Monday, January 04, 2010

Face-Lift 715

Guess the Plot

Daughter of the Ocean

1. Moira's always wondered who her biological parents were. She finally meets her mom, but when she asks about meeting her father, Mom just says, "Head for the coast; you can't miss him."

2. She claims to be a mermaid and although most people would be skeptical because she uses a submarine instead of swimming, crewman Digby believes it and lets her aboard the Sea Guppy. Hilarity ensues.

3. Just as Octavius the shepherd perfects the art of walking on water, the damn Ocean starts parting whenever he comes near, so he decides to search the sea floor until he finds Venus -- and bring her back to Pompeii as his wife. Plus, seven spectacular obstacles and a monstrous fish.

4. The merpeople are almost ready to take over the world and wipe out humanity with their water sorcery. Meteorologist Fenwick Jones is the only one who can stop them. But will he do so when the merman king offers him his beautiful daughter if he stays mum until the merfolk institute a worldwide fishocracy?

5. Shi'inabi has always been different from the other villagers. She can get fish to jump into her net, seals play with her, and dolphins give her rides on their backs. Life is good, until her 16th birthday, when a green-skinned man comes to her door, claiming he must take her to her father, Poseidon.

6. Madison wakes up on the beach and discovers that her hair has lost its natural curl. Also, that she's become a mermaid. The bad news is, her boyfriend may not be able to handle it. The good news is, she has gained the power to command the ocean's waves, which is much cooler than having a boyfriend.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

What would happen if you woke up on a shore of an ocean’s beach [Not wordy enough; how about "coastal shore of an ocean’s seaside waterfront beach"?] not knowing who you are or how you got there, and you must go back to a life pretending not to be an emotional hollow shell that yearns for the ocean’s embrace. [I've got nothing against opening with a question, but this question can be worded more clearly as: Would you please read no further and just send me a rejection slip?]

Madison Harington went missing after her high school graduation only to be found wandering the redwood forests in Northern California near her home-town several months later. [I thought she was on the beach.] Her unusually ghostly pale skin [There are many shades of unusually ghostly pale skin. For instance, there's unusually ghostly cadaverous ashen pale skin and unusually ghostly anemic pasty pale skin. Paint us a picture.] along with her longer straighter hair has caught the suspicious eye of her childhood friend, [Peter] Parker, who [, thanks to his spider sense,] immediately knows this creature isn’t his old companion.

[Parker: You're not the Madison I once knew.

Madison: How so?

Parker: Your skin's pale.

Madison: I've been in this dark forest two months.

Parker: Your hair's longer and straighter.

Madison: Hello? Two months without a cut and perm?

Parker: I guess I was wron--wait, what about the fact that your legs have been replaced by a scaly fish tail?]

Madison now has to blend into a world that she has no emotional attachment to while resisting the constant luring of the ocean’s sweet lullaby calling her home. [Why must she resist? Why does she have no emotional attachment to the world she lived her whole life in?]

As mermaids, they aren’t supposed to feel any connections to land dwellers anymore, but when Parker becomes the key to unlocking all Madison’s hidden emotions and her one and only true love, she finds herself commanding the ocean’s waves and the skies in a battle against [Aquaman and] the woman with the emerald eyes who converted her, in order to save her two worlds.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my first novel. Daughter of the Ocean is a young adult, fantasy novel about a girl’s journey to self-discovery; along the way, she’ll stubble upon new abilities [like shaving her scales], new and old friends, enemies, and a few awkward, red-faced moments [like almost suffocating when her makeup clogs her gills]. It is completed at a 72,600 word count. The young adult readers of today have been invaded by vampires; the next invasion will come from beneath the ocean.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Too much time explaining Madison's situation, and not enough telling us what happens. She's become a mermaid. What does Emerald Eyes want from her? What does Madison want? What happens if she can't defeat her enemies? Dump the first paragraph and give us more story.

I get the impression she was converted during the time she was missing, in which case the ocean's lullaby wouldn't be "calling her home," as her home would be where she spent most of her life. I think that "lullaby" is Aquaman's mating call, luring her into his underwater bachelor pad.

You'd think the woman with emerald eyes would send Madison to mermaid orientation after converting her, instead of ditching her on the beach or in the forest.

If you've just been converted to mermaidism, do you already have the power to command the ocean and skies? Enough to take on Emerald Eyes and Aquaman?

Thanks to the Blogger search function, I was able to determine that this is the 14th query we've done in which Aquaman showed up.

Here's Aquaman's problem: other superheroes have cool-sounding arch-enemies like Doctor Octopus, Lex Luthor, and The Joker. Aquaman has The Fisherman.


Anonymous said...

The appeal of characters like Harry Potter, vampires, and super heros is their wonderful competence. They can do things no ordinary person can do. They also have bigger problems, but they can still overcome the difficulties. Your main character doesn't have that quality. She doesn't seem to be about taking charge and quashing your troubles at all, she sounds more like a depersonalized victim of fate who needs a boyfriend to give her a personality & cope with the trouble for her.

Dominique said...

This felt a little jumbled and confusing. The story needs to be more clearly explained.

Dave F. said...

Isn't Madison and Parker much like Muffy, Buffy, Mimsie, Bo and Tyler and Preston and all those silly names that Teens use. Oh wait, that's the point. they are teens.

That being like, whatever...
I don't believe in starting letters with rhetorical questions. It's too easy to say no with a smart-ass remark.

I would rather read that "one morning, Madison woke alone on a beach with her life changed forever. She was no human but a mermaid destined to destroy humanity and rule the ocean depths."

A first sentence like that puts Madison's struggles in the reader's mind.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I nominate this for the face-lift awards of 2010.

You don't want to spell 'stumble' as 'stubble,' especially when EE's making jokes about shaving her scales.

Kill your darlings. That means some of your longest sentences, and phrases like, 'constant luring of the ocean’s sweet lullaby calling her home.'

Your best bet is to take your second paragraph and build on it. She's trying to return to the human world and falling in love with her childhood friend, but the fiend who changed her into a mermaid has other plans. What are the plans and what can Madison and Parker do about it?

Your goal in this query letter is to get the point across. Your writing needs to be clear, not flowery. If you want to impress an agent or editor with your grasp of the English language, do it in your novel. Check over your query letter for language that is more confusing than it is beautiful (and, frankly, it wouldn't hurt to check your novel, too).

This shows some potential. Good luck editing!

Steve Wright said...

I knew werewolves and vampires reproduced by converting normal humans, but it's news to me that mermaids did the same. How does this work? Do they have to bite you, or what? And why does it involve having your hair straightened?

I would lose all the bits about emotional attachments and hollow shells, and use the space to talk a bit more about the plot - presumably, this has something to do with the "woman with emerald eyes" who's mentioned exactly once.

So... what's this woman up to, why does it involve straightening Madison's hair, and what can Madison and/or Parker do about it? Answer those questions, and you'll have described at least part of your plot - and I'm more interested in that than in hollow shells or pallid ghost-white fish-belly unusually-melanin-deprived white skin.

Anonymous said...

The mermaid in SPLASH, a hit movie in the '80s, was named Madison. Maybe that's not where you got the name for your character, but even so, you might want to consider using a different name.

Anonymous said...

Please, for the love of logic, "beneath the ocean" is crust, then magma. Beneath the surface, is ocean.

Dave F. said...

I had a friend who went swimming with the dolphins in Florida and discovered much to his and his girlfriend's dismay that dolphins sometimes get, uh, frisky and display parts of their anatomy that polite company doesn't talk about. BTW - dolphins are mammals just like humans.

pjd said...

in order to save her two worlds

The two worlds are in trouble? What from? And how does someone find oneself controlling the waves and sky? That's kind of like saying "Aragorn finds himself leading an army to the gates of Mordor."

I want to know who's endangering the two worlds, why, and how. And was there something special about Madison that made her be selected for transformation? Or was she always a mermaid, and graduating from high school somehow brought that out? Why does she need to blend into the landlubber world? Does Parker become the key, or is he the key all along? Is he the one true love?

Here's what I think happens: Madison has an unusual talent. Old Green Eyes is a watery sorceress who wants to destroy land dwellers for some unknown reason. She turns Madison into a double-agent, probably as the last step of her master plan. But she didn't count on Parker! Parker wakes Madison's old personality with True Love, and together they take down the sorceress in a spectacular and heart-stopping battle. Then, since they're 18 and this is YA, they kiss.

If I'm right, then the plot is pretty formulaic (which is not necessarily bad). I think you sense that, and you're trying too hard to use the whole mermaid thing as your differentiator. ("She's a mermaid, get it? Not a vampire.")

By the way, I think to add some flair, Parker should be the front man for a doo-wop group called Parker and the Valets.

Eric said...

Trivia: "Madison" was not a common girls' name (I believe not used at all) until it was the name for the mermaid in SPLASH. Parents these days, I'm telling you. (On the other hand, at least you didn't name her Aquamarine.)

Ditto what Rachel and Steve said. Cut out the flowery bits (which are only hurting you here) and then you'll have room to tell us your plot.

Does the coming "invasion from beneath the ocean" include Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters? If so, count me out.

pulp said...

EE: sarcasmically delicious.

vkw said...

Her unusually ghostly pale skin

could be:

translucent, onion-thin skin criss-crossed by veins reminiscent of roads on a map, much like the 100 year old biddy Madison once saw at a nursing home.

I am just saying.

Sorry that was a bit mean.

This query is way out there. Not in a good way like a science fiction/fantasy novel but in a bad way.

Like this point,

Madison now has to blend into a world that she has no emotional attachment to while resisting the constant luring of the ocean’s sweet lullaby calling her home.

Why does she have to blend in to a home she has known for 17+ years?
Why does she not have any emotional attachment to her home, family and friends, and if none at all, what about Spidey? For a woman who as the inability to form attachment to land lubbers she falls for him pretty darn quick.
Why is she resisting the call of the ocean?
And, why we are here, why would she want to save TWO worlds - especially if she has no desire to save the world she has always known? Is it because of Spidey? And, wow who is she saving the worlds from? And, why not someone else? And, how does one become a mermaid?

I thought the next invasion was going to come from outerspace. We haven't had a good alien invasion for a long time. Mermaid invasion could be fun . . . . you know if they were like lorelies or sirens, but wait why would they want the land? Isn't the ocean big enough? Why want something you can't use or live one?

thepopeofbeers said...

translucent, onion-thin skin criss-crossed by veins reminiscent of roads on a map, much like the 100 year old biddy Madison once saw at a nursing home.

Whoa, nelly. That makes Madison sound diseased, and I'm not sure that was the author's intent.

Just leaving it at translucent or onion-thin would probably work best here.

Your imagery was very vivid, though :o)

Adam Heine said...

"Here's Aquaman's problem: other superheroes have cool-sounding arch-enemies like Doctor Octopus, Lex Luthor, and The Joker. Aquaman has The Fisherman."

That's not Aquaman's only problem...

Ruth said...

OK, maybe I got confused by all this, but other people seem to be reading the query differently from me. I read the plot as:

1. A mermaid wakes up on a beach in Madison's body

2. Mermaid has to adjust to life as Madison, except that she doesn't care about the human world or Madison's friends and family - she just wants to go home to the ocean

3. Peter Parker uses his spider senses to tell that Madison's body is now inhabited by a mermaid

4. Mermaid falls for PP and begins to care about the human world

5. Mermaid finds out who puts her in this body (Emerald Eyes) and wages war on her. Emerald Eyes presumably has evil plans in store for both the ocean and the human world.

Having said that, this query is CONFUSING. I thought the above 5 points were what it was saying, but everyone seems to be reading it differently - Author, can you clarify the main plot points for us? Or maybe rewrite the query :)