Friday, July 31, 2009
[I changed a few words/lines to red to indicate I'd get rid of them.]
When Nodammo Ebonlocke’s afternoon tea is spoiled by a hero with a very big sword arriving in the Generic Little Village, she reacts as any morally ambiguous sorceress would. [She invites him to play sword in the stone.] With a little help from her employees, she manages to bury the hero’s [sword in her garden.] remains in the vegetable garden where he can finally do something useful with his life by helping the vegetables grow bigger. [A joke is seldom improved by explaining it. Also, if you're going to leave out the part where she zaps the hero, start the next sentence: Then, with a little help from her employees, she buries . . . The "Then" lets us know her reaction already happened; otherwise we think her reaction is burying the remains.]
The problem doesn’t stop there, though. Infuriated by their constant loss of heroes to Nodammo, the Company, a mysterious megacorporation that’s mushroomed overnight in Fantasyland, dispatches an army of heroes led by Miss Annoyed, a junior executive in the Company, to dispose of Nodammo and her employees. Nodammo and her employees [Maybe we should leave Nodammo's employees out of the query.] summon up a tea elemental, buying them time to escape from the heroes. After some deliberation as to what to do, Nodammo decides to seek consul [counsel] from her mother, who advises her that running is ultimately futile, and that standing her ground and fighting the Company offers her the best chances of prolonged survival. [Not to quibble, but if her sorcery isn't strong enough to defeat an army of heroes, running would not be futile, as she could use magic to run to the other side of the world, where they wouldn't follow. And if her sorcery is strong enough to defeat the heroes, why did she run in the first place? Why can't she do to Miss Annoyed and friends what she did to so many other heroes?]
Meanwhile, Brommus, a wise old mentor on the Company’s payroll, loses his job to the fact that Nodammo’s been killing off his protégés. After leaving Literacity and wandering for a while with no goal in mind, Brommus receives a prophetic dream from his own chain-smoking wise old mentor, and is advised to hire himself out as a handyman to the very nursing home where Nodammo’s mother is living in. There he finds happiness in repairing carnivorous fountains and other odd jobs--until Nodammo arrives, the army of heroes on her tail.
In the ensuing confusion, Nodammo meets Brommus and learns of his previous career choice. [Wise old mentor was a career choice?] Realising the value of a disgruntled ex-employee of the Company to her cause, she offers to hire Brommus. While he is initially reluctant, Brommus eventually agrees as Nodammo’s cause is the best chance he has of undoing the damage he’s done over the years. That being done, Brommus suggests that they head to the kingdom of Gru’bar’atr, where he gains them an audience with the current king by virtue of being the king’s wise old mentor during the latter’s days as a hero. [It sounds like everyone's got a wise old mentor, in which case there may not be enough wise old mentors to go around, and some people will have to settle for wise young mentors or imbecilic old mentors. Feel free to use a variation of that idea in your book with the standard acknowledgment.]
Nodammo and Brommus soon learn that the kingdom is in dire straits, due to the fact that having a crown-shaped birthmark, a large sword and good intentions is hardly a qualifier for good statesmanship, especially when he [Who?] is under pressure by the Company to turn his kingdom into a cliché. Together, they help rebuild the kingdom by convincing ministers and nobles to return to their posts, fixing the king’s well-intentioned financial disasters and restoring the people’s confidence in their ruler. [Why did they want an audience with the king? Seems like they're helping the king but the king does nothing for them.]
However, Nodammo’s activities have long since come to the Company’s attention, and Miss Annoyed is dispatched once more by the Company’s CEO to assess the situation. Here the Company’s true intentions are revealed to the reader; that they are people from Earth who have crossed over into Fantasyland and are creating artificial stories for the sole purpose of extracting narrative powers such as deus ex machina, million-to-one chances, happily ever afters and the likes for resale on Earth for obscene amounts of money. [Are these true intentions revealed only to the reader, or also to a character? If the latter, that's what belongs in the synopsis.]
Miss Annoyed quickly determines that Nodammo is a threat. While her boss agrees with her assessment, he instructs her to construct an appropriate climax for the narrative structure she’s observed so far with the caveat that she throw the fight, so that the story can be milked for all it’s worth. The idea troubles Miss Annoyed but her objections are ignored, and she secretly plans to eliminate Nodammo for the sake of the Company’s stability.
It doesn’t take long for another army of heroes to be amassed, this time directed at the kingdom. Realising the first signs of the threat, the king asks that Nodammo convince the ex-commander of the kingdom’s armies to help organise the defences. When Nodammo arrives at the cottage she’s been directed to, she discovers to her surprise that the commander doesn’t live alone; the ex-king, the current king’s uncle, is in hiding there too. After listening to the ex-king’s side of the story of how he became and evil usurper, Nodammo ropes them into helping save the kingdom. Through a combination of their own grit and ingenuity, internal sabotage from Miss Annoyed’s boss, who’s realised what she’s doing, and the power of the narrative secretly aiding them, Nodammo’s side manages to defeat the army of heroes. [Once the truth about the Company was revealed, I lost interest in the plot up to then. Just call me Mr. Annoyed.] [By which I mean, it hasn't been made clear what the danger is to anyone, and now that the truth is revealed, it doesn't have much to do with any of the characters. Was the Company causing the kingdom to fall apart?]
Brommus expresses concern that they won too easily, but Nodammo tells him to be content with his victories, even as unknown to them, Company agents pore over the battlefield harvesting huge amounts of narrative power. The story ends with the kingdom reverting to its former and rightful name of Fairbanks and the instatement of the ex-king as his nephew’s [wise old mentor,] head advisor, with the invitation to Nodammo and her employees to stay in the kingdom as long as they wish.
The idea that the villains are in Fantasyland to steal narrative powers seems kind of gimmicky in a novel, especially if it's not revealed reasonably early. Maybe it just needs to be more clear what the company does. They create a story with a Deus ex Machina or a happily ever after in Fantasyland, then extract that narrative power from the story, bring it to Earth, and sell it to someone who is willing to pay for it, and then that person lives happily ever after or is miraculously saved from disaster? Is that it?
If so, what are the narrative powers the army is gathering after they lose the war? Seems like that was an unhappy ending with no Deus ex Machina to save the heroes, so who's gonna wanna buy those powers?
It doesn't seem that what the Company is doing hurts anyone in Fantasyland. Why does Nodammo kill the heroes? Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys, and what's at stake for everyone? The Company must be stopped from creating and selling literary tropes because . . . ? I think we need to know early on what the Company is doing and how this is affecting Fantasyland adversely. Otherwise it feels like the book veers off into craziness long after we've settled in with it.