Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Face-Lift 966


Guess the Plot

Guarded

1. The new girl at Huntford High is hot, but why did she list her age as 342 on admissions papers? And, why does Brad shun bright light ever since he took her to the movies? Lisa, Brad’s ex, is dying to know why her answers to those questions seem so . . . guarded.

2. At midnight cat burglar George Florin is put in a car to be driven across Wyoming by a pair of deputies. But a huge elk crosses their path and the car swerves into a tree, killing both deputies. Jack regains consciousness in the arms of a beautiful woman: a shape-shifting sorceress who takes him to 5th-century Byzantium.

3. Carrie Bell is trying to make it as a private eye, but an underworld kingpin wants something from her. Luckily, she has the ability to create "Guards," metal plates that give her powerful magic. But can her Guards guard her from . . . a demon?

4. Blane tries to sweep Lucy off her feet, but she pushes him away after every swoon-inducing pass. Lucy has a secret. She's in Witness Protection after turning state's evidence against her last boyfriend, a serial killer. That's why she must remain . . . guarded.

5. The worst thing about your mom being the president is having a carload of Secret Service goons watch every move you make, so of course Tiffany is thrilled to meet a witch with invisibility potion. But she soon realizes there's not much point arranging a clandestine meeting with Todd behind the Lincoln Memorial if he can't actually see her.

6. Congressman Mike Schiller weighs every word he utters, lest an out-of-context quote demolish his career. He's especially careful explaining why his wife no longer campaigns at his side. If word leaks that he's had her locked in the basement since a werewolf bit her, he can kiss that committee chairmanship goodbye.



Original Version

Dear Mr Editor,

Like many people, 25-year-old Carrie Bell’s struggling to come to grips with the demons of her past. Except in her case, it's one demon in particular. Lathan. After escaping Lathan’s mind-warping bridal boot camp four years ago, [I would like to have a better idea of what you mean by "mind-warping bridal boot camp."] she returned to her world; a world she hardly recognizes. Now werewolves, fae and other kinfolk live covertly side-by-side with soccer moms and workaholic dads. [It sounds like you're using "kinfolk" to mean "supernatural creatures." If so, you might put it in quotation marks the first time you use it. Better yet, come up with something better, like "supernatural creatures."] [Was this change in the world evident as soon as she returned, four years ago, or did it manifest recently?] Ever the ardent believer in denial, Carrie plays along with their kin charade. Who’d believe her anyway? [What is their kin charade? Are they pretending to be kin of the soccer moms?]

Her job as a P.I. offers plenty of human drama to distract her, and is certainly a step up from her original plan of hiding in her closet. But her life once again becomes overshadowed by magic when she finds herself in possession of a butt-ugly statue. [She's been back four years and only now notices she has a statue? Was it here all along?] While the statue’s esthetical value may be debatable, its power is not. It has garnered the attention of an underworld heavyweight with seemingly limitless access to kin thugs. [Kinfolk, kin charade, kin thugs. I guess if you keep saying "kin," eventually we'll figure out what it means.] He calls himself GOD, [He capitalizes all three letters of his name? Not even God is that self-absorbed.] and his megalomania doesn’t end [with excessive capitalization.] there. He intends to use the statue to open a permanent portal to Alethia [Why? He's already king of the underworld with his unlimited access to kin thugs. Opening a portal that lets Lathan through will make him second banana. It's like The Joker deciding his criminal enterprises in Gotham City would go better if he invited Satan to be his partner.] – Lathan’s homeworld and the source of Carrie's nightmares. Now that reality’s hitting her over the head with a frying pan, she can no longer afford to close her eyes to the kin-filled world around her.

In the middle of her mouse-meet-world predicament, her libido skyrockets, upgrading every male in sight from “maybe” to “hell yeah.” [Before her libido skyrocketed, every male in sight was "maybe"? Sounds like her libido was in the stratosphere to begin with. Most women have huge categories called "Fat chance" and "Not if he was the last man on Earth."] Of course, when your father turns out to be a satyr and you’ve reached the age of sexual maturity, no man is safe. [25 is the age of sexual maturity?] Just when she gets her head back in the game and is about to untangle the identity of GOD, Lathan slithers back into her life, transforming her night terrors into reality. Luckily, bad dreams aren’t the only thing Carrie took away from Alethia. She also gained the skill of weaving Guards, metal plates that shape energy into powerful magic. And with her enemies closing in, she’ll most definitely need them. [Nice of her Alethian captor to look the other way while she developed a magical power that can defeat him.] [What are these plates? Do they look like dinner plates?]

GUARDED is an urban fantasy novel of 96,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely


Notes

Is Carrie the only person aware that the world is crawling with kinfolk?

After your definition of "kin" goes mainstream, people watching reruns of The Beverly Hillbilles will wonder why the werewolves and zombies never show up.

I think we can do without the sexual maturity/libido info in the query.

It feels like girl-next-door gets captured by demon, escapes, is trying to forget her past and live her life but can't because her enemies want something from her. Then at the very end you reveal that By the way, she's the daughter of a satyr and she can shape energy into powerful magic. I'm sure her power is revealed early in the book, but in the query it's a deus ex machina.

I'd open with something like: While she was the demon Lathan's captive, Carrie Bell learned to wield powerful magic. It's a talent that sometimes comes in handy in her current job as a private detective, but she'd like to put the past behind her and live a normal life. Not gonna happen.

An underworld kingpin who calls himself GOD wants to use Carrie to open a portal to Lathan's world.

You can take it from there. What is GOD up to, what happens if he succeeds, what does Lathan want, and what does Carrie plan to do about all this?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just my lamebrain attention span, but I couldn't get through that. Made 3 attempts. Kept being distracted by blaring words farther down the page, which proved to be parts of off-putting sentences.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'll have to agree with anonymous. This is perplexing. The story itself might make sense in situ, but as it's presented in the query it just raises one question after another:

1. What is a mind-warping bridal boot camp?

2. Is this world she hardly recognizes ours?

3. She sounds like a basket case who'd have to struggle to get it together enough to work the most menial of jobs. And she's a PI?

At that point my questions end, because I've given up trying to figure it out. But, yes on the blaring words. Examples of blaring words:

-GOD
-frying pan
-libido
-sexual maturity

And, yeah, few-if-any women regard every man in sight as "maybe".

I think you should try to describe your story in a calm tone of voice, without getting excited or trying to get us excited. Right now it's too hard to figure out what's going on.

Dave Fragments said...

This is a PI who survived a Bridal Camp (is that like wedding "Bridal" or horse "bridal"??)

Worse yet than that ambiquity, what ever trauma it caused, left he with the ability to see the FAE. I don't care what you call the "kinfolk" this is a fairy novel and it takes place in the rules of the Fae world. Face that fact.

PI works is mostly background checks, marital snooping on cheaters and divorces. Not exciting work.

Then the butt ugly statue of a butt ugly creature (I have this theory about butt ugly but Blogger wouldn't like me if I type it or say it out loud.) with magical power shows up and and crooks, thugs and ne'er-do-wells show up to snatch the butt ugly statue and use its power.

And then her father's a satyr which means she becomes a mattress-back slut when she hits 25 y/o.

A partridge in a pear tree or the kitchen sink. Pick one or both.

So where does that leave the query?
I think that your story starts when some thug tries to steal a statue from an up and coming PI named Carrie. Carrie isn't an ordinary PI, she has magical powers from spending time in the FAE world and from her father's side of the family. He's not totally human, her father's a satyr which is why she can see the Fae.

The thief is more than he seems and the statue is more than it seems. If an underworld crime lord gets his hands on the statue, he can open a portal to "hell" and send demons to conquer the world. (that sounds more exciting than "opens a portal to "Eleutheria" and bring more magical beings into the world.") PS spell checker did that.

The Bridal Boot Camp is a distraction in the query and I am guessing that it is backstory.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Dave, horses have bridles. If invited to a bridal shower, leave the saddle soap home.

And PIs IRL may engage primarily in background checks. But in fictionland, PIs are in the business of solving murders, with or without supernatural elements.

Outside of fictionland, PI's a job few people have, and it's just one more confusing element in this query.

Dave Fragments said...

Thanks Alaska but here's two questions:

a) what is a bridal camp wet in the outdoors and how does one get kidnapped and held there? It strains credulity. How long does it take to become a bride? Six months of learning how to walk down the aisle? Lohengrin and Mendelssohn's music only takes a few hours even if you include the Trumpet Voluntary, Oh Promise Me and depending on ethnicity the Beer Barrel Polka. I know all of this music and have played most of it.

b) There is no murder. There is an attempted theft of an ugly statuette. I have a few ugly statuettes that kids made for me and although it would break my heart if I lost them, that's all they are worth. Hardly PI material. That's not earthshaking or astounding. I had a miter saw stolen and reported it to the police. Ditto two pistols (many years ago). Those aren't track down the criminals and go underground crimes. An ugly statuette was the MALTESE FALCON and it promised the reward of being solid gold and encrusted with diamonds. This butt-ugly statuete only opens the portal to those that already exist and humans can't see. So what are we to assume? The drunks and vulgarians and gigiloes are demonic Fae? And we still can't see them? Tha belching jerk in the mall is a basilisk? The bratty litle kid is a goblin?

There is no jeopardy here. There's barely a crime here. Sorry to say that in such blunt terms but that's the problem in a nutshell with the query.

Also, I don't find a woman running from her past into a more stupid future to be in any way interesting to read and that is how the query portrays the lead character.

And I don't see any characer being played off another. Typically I see two women in the story, one strong and the other weak and their stories can play off each other. For every Amneris there is an Aida, for every Butterfly there is a Mrs Pinkerton, Electra has Chrysothemis, Turandot has her Liu and so on. Where is the great emotional struggle that is going to bring the reader to cheer or cry at the end of the story?

AA said...

A magical P.I. who can save the upper world from the underworld is interesting, but this query is a jumble.

Leave out any backstory about how Carrie came to be the way she is. Focus on what she can and can't do. Pick only one threat and stick with it. I'd use the underworld mob boss because he's pivotal to the "statue" plot. The statue is interesting. Make it clear that control of the statue is critical. Give more of an idea of what will happen if the portal is opened. (What are the stakes?)

Make it clearer who/what the beings or creatures are that live alongside the humans and at least how they got there, if not why. Hint at an old enemy resurfacing- it's actually more suspenseful than explaining who it is.

What is Carrie's role? Does she feel she should try to keep a balance between the light/dark sides, or just save herself? The way this is written, it seems like Carrie is mostly concerned with two things: Saving her own skin, and the state of her sex life. Not a very sympathetic character.

Try not to use jarring phrases that make people think of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, like "hitting her over the head with a frying pan." I expect the pan to have "ACME" written on the bottom.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Dave, I can't answer those questions. I am not the author of the query.

Author said...

Dear Mr Editor

I am grateful for your comments and those of your minions. I've had another go and hope this version is less confusing, even though it introduces bits that weren't in the original query. And yes, the plot may be not be the most original, but I'm determined to suck every bit of wisdom I can out of this book (my first), including how to write a good query.


While she was the demon Lathan's captive, Carrie Bell learned to wield magic. It's a talent that sometimes comes in handy in her current job as a private investigator, but she'd like to put the past behind her and live a normal life. Not gonna happen. Through work she comes into possession of a statue that’s garnered the interest of an underworld kingpin. He calls himself God, and his megalomania doesn’t end here. He intends to use the statue to open a portal to Lathan's world in order to flog humans as slaves there. Carrie is only too aware of the existence that awaits humans in Lathan’s hands, and worse, she fears the demon might renew his interest in her, so she vows to put a stop to God’s scheme. Unsure whether her abilities are enough, she enlists friends with some magical mojo of their own. Their help, however, is accompanied by a different set of problems, because it turns out that werewolves, fae and vampires don’t make great study-buddies. Carrie has to use what little diplomatic skill she has to keep them in line.

Drayton, a friend of her late father’s breezes into town and reveals Lathan’s true motivation for wanting her by his side. Carrie's a Guardian, carrier of a gene that bestows immense magical aptitude on her. Drayton, a demon himself, says that with a little training in the field, she could become a great warrior. However, immersion in supernatural culture is at the bottom of Carrie's list of things to do before she dies – which could be all too soon if the tales about Guardians are true –, so she declines. Just when Carrie gets her head back in the game and is about to untangle the identity of God, Lathan slithers back into her life, transforming night terrors into reality. Ready or not, Carrie must embrace her heritage if she wants to give her enemies what may be the last surprise of their lifetimes.

GUARDED is an urban fantasy of 96,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

Dave Fragments said...

That's sounds better to me but I'm not the best with queries.

I will make my usual comment:

Too many words, cut half of them out and it will be better. Literally, cut one word for every word you leave on the page.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Much better. It's much easier to follow what's going on, at least in the first half of the query.

By the second paragraph, I'm a bit lost. I think there's probably still too much detail stuffed in. Take out the inessential and stick to the essential.

And put a break in that first paragraph. It's a big chunk o' text.

And avoid vaguenesses like "transforming night terrors into reality."

Evil Editor said...

I don't think you need the second long paragraph. Here's your main plot paragraph divided into three paragraphs.


While she was the demon Lathan's captive, Carrie Bell learned to wield magic. It's a talent that sometimes comes in handy in her current job as a private investigator, but she'd like to put the past behind her and live a normal life. Fat chance.

An underworld kingpin who calls himself God intends to open a portal to Lathan's world in order to flog humans as slaves there. Carrie is only too aware of the existence that awaits humans in Lathan’s hands, and vows to stop God’s scheme.

Unsure whether her abilities are enough, she enlists friends with some magical mojo of their own. Their help, however, is accompanied by a different set of problems; it turns out that werewolves, fae and vampires don’t make great study-buddies. Carrie must use what little diplomatic skill she has if she wants to keep her allies in line and give her enemies what may be the last surprise of their lifetimes.

Min Yin said...

Magical PI? Was she originally named Carrie Dresden?