Thursday, August 25, 2011

Face-Lift 946

Guess the Plot

Lost in Atlanta

1. After an appearance at a science fiction convention in Atlanta, the cast of the TV show Lost can't find their way out of the city, leading many to speculate that their inability to get off the island was a result of stupidity.

2. 1862. Mary Jacobs runs away from her abusive master, heading for the North and freedom. When she follows a strange purple light in the woods, she ends up in modern Atlanta. With just the clothes on her back and the two silver coins in her kerchief, can she survive MARTA, hip-hop and Waffle House?

3. Birdie runs away from home to live in the streets of Atlanta. All she ever wanted was a normal life, so when a stranger offers her a fortune to go back in time and free the souls of hundreds of Viking warriors, she jumps at the opportunity.

4. With endless instructions to "turn left on Peachtree", and over 20 streets in the city by that name, Reginald Wasserhaus gets more and more lost. Finally he takes the subway to Lenox Square and sits down and has a Chick-Fil-A and a good cry.

5. A purple alligator-skin wallet, a single hiking boot, and a pair of pink satin boxer shorts-- it's just another day in the Lost and Found office at the Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. Except that there's a little red suitcase on shelf 14B, and the sounds of tiny voices in heated conversation are issuing from inside it. In ancient Sanskrit.

6. When three pre-schoolers disappear from a daycare center in Atlanta, their parents are frantic and furious. Until the daycare manager points out that there are worse fates than being . . . lost in Atlanta.

Original Version

Seventeen-year-old runaway, [Comma not needed.] Birdie Orin will [would] attempt [do] almost anything to gain [have] the normal life that’s eluded her until now. [Sorry, I'll stop nitpicking.] After eight foster homes, her life isn’t improving any. [Do we need that sentence? We already know she's a runaway who's miserable. And it's not like foster parents are all serial torturers.] Atlanta’s city streets make a hostile home until she meets two men that change her life.

The first: a bearded stranger in a trench coat who informs her she’s the last descendant of an ancient Nordic tribe, and gives her an amulet which grants supernatural abilities to its wearer. He promises fortune and power [Power? What kind of power?] if she accepts a quest to free the souls of hundreds of Viking warriors. [I'm imagining how I would react if a bearded stranger in a trench coat told me all of this. I think I'd slowly back away from him and then start sprinting.] Traveling back in time, her task is to release her brethren trapped in a spell cast by one of two rival kings. [You've described Birdie as someone whose sole wish is to have a normal life. Is that type of person likely to care so much about fortune and power that she buys into this Viking story?]

The second: Grey Matthews, the boy who just bought her breakfast. Wary of dependence on anyone, Grey becomes her unlikely guardian and as they work together to master the magic of the amulet Grey works to break down the walls Birdies [Birdie's] built around her heart.

They have only months to master their new skills before she and Grey must travel through time to find the means of destroying the amulet, before those who would use its power for evil find them. [Those who would use its power for evil are looking for them? Who are they? Do they know Birdie has the amulet? If so, why will it take months for them to get to her? If not, how are they going to find out?] [I assumed the task was to go back in time and free the Vikings' souls, and the amulet was needed to accomplish this. Now you're saying the task is to go back in time and destroy the amulet.] [Is the amulet needed for time travel? If so, and they destroy the amulet in the past, how do they get home?]

Kind Regards,


The query is clearly written (I assume you'll put in word count, book title, etc.), but as you see, it inspires many questions. Decide whether you can efficiently answer some of them in the query. Here are a few more:

Was the amulet used by the king to cast the spell?

If so . . .

If Birdie goes back in time with the amulet, will the king who had the amulet back then still have it? Will Birdie still have it? Will there be two amulets?

If not . . .

Why can't she just destroy the amulet in present time?

Can she just throw the amulet to the bottom of the ocean instead of finding the means to destroy it?

Why does this bearded stranger care about these Vikings if he's not one of their descendants?

I assume there's a good reason Birdie's parents and grandparents and great grandparents etc. weren't approached about performing this task?

I'm not clear on what the amulet does. Birdie needs it to break the spell and someone else wants it to do evil. Does it just allow its owner to do anything they want?

How are Birdie and Grey supposed to figure out how it works?


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Y'know, I'd go back in time in a minute to free the souls of hundreds of kittens, and would give serious consideration to freeing the souls of hundreds of innocent bystanders. But Vikings? Buncha psychopaths. Serial rapists and murderers.

It's not clear what freeing their souls means and why Birdie would be willing to do it. After all, a great many of us must be descended from Vikings (see rapists, above) and yet we don't feel they're our brethren.

150 said...

You start out saying that Birdie will do anything to change her situation, and then immediately have two people change her situation for her. Protags gotta protag.

Tamara Marnell said...

That bit about wanting "a normal life" is throwing everything off. It's the first thing we learn about Birdie, and it contradicts all of her actions after that. First of all, kids who want a normal life do not run away to live on the streets. Going to school every day with a packed lunch is a normal life. Sleeping in a cardboard box and running meth for Big Manny is not. Neither is travelling through time to save the souls of hundreds of Vikings.

Now, if Birdie would do anything for independence and excitement, that would be a different matter. She's tired of being pushed around by the system. She wants to be somebody. People who want normal lives generally want to be nobodies. They cling desperately to The Rules. Birdie doesn't seem to care much for rules or normalcy. You can choose either the reluctant heroine or the spunky one, but it's hard to pull off both at once.

Chicory said...

I'm kind of confused. If Birdie is looking to free the souls of Vikings, why is she in Atlanta? Wouldn't Norway, or Denmark, or Iceland be the place to go? If most of the action takes place in the past, or in some alternate plane (world tree, ect.) shouldn't that place be the one in the title?

On a different topic, I really like plot 5.

Anonymous said...

When you first introduced guy number two, I kind of thought he was just a regular Joe and represent the normal life she wanted, but then he goes with her to free the vikings. Who is this guy?

Also, I was confused about the timeline. She meets guy number one and then you talk about how she has to go back in time to do her thing, but then all of a sudden she meets guy number two and they have a few months to train before going back in time. And why is guy number two training? What's his deal? Does he have powers too, or is he just going along with her because he likes her?

Will changing the past by freeing a group of vikings greatly change the present?

Why is she agreeing to live the most non normal life ever if she will do just about anything to have a normal life?

Wary of dependence on anyone, Grey becomes her unlikely guardian . . .
This part of this sentence is weird to me. To me, it reads as Grey is wary of dependence on anyone, but I’m pretty sure you mean Birdie.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Thank you, Chicory. 4 and 5 were mine, but I'd really like to read plot #2.

journeytogao said...

Grammar Nanny found some more nits to pick, but I'll pass since some more substantial rewriting may be forthcoming.

First, "Birdie" sounds to me like a little old lady's name. I'd change it.

Second, this plot development: They have only months to master their new skills ... Is this where two green teens, one of them a skinny girl, train up to match badass Viking warriors or highly skilled magicians? (In movies, it's a montage of slo-mo action played to throbbing rock music.) If not, I'd make that clear because this got my eyes rolling. If so, well, I know the book is already written, but you got an eye-roll alert.

P.S., AlaskaRavenclaw you are hilarious: a great many of us must be descended from Vikings (see rapists, above). Now that's EvilEditoresque -- the highest praise I can bestow.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

thank you arhooley :)

vkw said...

I didn't like Grey being described as an "unlikely guardian" - because he sounds more like an "unlikely partner" or an "unexpected companion". If your heroine is mastering power to overcome adversity, she needs to be more actively involved in her own defense.

Not sure that made sense but still changing guardian to partner or companion adds a bit of validity to your MC, IMO.

I also agree Lost in Atlanta is not necessary the greatest title here. Vikings were rapists, conquerers, pirates, pillagers and they also did a bit of taking over your castle and making it my own - so they did settle down sometimes - only they settled in the homes of who they conquered. They were incrediable seamen. They were slavers and sometimes became slaves. Vikings are cool because they got around.

Anyway, Vikings are interesting and people do have some fascination with them. In order to capitalize on this, I strongly suggest changing the title to "Viking Soulbearer" "Viking soul-savior" or "Viking from Atlanta" but Lost in Atlanta sounds like a good ad for a GPS or a romance movie starring Steve Hanks.

Don't concentrate on the set-up.

Here's your sentence plot "Runaway Birdie is the only person that can free the souls of a 100 Vikings from further damnation/the void of endless nothingness/endless suffering(whatever)where they have been held for centuries by a rival king."

Then tell us how and with who. "Using an ancient amulet that will give her the power to change into a purple, people eater and travel in time, she will face many obstacles and finally the boss. But she won't have to do it alone because she has an unlikely companion. All she has to do is learn to trust him, something that may be impossible for her to do."

I think we need to know why anyone wants their souls freed because if the souls are captured in heaven for eternity, and heaven is a pretty good place . . then there is no book.

And. . . what EE said about the query. It needs to be expanded with relevant informaion.

P.S. I secretly like Vikings.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

There's a whole school of historians that insist the Vikings were Really Not That Bad-- their apologia always reads a bit weak, though, and always leaves me thinking that I now know far more about those particular historians' fantasies than I want to.


Anyway, I hope the writer has researched Vikings thoroughly-- read a few sagas, Gwyn Jones's work and some of the more recent books (she said pedantically).

R.T. said...

This story sounds like it's well thought out, and the query is tough to write b/c the story is complicated.
I think the plot looks interesting and the query merely needs some simplification and clarification.

Bertie just wants a normal life... that doesn't work for me as a line, because she doesn't show the conflict b/w that and the rest of the plot.

I like the part about two men speaking to her; that is written clearly, and it catches my eye.

"breaking down the walls of her heart," don't know about that line. But it shows this is a fantasy romance.

The time travel and destruction of the amulet and release of souls of Vikings is confusing and leads to lots of questions which are hard to answer in one page. Perhaps that could be simplified, or parts even left out (say time travel).

Also, the enemy should be identified! Isn't that crucial to the story?

Khazar-khum said...

Thanks, AR. #2 was mine.

I personally dislike 'modern people go back to right wrong' stories. It's too easy to run into a paradox.

Here we have Grey, who seems to have no real purpose except to be her traveling companion. What's in it for him?

Anonymous said...

Who to believe... Who to believe...

none said...

My comment wasn't even that controversial this time.

Anonymous said...

I just wanna say that I would read the hell out of number 2. That plot is great.