Thursday, April 29, 2010
Guess the Plot
Courage of Story
1. An autobiographical tale of a life spent pushing fiction to increasingly hostile, and sometimes violent publishers.
2. The truth is revealed as the cowardly lion documents what really happened after his fateful encounter with a young girl from Kansas. Also, a recipe for stew using a tin pot and straw tinder.
3. A simple girl, a king and a mage have a story to tell, but first they must find someone who has the courage to listen. Do you? What about you?
4. Eighteen year old Tom Story cuts a dashing figure in his WWII uniform. At home, he uses a sob story and the uniform to bag hot nurses, but once he hits the front-lines everybody will see . . . the courage of Story.
5. Google Random Title Generator. Click on the top Googlition. Click on Give me some titles! Do you like the third one down? If not, request more titles. Do you like the third one down now?
6. When an editor receives a query letter for a book whose title seems to have been created with a random word generator, he soon realizes that he will have to write most of the fake plots. Can he get past the bad mood this is sure to put him in before he reads the letter, or is the author doomed to endure a scathing critique?
Dearest Evil Editor,
Many people can speak without fear, but how many can listen? [Actually, almost everyone can listen without fear. Unless what they're listening to is the dentist's drill or the footsteps of an obsessed serial killer coming up the creaky stairs. Or a shark.] [Do sharks make sounds? I've never heard one, but that may be because the sounds were drowned out by the screams of the people the sharks were devouring.] [Opening with a vague rhetorical question is bad enough, but:
1. A primary feature of a rhetorical question is that the answer is obvious.
2. You apparently believe the obvious answer to your rhetorical question is Very few people.
3. The actual answer is Everybody.
Conclusion: You're better off not asking the question and starting with the next paragraph.]
Raven is a formidable mage with a very gloomy outlook on life. Thani is the youngest, but also wisest, king his realm has yet seen. [Which, considering that he's fifteen, doesn't say much for the wisdom of the previous kings of Loonyland.] And Syvrus is a relatively simple girl with a relatively simple wish: to become immortal. [No point modifying everything with "relatively," unless you explain what they're relative to.] Together, these three characters tell a tale of power, of love, and most of all, of the courage to listen. [I don't even know what that means. This is the part of the query where you're supposed to summarize the tale. All you've done is list three characters. What do the characters do? Who tries to stop them from attaining their goals?]
Courage of Story [The title is bland. I got a couple decent ones from the random title generator: Wizard of Words and Thief of Silence. Even knowing nothing about what happens in your book, I recommend these titles over Courage of Story.] is a fantasy novel (directed at young adults) about a world of mythical creatures and incredible mysteries, and can be compared to other fantasy works such as “Eragon” or the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. However, unlike these novels, Courage of Story is not about a fight of good vs. evil. Rather, it is about the destruction of [evil] despotic traditional powers [by the forces of good], as well as sudden and powerful disillusionment. [This is all vague. What, specifically happens in the book?] This novel is completed and 135,000 words in length.
My name is _________________, and I am a second-year student at McGill University – with an avid interest in fantasy writing, directed at young adults. I have written a proposal for my novel entitled, Courage of Story. I would like to invite you to review my proposal (or my manuscript itself) and consider representing me. [Get rid of that paragraph.]
I noticed your impressive credentials during my search for a literary agent. I would be honored to have you represent me. If you are interested in my novel, please contact me as soon as possible. [You haven't said anything about your plot; how can I be interested?] I will be showing my proposal (or manuscript) to only one agent at a time. You can reach me at ______ or by email at __________. [That paragraph can go too.]
Start over. Write an 8- to 10-sentence plot summary focusing on your main character's goal, problem, solution. Make it specific, and make it sound so interesting we just have to read the book. Then just say ___________ is a 135,000-word YA fantasy that can't be much worse than Eragon.