Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Face-Lift 952


Guess the Plot

Throne of Chaos

1. Flushing a cherry bomb down the toilet is always good for laughs, but at Fermilab, things can quickly get out of hand. Now Dr. Wiesacre has to rebalance space-time before HE gets canned.

2. The six wives were bad enough, but when Henry VIII's mistresses threaten a class action for child support unless he places one of their children on the throne, chaos ensues. For a guy batting way below average, he's produced a helluva lot of bastards.

3. Luna discovers on her 17th birthday that she is heir to the faerie throne, despite being half werewolf. As she struggles to master magic based on Euclidean geometry, and her vampire boyfriend broods furiously, she is romanced by a handsome centaur prince and the goblin king. All of a sudden the Seelie court comes under attack by a horde of zombies in zambonis. Only Luna's guardian angel can sort out this mess - if only he wasn't desperately in love with the reincarnation of his Babylonian lover, who just happens to be... the centaur! Ha! You thought it was going to be Luna, didn't you?

4. Malakai is considered a disgrace to the royal bloodline, so when war breaks out with a neighboring land, he signs up to lead the first attack. But when his attack ends not only in defeat, but also in the assassination of his father the king, followed by his best friend recruiting him to kill his own brother, Malakai realizes he may soon be all that's left of the royal bloodline.

5. While visiting family in old Philadelphia, history student Jessy Kashkin finds a hidden door in her grandmother's basement. Wow, is it tough to open! But she persists with help from a hunky neighbor and a psychic. Opened, the forgotten closet contains an iron chair covered with gilt symbols of a mysterious and sinister nature. They haul it upstairs to examine. When Jessy sits on the chair, well, let's just say this is where the term "chaos theory" comes from.

6. While searching the forests of Tennessee for a place to live like Thoreau, Lewis Fletcher discovers a crashed plane containing the skeletons of Nazi pilots and a cargo of ancient artifacts. He furnishes a nearby cave with plane debris and Egyptian relics and settles in for a profound experience, unaware his new chair is actually the very one that drove Hitler mad.

7. Ted Jackson's international adventure turns out to be a date with cholera. He records his thoughts on Nancy's voicemail as his whole life is reduced to sitting on a messy toilet in a hostel full of crazy characters. Half these people are plotting to take over South Asia. The other half are Ted's comrades in misery. If he survives he's never leaving Milwaukee again.


Original Version

Evil,

I was hoping you would consider representing my 100,000-word fantasy novel, Throne of Chaos [but now I'm just hoping for a rejection slip that isn't abusive].

Malakai, the second of the King’s two sons, is considered a disgrace to the royal bloodline, and constantly finds himself overshadowed by his perfect, pride-of-the-kingdom brother. When war breaks out with a neighboring land, Malakai sees it as a chance to prove himself, and signs up to lead the first attack. [Is that how it's decided who leads the attacks? They send around a sign-up sheet?] But when his attack ends not only in defeat, but also in a Noble being assassinated by one of his own allies, the desired result is far from obtained. [Considered an even bigger disgrace in his now-decimated kingdom, Malakai moves to the neighboring land where he is hailed as a hero and put on the throne. For that is how things work in the land called Chaos.] [If you delete "when" you can also delete that wordy, vague last phrase.]

The in-house assassination points to a conspiracy to overtake [usurp] the throne, and when the King winds up murdered it solidifies the assumption.

[-Recent events lead me to assume the king is in danger.
-Haven't you heard? The king's been murdered!
-Hmm. That would seem to solidify my assumption.]

The only lead points to Malakai’s best friend, Nihilez, and though there is no evidence to prove it, Malakai finds out of [Discovers? Realizes?] his guilt when Nihilez solicits him to join the conspiracy.

Malakai finds himself sympathizing more with the usurpers, but when he finds out their next target is his own brother, he must choose where his loyalty most lies. [Let's see, I can be loyal to my family, in which case Mr. Perfect becomes king and I remain a disgraced laughingstock, or I can be loyal to my best friend, in which case I become king and have everyone who ever uttered a bad word about me put to death. Tough one.]

Thanks you for your time and consideration.


[Author's note: This is a revision to Face-Lift 541, but seeing as how it has been so long since that one (2008), and I changed most of the book, and the query, and the title...]


Notes

Here are some things you might want to squeeze into the query:

Why is Malakai considered a disgrace?
Why does the war break out?
Why are the conspirators conspiring?

As it is now, all we have is this: two brothers, who will be played in the movie by George Clooney and George Costanza, are sons of the king. No one likes Costanza, he's a failure, and he's thinking of helping to murder Clooney. Are we supposed to get behind this guy?

If so, we need to know what was so bad about life under the king and why life under Clooney will be no better. For all we know, the king and Clooney are benevolent rulers and the usurpers are power-mad villains.

If this is the same book as Face-Lift 541, I'm surprised to find no mention of the fact these characters are all lizards.

18 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

In the second paragraph, two of the three sentences start with "when" clauses.

Phrases like "the desired result is far from obtained" sound strained, and "solidifies the assumption" sounds like it wandered in from a college term paper. Keep it simple. Lose the $12 words.

BuffySquirrel said...

Overtake the throne? Has it got legs, like the Luggage?

There are some eccentric word usages in this query that would give an agent or publisher pause. If they think the novel is flawed in the same way, they're not likely to ask for pages. Hie thee to a beta reader.

150 said...

The only lead points to Malakai’s best friend, Nihilez, and though there is no evidence to prove it

His name has "nihil" in it. Any savvy fantasy-land law enforcement should lock him away just on principle.

...lizards? There are probably agents who would find that an unpleasant surprise when they get the pages.

vkw said...

We need to hear more about the lizards. This will set your story apart from other fantasies.

As others have pointed out, there is some odd sentences. this is the one that bothered me the most.

"But when his attack ends not only in defeat, but also in a Noble being assassinated by one of his own allies, the desired result is far from obtained."

Too vague and too many buts


What does "far from obtained" mean?

Here is the gist - Mal volunteers to lead the army in order to prove that he is equal to his brother, or perhaps to overcome past mistakes or to prove that a short fat ugly prince is just as good as the cutey - whatever. I don't know.

Anyway - Mal volunteers to lead the army to overcome negative perceptions of who he is. Unfortunately, his army is defeated in the first attack. Then, to make matters worse, "his own ally" (who? His best friend, his general, tell us what own ally) murders a nobleman. It becomes very bad for Mal because. . . . I don't know why.

We don't know. We want to know. I'll make up something.

So -

Mal is the king's second son and is constantly overshadowed by his perfect brother. When war breaks out with the neighboring kingdom, Mal volunteers to lead the army in hopes of redemption and a chance at the throne. Unfortunately, Mal's army is crushed. Mal is further shamed when his general elect is implicated in a nobleman's murder. Shame turns to suspicion when his best friend in implicated in the murder of Mal's father.

Mal's hell bent on clearing his best friend's name until Nin confesses and tries to convince him to join the revolution. Mal finds himself siding with the unsupers when he learns of the horrid conditions peasants are forced to live in and his father's blatant disregard for his subjects when he tells them to eat cake when they complain there is no lizard food.

Mal finds himself torn between his loyalty to the kingdom and sympathy with the peasants. Then there is the matter of the hangman or the guillotine. mal must choose wisely to save his neck, either way. Another option is escape, but lizards are food to the snakes next door.

vkw

Matthew MacNish said...

They're all lizards? Holy ...

Is it an early reader?

The biggest problem, for me, with this query, is that the choice seems like no choice at all, as EE points out.

I always try to remind friends asking for help: a query should focus on Character, Conflict, and Choice. You've got conflict, seemingly. The character is arguably not terrible, perhaps not that sympathetic, but at least we've got an idea of him. But the choice seems way too obvious.

Anonymous said...

Seems to need more. Might be a good book, but this is so sketchy, it sounds like a short story. Plus your description does not make the main character seem either scary or charismatic enough to wrest my attention from other men of fiction.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback. Yeah, they are all lizard-men.

Malakai is kind of a worhtless and I dont expect people to like him, although maybe pity him, really you should probably be rooting for damascus. Both get almost equal time in the book, but in the end Malakai ends up saving Damascus from the usurpers.

I am surprised by the comment about my wording as I consider myself an idiot with the vocabulary of a 5th grader.

I did not think the decision was that easy, as its not like the usurpers want Malakai to be king either...and Damascus has always treated him like a brother, so killing him might morally weigh on him.

Anyway here is a retry, but it is pretty rough and so probably terrible. I can only guess my story writing is just as bad as my query writing, so at least no one will ever really waste money on this garbage.

revision:

The Kingdom of Sauria is in turmoil. King Oran has tried to hide the affect his old age is having on him, but all the many reptilian races of the nation can see that his time is near an end, and with each of them having their own plans for how to supplant him, his end could mean the beginning of a civil war.

Fortunately, the Nrye, a rival warrior nation attack, providing a much needed distraction. Oran orders his oldest son, Damascus to handle the retaliation. Damascus has proven to be every bit the warrior his father once was, and so Oran figures it should be an easy victory for him. But Damascus proves cautious, and with so little known of the Nrye, feels rushing off to fight them might not be such a good idea.

When Damascus refuses, Malakai, the younger of Oran’s two sons, sees it as an opportunity to change his reputation for being utterly incompetent on the battlefield and asks to lead the attack. Oran gives in, thinking that Malakai will fail, forcing Damascus to step in and either save him or avenge him.

And while Malakai fulfills his role and fails, during the attack one of Oran’s most trusted nobles is assassinated, proving that this war with the Nrye is not the distraction Oran hoped for, and that there is indeed a conspiracy to usurp the throne.

The only lead points to Malakai’s best friend, Nihilez, and though there is no evidence to prove it, Malakai discovers his guilt when Nihilez solicits him to join the usurpers. But the conspirators are just using Malakai, and before he realizes it Oran winds up murdered and everybody thinks Malakai is guilty.

Malakai is on the run with nowhere to turn. All he really wants to do is crawl into a hole and hide but he knowsthat now all that stands between the conspirators and the throne is Damascus, and that he is the only one who can stop them.


..........

Thanks again for all the help.
DCP

Dave Fragments said...

It's still a bit too fat and wordy.

King Oran is dying and is losing control of the dukes and fiefdoms in his kingdom. When the mysterious Nyre attack his kingdom, Oran turns to his two sons to fight the threat.

His oldest argues caution and retreat but his youngest, wishing to advance his interests takes command of the army and counterattacks. When the counterattack fails, a conspiracy to overthrow Oran is revealed send the youngest son of the run and exposing the oldest son as a traitor.

And that is about how I see your query beginning. The ending of the query is about the exciting events and climactic battles or intrigues where the younger son saves the kingdom and ascends to the throne.

There are only 150 words in this entire message and your revision is over 300. That's my advice. The revision is wordy and not exciting.

Chicory said...

The beginning of the revised query is clearer; we now know we're dealing with lizard people, and Damascus seems like an interesting main character (though the fact that he's named after a place in the Bible is a little distracting).

You seem to loose focus halfway through, though, around the time you switch to focus on Mal. I know Mal plays an important role in the end, but is there any way you can keep your query focused on Damascus's viewpoint?

"Fortunately, the Nrye, a rival warrior nation attack, providing a much needed distraction."

The comma is in the wrong place. It should go between `nation' and `attack'. Also, `attack' should be plural.

Evil Editor said...

Actually, attack IS plural. One soldier attacks. Ten soldiers attack. If we assume the Nrye is similar to the French, it would be a plural noun, and attack would be correct.

Anonymous said...

I find the problem with focusing on Damascus is that I dont know if his end holds enough tension. I took the revision and changed the second half of it to focus on him instead of Malakai. Its probably still too wordy:

The Kingdom of Sauria is in turmoil. King Oran has tried to hide the affect his old age is
having on him, but fears that the reptilian races of the nation can see that his time is near
an end, and with each of them having their own plans for how to supplant him, his end
could mean the beginning of a civil war.

When the Nrye, a rival warrior race, attack, Oran sees it as not only a necessary
distraction from his end, but also as a way for his oldest son Damascus to prove that he
should replace him.

Damascus however does not buy into Oran’s paranoia, and cannot imagine that his fellow
saurians would rush into a war with each other. Damascus is more concerned with the
Nrye attack, and thinks it might be more than just a distraction. He goes against Oran’s
wishes and refuses to lead a hasty attack against them.

When Damascus refuses, Malakai, the younger of Oran’s two sons, sees it as an
opportunity to change his reputation for being utterly incompetent on the battlefield and
asks to lead the attack.

Not only is Malakai’s attack a failure, but during the battle, one of the royal family’s
most trusted generals is assassinated, not only legitimizing Oran’s fear of a conspiracy to
usurp him, but also showing that the Nrye are not some weak opponent that can be easily
brushed aside.

The only lead to the conspiracy plot points to Malakai’s best friend, and while Oran is
convinced that Malakai must have been in on it, Damascus cannot believe his brother is
a traitor. But before he can speak with his younger brother, he finds Oran with a mortal
stab wound and Malakai standing next to him with a knife.

Damascus feels guilty for again not believing in his father’s wisdom, and is hell-bent on
avenging him. But he doesn’t know that Malakai is being set up, and that he is now the
only one standing between the true conspirators and the throne.

.............

Is that any better???

Also, I cant help but notice my names for people seem to nag people. I wonder if this is that important of an issue. Would agents reject things because they dont like character's names? I think it would be very easy to just change it as an agent/editor sees fit....???

Anonymous said...

WHY WHY WHY ARE THEY LIZARDS??? What is the point of that? Lizards are not social animals. They do not care about each other. Or were you thinking of Barney? EVEN WORSE! If there's anything more despicable than a lizard-man, it's a man in a lizard suit. Who would your audience be? What is this lizard thing supposed to add?

150 said...

I'm guessing Anonymous has never played DnD. The lizardmen and the names aren't your problem, Author. The problem is that the query is describing a simplistic, familiar story that should be taken care of in your first three chapters. The query you're showing us could be rewritten using stock characters and plot points from TV Tropes. Your comments here don't make me suspect that the language in the novel is transcendent, so your success will hinge on plot. You have two choices here: show us something interesting fast, or put this aside and write something else. Since you've already got at least three years in this beast, I root for the latter. No one ever regretted having another book under his belt.

BuffySquirrel said...

The Kingdom of Sauria is in turmoil. King Oran has tried to hide the affect his old age is having on him, but all the many reptilian races of the nation can see that his time is near an end, and with each of them having their own plans for how to supplant him, his end could mean the beginning of a civil war.

Way too wordy. You don't want the agent or editor thinking your book is similarly padded.

Aware that King Oran's reign is coming to a close, the various lizard races of Sauria all have plots to supplant him that can only end in civil war.

You, 64 words. Me, 29 words. I win ;).

no-bull-steve said...

This is pretty well written (especially with EE word changes). I picked up
"perfect, pride-of-the-kingdom" -- I'd get rid of perfect, not only is it redundant (and-not-needed), there's something odd about how "perfect, pride..." swims around in my head.

Good luck with this. ARE they all lizards???

Anonymous said...

To Anon...Im sorry? ..I doubt you relaly care about an answer but the truth of it is this is part of a series and the next book tells the same timeline from the human's perspective. Think letters to Iwogima/Gods and Generals.

To 150, I think you are probably right, but and its time to move on, but I am willing to at least give it a shot and send it out before doing so. When I queried two years ago it was just a rough draft so I never actually sent it out to anyone. I just finished the re-write after shelving it for a year so thats why I am asking the minions for help again. But yeah if my plot is cliche it will be rejected and go back on the shelf, this time for good.

Thank you Steve for the compliment and small glimmer of hope. If I re-wrote the query making EE's changes it might look something like this:

...........

Malakai, the second of the King’s two sons, due to his utter uselessness on a battlefield, is considered a disgrace to the royal bloodline, and constantly finds himself overshadowed by his pride-of-the-kingdom brother, Damascus. And though Damascus has always treated Malakai more than fairly, it is maddening how their father, along with the rest of the kingdom, dotes on him.

When a mysterious enemy from a neighboring land attacks, Malakai sees it as a chance to prove himself, and signs up to lead the counterattack. But his attack ends not only in defeat but also in a high ranking noble being assassinated.

The in-house assassination points to a conspiracy to usurp the throne, and when the King winds up murdered it solidifies the assumption. The only lead points to Malakai’s best friend, Nihilez, and though there is no evidence to prove it, Malakai discovers his guilt when Nihilez solicits him to join the conspiracy.

Malakai finds himself sympathizing more with the usurpers, but when he finds out their next target is his own brother, the only person who ever seemed to care about him, he cannot go along with them. Now utterly useless Malakai is the only one that can save him.


...............

But again the major flaw with this, or at least one of its many flaws, is that I dont know how to bring up the fact that these are all lizard-men.

Also, I am not sure how to get rid of the 'solidifies the assumption' phrase, maybe becuase I have been looking at this version for too long or because im just dumb.

Anyway, I know I am probably all tapped out here for help but any thoughts on the revision or how to squeeze in the reptile thing.... Maybe at the end say something to the affect of: Throne of chaos is set in the Land of Sauria where evolved reptiles rule....??? I think that maybe makes it worse. Maybe I can leave it out and hope the Agent likes it even after figuring it out....ha, Doubtful.

But thank you to everyone who posted I really do appreciate each and every comment
DCP

Anonymous said...

Also to Buffy, thanks! I like your wording a lot more than mine so you definitely win.

DCP

batgirl said...

Just wanted to mention that this is a really brill set of GTPs. Number 3 is my favourite.