Monday, April 11, 2011

Face-Lift 892

Guess the Plot

Emerald Bearer

1. After a gigantic emerald is magically embedded in her hand, Samantha is transported to a world of peaceful centaurs and evil minotaurs. Can she use her emerald to stop the minotaurs from polluting the sacred spring, turning the centaurs into mindless animals?

2. After a gigantic emerald is magically implanted in her forehead, Lady Marigold develops superpowers. Can she now save her planet from the evil horde in that approaching space ship? Or must she make a pact with Prince Roland, the most irksome future monarch who ever attempted to charm womankind with his bulging muscularity?

3. When Al-Tortuga is tasked with carrying the sultan's emerald on the March of Redemption, he figures it'll be a cushy three week job . . . until he discovers that the emerald is the size of a mini-refrigerator.

4. When pirates hide the Great Emerald in a swamp on an uninhabited island, they make the mistake of marking the spot on a map, a map that soon falls into the hands of Loretta, Queen of the Night, who sets off to fetch it with a daring crew of nuns and orphans.

5. Dwarf Tyrannosaurs & giant crocodiles. Desert islands. Pirates bearing treasure in need of concealment. Half the British navy. Whales. The cyclone of the century. The bleeping navigator on another drinking binge. Hungry Polynesians. Volcanic eruption. These are the challenges confronting Emily when she crashes through the time warp. Also, a humongous emerald.

6. The ancient prophecy states that the Emerald Bearer shall lead the Gaaths to their Utopia. But when Joriff sees the size of the emerald, he decides he can find his own Utopia by killing the Emerald Bearer and pawning the emerald. Can anyone convince Joriff to put his people first? His wife, for instance?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Twelve-year-old Samantha never trained to use a magic gem. She never asked to be an Emerald Bearer—she’d never even heard of one. But none of that matters [You've used your first thirty words to tell us something that doesn't matter?] when she finds a palm-sized emerald in the foothills of Arizona. When she picks it up, the huge gem embeds itself in her hand and transports her to Centaunia; a world of peaceful centaurs, evil minotaurs, and a handful of powerful humans with magic gems of their own. [If the main residents of this world are centaurs, why don't they call it Centauria instead of Centaunia? Is it because then the minotaurs would be pissed that it isn't called Minotauria, and they're too stupid to notice that Centaunia is Centauria with the flag on the "r" extended downward?] [Or did you decide to call it Centaunia because you thought it would sound stupid to call it Centauria when it's the home of centaurs, not realizing that we Earthlings refer to our planet as Earth and Venusians refer to their planet as Venus, so it's perfectly logical that Centaurs would call their planet Centauria.] [Has there ever been a science fiction book in which natives of Uranus appear, and if so, are they referred to as Uranusians? That's a mouthful; I think creatures who live on Uranus should be called Roids.] [Is it just a coincidence that all the letters in the word "Uranus" can be found in the word "centaurs"?] [I now recommend dumping "Centaunia," and setting your book not on Centauria, but on Uranus. Not only does it allow you and your characters to make numerous Uranus jokes, but if the editor says that your book stinks, you can say, Of course it stinks, idiot. It's on Uranus.]

Samantha becomes famous overnight as news of her arrival spreads like wildfire. [See, here's an opportunity already. You can say wildfires are particularly treacherous on Uranus because of frequent methane gas explosions.] The centaurs bow before her as if she was royalty. It doesn’t take Samantha long to figure out why.

It’s been eleven years since the last Emerald Bearer appeared in Centaunia. Since then, raiding minotaurs have been polluting the sacred springs—pollution that turns the centaurs into mindless animals. The purifying powers of Samantha’s emerald are their last hope. [It doesn't take her long to figure all of this out? I don't see how she figured any of it out.] What’s more, they’re her only hope of getting back home. But there’s something no one will tell her; what happened to the last Emerald Bearer? [That sentence isn't needed; it's interrupting the flow of the plot. If you decide to keep it anyway, change the semicolon to a colon.] With the help of three other Gem Bearers, Samantha heads deep into enemy territory in search of the polluted springs. With the dark leader of the minotaurs after her, [Dark leader? Why not just the leader? Do they also have a light leader? And why would the leader be after her? The whole point of becoming a leader is that you get to send your orcs to do the grunt work while you rest comfortably in your tower using your all-seeing eye to watch them screw up.] Samantha has no choice but to fight. That, or learn the fate of the last Emerald Bearer firsthand... [I don't see why this is an either/or choice. Perhaps the previous emerald bearer fought the minotaurs.]

A middle grade fantasy novel, EMERALD BEARER is complete at 58,000 words. This book would appeal to fans of the UNICORN CHRONICLES by Bruce Coville.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



Have all the centaurs become mindless animals? If so, I wouldn't expect them to even realize Samantha is their savior, and bow down to her. If not, why does she have to search for the sacred springs? Can't the healthy centaurs tell her where they are? Can't they lead her there or draw her a map? If the centaurs don't even know where the springs are, how has the polluting of the springs affected them?

It's not clear what Samantha can do beyond purifying the sacred springs with her emerald. Do the centaurs expect this twelve-year-old to also lead them into battle against the minotaurs? Centaurs ought to be able to take minotaurs anyway, as shown in this graphic depiction:


batgirl said...

I'm going to guess that the sacred springs are way up in a mountain somewhere, and the centaurs drink from them way downstream. Still, the centaurs should have at least been there before to have judged them sacred.
Also, not knowing the details, I can't help but visualise the minotaurs as polluting the springs by peeing into them. So maybe be more specific about what the pollution is? Mind-altering drugs?

This could be a gripping enough middle-grade story, but I'd like a better idea of what goes on for Samantha, and what choices she makes. Right now she doesn't seem to be making any, she's a helpless tool in the hands of the centaurs, who don't seem to be willing to fight for themselves.
The other questions, like where the other gem-handed people come from and how the emerald got to our world, and whether having a giant emerald stuck in your hand reduces your dexterity noticeably - those probably won't occur to me if I'm more intrigued by Sam and her situation. What does she want? What will she choose to do? Those are the questions that need more space, I think.

alaskaravenclaw said...

The evil minotaurs have a "dark leader"? Uncool. The United States has a dark leader, and we're not evil. Or at least no more evil than we were before.

In case Arhooley doesn't stop by to say it, I'll mention also that foothills are of mountains, not of states: the foothills of the [insert mountain range here].

Real problem here, as written, though: Agency. Things happen to Samantha. What does she do? Where's her will and motivation? I think if this happened to me my first act would be to try to get the damn stone *out* of my hand. Why does she adopt the centaurs' cause as her own, instead of the minotaurs'?

150 said...

Too much about what she knows or expects. Not enough about what she does.

Dave Fragments said...

I remember a set of scenes in an old movie (whose name escapes me) as the explorers or treasure hunters passed through two villages in India, the villages were at war because they both exist on one river and at varying times each of the villages would stand on the banks of the river just above the other city and piss in the water. Then they would taunt the other village when they came out to wash clothing or draw water for cisterns. So a state of war existed between the cities.

It was comic relief in the movie.

Anonymous said...

My immediate guess was also that they're pissing in the springs. So she must be Miss Hygiene. Lots of logical questions followed. Having an emerald stuck in your hand sounds like a damned painful handicap. What is it supposed to be good for? Sounds like some sort of Barbie-goes-to-Naxos story. Did you just pop the minotaurs and centaurs out of Classical mythology and leave the rest of the gods behind?

Third grade girls might be all over this, I don't know.

vkw said...

I thought it was okay. It's a third grade book.

EE needs to write a book of "priceless lines" "Words of Wisdom"

This would be in it: "The whole point of becoming a leader is that you get to send your orcs to do the grunt work while you rest comfortably in your tower using your all-seeing eye to watch them screw up."

Exactly! Leaders have cannon fodder.


alaskaravenclaw said...

Look, she said for the umpteenth time, there's no such thing as good enough for middle grade.

Believe me, it's a @#$% competitive market, and you'd better be on top of your game with everything: story logic, character motivation, the whole nine yards.

Yes, it's possible third graders would not ask the questions we're asking. But very few editors, agents, or reviewers are third graders.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I agree with alaskaravenclaw - do NOT make the mistake of thinking that weak or lazy world building, dialogue, plot development or especially queries are "good enough" for middle grade. Everything has to be at or above the quality of adult fiction.

I'd bet my rent that the "dark leader" is the former Emerald Bearer and it's a surprise twist late in the novel....which may or may not be okay. The problem is that the vague and nebulous is NEVER as interesting as the specific and impending. Hence, because we don't know what's going to happen to Samantha, we don't really care what happens if she fails. Sorry. It's just a fact.

Story sounds like it has potential but the query needs serious revision. Good luck!

Wilkins MacQueen said...

A proactive mc with some decisions to deal with would put the story on better footing.

Specifying the cause of pollution stops speculation.

Like the mixture of the Cent's and Min's.

Xenith said...

I wonder if it would work better if it started at:

It's been eleven years since the last Emerald Bearer appeared in Centaunia. Since then, raiding minotaurs have been polluting the sacred springs—pollution that turns the centaurs into mindless animals.

That seems to be the point where it becomes interesting/something different.

AA said...

Okay, here goes:

Are the minotaurs the bad guys just because they pollute water, or is there some other reason? So the centaurs are peaceful. If they don't do anything requiring frontal lobe development, they might as well be mindless animals, right? What makes them not mindless animals now? Do they have cities? Poetry? Art?

Is the point of this pollution to enslave the centaurs, make them pull plows?

I, also, wondered how the centaurs figured out she was there to help them if they're turning into mindless animals.

If other humans in/on Centaunia have emeralds, what makes Samantha so special? Why does she need to be there at all?

Do the minotaurs have magic? Does Samantha have powers besides her purifying power?

Is there any reason the centaurs must drink from the sacred springs? There's nowhere else in Centaunia to get a drink of water? If they know the spring is polluted, why are they still drinking there?

If a twelve-year-old is fighting minotaurs- let me rephrase that- a twelve-year-old is NOT fighting minotaurs. I would maybe believe, Sam and her Emerald Squad - or Quad - shine the magic power beams from their emeralds together to finally defeat the evil Minotaurian overlord. Like a cross between Ghost Busters and Power Rangers. But I don't believe 4 humans vs. infinity minotaurs.

What alaskaravenclaw said x2. "Dark leader" is an unfortunate choice of words, and kids need to have BETTER quality reading material than adults.

SphinxnihpS of Aker-Ruti said...

alaskaravenclaw said "The evil minotaurs have a "dark leader"? Uncool. The United States has a dark leader, and we're not evil. Or at least no more evil than we were before."

I'm assuming alaskaravenclaw is using dark in a different way than what I took the author to be using it: "10. evil; iniquitous; wicked: a dark plot." This came from


alaskaravenclaw said...

Jodi, the dictionary doesn't dictate how we use language, it merely reports it. I'm well aware that "black" and "dark" are sometimes used as synonyms for evil, though fortunately, less often now than in the past. (That's why it was definition #10.) To continue doing it simply because it's always been done seems as tone-deaf and tin-eared as saying "Man" and "mankind" to mean humanity.

It seems particularly irresponsible when writing for children, since there's a potential to do real harm.

Personally I always try to bear in mind that children of various races, sexes and ethnicities will be reading my books. You can do as you choose, of course. Good luck.

BuffySquirrel said...

What the fuck is a mindless animal?