Eh, Trollope's characters don't eat each other, but a few pages in you start wishing they would.

writtenwyrdd said...

Ooh, I LOVE Phoenix's go at this. Maybe use that one? Makes great sense of all the information, and makes me REALLY want to read this!

Natalie said...

Um, Phoenix, I love you. You are amazing. I bow to your query power. If you don't mind, I may be stealing a lot of that.

Kiersten said...

Man, Phoenix. Can I hire you to write all of my queries? Sheesh.

Kiersten said...

Ummm...also, Phoenix, how about popping down to facelift 536? Would you mind? I'd be ever so grateful if you'd give it a look...

beth said...

*raises hand*

Phoenix, wanna take a look at 542? :)

Megoblocks said...

No zombie cows? That leaves me a sad panda :(

I agree with anon #1 "Need to boil down and clarify the basic plot lines."

What would be unique - I think - is getting inside the dragon mindset that wasn't so anthropomorphic.

Phoenix said...

*blush* Thanks, guys. Now if my storytelling skills only matched my querytelling skills. *sigh*

K and Beth, if you really want me to have a go at yours, I'd be glad to over the weekend. Stay tuned.

Kiersten said...

You rock.

NeverSettle said...

Phoenix, what a fantastic rewrite! That query makes me want to read the rest of the book.