Thursday, February 09, 2012

Face-Lift 990

Guess the Plot

King's Mark

1. 26 generations of royal, first-born sons have had a crown-shaped birthmark over their hearts. When Ardolf is born with an elephant on his left butt-cheek and his twin sister, Aelfhild, has the crown over her heart, the kingdom is divided over who should rule. War ensues.

2. 735 AD. Brother Harald has been tasked with illuminating the Gospel of St Mark for the King. He feels unworthy of the commission--until St Mark himself appears to pose for his portrait.

3. Stone carver Leti is kidnapped by traders who've seen his otter birthmarks. They turn him over to the criminal mastermind known only as The Steward. Escaping, Leti finds his home destroyed and his people killed, and vows to instigate change throughout the land.

4. Katrian is a King's Mark, a man who stands in for King Junius for mundane tasks like fitting clothes. When he stumbles upon an assassination plot led by the Queen, can he save the King without becoming a marked man?

5. Rupprecht Luitpold would have been King of Bavaria but the monarchy was dissolved at the end of WWI. Hitler offers to restore Rupprecht’s crown but he spurns Hitler so The NAZIs seize the Luitpold estate and property. As Rupprecht flees, he spends his last Deutsch Mark on a beer and curses the coin. This is the story of that coin.

6. The last princess of Gorune gave birth to identical triplet sons, each bearing the birthmark that identifies them as king. A mix-up means nobody's sure which was born first. Now the brothers, enjoying their playboy lifestyles must battle to the death, the victor to be King. Why can't they just pull a sword from a stone?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

There is nothing Leti loves better than hunting along the river and practicing his stone carving. [In the game of stone/carving knife/roast turkey, stone beats carving knife.] Until now, his clan’s protection has allowed him to do just that.

But when visiting traders discover the otter-print birthmarks on Leti’s hands, [Otter print.] they kidnap and smuggle him into a hostile city where the King’s Mark is the sign of a traitor. [This guy has the mark of a traitor. Should we kill him, leave him here trying to carve a stone with a knife, or bring him to our home city?] And the Steward doesn’t tolerate traitors. [The Steward? That's the nickname your supervillain has chosen to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies?]

Instead of being executed, Leti is sold to a rebel leader, who plans to use Leti’s existence as a rallying point.

[Trader: We have captured this simple stone carver and brought him to you. He must be executed, for these marks on his hands prove he will one day betray someone, possibly us.

The Steward: I have a better idea. I'll sell him to the leader of the rebellion. What harm can come from that? Besides, I can use the cash.]

Leti escapes [by carving a boulder into a war club], only to find his home destroyed and his clan scattered, killed, or sold into slavery. Instigating change suddenly becomes personal. [Instigating change?

Leti: WTF? I'm gone three weeks and my home is destroyed and my people killed or enslaved?

Old man sitting by the side of the road: Hey, it happens.

Leti: Not any more, it doesn't. It's time someone . . . instigated change!]

Aided by another Marked, a ruthless, charismatic guttersnipe-turned-revolutionary [with beaver prints on his feet], Leti begins to work with the insurgency. [In real life, the ruthless, charismatic revolutionary doesn't aid the rock sculptor. He forces the rock sculptor to aid him.] [Is the insurgency the rebels he escaped from?] Little does he know that the Steward is the least of his worries – another enemy hides in the shadows, [An enemy known as . . . The Custodian!] and the rebellion is playing right into his hands.

KING’S MARK, complete at 90,000 words, is a fast-paced epic fantasy. Additional material is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


What are these rebels the Steward sells Leti to rebelling against? Surely not the Steward. You don't sell a Marked to your enemy. Or does the Mark mean he'll be a traitor to whomever has him?

For those minions who inevitably will ask what makes this different from all the other sculptor-vows-revenge-on-evil-overlord stories out there, I have two words: otter prints.

The writing is okay, but maybe you need to clear up some of the points that seem a little off.


Anonymous said...

You didn't mention what age audience you anticipate will be your main readership. That would be helpful.

I guessed this was the plot because stone carving and otter prints don't appear connected to the events that follow, a flaw that seems to happen more often in real queries than in fake ones. If those were random choices you can leave them out of the query and start with the kidnapping. If they're really built into the plot in some key way, like he turns into an otter whenever he gets wet, or something, and that's how he saves the kingdom, the query should make that clear.

Anonymous said...

As I said when this appeared on another site... Leti is too passive. The ruthless guttersnipe might make a better protag.

150 said...

The query somehow makes this book sound just like all the other epic fantasies and yet less exciting than what's already out there. I'm not sure why this is, but I suspect you're telling us all the boring foundational stuff instead of the stuff that makes your book awesome. How would a huge fan describe the book to a friend? Probably not with the backstory and political situation, but with big characters doing big things. "You gotta read this, it's about a ___ who ___." Get specific, and get exciting.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, I dunno. When my protagonist is caught by the bad guys, he's put in prison, tortured, and eventually starved.

Selling your enemy into slavery, especially to another of your enemies, seems like a hallmark of an idiot plot. Srsly, he's dangerous enough to be hauled all the way to see the Steward, then they don't kill him?

Khazar-khum said...

Why would the Steward not ordered him killed? Unless the Steward plans to overthrow the King, of course.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The otter is a charming critter, be he river or sea variety. When the fishing boats come in down in Seward, you can see the sea otters floating around on their backs in the harbor, hoping for halibut guts.

The front prints and the back prints are different. The back prints are more distinctive.

Still, I can't help but wonder: Why an otter? What could be otter than that? Wouldn't some otter animal make more sense?

It's different, and yet it's the same. Birthmarks of the chosen one are a dime a dozen in the F/SF biz. Focus more on what your character does and why it matters.

Laurie said...

A lot of things here that are vague - why is he considered a traitor when he's obviously innocent? What's the feud between these people? Why is he sold into slavery to someone who could use him - and why is he useful to a rebel? I'd also like to know more about the bad guys.

I'm getting a lot of events - this happened, then this happened, then this - but not a sense of the story (which, I think, is a normal stage of query writing, something I'm certainly struggling with ^_^).

Rashad Pharaon said...

"All right," says the agent, as she opens the door to leave the deli. "I'm really busy but, since you're here, pitch me your opening line. Quick!"

"Okay, okay," says the author. He looks down at his query letter, hands trembling, and clears his throat. "There is nothing Leti loves better than hunting along the river and practicing his stone carving."

He looks up. Was the agent really here or was it all a dream? I mean, it happened so fast.

I think you get my point. Solution: Add more jalapeno.



Whirlochre said...

I'm with EE on the otter prints. There's nothing especially wrong here, and if you follow the various hints and tips proffered by the Minionery Malign no doubt your query will be improved in ways you imagined when you prostrated yourself FF 990ly.


I don't see anything particularly new.

Apart from the otters.

Unless this is a kind of semi-aqua Watership Down, Leti seems to be another to-er and fro-er twixt good and evil, his plight augmented only by creatures possessed of slipstream talents d'eau.

Clans, rebels, hostile cites, traitors, insurgencies etc — why, this could be West Side Story meets Braveheart meets Duck Soup (only without the slicked back hair, the 'destined to become a borderline lunatic' Aussie mock Scottishness and the bouffant hairdo of the cleverset imbecile ever to loid the celu.)

I concur with 150 and hold your otters at gunpoint.

Get specific or I shoot them, one by indistinguishable one.

You may have something exciting — but it's not evident here.

Steph said...

Thanks EE & minions for your comments! This is my first attempt at a query, so thank you for contributing to my education.

Clearly, I have some work to do! You've brought up several things I thought were adequately explained - apparently not :)

Stephen Prosapio said...

It's as if there's some set up missing. You're opening with Levi down by the river with his otter print hands but there must be some sort of backstory there because he's obviously done nothing wrong nor intends to at that point. Think of the cliched movie trailer line: "In a world where otter print hands have been fortold to kill the king..." and you'll see where I'm going with this.

Good luck, author!

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,
As you can see query writing is hard.

My questions concerning your query come down to why? Why? Why?

I'd start this again after reading the archives. The book is one thing, the query another.

Good luck mate.

batgirl said...

I get the impression that 'traitor' in this world means something different from the usual. What secret or vital knowledge would this humble rural stone-carver have to betray, and to whom?

Having a mark that makes the protagonist a traitor rather than a destined king is kind of a neat twist, but it doesn't seem to be carried through in the storyline as whown. It might as well be destined king for all the difference it makes.