Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Face-Lift 938

Guess the Plot

Supernatural Freak

1. A freak who can appear normal through supernatural powers loses those powers and chooses to move to the planet Freakoid, where freaks are normal and normal is freakish.

2. In the midst of investigating a supernatural serial killer, Robyn is hired to cure a child who is turning into a dead tree. Then she learns that she's the chosen one who must defeat the invincible entity known as "The Cloud." Ever have one of those days?

3. Move over, Superman! Supernatural Freak tracks down evildoers wherever they lurk, and converts them to a life of virtue and macrobiotic cooking.

4. On Halloween night, Ashley takes a shortcut through the graveyard and gets simultaneously bitten by both a vampire and a werewolf. Crap. This is going to put a crimp in her plan to snag All-American Josh Burrell as her prom date.

5. A vampire with an allergy to type O blood, a photosensitive werewolf, a wingless fairy and a ghost with anxiety disorder gather every week for group therapy from the hopelessly kind-hearted Dr. Mephistopheles.

6. High school sucks when everyone thinks you're a freak just because you can read minds. But when her lit class is taken hostage by masked gunmen, guess who's got to save the day? They won't be calling her a freak after this, right?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my 75000 word urban fantasy “Supernatural Freak". Think a Gothic novel by Wodehouse. [Sort of Monty Python does Wuthering Heights? I can't recommend calling it urban fantasy and then comparing it to a Gothic novel and aristocratic comedy. Even if that's what it is, the agent is interested in where it will be shelved and who will buy it, so call it a quirky urban fantasy or an edgy Gothic novel or a paranormal satire of the British upper crust.] Brought-up by a German father and a French mother, I [am lucky to be alive, and] have written a story of a heroine with a similar background.

A former editor, I currently work as a journalist for South West News, the biggest press agency in England. [One of Murdoch's puppet organizations, no doubt.] My website ___________has an average of 3000 visitors per month. [That's 100 visitors a day. I could start a site, put nothing on it except a counter, and get over 100 visitors a day. In fact, to prove it, I'm putting the site here, but don't click on it, because there's nothing there worth seeing.] [Any bio stuff that you insist on including should be at the end. Get to the book while the agent is still awake.]

Young Robyn Wise leads a complicated life. For a start, no one understands her jokes. [I have the same problem, except the people who don't get my jokes often threaten to kill me.]

Secondly, she speaks the Fairy Language, a unique gift, craved by every monster living in London, which doesn't benefit her health either. [Speaking any language is unlikely to benefit one's health.] [Well, there was that time when I wished I knew how to say "I'm not an American" in Arabic.]

When honest people go mysteriously missing and high-profile criminals are murdered by a supernatural serial killer, Robyn, an established paranormal expert, starts investigating [how to stop the disappearances without disrupting the streak of murders].

It's the usual routine, or so she thinks, until she's hired to cure a child turning into a dead tree, an ominous condition she has never seen before. [This sounds like a case for House:

House: Seven-year-old child, turning into a dead tree.

Chase: They need a tree surgeon, not a doctor.

Foreman: It's probably a case of hardening of the phloem.

Thirteeen: We need to get to the root of her problem.

Taub: I'll go out on a limb and say it's not Lupus.

Cameron: I knew I should've gone into a different branch of medicine.

Wilson: If there's no cure, the kid could be carved into a marionette.

House: Screw that. I need a coat rack.]

Her concerns are confirmed by a stranger claiming to be Francis Walsingham, once counsellor of Elisabeth I. [Is this set in our time or Elizabeth's?] [What's with all these one-sentence paragraphs?]

He tells Robyn that she's the incarnation of the Cat, the leader of the Twelve Spirits created to protect Fairyland from “The Cloud”, an invincible entity which can only be banished for 120 years. [Didn't you say Robyn's background was similar to yours: you who have parents who are French and German; she who is the incarnation of the Cat?]

Now, 120 years have passed and the disappearances, the murders and the tree-child are all signs that the Fairy Kingdom is threatened again, and only she can save it.

I can be reached by email at ___________ or phone at ________. I thank you in advance for your time and attention.



The child turning into a dead tree is our best character since the architect who was falling in love with her house.

If they know the Cloud appears after 120 years, and they know when it was last banished, and they know the Cat can re-banish it, why didn't they seek the Cat's help before the murders and disappearances started?

I don't see the point of mentioning Robyn's background or yours. Neither seems relevant in the query.

There are too many paragraphs. You want to fit this on one page, but if you have a dozen skipped lines between paragraphs, that won't be happening. Put the plot in two or three paragraphs.

This is all over the place. Start over and focus on one story line. Clump the supernatural occurrences into the first plot paragraph and get to the part where Robyn must save the world. And check this out.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Dang, EE, 112 hits already. You either have a ton of lurkers or some very easily entertained regulars...

Sigh. You can usually guess the correct plot because it looks least like a plot. It's not just that the query contains a lot of one-sentence paragraphs: each one seems to be describing a completely different story.

Where's the center of the story? What's it really about? Focus the query on that, and leave out subplots which probably (hopefully) make sense in the context of the story, but merely seem bizarre in the query.

And don't capitalize Language. Just call it Fairy, or the Fairy language.

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm guessing if you didn't link to that blank blog on your blog, EE, it might not have been quite as popular, but I'll admit it, I clicked. Fun.

The biggest thing that bothered me about this query was the phrase "mysteriously missing." Do people often go missing in manners that are not mysterious? If we know what happened to them, they're not really missing.

Anonymous said...

Well, what if the Fairy Kingdom gets wiped out? It's not as if humans would miss them. In fact, I don't directly see a single fairy in your query.

It sounds to me like it could be a very successful book, but I think you should clear out most of your bio and add enough detail to make me care about the stakes.

Unknown said...

142 hits when I looked.

So the plot is outcast must save the world with the very skills that made her an outcast i.e. a Chosen One plot. Focus on that. Then tell me why your novel is different than every other Chosen One story out there.

If you mention a detail, i.e. speaking Fairy or saving the kids, tell me why it's relevant to the main plot. So, if you keep the reference to the fact that speaking Fairy makes her attractive to all monsters tell me why.

For the MAIN plot line, the query should focus on:
What does Robyn want?
Who is going to stop her?
Why does it matter that she suceeds i.e. what are the stakes?

Good luck

Why must she

Dave Fragments said...

I think that GTP #4 was called "Being Human" on TV on both sides of the Atlantic.

An agent has to sell the book to a publisher before the publisher accepts it and then markets it. Your ability to generate an audience belongs in one sentence or two sentences at the end of the query. Don't put the cart before the horse.

Try starting with something like this:
Robyn, an established paranormal expert, starts investigating a child turning into a tree. Fairy magic not seen on earth in over a century. She discovers that she is destined to battle the nemesis of the fairy world.

Now we need some more risks or struggles for Robyn, the Fairy world and mankind. right now, only the child has any stake we care about.

About this:
Brought-up by a German father and a French mother,
What? Your pastries are delicious but have no sense of humor?
You sing Deuscheland Uber Alles at the Follies Bergere?

EE was in fine form today.

vkw said...

178 hits - I admit I clicked twice already and plan on doing it again. I am one of those easily entertained regulars.

I love the child being turned into a dead tree. Is it possible to buy that somewhere because I am too nice to actually do away with children but . . . maybe I would have the guts to turn them into a dead tree.

I am going out on a limb here and guessing it was the parents or the nanny who hexed the child and they are setting up the made up "The Cloud" to get away with it.

That's the type of quirky English humour we've grown to respect here in America.

"Young Robyn Wise leads a complicated life. For a start, no one understands her jokes." This is just odd. who cares? If leading a complicated life includes no one getting your jokes then we'll rule out you becoming a comedian and decide your life is pretty average.

Okay the language thing - I don't get why she would be in danger because she has a talent in something monsters would like to be talented in. That's like saying your character is a talented singer, an envy of all her classmates and, therefore, is in danger? Why?

Honest people go missing as opposed to the dishonest people who go missing?

The ominous condition of a child turning into a dead tree as opposed to say the less ominous concern of a child being turned into a blooming flower?

I'm just kind of having fun here with the choice of adjectives.

Mysteriously go missing
ominous tree condition
Honest people
young robyn (she's 4 or 5? maybe 20, but definately not 60, but maybe she is a "young" 60) See young doesn't have meaning. It's just a word in a query that lacks a plot.

I'm going to click on the link again. I apologize for having a bit fun with this query.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, I was wondering if the bio was maybe a UK thing. Over here it's not really comme il faut... after all, you don't include it any other business letter:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Born in a sod shanty in North Dakota and raised by a roving wolf pack, I purchased your Champion Home Breadmaker III on July 28th, only to have it break the first time I used it.

none said...

And yet again I feel compelled to say, don't blame the Brits!

How does this French/German prodigy end up with a very British-sounding name?

If this is set in Tudor England, then she's not a paranormal expert. She's a witchfinder. If not, perhaps we need to know how Walsingham got to modern London, and, indeed, just how he's coping. Poor chap. I'd be more worried about getting on the wrong side of him than about these vague monsters, tbh.

What's the protagonist's goal? What are the obstacles? What's at stake? And where the heck does Wodehouse come into it?

Anonymous said...


Oh dear. That looks so fun I was going to risk jacking the thread by trying it myself, but I'm afraid you won the dozens right there.

Anonymous said...

I love the turning into a tree bit, especially because of the idea that you can hire someone to cure it.

The 120 years isn't necessary to the query (and is confusing, because Francis is either more than 120 years old or has time travelled from more than 120 years ago). We only need to know The Cloud is on the loose.

This query has some fabulous and intriguing details, but rereading without the blue bits :) I think it's also one of those queries that is nearly all setup. It's difficult, because your story has two setups.

(1) Paranormal expert Robyn Wise is used to dodging the monsters living in London, who are jealous that she can speak Fairy language.

(2) A stranger claiming to be Francis Walsingham tells Robyn she's one of 12 spirits created to protect Fairyland and the only one who can save the place from an entity called The Cloud.

For actual plot, you have:

While investigating a supernatural serial killer, Robyn also gets hired to cure a child turning into a dead tree. Solving both problems can only be done by defeating The Cloud.

Maybe the query would benefit from a bit more about what's her interest in saving the Fairy Kingdom - pure altruism? Just finishing off her investigation and collecting her paycheque? Or if Fairyland goes down so does Robyn? And maybe some hint about how her tree-curing and Fairy-speaking abilities will let her save the day.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Can I assume a child turning into a tree is a long process giving her plenty of time to work on it?

I'm with EE,this is all over the place and I had tough time figuring out what the hey was going on and why would I read it. Not saying the ms isn't wonderful but I need the query to guide me a little more definitively.

I'd scrap the personal set up and the story set up and start with the story.

It's too long IMHO.

Good luck, from what I could glean it could be quite fun to read although the query had too much for my brain to sieve.