Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Face-Lift 906


Guess the Plot

Lifeweaver

1. Aaiiee thinks she is just an ordinary high school student, till she learns she is a Lifeweaver and must untangle the threads of her best friend and boyfriend, before they sneak off together and conceive the demon baby that will destroy the earth.

2. The Lifeweaver has the ability to shift injuries and diseases from one person to another. Among those who have injuries and diseases, he's quite popular. Among the rest of the people, eh, not so much.

3. Reeling from her recent divorce, Jasmine rebrands herself a “Lifeweaver” and finds solace ghostwriting memoirs for senior citizens. But when the threads of a charming octogenarian’s story defy time and space to alter her own history, Jasmine fears the ghostwriter is being ghostwritten. Could Elmer be the true Lifeweaver?

4. It was supposed to be an extra credit project for Home Ec. But now 13-year-old Rowena has pixies dogging her footsteps, water sprites popping up in cans of soda, and one cranky elven knight in shining armor claiming that her tapestry-weaving skills have marked her as the heiress to a fairy kingdom. Maybe she should have chosen choir as her elective.

5. 17-year-old Delden is a journeyman Lifeweaver. One day, he will be a plotter of people's life stories, designing the events and significant others they will encounter. But the skills that have made him a budding star have also led him to disquieting discoveries about the profession. Why does the Lifeweavers Guild have a secret prison? And what stories are locked away in the Library of the Damned?

6. In ancient times a young Chinese witch learns to weave silk ribbons that can change fate, a skill she vows to use for only good. But she is forced to marry an evil emperor and must decide whether to serve and obey him like a good wife, or magically bind his life to the fate of a chicken.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After two murders, an abduction, and the complete loss of control over his life, Talyn's family blessing is starting to look more like a curse.

When Talyn became the lifeweaver – a man capable of shifting injury, disease, even death from one person to another – he thought he'd be helping people. [He is helping people: the people he shifts injury, disease and death from. The people he shifts them to probably see things differently.] Instead, the nobility hoard his abilities, [Is he their prisoner?] and the church forces him to punish criminals with their own violent sins. When the king uses him to fake an assassination and spark a war, [I want to start a war by assassinating someone, but I certainly don't want anyone to die, so I need you to help me fake the assassination.] Talyn can no longer stand the suffering his blessings cause, and starts down a treasonous path of unveiling the conspiracy. [Who is conspiring with whom? Are the nobility and the church and the king all working together? Can they force Talyn to do their bidding? Personally, I'd be reluctant to make too many demands of someone who can switch other people's injuries, diseases and deaths onto me.]

But Talyn is not the only one fighting injustice. Serra Taciess, after striving for years to become a holy warrior like her father, finally faces an obstacle she cannot overcome with brute strength: being framed for murder. [Even the world's strongest men encounter obstacles they cannot overcome with brute strength.] [I don't see what Serra and Talyn are dealing with as comparable. You claim they're both fighting injustice, but Superman fights injustice. Serra is enduring injustice. Talyn is being used, but I wouldn't call it injustice. Perhaps you should open this paragraph with something vague like: But Talyn is not the only one with problems.] Abandoned even by the father she idolizes, the dejected girl has nowhere to turn until a faceless benefactor offers to help her escape. As payment, she commits an act that will draw the ire of an entire kingdom: abducting the lifeweaver. [Actually, if I were in this kingdom and I were completely healthy, I'd be happy to see the lifeweaver gone.]

With the lying king's war fast approaching, Talyn needs to escape quickly. [Why? Whose side is he gonna be on in this war?] But Serra's employer has his own plans for exploiting the lifeweaver, both to save his people and exact vengeance on the kingdom that wronged them. [Is it Talyn's kingdom that wronged them?] To stop both embroiling conflicts, Talyn will have to sacrifice everything, [That's pretty vague.] and enlist the help of the same convicted murderer who put a knife to his throat. [Why is this convicted murderer/knife to the throat incident being tossed out as if we know all about it?]

I am seeking representation for Lifeweaver, a fantasy complete at 149,000 words. [That's a lot of words. How many of them can you do without?] I have appended the first chapter of my novel to the end of this email for your consideration. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Notes

Who framed Serra for murder, and why?

Do we need Serra in the query? I think this would hold together better if it focused on Talyn. You can say that just when Talyn is about to blow the whistle on the conspiracy, he's abducted by people with their own agenda. We don't need to know who or why. We just need to know what will happen if he doesn't get back in time.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh darn, that's so serious and LONG. I was hoping for #4, which sounds delightfully light-hearted and fun.

Anonymous said...

And I was hoping for #3. Well, not really hoping. Wishing.

This is hard to follow. There are a lot of characters introduced and I can't keep track of what's going on at all.

So I'll nitpick instead.

But Talyn is not the only one fighting injustice. Lots of people are fighting injustice, so this is a throwaway line and you can do without it.

Abandoned even by the father she idolizes Man, if I had a nickel for every girl I know who was abandoned by her father, whether she idolized him or not... so "even" is unnecessary.

But mostly your problem is adjectives. They don't add anything but confusion, and in some cases ("To stop both embroiling conflicts") they're downright confusing. Get rid of all the adjectives and see how much more smoothly your query reads. Then, if there's anything that cries out for an adjective, you can put one or two back in.

(Might wanna do the same with your novel.)

--AlaskaRavenclaw

Chro said...

Well, as expected, your comments were more useful than any others I have received on my query, even if they did feel like being punched in the gut. The most disheartening thing is probably hearing that others' made up plots sound more interesting than mine.

That said, I've made a number of changes to my query based on your comments, hopefully for the better. Thank you for your constructive cruelty!

Stephen Prosapio said...

Chro,
Good for you for exposing yourself here and listening to comments. I'd sit tight on making any changes yet. I doubt we're all done with you.

First - kudos on having an interesting story idea. I like the whole concept of the power to transfer "hurt/harm" from one to another. It sounds too like you've built a world in which this power has a crucial role in the future of the story.

Your character names are good too. They're different but not so bizarre that they're hard to follow.

The problems I have with this are:
1. too long. If you don't think you can cut 25,000 words out of this right now, then let it sit 6 months and reread it. You can.

I can tell from your query that you use too many words to say what you are trying to say. (20 words)

Your query shows that you're too wordy in expressing yourself. (10 words)

See what I'm sayin'?

2. Vague - the specific is always better than the general.

eg.
"Abandoned even by the father she idolizes, the dejected girl has nowhere to turn until a faceless benefactor offers to help her escape."

Agree with Anon about your adjectives. You're trying to pull heart strings and/or be mysterious here and it's not working. Melodrama is not dramatic. Specifics will do that.
"dejected girl"
Wahhhh Wahhhhhhhh.

"Faceless benefactor" huh? He literally has no face? Or did you mean to say something more like:

"Abandoned by her father on planet Crichton when she was six, Serra receives an anonymous package with seven million Gallions, three grenades and a note in what looks to be her father's handwriting."

I'm not suggesting that's your plot. My point is that the situation and the specifics of it should pull your reader in by making them ask the right kind of questions. Yours with no specifics - 23 words. Mine with probably more details than it needs - only more words.

Good luck with this project!

arhooley said...

Hold on, Chro! I suspect you ain't seen nothin' yet.

With the lying king's war fast approaching, Talyn needs to escape quickly. But Serra's employer has his own plans for exploiting the lifeweaver, both to save his people and exact vengeance on the kingdom that wronged them. To stop both embroiling conflicts, Talyn will have to sacrifice everything, and enlist the help of the same convicted murderer who put a knife to his throat.

That paragraph is so confusing that I've lost your plot. I don't know who's fighting whom or why anything is happening. I agree with Evil Editor: follow Talyn.

Anonymous said...

Writing an enticing GTP is a skill some of us have been practicing for years now. We don't necessarily have the fortitude etc. to write 100,000 additional words to complete a corresponding novel. You should be very pleased with yourself for having finished your novel -- that is a significant and praiseworthy accomplishment, even if no publisher takes it on.

Chro said...

Believe me, I know about my tendency toward wordiness. I spend most of my revision process narrowing down the word count. This particular novel used to be 170k words. The struggle is always in finding the words that can be removed without detriment to the book.

In truth, I'm thinking this query was not revised nearly enough before posting it. I've already come up with a revision 50 words shorter.

150 said...

Chro! It's been a while.

I agree with the others, and add that Talyn seems much too powerful to be ruled by anyone. Couldn't he take out a whole army by himself, if he just stabbed one of them and kept bouncing the wound from one to the other? Not to mention that he can hurt anybody just by summoning the nerve to hurt himself first. So a knife to the throat is not only not a threat to Talyn, it's the mechanism of his escape.

If there's a good reason why Talyn is under so many thumbs, you may want to mention that in the query.

Looking forward to the rewrite. Good luck!

Ink and Pixel Club said...

In addition to the comments you've already received, I suggest making it clear exactly what Talyn thought he would be doing as the Lifeweaver: transferring a young child's illness to an elderly person who is seconds from death anyway, for example. Since his gift is a double-edged sword by nature, we need to know how what Talyn planned to do with it is better than what he's ultimately forced to do with it.

I'd dump the first sentence. I understand that you're probably trying to get some of the more exciting parts of the story into the query opening, but the sentence is too vague and contains to much information to have the impact you want.

The only thing that Talyn seems to do during the query is start revealing the conspiracy, though it isn't clear how or if he is at all successful before he's abducted. (Is he abducted or is Serra just planning to abduct him? I'm not clear whether he wants to escape from her or the king.) Everything else is other characters doing things to Talyn. I realize that part of the story is that Talyn feels like he doesn't have control of his own life, but I'm guessing he starts to take that control back at some point. If you can highlight some of the actions Talyn takes to try to achieve his goals, he'll seem like a more active protagonist.

Anonymous said...

Stephen, I'm not anonymous! Just messed with by Blogger.

(Well, all right, AlaskaRavenclaw isn't my real name.)

Chro, 150k is still too long by about 50k. A method I've used that works is to print out the ms, divide the number of words I want to cut by the number of pages, and try to cut that number from each page. (Eg-- if you're trying to cut 10k words from 400 pages, you need to cut 25 words per page.) It gives you a new perspective on what you really need, and it feels wonderfully cleansing, like dumping moldy food outta the fridge.

However, I'm usually trying to cut 5k. With 50k, you probably need to look at whole scenes and chapters and ask "what does this scene do" and "is it already being done somewhere else?"

Anonymous said...

In fact, Chro, let's look at the paragraph that annoyed Arhooley.

With the lying king's war fast approaching, Talyn needs to escape quickly. But Serra's employer has his own plans for exploiting the lifeweaver, both to save his people and exact vengeance on the kingdom that wronged them. To stop both embroiling conflicts, Talyn will have to sacrifice everything, and enlist the help of the same convicted murderer who put a knife to his throat.

Let's give it a quick haircut.

With the war fast approaching, Talyn needs to escape. But Serra's employer has his own plans for exploiting Talyn*. To stop both conflicts, Talyn will have to sacrifice everything, and enlist the help of a murderer.

*Calling people by different names or titles adds to the confusion. I'm not sure this sentence is necessary, because I 'm not sure what it does.

--AlaskaRC

Sarah said...

There's another series using a similar idea of shifting pain: Janice Hardy's "The Healing Wars". That's not to say that your book can't still be successful, but just a heads up.

-sarahhawthorne

Evil Editor said...

The author submitted a revised version, which I've forwarded to Phoenix. I'm sure it'll be available for your comments soon.

Whirlochre said...

This starts well and gets difficult.

I get the set-up but lose where it leads.

The idea of shifting injury and death is interesting, and EE's mockery points up the scope here for moral dilemmas I would like to think you hit on in the text — albeit without recourse to the full 149,000 words you mention.

If you know you are verbose then you must also accept the need to prune. Even the snappy lose whole chapters in the end.

The problem with the main body of the query is that too much is hinted at but never explained fully. The business of Serra's father for instance. Here is a sub-plot trying to burst out. I think you either have to clarify threads like this, or drop them for the sake of clarity.

But I understand the difficulty. You have kings and conflicts and conspiracy (not to mention the potential for grisly drawn-out deaths) and you dearly want to say it all. In a query, you can't. So take the simplicity of those opening lines and weave a couple of extra paragraphs about the absolutely necessary stuff. Then heed the Phoenix.

Anonymous said...

If you know you are verbose then you must also accept the need to prune. Even the snappy lose whole chapters in the end.

Yes.

--AlaskaRavenclaw