Friday, May 20, 2011

Face-Lift 908

Guess the Plot

The Crystal Vault

1. Zorpax the Dreadful was voted best up-and-coming super villain. Now all he needs to attain world domination is the world's largest man-made diamond, the Heart of Velour. To get it he must break into the Crystal Vault. But will he still want to conquer the world when love gets in the way?

2. Aging billionaire William Green is terrified of dying. After years of searching he’s found the Garden of Eden. Within the garden the fountain of youth is kept inside a huge crystal vault. But the garden is guarded by Angels with fiery swords. Can his mismatched team of scientists and mercenaries retrieve the water and get out alive?

3. Fifteen-year-old gymnast Gnadia has sacrificed everything - boys, cheeseburgers, even menstruation - for her dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. Unfortunately the host country has introduced an even higher medal - crystal. Can Nadia suppress her infatuation with Slobotnian pentathlete Zdcenkvo long enough to perform . . . The Crystal Vault?

4. After a long string of failures, Ernest Makeworthy comes up with an invention sure to sell like hotcakes--a bank vault made of crystal. Now the money can be counted without entering the vault! But it's hammers that are selling like hotcakes.

5. Dalli Fontana discovers an ancient Mesopotamian civilization was curing its citizens of cancer over 2,000 years ago. The drug's formula was stored in a vault of heat-resistant crystals, at the base of an unnamed volcano. Now she just has to avoid causing an international incident and dodge pharmaceutical assassins trying to protect their cash cow.

6. A teenager stumbles upon a strange realm of elves and terrifying beings. Immediately she is declared the chosen one upon whose magical abilities the fate of the entire world depends. But she seems to have lost her magical abilities if she ever had them. So she embarks on a journey into the wilderness in hopes of finding them there. Also, a crystal vault.

Original Version

When Leyna, an orphan raised by the Duke and Duchess of Turothrím, runs away from her home because a strange man from her dreams tells her to do so, she begins questioning her sanity until she stumbles not only into the very arms of the man she imagined, but into an oppressed world laced with danger, prophesy, and magic. [At which point she stops questioning her sanity? I think you may have this backwards.]

A marriage proposal should be an exciting prospect for any seventeen-year-old Lady of Court. But when two young noblemen begin a desperate fight for her hand, Leyna feels trapped and fearful of what her future holds. So when the attractive man from her odd dreams pleads with her to run away from the only home she has ever known, she sees it as her only opportunity and flees. [Her only opportunity to avoid a situation in which she's fearful of what the future holds is to flee the sheltered comfort of her home for the outside, unknown world?] Unwittingly, she stumbles into the realm of the elves, creatures believed to be pure myth to the humans. And to her astonishment, they are not the only non-human beings to inhabit the lands of Lusorya. [If she's never been to the land of Lusorya, and when she gets there she finds it inhabited by non-human beings, why would she be astonished to find there are other non-human beings? If Martians landed on Earth and the first creatures they saw were wildebeests, I doubt they'd be astonished to find that there are other non-Martian creatures here besides wildebeests.]

A prophesy [prophecy] from ages past entrenches Leyna in a world fraught with peril when it is revealed that she is something other than human herself- [If she's a wildebeest, that should be revealed earlier.] a being that can see the future through her dreams . [So why didn't she see herself stumbling into the realm of the elves in her dreams?] But this prophesy [prophecy!] indicates that the world’s future rests squarely on a decision she must make. [By "the world's" future do you mean the realm of the elves or all of Earth or the universe?] Will she oppose the High King of Lusorya and the terrifying beings who serve him, or will she join him and help solidify his reign? Hounded for her decision by the elves and the King’s most vicious minion, [Is the King an elf?] Leyna’s world changes abruptly when confrontations turn deadly.

Now not only is her own life in danger, but the lives of her family and her new friends. [I didn't know she had new friends.] To protect them all, Leyna must embark on a journey into the wilderness to find a way to reclaim her magic. [I didn't know she'd lost her magic. Is it her ability to dream the future that she's lost? Have any of her dreams about the future come true since she got to Lusorya?] With the truth of her dreams being called into question, [She shows up in this realm and they tell her that she is a being who can see the future in her dreams, and then they complain to her that her dreams aren't coming true?] she must find a way to convince the man from her dreams that she knows where her magic is being kept and survive the trip there and back. [I don't see why she needs to convince him. Who is he?]

THE CRYSTAL VAULT (122,000 words), is a fantasy novel of magic, danger, and romance for young adults. The book is designed as the first in a series.


Get rid of the first paragraph. We don't need to know about the Duke and Duchess of Turothrím, and everything else in that paragraph is repeated in the next paragraph, but with more specificity.

How come no other humans have unwittingly stumbled into the realm of the elves? Can Leyna stumble back out and go home, or is this some kind of alternate universe?

Usually the "oracle" is someone the main character must contend with. Possibly that's because foretelling the future isn't that useful. Either you're always right, in which case it doesn't matter what anyone does, or you're sometimes wrong, in which case the hero can alter his destiny, at which point the oracle will claim that her prediction was misinterpreted. Here the oracle is the main character, but it's not clear how her power is used by her or anyone else to save the world. Has she ever been right about anything? Did she have a particular dream that has everyone worried about Armageddon?

Why does it seem that characters who can see the future are so often in the dark about their own future?


alaskaravenclaw said...

This is way overwritten.

I was going to leave it at that, but then I heard EE in my head saying "Well, tell her how NOT to overwrite it, then."

Yikes. Is this how one becomes a minion?

Okay, shorter sentences. Simpler words... choose the words you would use if you were describing the situation to a friend over coffee.

Instead of:

A marriage proposal should be an exciting prospect for any seventeen-year-old Lady of Court. But when two young noblemen begin a desperate fight for her hand, Leyna feels trapped and fearful of what her future holds. So when the attractive man from her odd dreams pleads with her to run away from the only home she has ever known, she sees it as her only opportunity and flees.


With two young noblemen fighting for her hand in marriage, seventeen-year-old Leyna feels trapped. So when a man in her dreams pleads with her to run away, she does.

Instead of:

A prophesy from ages past entrenches Leyna in a world fraught with peril when it is revealed that she is something other than human herself- a being that can see the future through her dreams.


An ancient prophecy reveals that Leyna can see the future through her dreams.

EE, I think prophesy is how the Brits spell it.

BuffySquirrel said...

Don't blame the Brits! We spell the noun prophecy, thank you very much!

That first sentence is a humdinger. It changes direction at least twice.

How can someone begin to do something up until something else happens? How long does this beginning to do something take?


Start again. What does Leyna want? What's stopping her getting it? What's at stake? What are the obstacles? What's her dilemma?

Anonymous said...

Well, hmm. What age group are you aiming for? Apparently nothing is resolved in the first book, which is problematic. Each book needs a good plot with its own beginning middle and end. This sounds like it's all middle and no end. She can't just wander through Oz marveling at all the munchkins and singing flowers forever or readers will get bored. For the query, pretend you don't even imagine a series and describe this book in a way that shows it contains everything any novel could ever need, plot-wise.

batgirl said...

I'll try to think of something useful to say, but first I have to complain about prophecies and prophesying in big chunky fantasy novels.
What's the point? Is it because of the fashion for reluctant heroes, that there must be an authorial directive forcing them to go do something heroic and adventurous? But the plots usually chuck in other incentives, like the future of the kingdom / planet / universe, and the lives of loved ones, or vengeance against the baddy. So why do you need the prophecy in the first place? Is there some sort of bylaw that each fantasy novel over 100k in wordage must include a minimum of one (1) prophecy per volume?

Author, have you read the Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by (the much-missed) Diana Wynne Jones? If not, I strongly recommend you do so as soon as possible.
Also, I apologise for unloading a particularly long-standing annoyance on you, who are only the latest instance of it.
Word ver is thutd, the sound of my head striking the desk on seeing yet another prophecy.

Anonymous said...

Second the Tough Guide to Fantasyland rec.

And second the "much-missed".


Anonymous said...

Well, here I am- the author...

@alaskaravenclaw (and buffysquirrel also): Prophesy... thanks for trying to cover for me alaskaravenclaw, but I'm not British, and it wasn't intended to be spelled that way. So buffy is right- don't blame the Brits! ;) Just apparently my weird desire that day to spell it like that... and my inability to catch it the hundreds of times I re-read it. And the inability of the people I asked to review it to catch the mistake either. In fact, I am now very afraid for myself and the people I know...

But enough on that embarrassment.

@alaskaravenclaw only: After reviewing the critiques, I definitely agree with you- WAY TOO WORDY. In fact, I began a re-write of this trying to not only scale it back, but also include more bits of very vital information I apparently didn't think were so vital before. For example, what the Crystal Vault even is. But even after that re-write, I decided it was still too wordy, and I am in the process of another re-do.

@Buffysquirrel and Anonymous: The novel isn't all about wandering around, it is about Leyna's decision being made, and then the consequences of her decision lead her out on a hunt for the Crystal Vault (which she does find in the end, thus resolving the conflict). I had not realized that the query came off as sounding like a girl who just wanders around, and I certainly don't want that. Again though, after reading the critique, I see some pretty big holes my query doesn't touch on that the novel can't survive without, so revisions are underway.

Anonymous said...

This is the author still- continuing on my post from earlier.

@batgirl: I think you need a cookie... or a strong drink ;) And I'm sorry I brought that rant out in you. As for the prophecy thing, I tend to agree with you- painfully cliche, and normally a pretty big annoyance. The prophecy of my story does not force the poor girl to be the reluctant hero though. It doesn't even play too big of a role in this book, or the series as a whole. The prophecy of my book was a reaction to something the bad guy did quite a long time ago. Since he decided to mess with nature in a pretty big way, the Fates (the deity of sorts found in this fantasy world) wanted to bring back a method of keeping him in check. In other words, they didn't want him to be invincible, so they revealed to the Seers that they would bring into existence 3 other people as powerful as he is. That's very vague, I know, but the details of what he did etc. really aren't integral to the plot of the first book, hence why they are omitted. "So why did you mention the prophesy in the first place?" you may ask... Well, it's there because it was the first time someone came right out and told Leyna what the hell was going on, and where she finds out she has to make a decision on where she stands. That's it- that's the prophecy. She has a choice in what she chooses to do, no one is forcing her to do anything. The major conflict of the storyline is what happens when Leyna decides that protecting people she loves is more important than her own self-preservation. Again, I know this would be difficult to figure out with so much information not being in the query.

And of course, @ our dear EE: Sadly, Leyna is not a wildebeest (though admittedly, the story would certainly be interesting in a whole new way if she were!). Also, we are not on Earth. This is a total new fantasy world- can you figure that out from my query? Well, I had thought so, but obviously not, so I am working on making that more apparent. So yes, even though Leyna finds out elves exist, it's still a surprise that even MORE weird things exist too, especially since most of the other weird things aren't even fabled to the humans. They just don't know anything about them at all. Why haven't other humans found the realm of the elves? They don't care to. And any others who DO are killed on sight by the elves. Humans are sort of the barbarians in this world- though they don't know it. Why was Leyna allowed to live then? She doesn't look very human, which gave the elves pause. Probably a good thing for them that they did. Again, can you figure all that out from the query? No, but at least some of it I considered important to the book, but not to the query, thus I left it out. But I'm working on it, I swear. :)

Please continue to shred!

Anonymous said...

ps-- my apologies to the Brits.


BuffySquirrel said...

*sits author down*

You wrote 'prophesy' again in one of your responses here.

Now write out 'prophecy' 100 times.

Dave Fragments said...

I'd start even deeper into the second paragraph.

"Dismayed by the struggle of two noblemen to win her hand and troubled by her dreams of a third man, Lotte Leyna flees her castle only to discover a hidden land of elves and magic where the man of her dreams is waiting. Lenya's dreams, it seems, can foretell the future. The survival of both worlds, the one she grew up in and the new magical realm depend on her dreams."

That's the setup. After that you need to add how Lenya handles the dreams, the warring kingdoms and magical realm.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I've read many queries with a dreaded prophecy stuck in at the beginning. They are a weak tool to influence the direction the characters take.

The characters need a better reason to act/decide/choose.

Prophecy in the real world happens all the time and never comes to frution. From the get go any prophecy is hard to take as a serious plot point in a manuscript. Overdone and poorly used.

Sorry, don't mean to stick my fingers in anyon'e eclairs but the use of the prophecy in MHO is outdated and gets in the way.

Author, I've had the same problems, wordy, overwriting using thirty words when ten will do. Be stingy with your words. Give them up grudgingly. Use necessary words and construct sentences thinking of the reader, not what you are able get out on each page.

Holding back and culling the excess is necessary for a clear query.

I wrote a short story of exactly 500 words as a challenge. Not 501 or 499 words. Do simple writing exercises. Tell your life's story in 50 words.

Write a 30 second radio commercial with a 5 second tag. That takes six lines of copy. Train your self. Discipline is so important in writing.

Good luck, have another run at it.

arhooley said...

I'm not sure why a "desperate fight" over who gets to marry Leyna is a reason for her to flee her own home. I guess you have to provide some reason for her to go to Lusorya, but perhaps it could be better explained, or even woven into subsequent events?

Adele said...

My structural difficulty alarm just went off.

Did you notice that all but the last paragraph of your query is Before Quest? That suggests to me that in your mind the coming-of-age story is the most important part, and Leyna's maturity is already reached when the decision to go on the quest is taken. The quest itself is vaguely described only in the final paragraph, like an afterthought, and the denouement is anti-climactic. "After a hundred challenges we have finally reached the Crystal Vault! Now I have my powers! And now ... um ... I guess we should all go home again."

If this is an accurate description of your book you might want to mix the two plots some more so you have one cohesive story rather than two different stories in one book. Compress the backstory; get her into Elfworld more quickly, and let the maturity and realizations about herself come during the quest.

If this is not an accurate description of your book, work on the query. Compress the backstory, leave out all the inessential details, but include all the major points.

One way to do that is to tell your whole story in one sentence of twenty words. Then you will have to leave out the backstory and the inessential details. Once you've got your twenty words, expand to fifty, and then to 100.

batgirl said...

EE, sorry if this comes through twice, blogger told me I wasn't connected the first time.

Thanks, author, for being a good sport! It's no fun to learn that your query probably needs a complete rewrite (I went through my own pain in that endeavour) but keep working and it will get better.

Let me see whether I've got the gist of vol.1, okay?
When the competition for her hand in marriage turns violent, Leyna, adopted daughter of a Duke, runs away. Her flight leads her into the forbidden realm of Lusorya, and only her unusual appearance (be specific) saves her from immediate execution by the elves who rule there. In Lusorya she finds wonders and terrors (be specific) and more surprisingly a family and friends (be specific), where her future-foretelling dreams are welcomed / accepted. But even in Lusorya, Leyna discovers that she is a prize to be fought over. Her ability to dream true makes her a deadly weapon for the High King and his vicious minions (hey, is EE the High King?) or for the resistance movement. Despite the threats / danger, Leyna chooses to stand beside (I'm guessing the valiant rebels). She learns that she can regain the magic (be specific) she didn't know she'd lost, and improve her side's chances of winning the war. All she has to do is survive a journey through a wilderness full of perils (be specific) and find the legendary (needs a better adjective in a world of elves & marvels) long-lost Crystal Vault.

The dream-guy doesn't seem to do anything vital in the query so I've cut him.
I kind of like the structure of Leyna fleeing two guys fighting for her and finding herself in the middle of two factions fighting for her, which is why I'd vote for keeping the rivalry opening.

EE said...

The author has submitted a revised version, which I will forward to Phoenix.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to thank everyone for their feedback and the time it took everyone to rip me to pieces! I really am very appreciative! And a thank you to EE for sending my revision to Phoenix!

- The Author