Monday, October 19, 2009

Face-Lift 687

Guess the Plot

The Soul Catcher

1. Soul catchers take "soul food" to a whole new level. They dine on the souls of human beings. When a teen-aged soul catcher disguises herself as a human and falls in love with her next meal, trouble looms: the punishment is . . . death.

2. Being an engineer on a rundown space train isn't easy, and when new regulations come down the line ordering that all engines immediately be fitted with a "soul catcher," Lance Bixter knows the whole run is going to suck.

3. With a butterfly net and an i-pod full of rhythm & blues, Barry Duboise is ready to rule the Lepidopterans. His main rival has developed a secret weapon she calls honey-flame. Can the pair team up long enough to defend their kingdom from the invading Ornithos?

4. Joel Brown thought he had a catchy new name for a café in the heart of Detroit's Motown. Until the chili eats his waitress and the only new applicant for the job has a forked tongue and glowing red eyes. And she's horny. This could work out.

5. In 2157 Rap is the Law, enforced by Soul Catchers, who snuff out subversive sweet soul sounds of the 1960s. J-Slam is the baddest, but when he samples a stash of vinyl, he's hooked. Can he save himself and his Soul, while proving he's not a ripoff of Fahrenheit 451?

6. Retired astronaut Stan Kaufman saw souls floating by while he orbited the earth. When his dead wife leaves messages that she's been captured, he sets to work building a rocket that can take him into near-earth orbit so he can free her. Also, a jive-talking ghost.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After reviewing your website, I believe you may be interested in The Soul Catcher, a YA fantasy complete at 60,000 words. I'm currently seeking representation.

While living as a mortal...

1) A jinn must not reveal one’s true identity. [I assume you mean his/her own identity, in which case I'd say his or her or its, not one's.]
2) A jinn must not grant wishes.
3) A jinn must not fall in love. [That sounds more like a recommendation than a rule. It's like saying, Don't be sad. Easily done until something tragic happens.] [Also, what's the point of being a jinn if you can't do anything fun?]

Sixteen-year-old Asiya has no trouble following these rules of Spell, a one week retreat where she, an influential jinn and soul catcher, can leave the Colony and roam the mortal world disguised as a human, until she meets Wren, an intelligent yet troubled southern boy. [Southern USA? If so, name the state, because with names like Asiya and Wren, I'm thinking southern Asgard.] [Also, that "until" goes with "following," but could easily go with "roam" or "disguised." Maybe put dashes around everything between "Spell," and "until."]

While other jinn view mortals as cattle, their souls the source of jinn magic and life, Asiya secretly admires the humans from which she is supposed to feed. ["Supposed to," meaning she doesn't?] This may have something to do with the fact that she's rumored to be half-mortal because of the rare color of her eyes. [This paragraph is just trivia. Dump it and focus on the Asiya/Wren relationship.]

During Spell, when she’s taunted at the mortal high school because of her Arabian ancestry, Wren comes to her defense. She follows him, intrigued, and witnesses his stepfather's abusive nature. Horrified, she reveals her powers in hopes he’ll wish for a new life. Wren, finally pushed to the edge, unknowingly makes a deadly wish. Asiya grants it, creating an imbalance between the mortal and jinn worlds, which sets in motion a series of dangerous consequences. [Couldn't Asiya change from human form to jinn form and then grant the wish, thus avoiding breaking rule #2?]

Together they run from Makin, a powerful jinn sent to punish them. Asiya tries to find her mortal father before she's dragged back to the Colony forever, but more than her freedom is at stake when she falls in love with the broken and cynical country boy. Any jinn knows the punishment for loving a mortal is nothing less than death..

Thank you for your time and consideration.



To declare that Asiya has no trouble following the rules until she meets Wren isn't saying much; she meets him almost immediately. She managed to not break the rules for a couple days. What will power.

She has only one week to roam the mortal world . . . and enrolls in high school?

Can a new kid just show up and start attending school?

What's the punishment for revealing your identity or granting a wish?

What do you mean by, she's an "influential" jinn?

Not all jinn can catch souls? Do the soul catchers catch souls and provide them to the other jinn?

Granting a deadly wish while in mortal form throws the universe into imbalance. Would granting the same wish while in jinn form have the same consequences?


Anonymous said...

Somehow, that deadpan description just didn't excite. Maybe I'm a jaded cynic, but I think it might be helpful to crank up the sexiness or scariness, or comedy...

_*Rachel*_ said...

I second EE's questions in the notes.

Starting at the deadly wish part, it gets too vague. Give me some details!

Dave F. said...

Why is Wren being punished? He's the innocent country boy who just happened on a bad girl jinn.

Asiya seems to be the delinquent. She violated the rules and did things that involved other in the end of the world. Why isn't the logical solution that she gets hauled back to whatever world she crept away from... Gee that sounds so harsh but then, if I have to side with a country boy with an abusive father and a disobedient jinn, I'll stick with the human race.

Now none of this has much to do with your story other than to point out that the query has to present Ayisa as a sympathetic figure. Why should we like her? I am certain that if I read your manuscript I would see what a wonderful teenage girl she is but that doesn't carry over.

Dave F. said...

oh rats, I pushed the wrong button before I could lighten up that last comment. It's pretty harsh, sorry author.

Anonymous said...

EE says *She has only one week to roam the mortal world . . . and enrolls in high school?*

I know that's an essential part of your book, so can't be "fixed", but...yeah. I had the same question about Twilight. Many people in the high school age-range could pass for adult with a little makeup and mature clothing choices. WHY would anyone supernatural willingly subject themselves? If they want to learn something, enroll in college. But HS? Gah!

Blank said...

Author here! Thanks for the great comments. I love EE's plot synopsis. Soul food. Classic.

Here's the thing about this story: The jinn's grant wishes once a year to mortals on a day known as Invocation. Jinns are like celebrities. Mortals LOVE them and FLATTER them to get what they want.

But during the year, the jinn live in palaces, invisible to mortals, and within that palace the jinns have different roles. The Soul Catchers catch the souls when they grant a wish. But not all jinn grant wishes. Some are Domestics, palace servants, some are Artisans, the jinn who create the magic, and so on. Not all of them get to leave. Only Soul Catchers do.

And yeah, I guess I wouldn't want to enroll in high school either if I were some supernatural being, but Asiya has never left the palace. She wants to experience a normal mortal life, and that's, well, high school.

Wren is punished because he wishes for his stepfather to die. And granting those kinds of wishes are illegal.

Does that clear some things up? I have no idea how to incorporate that into the query. I guess I should dump the trivia paragraph and try to include some of this world? It all sounds so silly to me now! LOL!

Dave F. said...

Wren is punished because he wishes for his stepfather to die.

Kids, even teens have dark thoughts. the punishment is usually guilt and later, therapy if the teen doesn't come to some understanding with te parent.

So then, why is Wren punished? He does not kill his father, Ayisa does that. Why don't the jinn just drag her back to the other side and kick her ass around a bit...

One of the reasons I send things to EE is that as they sit in the que, I start to analyze them like this. I start to question and doubt. That helps the story.

I will suggest that you do that too. Write down the explanations and then read them back to yourself a day later.

I still do not understand why a soul is caught when a wish is granted. That sounds a little evil. Is it? Or is the price of a wish the loss of soul?

Maybe of you started to explain that to yourself, in writing... You might gain some more insight into the puzzles the reader has to go through.

On Ayisa:
I always joke that I have three rules in life -- "NOT RED", "NO Mayonaise", and "never appear in front of a camera naked" -- and that's it. Three rules.
Please tell my why Ayisa is so undisciplined or befogged by love of a mortal that she violates one of the three laws of Jinn-dom.
Is it childish foolishness in that her jinn age matches her human age (teen age love, like Romeo and Juliet is a possibility) or do human emotions so overwhelm her after years of sterile existence serving in the jinn palace.

See how that question gets to the heart of your story? Why do characters act the way they do and why would a YA or an adult enjoy reading the story. Why do people like TWILIGHT or HARRY POTTER? And of course the answer is, because they identify with the characters.

Right now, I don't identify with Ayisa or Wren. That's a problem in the query.

Blank said...

Dave -

Yes. I see your point. This is something I've really struggled with - writing characters that people can identify with.

Your questions are spot on and thank you for your help. I must go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate what I'm missing...

And I often hate my query the closer it comes to show up here. I had already given up on this story by the time it was critiqued - which actually didn't even take very long.

And yes, the jinn are evil. They are manipulating the mortals. But Asiya is different from the other jinn because she feels human emotion.

Excellent advice. I thank you.

Matthew said...

Giving up so easily? It's not like your plot doesn't have its good points. Though it was flawed, I thought it was a creative idea.

Blank said...

Thanks Matthew! I just keep jumping to different ideas. And I don't know if I really love this one anymore.

Maybe I'll revisit it later. I have much to learn.