Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Face-Lift 615

Guess the Plot

Dreaming Dark

1. There is a town in north Ontario. Meredith, who thought she was perfectly normal, lives there, but she just discovered that she's the last member of an ancient race and she has the power to control mankind's dreams. Now some guy from a different ancient race who also can control dreams has moved to town. Will he leave her helpless, helpless helpless?

2. Ice swami Ned Frankel informs Tina the reason she always dreams of being lost in sinister dark places is because Alaska's winters are no good for her -- she needs more light. So she packs everything vital onto her dogsled and takes off for Florida -- a difficult and dangerous journey that would be impossible if not for moose meat and the love of Hank Jones, the most debonair vagabond in the Arctic.

3. Kimmy Takuto raises horses for the blind, a challenging occupation at best, but when the loan on her ranch comes due she must refinance or lose everything. Her only hope is cowboy Sam Chukchee's idea: win the Kentucky Derby on her best horse, Dreaming Dark. With Sam's help, Kimmy must face her fear of riding and transform herself into a world class jockey in two months, or return to life as a waitress.

4. Joaquin Dark could never focus in class since he kept daydreaming about his own handyman shop called "Tall, Dark and Handy." One day, a magic 2x4 pulls him into a world where doors creak and cabinets won’t close right. He soon realizes that only he can save this world!

5. The horrendous evil Emperor, dreaming avaricious of power, has malicious stolen the ’s off the ends of adverbs! Searching frantic for one last to save the day and thwart the horrendous evil Emperor, Ann miraculous finds the very last one on the book’s cover.

6. Nothing can escape from a black hole. Or so scientists believe until the quantum readers on board Probe XL36 send back signals from Andromeda - after being catapulted into the enormous black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Meredith is convinced she's a normal seventeen year-old, until dark, terrifying, and unbearably beautiful Eirich moves into her nothern [Never good to spell a word wrong in sentence one.] Ontario town. ["Unbearably" is a word I'd expect to see with something bad, not beauty. "Irresistibly" is more like it (though having read ahead, I note that Meredith both resists and bears him).]

The problem with Eirich's arrival is that whenever they touch - which isn't nearly as often as Meredith would like - he fills her with a strange and tempting feeling of power. [I feel we're missing a step. Plenty of people move into my town, but I don't touch them. Why are Meredith and Eirich touching?] Meredith can't even figure out why she gets these feelings, let alone explain them to anyone. [I can explain them in one word: "Hormones."] So when her best friend Ally falls hard for Eirich, Meredith decides it would be best to stay away from both of them, choosing to spend time at her sister Val's old hangout rather than admitting that something really, really strange is happening.

But something really [really] strange is happening and the new hangout makes it stranger. [Stranger than really really strange? Meaning, really really really strange?] [Is the new hangout the same place you just referred to as the old hangout?] The cottage that Meredith thought belonged to Val's friend actually belongs to Meredith, [If you want to spend time in what you believe is your sister's friend's cottage, you would ask permission of your sister's friend, who would say, "That's not my cottage." Yet Meredith goes there still believing it belongs to her sister's friend?] and it was left to her by her mother with the promise that it comes with magical protection. Meredith learns that she's so far from normal, she's supernatural: the last member of an ancient race with the power to control and create dreams. Worse, Eirich needs Meredith's powers to revive his own ancient race, [How does she learn all this stuff?] [The last members of two different ancient races are both in a town in north Ontario? Could be a coincidence, but if the last member of a third ancient race shows up . . . ] the dark counterpart to Meredith's, and he's kidnapped Ally to get to her.

So Meredith is left with a choice: does she preserve the dreams of mankind and, more importantly, rescue her best friend, or does she succumb to the beautiful Eirich and fill herself with the power she's always longed for? [Save mankind or join forces with an evil kidnapper? Can't decide; better flip a coin.] [She's always longed for great power?]

DREAMING DARK is a work of YA urban fantasy, complete at 57 000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


As Meredith has the hots for Eirich, it seems he should have no trouble getting to her, even without resorting to kidnapping her friend.

Ally has fallen for Eirich, so she's probably willing to go anywhere with him. Why kidnap her when you can just suggest going to a romantic cabin in the woods?

If Meredith made it to age seventeen without even realizing she had the power to control dreams, how is she suddenly going to figure out how to do it?

I think we should have an example of what it means to control dreams. How is this power useful? It's hard to know what the stakes are without knowing what happens if Meredith fiddles with people's dreams.

You claim she can preserve the dreams of mankind. That's a lot of dreams. Does that mean she can control the dreams of millions of people at the same time? Also, stating that rescuing her friend is more important than preserving the dreams of mankind makes it seem that preserving our dreams isn't that big a deal.

Whattaya mean, "ancient race?" Babylonians? Aliens from another galaxy?

I think you should throw out the mother and sister and cottage and just focus on Meredith and Eirich. Tell us what happens if Meredith sides with Eirich and what happens if she doesn't. Make it sound like a difficult choice.


Rick Daley said...

Holy sh!t, fake plot #1 almost made my coffee shoot out my nose I laughed so hard!

Great way to bring CSN&Y into the mix.

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, I think there's a lot to like in the plot elements that you describe; but these mostly are set up for the issue, which you don't really get to until the second to last line. Not good.

This letter reads to me as if you are trying to sell a gothic romance and so you have all these romantic complications (which appear to me to be backstory)up front. The real main plot appears to be at the end: "So Meredith is left with a choice: does she preserve the dreams of mankind and, more importantly, rescue her best friend, or does she succumb to the beautiful Eirich and fill herself with the power she's always longed for?"

And even this statement of conflict is a bit off to me. First, you make it sound like rescuing her friend and saving mankind's dreams are the same quest, when they likely are not; and second, you introduce a new element, that your hero is longing to fill herself with power.

Also, a nitpick: It might not be a good idea to end your last sentence of your query letter with a preposition.

EE: ROFL @ "I can explain them in one word: 'Hormones.'"

BuffySquirrel said...

Most of my dreams aren't worth preserving.

batgirl said...

Yay for a Canadian setting, even if it is them snooty Easterners. At least it's not Toronto.
Author, there are some interesting elements here, but the concentration on Eirich makes it sound as if you're trying to book the Twilight cruise, and that ship may have sailed by now. And as EE observes, a teenage girl being obsessive about a boy doesn't sound as mysterious as it's pitched to be.
I'd love to see more about the dreams, and how Meredith learns about her abilities. That could be beautifully eerie.

sylvia said...

I grinned at GTP#1 and then spluttered with laughter when I realised it was the real plot! Awesome.

It's been said, but the problem with this query is I think the same one my query suffers from - it's totally clear to someone who knows the whole story but as a list of highlights, it's confusing to the rest of the world because we can't link the events together.

Anonymous said...

maybe it's just 'cause I'm in Florida but how can it be an urban fantasy in northern ontario? wouldn't that be more like a rural fantasy? or a boreal fantasy?

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Every since "Heathers" I've been a sucker for good girl outwits bad boy stories. It seems like you've got a solid plot, you just need to focus the summary. May I suggest the following:

Meredith always thought she was a normal seventeen year-old girl - until the day dark, terrifying, and unbearably beautiful Eirich enrolls in her northern Ontario high school. (Or however they meet.) But this is no normal crush: whenever they touch Eirich fills her with a strange and tempting feeling of power.

Meredith is in fact the last member of the (Blanks), an ancient supernatural race with the power to control and create dreams. Eirich needs her to revive his own ancient race. In exchange for her power to (blank), he is prepared to offer her the power to (blank). But to succumb to Eirich would mean (whatever horrible thing would happen). Alone and unsure of her own burgeoning powers, can Meredith find the strength to make the right decision?

Obviously this is very generic, but it might help you as a template.

When you say Meredith preserves dreams, do you mean dreams like "I dreamed I showed up at school naked" or dreams like "I dream of curing cancer, creating world peace, and winning American Idol"?

Phoenix said...

Hi author:

Good comments so far. I have a couple of additional things that stood out for me.

Sister Val. Is she still alive? Is she M's full sister? If so, then how does that make M the last member of that ancient race? Or is she just the only one left who can control dreams? What does that make Val?

The dreams. When the query talks about controlling dreams, it seems to mean the type of dreams we have when we sleep. But the "preserving dreams" line seems to indicate that maybe it means mankind's aspirations (otherwise, I'm afraid I'm clueless as to what "preserving" here should mean). I'm also making a leap that while M can create dreams, E, being her counterpart, can destroy them.

A little more dot connection is needed here, I think.

Xenith said...

the last member of an ancient race with the power to

This made me go "Oh, not another one". It pops up often just in queries to this blog, so I hate to think how often it comes up in a slush pile.

or does she succumb to the beautiful Eirich and fill herself with the power she's always longed for?

If she loses she ends up with the guy she wants and lots of powers? Can't see her problem :) Oh, and dreams are lost. Do we really care?

talpianna said...

My assumption was that Eirich's race has the power to ATTACK mankind through their dreams (driving people mad with nightmares, for example) and Meredith has the power to guard the dreams from him. This would also explain why she's unaware of her powers until he shows up.

Have you ever read Charles de Lint's YARROW?

150 said...

Xenith: Prepare to get lost in the bog of TV Tropes: Last of His Kind

Anonymous said...

When I saw the story was set in north Ontario, I started feeling helpless, helpless, helpless.

loiterer said...

@ Sarah.. . Heathers! I watched that so many times when I was 17. Fell in love with Winona Ryder.

@ Author... I'm with EE and Sarah -- you need to make the connect early between Meredith and Eirich, because strangers just don't go around touching each other and so it sounds weird. If it's her job, if he's her school lab partner, whatever, tell us how they come into physical contact.

I suggest you can delete all the stuff about her sister and her sister's cottage from the query, because nothing seems to hinge on it (obviously it's important in your story, but not necessary for an agent to know at this point).

And like Sarah & Phoenix say, please define 'dreams' in your query, because clearly it's important to your plot, and yet we don't know which type of dreams you mean.

The 'always longed for power' thing makes Meredith sound like an aspiring Evil Overlord. People don't long for power unless they have an interest in abusing power (at least, this is so in queries). Perhaps you could rephrase this? Do you mean she longs to be special? Something that doesn't sound so evil, at any rate; unless, of course, she is evil... which you should make clear if so, cos that could be interesting.

This sounds like the sort of story that can be popular with the YA set, all you need to do is make the details of your story a little clearer in your query. Not so easy, I know, but hopefully you have got some good ideas from the suggestions here.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

@ loiterer - you're right, she's totally an aspiring Evil Overlord! Now I have to go read the Evil Overlord list again.