Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Face-Lift 781

Guess the Plot

One Fang and Silver Dagger

1. Harvey Jones has seen it all: fights, murders, sex, love gone bad. But that's pretty much what you get when you run a bar that caters to vampires and werewolves. Also, a silver dagger.

2. Can't a girl catch a break? It was bad enough getting murdered and waking up as a vampire. But now someone's ripped out one of Hannah's fangs and transported her back in time to medieval days where a hunky knight in shining armor is all that stands between her and an ancient bloodsucker who wants to make her his mindless slave.

3. Ever wonder about the faceless monsters who inhabit fantasy novels with the sole purpose of being hacked to death or fireballed in elaborate battle scenes? One Fang and Silver Dagger are two kobolds trying to scrape out a living while avoiding dashing brigands, questing heirs and apprentice wizards.

4. Bensimon is a failure as a vampire--so bad Dracula broke off one of his fangs. Now he has to use a little silver dagger to feed. Trouble is, he gave it to Missy Stevens as a love token, and now she's dating hunky Jayden Saunders and won't return his calls. Does he swallow what's left of his pride and ask Dracula for help--or should he talk to Mr. Cobbs, the werewolf who teaches art?

5. Mikhail is humiliated when a broken fang sends him to Madeleine Schickelgruber, vampire dentist extraordinaire, for an implant. Madeleine thinks she's come up with an innovative new treatment...but then Mikhail comes around from the anesthesia and reminds her how vampires feel about silver. Malpractice suits ensue.

6. The trouble with being a thousand year old vampire is that while the flesh may not decay, the teeth do. One Fang lost part of his impressive dentition (and his heart) to a California political goddess with hardening of the arteries. Can One Fang win back "Silver Dagger" (so called for her elegant mastery of the subtle art of backstabbing) with only a lopsided grin and the ability to confer everlasting life?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Fate, once it gets you in its clutches, isn’t partial to happy endings. At least, not in Hannah’s case.

It was bad enough straying into the wrong London street [I once strayed into the wrong London street. I got talked into a Soho strip club. Cost me ten pounds to get in, and 200 pounds and my credit cards to get out alive. Which I wouldn't have minded so much if the "strippers" had actually shown anything. But enough about me.] and worse waking in the family vault. When she cut her lip with her teeth, [I hate it when I do that. Also when I bite my tongue. But the worst is when I bite the inside of my cheek, because if I bite it once, it swells up and I keep biting it. I suppose it would be even worse if I were a vampire or a werewolf. But enough about me.] and realized what she’d become, she’d [she] almost lost her mind. For five long years she fought to live a decent life and keep to a moral code, despite the blood lust. And then, Fate delivered another blow. [Put those last two or three sentences in present tense.]

One of her fangs is ripped from her gum [I had some teeth extracted once, because my mouth is too small. It's the size of a squirrel's mouth.] and she finds herself clinging to her assailant as the moon spins backwards across the sky. The familiar cobbled lanes of Tudor London are replaced by grassy fields and a rough dirt road – and not a soul in sight. The first traveler she meets is a parody of an etching in her childhood history book – a shining knight in tattered clothes. [When you come down to it, we're all parodies of etchings.] But he’s wary and strong, and before she can figure out how to get past the chain mail collar to sink her remaining fang into his neck, her problems worsen. [If he's wearing armor, how does she know his clothes are tattered?]

Trapped in a medieval world, hunted by an ancient vampyre and his vile kin, she must find a way to return to her own time [What is her own time? I can't tell if it's our time or the time of the Tudors.] before she’s turned into a mindless slave – or worse. The young knight could be the only one to save her but he isn’t what he pretends to be [What is he pretending to be? A knight?] and has troubles of his own. [For one thing, he needs to go to the bathroom, but his armor is rusted shut.] Their only chance of survival is find a way to work together – as long as they don’t kill each other first. [Is there a reason they'd want to kill each other? Or do they just have a stormy tempestuous relationship like Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd did on Moonlighting?]

One Fang and Silver Dagger is complete at 85,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


I don't see why the ancient vampire doesn't just turn a human into a vampire/mindless slave instead of insisting on Hannah. She wasn't even there a day ago, but now he has to have her as a slave?

I don't see how Hannah can find a way back to her own time. Where would she even look?

The title sounds weird. What's the silver dagger part?

It's not terrible, but that last plot paragraph could be more specific. The goal is to get home, but what's the plan? Does the knight figure in getting Hannah home?


150 said...

So it's A Vampire In King Arthur's Court? To be perfectly honest, I'd probably buy that book.

I don't get the feeling that how Hannah was turned or her five years of modern vampirehood need to be in either the query letter or the book.

Try being much more specific: When an attack from a fellow vampire sends her spinning back into the Dark Ages--literally--Hannah must (whatever). The "whatever" is not "get home" but overcome whatever it is keeping her from getting home: "outwit Merlin" or "solve the mystery of the hottie knight" or "defeat Alucard at an archery tournament" or whatever.

Good luck!

Ellie said...

I would read #3 so fast it's not even funny.

#5 is pretty great, too.

Jaymi said...

150 I owe you a huge thanks. Your help with my query 751 seems to have made the difference. I have had several requests for my manuscript in the last few days.

Anonymous said...

Moonlighting was cool.

vkw said...

Not bad, (good vampire sent back into medieval times by unknown assailant. Hooks up with typical romance hunk, secrets unravel, they have to work together and avoid vile enemy in order for Hannah to get home.) The question remains does Hannah decide to stay with her newly acquired hunk or does he go with her?


1. I am tired of vampires and vampyres.

2. I don't like time travel, generally. I think that only Wells, Star Trek and the 12 monkeys did it well.

3. Hannah has to be able to fit into the medieval times and that may be more difficult that evading the evil vampire that wants her as a mindless slave. (I would want a mindful slave myself, but to each their own). I am guessing he has control over time and can move back and forth. Can he go into the future because that would be cool. And, even if she gets home does that stop the bad vampire?

4. I'm tired of vampires already.

5. I'm tired of "good" vampires. Rice did it okay but in my mind no one else has been able to do it. Let's get this straight - vampires drink human blood to survive. Humans die to feed them. They live forever and they kill humans to survive. If Charles Manson is a really bad guy when he only orchestrated the death of a few, then one vampire is really vile - even if they feel angst about killing to survive.

It's like living amongst Lions - sure they are part of nature, sure they beautiful but I don't want to live with them and if they kill a human (even a bad one and even if they feel bad about it), they need to be locked up from humanity forever or they will have to be killed.


Stephen Prosapio said...

Not a bad query/pitch. There are a few "off" details that seem to be a result of editing and rewriting.

How is a shiny knight in tattered clothes? I mean is his skin literally shiny??? Nathan Bransford wrote on his blog yesterday about "precision" of correctly worded details. Some of these aren't working.

There's a very visual element to your pitch which I don't think is bad, but it is jarring when you use the wrong words or the situation isn't clear for the big picture. ie -- you've got the fang being ripped from her gum without any lead in...and then you mention an assailant which takes us from the very visual specific to a vague event. Then you have the moon spinning backwards in the sky which is very visual...but is that vital to the story?

I think you're better off doing as 150 suggests....Boom! She's in the Middle Ages (or whereever) and then we don't need detailed description of every field, road and travelor. That's great visual for your novel, but in a query it's too many unneeded adjectives where you can use your prowess to describe the story a little more thoroughly.

You're on your way!

Joe G said...

Number 3 sounded HILARIOUS, in a Rosencrantz/Guildenstern kinda way.

E.E.'s commentary had me cracking up. But enough about me...

I think the query could be more carefully written, and a little less overwritten. There were a number of times I had to go back and reread because I wasn't sure what you said. You got the plot across, but be clearer about the setting... I'm assuming midieval times, but in the Mark Twain mode?

I do think A Vampire in King Arthur's Court is a clever idea though. Reminds me of Evil Dead 3.

arhooley said...

Why trip over your shoelaces in your opening punch?

Fate, once it gets you in its clutches, isn’t partial to happy endings. At least, not in Hannah’s case.

Fate isn't partial to happy endings -- at least not in Hannah's case.

Redstarsix said...

"When you come down to it, we're all parodies of etchings."

That's Deep.

150 said...

Gratz, Jaymi! Good luck!

_*rachel*_ said...

A silver dagger in the heart of the next person whose query contains the word "vampyre" without mercilessly mocking the term.

Be more clear and make Hannah more the actor than the acted upon.

PamH said...

Many thanks for all the helpful comments. Writing a query is worse than having a tooth pulled.

I've tried to incorporate the suggestions, but I'm going around in circles. I did hope to keep the voice of the novel in the query and at the same time capture the premise.

Am I on the right track?

Hannah thought becoming a vampyre was the worst thing that could happen to her. But when a monstrous assailant rips out one of her fangs and snatches her back into the past, she discovers life can definitely get worse.

Trapped in a medieval world, where knights slay blood-drinkers and the towns are too small to hide in, she is hunted by an ancient vampyre who enthrals lesser kin as slaves. But soon it becomes clear she has been chosen for a worse fate.

Hannah must sift fact from myth to discover the creature’s powers, track him down amongst the nobility and find leverage to convince him to send her home in one piece. But surviving his evil kin’s attacks and guarding her torn-out fang is proving difficult. A young knight may be the ally she needs. But he isn’t what he pretends to be and has troubles of his own. Their only chance of survival is find a way to work together – as long as they don’t kill each other first.

Cheers, and more thanks.

M. G. E. said...

I'm about ready to see a query about the unsolved murders of writers of vampire fiction :P

(Sadly, I'm planning a book which has A vampire character in it >_> But the premise is completely different and unique, I promise >_>)

So, if she woke up in the family vault, doesn't that mean she's been embalmed? Lips and eyes glued shut? Heck, imagine if you woke up as a vampire during the autopsy >_>

"One of her fangs is ripped from her gum and she finds herself clinging to her assailant as the moon spins backwards across the sky."
- The tooth-fairy gets a bad rap I think :P
Seriously though, what does the moon have to do with this? Are you suggesting the moon starts moving backwards around the earth, as in time moving backwards, and far faster than normal so that it could actually be seen?

Structurally you can probably dispense with the intro, your story starts here: "Trapped in a medieval world..."

"The young knight could be the only one to save her but he isn’t what he pretends to be and has troubles of his own."
- Vague generalizations. You have to find that line between too much and too little information in a query, and this is too little. These are the actual important bits that should be explained instead of all that stuff before about waking up in crypts.

Also, the title doesn't work for me. Titles that function as inside jokes -after- you've read the story are not always successful titles. Seems you picked it as an embodiment of your MCs, but the title is your first hook and that doesn't hook. However that's rarely important at this stage as most agents/publishers will force a title change on you if it's bad.

arhooley said...

Hey, Pam. Good sport you are. You'll be delighted to know that I'm still quite confused. It seems to me you provide unneeded detail that raises more questions than answers, while you leave out key components of the plot. I raise several questions below by way of illustration. Instead of answering them all in your rewrite, you should toss out these confusing setups and tell exactly what Hannah's object is and what's keeping her from attaining it.

I've pieced together that the "monstrous assailant" (MA) is kin to the "ancient vampyre" (AV) -- that's the impression you create from your pronouns. Hannah may or may not be kin; her fate is "worse" than the customary enthrallment inflicted on the AV's lesser kin. What is this fate? Avoiding it is Hannah's central challenge! And as long as she's NOT going to be enthralled, why mention it?

It appears that her task is to *talk* ("convince") the MA into sending her back to her home-time. Yes, many awful things happen before she can corner him for a talk, but really, is that it?

Anyway, Hannah was attacked and snatched back in time by the MA, and now the AV is hunting her? Why didn't the MA deliver her directly to the AV? Also, why is the AV both hunting and attacking Hannah? If you're doing both, then your target is wanted dead or alive. What's the AV up to?

Her only chance to avoid her "worse fate" is to ally with a knight, but that alliance (also his life?) is threatened by his "troubles." What are they? Hannah's central challenge and a key obstacle to overcoming it aren't in your synopsis.

Lesser matters: How can she guard her torn-out fang? Did she get it back, or did the monstrous assailant leave it behind? Why must she guard it?

Instead of "Hannah must find leverage to convince him," I'd make it "Hannah must convince him."

By the way, what kind of vampire is Hannah? She evidently refrains from biting the knight, but surely she's drinking someone's blood. Let me just say, if I lived in a small town infested with vampires, I wouldn't find Hannah a sympathetic character.

Is this the vampire Wizard of Oz?

Ruby slippers=missing fang
Wicked Witch=AV
creatures missing organs=troubled knight
Kansas=Hannah's home-time

If so, here's your condensed plot: After a monster transports a freshly vampirized woman to a land of mythical creatures and shining knights, she embarks on a dangerous quest to convince the monster to send her back home.

Dave F. said...

When you find yourself "going around in circles" look to see if you are saying the same thing twice and not recognizing it. For instance, "snatches her back into the past" and "Trapped in a medieval world" convey the same information. The idea can be expressed once.

Also, if you want, you can cut some words out of the opening sentence and still retain the meaning. Like this:

Hannah thought becoming a vampyre was the worst that could happen until an ancient vampyre rips out one of her fangs and transports her back in time to a medieval city. Life definitely got worse.

Surviving attacks from the vampyre's kin, discovering the source of his ability to time travel and protecting her missing fang aren't her only problems. Hannah's only chance of survival may be working with a hunky knight who has romantic intentions but is also lying about who and what he is.

And then you need to wrap it up with a single sentence about Hannah saving herself and (I'm guessing) marrying the knight.

When I find my writing "going around in circles" like you describe, I try to think of a very different way to say what I want to appear on the page. Sometimes, I change around sentences (randomly), sometimes I write nonsense into the section, sometimes humor (a change of tone) and hopefully those changes begin to make some sense and I can revise the section. Another technique is to strip it down to the shortest sentence fragments while still retaining the meaning and looking at the results. That's when I discover that I said things twice (not repetition exactly) and my other writing sins. (I got lots.)

150 said...

Still not specific! Tell us what happens to your protagonist and what she does about it! Specifically! So many of your sentences can be interpreted so many ways that I still have no idea what things actually take place in the book. You WANT people to know what happens because then they will want to READ ABOUT IT.

Joe G said...

What's a vampyre? Is that like a vampire? Is it some sort of unholy spinoff creature?