Thursday, November 04, 2010

Face-Lift 838

Guess the Plot

Bad Luck Woman

1. Blackjack dealer Fiona Carlyle doesn't know why none of the casino's patrons ever plays at her table. Could it have something to do with that pesky nickname?

2. Corrie has always had bad luck, but little things like losing her keys or breaking her toaster were tolerable. Now some woman has decided she needs Corrie's blood in order to release the legions of hell upon the Earth, and Corrie may finally have to put her foot down.

3. Alakshimi, Hindu goddess of misfortune, decides to pack her bags and leave her father's ocean of milk for the sunny streets of Mumbai. Unfortunately, her attempts to make it big in Bollywood are plagued by, well, misfortune. Can she overcome her own cursed divinity and hook up with the sexy, toe-stubbing prop handler before her father turns her into a goat?

4. Tony and his band never really thought they'd make it big. But when their album, "Bad Luck Woman," is picked up by a big-time record company, they find themselves in a world of fame and fortune. Trouble is, the Bad Luck Woman Tony's written about is his murderous ex-girlfriend, and when she finds out the new hit single is about her, she sets out on a path of revenge.

5. Marjorie Davis, American widow, takes a holiday in Glencoe, having read too many romance novels set in the highlands. Unfortunately for her, the foul-mouthed, slovenly proprietor of the B&B she stays at knows all the same stories.

6. Superhero Tornado Man has met his match. Every time he answers a distress call he is delayed by dodgy spandex, broken zips and velcro that won't unstick. It's the work of Bad Luck Woman! Can he overcome her fiendish powers, and if he does will she fall for him?



Original Version

Dear EE:

Corrie Kingston is plagued with bad luck: important items become lost or stolen, appliances and electronics break in her presence, and she seems particularly adept at getting herself into sticky situations. One night, her luck goes from bad to worse when a strange man [What's strange about him?] follows her home. Even stranger, [Even stranger than what? Being followed home by a strange man? I doubt any woman would describe being followed home at night as "strange." "Terrifying" is more like it.] he claims that she's the long lost descendant of some forgotten fairy king, [Is that how he puts it? "Some forgotten fairy king"?] and he's been tasked with protecting her. [Hard to believe he doesn't remember which king it is, yet he's taking orders to protect the king's descendants.] [Also, it's not clear how her luck has gone from bad to worse. A guy who could have been a stalker/murderer/rapist turns out to be her protector. Sounds like her luck has gone from bad to fantastic.] All her bad luck, he says, is a side effect of a spell that's been cast to hide her from her enemies.

Like any rational person, Corrie is ready to call the police, until a creature that's half-boar, half-wolf, and all nightmare crashes through her window. [Is it a boar with a wolf's head or a wolf with a boar's head? I think it should be whichever one looks scarier, but I'm having trouble deciding:]











Apparently Thom, the man who says he's supposed to protect her, isn't so crazy after all. [Is Thom there when the creature crashes in? Because I can't believe she invited him into her home. But if he's gone, he's not much of a protector. And if he is gone, why doesn't she think the boar/wolf is just her usual bad luck? Did Thom say, "Okay, I'll leave, but don't be surprised if a half boar/half wolf creature crashes through your window, because that's just the kind of thing your enemies will try."?]

After a narrow escape, Corrie finds herself caught up in the intrigues of Atlanta's hidden fairy court. Among the beautiful and manipulative courtly fae, Corrie learns that she's the last mortal descendant of Auberon, the Summer King, [At least someone remembers which king she's descended from.] and is considered a potent weapon. Only her blood can reopen the gate to hell and renew the pact between the fairy courts and demons. Long ago, the Summer King gave his life to seal it. Now, in a bid for power, the Queen of Night wants to break the seal and unleash the leigons [legions] of hell upon the earth. And she doesn't care if Corrie survives the process.

BAD LUCK WOMAN is an urban fantasy novel, complete at 85,000 words.


Notes

In my opinion, unleashing the legions of hell upon the Earth is more likely to give power to the legions of hell than to the Queen of Night. Possibly the legions of hell, out of gratitude, will give their loyalty to the Queen of Night, but can you really trust the legions of hell?

I don't see what bad luck has to do with anything. She's the last descendant of the king who closed the gate to hell, not a random person. We don't read about Frodo and Dorothy and Buffy and think, Man they're unlucky. Basically you're calling the book Bad Luck Woman because her coffee maker never works right.

21 comments:

alaskaravenclaw said...

The story all seems to be in the penultimate paragraph ("After a narrow escape..." etc).

Everything else is just set-up.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a jumble of random elements torn from an encyclopedia of mythology and wrapped around a protagonist who is maybe a bit too much just like you.

arhooley said...

You could punch up that first sentence with some details. "Keys and IDs eternally go missing. In the past two days alone, she's had a flat in a rainstorm and tripped an alarm while working late at the office." I'd at least find some word other than "become" for "lost or stolen."

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Bummer. When we got to the strange man, I was soooo sure he was gonna be angelic...

Seriously, the book sounds interesting, but I have the impression that the names "Summer King" and "Queen of Night" were chosen more for their linguistic emotional impact than any kind of logic. I mean, where're the Winter King and the Queen of Day during all this?

Dave F. said...

YIKES:
"Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen"
For those of you who can't translate German, it says "Hell's vengeance boils in my heart"
And it ends with the frightfully wicked phrase:
Hear, gods of vengeance, hear the mother's oath!
That's one of the most bloodcurdling pieces in all of literature and music. Take this knife and kill your father!

It's not that I believe your novel isn't exciting. It's just that the query leaves me wondering how a fairy court, Auberon (who I keep reading as aubergine and giggling inappropriate eggplant jokes) and the Queen of the Night (I"m hearing Mozart's notes) and the Last Scion (Dogma) battle as night and day to release the demons from hell. I thought night and day battled like the sun and moon?

The query has to put the reader into your novel. It isn't doing its job. It's letting me make it up as I read.

Lauren K said...

I'd mention Thom's name as soon as you introduce him instead of waiting. I'd also mention Auberon by name earlier in the query. It felt like a little too much set up and not enough of the real story. The story itself sounds like it could be a fun read though.

Joe G said...

I think the plot sounds a little bit cliche, with the Thoms and the Auberons and the fae and such. Like True Blood is just horror/fantasy mish-mash with lots of sex thrown in. How old is the protagonist? I got the impression she was an adult, but the plot seems mildly juvenile to appeal to adult readers.

I think you got it across well enough but I'm not very intrigued because at the end of the day, it's a story about good vs. evil with a "what if *INSERT FANTASTICAL THING HERE* existed in modern times?" twist. In these sort of books, either she must discover her true identity and defeat the bad guy or she doesn't, and she probably will do both. So the journey to that point had better be interesting.

The book itself may be spicier but that's not coming across to me yet.

I agree that the bad luck thing seems arbitrary, sort of a cheap way to try to flesh out the character. If it's meant to be funny in the book, maybe it should be funny in the query? I think it's meant to imply that there's always been something strange about her, but she doesn't know why until... etc. but that is the premise of a lot of fantasy stories, most notably Harry Potter.

But he was an orphan from the most terrible surrogate family ever. She just breaks things sometimes.

Long story short, the promise of good vs. evil and fairies may not be enough. Try to invest us more in this world and the characters.

vkw said...

Someone should write #4.

First problem is the examples you gave for "bad luck" seem mundane and boring. Bad luck is getting a flat, having no spare during a hurricane in KKK territory, being anything but white and practicing either no-faith or practicing any faith but Christian. That's bad luck.

Losing your keys and failing to operate a coffee maker correctly or keeping your priceless possession safe makes you inept.

Here's some ideas:
Corrie is an ordinary office worker in Atlanta whose luck is all bad. She can't get a break. (character and setting)

Inciting Incident: She learns from Thom, the strange angelical guardian, it isn't about luck but rather the residual effects of a spell used to protect her. He furthers explains she is .. . . . blah, blah. She's showing him the door and threatening to call the cops when the monsters jump through her window, making her a believer.

(Corrie External goal)

Corrie learns she is the blank and blank and must . . .. blah, blah and blah. And wants to blank blank

(Bad guy)
but this bad ass is standing her way.


Consequence of failing -
the demons from hell will take over the world and the queen of the world's underbelly will be in charge of the real world. This will condemn the living to a nightmarish existence or becoming half wolf/boar monster who jump through windows of boring office workers living in Atlanta.

or something like that.

Zombie Deathfish said...

I knew it was going to be that plot. I just knew it. I'm not really one for fairies, so it didn't particularly grab me, but there's a pretty good query in there overall. Just needs some polishing up.

"she seems particularly adept at getting herself into sticky situations" - this is much more interesting to me than her losing her keys or whatever; maybe you could give an example of a recent sticky situation to illustrate her bad luck? We're all prone to losing our keys, after all. Or does bad luck follow in her wake? Do people who sit next to her on the bus get hit by the next bus when they get off? Do small animals spontaneously combust in her presence?

Tricky fairy politics and wicked fairy queens has been done to death in urban fantasy; if you're doing it here, it needs to really stand out.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Absolutely agree about someone writing GTP #4!

Following up Dave's comment, "Queen of the Night" for me is Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard. This query does nothing to convince me that your writing is precise enough to give your novel the proper tone.

Specifically, situations which don't make logical sense (like someone following a woman home and then somehow being invited? in)need to be explained. If he really wasn't following her, then don't write that; it gives us a picture that is inaccurate and confusing. If he does follow her home, then make the pictures in our mind make sense. The last book we'll want to read is one where we're introduced to the MC where she's done something stupid like invite a stranger in who's been following her.

Other phrases like "After a narrow escape" don't give us any flavor or visuals. Does she shimmy up a flagpole? Does she knock someone over the head with a lamp? Does she toss it a BoarWolf Biscit & run?

Just about each word in your query should convey something specific.

_*rachel*_ said...

Is it just me, or have we seen this basic plot a lot lately?

The title sounds very stereotypical Indian--"How, white man" sort of thing. Not what you're looking for.

Unrepentant Escapist said...

Paranormal romance/urban fantasy is all about the voice, and you aren't conveying much quirky-lovableness in your heroine here. Specifics about her misfortunes would help, and less backstory. If I don't care about your character, I'm not going to care about the political details of the fairy court she's dropped into. Shorten, tighten, and pick fewer details to focus on. What does Corrie want out of this? Why should I like her?

I like the "half-boar, half-wolf, and all nightmare" part.

arhooley said...

Is it just me, or have we seen this basic plot a lot lately?

I was going to say the same thing, but I'm not sure what exactly we're supposed to do here. I always think of the book itself as a fait accompli, while we try to help with the query. (About half the time I go off on the plot anyway.)

Joe G said...

#4 reminded me a lot of Joe Hill's (who is the son of Stephen King) Heart Shaped Box. It's about a rocker who receives a haunted suit and goes on a cross country trip to try and not get murdered. Great book.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

To me the biggest problem here is that Corrie never actually does anything. She has bad luck, Thom follows her, she gets attacked, she winds up at court where the queen wants to kill her. And then your query ends without explaining what Corrie is going to do to get herself out of this situation.

I do like all the elements you've got here, I just think they need to be rearranged:

All her life (Atlanta socialite/ hapless coed/ young lawyer) Corrie Kingston has been plagued with bad luck: losing her keys, breaking her electronics, and getting herself into sticky situations. Until one night her luck goes from bad to worse when a creature that's half-boar, half-wolf, and all nightmare crashes through her window in an attempt to kill her.

Turns out that Corrie is the last mortal descendant of Auberon, the Summer King. The bad luck? The side effect of a spell to hide her from powerful enemies she never knew she had. Only Corrie's blood can reopen the gate to hell and renew the pact between the fairy courts and demons. But the Queen of Night wants to unleash the legions of hell upon the earth. And she doesn't care if Corrie survives the process.

Now with only Thom, her mysterious and taciturn protector by her side, Corrie finds herself caught up in the intrigues of Atlanta's hidden fairy court. Among the beautiful and manipulative courtly fae, (Corrie must discover her hidden powers/ turn her bad luck against her enemies/ whatever. And then some kind of cute closing clause about the fairies not knowing who they're messing with, etc.)

Hope this gives you some ideas!

tt said...

i think the title is fine- bad luck woman explains corrie before she learned all about her true identity, etc....

M. G. E. said...

Title would be appropriate if she figured out some way to transfer her bad luck to other people at will. That would make for one interesting super power.

"Aha, drawing a gun on me, eh? I've just given you 10,000 doses of bad luck, enough to shrivel a rabbit's foot permanently. I double-dare you to shoot."

Anyway, apart from that I have always disliked the idea of man sized Fae. I mean, a man size fairy--that's called an elf. White Wolf has the whole Changeling mythos--never been a fan.

The others are right that your biggest problem is that there's not enough plot to hook your reader. We need more than that to be interested.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Joe G, I just started Heart Shaped Box this week! It's entrancing... it's also a GREAT example of how a story can work with a main character who you don't really like very much but who is INTERESTING.

Anonymous said...

Love those scary animals!

Zachary said...

Anyway, apart from that I have always disliked the idea of man sized Fae. I mean, a man size fairy--that's called an elf.

Eh, not really... "Fairy" and "elf" were originally more or less synonymous; it's not till around the Victorian era that the common perception of fairies as tiny little winged people really got started, and I don't think it's till the fantasy gaming and literature of the last fifty years that the distinction you're making between "fairy" and "elf" really got codified. There's nothing about the way the fairies are presented here that particularly clashes with the original folklore; with some modern fantasy versions, maybe, but I don't have a problem with going back to the older legends.

If there is a problem here, in fact, it's that the way the fairies are presented may be a little too typical and generic. There's nothing to set them apart. Even the name of the King of the Fairies is right out of Renaissance literature. ("Auberon" is just an alternate spelling of "Oberon", the same name as Shakespeare used for the fairy king in Midsummer Night's Dream--though he didn't make it up; it had been around before that.) The fact that the Queen of Night wants to make a pact with demons is kind of interesting, I guess, but coming right at the end of the query without any details it doesn't help much.

I think I agree with the others above who said we need to know more about what Corrie herself is doing. Right now the query is all about the set-up and nothing about the real plot... and the plot might be terrific (we don't know, because you didn't tell us about it), but there's nothing in the set-up to really catch our attention.

Tiger said...

3. Alakshimi, Hindu goddess of misfortune, decides to pack her bags and leave her father's ocean of milk for the sunny streets of Mumbai. Unfortunately, her attempts to make it big in Bollywood are plagued by, well, misfortune. Can she overcome her own cursed divinity and hook up with the sexy, toe-stubbing prop handler before her father turns her into a goat?

I would read this in a heartbeat.