Friday, August 06, 2010

Face-Lift 805

Guess the Plot

Heir to the Sun

1. After a lifetime of surfing (and not a single day of work), Jay's totally bummed to learn that he's next in line to drive the big ol' ball of flaming gas. Clearly there's only one thing to do: con a homeless guy into taking the job.

2. When he learns that the sun's last will and testament leaves him the entire solar system, Larry's thrilled--until he finds out the sun won't die for another five billion years. Now Larry's looking for a way to speed up the process.

3. Alan sighed as his village was vaporized under the flaming star. Aunt Agatha always said she would get him for spilling tea on her furs; now, as the edges of the will in his hand crinkle, he has to admit that he never saw this coming.

4. When his dad dies, Alph Baumer is left sole proprietor of the local newspaper, started by his great, great, grandfather. Alph moves the Sun online, but when his office gets swarmed by picketers protesting the demise of folded newspaper hats, will he cave and go back to print?

5. Alluria, more beautiful than the sun, is a priestess whose chastity must be defended at all costs by the warrior Caol’nir. Turns out the only actual threat to her chastity is Caol’nir, who desperately wants to get into her pants. Also, the usual elves, faeries and kings you find in books with characters with names like Caol’nir.

6. Jasef was raised in orbit on Helios station by his father, Dr. Akagi, pioneer of solar-energy generation via space-based collectors. Now grown and very wealthy, he wants to go to Earth and marry his fiancée, a girl he's only ever seen online. Only one problem: he never learned to walk.

Original Version

I am seeking representation for my fantasy novel, Heir to the Sun: A Chronicle of Parthalan, complete at approximately 115,000 words. Currently, there are three more Chronicles of Parthalan featuring the same characters, with the sequel nearly complete and the following two in progress.

The land of Parthalan was born when I was in middle school, and my mother refused to buy me a music box that featured a princess with long red hair. [I could have killed her. It was a lousy eight bucks.] I was distraught as only an eighth grader can be, [and so I created the fictional prison planet known as Parthalan, where inconsiderate tightwad mothers are brutally tortured to death over and over;] and since I could not own my treasure, I created a story about the princess. I named her Latera, and ended up self-publishing her story in a novel called Rise of the Deva’shi. The book was well received, [garnering dazzling reviews from my father, my BFF Darlene, and Publishers Weekly,] and I decided to continue writing about these faeries and elves that heretofore had only existed in my mind [and in my novel]. [Anyway, by the time I was in tenth grade my series had grown to six books and had brought a million dollars into the family coffers, allowing my parents to retire. And still my mom wouldn't let me have the frigging music box.] [But enough about me.]

Heir to the Sun takes place in Parthalan, a land of faeries and magic, and neighboring Tingu, which is ruled by elves. [Is everyone in the book an elf or faery, or are there people?] It follows two individuals, Caol’nir and Asherah, [As this land has elves and fairies and who knows what else, I'd identify what each character is, rather than call them individuals.] who have markedly different existences yet have a common goal: to rid Parthalan of corrupt King Lotharian. Parthalan has been ruled by Lotharian for three thousand years, [What's the standard retirement age in this place? No way would I work the same job for more than even two thousand years.] but the king has grown bored in his long reign, and feels that power is the only thing he wants. He seeks to conquer the entire realm, [Right now I'm bored, but if I had more faeries and elves to rule over I could stand to be king another three thousand years.] and to that end has struck a bargain with Ehkron, [Anagram: Honker. I mention this because I think you should call him Honker. Seriously, he could be the comic relief. He's always blowing his nose, making a honking noise.] ruler of the demons he once triumphed over, in order to raise a half-demon, half-fae army loyal only to him. [Can you really trust an army of demons you once defeated to be loyal only to you?

Lotharian: Let's let bygones be bygones. We'll make a deal, You order your army of demons to be loyal only to me. After we conquer the neighboring lands I'll be the leader of the entire realm.

Honker: And what do
I get out of this? Honk!

Lotharian: Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll discuss that after we win.

Honker: Deal. I'll go fill my boys in on my . . . er, your plan.]

Caol’nir is a warrior sworn to defend his king from harm, as well as defend the chastity of the temple priestesses. Despite the vow he has sworn to keep her chaste, [No need to repeat the terms of his vow.] Caol’nir falls deeply in love with Alluria, an orphan priestess from the east. [No man can resist a woman named Alluria.] When Alluria suspects that her temple is no longer the haven it once was, Caol’nir betrays both his king and his oath to ensure her safety. [He betrays which oath? The one to keep her chaste? How does that ensure her safety?]

Asherah was enslaved by the king’s foul plot and doomed to a life bearing demon whelps, [which can get really old in a place where people live more than three thousand years.] yet she managed to escape and flee to the elf king for aid. Now, as Asherah leads her band of freed slaves and elfin warriors back to Parthalan and free her kind, will she prevail? [That's a lousy last sentence, and not just because it isn't a sentence.]

Thank you, for both your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


After you publish a dozen books in the Chronicles of Parthalan series and are so famous you get to do a solo panel at the World Fantasy Convention, I guarantee one of your fans will ask you how you came up with your world. That's the time and place to tell your story about the music box and how miserable your mother made your childhood.

The names are somewhat bothersome. You have two main characters, one with a Hebrew name and one whose name was formed by randomly choosing Scrabble tiles. Your king may be a lothario or lotharian, but who would give their kid that name? I don't mind Alluria because it rolls off the tongue, but it is suggestive, sort of like naming a male character Hunky. At least I managed to talk you into Honker.

Caol’nir may be a main character, but Alluria and the king are getting as much or more query space. Asherah gets two sentences of plot, but at least she does something worthy of a main character. I think the query would be better if it focused on Asherah and left Caol’nir out entirely. Slave-girl escapes and recruits army to take down corrupt king. It's Spartacus with demons.

It's not clear why you continue to set all your writings in this world you thought up when you were in eighth grade. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the world, but continuously pumping out 115,000-word books about the same characters is a lot of work. Better to wait and see if Book 1 sells before putting forth the effort. (And while you're waiting, write something completely different, possibly with a human being in it.)

Who is the heir to the sun (whatever that means)?


fairyhedgehog said...

I'm guessing that an editor or agent might be put off by hearing about how you thought up this world, as it doesn't come across to me as professional. Can you focus more on who did what and why it mattered?

I'd be inclined to focus in on your paragraph four and start there.

none said...

Probably better to set aside childish things, at least in the query. Pared of the irrelevant, this reads a lot like sub-Tolkien, and the market's full of that already. Show us what's different about your Fantasy world and your plot, not what's the same.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I remember the day I started following EE's blog. It was the middle of the week, Tuesday or Wednesday probably and I had just eaten a tuna wrap for lunch. A friend of mine send me a link with...

Okay author, can you see how boring personal stories foisted on you can be???

Kudos to you for following up your fantasy with the very difficult task of writing a novel. Not many complete that step.

As for the query:
1. The only thing I hate more than a really bad title is a title that has no connection whatsoever to the story told in the query. If you need a primer on this, go to the box office this weekend and look at the films that are out. "Inception" - about the placing the inception of an idea into someone's dreaming mind. "Dinner with Shmucks" - which is about... dinner with smucks. Don't forget The Sorcerer's Apprentice (although all moviegoers have)! It's about... you guessed it, a sorcerer's apprentice.

So after your personal story the first real zinger you give us is a king ruling a land of pixies and magic for 3,000 years. Okay. Then "but the king has grown bored in his long reign, and feels that power is the only thing he wants." You want us interested in a story where the main character has already grown bored??? And worse that sentence makes no sense.

"I'm bored after ruling for 3,000 years."

"What is it sire that you wish for?"


"But sire you already have that."

"Now you know why I'm so bored."


As for the rest of it, it sounds like stuff we've all heard before. Who's the lead character? What do they want? What will happen if they don't get it?

Lastly. So is it me or did anyone else wonder what the compounded interest would be if you put $1 into a 401k account and accumulated the interest over 3,000 years? I mean would you really need all the war and conquering or could you just purchase the entire realm?

Anonymous said...

Editor, shouldn't that dialogue in the middle be between Lotharian and Honker? Other than that, I agree with every word.

And that last paragraph needs a transition. "Meanwhile, over in Tingu . . ."

And this sentence:

Alluria suspects that her temple is no longer the haven it once was

has an uncomfortable proximity to the one about Caol'nir getting the hots for her. Are you saying it's his lust that's compromised her haven? Just want to make sure, because that's what it looks like.

Unknown said...

Who is the main character? You only have about 200 words to describe the story in a query so you have to focus as much as possible on the conflict between that person and her antagonist.

I agree with EE that Asherah sounds like a more compelling character than Caol’nir. With Asherah you have "Spartacus with demons" with a strong female protagonist. That differentiates you from 99% of the sub-Tolkien market, which is more likely to get you a request for a partial.

If Caol’nir is the main character, you get a fairly common plot - man defies empire for the love of a woman. Snore.

It's also unclear how your two main characters interact.

So, if I can narrow what you've written down to Asherah, you get something like:

In order to obtain dominion over the demons, King Lotharian sells Asherah to the demon king. Though doomed to a life bearing demon whelps, Asherah somehow escapes and somehow convinces an elf king to let her lead a band of soldiers against Lotharian.

If you use the space you take up with your writing life history for story details, you can flesh out the query. You need to convince me that Asherah, the demon broodmare, is qualified to lead an army.

Good luck

M. G. E. said...

I was really looking for a unique conflict and plot-question out of yet-another-fantasy-story. Sadly, it was another run-of-the-mill "take over the world" plot.

I agree that explaining the genesis of the fantasy-world is both unnecessary and probably detrimental to your cause.

As for EE's comment here: "Caol’nir betrays both his king and his oath to ensure her safety. [He betrays which oath? The one to keep her chaste? How does that ensure her safety?]"
Come now, the dangers of virginity couldn't be more plain :P I'm sure Caol will craft some story about those three girls that died of virginity just last week :P

EE's plot-hole comments are right on as well. Trusting demons, that works out really well in most story :P

Dave Fragments said...

As a reader, when I see 115K words, I would like a lot more plot than what is described here.

And as someone who is not used to the Kingdoms of the Fae, I think of fairies as TinkerBell and Lady Cottingtom. I don't automatically think of fairy kingdoms filled with human sized characters as you describe.

That makes it hard for me to see temple virgins and hunky centurion-type, sword-wielding warrior fighting against demons and a 3000 year old king.

This absolutely blew me away: doomed to a life bearing demon whelps.
My eyes popped at that statement. That's a fate worthy of an entire novel itself. Impregnated by a demon and made to give birth to demons for years after? Give the demon a virgin, some cheap rose' champagne and a few minutes between the sheets and she'll pump out an army of half-breeds willing to destroy the king.

Sorry if I any of that sounds impolite but there is the excitement in your novel. Hunky guard deflowers virgin to save her from giving birth to demon spawn.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Don't include the story about the source of Parthalan. For one thing, it immediately gives the impression that this is intensely personal to you, to the point where I'd be worried how open you'd be to critique and revisions.

For another, a query is a business letter and you want to present yourself in a professional light. Think of it as a job interview. The HR guy sitting across from doesn't care about how you learned to type, he just wants to know if you can.

For right now, I'd strongly advise you to focus on making the first book as brilliant as you can rather than moving on to multiple sequels. Who knows what will change should an agent and then an editor pick your book up?

Kellye Parish said...

Pared of the irrelevant, this reads a lot like sub-Tolkien, and the market's full of that already.

^ This.

Here's my take:

1) No personal stories unless you are describing something a) larger than life, and b) directly related to the content of the novel. The music box story is neither, and besides that, it's boring and irrelevant and inappropriate for the beginning of a query (which is when you want the editor to be hooked in - we are notoriously impatient and attention-deficit).

2) Name Soup - There are so many character and setting names in this query I don't even know what the hell is going on. If I don't know who the protagonist is in the first few sentences, it's a pass.

3) Some people may disagre with me on this one, but I wouldn't admit to self-publishing, because all that says to an editor is that your writing is questionable and cannot be traditionally published. Also, don't try to pitch a novel based on how well something else you have written was received. The editor doesn't care. The only thing they care about is how well THIS book would be received.

Author - I checked out excerpts of your self-published work on your website. Watch your sentence fragments. And you need to be very careful of "Hollywood narrative" - there's a good article about it here on Author! Author!:

batgirl said...

Lotharian would probably benefit from reading the Evil Overlord list:

If I were in charge of the guards who had to protect the chastity of an order of priestesses, I'd make sure the guards were all eunuchs. Brutal eunuchs.

Author, as others have said, explaining how you came up with your world is sweet but very unprofessional. Remember, the agent needs to sell your book, not its charming backstory.
I'd also leave out the self-publishing - if the books sold badly, it means there's no market, and if they sold well it may mean you've saturated the market.

Rebecca Christiansen said...

I'd be careful with the name Parthalan, too. P.C. Cast, a bestselling author, writes a series about a fantasy land called Partholon.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Watch your sentence fragments.

*pulling out my pro-frag lobby cards*

I scanned likely the same excerpts and had two takeaways:
1) The grammatical structure was fine and what frags were there appeared to be stylistic frags, not "where did the rest of the sentence go?" frags. I wasn't bothered by them at all.
2) The prose, however, perches on the precipice of purple. Even properly punctuated purple prose frequently falls flat.

This query is one that really does give us a glimpse into the author's writing style, which is, IMO, just a tad overblown. The words don't feel as though they flow on the page. Phrases such as "markedly different existences" jar the ear.

There are a couple of grammar lapses in the query, but overall, the author has the technical part down okay. Now to work on word choice and rhythm and communicating emotion through the writing. Work on leading readers through the reading experience rather than sitting them down and just narrating a story. This is the craft part that must be honed. Essentially, it's the part that needs to come through in the query to help it stand out.

Anonymous said...

I think I've found an ambiguity problem. (The deuce you say.)

When Alluria suspects that her temple is no longer the haven it once was, Caol’nir betrays both his king and his oath to ensure her safety. [He betrays which oath? The one to keep her chaste? How does that ensure her safety?]

My first read of this (and EE's read seemingly) was, "In order to ensure Alluria's safety, Caol'nir breaks his oath to ensure her safety." Now I'm getting, "Caol'nir goes with his lust."

Of course that leaves us wondering what the relation between the events is. What I've got is, Caol'nir gets the hots for Alluria, she becomes aware of it, he becomes aware that she's aware, and he says "To hell with everything" and grabs the girl and rides off, breaking his oath to the king in the bargain.

Now, does anyone care?

Anonymous said...

The day I started following Evil I was accosted by a lady boy, robbed of my computer with my first ms on it and ate bad seafood which kept both ends going against the middle for about at week. It was the worst and the worster of times. Some things you never forget. I did however buy a new computer, sucked up the loss of the ms which I'm sure wasn't very good and writer - do you really want to hear how I came to write my next 3 ms's? Didn't think so. Not very interesting.
I cringe when I read the first of. We all write the first of and not too many can stand together well. What Evil says and the commenters who chipped in.
Hope you revise and resend.

_*rachel*_ said...

Read through a year or so of these archives, and maybe head over to some other good places like QueryShark, the Turkey City Lexicon, and agent blogs. Then start from scratch.

Which character has the most screen time? That's your main character. Give a very brief description of who s/he is, and the world s/he lives in. Then tell us the problem, what the character does about it, and what complications ensue.

And I'll be honest--my first and longest story was started in 8th grade, too. The characters and situations still appeal to me, but, looking back, what I wrote was really, really bad. I'd advise moving to a different world/story for at least 6 months. Give yourself room to grow and try new things. Then come back to this and see how you like it.

Kellye Parish said...

1) The grammatical structure was fine and what frags were there appeared to be stylistic frags, not "where did the rest of the sentence go?" frags. I wasn't bothered by them at all.

I'm pro-stylistic frags too incidentally, and have been known to use them (sparingly for utmost emphasis). But where there is one well-placed stylistic frag, there are probably two dozen in the manuscript that can be re-written or cut for redundancy. That's why I told her to just watch them, and not necessarily cut them out. :)

I agree with you though Phoenix, that the writing style is what needs to be worked on the most. Purple prose + potential overuse of stylistic sentence frags = a nightmare of Twilight proportions.

The Hollywood narrative thing is important too, because it doesn't make sense to have a character explaining something to another character that a) the other character already knows, or b) the READER already knows. If the reader already knows what happened, don't bore them with a recap via stilted info-dump dialogue.

Sylvia said...

"Even properly punctuated purple prose frequently falls flat."

I think this should be painted on the walls in nursery schools in place of She sells seashells...