Monday, November 01, 2010

Face-Lift 836


Guess the Plot

Shadowlands

1. Twelve year old Ruul has the ability to blink from his home in the kingdom of Ithmire to the alternate world of the Shadowlands. On one of these blinks, Ruul becomes trapped in the Shadowlands and is dragged into the Shadowland people's struggle to overthrow their evil emperor Kylmere.

2. Kayli has no time for romance; she spends her nights in the shadows of the city, hunting criminals. But when two sexy guys move next door, Kayli thinks her love life is about to take a turn for the better, until the guys inform her that they are actually immortal warriors sent to protect her from a fallen angel who wants to banish her to eternal servitude.

3. When Rebecca Thompson realizes there is another dimension that mirrors earth, where our shadows live and breathe, she enlists the help of her best friend Gregory--a warlock--to transport her there. If Rebecca can steal her mother's shadow, she can use it to get her mother out of a coma. But Greg has other plans for his "best friend."

4. When twin brothers David and Jacob Grant uncover dinosaur bones while building a fence on the family's ranch, they know they're in for adventure. They just aren't expecting the Feds, the media, and those spunky but annoying Davis sisters to be part of the fun.

5. Forensic specialist Kara Hall falls through the shadow of her current autopsy and winds up in the Shadowlands--a parallel plane that mirrors our world. There she must solve the murder or become a shadow herself.

6. Justine has always lived in Death Valley. When she wakes up one day to nothing but darkness, she thinks a storm is coming. Unbeknownst to her though, a thick dark cloud has fallen over Death Valley, bigger than any storm cloud and chock full of electricity that will not just strike like lightning, but bathe the valley in charged light.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Kayli Ryan’s life is in the dumps. She’s the worst witch ever, forced to take her best friend with her when she hunts criminals at night, because she can’t even work one simple spell. [Why is she hunting criminals at night? Is it her job? A hobby? Why would her friend agree to hunt criminals with her?] As an artist, she’d have a better chance paying for groceries by hocking her painting supplies than waiting for a canvas to sell. Abandoned at birth, she has no family, just a cat that doesn’t like her. And if it weren’t for the erotic dreams she’s been having lately, she’d have no love life at all. [This list of stuff about Kayli is too long. And because almost none of it is important enough to be mentioned again, it seems to have no purpose other than to prove that the first sentence is true. We could save a lot of space by just saying: Kayli Ryan’s love life is in the dumps. In fact, if it weren’t for the erotic dreams she’s been having lately, she’d have no love life at all.] [Wait, that doesn't tell us she's a witch, which is important information--or it would be, except it turns out she isn't a witch, which she might have figured out for herself from the fact that she can't even work one simple spell.]

But when two sexy neighbors move in next door, Kayli thinks her luck might be changing. She is immediately drawn to golden-haired Chase Donovan. With the face of an angel and a body meant for sin, he makes her heart race like no man before him. But when noble Chase rejects her advances, Kayli turns to his willing roommate Alexander to fulfill her fantasies and quench the fire in her that is burning hotter every day.

Fearing his friend’s sexual pursuits will turn into coupling—[It sounds like it already has.] or heaven forbid, bonding— Chase tells Kayli the truth, that he and Alex are immortal warriors sent by her father to protect her. In fact, she’s not a witch at all, [Where did she get the idea she was a witch?] but the hybrid daughter of a powerful fallen angel—and she’s been hidden on earth all these years to keep her safe from her family’s enemies who have long since sent her father and mother into the abyss. Chase and Alex believe that one of the original fallen angels has Kayli in his sights, playing a game that could lead to her eternal servitude—or final death.

As if that isn’t bad enough, Kayli’s highest purpose on earth is put to the test when a rapist she’s let slip through her fingers begins to murder his victims to punish Kayli for her interference. [If she was abandoned at birth, how does she know about her purpose on Earth?] She just might be able to stop him from claiming his next victim if she can keep her hands off her neighbors and old enemies off her back.

Shadowlands is a completed 70,000 word erotic urban fantasy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

The first two paragraphs describe a romantic comedy. Then it morphs into something far more serious, with talk of eternal servitude, final death, a rapist. Then it closes with a combination of the two: She just might be able to stop the rapist who murders his victims if she can keep her hands off her sexy neighbors. I'd like to end the killing spree of this rapist/murderer, but I'm too busy having fallen-angel sex.

If Kayli can't work spells, how does she manage to defeat criminals? Does she have any supernatural powers?

I think you need to tell us what Kayli is, rather than what she isn't, up front.

Sending your daughter to Earth to hide her from your enemies may be noble, but abandoning her at birth is a bit extreme. Couldn't they leave her with a family? Who raised her?

I would reorganize this and leave out some element. Perhaps the rapist is the main conflict and we don't need the original fallen angel who's out to get Kayli. Or the opposite, we can do without the rapist. Focus on the main problem, and the plan to solve it.

Do Chase and Alex provide any evidence that they're immortal warriors and that Kayli is the hybrid daughter of a fallen angel? Because most people probably wouldn't buy this line at face value.

The usual situation in urban fantasy is that a kick-ass heroine with a lot of attitude fights bad guys while dealing with personal problems. Thus I would expect the sexy neighbors to be the personal problems. Instead they're immortal warriors sent to protect the heroine. I'm less inclined to cheer on a heroine who needs this much protection.

23 comments:

arhooley said...

Fantasy is suffering these days from excessive anthropomorphism of supernatural beings. Immortal, powerful, fallen angels can't do a simple thing like locate an infant? Why didn't they just watch when Kayli's parents stowed her on earth, the way I did the other day when my cat caught a bird and then headed for my bedroom window with the carcass in its mouth (I overthrew his scheme)? And why do the guardians need to take human form and move in next door? Can't they hover unseen -- and undetected by Kayli's hormones -- and ward off enemies?

Another problem with a lot of these fantasy queries is bad mythology. As far as I know, the only people whose belief system included both angels and witches were heterodox Christians who hated women. Once you've accepted angels, the witches have to go.

Dave F. said...

I really think that GTP plot #4 is the only hit novel in the entire GTP list.

Eric said...

You're going to want to change the title to avoid confusion with a famous movie about C. S. Lewis.

The tone is mostly confusing to me, at least partly because I can't figure out why fallen angels want to fight against evil.

Anonymous said...

Seems to like time to put this through the logic filter again. Illogical plots work best when the crazy logic is motivated and serves a literary purpose. Here, it sounds a bit blundery.

Lauren K said...

I thought this sounded cute and fun when I started reading the query. The last couple paragraphs made it sound a lot more serious. What's the actual tone of the book? Does it have a sudden mood shift in it too?

Anonymous said...

Eric, thank you for the heads-up on the title. I changed the title and the characters' names for this query.

As for the other comments so far, I'm having fun reading your thoughts on literature and anthropomorphism.

This is an *erotic urban fantasy* targeted for e-publishing. I think those readers may be willing to suspend disbelief and put the philosophical debates aside for the sake of sex and violence.

Evil Editor said...

Please don't change titles when submitting a query, people. If you fear that revealing your title will somehow come back to haunt you, just declare that it's a secret, thus saving minions the time and effort expended thinking up fake plots for a title that doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Erotic urban fantasy? My guess was Christian fantasy for middle grade and/or young adult.

BuffySquirrel said...

In other words, readers of e-books are expected to put up with any old shit. So why waste our time trying to improve it?

Dave F. said...

Are these two guys living next door to her fallen angels? That's the usual explanation for beings with magical powers dealing in magic and witchcraft stuff. If that's true then these are Nephalim and you need to handle that baggage.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the title, EE. I am newer to this site and I didn't realize that was a no-no. Your comments on this critique were very helpful and I hope to incorporate those changes into the new draft.

Buffy Squirrel: I was mostly joking (yes, in a slightly snarky way) about "sex and violence" in e-publishing, but there are certain erotica e-publishers who are currently looking for the unconventional pairing of erotica and urban fantasy.

These are shorter books, meant for an audience who wants a liberal dose of sex and a fast-paced story. Sometimes plot suffers, but I am grateful for any holes in the plot that were uncovered by the minions today.

Rest assured, trying to improve my writing is something I work on every day. There is no other reason I would put my work out there to be judged like I did with this query.

Lastly, the most helpful comments (even if I need thicker skin to deal with the delivery) were those that pointed out an inconsistency in my tone. I agree, and I'll work on that.

Thank you for your insight, fellow EE followers.

Khazar-khum said...

Arhooley, you are quite wrong. Many groups believe in both angels & witches. Whether or not they are both considered to be on the same side is open to question.

A bigger problem I am having is the Worst Witch cliche, which is overdone to the point of instant rejection. It would be far better if she were a weak but still viable witch, who has allies rather than protectors.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Since I'm also fairly new to this site, I just want to weigh in and say anonymous ain't me.

Also that Dave F., your photo makes me smile. It always looks as if you are peering around the door, offering your comments.

There seems to also be a fantasy series called Shadowlands, but that's neither here nor there since it's not the real title. (As for the query, I can say nothing. It's just not the kinda thing I'd ever read.)

vkw said...

The author is correct, she did put herself out there for help. And, I've been there and then went back and went back.

So kudos to the author. However, I would caution him/her that I don't think anyone is being dishonest or malicious. I certainly would pay attention when there is a consensus.

Keep an open mind, once you step back, it doesn't sting so much. Keep what helps and leave the rest.

That being said, I would suggest leaving out the whole entire rapist dude, because that looks like a subplot unless its not. If that is the case, then let us know. I don't know how dad sent guardians from the abyss. I, if I was dad, would send guardians to save me and worry about my daughter, who I abandoned at birth, later. Maybe I would even save her.

Maybe - Kayli isn't having a good life. Her cat hates her. Her parents abandoned her. She can't get a date. If that wasn't bad enough, she's (forced, compelled) to bring criminals to justice and can't even do that right.

Maybe leaving out the witch reference altogether as well. I don't know. I've noticed in query if the author throws in too many plot details there seems to be plot problems.

Concentrate on the BIG THINGS.

Inciting Incident: what gets the story going
Conflict: who is the baddie
External Goal what does the MC want to do to resolve the conflict
Consequence: what happens if she fails.

then throw in the sex for the genre and tell us what the MC is, and not what she isn't.

Right now she's horny with a lot bad luck, which I don't find all that interesting. I hope "e" readers want more than sex and violence, but I wouldn't know. I hope the author wants to be known for more than that too.

ril said...

...put the philosophical debates aside for the sake of sex and violence.

Sounds like a plan to me.

arhooley said...

Angels and witches go together like ouija boards and bibles, although I'm sure there are people who consult both. Everyone here has something particular to offer -- also known as a pet peeve -- and I'll always pipe up about bad mythology or a lack of intellectual rigor.

M. G. E. said...

The biggest structural problem is that your antagonist appears very weak in comparison to the MCs.

A human rapist/murderer vs a Nehpil girl and two angelic warriors?

Why does your query end with her squaring off against this human bad-guy when you hinted previously that there's a fallen angel after her? That's your real antagonist. The rapist sounds like a sub-plot.

This query has the same "affected voice" issue that many past queries have had, complete with the "as if that wasn't bad enough" line. But it's not as blatant as some of the others.

Lastly--as with the others I found your derisive ebook-reader comments insulting. Standards don't get to go down because you're aiming for a different publishing format. That attitude is poison.

Anonymous said...

Bad mythology, arhooley? The Old Testament specifically mentions angels, fallen angels, and witchcraft in the text.

Anonymous said...

VKW, thank you for your comment. It was specific and extremely helpful. I'll work on those points you mentioned.

Stephen Prosapio said...

This definitely has some "tonal" problems as it early on sounds like a romance novel. If it's true urban fantasy, I'd cut out the cutsie stuff early. I'm not sure I agree with EE about making it clear early on that she's the daughter of an angel, but the terrible witch who needs her best friend to fight criminals didn't work for me. Urban Fantasy characters should be fairly kick arse.

There may be one too many elements at play... I hope there's a reason she's fighting criminals in the first place. It seems a bit forced for a witch do do that.

I'd say this story has some interesting potential. Good luck with it and maybe repost it on Phoenix's site!

Anonymous said...

your antagonist appears very weak in comparison to your MCs

I don't see that as a structural problem. It works for Batman and Zsasz.

Author, don't judge the commenters. You can't be so sensitive if you want to make it.

M. G. E. said...

I think Arhooley's point was that one can -either- be an angel or a witch, but never both.

Phoenix said...

There are conventions within every genre. And, though the author made a statement that made it sound more broad than was meant, s/he is correct: folk who read erotic urban fantasy -- most of which is published via ebooks -- care mainly about the trappings and the sex, with only a little plot mixed in.

The author will, of course, want to clean up the tone issues and any blatant plot holes, but mixing mythologies? Does anyone watch Supernatural? Every paranormal trope/beast/thing is included (angels, demons, Satan, God, vampires, witches, ghosts, shapeshifters, etc.) and fans (count me one!) don't care.

So if you have to be either an angel or a witch, fine. The MC here doesn't know she's part angel, but if she has leaking powers, she might well think she's a witch. If YOU had weird powers, where would your head go first: that you must be a witch or that you're an angel? She THINKS she's one thing; she IS another.

There are issues in how the query is presenting the story, but the basic story? For the targeted audience, I think it's a fine setup.

One bit of clarification needed that EE didn't cover is whether this turns into a menage story. The setup here seems like it could go either way.