Friday, January 28, 2011

Face-Lift 864

Guess the Plot

The Time Weaver

1. Mihelia, Goddess of Time, must keep playing her enchanted harp so that the strands of time will work in harmony. When Blajer, God of Misrule, starts plucking her strings, events begin to cascade wildly out of sequence. Can she get her harp back into time before Jorus, King of the Gods, gets angry?

2. Cottage industry is thrown into chaos when popular hand-woven mats suddenly transport their hapless owners back in time. Will the middle-class, Prius-driving vegans survive the brutal Stone Age long enough to figure out a way home? Or is Etsy doomed to collapse?

3. As his 30th birthday approaches, Seth suddenly stops the flow of time. Then he finds himself in an alternate universe where wizards on two sides in a war want to harness his power. But all that pales in comparison to the ancient evil that threatens to consume the fabric of space and time and destroy both universes . . . unless Seth stops it.

4. After the straw-to-gold incident, Rumplestiltzkin changed his name to Phil and retired to Bermuda. When the sorcerer who's conquering the world kicks him off his island, Phil decides to get revenge using thread spun from hourglass sand and a spider named Arachne. Also, knitting.

5. Forget time lines- how about a time potholder? God's eye? Macramé plant hanger? Because this is exactly the problem the Time Weaver faces when his daughter, Clockie, gets into his office and runs off with his time threads. Your life's about to be tied into knots, just like his.

6. It is the year 2039, and "Time for a Challenge" is the most popular game show in the solar system. Rex does fine with the more physical challenges, but how can he hope to compete when it's... Weaving Time?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

As a child, Seth sat enthralled through his fathers [father's] vivid stories of sword and sorcery. When his father vanished, it prompted five-year-old Seth to put the stories behind him and live for reality. [I'm not sure what "live for reality" means, but five seems a bit young to decide to do it. In fact, it's a bit young to be making any decisions about your life.] Now he has a house, a car, a good job and a date for his thirtieth birthday. [Not bad for a five-year-old. Although that's way too early to be scheduling a date for his thirtieth birthday.] But all of that changes as a dormant gene awakens within Seth and stops the flow of time. [The worst part is, with time stopped he'll never get to his thirtieth birthday, and he was really looking forward to that date.]

In an alternate universe, the kingdom of Findoor sits on the brink of war with a dark and powerful warlord determined to exact revenge on the land that banished him. [Is time stopped in this universe or just in Seth's universe? If time is stopped, how can anything happen? As I recall, when time stops, everyone freezes in place. Except one person. I saw it on Twilight Zone.] Tensions build between the two factions, with skirmishes breaking out along the Findoor borders. [I'm not sure I'd refer to the kingdom as a faction. If John McCain was pissed about losing the last election and attacked us, you wouldn't call the United States a faction.] [Also, when there's a powerful warlord determined to exact revenge on you, tensions don't build, they're already maxed out.] Wizards on both sides discover a force that will spell a swift end to the war for the side that obtains it. That force is Seth. [Is Seth in their universe or have the wizards detected his existence in his own universe? I don't remember him moving to a new universe.]

Seth struggles to control his new-found powers [What are his powers, besides stopping time?] while being led through a world of magic and creatures unlike anything he has ever known. [Okay, now he's in the wizards' universe, or possibly Venice Beach. But how did he get there? Does stopping time equal switching universes?] Eventually Seth learns that there is more to the escalating war than just black versus white. Something darker and more ancient stirs, an evil that spans generations, and threatens to consume the fabric of space and time. Seth must overcome his own doubt and disbelief to defeat this evil, or watch both worlds get annihilated. [Suddenly the query has gone vague. Plus, it sounds like this evil darker something is the main villain of the novel, in which case maybe we should work it into the query earlier, cutting some of the backstory. Perhaps open with the awakening gene, even if it means we don't find out about Seth's birthday date.]

THE TIME WEAVER, an 80,000-word fantasy, leaves an unlikely hero in a world that is not his own, with an ability he never wanted, and fighting a war he didn't start. [It's a rare person who can claim to have started a war he's fighting in.]


Can you make it clear how Seth's power can make it easy to win the war? Can he stop time just for one side? Or is it his other powers they want?

If an awakened dormant gene stopped the flow of time, how can it be started again?


Naomio said...

I think the first bit could probably be condensed down to something like 'When Seth grew up he thought he left fantasy behind him. But all that changes as a dormant gene awakens within Seth and stops the flow of time.' if you need more words.

If it is just his universe that is stopped you could put 'and stops the flow of time in his universe'.

I agree with Evil about adding how he got to the new Universe, or just pointing out that he is there and including the main villain earlier in the query.

Saying that, I like the concept and would read this.

Dave Fragments said...

When I read something like:

...ancient evil that threatens to consume the fabric of space and time and destroy both universes...

my brain goes all aflutter with warnings -- klaxons, oogah horns, screeching tires, siren -- the stakes have been raised to epic proportions. Like Remagen, a bridge too far.

Sigh. I'm not perfect. So I feel self conscious about saying this but just that single phrase makes me think the book is never going to satisfy. The story is going to be split between the hero and his or her development and the vast panoply of newly created and manipulated fantasy world history created for him or her.

Questions surface as to why Seth didn't just start out in the fantasy world. You ground Seth in the our very real world. You make him a normal and reasonably successful with a house and job and maybe a family. Then you rip him away from that life and shove him to a fantasy world.

Now I think having the ability to stop time is fascinating enough for a story. Creating a magical realm where magicians and creatures of all sorts exists means there is a second adjustment for Seth and the reader - one to understand his time-stopping abilities and the second to understand the fantasy realm and all the magic involved.

That's a hefty burden to throw into 80K words. I don't want to reach the end and find that only half the problems are solved and superficially at that. Hence the bells and whistles. My mind is saying that this story might not be complete and satisfying on either of two aspects - Seth's handling of time and the fantasy realm's (and indeed space-time itself) existence.

Now where does that lead us?
First, I really don't really know any more about the story than this query.
Second, does the real story begin when Seth is brought to Findoor (the alternate world)? Is this a Connecticut Yankee? If so, focus the query on that.
Third, Does Seth return home or does he stay in Findoor? That is, is he Conan or the Pevensy kids? That might be important for the reader to know. In FARSCAPE, John Crichton has to adjust to the new universe beyond the wormhole. What happens to Seth with all these vast powers? Is he still Seth?

I hope this helps you to focus the query.

arhooley said...

Yes, that 25-year leap in the opening is jarring. And it's not clear which universe we're in when, and how Seth gets from one to the other.

About the story itself, there is such a thing as setting the stakes SO high that they're meaningless. I've read of evils that threaten to annihilate the universe as we know it -- and tuned out. Something that threatens to destroy the fabric of space and time is in that territory. These stakes are not only incomprehensibly huge, they're puzzling. What would happen if the space-time fabric were destroyed? What would life be like for me and my frenz?

no-bull-steve said...

I'd echo just about everything Dave F(ragments) wrote. Taking that a step further, you're pitching this as "fantasy" but with space/time, alternate universe and latent genes, it smells of Sci Fi. Do you know the differences in those two genres and why they're not typically mixed (keep in mind this comes from a guy who often does just that)?

My point is that you need to know the rules in order to bend or break them. And either way, now is not the time to be pitching projects to editors and agents that's between genres.

Next, the whole 5 year old opening is completely meaningless to this query. Knowing how newbie writers think, I'll assume Seth's father is a warlord or a prisoner of one of them or even (gasp) that evil presence. Regardless of the tie into the *story*, there is ZERO tie in to the query. It's just a dangling thread and an opening written in past tense. Use it or lose it.

Good luck!

Orlando said...

I agree with EE that a five year old child does not come to decision making or commitments.

Also I want to know how a thirteen year old owns a house, a car, and a job. I also want to know what state gave him a license to drive. Not to mention you totally missed the transition between five and thirteen.

What stops the flow of time "a dormant gene" or "Seth?"

How does this alternate universe and Seth connect? We don't see that in your query. If the fabric of time and space is consumed, wouldn't that also destroy this "evil that spans generations?"

So did the flow of time stop on earth or this alternate universe? Is that the extent of his power? If so how will that stop the war or defeat this evil that spans generations?

They you say "powers" which implies more than one, but what are they? I know this evil must be hungry being around this long, but why does it want to eat to worlds?

Please bring it together to help us understand these questions and try again.

Anonymous said...

Wow. No credit for five-year-olds.

It's not like you have to be a certain age before you think, "I don't believe in magic anymore."

Rivka said...

The query needs help, but if makes you feel any better, author, the story hidden inside seems pretty cool. Clean up the writing, and the book should shine. I would read it.

Joe G said...

I agree with both Dave and Rivka at the same time.

Xetheriel said...

Author here!

First of all: Thank you for all your feedback! This is the kind of stuff I need. :)

It's nice to see at least some people with a spark of interest in reading the actual story.

So... some explanation is neccesary:

First: The pitch/query itself is written to get me through the first stage of a writing contest (ABNA). I hope it works... if it doesn't... no loss, no gain. :)

Second: Yes, there is more to the plot. A lot more. But the word limit for the contest entry is 300 words, and it was hard to get all the details of the plot to flow nicely in only 300 words.

Third: Yes, I missed 2 transitions. Point made. :)

Fourth: @Orlando: read the pitch again... thirtieth, not thirteenth.

I will continue working on it, and re-submit for critique. :)