Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Face-Lift 778


Guess the Plot

Bound and Fallen

1. Anatoly Green's meteoric rise to the top of his sport and his plummet into drugs, sex, and gambling are recounted in this shocking exposé on professional three legged racing.

2. When dominatrix Katherine goes too far with one of her subjects, she is ostracized by the BDSM community. Can she redeem herself by holding the best spanking-for-orphans charity event that downtown Seattle has ever seen?

3. A Fallen god has tasked Ki with training De, but Ki is bound to fail because the Sister gods and the Rising gods both want De. But Ki doesn't want anyone else to have De because . . . he's kinda cute. Confusion ensues.

4. Mountaineer Raymond Hastings falls to his death just short of the summit of Annapurna. His expedition battle their way to his body and discover that some practical joker tied his bootlaces together.

5. The Dark Angel Cywhythyn has been cast into cyberspace as punishment. One night he appears to Narissa on the other side of her screen while she's on Facebook. She discovers that by pressing CTRL-3 she can join him, which is a good thing because she hates high school, her baby stepbrother, and days that end in "Y."

6. When Lucifer and his clan piss off God, heads start to roll and wings get clipped. God rounds up all of his best--Michael, Gabriel, Raphael--for a battle against the forsaken angel. After losing, Lucifer the Fallen is bound to hell--a condo in Toledo.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Ki is fifteen years old and a reluctant Fallen Servant. A trainer she is not.

Unfortunately, her trickster god -- the worst of the Fallen gods -- insists her random new mission is to train a child nicknamed 'De'. And, like [as] usual, her god fails to mention that the 'child' is actually two years older than herself and is an annoyingly attractive boy. Ki would rather face a hundred demons than deal with one cute boy. [What kind of YA female MC is this?]

But in De's house, Ki finds the strangest combo: De's mother [Ma] is a follower of the Sister gods, yet his father [Pa] is possessed by a demon [Oy]. The Sister gods' power protects the entire house but neglects the intruding demon. [That seems contradictory, assuming the demon is a threat.] To make matters worse, De is a Genius, [Are you sure his name isn't Ee?] wanted by both the Rising and Sister gods. A god-war is brewing and Ki's trickster god [Zq] has happily put her in the middle of it. Each god prefers a specific action from Ki, ensuring their exclusive victory. However, Ki wants no one to get De [I need six ibuprofin tablets right now.] -- a budding first friend -- since a god-war is exactly what ruined her own life, four years earlier.

Complete at 80K, BOUND AND FALLEN is a YA fantasy novel. I would be pleased to send it for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

This can all be boiled down to one sentence: There's a bunch of gods.

Things I want to know: Is this set on Earth? Are Ki and De human? What's a reluctant Fallen Servant? What is training? Is it like training a dog? Any girl who'd rather face 100 demons than one cute boy must be pretty confident she can defeat demons, so what are Ki's amazing super powers?

We need to know what your main character wants and what's stopping her from getting it. That way we'll care about her and her predicament. The only characters in the query who want anything are the gods, each of whom wants something different from Ki, but we don't even know what. Except that Zq wants her to train De, but we don't know what that means, and it's a random task anyway, so maybe he doesn't really want it.

Start over. Focus on Ki's goal and obstacles. We don't need to know about Fallen and Sister and Rising gods. Just start with a setup statement like: In a world where the gods would rather go to war with each other than watch over their devoted followers, 15-year-old Ki must train De to cook for the Big Kahuna or they'll both be turned into yaks.

Now there's plenty of room to tell us how De can't boil water, and Zq keeps sabotaging Ki's souffles, and all the other hilarious things that lead to god-war.

The main characters' names are distractingly long. If you shorten them to K and D, it will save a lot of space, and possibly a lot of trees. Wait, you can also save ink by changing their names to ` and ~.

13 comments:

Dave F. said...

...the best spanking-for-orphans charity event that downtown Seattle has ever seen

That had me laughing half the morning. How does a 15 year old girl train a 17 year old boy in anything but (censor the rest of this thought).

What I will add is that I dislike the names. I have picked on names in the past, by the way. You are hurting your story and making it needlessly hard for the reader.

Take your own words:
Ki is fifteen years old and a reluctant Fallen Servant. A trainer she is not.
But in De's house, Ki finds the strangest combo: De's mother is a follower of the Sister gods, yet his father is possessed by a demon.


Now let's add real names and see what happens:
Karen is fifteen years old and a priestess of Fricka, goddess of the home. A trainer she is not.
But in Donner's house, Karen finds the strangest combo: Donner's mother is a follower of Diana, yet his father is possessed by Loki, the jokester. {The younger sons Fafnir and Fasolt are out at camp.}


And the reader isn't struggling with Di, Ki, Rising gods, Sister gods, Falling gods and whatnot. There is sufficient unearthliness and oddity for a fantasy in that odd home but not overwhelming unearthliness and oddities. Typically, no matter how odd the setting, something in the novel grounds the reader and is familiar. I'm thinking of novels like FIGHT CLUB, Clockwork Orange, Animal Farm, or something like the TV series FARSCAPE (nearly everyone is alien but they behave like humans) and Battlestar Galactica. Or even LOST (which I don't understand even a little bit). Willy Wonka is a final example.

The creation of a fantasy world doesn't necessarily mean forsaking all that is familiar and replacing it with the strange and alien. It's much more subtle.

arhooley said...

>>Each god prefers a specific action from Ki, ensuring their exclusive victory.


To me this looks like a video game, not a tale with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Joe G said...

I think you should rewrite your query in English as intended for people not already intimately familiar with the setting and lingo of your story (i.e. anyone who could be reading it but you).

The Gods seem to go go to war a lot in this universe, huh? Makes me feel bad for all the little people.

Angie said...

I agree on the names. I'm reading them as "Key" and "Dee" and feel like we're taking a trip on the Name Game: Key, key, bow bee, fanana-bana bow bee...

I also am not to thrilled about the generic names for the gods. Such as, "her trickster god -- the worst of the Fallen gods..."
If the trickster god has a name, put it in the query. If not, reconsider giving him/her a name, and don't make it similar to Ki or De, please.

"And, like [as] usual, her god fails to mention that the 'child' is actually two years older than herself and is an annoyingly attractive boy." If this is the usual, shouldn't she come to expect it?

I did not get a true sense of conflict and resolution. You may have a story that appeals to the YA audience but you just need to show us by tightening the query.

Author said...

Thanks for taking the time to critique this.

I've taken in the suggestions and here is a 'start over' query. I haven't had time to polish up the sentences, but am I at least going in the right direction?

In a world of nine squabbling gods, a 15-year-old girl is bound to the worst of them. Currently known as Ki -- her god's choice, not hers -- she struggles to forget her previous happy life while pleasing the whims of her trickster god. Her current random mission: to train a boy nicknamed 'the Designer'. 'De' for short. Ki's never trained anyone, let alone an annoyingly handsome boy two years older than herself.

But in De's house, Ki finds the strangest combo: De's mother is a follower of the Sister gods, yet his father is possessed by a demon. Ki thinks her real mission is to kick the demon out -- a specialty of hers -- until she realizes another god is protecting the demon. A god-war is brewing and Ki's trickster god has happily put her in the middle of it. The Sister gods want the father dead and appoint Ki the task. But Ki refuses. She doesn't want De -- a budding new friend -- to lose his family the way she did four years earlier. But the other god will kill De if she doesn't get rid of that demon. Time is running out and Ki must either ruin De's happy family life or watch him die instead.

Kings Falcon said...

Dear Author,

Sorry but as I was reading the GTPs I really really hoped yours wasn't the real one. Part of that response though was to the names. You can have one odd main character name but that's it. :) Honestly, I'm struggling to keep up because of the name and titles. Trim the query down to the two people who matter most - the MC and her main antagonist. The rest is just background noise.

You might also want to reconsider the title because of the implicit BDSM promise, which is probably not what you were hoping for.

In the re-write it seems that Donal's father or rather his demon, is the important character in determining the outcome of the next god war. Why does Loki want Ki to train De? For what purpose? What happens if she doesn't train him? These are the questions you want to answer in your query.

Start over, again.

Something like -

After her family was murdered in a god-spawned war, Karen was given a choice by Loki, the trickster god -serve him or die. Now, Loki's given her a chance to reclaim her life if she can train a 17 year old boy to _______(do what exactly) before the fourth god war erupts over (planet name).

Training Donal has its own hazards. First, he's a dish. Second his parents serve rival gods seeking to twist Donal to thier own purposes.

Now tell me what are the stakes are and hint at the ending.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I definitely like your second version better, but you can tighten it up and be more specific in places. If I may suggest the following tweaks to the first paragraph:

In a world of nine squabbling gods, 15-year-old Ki is bound to the (most treacherous/ most dangerous/ most capricious) of them all. (Sworn as a junior priestess/ Oath bound to serve/ Unwillingly apprenticed), she struggles to forget her previous happy life while pleasing the whims of her trickster god. Her current random mission: to teach (the ways of the force/ the service of the gods/ parkour) to a boy nicknamed 'the Designer'. 'De' for short. Ki's never trained anyone, let alone an (arrogant/ handsome/ vain) boy two years older than herself.


The second paragraph is still rather baffling. Here's what I think happens:

De's family is supposed to be under the protection of the Sister gods, yet another supernatural being has forced his way into the house and has sent a demon to possess De's father. Sister gods, Trickster god, and the unknown god all want (to control De?) and they all need Ki on their side to do it. A god-war is brewing in one small house with Ki stuck right in the middle. Ki doesn't want De to lose his family the way she lost hers. But with time running out, Ki will have to (outmanuever/ outwit/ out politic/ out fight/ free herself from) an entire pantheon to save De's life.

Obviously a lot of that is guessing, but it skims over the actual maneuvers of the conflict and gives the bigger picture. Try another pass, focusing on what Ki can do and does do to solve her problems. Good luck!

150 said...

Now, that version I like! Good job, author.

The main characters' names are distractingly long.

I died.

(Do consider giving Ki and De enough letters to make the pronunciations clear: does Ki rhyme with key or eye? De with me or may or meh?)

arhooley said...

Author, your new first paragraph is an improvement for me; the second is still a jumbled mess of these gods and those gods and the other gods and the gods I forgot to mention but who are also really important.

May I suggest you let a few more barbs arc in before you venture a third version?

Verification word "punis." That was close.

Author said...

Thank you again for all your suggestions! They've helped a lot.

Sorry, but I won't change the names. They're that way for a reason. I do make fun of them throughout the book so I tried to show that in the query a bit better.

Here is my third attempt (and I borrowed heavily from 'Sarah from Hawthorne's suggestions - I hope you don't mind!). Please let me know if I'm getting closer or if I went the wrong way. Thanks!


In a world of nine squabbling gods, no one seeks to upset them. But one girl did and now she must pay.

15-year-old Ki -- who hates her new name -- must serve the most capricious, and often bored, god of the nine. Wishing she could turn back time, Ki struggles to please the whims of her new deity. Her current random mission? To train a boy nicknamed 'the Designer'. 'De' for short. It's worse than her new name.

However, Ki discovers the training is a façade. Her god, seeking amusement, has put her in the middle of a brewing god-war. De's family is supposed to be under the protection of the Sister gods, yet another god has forced his way into the house by sending a demon to possess De's father. The Sister gods and the unknown god all need De -- a Genius that could alter the balance of the pantheon -- and Ki is their best bet. Ki doesn't want De to lose his family the way she lost hers, but she doesn't want to upset the gods again either. With time running out, Ki must outmaneuver an entire pantheon to save De's life or watch as history repeats itself.


*Question: This is actually the first book of a trilogy. How do I relate that in a query without sounding pretentious?

Evil Editor said...

I've forwarded your new version to Phoenix, whom you can count on for a thorough critique. Check in at http://phoenixsullivan.blogspot.com/

Give her a few days.

As for the question about declaring it's a trilogy, it's not pretentious, it's a fact. Just say it, and mention whether book 1 has a satisfying conclusion so that it can stand on its own.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I had ZERO interest in even commenting on this query let alone reading the book. I'm amazed how quickly good feedback can help good writer's revise.

I've only skimmed the other versions but I'll tell you what...do NOT lose this opening line. It's AWESOME.

"In a world of nine squabbling gods, a 15-year-old girl is bound to the worst of them."

I'd stop reading the pitch and open up the book and read the opening line/page. Period.

M. G. E. said...

The first version just seemed like a giant mishmash of concepts.

The third version is certainly much tighter, but the premise doesn't excite me. YA usually eschews romantic drama. Assuming that's the case what are the stakes here?

A good rule of thumb I've read is that if your MC can just walk away at any point in the story you've got a problem, because the reader may simply ask "why doesn't she just walk away?" and lacking an answer to that may simply choose to stop reading.

You say she wants to prevent what happened to her from happening to him. But is that strong enough? Is that really a personal stake?

I too find the names annoying, sorry. Pity that they're written into the story so strongly. Basically your puns on the names in the story must overcome their strangeness and rhyming \ syllabic similarity.