Thursday, March 12, 2009

Face-Lift 612

Guess the Plot

How to Save a Prince

1. Put him in touch with Clive Davis, get him back on his old record label, keep him away from Jehovah's Witnesses, and tell him to finally write that sequel to Purple Rain.

2. The Prince is in mortal danger, and it looks like it's up to a new student at the kingdom's most elite magic academy to use her powers to end the threat. Aided by a dead wizard, can Jo learn to control her abilities in time to figure out . . . How to Save a Prince?

3. A how-to manual covering such methods as pickling, pressing between the pages of the encyclopedia, safe deposit boxes, and sturdy zip-loc freezer bags.

4. Throughout the Coalition of Kingdoms, princes are falling into enchanted sleep, being locked in doorless towers, and being cast out of their homes by cruel, jealous stepfathers. When a plucky woodcutter's daughter determines to go on a quest, she must first decide: Which prince should she save?

5. Wizard Larenious is fed up with people coming to him for advice about rescuing various captured individuals, so he writes a manual for would-be adventurers. To his shock it becomes an instant best-seller. Now he's got the world's literati after him. What does he have to do to catch a break?

6. Manny’s doing his best to save the world’s ever-dwindling supply of princes. Everything’s peachy until he catches a saboteur in his top-secret canning facilites. His one rival, who favors mummification, is playing nasty. Well, Manny’ll just have to play nastier.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation my 80,000 word YA fantasy, HOW TO SAVE A PRINCE, where seventeen-year-old Jo must use her new magical abilities to save the handsome Prince of Ellisar. Even if using those abilities destroys her in the process.

For Johanna Jergensen, admission to the elite Teras Academy is her chance to escape a bleak future as a farmer's wife. But at seventeen, she's the oldest student ever admitted, a fact that doesn't escape the disgruntled classmates who are determined to make her new life hell. Her only ally is the ghost of a long-dead wizard and he's not much help against mortal enemies.

When Jo almost kills another student, she discovers [realizes] that her new gift comes with a price. With every spell she craves more power [She's addicted. I remember when this happened to Buffy's friend Willow. It wasn't pretty.] and with each use her dark magic threatens to spin out of control. As if that isn't enough to handle, things go from bad to worse when she stumbles across the body of a dead Guardian. The man's death unravels [exposes] a plot that threatens the very kingdom and puts Prince Nerrith in mortal danger. There is a traitor loose in Ellisar and Jo may be the only person with the power to stop him. But will using her new abilities unleash an even greater evil?

I would be glad to send you my complete manuscript for review. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,


I think this is well-written. Although somehow the name Jo Jergensen doesn't sound like one I'd expect in Prince Nerrith's kingdom of Ellisar.

I may be wrong in assuming this is a magic academy. Since attending a normal academy could be the only way to escape life as a farmer's wife, you might make it clear (maybe call it the Teras Academy of Wirardry, or something similar). For all I can tell, it's a normal school and Jo's the only person with magical abilities.

If it is a magic academy, and all the other students have been at the school longer than Jo, why is she the only one with the power to stop the traitor? What about graduates of the school, who are now full-fledged wizards? Wouldn't they be more powerful than Jo, who just started going there? Why is her magic "special"?

If it isn't a magic academy, why does Jo suddenly have this gift?


BuffySquirrel said...

Ellisar was one of the many names of Aragorn in a little-known work called "The Lord of the Rings".

I just mention this before everyone else does.

This looks like a decent query for a fairly standard Fantasy novel. I'd like to know the significance of Guardians, and also, as EE says, why Jo is so special. But overall, well done :).

L Violet said...

What's a Guardian? Who's Prince Nerrith? (the Prince of Ellisar, I guess.) What's the greater evil that might be unleashed? Is the loose traitor connected to the dead Guardian?

V. Dunn said...

I thought Aragorn's name was Elessar. Similar Ellisar, but not *that* close. I wouldn't have a problem with it.

Not like a certain fantasy wizard named "Allanon" in Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara. No, he didn't have a drinking problem. :-p

Gillian said...

Author here - Oh wow! I've had several LOTR fans read this and none of them pointed out the Ellisar thing! Thanks so much for the catch, I'm so embarrassed!

I was afraid this query was a little too generic for a YA fantasy, and looks like I was right. Thanks for the comments guys. I did come up with a new blurb, hoping it was a bit better. Does this sound less generic and more YA?

As the newest Guardian trainee at the Teras Academy, Jo should be worrying about making friends and studying for exams. Instead, she’s trying to dodge the ghost of Owen Westerly. She’s the first person in a hundred years able to communicate with the dead wizard, and Owen’s not about to let Jo out of his sight. Luckily, Jo’s flirtation with the handsome Prince Nerrith is a pleasant distraction from Owen’s constant presence, even if having an audience is a bit unnerving.

But Jo finds her arrival in Teras triggers more than just a ghostly relationship. She also discovers her new magical abilities may be the only thing that can stop the prince’s murder at the hands of a traitor. Unfortunately, the magic has a mind of its own and with every spell she casts, her dark power threatens to spin out of her control.

With the help of her ghostly companion, Jo scrambles to find the identity of the traitor before he executes her Prince Charming. But a disturbing discovery could ruin her growing relationship with the prince. The traitor isn’t the only one keeping secrets - the reality of Jo’s own heritage and the truth about her powers may be enough to destroy the kingdom. Now tangled in a web of magic and deceit, Jo must choose between saving her prince and saving herself.

Thanks again for posting this Evil Editor, you're wonderful!

Stick and Move said...

L Violet makes a great point. All of those intriguing questions are raised, just as our interest is piqued. The agent is probably looking forward to the synopsis and a few pages, to start.

Whirlochre said...

Might help to be consistent with your Princes. Personally, I got confused when Price became (insert ansi code here), and I'm assuming Prince Nerrith is the Prince of Ellisar.

I'm also intrigued by Jo almost killing another student, though this reads a little 'jetted in', but other than that, it's a clear enough query.

Anonymous said...

Al-anon is for the suffering relations, not the problem drinkers themselves.

batgirl said...

I definitely like the revised synopsis, but it may be a bit long for a query letter. I'm curioius about what Jo's magic is, and I wonder if you could trim a little of the revision and fit in a hint about that?

Evil Editor said...

The info in this version is focused better on the main plot. We didn't need the younger students making her life hell. However, I still can't tell if students learn magic at this academy, as I don't know what a Guardian is. If they don't learn magic, why does Jo have powers, and why didn't she have them before she got there?

I also now find myself wondering why a student at this academy has a relationship with the prince. Is the prince a student?

Gillian said...

There's such a fine line between too much info and not enough! I had such a hard time figuring out how much to include - mostly about Jo's magic and what a guardian was!

The academy is not magical, it's more like a school where students are trained for the political life - to become advisers to the Queen, thus, it's actually located in the castle, where Prince Nerrith lives... which is how Jo runs into him.

Jo's sudden new abilities are part of the mystery of the traitor, and the woman he works for, and not fully explained in this book (was saving the full explanation for book two :) so I didn't want to get into too much detail about where they came from, but more about the challenges they're giving Jo. (what with the addiction and all ;-)

So you see my much info, so little room!!! Any thoughts on if I should try to include more of this?

Evil Editor said...

Either mention that the academy is in the castle, or don't bring up the Jo/prince relationship.

Just telling us Jo has unexpectedly acquired magical abilities will clue us in that it's not a magic academy. Which will clue us in that it's not Harriet Potter. Which is good. What's bad is that we aren't crazy about magic powers that are acquired without explanation. The prince is in danger, and only magic can save him. Conveniently Jo has suddenly, without explanation, become a wizard. I don't think a hint about where she gets her powers would hurt.

Dominique said...

I like the voice in the query, which is a definite plus. In your third paragraph, I felt like this got sprung on me, as though I were already expected to know some of the key information. A little more explanation to fill things out might help.

freddie said...

I'm a little perplexed at the role her ghostly friend takes. In the first query, he's an ally. In the second, he seems to be more of a nuisance, and it's not explained why he's necessary to Jo's story. Or are there two of them? Maybe I misunderstood here.

If Owen is necessary to the plot, keep him as an ally in the second version. It would explain why he's there.

Robin S. said...

I loved GTP #1.

batgirl said...

If you have to ditch either Owen or the romantic interest in the prince (as opposed to the strategic interest), then ditch the prince. Owen is more interesting and less generic-sounding for the query. Bearing in mind that I'm not published and not an agent so take with the requisite grains of salt.

talpianna said...

I'd like more clarity about Jo's "dark powers." Usually such are acquired by doing deals with the forces of evil in some way, as opposed to the "powers of the Light" possessed by good mages. Is Dark Power a particular kind of magic (say, witchcraft as opposed to wizardry) which one is born with and is not necessarily either good or evil? Has Jo been dallying with the forces of evil, either on purpose (perhaps to bespell the bullies) or accidentally, not knowing what she's getting into? This seems an important matter which should be defined--which means, I suppose, fitting in a brief definition of the way magic works in your world.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I definitely like the new one better. I think you may want to borrow a sentence from the old one, though; I jogged to this without really remembering the original, and call the traitor *the* traitor in the last paragraph threw me. Just transition it from the next sentence a bit, ie, "The traitor sneaking around the castle/ruining everyone's plans."
Not a fan of ghosts except for the one... two... well, the third one isn't really a ghost... I had a reason for writing my story that way... never mind.
Good work.

Joanna said...

I liked the second version better, except that it's vaguer about the dark side of Jo's powers. And I'm not clear if she's choosing between saving the Prince or her life, or between saving the Prince from the traitor and keeping the kingdom safe from herself...the latter interests me more, though both are good.

Min Yin said...

I think your versions in the comments are much more enjoyable to read. The original one is pretty dry.

Good luck!

freddie said...

I loved GTP #1.

Hah. Mine!

Gillian said...

Thaks so much for all your comments and great suggestions, this will really help me revise it into something that might actually get the story read by an agent!