Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Face-Lift 937

Guess the Plot


1. Editing her webpage late at night, 15-year-old Wanda accidentally destroys the intricate network of blog links that supports reality. Now she has until dawn to restore the balance.

2. I am linked, linked to another—soul to soul, mind to mind, power to power. And when the beasts that live beyond the bark find me, I shall be in a race to save our souls. A race I'm not sure I can win.

3. Karenna is a Soul Magnet -- a being who attracts disembodied spirits from a secret realm. In Karenna's case, it's Jaynor, the Prince of the Realm, who was murdered by his evil uncle. Karenna can't shake Jaynor, which makes things awkward in her English class at Centerville High.

4. In an alternate 1850s America, the Lakota Sioux build a fence across the prairies to keep the pioneers out. When a young George Armstrong Custer accidentally gets lost on the west side of the fence, the medicine man Black Hawk, held hostage in Philadelphia, offers to guide the missing youngster home through dreams. And now President Millard Fillmore is having some odd dreams too.

5. Private investigators Amar, Shiv and Chiranveen are quadruplets who communicate telepathically with their dead sister Yami in order to solve crimes in Kolkata. Which comes in handy when American vampires tire of hamburger-flavoured blood and set out to snack on Indian street food vendors.

6. Memoirs of two breakfast sausages, one shipped to Waffle House and the other to McDonalds, and how they remain forever . . . Linked.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor...

Eyes follow my every move. [My sympathies. I, too, must suffer the paparazzi.] They stalk me from every corner of the forest—a forest that lives and breathes by its own set of rules. Rules I don't abide by or even know exist. [If you don't know they exist, how do you know you aren't abiding by them?] But when the beasts that live beyond the bark and between the branches cross into my world, everything changes.

In a blink, the hunt is on—the hunt for me. I'm ripped from the only life I've known for the last seventeen years and plunged into the heart of the forest. Into a world I've never known or imagined. [I usually recommend that authors put their bio at the end of the query and get right to their book. However, your bio sounds like it might be more interesting than your book. Have you considered adding a few characters and turning this into a novel?] A place where a thought is more than an idea, it's a weapon. A weapon I can control. And suddenly those sent to protect me are begging me to fight for the freedom of the Realm, for those who have tapped into the power of the mind—a race of people hunted and controlled by one of their own.

But the forest has other plans. Plans that could destroy the Realm’s only hope for survival.

I become linked—soul to soul, mind to mind, power to power—with another. [Who?] Another whom I would give anything to protect. [Who is it?] Anything to save. [Yeah, but who is it?] when the beasts that hunt me find me, I'm in a race not only to protect a forgotten people but a race to save our souls. A race I'm not sure I can win.

Linked is a 98,000 word Paranormal Romance Novel for Young Adults. It is a fast-paced, thrill ride that follows Anika, a seventeen-year-old orphan, whose soul is merged with the one sent to protect her. Together they will battle to save the Realm and save their souls. Or die trying.


If you are going to write the query in the first-person, and in the POV of a character (an idea I will discourage below), you should follow through to the end, i.e. put the last paragraph in the same POV:

Linked is a 98,000 word memoir that young adults should enjoy. It follows me, Anika, a seventeen-year-old orphan as my spirit merges with the one sent to protect me. Together we battle to save the Realm. And to save our souls.

If you switch to the author's POV in the last paragraph, the reader thinks, She was trying to be clever, but she didn't have the guts to carry it through to the bitter end. Whereas my way the reader thinks, She's too clever for her own good, but at least she's not shamefully gutless.

If you describe a fast-paced thrill ride, there's no need to tell us it's a fast-paced thrill ride. Unfortunately, despite the character being hunted by beasts, this doesn't sound fast-paced or thrilling.

It's too abstract/intangible/vague. You'd think a teenager would be more specific. I have to work to figure out what happens. And I worry that I'll have to work just as hard reading the book.

In any case, it's all set-up. Anika has been ripped from her world and plunged into the forest. Something called the Realm is at risk. She links with someone. That's not much to go on. If you could explain in concrete terms what her power is, what she and her soul-mate plan to do to save the Realm, what problems pop up, etc., we'd have a better idea if it's a story we want to read.

And since the author is in a better position to fill us in on all of this than the character, you're better off writing the standard business-letter query.

If it's a romance, put something about the romance into the query.

Also, while sentence fragments can be effective in stressing ideas, they lose their punch when they're used too often, i.e. when half the sentences are fragments.


none said...

I stopped reading. If your character's voice can't get me through a few paragraphs of query, then it's not going to carry a book.

Start again. I recommend not having the character repeatedly contradict herself.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

The pov threw me. I'd put it in the 3rd person.

It's wordy and doesn't show very much about what happens in the story. A lot can be cut to make way for the story.

The last para starting at "Anika" almost tells me what I'd like to know. Maybe fleshing out from there would be worth thinking about.

I have to guess and fill in too much. The linked character should be revealed.

Xenith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

You're using too many fragments. Sentence fragments. The kind that make it disjointed. And redundant. Like you don't know how to use other kinds of sentences. Proper sentences. Complete sentences. Sentences with subjects and predicates. And sentences that don't start with conjunctions. But that give information.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Mm, it's also repetitive. It repeats things. Things that were said in the last sentence. Or not said in the last sentence. But said in the last fragment.

Anyway, writer, you can see one problem with the style that you've chosen for your query is that it's causing people to comment on the style rather than the query. That's partly because we can't really tell what the story's about. Not enough specifics.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Eric, you touched on a subject that is close to my heart. Sentences that start with conjunctions drive me nuts.

EE: Is it bad form or is this nit not worth picking at? Does it make you look harder at sentence construction or this acceptable these days?

Evil Editor said...

This nit is not worth picking at. And you may quote me. But what do I know? Or should I say, What don't I know?

Amber said...

Hah, that was hilarious, AlaskaRavenclaw.

I like first-person POV, but this voice didn't work for me. She feels overly dramatic. I feel like I'm listening to a pre-teen tell a story they made up, rather than listening to a teenager tell something that actually happened to them.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

I can understand the desire to write a query that will really stand out and reflect the voice of your story, but if it means you're not communicating what your story is about, then your query isn't standing out in a good way. I assume that your book is written in first person present tense, or this whole idea is completely pointless. It might be possible to write a good query in the first person present, but what you have now is vague and confusing. There's some poetic turns of phrase here and there, but they're doing nothing to clarify what this book is about. I don't know who most of the characters are, what the protagonist's goal is, what she has to do to accomplish those goals, whether she begins outside of the forest and is pulled in or goes from in the forest to deeper into the forest, or how she can be telling me about rules she claims not to know about the existence of.

Start over. Write the query in third person, explaining the main points of the story as simply as possible. Once you have that, then you can try translating back into first person and see if it still works. It might, it might not. If it doesn't, play around with different ways to make your query stand out and reflect the writing in your story. You can always say outright that it's told in the first person.

Anonymous said...

Author, I trust you're getting the message about your style. I'll tackle a few other things.

Your query has some of the problems we see in EE's New Beginnings. EE points out your paradoxical awareness of that of which you have no awareness. You also describe a forest in detail, then you say it's a place you've never known or imagined. In fact, I thought from your opening lines that we were already in the forest, and I had to do a mental rewind to start somewhere else and then get plunged into where I thought I was to begin with.

Then on we go with some more Escheresque plotting: the folk of the Realm have tapped into the power of the mind, yet they are hunted by someone who can use thoughts as a weapon. I'm already unsure what this epic battle looks like, and then along comes the forest with "its own set of rules" and its own plans to destroy the Realm. (Is the "one of their own" targeted by the forest, too?)

Anika has been ripped from her world -- what was it, Centerville High? The query is all set-up and yet you leave something crucial out of the set-up, namely the main character's real-world identity and setting. This adds to the vagueness of the query.

This was a noble experiment, but I say you tear it down and tell us straight what happens in your book.

Voter said...

What everyone else said, plus consider changing beasts to breasts since it's a romance.

vkw said...

I applaud the author for trying something different.

It didn't work, however.

I think if you want to write a query this way, your best bet would be to write a traditional query and then put it in first person. No really, that's what you need to do.

As it is right now, it sounds like a very long movie trailer that doesn't get to the plot. Save this for the book trailer.

I think the purpose of doing a query like this is to be unique but also should be to demonstrate your writing and voice.

If your voice throughout the novel is like this. . . I shudder to think.

try again.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I actually don't think making your query stand out is a very good idea.

Basically your query's only job is to make the story sound interesting. A perfectly run-of-the-mill, ordinary business letter will cause agents to request your manuscript... if it sounds interesting.

It's your manuscript that has to stand out.

Dave Fragments said...

I got here late today. I like the story that is pretending to be a query. I would give it a chapter or two just to see what is going on and by that time, my conscious would nag me into reading all of the book.

So I'm with EE. It's interesting stylish writing that is pretending to be a query. Write a proper business letter and send it out.

none said...

Authors have been starting sentences with conjunctions since at least the C19th. It's not going away.