Monday, August 16, 2010
Guess the Plot
Nine Worlds to Midnight
1. Take nine girls, each a princess in her world. Add nine boys, each a homicidal maniac in those same worlds. Throw in some werewolves, ninjas, talking cats, and a bloodthirsty ancient pharaoh. Mix it all together at midnight and you get Norse mythology.
2. Grover Holden is on a scavenger hunt for his life. If he doesn't collect nine items from nine churches across the city before midnight, a sadistic televangelist will consign him to hell.
3. When Doctor What shows up with his time-traveling (and sweet smelling) port-o-potty and accidentally spills Janie's drink all over her, he offers to make it up to her with a trip to another planet or nine. But, can she make it back home before her midnight curfew?
4. Jason wants to go to Six Flags ("More flags, more fun!") but his dad insists on Nine Worlds. Little do they know a ride-operating vampire will take control of the Vampire Bat Hellcoaster and roll them into the Tenth World at midnight.
5. When the stars around Earth blink out one by one, astronomer and lapsed Catholic priest Ken Layton sets out to discover why. He finds himself faced with a galactic case of insomnia: God is sick of trying to sleep with all the lights on. Can Ken find a big-enough sleep mask before God snuffs out the sun?
6. Young Dolores, tired of being mocked at school for having a name that rhymes with a female body-part, decides to switch to the school by her dad's house. But mom will only let her move out if, tonight, she babysits step-brother Troy, the kid from hell. Can Dolores bamboozle him with stories until he falls asleep, to keep him from wrecking the house and ruining her moving plans?
Dear Evil Agent,
I am seeking representation for my YA fantasy trilogy, Nine Worlds to Midnight. The first volume is complete at 80,000 words, and I have complete drafts of the next two novels. Together they tell a story about love, friendship, ninjas, clockwork, werewolves, causality, talking cats, parallel worlds, [Zzzzzzzzz.] Ragnarok, and the past-life stalker from hell. [I recommend three items per list in a query letter. In this case, I'd go with friendship, parallel worlds and talking cats. If you call it a story about clockwork, causality and Ragnarok, you may as well make this the last sentence.]
Princess Ankhet is afraid of only two things: that she's too scatterbrained to be a good princess, and that she won't have the courage to tell her childhood friend Finn that she likes him. [You forgot snakes. Surely she's afraid of snakes.] [Also, ancient pharaohs who want to cut out her heart.] Then she accidentally wakes an ancient pharaoh who enslaves her kingdom, [This guy works fast.] brainwashes Finn, and wants to cut out her heart. Ankhet escapes, but with Finn on her heels, she has nowhere to hide--until a mysterious white cat makes her an offer: "Come with me across worlds. Find the eight other princesses, and you can save your friend."
Irena Sigynsdottir [Translation: Daughter of the Sidhe gynocologist.] has always known exactly what she's going to do with her life: she'll [change her last name to Smith and] join the Order that protects her world from incursions, and she'll prove to Kjaran--the aloof older boy who's been her guardian since her parents died--that she's grown up and he should marry her. Nothing can stop her--[Anytime an author says "Nothing can stop her," it's a sure bet something will stop her, often before the end of the sentence.] until the night Kjaran slaughters their entire village [That always puts a damper on a relationship.] and uses the blood in a spell to make her a human weapon. He says he'll let her run a little while: "And if you eat the hearts of the eight other princesses, you might be strong enough to survive my return." Irena can't bear to use such abominable magic, but she's determined to get revenge. Then a black cat makes her an offer: "Come with me across worlds. I know another way for you to grow strong [and for once it doesn't involve removal and consumption of anyone's heart]."
As the two girls journey [Together?] between worlds, they learn there is more at stake than their own personal quests. Aeons ago, the most powerful of all worlds--Asgard--was destroyed. [Turned out, it was the second most powerful of all worlds.] On the night it fell, the prince and princess of Asgard had their hearts shattered. [I'm starting to think it's the author who's obsessed with hearts and not the characters.] In every world, a boy and a girl have been born with fragments of those hearts inside them. In every world, [that girl has become a princess and had her heart removed and eaten, and that boy has become a mass murderer.] tragedy has followed them. And from somewhere beyond the worlds, the one who destroyed Asgard is manipulating them all for his own ends. [What are his own ends? You claim there's more at stake than the girls' personal quests, and then you don't tell us what it is.]
In 2007 I attended [reputable writing workshop.] [On the last day of the workshop we all drew straws to see whose heart we would remove and eat. I got lucky; that's the last time I go to a horror writing workshop.] This is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Luckily I didn't suggest including ninjas and werewolves on your list, as they aren't mentioned at all. Meanwhile, the bloodthirsty pharaoh and the evil magician/mass murderer didn't even make the list?
Are Irena and Ankhet the main characters, or do the other seven princesses get equal screen time? If the latter, these two are getting too much query time.
I suggest dropping the first paragraph entirely. You can put your word count and genre at the end.
The plot is what happens after the cats make their appearances. The rest is the setup, and we want less setup and more plot. The Irena paragraph could be shortened to something like:
Irena Sigynsdottir longs to prove to Kjaran--the aloof older boy who's been her guardian since her parents died--that she's grown up and he should marry her. But she begins to have second thoughts when Kjaran slaughters their entire village and uses the blood in a spell to make her a human weapon. As she plots her revenge, a black cat makes her an offer: "Come with me across worlds. I know a way for you to grow strong.
The Ankhet paragraph can do without "childhood" and "with Finn on her heels."
It would be an interesting experiment to start the query:
Aeons ago, the most powerful of all worlds--Asgard--was destroyed. On the night it fell, the prince and princess of Asgard had their hearts shattered. In every world, a boy and a girl have been born with fragments of those hearts inside them. And from somewhere beyond the worlds, the one who destroyed Asgard is manipulating them all for his own ends.
That's your setup, and you can jump to the part where the nine princesses are doing whatever they must do to save their worlds and get their men.