Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Face-Lift 934

Guess the Plot

Outcasts of Velrune

1. In a totally unprecedented twist, it turns out that the gritty underground resistance to a feelgood totalitarian society is actually where it's at. The kickass heroine doesn't know whom to trust. And the fate of a planet hangs in the balance.

2. Kal'Ta'Rel, Herenvas, and Jolue are sentenced to hang for the murder of popular Dike Nakora. But before they can swing, the wizard KarKaChel frees them, sending them stumbling down the street. Now all they have to do is kill that pesky demon, Archy.

3. When the frontier planet of Velrune decides to clean up its act, it banishes a prostitute, a procuress, a drunk, and an infamous gambler. The four hapless Outcasts, led by the gambler, meet up with a pair of runaway lovers. The rest is history. If you can call something that happens in the future history.

4. Three Velrunian criminals are exiled to the Gohr prison planet, Lycus IV. Of course, what passes as major crime on Velrune (spitting on the sidewalk, undertipping a waiter) doesn't exactly prepare one to live among mass murderers and cannibals. Can these three plucky outcasts not only thrive, but rise to lead a revolution?

5. On a distant planet known as Velrune, humans are supposedly coexisting with Lacarna, a race of human-like beings with cat features. But the humans have enslaved the Lacarna, and a plot is afoot to wipe them out. It's up to two teens, one a human and the other a Lacarna, to prevent genocide . . . and find true love.

6. The nerds and fat kids and skaters are high school outcasts on Earth, but on Velrune it's the athletes and preppies and beautiful people who are outcast. Can Muffy and Landon show the world that there's no stigma to being being attractive and popular?

Original Version

My 84,000-word novel, Outcasts of Velrune, is a fantasy adventure set in its own world [We assume a book is set in its own world.] and features two races, Humans and Lacarna. [The first sentence of a query isn't the place to work in the number of races your novel "features." I'm sure Dan Brown's query didn't proclaim in sentence 1 that "The Da Vinci Code features one race: Humans."] The Humans are like us, [We assume Humans are like us.] with the exception of a few that live for centuries. [If the only difference is that a few of them get older than we do, you're spending too much time contrasting them to us. Basically, they're us.] The Lacarna are Humanlike, [Okay, I think I've got it now. The Humans are like humans, whereas the Lacarna are Humanlike.] but have ears, tails and claws similar to cats. [Ah, the Lacarna are like the performers in Cats.] [Saying a race is Humanlike when it has ears, tails and claws like cats is like saying they're catlike but with arms, legs and heads like humans.] [Or, to get my point across more clearly, it's like saying, They're Humanlike, but with an elephant face, a giraffe neck and a stegosaurus tail.] A few Lacarna can transform into large [Humanlike] panthers. [Out of curiosity, are we going to get to some characters and a plot?] Both races can learn to manipulate the spirits that exist in all living things [and are fascinated by yarn, while neither race has an interest in horticulture or Creole cooking].

The story centers on Maxwell, a 16 year old Human boy, and Evangeline, a 15 year old Lacarna girl. When Max is 6, his father is murdered by bandits. [Once you've declared Max to be 16, you might want to use past tense for the part when he's 6.] Max is raised by his god-father in a small village where he meets and befriends Evangeline. It is Max’s goal to become a Protector, like his father before him. The Protectors are the peacekeepers of Velrune. [Also known as the SS.]

It is not long on Max’s journey to join the Protectors that he learns their ideal [idea?] of peacekeeping is to enslave the Lacarna. [This is the plot of Avatar. Are the Lacarna blue?] He and Eve must both confront the ideals and rules between the races to maintain their friendship. ["Confront the ideals and rules between the races" means nothing to me. Do you mean they must endure racial prejudice?] Once Max does join them [He still joins the Protectors after learning that they're enslaving the Lacarna?] he is given a simple mission that leads him to other characters who sit on one end or the other of the Lacarna/Human issue. [I'd rather know what his mission is than that it leads to his meeting other characters.]

These other characters relay [relate?] the history of Velrune and the differences of the two races. ["They have tails and claws. We don't."] A plot by the Protectors to eliminate the Lacarna is uncovered and Max even learns that his father was in league with another Human to overthrown [overthrow] the Protector leadership.

In the end Max chooses to help set the Lacarna free and destroys the leaders of the Protectors. [He's a kid. Are his spirit-manipulating super powers stronger than the Protectors' powers?] As he and his friends set out to reorganize the Protectors [That was the problem with the Protectors: poor organization.] they are greeted by a mysterious woman who claims her kind created both races and placed them into a small section of the planet. She had been watching the two races to see if they could learn to live together. With Max’s recent actions she decides they are ready to enter into the rest of the World so opens a gap in the surrounding mountains. [Lemme get this straight. The mysterious woman has been watching to see if the two races can live together. When one race enslaves the other she's still on the fence. But when one 16-year-old kid decides to destroy a few of his own kind to impress a girl, this proves that the races are compatible?] We leave Max and Eve [Maybe he should be called Adam to avoid comparisons with the biblical Max and Eve.] ready to venture into the new world as an accidental kiss brings the two closer together. [Sorry, I didn't mean to kiss you. I . . . tripped.]


We need less about the races and a stronger focus on the main characters.

These sound more like different species than races. Are they identical other than the cat features?

So the mysterious woman's people decided to try an experiment: create two races, identical except that one of them has tails and claws? To determine what? Do the Lacarna lack opposable thumbs? Because all other things being equal, it seems like those claws would have given them a big advantage over the Humans.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This is a synopsis rather than a query. The writing is awkward in places, and the voice is too distant for us to really feel anything about the characters.

none said...

I hope the novel doesn't have problems similar to those in the query. As this stands, you're going to have a hard time getting anyone to ask for pages. There's just too many mistakes.

Who is the protagonist? What's their goal? What obstacles do they face? What's at stake?

Sixteen-year-old Max sets out with his Lacarna friend Evangeline to join the Protectors, an organisation entrusted with keeping the peace on their home planet of Verlune. On the way, he learns that the Protectors plan to enslave the Lacarna, a humanlike race with feline traits.

That kinda thing.

Anonymous said...

Wait, how long have they been living in this small area of the world? Woulnd't people have noticed they can't seem to access the rest of the world?

Why does he join the Protectors even after he finds out they're jerks?

Anonymous said...

The Avatar similarity hit me square between the eyes, too, at this line: Both races can learn to manipulate the spirits that exist in all living things.

Author, you need to learn the fine art of writing like a writer, but not too much like a writer. Your query sounds like a not-very-good communicator talking about this weird book they just read. "So the other guys are sort of human except they have tails and claws, and they're kind of sexy, because the good guy falls in love with one of them. And he's trying to join the police force, except it turns out the police actually kill the other guys. But then in the very end, this other lady comes along who made ALL of them -- yeah, she's like a god -- and she says it was a big test to see if they could get along, and now that they can she tears down this big mountain that was keeping them from the rest of the world. But you never get to see the rest of the world, it just ends there."

I suggest you read some professional book reviews and movie reviews to get an idea of the style you're going for. Something easy yet polished.

Dave Fragments said...

I wish writers wouldn't be afraid of the stories they write. This is a world of cat people, say it and let it be at that. I write stories with anthropomorphic characters in them all the time and I never apologize for the anthromorph. There's usually a reason for the anthromorph, like a deer hunter getting zapped into being a deer anthromorph and being the hunted. ANd when I sell that story to an editor, I treat the characters as perfectly normal.

Maxwell, a 16 y/o orphan and member of the Protector class on Velrune, falls in love with Eve, a feline humanoid native of the enclave. Together, they discover a plot by the Protector Class to keep the natives enslaved.

That's rather a passionless start of a sales pitch but it's a short start.

Khazar-khum said...

I can't help but wonder if the Lacarna were enslaved by a few well-placed bags of catnip. Or is that what you bring on a first date?

Dave is right: Call them cat people. Don't pussyfoot around.

Anonymous said...

=Both races can learn to manipulate the spirits that exist in all living things [and are fascinated by yarn, while neither race has an interest in horticulture or Creole cooking]=

EE, you caused me to spew Diet Pepsi all over my keyboard! Author: this may be a fine book, because it all depends on the writing, but at the moment it sounds like a Mess. And why is a cat-girl named "Evangeline"? Is it set in the Forest Primeval?

Go ahead, call her C'Mell - you know you want to!!

Ink and Pixel Club said...

Kill most of paragraph 1. The various abilities of the two species never come into play your query, so you don't need to mention them. Start with Max. Max wants to be a Protector like his father was. He's also friends, or maybe more than friends, with a Lacarna girl. Humans and Lacarna don't get along, so the friendship doesn't make life easy for either of them. Maybe Max believes that as a Protector, he'll be able to help the two races understand each other and ensure safety and justice for everyone. That's your starting point: Max and what he wants.

Like EE said, the order of events doesn't make sense. Max seems to uncover two possibly unrelated plots, he joins the Protectors even after he learns that they're enslaving or going to enslave the Lacarna, and the sentence about Max and Eve confronting ideals and rules feels out of place. Tell it so your readers can see how each event leads to the next.

Is the middle part of the book just Max meeting a lot of different people and talking to them about history?

Since this is a query, you probably want to leave out Max defeating the Protector leaders. Instead, lay out some reasons why Max might not choose to help the Lacarna and hint at what he's up against and how he might be able to win if he does help them. Right now, Max has tons of reasons to take down the Protectors - they're corrupt and evil, they're enslaving a race that includes his friend/potential girlfriend, his father was trying to overhtrow them, but no clear reason not to. If helping the Lacarna is a hard task or a hard decision for Max, tell us why. I also don't have a clue how Max overthrows the Protectors. You don't need to tell us exactly how he does it, but you do want to point out some assets he has that might help him to do it.

I have no idea what the mysterious woman is doing in this story. It seems like she just shows up to give the heroes a pat on the back for doing the right thing and grant them a reward which doesn't really mean anything to me. Why is it important that hey gain access to the rest of the planet, especially when I didn't know they were confined in the first place? Leave her out of the query.

Anonymous said...

After reading this I have no desire to go and read the novel. It's just... not interesting, and appears worryingly devoid of, well, a real plot.

Now, perhaps the novel is pure genius and if put into production would over sell the bible in a week, I don't know. But if it is than this query is not selling it.

Characters, motivation, plot and a lot less 'world building'. Honestly, if we don't care about the characters and what they are doing then why are we going to care about their cat or not cat-ness.

Xiexie said...

I agree with Dave. Own your cat-people. Explanations to fantasy/scifi agents won't be needed. They know the genre. Cat-people aren't farfetched.

Anywho, your query needs a voice. Right now it's so far removed from the story it just comes across bland and much too explanative (or explanatory? -- Are those the same word?--).

Buffy and Dave have given good examples of how the query should show us the protags, the stakes against him, the basic setup of the plot. Go in that vein.