Monday, October 12, 2009

Face-Lift 684

Guess the Plot

The Light of Epertase

1. Long- suffering orphan Junie Jinx finally escapes the evil witch, only to be lost in the haunted forest. If only she could get back to Cincinnati and eat a pizza! The only nourishment she can find is that tankard of glowing elixir guarded by the monstrous hound.

2. On the dying continent of Hexinus lies the tower of Epertase--a mystical stronghold of such power that those who look upon its light turn instantly blind. Falian Quincy was born on that tower, and is destined to one day return and claim its deepest treasure. But will he be able to see it?

3. After seeking the Holy Grail of glue solvents for thirty years, Duncan finds it in a jar of Mother's homemade canned beans. But is it too toxic and combustible to be refined? The guys at the lab think so, but Duncan's going to prove them wrong. Or die trying.

4. It's backstabbing boardroom shenanigans and steamy bedroom antics all the way, when ruthless business executive Mandy Harrington stops at nothing to market Epertase, her new miracle formula for candle wax.

5. An invading army has just annihilated a neighboring kingdom, and Epertase is doomed to fall next. Power-mad King Elijah is wondering how long the invaders will let him live when the princess tells him that a magical light within her soul has determined that she should take over the throne. Quickly a vacation in another hemisphere is added to Elijah's calendar.

6. The Epertase Salon caters to all sorts. Ignatius Proud is determined to make it the fairy godmother in his own Cinderella story, but first he needs a pumpkin, rats, and money.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation for my 93,000-word epic fantasy novel, “The Light of Epertase.”

King Elijah of Epertase would kill his own daughter to stay in power. Rasi, a brilliant warrior, would kill an entire army to save her.

After Rasi was banished for a murder the king committed, [Banished? Historically, power-hungry kings have been within their rights to commit murder and kidnapping, and didn't need to frame someone else. Why didn't Elijah just have Rasi executed on trumped-up treason charges?] he swore nothing could bring him back to Epertase. But that was before a chance encounter with Elijah’s daughter, Princess Ripley, [believe it or not] during a hunting expedition. He never expected to fall in love.


Now a technologically-superior army [The Borg] is poised to invade from the western sea. Elijah prepares for war. When the invaders annihilate Epertase’s closest neighbor in less than a day, [Elijah orders all able-bodied subjects to start manufacturing white flags.] it becomes obvious Elijah’s plans are doomed. That’s when a powerful and magical light inside of Ripley’s soul [bursts out through her chest.] determines that the kingdom’s only hope is for her to take over the throne. Elijah refuses to accept the inevitable


and has her kidnapped. He frames Rasi for the crime. [Again? He seems to frame Rasi for everything. "Frame Rasi" is his version of "Round up the usual suspects."] While on the run, Rasi vows to find his true love and lead her people to victory. If he fails, she will die, he will hang, and Epertase will fall. [What are the Borg doing while Rasi is searching for Ripley? My guess is Epertase will be annihilated long before he finds her.]

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. [If I have any questions, you haven't done your job.] Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

Just how long did this chance encounter on a hunting trip last? Rasi would kill an entire army to save a woman he ran into once?

Does Rasi know his true love is the princess? Because usually when the king has framed you for murder and banished you, he's not going to consent to your marrying his daughter.

You'd think a princess would have plenty of guards around her who wouldn't let a hunting party get so close to her that one of them falls in love with her.

Elijah, Rasi and Ripley don't strike me as names that would all be in use in the same place and time.

More about Rasi and the princess. Does she have any interest in him? Does she have magical powers that could lead to victory over the Borg? What does the king have against Rasi in the first place?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK, so I couldn't get over the -tase suffix, which, in modern science lingo, means the substance in question is an enzyme. And your plot might be wildly original and exciting if it was about an enzyme. But...

Doug said...

Thank you so much for your comments. They are hilarious. Ripley's Believe it or not had me rolling. Luckily for my book, your questions are answered in a way that make sense. (Why Rasi was banished, why Elijah hates him, ect.)But unfortunately for my query, they obviously aren't.

Steve Wright said...

Ripley?

Sorry... I should have some more insightful and constructive comments to make, but I'm afraid my brain's sort of stalled on Princess Ripley. I mean, my first thought is Sigourney Weaver in the "Alien" movies, and my second is Patricia Highsmith's anti-hero, and neither of them makes any sense to me in an epic fantasy context. Ripley?

Come back, Satiety Wherret, all is forgiven.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the Sigourney Weaver association. What adds to the jarring factor is that we suppose they called her Ripley because, in the quasi-military astronaut context of that movie people would generally be referred to by their last names. However, a princess is generally referred to by her first name because so many princess have the same last name. Which makes this name especially confusing here. Instead of thinking about your plot we're wondering -- why was this princess given the first name Ripley after the famous astronaut? Or what?

How did you chose these names? It might be good to sit down and review each one and ask yourself if another name might possibly be more effective for helping readers envision the time/place and cast of your story, and if so, revise accordingly using the REPLACE function.

This site might be helpful:

http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/

150 said...

I've said this before, but try not to use proper names that look like spelling errors.

Faceless Minion said...

I liked GTPs#2&3 - kudos
___

When the invaders annihilate Epertase’s closest neighbor in less than a day, it becomes obvious Elijah’s plans are doomed.

This sounds odd to me because all the previous sentence says is he's preparing for war. Which plans are doomed? What exactly is he planning? To win the war? To defend his kingdom? Something else?

Also, you claim the king's willing to kill his own daughter to stay in power, but he doesn't try to kill her, he has her kidnapped. The person he's blaiming everything on also hasn't been killed just banished. Where's the ruthless?

Eric P. said...

My comment seems to have vanished into the void, so here's another attempt. If the original suddenly appears above this, please disregard...

- EE's questions cover most of what you need to address, and they are also the funniest thing I've read all day. "Princess Ripley's Believe It Or Not"--I'm dying here!

- The names all seem uninspired at best. "Ripley" has already been castigated, but "King Elijah" sounds like a reject from a Sunday School play, while "Epertase" sounds like an industrial adhesive.

- In the rewrite, I'd like to see how your plot is different from, you know, the plots of half the other Epic Fantasy books ever written. At the moment it looks like it was a choice between this and "Motley Characters must go on a Quest to Save the World from Ultimate Evil." Somehow I'm optimistic, though.

Dave F. said...

I had a comment lost in the internet jumble of electrons too...

I wanted to say that the query should focus on the saving of the kingdom or the love affair. This is either a love story in the middle of a war for power, or it's a fantasy epic about a kingdom being saved by some sort of magical warrior.

Kings Falcon said...

The problem with queries for fantasy stories with touches of romantic elements, is you don't have time to explain both. If the fantasy (and all its genre elements) is the main story, you need to focus on it. Why is it fantasy? Is it just an alternate earth or is there magic? The reference to a "light within her soul" has me baffled.

On the other hand, if its a romance novel (with all its genre elements and requirements) with fantasy elements (which it sounds more like) then focus on the romance.

Right now, it doesn't seem like you've made a choice about what shelf this should sit on.

The other thing that's hard about epic fantasy queries is there's about 1/2 dozen plots out there. Your job is to have your query show that there's something other than a cliche in your story. It's tough. I know. I've been working on a reasonable query for my fantasy novel with romanance elements for far too long. Anyway . . . .

The Ripley's Believe It or Not was inspired.

While I am sure there are good reasons why Elijah doesn't just kill the MCs, the reason's not clear in your query.

I think you could delete the first two plot paragraphs since they are set up and start with the third. You probably should focus on either Ripley or Rasi as the MC. Something like:

The kingdom of Epertase faces annihilation from an invading army. Princess Ripley knows that she can save the kingdom because (tell me why here and not just the soul light thing). But her father won't relinquish the throne. Exiled, Ripley . . . (what does she do? or does Rasi have to do everything?) Ultimately, Ripley and Rashi manage to depose her father. Ripley unleashes her wild magic and saves the world.


If Rasi is the main character focus on his trials and travails. Also, you might want to think about having two main characters whose names start with the same letter. For some people that's a real peeve.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

"Epertase" sounds to me like a brand of heir remover...

Mother (Re)produces. said...

"heir remover," Anonymous? I think you're thinking of arsenic.

anyway, the strange selection of names prevents me from getting any picture of the culture. Especially in a *royal* family, names tend to get recycled mercilessly, so at the moment i'm wondering what kind of culture this is where a king named elijah in a place where the mc is named rasi chooses to name his daughter ripley.

I can't make any picture of this culture at all. I'm not suggesting stereotypes, just be aware that names are information, and 'Hrovath' does not conjure up the same mental picture as 'Fred.'

Matthew said...

Another fantasy author hanging himself with random names. I also pictured Sigourney Weaver as the princess.

It sounds like a fantasy, so call it that. Romance is the secondary plot.

Anonymous said...

What everyone else said, plus
Ripley is supposed to save the kingdom? All she does in the query is get kidnapped. And apparently, she can't even escape on her own, Rasi has to rescue her.

How is she supposed to save the kingdom if she can't even beat some kidnappers?

Author said...

Revised version:


Dear Evil Editor:

King Elijah of Epertase would kill his own daughter to stay in power. Rasi, a brilliant warrior, would kill all in his path to save her. For it is Princess ****’s secret affair with Rasi that may hold the key to Epertase’s survival.

He is cursed with seven blood-thirsty tentacles melded to his back. She is blessed with the magical Light of Epertase within her soul. Since an unjust banishment, Rasi has longed for redemption and a life of peace away from the brutal mountains he has called home for so many years. In her, he sees a chance for both.

Now a ruthless army advances from the western sea. Elijah prepares for war. Quickly, the invaders annihilate his closest ally, exposing the flaws of Elijah’s similar plans for defense. He refuses to change course. With Epertase’s fall all but assured, the Light inside of **** awakens, setting into motion an event that will bring about Elijah’s end. But just as Elijah’s hope dwindles, a whispered legend reveals a way to stop what has been started. Determined to keep his life and throne, he has his daughter kidnapped with plans of her timely sacrifice.

Rasi goes on the hunt. If he has to kill Elijah, the entire invading army, and the gods themselves to save her, he will turn the rivers to blood. As a soldier, he would have been formidable to any foe. With the violent tentacles on his back, he may be unstoppable. Epertase needs a new Queen, their army, a new leader. If Rasi succeeds, he will deliver both. But if he fails, his true love will die, he will hang, and Epertase will be destroyed.

I am seeking representation for my 93,000-word fantasy novel, “The Light of Epertase.”

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Steve Wright said...

I'm not sure that **** is much of an improvement on Ripley...

Also, the violent tentacles are new, aren't they? I'm not sure they add anything to the query. (And, this guy has violent tentacles growing out of his back, and he still gets the girl? Most women I know would have qualms about dating Doctor Octopus.)

I'm still a bit unclear on the way things hang together in the middle - Elijah realizes his strategy against the invaders isn't going to work, but he decides to go ahead with it anyway? I should imagine a lot of people in the kingdom would be wanting a new king at that point, and never mind the Light of Epertase.

What use is Princess Name Redacted's power against the invaders? Seems to me that the
people of Epertase are best off dumping the king, ignoring the princess, and hiring Doc Ock to do the fighting for them.

(And how does he find shirts that fit?)

Doug said...

Steve, I included the tentacles as a glimpse of why my world is unique and Rasi in particular. My question is how detailed should my query be? The questions you raise would need a lot more details to fully explain. In my book, they are. Shouldn't a query leave you wanting to fill in the blanks instead of assuming what happened? I'm not arguing any of your points, I'm only asking because I am not great at this process. Let me take one of your questions for an example. You ask why Elijah goes ahead with his strategy. I would have to spend a page explaining his stubbornness and how he believes he can overcome anything. Plus, his army is larger than his ally's army and that gives him a false sense. There is a lot of small details to The Light of Epertase that I don't feel important enough to include in the query but would answer your questions in the novel. I guess what I'm asking is at what point should everything be explained?

Matthew said...

I never thought of naming someone after punctuation before.

Paragraph three, first sentence: delete "Now." It strikes me as a useless word.

Tentacles? Like the guy on the cover of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters?

After mentioning tentacles, I expect to read about tentacles--all I can think about are tentacles--but it seems like tentacles don't factor into the plot.

Evil Editor said...

I would shorten this and get the tentacles out. Something like:


King Elijah of Epertase would kill his own daughter to stay in power. Rasi, a brilliant warrior, would kill all in his path to save her. For it is Princess ****’s secret affair with Rasi that may hold the key to Epertase’s survival.

Now a ruthless army advances from the western sea. Elijah prepares for war. Quickly, the invaders annihilate his closest ally, exposing the flaws of Elijah’s plans for defense. Yet he stubbornly refuses to change course.

With Epertase’s fall all but assured, Elijah has his daughter kidnapped with plans for her timely sacrifice--and Rasi goes on the hunt. If he has to kill Elijah, the entire invading army, and the gods themselves to save his love, he will turn the rivers to blood. Epertase needs a new Queen, their army, a new leader. If Rasi succeeds, he will deliver both. But if he fails, his true love will die, and Epertase will be destroyed.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Save the full explanations for the story.

Better, I think, especially once you change the name. But the tentacles kind of threw me for a loop. I'm not sure whether they should stay or not.

Kings Falcon said...

Where did the title character go? She's now just a one sentance blurb and very passive. It's like pitching The Hobbit by saying the "Adventures meet up at Bilbo's house. They do some stuff, a dragon is killed and oh, by the way, he gets a ring." The princess is now a muguffin. As soon as the princess became a passive character I lost interest. But that may be just me.

Also, it's her secret affair with Rasi that holds the key to survival - ie awakens the Light? Really? You might want to make the mechanics behind the Light awakening clear.

Substantively, I still think you are picking the wrong details. I don't care that the army comes from the west. So that's a detail that could be cut, IMHO. But I still have no idea what the Light is and how it is supposed to save the world.

As an example, you say '. . . setting into motion an event that will bring about Elijah’s end' but don't tell me what the event is. I'd rather read "Princess unleashes the hounds of hell who won't rest until they rip Elijah's throat out." Now I have a specific detaill that doesn't make me confused.

I'm not sure the defeat of Elijah's ally matters for the query. Rasi's path is set before then.

Maybe:

Beseiged by an invading army, King Elijah of Epertase would sacrifice his daughter to retain his throne. Rasi, an exiled and magically cursed warrior, would kill all in his path to save her. For it is Princess XY's secret power - the Light of Epertase - that holds the key to Epertase’s survival.

As the enemy draws closer and defeat looks certain, the Light awakens. Princess XY uses it to (DO SOMETHING). Threatened by an enemy from without and his daughter from within Elijah prepares to sacrifice XY to gain the necessary WEREDINGOS needed to prevail. However, Rasi knows Epertase's only hope is if XY uses the Light to magically defend the country. He (overcomes something) and rescues XY. XY seizes the throne and saves Epertase.

Good luck

Anonymous said...

There's way too much detail in here. There's a big difference between a synopsis (which this pretty much is) and a query letter.

In a query letter (much shorter than a synopsis) you just want to give the agent a feel for what happens, impress them with your ability, and make them curious about how it turns out. I've always thought that the best query letters set the stage but do not reveal the outcome.

...dave conifer

Hanne said...

Here's another opinion to muddy the waters. Doug, I have no expertise in anything, so do read this with your salt shaker at hand. But I hope to help, since I see things differently from some of the other commenters.

I got the impression that Rasi is the main character, not the princess. so I don't think she has to be active in the plot. However, I can see why it might be confusing who is the main character - a lot of the query seems to talk about Elijah. Can you make it more Rasi-centric? Unfortunately, that might mean losing those snappy first two lines, but perhaps that might solve some of the confusion. I would try and focus it on Rasi and his challenge: save the princess and create peace - that's the heart of the story. And you want to get the editor rooting for Rasi, if you can. I think this would mean cutting out most of Elijah except the one bit (human sacrifice) that best showcases his evilness. So maybe:

Rasi, a brilliant warrior, would kill all in his path to save Princess *. He may have to - her father, King Elijah of Epertase, facing an unstoppable invasion, has just had his daughter kidnapped. She is blessed with the magical Light of Epertase within her soul, and sacrificing her to the gods is supposed to save both king and kingdom.

Rasi has other ideas. Since an unjust banishment and a terrible curse - seven blood-thirsty tentacles melded to his back - he has longed for redemption and a life of peace. In the Princess, he sees a chance for both. If he has to kill Elijah, the entire invading army, and the gods themselves to save his love, he will turn the rivers to blood. Epertase needs a new Queen; their army, a new leader. If Rasi succeeds, he will deliver both. But if he fails, his true love will die and Epertase will be destroyed.

Kings Falcon said...

Just had a thought - was Rasi exiled for loving the Princess? If so, you might want to mention that upfront so the "love of his life" line doesn't come out of the blue.

Don't give up, you're getting there and it sounds like a good story.