Monday, January 17, 2011

Face-Lift 860

Guess the Plot

Eyes of Stone

1. Anaiiya is the lone human living in a tribe of gargoyles. Or is she? Suddenly she's seeing visions no one else can see. There's a monster within her! A deranged queen attacks. Immortal magical beings go to war for control of Anaiiya's powers. Life's never easy when your name is almost all vowels.

2. Stone Keller, embalmer for the town's one funeral home, can see the eternal destiny of souls when he stares into the eyes of the dead. Working on Father Murphy’s corpse, Stone discovers he is agonizing in hell, but the town’s folk start praying to Father Murphy, believing he will be canonized. Can Stone enable the people to see through his eyes before all their souls are lost?

3. What is wrong with Jeff? Can he not see Tiffany's total awesomeness is exactly what he needs? Well, he's got three weeks to lose his eyes of stone. Because that's when Tiffany get's her sorcery license, and she will definitely get her man or her revenge. If Jeff flunks at love, he might as well be a cat.

4. Carrie's wealthy grandparents take her to Easter Island, where she's captivated by the moai, the giant stone heads. One comes to her in her dreams, telling her about the young warrior trapped within. Can she help him escape, or must he always use--Eyes of Stone?

5. The cavemen try mud balls, leaves, peach-pits, beeswax, feathers, chunks of old bones -- nothing brings the statue to life until Ursu finds a pair of mysterious stones in the space alien's camp and screws them into the eye sockets. But the statue turns out to be a wicked fire-breathing robot and everyone will perish unless Tudd and his dire wolf can put those eyes out.

6. Alice married in haste, and has discovered that Bob, who rules his corporation with an iron fist, has feet of clay, a lily-liver, and a heart of glass. When an optometrist reveals that Bob also has eyes of stone, will this be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Original Version

Anaiiya's always known she's human. Even living among the last of the gargoyles, the certain knowledge of who and what she is has always been with her. But when a deranged queen who sees only traitors in every non-human species launches an attack on the gargoyle tribe, Anaiiya discovers a dark truth: There's a monster inside her waiting for the right trigger to free itself. Seeing her family assaulted, she blacks out—and awakens covered in the blood of thirty men, with no memory of how it happened. [I know guys in the movies will mindlessly continue attacking an invincible enemy until they're all wiped out, but it seems to me that in real life, once ten or fifteen of you have been slaughtered by one individual, the rest would retreat and regroup and consider whether Plan B (whether it be call in air support or hide in the nearest cave), might be a better strategy. Someone should do a study to determine if I'm right.]

Now the river boils when she sings and [the fishermen are threatening to attack her if she doesn't quit singing and] drops of blood show her visions only she can see. [Visions of what?] The monster within, the thing she’s becoming, fills her with a bloodthirsty darkness that demands to be sated. She struggles against it and turns her newfound powers to defending her beloved tribe. [Do you mean her water-boiling and vision-having powers, or does she have other powers?]

But Anaiiya's attempts to protect her family draw the attention of far more dangerous creatures than a mad queen and her militant army. [When you have to take on an entire army, it's much better if it's a laid-back pacifist army than a militant one.] Using the gargoyles as pawns, immortal beings of dark magic war for control of Anaiiya's powers. [We may be immortal beings of dark magic, but we simply must know how you do that river-boiling trick.] Because of Anaiiya, the last gargoyle tribe is in greater danger than ever and only she can save them —- if the darkness growing like a cancer within her soul doesn't destroy them first.

EYES OF STONE is a 109,000 [-word] fantasy.


A lot of words are devoted to describing what's happening to Anaiiya, but they're mostly general: the darkness growing like a cancer within her soul; a monster inside her; the thing she’s becoming; a bloodthirsty darkness. How about some specifics? What does she see in her visions? Apparently she's not just morphing into a gargoyle.

The ability to win a battle against thirty soldiers is impressive, but not to immortal beings of dark magic, who could probably defeat forty guys, so we want to know what powers Anaiiya has that are coveted by these immortal beings.

You claim "the certain knowledge of who and what she is has always been with her." I don't think so. Even by the end of the query she doesn't seem to know who or what she is.


arhooley said...

What I'm getting is that Aaaaiinyynniiiiyyya periodically blacks out, transforms into a huge, bloodthirsty beast, and wakes up with no memory of it. And the attack on her family is what kicks off the first episode. Is that it?

I guess "her beloved tribe" is the gargoyles, but I'm not sure why she loves them or they her.

Finally, my understanding of "gargoyle" is a stone monster on a building or water spout, while "a person with a grotesque appearance" is a more metaphorical meaning -- someone who's as ugly as one of those stone monsters. What do *you* mean by "gargoyle"?

Dave F. said...

Gargoyles started as water spouts to drain rainwater away from buildings rather than let it pour down the walls and cause damage. In fact, in German, the word for gargoyle is Wasserspeier or simply translated "water spout."
I am sure some oberwitzbold used the anthropomorphic stories to scare little kids into behaving.

Now the river boils when she sings and drops of blood show her visions only she can see.

And that statement just struck me as wrong. Perhaps starting with this:
When her family is attacked by a squad of the mad queen's henchmen, Anaiiya discovers a dark force inside her that gives her the power to destroy the attackers. But her power is sought by the mad queen who wants Anaiiya to conquer the world for her and enslave Anaiiya's people.

That gets you closer to the story of Anaiiya and how she deals with her power.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, maybe I'm just burned out on plots where it's THE WORLD-DESTROYING EVIL versus ONE WEE MAN or ONE LITTLE GIRL or ONE WHATEVER. They all sound so much alike these days.

She's basically a werewolf, but with these extra tricks. Boiling rivers sounds gimmicky and impractical to the point of being counter-productive no matter what your goal. Maybe it works in the book, but it sounds silly here. The gargoyle sidekicks need more description and another name, because yes, that's what we call diverse crazy-faced stone things on Gothic-style buildings.

And can the Queen and her army etc. please have actual reasons for doing things? When you say she's deranged so she does x y z, it sounds like you read a list of evil deeds and decided ok, she does this this and this. But there's no reason why. And the army just obeys for no reason. Even though history shows that armies have always been willing to depose deranged monarchs.

Likewise, I'm not seeing why the protagonist has these particular superpowers and issues. They aren't even coherent to herself. Or why she's a human who hangs with gargoyles.

And then you bring in some ultimate evil from who knows where, also with no apparent reason for doing anything.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Don't everybody hit the Wiki page at once.

For the target audience, the term "gargoyle" is enough to encapsulate this race -- the same as "orc" or "klingon" or "mage" is enough. There is a contemporary mythology grown up around this race in much the same way we have contemporary mythology around super heroes and vamps and most things paranormal.

For the uninitiated, gargoyles are beast-like humanoids who live the night as flesh-and-blood creatures. Sunlight, though, turns them to stone and they are as statues during the day. Depending on whatever touches the author who uses wants to give them -- in the same way we have sparkly vamps -- gargoyles may have great strength or even the ability to fly.

I've seen this query a couple of times and I never once even thought to question the use of "gargoyle," so I'm obviously part of the target fantasy-reading audience.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so the gargoyles = another brand of stock characters from the land of fantasy fan fic? Damn, that was the one thing that seemed possibly original. Shot down.

no-bull-steve said...

Something about this query just doesn't feel right. Although it's a relatively minor mistake, it's something tangible I can hold onto to hopefully help demonstrate my point.

"Militant army" -- militant means 'to be open to using violence to achieve an end'. It comes from the 15th Century Latin "militare" meaning "to serve as a soldier".

So you have an army (a unit of soldiers) that's described as having soldiers. It's a tiny but terrible mistake that, when done in the query, gives us no confidence in your ability to use words.

Words are important. They're never as important as in a query/summary. I'm thinking that all writers should at least practice poetry to get an appreciation for the importance of words.

In this query there are so many generic descriptions which give us no interesting specifics or sense of how something is done. And the previous poster is correct. There's no impact or consequence for some of these things, they're just listed as though random action. Start over.

Who is your character? What is it that she's trying to accomplish? What stands in her way of that? What are the consequences if she fails?

I hope this helps.

vkw said...

I think this query is fine. I do agree with EE that a better description of what the MC is turning into may be helpful.

As for the gargolyes. I know what a gargolye is. I always associated them with ugly stone statues meant to scare evil from buildings, particularly in churches. I knew they acted as water spouts too. I have a gargoyle wind chime.

I also know they are common monsters in role-playing games and comic books.

I did a Wiki search and apparently I am correct but what I thought was the most common usuage was not.

This is example why there is different genres for different folks and why one needs to be careful who they submit queries to.

I think it's kind of nice to have a query about something that is not a were-something or a vampire.


Phoenix said...

Hi Steve: The author worked this query on my site and I was the one who likely suggested the phrase "militant army" as she used the words separately in one of her versions.

Since an army can mean simply a horde and militant generally means fighting for a specific cause (in this case, the annihilation of non-human species), and since the phrase works well with the rhythm of the sentence it's in, I'll defend it.

But, of course, if others take issue with it, it's time for the author to change it. That's the whole purpose of getting as many diverse opinions as possible :o)

And, no, anyone who reads fantasy extensively would not consider gargoyles fan fic. They aren't unique but neither are they overused, so I think they are a good hook to use. But maybe I'm biased since I'm actually a fan of the acclaimed (though sadly long cancelled) "Gargoyles" animated series, so I have a soft spot for them.

Joie said...

As someone who reads fantasy, I had no problem understanding what the author was getting at with the gargoyles. They're *not* very saturated in the horror/fantasy market at the moment, so that's a good thing.

The rest of the query was a little to vague for me to follow, however. It seems like the beginning of a story, but not the story itself. It's a premise; evil queen bent on the destruction of non-human races (aside: I have no issues with this--plenty of people have wanted to "cleanse" the world before) seeks to wipe out one of the last remaining gargoyle tribes, wakes up dark power living within "human" girl living with tribe and wants that power for herself.

That's great, but what happens next? How does the queen go about trying to get it? How does the girl deal with her transformation? How does she intend to stop the queen? Why don't they just move to another kingdom?

The story has potential, but leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

no-bull-steve said...

Phoenix, I see what you're saying about the rhythm being better with an adjective there, but the fact that it's already being designated as the queen's army, it's precluded from being an unorganized band of men or horde... Even a mad queen would provide some structure, no? So then use the adjective to add something that we already don't know. Otherwise, IMO, it looks really unprofessional.

Other examples of what I mean:
"certain knowledge" -- as opposed to uncertain knowledge? Moreover, it's not certain knowledge because we find out in the next paragraph that she's not truly human (at least as I know humans) anyway and is completely uncertain about who she is.

"The river boils when she sings" -- which leads to what? why? does she do this on purpose?

"bloodthirsty darkness that demands to be sated" -- I know that you or the author is attempting to be intentionally vague here but it's not working. We shouldn't, in the query, be trying to figure out "what" she's grappling with, we want to know...Who is your character? What is it that she's trying to accomplish? What stands in her way of that? What are the consequences if she fails?

Matt said...

I've seen this query posted on many sites in a short period of time and it has not substantially changed.

Beckarah, either you need to trust yourself and send out this query or you need to listen to your critics and rebuild it from scratch.

Joe G said...

Perhaps you would be happier if she had written "The militant queen and her obedient army"? The rest of the Wikipedia article goes on to suggest that militant can be used much more fluidly, Steve.

There is a problem here with redundant description and the wrong choice of a word.

I think gargoyles is a great idea. I immediately thought of the old Disney show, which was a great show. But you never really did anything with it. They are killed in the beginning and then what? Why even bother if she's just a were-creature?

Note that this IS the premise of the old Disney show, a chick hangs out with surviving gargoyles who were massacred by an evil monarch in olden times, everyone contends with dark forces. But there, the gargoyles ARE the story.

I do agree that it sounds a bit stock fantasy.

AA said...

I've seen a lot of fantasy authors do this in queries. They think the "magic" part is the most interesting part, so they spend a lot of time on that. What they don't think about is that agents that handle fantasy have seen every version of every magical person/beast/creature, as well as every possible magical power. They've been there, done that, and bought the holocaust cloak.

The only way to approach a fantasy story is with the story and characters. Mention the magic, then tell about the story and characters.

You might try writing this with all the magic written out, then add some of it back afterward.

Without the magic we have: A. lives with G. Tribe. Crazy racist queen wants to destroy G. Tribe. A. finds a way to stop this from happening. Crazy queen is not amused and sends her army.

This isn't enough story, and it doesn't tell us enough about the characters.

Jo-Ann said...

Sounds like the plot has potential to be a good read, I'd like to see how A. harnesses the monster inside her.

However, one phrase in the query stood out for me: "..and awakens covered in the blood of thirty men."

Thirty? All male? Unless all of the corpses are beside her when she awakens, how does she know these details?

arhooley said...

If you want another vote on "militant army," I say strike the adjective. The rhythm is just fine without it to my ear.

BuffySquirrel said...

I don't think militant adds anything to army, fwiw. It might give the impression of an army that waves its weapons in the air and sings rousing songs as it marches, I suppose. Gargoyles out! Gargoyles out!


"drops of blood show her visions only she can see" would work better without 'her' as it feels redundant.

If I'm to care that the gargoyles are going to be wiped out to the last water-spout, I need to care about the gargoyles. This query doesn't give me any reason to care. Also, Anaiiya seems dangerous enough that I'm not sure I see much difference between her and the mad queen. Why should we support one above the other? Or either, come to that?

Chicory said...

I agree with Jo-Anne that there's no way our heroine should know whose blood is all over her unless the bodies are right there. Also, isn't it more suspenseful if she just wakes up covered in blood? That would totally freak me out.

Evil Editor said...

It's not unreasonable to assume that if she killed the men their bodies are lying there when she regains consciousness. Depends on whether she lost consciousness after killing them or after taking a stroll into town for a cup of tea. However, it would be less ambiguous to say she was drenched in blood OR that she was surrounded by corpses, rather than she was covered in the blood of thirty men, which could mean there are thirty gallons of blood on her or that she got a bit of a spattering from each of the thirty (which would require her to examine each body to determine if it was killed in such a way as to cause blood to spatter, because if three of them were killed by blunt force trauma from a blow to the head, then she would have the blood of only 27 men on her).

beckahrah said...

Wow, lots of helpful stuff here. :) I suck at queries, obviously. If anyone is still listening, I did yet another rewrite. I'm sure it has more problems than ever, but as of yet I'm too close to see them:

Even living among the last of the gargoyles, Anaiiya has always believed she's human. But the day she awakens covered in blood is the day she realizes she’s…something else. A terrible darkness lies dormant within her, waiting to be triggered. When a deranged queen attacks her beloved gargoyle tribe, Anaiiya blacks out—and awakens surrounded by dead soldiers with no memory of how it happened.

Now stone crumbles to powder at her touch and blood obeys her every command. The monster she’s becoming slowly takes her over and fills Anaiiya with an ever-increasing lust for violence, making each day more of a struggle to use her newfound powers only to defend her tribe.

But Anaiiya's attempts to protect her family draw the attention of far more dangerous creatures. Now immortal beings of dark magic war for control of Anaiiya's powers, and the last gargoyle tribe is in greater danger than ever. Anaiiya can save them—but only if the darkness within her doesn't destroy them first.

Anonymous said...

Much more interesting.

Anonymous said...

In the newer query, she awakens twice. Are these different wakings? And since we're not told whose blood it is, it could be hers and, not to be indelicate, could even be menstrual blood - like in Carrie. Also two Nows. Which Now is really now? And then she's using her power to protect the tribe but they're in danger from her and not from the immortal beings?

Joe G said...

I agree, it's a much more interesting conflict now, although you should explicitly spell out that the main character's dilemma is that she must use her new powers to defend her family, but she finds them increasingly hard to control and that puts her family in danger. Also try to make sure all the sentences go together logically. You're still telling a story in the query so provide information in a manner that let's everything make sense.

I'm a little hard pressed to understand why gargoyles can't defend themselves from humans.

For the record, I have a cousin named Anaiya so it's not that odd of a name.