Monday, March 16, 2009

Face-Lift 613

Guess the Plot

Not a Fairy Princess

1. Alfland's hottest pickup bar is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get. But when the ogre Smanthas takes home a flirtatious--if somewhat... hairy--Fairy Winkle for the night, he discovers that her ball-gown hides a few things he wasn't expecting.

2. After growing up a princess in a magical kingdom, Heather learns from her royal parents that they kidnapped her from an American family long ago--and they're sending her back! How's an average teenager supposed to survive the suburbs now that she's . . . Not a Fairy Princess?

3. Svetlana the Immigrant Tooth Fairy is unhappy with her lot in life. The wages are inadequate, the hours exploitative, and the American Dream is a lie perpetuated by Fat Fairy Capitalists. Descended from Bolshevik peasant fairies, Svetlana determines to foment communist revolution under the bedbug-infested pillows of Harlem.

4. Bruno is a street thug. He cracks skulls for a living, and has taken more than one bullet for the home team. And when the Godfather comes up missing, the Capos know who to call to save him. And believe me, it's . . . Not a Fairy Princess.

5. As little girls are encouraged to dream of becoming astronauts, doctors, and bus drivers, the number of qualified fairy princesses grows smaller each year--until Charlemagne Smythe takes charge and starts outsourcing to mermaids and witches.

6. Tatiana's older sisters have all come into their own, so to speak. They are all exceedingly beautiful, amazingly graceful, and exceptionally magical. Tatiana, on the other hand, can't even turn a teacup into a turtle. And she's starting to worry she's not part of her family. What's a girl to do if it turns out she's . . . Not a Fairy Princess?

Original Version

Dear Ideal Agent,

When you've grown up in a magic kingdom, the real world is a scary place to come home to. Not a Fairy Princess is a 70,000 word YA fantasy that turns the fantasy conventions of destiny upside down and shakes change out of their pockets.

For twelve of her sixteen years, Princess Tasria's life has been governed by the Prophecy that she would destroy the Dark Queen, ruthless enemy of Evermorna. Now the Dark Queen is dead [Already? She was your most compelling character.] --at the hands of a common soldier--and Tasria's royal parents break the news that the Prophecy was a lie. [Destroy the Dark Queen? No, no, we said you would work at Dairy Queen, ruthless enemy of obese Evermornians.] She is no Chosen One, [I think we should stop capitalizing "Prophecy" and "Chosen One" once it's announced that it was all a sham.] not their daughter, and they are returning her to her real home: the quiet North American suburb they stole her from.

Reunited with her birth mother, who calls her Heather and is worried by her 'wild stories', Tasria tries to learn the ways of her strange home, where machinery takes the place of magic and of servants, and high school hierarchy calls on all the skills she acquired from court intrigues. [For instance she hires a classmate to be her servant, then orders her to put hemlock in the clique leader's Pepsi.] With painful mis-steps, she learns to live for herself and not for a kingdom's destiny. Her mother contacts Heather's estranged father, hoping to rebuild their broken family. Then, on the eve of their reunion, her father disappears, just as little Heather did thirteen years ago. Her mother believes he has deserted them, but Tasria knows the truth. Evermorna is not finished with her. And this time she doesn't need a Prophecy to tell her what needs to be done. [Personally, I'd assume Evermorna was through with me and that Mom was right. What's the clue that reveals the truth to Tasria?] [How about a hint about what needs to be done? Has she realized that Evermorna is the bad guys and the Dark Queen was good?]

Attached are (pages) of Not a Fairy Princess. I have attended (workshop) and my (short story) received an honourable mention in (year's best).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Not bad. Whether certain questions are bothersome enough to need answers I'm not sure. Namely, If they're not done with Tasria, 1. Why'd they send her back, and 2. Why have they now taken her father instead of re-kidnapping her?

Who are the villains? If it's the Evermorna royals, what bad things have they done besides kidnapping Tasria, and why did they kidnap her in the first place?

If your plot description shows that you've turned the fantasy conventions of destiny upside down and shaken change out of their pockets, there's no need to declare it just in case the reader is too dense to get it. Leave that for the back cover.

Is her father "her estranged father" because he left while she was still living there? Or just because they were separated by the kidnapping?


writtenwyrdd said...

This sounds promising, but I need the return to Mundania explained: If she's been living in a fairyland, why doesn't her human mother notice she's grown up?

Overall this sounds intriguing. I'd ad a bit more after Dad's disappearance, something with an "or else" tone that gives us the stakes for not rescuing dear old Dad.

I like that "shakes change out of their pockets" line, but I'd consider omitting it and placing the length at the end, start with the second paragraph.

batgirl said...

*exhales in relief* Wow, EE, I thought you'd surely smack me around for the 'shaking change' comment - but probably the minions will take care of that.
Note to other minions: if anyone does know of fantasy novels that messes around with the convention that there has to be a Chosen One and that Prophecies are Always Truthful, please post the title(s) because I've reached the point of groaning whenever I see a back-cover promise that 'only so-and-so can save the Kingdom of Generica!'

Heather's parents split up because of the stress of losing her, (this is a fairly common result of family tragedy) and her father felt he'd failed to protect her - I'm not sure how much of this to bring up in the query.
But I can definitely be more specific about how she knows where he went and where to go after him. Thanks!
So, it's clear enough that the Chosen One thing was a ruse to mislead the Dark Queen? I wasn't too sure, but I didn't want to hammer on it.

Evil Editor said...

So, it's clear enough that the Chosen One thing was a ruse to mislead the Dark Queen?

Not to me, but maybe to everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Not clear to me,either.

If her being raised as a fairy princess was a ruse, and she is essentially a stalking horse dressed in silk, then you might reduce the details about her past just a bit and increase the description of what happens after her Dad is taken; because that's the story.

Jamie said...

I'd read this!

150 said...

batgirl- I almost hate to link this, because it's an Internet tarpit, but look at the prophecy tropes on TVTropes, particularly the page on The Chosen One (for a quick look-through, ctrl-F for "subverted"). Don't worry, they list everything, not just TV. You might also find something in Prophecy Twist or Screw Destiny. Man, I spend half my life on TVTropes.

I'm pretty sure that subverting the Chosen One trope was the point of Un Lun Dun.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Not quite the twist I thought it would be from the intro, but fun. You do have a knack for the unique, and it sounds like fun.

Nope, didn't get the ruse bit.

If you want more steriotypes, etc. to play with, check out , , and

batgirl said...

Hi written - her mother does notice she's grown up, as appropriate for being missing for 12 years. There's no Faerie time-slip between Evermorna and Mundania and no changeling substitution. I guess that and the ruse aspect need to be expanded, since if EE missed it, clearly any less brilliant minds will, and that's everyone, right?

The 'wild tales' is because the counsellors & police are willing to believe that Heather was kidnapped by a cult, brainwashed, etc. but they aren't willing to believe that she was kidnapped by a king and queen, thinks streetlamps are 'mage-lights', wants to know where the deer-herds are that keep the grass short, and expects kobolds to do the housecleaning. Her mother has to fight to keep her at home and in remedial classes, and not moved to a 'therapeutic environment'.
I'm not sure, again, how much of this to include in the query. There are funny and serious elements both, and I don't want to present this as either a fish-out-of-water comedy or as a family-torn-apart angstfest.

150 - noooo, not TV Tropes!!!! *disappears into a maze of links*

Joanna said...

I like it! I guessed from your New Beginning entry that the prophecy was a hoax, don't know if I'd have gotten it from the query.

Dave F. said...

This might work as a YA story. It's a bit troublesome for me that a young girl, raised as a gifted princess, is suddenly dumped into the normal world and left alone to adjust (fish out of water). And then, when her "new" real father goes missing figures out that the people who kidnapped her and caused all this trouble originally, are behind her father's (she never knew) absence and they need her to fulfill their fake prophecy because the they were fooled by the evil queen.

Shades of predestination, fate and destiny! Fortune, thou art variable as the moon and flighty as a fairy!

Somewhere I missed something in all that. Princess Tasria is awfully pliable and resilient to leave one set of parents and fairy life, become human and then develop love feelings for her mundane family. At least enough love to rescue her Dad and save the Liars club in the magic world.

There in lies my doubt -- the magic world is a bunch of liars and schemers. Evermorna included. EE's questions - why did they get rid of Tasria also point's out that someone in the fairy world "dared to practise" on Tasria's "credulous simplicity" (to borrow a phrase). They just used her and threw her away like a soiled kleenex or much, much worse (bleeeeeep)... Simply contemptable... and worse yet, she goes back to the liars for help and fulfills the "invented" prophecy. Oh the pain of predestination.

What is written in the book of prophecy was once a lie, invented as a cheap tomfoolery, a pastiche of falsehood, a Bon Mot of Bufoonery and we believed that she believed that we believed that she believed it was real. But the GODS intervened and the prophecy became real and now, now... aw poo poo doggie, I just stepped in that pile, slid and landed on my Butt-OCKS!

Now I suspect there are reasonable answers for my doubts and questions, but they aren't in the query and although it reads like fun and the story sounds nice and YA-ish, I am puzzled by some of this.

Xenith said...

But WHAT'S AT STAKE for HER if she fails. Also, I believe there are lots of special people trying to adapt to an ordinary world stories, and even though they're fun, you might want to emphasis what makes yours different.

because I've reached the point of groaning whenever I see a back-cover promise that 'only so-and-so can save the Kingdom of Generica!'

This is why I stopped reading back covers. The dullest ones were often the most interesting books, and vice versa.

A few years back, I did start to write about a prophecy that was mistranslated so they went off and found the wrong kid, but I got distracted by a subplot with a pair on a search for a magical artefact that doesn't exist, because one of them made up the name in front of the Evil King. Which is a long way of saying I like storylines lines that twist the overused fantasy tropes inside out. There should be more of them, and I hope this will be one.

So, it's clear enough that the Chosen One thing was a ruse to mislead the Dark Queen? I wasn't too sure, but I didn't want to hammer on it.

Had no idea. That might help with the two points in my first paragraph.

batgirl said...

Ooh, I want to read Xenith's story - how far did you get?
Thanks for the tip about Un Lun Dun - I may be able to handle Mieville at the junior level.

I guess the story could be said to be about how it's more important to choose than to be chosen.
Tas has to learn to live without a prophecy governing her life, that making friends isn't like choosing allies, and that even if she isn't A Chosen One, her actions still matter and have an impact.
In the last part of the story she has to choose whether to risk what she has gained (mother's trust, school friends, etc.) by trusting her 'delusional' memories and going (against the kingdom that trained her to loyalty) to rescue the father she barely knows - without the assurance of a prophecy that says it's the right thing to do and that she will triumph.
How much of that can I put in the query without it sounding like a Moral Tale For the Young?

I can definitely clarify that her being prophesied and chosen was a ruse in the endless game between Evermorna and the Dark Queen, and that she's sure her father's been taken to be a similar pawn (it's a bit more complicated - the kingdoms change each time, using their captive's myths as inspiration, so much of Evermorna is based on 4 yr old Heather's favourite cartoon show - probably don't want to include that info) and that she's determined not to let her future with her family be stolen the way her childhood was. Maybe that will spackle the cracks.

Phoenix said...

From the tone of the query, I'm wondering if this is YA. Could be, but I was reading it more upper middle gradish. So I took a stab at a rewrite and made Tasria a couple of years younger to see how that might feel...

When you've grown up in a magic kingdom, the real world is a scary place to come home to.

For the last 10 years, 14-year-old Princess Tasria has lived by the prophecy that she would destroy the Dark Queen, ruthless enemy of Evermorna. Now the Dark Queen is dead at the hands of a common soldier and Tasria discovers she's been nothing but a pawn -- a simple distraction -- in an endless game between two kingdoms. Now that her part in the sham is over, she finds herself unceremoniously dumped back at her birth mother's house in the quiet American suburb from which she was kidnapped 10 years earlier.

Adjusting to the mundane world is hard. It means learning technology rather than magic and calling on all the skills she cultivated from court intrigues to maneuver and manipulate her way through high school cliques. Adjusting also means learning to live for herself and not for a kingdom's destiny.

But then, on the day he's agreed to a reunion with her and her mother, Tasria's estranged father disappears in the same way she did those many years ago -- and the clues left behind point unmistakably to Evermorna. Now, without any prophecy to guide her, she must choose whether it's right to risk what she's gained in the mundane world to return to a world that betrayed her. And whether it's worth her life to try to rescue a father she barely knows.

Um, but then the tone of this query -- save for the 'graph about learning about the mundane world -- does sound more YA-ish. *shrug*

Xenith said...

BG: I have a 20K first draft that makes me think "I have soooo improved as a writer since I wrote that" :)

batgirl said...

Phoenix - brilliant as always, thank you!
I thought of it as YA but I've seen advice a few times not to specify, let the agent decide whether it's YA or adult or what, so I left that out.

Xenith - so you have a first draft? Think how much you could improve it in a second draft now that you can write so much better - right?

Okay, off to revise. Thanks everyone, especially Phoenix.

Xenith said...

(grin) I also think about the other, better things I have that need working on to. Still, I like the ideas in it and I like the characters, so it's not impossible I'll revisit it :)

December/Stacia said...

Really like Phoenix's rewrite, and think this sounds like a lot of fun. I would totally read this. :-)