Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Face-Lift 685

Guess the Plot


1. A samurai warrior passes through the moongate portal to a futuristic world where he tries to convince a teen-aged girl that she is actually a dragon destined to save mankind from demons.

2. Stennick Bline, the last of the real gonzo journalists, makes a discovery that will rock the world: the moon really is just a cardboard cut-out. But will he live long enough to publish his story?

3. After spending $250 million to create an explosion on the moon, NASA proudly announces that they found nothing other than dust. Well, except for that gate to the secret kingdom of immortality...

4. The President issues a terse denial. The First Lady maintains an icy silence. The FBI finds no evidence of a crime. But the tongues of scandal grow louder. Then Fanny Needler, lonely top-secret analyst, discovers satellite images of buns pressing a Lincoln Bedroom windowpane - and a tattoo she recognizes all too well.

5. Little Timmy forgot to close the moongate, and now the moon is on a collision course with the Earth, all life will soon be destroyed, and Timmy's mom says he's in big trouble when his dad gets home.

6. For years Clive has been telling people about the government's Moon landing conspiracy. Now Clive is dead, and one by one his fellow believers are being slain. Can Detective Carol Hanson find the killer, or will she, too, be eclipsed?

Original Version

Dear [AGENT],

Moongate is a 111,000-world tale [Most fantasy readers can handle two--or even three--worlds, but you've gone way overboard.] full of twists, vengeance, heartache and humor. A thousand years after the apocalypse where the demonic Youkai overthrew mankind, only a few beacons of civilization remain, and Japan is isolated from the rest of the world. A lone samurai crosses the boundary between worlds, [Specifically, between worlds #72,343 and #72,344.] hunting the dragon prophesied to save his beloved Citadel. He is Susanouo, named for a god of war, and he carries with him the sword Kusanagi, the cursed blade which once wiped dragons from the face of the earth. [If the dragon is supposed to save his beloved Citadel, maybe he should hunt it with something less lethal than Kusanagi.]

In a modern world [#106,982] he finds Rei: a dragon, who wears the form of a tactless seventeen-year-old girl and has no idea what she is. It has been foretold that if she saves his city he will die at her hands. Against all odds these two must journey back to the Citadel and convince its ruthless prince to ignite open war with demonkind, [Before that, against all odds, Suze has to convince Rei that she's actually a dragon and that she should accompany him to a land that has no mall.] before the Youkai launch an invasion of their own. [If the Youkai overthrew mankind 1000 years ago and they've been ignoring the Citadel ever since, then what makes Susanouo think they're suddenly gonna launch an invasion? If they cared about the Citadel, they could have destroyed it centuries ago. Did they just recently happen upon Japan?]

Moongate is told from the alternating viewpoints of both its main characters—the grim samurai swordsman and the smart-mouthed girl from the futuristic world. And Susanouo isn't your typical swashbuckling hero. He hides the secret that he's actually a demon who has thrown in his lot with the doomed human race. His quest isn't just the noble cause of saving humanity; it's about getting revenge. And Rei's not your typical mature, attractive girl who's been sucked into a fantasy world. She's blunt and obnoxious, proud and cynical. [She sounds pretty typical to me.] But ultimately she becomes Susanouo's conscience, forcing him to question the ruthless choices he makes.

Moongate would be marketable to high fantasy and urban fantasy readers alike. The novel is similar to fantasy series such as Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy or Naomi Novik's Temeraire Trilogy. In the ordinary-girl-meets-magical-being sense, [If she's actually a dragon, I'd hardly call her an ordinary girl.] it’s similar to the Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series, or to young adult urban fantasy such as Twilight or A Great and Terrible Beauty. [Tossing out the names of wildly popular novels that don't bear even the slightest resemblance to yours is unlikely to pay off.] The book is also colored with Japanese folklore, and would appeal to manga (Japanese graphic novel) readers. [First you assume I've read these Farseer and Temeraire trilogies, then you assume I don't know what manga is.] [I recommend that if you're querying an agent who insists that you compare your book to published fiction, you choose only one book for comparison.]

The second book, War God, is already in progress, and the third is outlined. I would be happy to send a copy of the manuscript for review; feel free to contact me anytime.


Side note to EE: The title refers to the portal Susanouo uses to travel between worlds. He has named it that because he believes the unique power to world-jump was given to him by the moon god, Tsukiyomi.


If you have a 17-year-old main character and you compare your book to young adult books, we'll wonder why you haven't described your book as young adult.

It seems to me that if Susanouo goes to the future and finds that it isn't ruled by demons, and that mankind is getting along just fine even though he hasn't brought the dragon back yet, that he would figure the prophecy was bull and cancel his mission. Or at least head over to his beloved Citadel to see if it has survived.

Susanouo's quest for revenge seems to be the main motivating factor. Perhaps we should know what's behind it.

If Susanouo is actually a demon, the Citadel isn't actually his "beloved Citadel." Why would a demon care about saving the Citadel? Why can't he seek his revenge without getting the dragon and saving the Citadel?

This seems to take place on Earth, but I'm not clear on the time line. There's the apocalyptic event, then 1000 years later Susanouo sets out on his mission which takes him to a futuristic world. How futuristic? Is it our present time, in which case mankind was overthrown more than a millennium ago? Or is the apocalyptic event in our future, so that the entire book is set in the future?

It wouldn't be easy to convince a modern girl that she's a dragon. What evidence does Susanouo provide? Is he disguised as a samurai when he appears to Rei, or does he change into something more appropriate to her world?

Does the prophecy say that a samurai will die at the hands of the dragon that saves the Citadel? Or does it say that a demon disguised as a samurai will die?


_*Rachel*_ said...

111,000 worlds! I'm amused in a nice way.

I like the concept of this; it's a nice change from ordinary US/UK kid hopping fantasy worlds. I also like the conundrum of Sousanuou knowing that if he gets Rei to help, he'll die.

Your idea is, I think, the gem of this query. Currently you're taking up a lot of space with needless market comparisons. Cut all that down to wor(l)d count, genre (it does sound like YA fantasy), "potential to be a series," and any related publishing credits or background (here's where you might mention growing up in Japan, or majoring in Japanese Folklore, etc.). These shouldn't take much space, and they'll give your plot more room to shine.

Tell us more of the plot. We want to see it.

Anonymous said...

First, in English 'Susan' is a common girl's name so the effect of adding a suffix of vowels and telling us to imagine this is a demon traveling incognito as a Samuri warrior who will save the world is comical. He is also a boy named Sue, like the dude in the country song, yes? Humor is good, but this seems accidental so maybe you should reconsider this name.

Second, you aren't showing us that your girl = dragon thing works. Sounds like a typical teen to me.

Third, what EE said about your discussion of the other books.

Plus, after reading this I'm afraid the book is going to be filled with incomprehensible metaphors and comparisons.

Dave F. said...

There doesn't seem to be a coherent mythology or fantasy world behind the samurai warrior and his dragon quest. That's taking away from the story of your heroine becoming a dragon to save the world. Your opening sentence (the hook) has to encapsulate the story and what you have now, doesn't.

Dave F. said...

After I read anonymous 11:50, I searched for "Susanouo" and found this in Wikipedia:

In Japanese mythology, Susano’o, the powerful storm of Summer, is the brother of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon. All three were spawned from Izanagi, when he washed his face clean of the pollutants of Yomi, the underworld. Amaterasu was born when Izanagi washed out his left eye, Tsukuyomi was born from the washing of the right eye, and Susano’o from the washing of the nose.

AS I always say when I watch the Japanese Iron Chef, they can invent something out of mucus...
But seriously, this isn't just a case of adding an "oo" to Susan.

And "Kusanagi" is a sword of legend in Japan, too.

This is exotic far-east mythology that is not well known in the west. I think the query should play that up just a little more. Other cultures attract readers.

pacatrue said...

I didn't see anything wrong with the name. Since all the others are clearly nice Japanese-type names, I'm giving you credit on the S one as well, assuming you know what you're doing there.

I couldn't help but be reminded of some cross between Inuyasha (with Rei as Sasuke) and Bleach.

Anyway, I'd read it, but it does seem you need to trim about a paragraph of the query.

Dominique said...

Your third paragraph seems very heavy on telling to me. You don't need to tell me that they're atypical. Just show me the atypical things about them, and I'll draw the conclusion that they're unique all on my own.

I agree that this sounds like YA fantasy. Mentioning that it draws on Japanese folklore is good for some agents; however, I don't know if that will guarantee manga fan readership the way your letter implies it might.

Eric P. said...

I was really hoping against all hope for #4.....

Your query could use a lot more of the why of your story. What drives the characters to do what they do? Why do they care? What are they up against? What's at stake? (I mean for the characters themselves; I know there's a prophecy and the saving humanity shtick.) This could be a case of me not being up on my Japanese mythology, but that's likely the case for your prospective editors too.

If you do your job describing the story engagingly, the editor will be the one who can say, "Hmm, teenage girl in Japanese folklore; bet I could market it to Twilight readers and Manga fans!" No need for you to tell the marketing pros how to do their jobs.

I've got no problem with a Samurai named Susanouo except that I have absolutely no clue how to pronounce it. su-ZAN-oh-oo? SU-san-OW-oh? su-San-o-OO-oh? Susan, oh you, oh...?

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

It seems like an interesting idea, but I'm completely baffled on what the relationship is between Rei's world and Susanouo's world. I'm assuming Rei's "modern" world is our own, but does that mean Susanoao is from the past, the future, or an alternate reality?

ril said...

...only a few beacons of civilization remain, and Japan is isolated from the rest of the world.

To be honest, it pretty much feels like that now.

As an intersting aside, Kusanagi is also the name of a member of a popular Japanese boy band, who was recently arrested for frolicking naked in a city park, giving a whole different meaning to "Kusanagi the Sword".

"Susanouo" will take a little getting used to. Susano'o is more popular (but of course I can imagine susanoo being mispronounced as sue-za-noooooo).

If you cut the paragraph telling us about other people's books, maybe you could squeeze in a little more about what happens in yours?

Anonymous said...

My household manga and Japanese mythology buff points out (as mentioned in the Wikipedia article referenced by Dave F.) that Susano’o is actually the god of storm, not war -- while I suppose you could make a case for that being simplified in the query (storm and war being somewhat related, and Susano’o being a warlike god), if you're hoping to appeal to manga fans, that distinction should be clear in the novel -- most of the manga fans I know are fanatics about minutiae and sticklers for accuracy.

Adam Heine said...

Susanouo may be the genuine Japanese name for a god of war (or at least the god of storms, according to Wikipedia). But I can't help myself from mentally referring to him as Susan.

Is there some nickname you can give him that doesn't sound like a Catholic school girl? Sano or Mikoto or something?

up so many floating bells down said...

I love GTP #6! I giggled out loud when I got to the last line, and I'm sitting here in a very quiet work environment. Kudos to the author of #6!

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, thank you, guys! I cannot summarize for crap. I structured the query according to the advice of a friend who had an agent, and apparently it was bad advice. She told me I needed a paragraph comparing the book to others that were out there, and that I needed to summarize the whole book in just one short paragraph. She also said I needed one paragraph telling agents why my book is different.

Just from reading previous queries posted on this blog, I realize now the plot can take up to 3 paragraphs. This is awesome, as from your comments I've gleaned that my tiny summary doesn't do the book justice.

First off: The book is more adult than YA, but might appeal to YAs and thus have an even wider age demographic.

Secondly: Rei's modern world is Susanouo's past. Maybe I should mention that...

Third: Susanouo is indeed a storm god, but like Greek gods he has different attributes and one of them is war/destruction. He slew the 8-headed dragon Orochi and pulled the sword Kusanagi from its tail. (And I would, in the novel, most certainly include a pronunciation key for names!)

Fourth: Though I myself am a rabid anime/manga fan/scanlator, I must point out that even anime takes a lot of liberties with mythology. A LOT.

And now I scurry off to edit Franken-query...

150 said...

I actually thought this was pretty good until you started talking about things that were not your plot. And I like your attitude. Good luck!

Dave F. said...

One of the things that I've learned from Iron Chef (Japanese) is that of the five syllables in Chef Rokusaburo Michiba's (western style: first name last name) only the first is accented. Westerners want to accent more than one syllable.

All these names take on different sounds when spoken properly. A pronunciation guide would be good.

If this gets to print, let me know. I'll buy a copy.

ril said...

One of the things that I've learned from Iron Chef (Japanese) is that of the five syllables in Chef Rokusaburo Michiba's (western style: first name last name) only the first is accented.

Not if it's said right...