Monday, July 11, 2011
Guess the Plot
1. Potions don't come cheap. Meg has stayed young and beautiful for centuries by cheating mortals out of their hard earned cash. But when her used car business goes under, Meg is forced to take swindling to an even higher level: Infomercials.
2. In the sleepy English town of Swindle Witch, Postmistress Wendelin May sells eye of newt along with stamps and sweets. But when Sir Edward Fezziwig chokes to death on a newt eyeball, Wendelin must turn amateur sleuth to clear her name.
3. Octavia Bly, the last witch in Massachusetts, used to intoxicate people with love potions, poison their soup, fly around at night . . . old-fashioned stuff like that. She loves the 21st century. She's in overpriced real estate, tech companies that make only virtual products, and Internet dating sites. Which brings her to the attention of the Chinese Dragon Society -- a group of witches who want her dead.
4. When a creature kidnaps her parents and sister, Patricia's magic isn't strong enough to get them back. So she accepts an offer of help from a witch named Lillian. But this witch is also a liar and a murderer and a thief, so Patricia isn't sure she can trust her.
5. Investigative journalist Martha Jameson poses as a witch to infiltrate the local Wiccan group, whom she believes are manufacturing amphetamines. Imagine her surprise when they actually turn out to be vampires!
6. The village of Swindle, Massachusetts is known for never letting a wayfarer escape with his shillings. But when the problem comes to the attention of the Bay Colony authorities, the villagers all blame Strange Maggie. Can amateur sleuth Patience Goodbody keep them from stringing Maggie up?
Dear Evil Editor,
At age thirteen, Patricia’s not stupid. She’s known not to follow strangers for years, [Following strangers isn't nearly as dangerous as being followed by strangers. If a 13-year-old followed me around, the only danger would be dying of boredom.] especially ones who admit they’re dangerous. But when an empty-eyed creature steals Patricia’s parents and younger sister on the morning of her birthday, it’s Lillian—a liar, a murderer, a witch and a thief [Aren't those the members of that singing group--The Village of the Damned People.] —who helps her escape. [Why did that sentence begin with "But"? It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the previous sentence. A logical sentence that does start with "But" might be: But one morning a complete stranger tells Patricia that he's dangerous, and . . . she follows him!] [Also, it sounds like Patricia's parents and sister are the ones Lillian should help escape, as they are the ones who were taken.] Patricia runs, and discovers a newly-awakened green magic that glows in her veins, allowing her to see mythical beasts ordinary people ignore [I'm not sure it counts as ignoring them if we can't see them. And I resent being called "ordinary."] —including beings who want her childhood laughter, her taste for chocolate, or her soul.
Lillian’s one of the most feared people in the Otherworld. She can sway emotions with a thought, and Patricia’s felt first-hand how her skin blistered when Lillian grabbed her wrist. But those scalded fingerprints [If anything was scalded it was Patricia's wrist; I'd call the evidence blisters or burns or scars.] prove Lillian’s strong, and all Patricia knows for sure is that allies willing to fight the creature who captured her family are nearly impossible to find. Patricia’s learning about her own magic, but she doesn’t have time to master her illusory and empathy-based powers—she needs to rescue her parents and sister, [Before the creature eats them? Does she know why the creature wanted them?] and only Lillian has the knowledge, power, and vengeful drive to help Patricia save the people she loves most.
I love the way you encourage new writers to continue writing—and keep that ever-essential sense of humor. [Buttering up the recipient of your query letter doesn't help your cause. Unless you're a famous movie star.] Please consider Swindle Witch, an 86,000-word YA contemporary fantasy set in Auburn, Washington. [I got the impression this was set mainly in the Otherworld.]
I have a Master’s degree in English from the University of Utah, and I’m the recipient of several writing awards, including a 1999 Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Award in the fantasy category.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
This is all set-up. You've used your entire query to say: When her parents and sister are kidnapped by an empty-eyed creature, 13-year-old Patricia knows her empathy-based magic isn't developed enough to rescue them, so she accepts an offer of help from Lillian, a powerful--but untrustworthy--witch.
Your plot is what happens next. What's their plan? What's stopping them from carrying it out? What are Lillian's ulterior motives? Is the main plot the rescue or a confrontation between Lillian and Patricia?
I'm told kids like to read about kids who are a little older than they are. So if your main character is 13, your readers might be in the 10 to 12 range, which is not YA. I would call a book in which a 13-year-old must contend with a "creature" and a witch middle grade.