Monday, March 12, 2012

Face-Lift 1002


Guess the Plot

Hand of Chaos

1. After losing her left hand in a car crash, Dorothy has it replaced with a synthetic hand. She's thrilled--until the morning she wakes up with blood on her hands and her fingerprints show up at the crime scene.

2. God has been bored for some time, so every Wednesday he reaches into someone's life and creates massive chaos so he can watch in amusement as the poor bloke rushes around trying to put everything back together again.

3. When his brother is killed, Ethan seeks revenge by unleashing an army of zombies on the nation's Capital while a war between heaven and hell spills over into everyday life. If that ain't chaos, I don't know what is.

4. Aviator Craig Smith crashes in the middle of nowhere and stumbles upon the Hand of Chaos, a relic which gives him unlimited power to wreak destruction. At first he uses this power to fight evil, but soon it's just fun and games.

5. Vinny needs to drum up some rent money to pay back his loan shark. Hearing about a poker game, he joins, but it turns out they're using Tarot cards and his first hand is all these bad cards like the devil and death. Suddenly it isn't the rent Vinny is worried about.

6. Darnowa seeks the ancient Hand of Chaos, which will allow him to reclaim his throne and . . . oh, screw it. It's yet another generic YA fantasy.



Original Version

Evil Editor,

Anna Wei has issue. [Issues? An issue?] She's struggling to balance her demanding job with a social life that evaporates more every day. She has trouble maintaining any sort of commitment in her relationships, unable to even contemplate turning anything she has into a regular thing. [Never a good sign when a query includes an item from Evil Editor's list of the 5 most commonly used vague query phrases.

5. Mysterious stranger
4. Other stuff
3. On a journey of self-discovery
2. A regular thing
1. Nothing is as it seems]

In addition, she has trouble honing her skills to where they need to be if she wants to advance any further. The biggest problem of all? Anna works for the Government. Specifically, she works for the Government by hunting down rogue sorcerors, [sorcerers] mages, and mystical creatures using her own magical powers. [Combine those last two sentences into one.] Always fighting against the clock against gruesome and macabre forces, Anna and her small team is often all that stands between a crazed fanatic and an act of supernatural terrorism that could kill thousands. Whether it's opening the Gates of Hell or, worse, Heaven, [Heaven is worse than hell? A lot of pious people are gonna be pissed when they die and find this out.] there are always new threats and enemies Anna has to contend with and memories she would rather not have. [Whether you're an editor, a supernatural terror fighter, or a burger flipper, you hate your job.]

Her latest case is a tough one, too: a Necromancer who is waging a one-man war against the US Department of Defense. His name is Ethan Morgan, and he's on a mission. After his brother was killed by an experimental magical weapon in the middle east, [He was collateral damage when we sent David Copperfield over to make Syria vanish.] he's out to make everyone connected to it pay. [Everyone?] Everyone. Anna and her team have to find out what Ethan's endgame is, and stop it before he builds his own weapon, one that could set an undead horde against the nation's capital. [If you have an undead horde, you don't need a weapon to set them against the capital. Just truck them in and release them.] After turning a high-rise apartment building into a zombie-infested death trap, [If you really want to kill a lot of people, you should turn a building with a steady influx of people into a zombie-infested death trap. Like the Smithsonian or a movie theater. Once your zombies have killed everyone who lives in the apartment building, no one else is going to be coming along except maybe a couple Mormons. Whereas if they kill everyone at the seven o'clock movie, they get a new crowd of victims at nine o'clock.] his ambitions and crimes only get worse as he begins to attack CEOs of defense contractors, [Suddenly I'm starting to think Ethan is the hero.] unleash murderous Wraiths, and raise an army of the undead. Anna and her team try to track him as he moves through DC striking down anyone who gets in the way of his warped sense of justice. All the while, they have to contend with a hot-headed general whose squad of sanctified and blessed holy warriors think they can handle it on their own, despite failure after failure to contain him. Did I mention Anna also has a little bit of a drinking problem? [More importantly, should I mention it?]

Featuring a strong cast of characters, with romantic aspects for both the heroine Anna Wei in the form of the wise and powerful Dhampir Ayham [Anagram: Dharma Mayhem, a two-word description of the TV show Lost.] and for the villain Ethan Morgan in the manic but psychotic Acolyte Amy. [Is that the name she goes by? Acolyte Amy? Or is "acolyte" just one of the many words you've chosen to capitalize unnecessarily?] With a rogue's gallery of mages and agents blessed and cursed with different powers and abilities, Hand of Chaos blends the pace and tension of a counter-terrorism procedural with the occult trappings of classic dark fantasy. Action packed and gritty, Hand of Chaos introduces the reader to a fictional universe [Whoa! This is fictional?!] featuring a prominent war between Heaven and Hell, where Hell's Demons and Heaven's Angels attempt to influence the daily workings of the world. Sometimes they do so through cultural and social manipulation, other times through overt and covert violence. In addition to Heaven and Hell, there are a group of rogue Angels and Demons that broke away from God and Lucifer in an attempt to prevent either one from gaining the upper hand. [This angel/demon part sounds like a novel in itself.] Anna and her team, being agents of Chaos, [Is Chaos her team name? The term "agents of Chaos" is going to remind everyone of "agents of KAOS," namely Siegfried, the Claw, Ironhand, Bronzefinger, Leadside, Dr. Yes, Simon the Likeable, et al.] really just want to keep everything from getting worse. Easier said than done.

I am an unpublished writer who is trying to change that and leave my depressing day job working for the US Government. [Writing may be less depressing, but the government has a better benefits package.] Any feedback would be most appreciated.


Notes

This is way too long.

Based on the first six sentences, Anna could be a librarian in a tame romance novel. There's no hint that this is a plot starring rogue sorcerers, mystical creatures, gruesome and macabre forces, a crazed fanatic, a necromancer, defense contractors, murderous wraiths, an army of the undead, a hot-headed general, a squad of sanctified and blessed holy warriors, mages and agents, or angels and demons. As you'll be sending this to someone who is into fantastical creatures and violence, you don't want to risk the reader balling it up and tossing it at the nerf hoop just above the wastebasket before she even gets to the zombie deathtrap.

The first section can be condensed to: Anna Wei works for the government, using her magical powers to hunt down rogue sorcerers, mages, and mystical creatures. She and her small team are often all that stands between a crazed fanatic and an act of supernatural terrorism that could kill thousands.

Even better would be to change "works for the government" to "heads up the [insert cool-sounding name of her team]. If you don't have a cool-sounding name of her team, get one. If it's Chaos, change it, and not to CONTROL, UNCLE, THRUSH, or SPECTRE.


The second section is your plot. Possibly you tried to make it sound as chaotic as possible.

Her latest case is a tough one: a Necromancer waging a one-man war against the US Department of Defense. Ethan Morgan's brother was killed by an experimental magical weapon, and now he's out for revenge, attacking CEOs of defense contractors, unleashing murderous wraiths on Washington, and raising an army of the undead to strike down anyone who gets in the way of his warped sense of justice.


The final long section sounds too much like a promotional advertisement. Now that you've set up the situation, you could give us a hint of what Anna plans to do about it and what will happen if she fails. And finish by saying "Did I mention that a war between heaven and hell is also raging in D.C.?" That ups the chaos ante more than Anna's slight drinking problem. And a brief mention of the war is plenty. If you make a big deal of a war between heaven and hell, people will wonder why they should care about the Anna and Ethan "subplot."

Given that you capitalize necromancer, wraiths, angels, demons, government, gates of hell, etc. (presumably because they rate capitalization in the book), it's odd that the Middle East isn't capitalized.

The reader of the query will want the word count. And we want it too, so that the Too Short and Too Long Nazis will know which group needs to set you straight.

5 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Could be a fun novel. I'm finding it a bit hard to believe they can't track this necromancer through DC, though. Aren't they getting phone calls about the dead or undead he leaves in his wake?

As EE says, you're trying to give us a feel for the entire novel rather than a taste of it. Focus on Anna, her goals and the obstacles to those goals. Srsly, her lack of a social life is not the bit of the story most people who read this kind of novel want to know about.

sarahhawthorne said...

Yeah, EE's summarization of your query is dead on. This sounds like it could be really cool, but you're drowning your reader with subplots.

If I were you I would also adjust the bio sentence to something more upbeat. You're using negative terms: "unpublished... depressing day job..." Turn that around and choose positive words: "I am a writer currently surviving a U.S. Government job of my own. This is my first novel." That's all you need.

Anonymous said...

What they said. The proliferation of subplots and freaky characters might work in the book, but they don't all need mention in the query.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I once taught in a public high school in DC. There is nothing going on in the city that those school kids do not know about. If you want to catch a necromancer in DC, just ask a DC public high school student where he's hanging out and what his weak spots are. Problem solved.

You, dear writer, are drowning in words. Meet a writer's two best friends, Shift+arrow and Delete.

Consider:

Her latest case is a tough one, too: a Necromancer who is waging a one-man war against the US Department of Defense. His name is Ethan Morgan, and he's on a mission. After his brother was killed by an experimental magical weapon in the middle east, he's out to make everyone connected to it pay. Everyone. Anna and her team have to find out what Ethan's endgame is, and stop it before he builds his own weapon, one that could set an undead horde against the nation's capital.

could be:

Necromancer Ethan Morgan is waging a one-man war against the Defense Department. His brother was killed by a magical weapon in the Middle East, and Ethan's out to make everyone connected to the incident pay. Anna has to stop Ethan before he sets an undead horde against the nation's capital.

(Not smooth. Not flowy. But not drowning in words, either.)

Btw, I too am having trouble cheering Anna on. So zombies are gonna suck out the brains of Eric Prince et al and we're sposta what, be concerned or something?

Consider having zombies threaten to suck out the brains of cute little puppy dogs instead.

Anonymous said...

Anna's drinking problem, aggravated by... isn't getting any better because...When...But/then...

Focus on her. Her character needs development. Chop it back, too much going on.

No one needs to know who you work for.

Word count would be good.