Monday, October 26, 2009

Face-Lift 690


Guess the Plot


Redemption


1. Nico is a half-demon, trying to stop an army from killing his brothers and feeding them to mutants. Savannah is a half-angel hunting down Nico to gain her redemption. Confrontation seems to be their destiny, but then, they never expected to fall in love.


2. As the guilt about jilting Abner in 1967 grows steadily more onerous instead of fading away, Millicent decides there's only one way to redeem herself: marry him. Too bad he seems to be so inconveniently 'married' to some jerk named Stan. What's a girl to do?


3. Teenage rowdies accidentally burn Springfield when their protest against global warming goes awry. Judge Jackson sentences them to rebuild the town and they can barely afford dirt so everything has to be made of adobe. At least no trees will be harmed. As they toil to make the first house Tiffany wonders -- will this take the rest of their lives, or what???


4. Now that Chet has terminal lung cancer, he decides to wheeze on down to find Evelyn in Surrey and apologize for ruining her life in 1992. But their chat over tea is so awkward -- she can't remember Chet at all, and her butler keeps giviing Chet the evil eye.


5. After his drunken party burns the house down, forcing his aging parents to move into the chicken shed, Shelby Jones returns to his college dorm knowing he must do dramatic good deeds to redeem himself. Fortunately he gets the Superman costume at half price. Now all he needs is an evil nemesis.


6. Claude, an insistent atheist (to spite the deities currently traipsing down Main Street), is painting his masterpiece (which has the same title as eight albums, five songs, four novels, three films, and a play). His neighbors are trying to prevent more deities from climbing through the dimensional rift in Claude's backyard.



Original Version


Dear Evil Editor,


Redemption is an 85,000 word urban fantasy inspired by Frank Miller, George A. Romero and Robert McCammon. [I can't say I care who or what inspired the book, unless you mean you stole your ideas from them.]


Half-angel Savannah Mantas smells the sulfuric stench of wrath when it enters her city, Iron Point. Resurrected by the archangel Michael, she's hunting for redemption and half-demon Nico Montenegro is her prey. He comes from the Fringes, the border between the city and the toxic wasteland beyond.


When they meet, Nico tells her a story, one of genocide and confiscated bodies. Not revenge, but justice is his purpose and his target is the most admired family in the world–Commander Hathaway and his daughter. [That name sounded familiar, but while it turns out it's the name of a famous WWII commander, I think I had Commander McBragg in mind. A few of McBraggs short cartoons are available on YouTube.] [Sudden attack of nostalgia. I'll get back to the query shortly, after I order the complete Commander McBragg collection on DVD.]


Hathaway's soldiers are slaughtering Fringers and secretly feeding them to Revenants, mutants who survived the bio-bombing of 2120. [You've got to be pretty unobservant if someone manages to secretly feed you.] They have a twisted idea they can train these clever creatures like dogs and keep them out of the city long enough to mobilize an evacuation for the wealthy and well-connected. [Lemme see if I've got this straight. You've got some mutants and you want to train them like dogs, which you do by feeding them a slaughtered Fringer whenever they do what they're supposed to do? Wouldn't they be just as happy with a biscuit?]


Savannah knows better. Revenants are what killed her. When they attack, she saves the citizens of Iron Point and gains her redemption, but Michael gives her one final choice. She can ascend to Heaven, or sacrifice paradise and save Nico, the man [correction, half-demon] she loves, from eternal hellfire.


My novels, Stark Knight, Silent Knight, Good Knight, My Biker Bodyguard, Bulletproof Bride, and my YA horror DFF: Dead Friends Forever, the first of six books in the Extreme Hauntings series are published by Echelon Press. School's Out 4Ever, the second in the series, will be released this fall.


Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.


Sincerly, [The most important words in a query are the first and last. Spell them correctly. What's between them I couldn't care less about, as I usually don't read it.]



Notes


If the goal is to get the Revenants out of the city, wouldn't it be easier to slaughter the Revenants than to slaughter the Fringers and feed them to the Revenants and train the Revenants?


Why is Nico condemned to hellfire? If Michael can--and is willing to--save Nico from eternal hellfire, why doesn't he just do it? If Nico's earned his own redemption, he shouldn't have to spend eternity in hell just because Savannah chooses heaven over a half-demon. Yes, I'm aware she chooses Nico, but that's not the point.


I wouldn't mind a bit more about how Savannah manages to save the whole city from Revenants.


19 comments:

J.R. Turner said...

Thank you for showing me where this needs to be clarified. I'll work on fixing those area.

The tough part about querying fantasy is keeping the descriptions short, maintaining voice, and still being clear.

I'll definitely be working on this. Truly--thanks tons for offering this service to authors and I totally appreciate your efforts to make this better!

Warmly,
Jenny:)

Faceless Minion said...

This is probably stuff that's answered in the book, but it doesn't work for me in the query:

Was Savannah a half-angel before she died or does her resurrection change her into one? If she wasn't one before, why does Michael bring her back?

What does Commander Hathaway's daughter have to do with Nico's justice?

I agree with E.E. -- why not just kill the revenants?

How many wealthy/connected people are there that it's taking so long to prepare to evacuate them?

chelsea said...

I liked this, but I, too, was confused about how Nico can be saved from eternal damnation by Savannah's sacrifice.

Otherwise, it definitely sounds like a story I could get into.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

EE, are you perhaps thinking of Anne Hathaway - either the actress or Shakespeares' wife?

Author: in my opinion this is pretty strong. You walk us through a complicated plot and detailed fantasy world with a minimum of confusion.

However, I feel like you can tighten up your prose. You get a little purple, to the point of obscuring your meaning sometimes. When you say Savannah "smells the sulfuric stench of wrath" do you mean she can literally smell demons? Or anger? Or is that a metaphor?

At any rate, you might want to do an adjective check and make sure you aren't overwriting. (And I say this as someone whose editing process involves taking out 3/4 of my beloved adverbs.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone! :)

First, I'll answer a few questions:

1) The resurrection changes her into a half-angel.

2) She was brought back because she was chosen at birth to complete a task by God.

3) Nico wants to kill Hathaway's daughter so the Commander will know the pain of losing a loved one. (Nico's a demon after all :))

4) Reves are pretty much like cockroaches--for every one you see, a dozen more are in hiding. They've taken over the Wasteland and Hathaway is attempting to create "feeding zones" to the south of his evacuation route--killing those on his route and using the Fringers as "bait" for them to relocate to the south. It's a two year operation.

5) It takes so long to evacuate the wealthy/well-connected because Hathaway's regime has to develop a "vaccine" to the Biotoxin that covers the Wasteland.

6) Nico was a *very* good man before he was corrupted by a female demon who intended to lead him astray from God's purpose for him--and she did.

Free will is a major theme of the plot and only through the free will sacrifice of another can Nico be saved from the choice he made to give his soul to the demon he (thought he) loved.

7)Every half-angel has differing abilities--some can heal, others can't. Savannah can smell sin. She hunts by scent.

On to the suggestions :)

Thank you all very much! The questions you asked and the advice on adjectives/adverbs is very helpful.

Thank you too, EE. I will definitely tighten this up and clarify as best as I can in my limited amount of space.

Fantasy can be really tough to relate well. This is the first query I've ever written for one and it's been a struggle.

The line about "inspired by" was my way of categorizing the style I chose for the book--the gritty graphic novel narrative of Frank Miller, the action/social issues elements of George A. Romero, and the internal suffering caused by paranormal powers present in much of what Robert McCammon writes.

Maybe it should be "audiences of" or "those who enjoy" type line?

I'll work on it.

Thanks again!

mb said...

I so want to see #4.

Evil Editor said...

The line about "inspired by" was my way of categorizing the style I chose for the book--the gritty graphic novel narrative of Frank Miller, the action/social issues elements of George A. Romero, and the internal suffering caused by paranormal powers present in much of what Robert McCammon writes.

I'm sure there are those who like this type of thing; I feel if your query shows a book that is gritty with internal suffering and action/social issues, then you don't need to name names, which risks giving the impression it's Batman vs. zombies.

J.R. Turner said...

Lol :) Batman vs. zombies!

I definitely don't want to give that impression!

Yeah, totally needs work.

Thanks again, EE!

ann foxlee said...

Author,thanks for the comment with the background info-- it really cleared up a lot of questions. Fantasy queries ARE difficult, I agree. It's hard not to get bogged down in backstory just so the person knows what the heck you're talking about!
In your original query, I did have a lot of the same questions that EE did, so maybe tightening things up and adding a few of the details from your explanatory post would help.
Your answers # 1,2,7, and the bit in #6 about free will.... if you could figure a way to squeeze that stuff in, it would keep people from asking so many questions, I think.
Not that I know all the details, and I may have some of this wrong, but maybe you could say something like:
"Resurrected by the archangel Michael, Savannah Mantas finds herself transformed into a half-angel, her nose suddenly filled with the sulfuric stench of the evil surrounding Iron City. Seeking her own redemption by hunting demons and sinners, Savannah tracks down Nico Montenegro, a man who allowed himself to be made a half-demon.
"The world isn't as black-and-white as Savannah imagines it is though, and Nico tells Savannah stories of slaughter and genocide. He tells her of General Hathaway, the man responsible for taking all those innocent lives, and for keeping a mutant race known as Revenants under his control by feeding them the bodies. Nico is bent on destroying General Hathaway by taking his most precious posession: his daughter.
"Savannah, who was killed by Revenants before her resurrection, knows exactly how dangerous they are, and Nico's plan for justice won't do anything to stop the mutants from attacking Iron City. When they do, she (whatever she does...) to save its citizens and gain her own redemption in the bargain.
" Savannah's final test comes as archangel Michael offers her a choice: ascend to heaven or sacrifice paradise to save the man she has come to love, Nico, from eternal hellfire."

Or somethin' like that. Of course, I've probably missed or misinterpreted plot points, and this would still need to get trimmed up, but I hope it is some help.
The story sounds great-- love to read it someday!

J.R. Turner said...

Thank you so much Ann!

No, you pretty much nailed the plot elements. Great insight there!

I'll definitely use your example to rework this query.

Truly, I can't thank you enough!

Warmly,
Jenny:)

batgirl said...

Wow, ann, that's a brilliant rewrite!

ann foxlee said...

Glad to be of service :-)

I have to say, it is soooo much easier to write someone else's query than your own...
I'm so attached to all the little the details and subplots in my own novel that I find it hard to pare it all down on my query, but when you only have the basic overview to start with... way easier!

Again, good luck, and I'm looking forward to reading the novel when it's done!

J.R. Turner said...

I rewrote based on the suggestions so many generous folks offered here. If there's a chance to look at this again, I'd love to see if I've gotten closer to a better query:


At birth, Savannah Mantas was chosen by God to fulfill a greater purpose. When the gift of free will causes her untimely death, she's resurrected by the Archangel Michael and told to find her redemption by protecting the innocent. As a half-angel, she can smell sin and uses this power to hunt and destroy evil.

Halfling Nico Montenegro, a man who gave his soul to a demon he once loved, reeks of wrath when he enters Iron Point, the last known city in the world. Savannah is poised to take his life, when he tells her a story of slaughter and genocide.

Commander Hathaway is keeping a mutant race known as Revenants under his control by feeding them Fringers—those who live between the city and the Wasteland beyond. Savannah knows these mutants cannot be contained, they are what killed her.

As a vessel for God's power, Savannah fulfills her purpose and saves the citizens from the Revenant attack. She earns her redemption. Yet only a free will sacrifice can undo the damnation of Nico's soul. Michael offers a final choice; ascend to heaven, or save the man she loves from eternal hellfire.

Dave F. said...

I'd change "hafling" to "half-demon" because it seems to match a "half-angel." I found myself asking what's the difference between a hafling and a half-angel and not paying attention to the query.

You need a better transition between paragraphs 2 and 3. Perhaps replace "a story of slaughter and genocide" with something like "he tells her of a plot to conquer Iron Point with revenants and claim in for Hell"...

You also need to say that she falls in love with Nico. I'm not sure if that goes in Paragraph 2 or 3 but if should appear before Micheal's final offer. (and before your phone a friend)

I find the last paragraph a little awkward. How about something like: "Savannah, a vessel for God's power, saves the citizens from the Revenant attack and earns redemption."

I like this version better than the first.

Eric P. said...

To me, "halfling" = "hobbit." So if you actually mean "half-angel," "half-demon," "half-breed," or "werewolf," I'd reword it accordingly.

Double-check your punctuation; I spotted a few commas and semicolons doing things they shouldn't.

Ditto to Dave's comments on smoothing the connecting elements and the final paragraph. It also needs a dash more of character motivation, but you're well on your way.

Faceless Minion said...

This is clearer than before, but it reads more like a recitation of events than an introduction to the story. You might want to edge it a bit back the other way.

I would suggest getting rid of one of the references to Savannah's death -- you mention it was untimely and that she was killed. We only need this information once.

You might want to leave out that she does save the city and end with something like: Savannah must save the city from the Revenants and the man she loves from himself.

Hope this helps.

J.R. Turner said...

Thanks so much everyone!

I'm glad this reads more clear. I'll work on bringing in some of the voice I had tried to include in the original, now that I'm on a more correct path.

Also, I'll fix the Halfling thing--though I was having a tough time because of the Half-demon/demon in the same sentence. I'll work it out though.

Truly--I really appreciate the second look through and help. The query is soooo very important!!

Warmly,
Jenny:)

J.R. Turner said...

Just thought everyone would like to know that I emailed a few agents yesterday and with the new revised version (one I wrote after the second round of comments) and had a request for the partial this morning!

Thank you all so VERY much for your wonderful help!!! YAY!! :)

EE--you rock! :)

Warmly,
Jenny:)

Here's the revised query I sent:

God chose Savannah Mantas to fulfill a greater purpose. When the gift of free will causes her untimely death, she's resurrected by the Archangel Michael and told to find redemption by protecting the innocent. As a half-angel, she can smell sin and uses this power to hunt and destroy evil.

Half-demon Nico Montenegro , a man who gave his soul to the succubus he once loved, reeks of wrath when he enters Iron Point, the last known city in the world. Savannah is poised to take his life until she hears about the genocide in the Fringes, a ghetto between the city and Wastelands beyond.

Iron Point ruler Commander Hathaway is keeping a mutant race known as Revenants under his power by feeding them captured Fringers. These twisted creatures cannot be trained or contained. They will breach the city walls and prey on the last of mankind.

Savannah , a vessel for God's power, fulfills her purpose and earns her redemption by saving the citizens from the Revenant attack. Yet only a free will sacrifice can undo the damnation of Nico's soul. Michael offers a final choice: ascend to heaven, or save the man she loves from eternal hellfire.

L.A. said...

Querying fantasy is a queer thing in itself. Querying articles makes sense. Any editor who can guess at how the rest of a fantasy story will go and flow is actually living in a fantasy world. They've become characters in someone's fantasy story. They believe they've acquired godlike perceptual perusal powers regarding the future completed quality of the written piece. They might just as well become weather forecasters, since their prognostication accuracy is equally faulty. These editor types would surely reject any fantasies written in a New Yorker style format, and this means some outstanding writings fall beneath the slush pile.