Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Face-Lift 620


Guess the Plot

Epic Fail

1. Poison fail. Spear fail. Horsemen fail. Prayer fail. Ship sink. Prince dead. Egon no go home. Find new life. Get laid. Be happy.

2. Didn't kiss his wife, didn't brush his teeth, didn't bring his briefcase . . . But those all pale next to blind Barney Briggs trying to fly a 737 while drunk.

3. When the hero dies in chapter 2, a bunch of secondary characters are stranded in an epic fantasy with no protagonist. Can they save their world by eating mystical banana nut muffins?

4. After the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer's career seems to be taking off. But when his new poem gets panned by the critics, Homer embarks on a midlife crisis of, well, epic proportions.

5. Mary, June, and Amber do their very best to prepare for Mrs. Brown’s English test. They’re only halfway through Beowulf, with all of the Aurthurian legends to go, and it’s two in the morning. Will they resort to desperate measures???

6. Cavemen roast too many wildebeest and overheat the world, making arctic glaciers melt and cover the coastal plains etc., but they think it's just a local problem and go north looking for new girlfriends and cool caves.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Redshirtism: some people are just doomed to die. [What is this, a dictionary? Get rid of that.]

Kelsey and Bobbin Baik, a pair of overtrained but woefully inexperienced town guardsmen, find themselves on a business trip to a remote valley of the Inaccessible Mountains. They think they’re going to have an easy mission: pick up a 15-year-old kid from Hero Training Camp so he can save their hometown from being destroyed by a kraken. Little do they know that their native guide, Tenzin, is supposed to get killed off. When Kelsey inadvertently saves his life, she sets off a chain of events that leads to banana nut muffins being infused with mystical powers and, ultimately, the Hero’s demise. In the second chapter. [I'd change that period after "demise" to an ellipsis.] What are a bunch of secondary characters to do when they’re left stranded in an epic fantasy with no protagonist?

Tenzin has become a walking accident magnet as the space-time continuum tries to put itself to rights by offing him. Helping Kelsey and Bobbin seems his best chance of surviving, besides, they’re utterly incompetent and somebody has to look after them. Their abortive efforts at hero-revivification only make matters worse. The trio gets kidnapped by a secret society that claims to hold a monopoly on the powers of the banana nut muffins. The two guards learn how to really use polearms, that mead is not beer, and that native guides are not as dumb as they’ve been brought up to believe. [Get rid of that sentence and the one before it, and start the one before those with "But." Also, semicolon after "surviving."] Is the only way to save their home to let Tenzin die? There might be another way, if the three of them take over the hero’s job. But none of them have been through Hero Training Camp…

Epic Fail is a parody containing a good deal of DnD jokes, [According to Wikipedia, that can stand for any of the following, and more:
  • Drag and Drop, clicking on an object and dragging it to a different location
  • Department of National Defense (Canada or Philippines)
  • US District Court for the District of North Dakota
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Drunk and Disorderly
  • Dundee Airport, IATA airport code
  • Dunkin' Donuts
The chances of attracting an agent or editor are astronomically improved if it stands for any of those, instead of Dungeons and Dragons. North Dakota especially. North Dakota is always good for laughs. In short, don't mention Dungeons and Dragons in the query, and seriously consider removing 100 percent of your DnD jokes from your manuscript and replacing them with amusing references to epic fantasies. Otherwise you may find it stands for Definitely No Deal.] about 90,000 words, and exactly zero dragons. I’d be more than happy to send a partial or the full text if you are interested. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

The plot sounds delightful. You had me--until you got me worried you'd written up one of the DnD adventures you played with your hilarious stoner buddies.

I feel certain it's no accident that you've given your mountain guide almost the same name as the most famous mountain guide ever, but unless this is a vital plot point, I'd find another name.

The title sounds weird. Why not Epic Failure?

28 comments:

Dominique said...

I liked the title. It made me laugh.
I really liked the voice of the query. It sounds like the humor is understood, if that makes any sense.
I agree that references to Dungeons and Dragons are best left out of the query. However, I'm not sure if the banana nut muffin has to go, because that part made me laugh.

Jamie said...

I'd read that! But I agree with EE that an epic-fantasy parody is much funnier than a D&D parody. And Epic Failure -- definitely go with Epic Failure.

Evil Editor said...

However, I'm not sure if the banana nut muffin has to go

The banana nut muffin isn't gone; it's still in paragraph 1. I removed it from paragraph 2 because it's in the query just for a quick laugh. Telling the same joke twice just makes it obvious you can't find anything else worthy of a laugh.

150 said...

No, I like "Epic Fail" as a title.

Agree that a play on epic fantasy sounds funnier than a play on Dnd because, well, DnD is usually metagamed and played tongue-in-cheek, and gamer parodies tend to be more in-jokey and less genuinely funny than genre parodies. YMMV though.

I'd use "number" rather than "deal" because jokes can be counted, and turn the comma before "besides" into a semicolon or em-dash.

Otherwise, I think it's a pretty effective query. Sounds like you know what you're selling.

writtenwyrdd said...

If this letter were backmatter I'd have read the first few pages and probably bought the book! I love hilarious epic fantasy parodies.

I don't have a lot to add beyond Evil's suggestions except that you might want to start with Tenzin because he appears to be the protagonist of the story.


I'd omit the DnD mention, too.

Margaret Taylor said...

"Epic Fail" is an Internet meme: http://failblog.org/

Evil Editor said...

In other words, the title is an in joke, just like the DnD jokes. Makes no difference, as there's no chance Epic Fail would end up being the title when it's published. Just hope you don't get an editor evil enough to see that title and toss the query without a peek.

Chris Eldin said...

EE! You wrote number 3! I'm sure of it! The muffin is a dead give away. Good flavor, too.

Eric P. said...

I agree that "Epic Failure" is funnier, not least because it sounds like an instance of failure at the FAIL meme. Which is funnier than the meme itself.

Also, I'd seriously consider adding references to the Canadian Department of National Defense to the story itself. Surely there are good laughs to be had combining redshirtism with Mounties?

Chris Eldin said...

WAIT!!!!
There are muffins in the query! Geesh, I better not do anything important today...
Author, this sounds fun! Good luck with it.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I'd move the parody part up front; I started out by wondering why you came up with such incredibly cliche names for things.

Oh, just call it The Epic Muffins. Or Epik Fialur.

BuffySquirrel said...

Some of us like dragons.

batgirl said...

I like the premise of this a lot. The title, not so much. I have every hope that by the time this hits the shelves, the fail meme will be gone.
DnD? I've always seen it as D&D. I'd ask if that's what the cool kids are calling it now, but, well ...

Anyway, yes, I would definitely pick up a book that pokes the Hero's Journey with a fork, because it is done.

fairyhedgehog said...

I didn't understand why Tenzin was supposed to die. Supposed by whom? It made me think of the Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones.

I haven't played D&D but I have a feeling I might like this book because I like comic fantasy. Comedy is tricky to write though, I think.

Whirlochre said...

Epic fantasy parody = good.

Mention of DnD = bad.

Gaming in-jokes (a la Munchkin) are fine amongst gamers, but too 'in' for an audience capable of eschewing the Twenty Four Hourer.

This query has much to commend it, and made me smile, but I wondered what you meant by a 'good deal' of DnD. As a proportion of your query, the DnD line constitutes roughly 4%, which works out at 3,600 if the query is an accurate reflection of the novel — more if you go for the trilogy.

From what's here, I think you can probably parody fantasy without recourse to mocking a transient illusory 'brand'.

Cut the first and last lines and this might be going somewhere. Even without a protagonist.

Wes said...

Epic Failure is too good of a title to pass up.

Anonymous said...

Just hope you don't get an editor evil enough to see that title and toss the query without a peek.

Or you get one smart enough to see it's just what these kids are looking for now they've grown out of Harry Putter...

Evil Editor said...

Grown out of Harry Potter? Apparently you've never checked the demographics of Harry Potter readers.

Anonymous said...

Apparently you've never checked the demographics of Harry Potter readers.

Isn't that illegal in most states?

talpianna said...

http://icanhascheezburger.com/2007/11/07/epic-fail-2/

How many minions are wearing red shirts?

Xenith said...

I think you need to get to the "What are a bunch of secondary characters to do when they’re left stranded in an epic fantasy with no protagonist?" part as soon as possible. To me, that's the sit up and take notice point.

So trim the first paragraph to something like:

Kelsey and Bobbin Baik, a pair of overtrained but woefully inexperienced town guardsmen, find themselves on a business trip to a remote valley of the Inaccessible Mountains. They have an easy mission: pick up a 15-year-old kid from Hero Training Camp so he can save their hometown from being destroyed by a kraken. But the Hero is killed. In the second chapter. What are a bunch of secondary characters to do when they’re left stranded in an epic fantasy with no protagonist?

I was going to say, you're using too many words to say what needs to be said, but that's probably a good thing is you're describing an Epic story :)

Adam Heine said...

Re: in-jokes. They're okay and all, but don't make them your hook. Geek culture's big, and very literate, but that's not enough. In the whole world, I only know 3 geeks who have figured out a way to make a living off of the in-jokes: Krahulik/Holkins and Wil Wheaton.

Re: Epic Fail/Failure. I don't like either. Epic Fail won't fly with folks who don't get it, and by the very nature of memes it will date your novel badly very fast. Epic Failure has the opposite problem in that the geek culture you're targeting will see it and think you don't know what you're talking about ("Epic Failure? It's supposed to be Epic Fail, n00b!"). I say drop both.

(Related: You don't use the red shirt joke in the novel do you? Because that's a Star Trek joke, and this is D&D/fantasy.)

Re: the query. A lot of the jokes fell kinda flat for me here in the query, but the concept is so good that I want to check out the manuscript to see if you're funnier in novel form.

Anonymous said...

All I know about Dungeons & Dragons is that it shows up on a lot of litmag and agent lists of "what we don't want" and I can't recall ever seeing it mentioned as hot stuff in demand now.

Generally it takes at least a year for your fiction manuscript to get printed and put on the shelf, once it gets accepted, and a lot of agents won't even respond for 3 months. So anything that's funny because of something happening now that won't be happening in 2 years might need to be published in some form besides the book, in order for that connection to work. Timing is everything for humor and if the material can't make it to print in time to catch that window of relevance, you might do better with a different venue.

Polenth said...

The title made me think it'd be connected to the internet or virtual worlds in some way. A name that parodies fantasy book titles would seem more suitable (and funnier).

Margaret Taylor said...

Of course. Dragon Quest.

BuffySquirrel said...

Eh, what litmags and so on don't want is "stories" that are just D&D games written out. This is a parody.

D. Lemma said...

Can I be a beta reader for this? It sounds hysterical.

And I think a lot of the points I would make about this query have already been made. My advice (as usual) boils down to make sure you are conveying the core of the story, and only bring in the details that support that core.

Margaret Taylor said...

*sheepish* I haven't actually written it yet - I just have the idea for it.