Monday, June 06, 2011

Face-Lift 914

Guess the Plot


1. They say home is where the heart is. But when Candace moves into her new home and finds a human heart in the refrigerator, she determines to have a little talk with the realtor. Especially after she notices that the heart is still beating.

2. When their home planet is threatened by a rogue asteroid, the dying Queen Finella sends her only daughter, Shirel to lead their people to colonize a new planet. But evil prince Blihat takes this chance to seize power by sabotaging her ship.

3. Janine Blacklow's father sent the girl away to be raised by relatives. Years later, a lawyer announces she has inherited her father's home, a ramshackle mansion with hidden doors and walls that talk. Literally. At night voices of the past repeat things said long ago, revealing the terrible crimes and sinister secrets Mr. Blacklow thought would never come to light. Or is Janine losing her mind?

4. When a man named Home drifts into town with a violin, no one pays much attention. But when Home plays the violin, the listeners are all transformed into animals. And when Home tries to reverse the spell, he discovers that the violin will no longer play! Can he remedy the situation in time to save the town from approaching war?

5. Deaths aren't uncommon in nursing homes, but the last six people to die in Heartland Grove Rest Home were completely drained of blood. Detective Steve Thingy is beginning to suspect there's more going on here than just old people kicking the bucket.

6. Seventeen-year-old Raina has been accepted at prestigious Williams College, but her domineering mother sees Raina as free maid service if she can convince Raina to stay home and attend Pitt County Community College. Will Raina believe Mom's claim that she's dying of cancer, and give up her dream of escaping Pittsfield?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

At the cost of one man's happiness, the town of Geschlos [That sounds like Gestapo. Everyone named Hitler changed their name, and I suspect Geschlos is now Godville. ] is protected by magic from the terrors that plague the rest of the world.

While Kazi loves her peaceful hometown, [Kazi looks like Nazi. I'm sensing a theme. Have you been watching the History Channel?] she is also drawn to the outside world, and when a strangely attractive legendary man [named Neville Chamberlain] arrives, she takes the opportunity to leave, knowing this chance would [will] not come again for fifty years. [How does she know this? Is that the legend? No one can leave town unless they slip out through the portal that opens up when this legendary guy shows up every fifty years?]

At first Home is an enigma, a drifter with no home to call his own and only his violin – and now Kazi – for company. [Whoa. I thought Kazi took the opportunity to leave when Home arrived. So how are they suddenly together? Are they in town or out?] However, the violin is no ordinary instrument, and Kazi soon learns what terrible power it possesses. In a fit of anger Home plays a dark song that transformers [transforms] the listeners, including Kazi, into animals. [Who are the other listeners?]

Regretting what he has done, Home tries to reverse the spell, but his violin will no longer play. In order to restore both the violin and Kazi to their former selves, Home will have to revisit the dark places of his past, [How does he know this? If my guitar suddenly wouldn't play, I wouldn't revisit the dark places of my past.] and he does not have much time. Geschlos's barrier is already weakening and without Home's ability to reinforce it, the war spreading across the world could very well destroy the town once and for all.



Wild guess: Home shows up every fifty years to reinforce the magic barrier that protects the town from terrors and to let those who wish to leave get out. Presumably Home is the man referred to in the first sentence, so keeping the town safe makes him unhappy. (Personally, if I had to work only one week out of every fifty years I'd be ecstatic.)

Why doesn't Home just stay in town? Where does he go for fifty years? Wild guess: He'd like to stay in town, but he has to go recharge his magic violin and it takes twenty-five years to get to the charging center.

I would think that if Home is legendary, Kazi would know a lot about him. Yet she seems to have known nothing about his violin. And calling him "strangely attractive" sounds like she had no idea what he looked like.

This is nothing but a plot summary. You need a paragraph at the beginning or end telling us the title, word count, genre. I can't tell if Kazi is 8, 18, or 40, so I can't tell if it's for kids, teens or adults.

When you get turned into an animal, do you have your human intelligence and memories? If so, does anyone get turned into a parrot? It would be cool if someone got turned into a parrot and said, "Hey, WTF?!!!"

I think I'd start by clearly stating the legend, assuming the legendary man is legendary because he's associated with a legend. (Whether I should call it a legend when it actually happens, and often enough that people can remember the last time it happened, is open to discussion.) Then bring in Kazi. If Kazi and Home never leave the town, there's no need to mention that Kazi wants to. Focus on the danger and the plan to avert it.

I think Home is the title, as it was the subject line of the email when this was sent in. It's a pretty bland title. It's also a pretty bland name for the character. Maybe you should call him Stradivarius.


alaskaravenclaw said...

I would like to read #3.

Anonymous said...

This had to be the real plot, it's easy to see how the others could work as novels. This one has me scratching my head. Eh? She longs to leave home so she hooks up with some wizard who can't manage his magic so suddenly she's a dog and he is bumbling around in search of a fix for his broken magical thingy -- and he better hurry because bad baddies are about to destroy the world and they can only be stopped by his dog-girlfriend and his idiotic self.

I think you left out some key info. It might help to decide which of these two characters to focus on, as it seems you switch protagonists midway through. Also, naming the guy something else might be a good idea.

batgirl said...

I'm guessing the town's name is from the German geschlossen, meaning 'shut'.
While I dislike name nitpicking, since character names are easily changed by agents or editors, the author might want to consider that Kazi (also spelt khazi, kharzie, karsey, karzey, karzy) is Brit slang for a lavatory or toilet.
Though if the culture uses German pronunciation, Kazi would be pronounced more like Katsi.

More relevantly, who is this story about? It starts with Kazi, but she never even gets to leave town. The character who takes action is Home - is the story about him? If so, you might want to reflect that in the query, and cut Kazi unless she does something besides being turned into an animal.

vkw said...

"It's also a pretty bland name for the character. Maybe you should call him Stradivarius.

Moaner. . .

Here's the two major problems in the query - as I can tell from what we have here.

1. We know nothing about the legend.

2. Fifty years is too short of a time to forget the details of a big-deal legend. Most people who are fifty or older can remember what happened fifty years ago or at least the headlines and recite it to their children. The children usually get it wrong when they tell their children.

3. What so bad on the outside? What's so bad on the inside? Give us some reason to care.

ok that's three so sue me.


Chicory said...

Gotta say, #1 is pretty intriguing.

As for the real plot, is this by any chance a `Pied Piper of Hamlin' retelling? If so, you might want to say so. (If not, my apologies. I'm a huge fan of fairytale retellings, so I could be seeing potential echoes where none exist.

150 said...

Why is Kazi in this query? Why is Kazi in this BOOK? That's not snark or rhetorical; I can't see her role in the plot from the query. Only Home seems to do things. If Kazi is the protagonist, she should do things. If she does things, they should be in the query. Specifically.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

The vagueness of this query is making what could well be an interesting story seem dull and inscrutable. Home is so mysterious that I don't understand why he is important or why he does what he does. I don't know why he's so unhappy, why he gets angry and plays the dark song, who besides Kazi is transformed by the song (it sounds like it's the people of Geschlos, but didn't Home and Kazi leave Geschlos?), ot why Home later regrets his actions. More detail is going to make this a much stronger query.

I'd dump the first sentence. Netter to have an explanation for what the town is being protected from and why it's costing Home his happiness than a single sentence opener that is more confusing than intriguing.

I agree with 150 that Kazi's role in the story is unclear. I feel like she's mostly there to provide a point of view to right from, someone who can meet and learn about Home for the readers. That's fine, but she still needs to have some reason to be there. If she's not going to do much, maybe the query should focus more on Home and how Kazi becoming his travelling companion impacts him.

Is there a reason why Home's violin stops working? I'd guess that it's because he used it for wicked purposes, but without an explanation, it feels like the violin stops working because there wouldn't be a story if it didn't. Some hint of what causes the violin to go silent will make the event feel less like a plot contrivance.

BuffySquirrel said...

If I left my nice safe home town and got plunged into a war, being turned into an animal might be the least of my worries. Unless of course I was an edible animal. Yet the war is only referenced briefly. Are they able to wander around in spite of it? Wars tend to bring with them lots of people who want to know who you are and what your business is, and whether you're working for the enemy. Also, you know, danger.

Who makes Home angry? Why does he take it out on his audience? Why is his magic broken and how's he proposing to fix it?

Jo-Ann said...

Is it just me, or does this sound like a fake plot?

arhooley said...

That first sentence identifies a problem: someone is unavoidably unhappy. I never hear about that problem again for the rest of the query.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Jo-Ann, I don't think it's fake, but it may be overfull. The animals problem on top of the Brigadoon problem may be too much plot.

I wrote a too-much-plot manuscript recently and was unable to sell it. It's an easy mistake to make.

However, I can't really say it's a mistake this writer has made, without having seen the actual manuscript. (That's why I didn't make this comment before.)

This is why (one of the reasons) it's so important to be able to sum one's manuscript up in a 20 word sentence. If you've overstuffed your plot you won't be able to to do it.