Monday, March 19, 2012

Face-Lift 1005

Guess the Plot

The Exemeus

1. After years of warp-speed travel, Captain Jean-Luc Picard returns to Earth with a Klingon makeover, a Romulan wife, and a ship with a new name.

2. Legendary magician "The Exemeus" has recently contracted pancreatic disease. Pissed at the world for such a mundane end to his life he's ready to blow the lid off the whole magical community.

3. The story of Dephon's late mother's role in the oppressive Treptonian government's rise to power is told in a book called The Exemeus. It's a different book from this book. In this book, Dephon reads The Exemeus.

4. Dr. Brock Latner and Prof. Juliette James have always been not-so-friendly rivals in chasing down ancient artifacts. But their latest escapade bogs down when they spend most of the book arguing about how to pronounce their current target.

5. Gemologist Janet Green has been working on the perfect lab-made diamond for a decade. When she thinks she’s found the way to guarantee the best carbon structure possible, her lab is broken into and all her work destroyed. Now she’s on the run -- but from whom?

6. Lawanda White thinks she creatively outdid her neighbors when she calls her infant twins Oranjelo and Lemanjelo. But her sister outdoes her, giving her newborn child a demonstrative article and name: The Exemeus. Family feud ensues.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Fourteen-year-old Dephon Johnson lives on a post-apocalyptic Earth where the Treptonian government would forbid breathing--if it didn’t need its taxpayers. Dephon just wants to survive ninth grade, preferably without repeat dunkings in the toilet, courtesy of the football team. [The apocalypse may leave the world a burning wasteland of rubble, but we will never put up with toilets not working.] However, swirlies become the least of his concerns when his mother’s former mentor, Jacqueline, barrels into his life. Armed with a talking rooster and exploding paper, she has a less-than-well-thought-out plan to commit treason. [Impossible to buy that a fourteen-year-old, dealing with a plan to commit treason and repeat dunkings in the school toilet, would consider swirlies the least of his concerns.] Dephon wants no part of it, but getting rid of Jacqueline isn’t going to be easy. She’s convinced that in ten short days Dephon will inherit a legendary power that may or may not improve his acne, but could possibly destroy the Treptonian government once and for all. [I want nothing to do with your political schem--Did you say it might improve my acne?]

Unfortunately, the government believes it too.

With hundreds of assassins dispatched to neutralize him as a threat, Dephon has no choice but to sign up for Jacqueline’s plan. But Dephon soon realizes what every 14- year-old boy already knows: women are crazy. [14-year-old boys already know that women are demon-spawn; they don't know they're also crazy until they're in their forties.] For her plan to work, Dephon must keep secrets from his mind-reading father, battle a swarm of mystical bees for their allegiance, and infiltrate the very army out to kill him. Oh, there's also the minor complication of it requiring active participation from his dead mother. Yep, all in all, Dephon is fairly confident that if the Treptonian government doesn’t kill him, Jacqueline’s plan certainly will.

THE EXEMEUS is a 100,000 word YA fantasy novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Note for Evil Editor- the title is the name of a magical book in the story which tells the story of his mother's battle against the Treptonian army.]

[The author provided an alternate ending to the query, kicking in after the one-sentence paragraph:]

With hundreds of assassins dispatched to neutralize him as a threat, Dephon’s only choice is to sign up for Jacqueline’s plan. Unfortunately, her plan includes+ doing recon in the Treptonian army’s lair, battling a swarm of mystical bees for their allegiance, and reading enough to make his ninth grade English class look like preschool. [The football team has no trouble finding him for his daily dunking, but hundreds of assassins are flummoxed while he's sitting around reading?] Dephon is more than ready to give up and go into hiding. But then he stumbles onto the truth about his dead mother’s involvement in the Treptonian government’s rise to power. [What he stumbles onto, I assume, is The Exemeus, a magical book that details his mother's role in... If you go with this version, may as well use the opportunity to explain where the title comes from.]

Before Dephon can decide what to do, the assassins are at his door and Jacqueline’s true plan is revealed: to transport him back in time to prevent the government from ever conquering Earth. [Going back in time is a good way to escape hundreds of assassins. But recon in the enemy lair, bee battling and reading aren't. I'd leave these other activities out of the query unless you want to explain why he's wasting time with them.] With only a swarm of bees by his side, Dephon sets out to destroy the Treptonian government once and for all. But in the past, Dephon reconnects with his mother and faced with saving his planet or his mom, Dephon’s not sure he can choose.

THE EXEMEUS is a 100,000 word YA fantasy novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I prefer the length of the first version. I would like the first version better without the "women are crazy" sentence. Neither version hints at why the book is called The Exemeus, which could be bothersome if it's a made-up word.

If the book wouldn't be described as a comedy, featuring the comedic parts in the query may give the wrong impression. Talking roosters, mystical bees and swirlies don't strike me as noteworthy features of a book set on an oppressive post-apocalyptic Earth, unless this is a satire of the glut of post-apocalyptic YA novels out there.

In what way is the book magical?

How is post-apocalyptic Earth different? Magic exists, time travel is possible, some men can read minds, roosters talk, hundreds of assassins can't handle a job that one used to do... It sounds more like an alternate dimension or a bizarro world than Earth after some apocalyptic event.


Anonymous said...

Is this the same Exemeus that was on inkpop in 2010?

Whether it was or wasn't I'm with the first version and EE.

150 said...

I can't think of another book that has a middle-aged lady mentoring/adventuring with a teenage boy, so my interest is piqued, but the "women are crazy" line makes me doubt it's handled in a way that wouldn't, well, drive me crazy.

It still sounds potentially fun. I'd read pages.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Sounds kinda fun.

Before writing my fake plot for this one (which didn't get used, but I'm not bitter!) I googled "exemeus" to see what it meant.

I got a French translation service (the author's?) and a blog with only one entry, which mentioned a holocaust that doesn't seem to have made it into the query. (NB-- just as well.)

Author, note that interested agents and editors may perform the same google search. I'd delete the blog.

Otherwise, I thought this actually sounded like a story with some promise. A middle grade story with some promise. Not a YA. Your protag is too young for YA. But your manuscript is too long for middle grade. Cut 25k words min., and you're good to go.

Oh, and absolutely positively lose the women are crazy. They're not only crazy, they also wield roughly 95% of the decision-making power from manuscript to bookstore purchase.

none said...

When I was a child, I enjoyed reading Edward Eager's books in which children have magical adventures.

In one book, I believe it was Half Magic, Katherine uses the magic du jour to defeat Sir Lancelot du Lac in a joust. When her identity is revealed, Lancelot is taunted by people going, Lancelot's a churl, beaten by a girl.

Katherine is suitably remorseful and Merlin has to come in and sort out the dreadful insult.

I have never forgiven Edward Eager. Just saying.

sarahhawthorne said...

How about "moms are crazy," if you absolutely must? Every kid thinks his parents are weird. And rephrase that sentence. 14-year-old Dephon realizes what every 14-year-old already knows? Huh?

Something else that always gets my goat is the whole "the football team dunks the nerds in the toilet" thing. To me it comes across as cliched and untrue. Has this ever actually happened to anyone past elementary school? Usually by high school kids have moved on to starting nasty rumors on Facebook or emailing each other death threats.

Also - what kind of post apocalyptic world still has high school football teams and swirlies? You're missing a chance to do some world-building with this line.

Rashad Pharaon said...

I like your voice and style. Really do. I'd ask for a partial or full if I was an agent, but since I'm're on your own.

Thank you for sharing!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I blame Suzann Collins for the dystopia-still-has-high-school trope.

Anonymous said...

I, the author, found all of these comments really helpful.Yes this is the saame Exemeus on inkpop, except it has had 2 really amazing (and 1 not so amazing) editor edit it.
I will definitely delete the line about crazy women. I as a woman, thought it was amusing, because many a mand has told me that women are insane, I asumed the belief started young.
I will delete the blog. Good point.

As someone who has taught and mentored high schoolers, I assure you swirlies are still as amusing to some of them as it was in elementary school. And you're right, schools are forbidden on Trepton. The parents, as their own personal rebellion have built underground schools. Most parents still want their children to learn, but some parents don't allow their kids to attend for fear the government will find out.

I unfortunately can;t make it middle grade, because the other p.o.v author is 17. I'm thinking of aging Dephon to 15 or 16. Not sure as yet.

And thanks for those who said they thought the concept was different. I appreciate all of your ideas, it will only make the book stronger.

Rachel6 said...

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the exploding paper! My reaction, in the best possible way, was "What is UP with that?"

I would not only read this, but hand it to my kid brother when I finished.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I've also taught high school, and among those people who consider themselves damn lucky to be in high school, that sort of behavior is rare.

(People who consider themselves damn lucky to be in high school are hard to find in the US, but easy to find in the developing world and probably also in Dystopia.)

While there are exceptions both ways (The Book Thief comes to mind) the general thinking is that kids want to read about a character two years older than themselves. Not everything fits neatly into a slot. But you shouldn't change your character's age just to get into that coveted YA market. Your story is what it is.

Your plot as you've described it sounds middle grade, and YA seems to be dominated by female protags AFAICT. I see from your blog that you've got Harry Potter dreams. Harry Potter didn't start out as YA.

Anonymous said...

Would love to know what part of the developing world you refer to. Most of us don't consider ourselves lucky. We do what we do for many reasons.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Unfortunately I can't list the countries because I cherish my anonymity.

But since you have internet access, I think you may not be representative of the folks I've met. The real question is, do your fellow students delight in swirlies?

Laurie said...

I like this - the query does need work and I second a lot of the comments on shaping it, but I like the story here.

I like the talking rooster - I'm a sucker for animals - but I'd either have the rooster be more of a character here, or drop it from the query altogether, as I don't think it adds anything as it is.