Thursday, July 14, 2011

Face-Lift 928


Guess the Plot

The Sin Eaters

1. Environmentalists consider it a sin that endangered species are so rare. Bubba Richards and his redneck friends agree: those critters should at least be medium rare to bring out all the juicy flavors.

2. Every millennium or so the “Sin Count” reaches its limit and God initiates the Apocalypse. The world has already ended and begun again 665 times. Each time the Sin Eaters have failed to defeat the Sin Army. Is the 666th time the charm?

3. A rash of missing person cases strikes Fluvanna County, Virginia at about the same time detective Anna Robertson's new boyfriend stocks his freezer--and hers--with ground beef. Would it be rude, while eating his tacos, to ask him where he shops ?

4. They're called "Devil's food cake" and "Deviled eggs" for a reason: the secret ingredient is the blood of innocent victims. A trail of bodies points Inspector Jarrett toward a secret society of chefs on a culinary journey to sample all foods so decadent they're sinful.

5. Amy Williams is the world's most unusual vampire, but can she get a date? The beauty gene never even sniffed in her direction. Maybe it's time to head to the gym and set sights on brooding rogue cop Drake Heattrew. If he ever finds out she sucks sin out of mortals, he'll book 'er - but by then, Amy might just have reformed this bad boy.

6. When Jason attempts an escape from prison, he is hit by a runaway golf cart. In limbo he meets Satan who offers him a deal; eat seven people who embody the seven deadly sins, or rot with him in hell. Jason’s a vegan. Will he accept the deal or barter for a vegetarian alternative?


Original Version

Dear Evilest of Editors,

When Archangel Michael drives the getaway-car after Dove accidentally kills her foster brother, Dove knows her life is about to change. [If the death was an accident, why is there a getaway car?] [Also, shouldn't an archangel be able to come up with a better escape plan than driving away in a car?] But how could she have expected she would soon be responsible for saving the world? [I don't see any need for that paragraph. The foster brother killing is never mentioned again, and the rest of it is general.]

Every millennium or so the “Sin Count” reaches its limit and God decides to initiate the Apocalypse. [I'm pretty sure this doesn't happen every thousand years on Earth. You might be able to sell every ten thousand years.] The world has already ended and begun again 665 times. [If we accept the first sentence, that means Apocalypses have been happening for 665,000 years. Which means the Sin Count was reaching its limit before man even existed.] Dove learns she is part of a legendary group called the Sin Eaters, who are reincarnated on the eve of every Armageddon to attempt to save the world from its violent end. They have never yet succeeded. [I have a non-violent solution. Every millennium or so, raise the Sin Count ceiling.]

Dove is brought to a secret encampment deep in the Rocky Mountains where she is reunited with a variety of battle-weary, but hopeful, allies she has known for eternity, as well as an eccentric army of “End-of-Worlders.” But they have a crisis to prepare for: the first stage of the Apocalypse is going to start soon, and when it does an army of sin incarnate is going to storm the earth. [That sentence shouldn't have a "but" at the beginning.] If they don’t defeat it before the seventh stage ends, God will destroy the world. [This "God" character is a real downer. Is this the same God so many people think is hot stuff?]

Not only are they fighting a Sin Army, they also have to deal with the numerous trials God sends their way (famine, earthquakes, rivers of blood, etc.), and an Antichrist. Is it any wonder they have never yet succeeded? [You'd think the Antichrist would send the famine and rivers of blood. Is the Antichrist the good guy?]

But Dove is determined to triumph, and throws herself into training and plotting. She would probably have more success if Michael, her soul-mate, wasn’t so hell-bent on staying away from her; [What is it she's not having success at?] he believes their relationship is one of the reasons the Sin Eaters have continuously failed. [If you've failed at something 665 times and you still don't know what you're doing wrong, blame it on your woman.] But just when the group’s chances are looking up, someone in their number finally gets fed up with God’s antics, and joins ranks with the Antichrist, deciding the world might be better off under different rule. [This person who gets fed up with God's antics should be the main character. Anyone with the guts to show God the error of His ways deserves star billing.]

Dove and the Sin Eaters continue to attempt to vanquish the world of evil, but is it finally time to take the world back from God as well? [It was time during the Roman Empire. What are we waiting for?]

The Sin Eaters is a YA urban fantasy, complete at 75,000 words.

Thank you very much for your time!


Notes

We don't need this much information. Dump the first paragraph and the fourth. Rewrite the fifth, getting rid of Michael and focusing on how things are going well, who betrays them to join the Antichrist, and what they plan to do about it.

Possibly I shouldn't bring up the math problems. Possibly readers should accept this as an alternate history of Earth, in which everyone was killed off a thousand years ago, and the population has reached seven billion since then. But it seems when a fantasy is set on Earth, and you ask the reader to accept the existence of Sin Eaters and a Sin Army, that you might want to ground the book in reality as much as possible. It might as well be another planet if nothing is recognizable other than the Rocky Mountains. I can accept that there's an Apocalypse every thousand years on the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV, because I don't know any better.

You'd think Hitler would have pushed the Sin Count to Apocalyptic levels all by himself, but we're still here. Maybe Rupert Murdoch will push it over the top.

29 comments:

batgirl said...

This plot and version of Christian theology would work really well in manga or anime, maybe not so much as print fiction.
On the other hand, Angelfire has just as ludicrous apocalyptic pseudo-history, and it's a massive bestseller, so...

Matthew MacNish said...

All of a sudden it's YA at the end? I didn't pick up on that at all until you said it. You might want to share Dove's age at the beginning.

And I'm loving the idea of sin incarnate. I'm picturing a lot of nudity.

150 said...

I always wonder about the market for these stories. People who think the Bible is baloney will think this story is baloney, and people who do believe in the Bible will ALSO think this story is baloney, because it shares no resemblance but the window dressing.

Either way, try to focus the query on your main character and her choices and their consequences, rather than the world-building.

Anonymous said...

I think this story sounds like it could be good, but you need to work on some of the things the others have said here. I kinda almost don't care who wins the war because I dont' care about the characters. Even if they fail, God will start the world over again, and so life will continue. Also, does Dove ever remember that she's fought this battle before? If she doesn't remember, does anyone remember that they fought before? Is she just a regular human or is she an archangel too?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I dunno. I mean, sure, homo sapiens is less than a third as old as the author suggests, and sure, there was no noticeable cataclysm c. 1000 A.D., and sure, the mid-to-late 20th century could probably have filled up the "sin count" all on its own. But there is a rabid YA audience out there that Does. Not. Care.

To me the Teen Section is just a grim, black-jacketed obstacle en route to the ladies' room. But I suspect this is the kind of thing that's in it. And that stuff sells.

That said, it's a crowded, competitive market. I'm not sure why Dove has to kill her foster brother. It makes it harder for us to sympathize with her.

Evil Editor said...

If the Sin Eaters win, does the cycle finally end, or does the Sin Count just drop to zero and start building again?

If it takes a whole millennium for billions of people to max out the sin meter, it seems it would have taken eons back when the population of Earth was relatively small. Wait, I'm forgetting about the Greeks.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

I agree with Anonymous; I find it hard to care about whether the Sin Eaters win because they've already lost hundreds of times before. And as EE notes, we don't really kow what will happen if they do win. In stories where there's an epic clash between good and evil with the fate of the entire world at stake, I often feel like I'm being asked to root for the good guys simply because they're identified as the good guys and not because I've come to care about them or agree with their point of view.

I would follow150's suggestions as well as EE's. Refocus the query so we can see why you're choosing write about Dove as opposed to any other character you mentioned.

Evil Editor said...

I can't agree with the claim that this is what sells to teens. No character is identified as a teen; and while the main character may be a teen in the backstory, the problems she faces are famine, earthquakes, rivers of blood and the antichrist, not teenaged boys and school and peer pressure. Plus, once the plot kicks in she is a sin eater who has known her allies for eternity. What characters would a teen identify with? Are the other sin eaters and the army of eccentric end-of-worlders teens? Most of the characters in a book for teens should be teens. If there are several teens in the book, get them into the query.

Maybe if God turns out to be a good guy despite killing off everyone every 1000 years, and the antichrist is defeated permanently, it would appeal to a publisher of inspirational books.

Matthew MacNish said...

Maybe the antichrist is a petulant adolescent, EE? Oh no, wait. That's my kid.

Dave said...

There are some thoughts out there that this book:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/14/night-circus-david-heyman_n_898187.html?ir=Books

"The Night Circus" is the next Harry Potter, Twilight or Hunger Games book.

It definitely has kids in love, teen romance, angst and magic.

If you read the article, the story is described not in Apocalyptic terms but in Teen Angst terms. Even the less successful "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief" and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," Cirque Du Phreak and like very strange "Zombieland" deal with teen romance as a major plot point in all of their struggles.

I think that's where this query misses the target. It seems to emphasize the apocalyptic and metaphysical aspects of the story at the expense of the teenagers story.

vkw said...

Oh my the minions are ripe today and all so very helpful. You guys so crack me up.

I think there's a story here. But, the story needs to be put over there. . . meaning, don't set it on Earth.

Put in another world. I was thinking of Peter Bret's demon triology or the Hunger Games.


The problem with the story is that when you set it on Earth, we (your reader), think it should have some resemblance to Earth and our history. When you mention characters from the Bible, I think it should have some resemblance to a known interpretation of the Bible. And, when you mention the God of the Bible, I likewise believe it should resemble that God.

So put it on . . . the world built by you, redefine what a sin is - because I'm thinking that's kind of random - make it like "every time the 666,000 person is murdered, the God of Harold punishes the sinful world by . . . blah, blah. They always fail but being perservering angels they never give up.

And, you have to give us a reason to like your characters. Right now, I don't, but I find the premise interesting.

arhooley said...

I was trying to invent ways around the timing problem, such as God restarting time itself on every apocalypse, but nothing works. I really think the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV is the solution, for several reasons.

You've also got a problem with theology. It makes no sense that the infinitely benevolent God creates the antichrist and despatches him to sow misery and evil in the world while angels and other creatures run around trying to vanquish sin. This God seems quite defeatist and perverse. And why does he use this antichrist agent instead of pulling the plug on the world as easily as he created it? Change God to a Gohr system authority with human foibles and limitations.

The progatonists seem trivial in comparison to the challenge:

Challenge: Save the world
Antagonist: Antichrist (and Supreme Being?)
Tactics: Getaway car, training in secret hideaway (known or not to Supreme Being?)
Personality traits: Those of ordinary teen girl, including possible world-endangering flirtatiousness

The concept of a gang that loves their little world despite its woes, and fights to preserve it against a fed-up Daddy who's about to pull the car over and make everyone get out and walk home, appeals to me -- especially when the gang is in the position of saving all the bad kids who ruin it for everybody. I think you need to liberate this concept from the logical and doctrinal constraints of our world and our mythology.

Sammy Roe said...

Thank you so much for all of your helpful comments! I definitely see where you guys are coming from and I think I'm going to incorporate some of this stuff into the book, and not just the query.

By millennium I meant "really really long time", I wasn't thinking a literal 1000 years, but I'm realizing how dumb that was of me to use that word....

Would it seem more believable if it was only the seventh time?

And there are six main characters, all in their teens or earl twenties, but would it be a better idea to simply label it as fantasy? Dove herself is seventeen, and the romance with Michael (who is 19) is a very large component of the book. She killed her foster brother (I thought the "foster" reference would have made it clear she was underage?) in self defense. I would hope this appeals to teens, as I am a teen myself, but you are right in that the teenage themes in this book definitely need to be made clearer in the query.

If the Sin Eaters win the world will continue without a Sin Count.

Would this book appeal more if I took out all christian theology and invented some vengeful goddess? Because I could definitely do that, maybe mix in some Greek mythology.

And Evil Editor you are both incredibly helpful and witty. Thank you very much for posting my query and editing it.

Can I put up my revised version here for more input?

Thank you all so much for your help!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so maybe it's like this: maybe the author didn't realize they were restarting the world every 1000 years. Maybe they were thinking a millennium is more than that. So, taking that into account, maybe the they were going with EVERYTHING starts over. So when EE says, "If it takes a whole millennium for billions of people to max out the sin meter, it seems it would have taken eons back when the population of Earth was relatively small. Wait, I'm forgetting about the Greeks" maybe that's not what the author was going for. Maybe the whole world starts over. So the earth is created, He makes dinos, cavemen and what not and then civilization just goes as far as it can before the limit is reached.

I dunno though. Maybe I'm putting too much thought into this.

arhooley said...

Author asks:

Would this book appeal more if I took out all christian theology and invented some vengeful goddess? Because I could definitely do that, maybe mix in some Greek mythology.

I'd definitely take out the Christian theology, and I'd still relocate to another planet because I don't think you've got the time problem solved. Do your "rules" include starting from scritch-scratch, with evolution and all that jazz? Archaeologists date the first primates back to 65 million years ago, which would get you into unfathomable time-spans.

Or if you're sidestepping science and going with something imaginative, like Zeus restarting with Pandora every millenium, that could be hard to square with the evidence of evolution.

So I stick with my advice to move to another planet, and yes, reduce the number of repopulations for simplicity's sake.

Anonymous said...

No, "Foster brother" does not neccesarily mean underage. It might mean that her family takes on foster kids, and she accepts them into her family as brothers or sisters.

A lot of adult offspring return to the nest for a few years to save money (that would otherwise be wasted on useless stuff like rent and utilities), so she could be a twenty-something living with parents and a gaggle of annoying little foster sibs.

Your comment suggests that she's a foster child, too. If it's pertinent to the plot, then say so!

batgirl said...

Hi Sammy - I don't know whether you need to cut the Christian theology or just put it much more in the background of your query. Either way, my opinion would be that you need to foreground a)that it is YA; b)the emotional story, especially the love angle.

I mentioned Angelfire earlier, and you seem to be aiming for a similar market. Let me quote here the successful query letter for Angelfire, kindly posted by CAM on the Absolute Write website:

"When sixteen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers--monstrous creatures who devour more than just human souls--she finds herself on the frontlines of a supernatural war and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

"A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of the Preliator, the only one with the strength to fight the reapers, and he is her Guardian, an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Askel has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her--an assassin who has already killed her once.

"While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting extracurriculars, she and Will discover Askel is searching for the Messiah, a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Askel plans to use the Messiah as a weapon against her, but she knows it's too powerful for anyone to control. Now, she must face an army of Askel's most frightening reapers, prevent the Messiah from consuming every last soul on the planet, and uncover the secrets of her past lives--including truths that may be too frightening to remember. To complicate things even more, Ellie starts to fall for Will, who has a few secrets of his own. (Not to hate or anything, but this Preliator gig really should come with an instruction manual.)"

vkw said...

Dear Author,

Indeed make your own world. Make your own God and redefine "sin" to something more tangible.

Here's the problem with just saying sin - it's different for everyone. We can talk about the big 10 . . . but then we would have to debate is killing someone in war, murder? If you tell your mom she looks pretty, but in reality looks like she needs a tummy tuck and face lift, are you lying? If you over-admire your brother's wife, are you coveting? But what if you would never act on your thoughts?

Then what about that great commandment? The one about treating everyone in a manner you want to be treated? So when you get cut off in traffic and gesture your frustration, have you sinned?
What if you don't mind be gestured at? Now have you sinned?
Some definitions of sin would hit the sin counter on the first day others may not for "a very long, long time."

I think it's a bad idea to base a novel haphazardly on Christianity because you're going to really tick someone off. Look at Dan Brown and the Da Vinci code as an example. Sure he got away with it. . . . but why should you bother when you can make your own world and call it a fantasy?

vkw

Sammy Roe said...

Anonymous you got it right, the whole world does start over again, everything.

and about the Dan Brown comment: why would that be a problem? I am perfectly happy with pissing people off. Look how many books he sold! No such thing as bad publicity in my world...

Well, I really don't want to take the time to qualify exactly what "sin" constitutes as in my query, it is explained in the book though. Do you think the confusion of what "sin" is is really a big enough problem to stop somebody from asking for more pages?

I think that everyone is right though in that this loose christian theology won't appeal to a lot of YA readers, so I am changing it to a Greek sort of theology, I don't really want to create another planet because everything is the same except there are a few goddesses in the mix.

batgirl, thank you for posting that query, that was really helpful.

I'll post the new query soon, thank you everyone for your help!

Matthew MacNish said...

The word you may have been looking for when you wrote millennium was eon. You can even get fancy/archaic and spell it aeon.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Late in, and the author has already decided to give the book a face-lift and take the focus off the Christian theology, so basically just talking to myself here.

I was under the impression the apocalypse is a good thing. Not for all the sinners, of course, but for those destined to be saved. You know, everyone's gonna die anyway and the sinners will go to hell -- isn't the apocalypse just a way to get it all cleaned up at once? The people involved get a few fewer years on earth, but otherwise they end up in heaven or hell -- where they'd be going regardless. What's to fight for? Why is stopping the apocalypse such a big deal?

Yes, if the story line is compelling otherwise and I like the characters, I'll overlook tweaked theology, but it seems it needs to be addressed front and center. Or not be incorporated. Which is what the author appears to have decided to do. So moot point anyway ;o)

Sammy Roe said...

So new version, switched the theology around, feedback is very, very much appreciated!

Dear Evilest of Editors,

Shuttled from foster home to foster home for her entire life, 17-year- old Dove has dealt with her fair share of troubles; but when the shockingly handsome Archangel Michael practically kidnaps her and tells her it’s up to them and a few other teenagers to save the world, she realizes her life has gone from troublesome, to catastrophic.

Dove quickly regrets her life of mischief and petty crime when she realizes the goddess Cyrene has been meticulously counting the Earth’s sins. This count has reached its purported “limit”, giving her leave to initiate the apocalypse, something she’s already gleefully accomplished twice. This is the third incarnation of Dove’s planet, and Cyrene is getting bored with restarting it.

Cyrene’s slightly more beneficial sister Calista has gifted the world with one last saving grace: a group of angels, one of whom is Dove, called the Sin Eaters, who are reincarnated on the eve of every apocalypse and have the ability to save the earth from its sorry end. But they have already failed twice, and on this third and final time the stakes are higher than ever, because the world won’t simply be restarted this time; it will be ended forever.

Dove is brought to a secret encampment deep in the Rocky Mountains where she is reunited with a variety of quirky teenagers (who claim to be angels, but Dove as her doubts), as well as an eccentric army of “End-of-Worlders” (who knew those homeless guys with “the end is nigh” signs actually had a point.) Dove tries to remain optimistic about this quirky clan and prepares for the impending crisis: the first stage of the Apocalypse is going to start soon, and when it does Calista’s army of sin incarnate is going to storm the earth.

Lifting her tired, worried spirits is Michael, her soul mate in this life and every other. His noble nature sometimes impedes this relationship however. He believes that their romance might be part of the reason the Sin Eaters have continuously failed. Maybe if he wasn’t more concerned about saving Dove than saving the world the Sin Eaters would have already succeeded. Dove doesn’t buy this theory though, and has no qualms about seducing him all over again. After all, if you know the world is ending, how can you let the love of your life (well, lives) continue to ignore you?

The Sin Eaters is a YA urban fantasy, complete at 75,000 words.

Thank you all so much for your help!

Evil Editor said...

You want this to fit on a page, and as stuff like date and salutation and closing and spaces between paragraphs take up space, your plot summary should be about 250 words max. Yours is 400. Cut, cut, cut.

BuffySquirrel said...

Dove's killed someone, and thinks her life is 'about' to change? Is she a bit slow on the uptake?

How much trouble can an army of Sins Incarnate cause? Lots of them would be too lazy to bother fighting, another set would be too busy eating, another too busy looting, another too busy having sex with each other...well, you get the idea.

And why is this taking place in America, anyway? That's only been around for a few hundred years. In God's terms, that's a nanosecond.

Chicory said...

Your new query is much better. I actually understood what was going on this time around, and the goddesses was a lot less distracting.

Anonymous said...

Yep, but maybe take out the Archangel. If you're going with Greek deities, angels become confusing. Michael and the crew could be Furies or stars or something more Greekish, or you could make up your own name.

Sammy Roe said...

here's another one (at exactly 250 words I might add):

Dear Evilest of Editors,

17-year-old Dove is less than thrilled when she is kidnapped by tattooed and motorcycle-driving Michael, a self-proclaimed Sin Eater. The fact that her kidnapper turns out to be her soul-mate is small consolation to the fact that she, as well as a few other unlucky teenagers, are now expected to save the world.

Apparently the goddess Cyrene, has been meticulously counting the Earth’s sins, and unfortunately the world has filled its quota. This gives Cyrene an excuse to initiate the apocalypse, something she’s already gleefully accomplished twice. But this is the third incarnation of Dove’s planet, and Cyrene is getting bored with restarting it.

Michael brings Dove to a secret encampment deep in the Rocky Mountains where she learns that she is one of the six “Sin Eaters” created by Cyrene’s slightly more beneficial sister, goddess Calista. These teenagers are reincarnated on the eve of every Armageddon to defeat the army of sin incarnate that Cyrene sends their way and thereby stopping the destruction of their planet. They have not yet succeeded.

Dove, Michael and the rest of the Sin Eaters frantically devote themselves to training and plotting with a little help from the increasingly cynical Calista. But Dove starts to share her pessimism when she learns that if they fail to defeat Cyrene this time, their world won’t simply be restarted; it will be ended forever.

The Sin Eaters is a YA urban fantasy, complete at 75,000 words.

Thank you very much for your feedback!

Evil Editor said...

Change beneficial to beneficent. And delete every word that ends in ly.

Sammy Roe said...

Dear Evilest of Editors,

17-year-old Dove is less than thrilled when she is kidnapped by tattooed and motorcycle-driving Michael, a self-proclaimed Sin Eater. The fact that her kidnapper turns out to be her soul-mate is small consolation to the fact that she, as well as a few other unlucky teenagers, are now expected to save the world.

The goddess Cyrene has been counting the Earth’s sins, and the world has filled its quota. This gives Cyrene an excuse to initiate the apocalypse, something she’s already accomplished twice. But this is the third incarnation of Dove’s planet, and Cyrene is getting bored with restarting it.

Michael brings Dove to a secret encampment deep in the Rocky Mountains where she learns that she is one of the six “Sin Eaters” created by Cyrene’s more beneficent sister, the goddess Calista. These teenagers are reincarnated on the eve of every Armageddon to defeat the army of sin incarnate that Cyrene sends their way and thereby stopping the destruction of their planet. They have not yet succeeded.

Dove, Michael and the rest of the Sin Eaters devote themselves to training and plotting with a little help from the cynical Calista. But Dove starts to share her pessimism when she learns that if they fail to defeat Cyrene this time, their world won’t be restarted; it will be ended forever.

The Sin Eaters is a YA urban fantasy, complete at 75,000 words.

Any more advice/criticism?