Thursday, April 05, 2012

Face-Lift 1013


Guess the Plot

A Shattered Light

1. Relieved of our world’s bureaucratic hell, the dying take comfort in the light at the end of the tunnel. But when Gabriel accidentally drops the spotlight, they are temporarily re-routed to another kind of hell.

2. Searching for her missing twin brother, Evie recalls that her missing father once told her stories about the fae folk. So she goes to their court, but her hopes are shattered when the king demands that she fight in a war. Also, a punk elf.

3. Perfect soccer mom Sallie enjoys baking, manicures, and the occasional salon tan. But when a faulty UV bulb causes her to miss her daughter’s graduation ceremony, a nationwide manhunt begins for a mysterious salon-terrorizing villain known as Two-tone.

4. The light bulb in the fire station has been on non-stop since the 1970’s and the ghost of the station’s first chief just wants some darkness. Will the bulb-watching website become the world's most famous proof of ghosts?

5. Lee Wilford is a hypochondriac who fears nothing more than UV rays. When his girlfriend June accidentally breaks a fluorescent light bulb, sending mercury vapor into the air, Lee goes on a rampage that threatens to destroy not only June, but the planet as well.

6. When a young sun god gives the science of optics (and alchemy) to the Irish, he's caught between the druids and the leprechauns. Also, a guest appearance by Piltzintecuhtli.




Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Evie's twin brother disappears it's a nightmare, especially since it mimics the disappearance of their father twelve years earlier. Now Evie will do anything to make sure that her brother returns home, even if that means revisiting the stories told to her by the father she swore never to forgive. [If I disappear, I want Evil Jr. going to the police or at least a psychic, not revisiting Jack and the Beanstalk and The Little Engine that Could.] [You imply that revisiting her father's stories means forgiving him. I don't see the connection.] [I don't like "it's a nightmare." Perhaps "she's distraught" is better.]

Her father's stories lead her to the court of the fae folk. [I guess it's a good thing her dad didn't tell her stories about orcs or Atlantis. Did he suggest that his stories were other than just stories? Like nonfiction?] The place is a paradise, but there's a trade-off. Humans can live in the court, but in return they're expected to fight. War is brewing with seifers, the enemies of the fae, and humans alone have the power to control captured seifers, pitting them against their own people. [You're not gonna like this but I have to say it: the book would be far more entertaining if it involved war against heifers.]

Evie doesn't want to fight and she definitely doesn't want to stay. She just wants to find her brother and get them both home. Yet her policy to remain uninvolved gets seriously complicated when she meets her seifer, Darrien. [She has her own personal seifer?] [Why is she meeting her seifer if she has a policy to remain uninvolved?] [This is the point where it's better to go with heifers. The fae capture heifers, but they can't control them; only humans can, so each human has to control her personal heifer while also fighting in the war. The good part is that it's harder for the enemy to kill you if you have a bovine shield. Also, if you get stranded behind enemy lines, your heifer can provide you with milk. And if you're desperate, short ribs.] He isn't the monster that the fae have made him out to be, and before long she can't deny her growing attraction for him. [If you decide to go with heifers, you'll need to change the pronouns in that sentence to feminine.] [You won't need to change Evie to a boy, however, as it's just as likely for a girl to be attracted to a cow as a boy.]

As Evie delves deeper into the realm [What does that mean? What, specifically, is she doing?] she finds herself growing more and more suspicious about the fae, and their king. She's sure he's hiding something about her brother and she doesn't trust the way he's readying humans to fight his war. Then Evie learns that twelve years ago her father was part of a plan to dethrone the fae king. And suddenly she has to decide what exactly is worth fighting for. [Vague. What she has to decide is which side to fight on.]

A SHATTERED LIGHT is my YA fantasy novel and it is complete at 85,000 words. It features a colorful cast of characters including Talli, a punk elf, and Solstice, an ethereally beautiful girl who dresses Goth. [Characters who weren't worth mentioning in the plot summary aren't worth mentioning in the wrap-up.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

If I were at war with an enemy I could capture, but couldn't control after I'd captured them, I think I'd just kill them rather than hire humans to control them.

I feel like there's a missing link between "My brother has disappeared" and "My father, twelve years ago, told me stories about the legendary fae folk" that convinces Evie to seek out the fae court. Is this a world in which everyone knows the fae are real?

Is this set in modern times? How old is Evie?

Evie's goal is to find her brother. If she gets wind that her brother and/or father are alive, you might work that in somewhere. That she suspects the king is hiding something isn't enough for me.

21 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Sigh. Human caught up in war with Fae meets red-hawt Otherbeing. There was a lot of this kind of thing going around for a while, but I thought they'd developed a vaccine for it.

IOW, dear writer, your story sounds like a lot of other stories, and it needs to sound different.

Now, let's talk character-driven fiction and story logic.

As you've got it, Evie's first thought is to look for her brother in an old story her dad told. Once she gets to Fairyland, she is no longer (at least in the query) looking for her brother, but fighting in a war and falling for a hottie. This makes Evie seem rather passive and not too believable.

Un-passive and more believable would be something like this:

Evie's brother disappears. Evie calls his buds, the cops, and CNN. After weeks of frantic search, Evie stumbles onto Fairyland-- her dad was telling the truth after all! But when she gets there, the king tells her never mind her brother: she's obligated to help the fairies fight seifers.

"Bugger that!" cries Evie. "You tell me what you know about my missing brother, and you tell me now!"

Otherwise, see, your character is just being led through the steps of the story.

collectonian said...

I'd be inclined to suggest a different name than Seifer, who is the awesome scarred antagonist from FFVIII. It also isn't clear at all what a "seifer" is, though guessing if Evie is falling for him he has at least some humanoid appearance. My first thought was it was some kind of animal if it needed human controlling.

Agree on the need to focus more...it starts she's searching for her brother, then she's pulled into the war and her brother mostly forgotten until she get's suspicious.

PLaF said...

Hey, Alaska, nice rewrite.

Author,
If her brother and father vanished in much the same way, why would she forgive only one of them?
Why would she think of revisiting stories? Was there a clue of some kind left behind? Could anyone find the court of the fae folk by revisiting stories?
The court is described as a paradise except you have to fight wars, which is pretty much the opposite of paradise. You may want to make an adjustment.
I’d also change the opening in the third paragraph to:
Evie doesn’t want to stay and she definitely doesn’t want to fight (unless she has a 3rd degree black belt and beating up the kids at school just isn’t as much fun as it used to be).
Her policy to remain uninvolved … this line removes the urgency of Evie’s dilemma. Maybe something like: Her desire to stay neutral hits a snag when she meets Darrien, a seifer.
Then maybe explain why he’s “her seifer.” I suspect this relationship is what will set your story apart.
And what does all this have to do with her brother?

Chicory said...

The mention of fairies grabbed me (love them!) but I've got to agree that Evie seems to forget her missing brother awfully fast. Unless Darrien secretly IS her brother turned into a seifer by evil magic, in which case you should mention that in the query. (I'm not being sarcastic. I think that would be an amazing plot twist. Um... except then there'd be a whole creepy incest undertone... never mind.)

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I'm guessing Evie has to forgive her father because she thought he abandoned her by choice. I'm also guessing reading faerie tales together was their thing, and that's why she's stayed away from them after he left . . . until now.

But I think it could be made a little clearer, as other minions have pointed out.

I think the key here is the seifers. Who are they? What are they? I agree with PLaF that this specifically may be the thing to differentiate this from other faerie stories (and this is coming from someone who refuses to stop writing faerie stories herself). Tell me more about them. I am very interested to know :)

EE, you had me laughing uncontrollably with this heifer stuff. People in the office are staring.

Mister Furkles said...

Author,

Aside from others comments, it is a little too long and you need to trim it.

This is rather minor but you could do without the following exaggerations:
… it’s a nightmare
… will do anything – murder preschoolers?
… is a paradise
… more and more – one “more” is enough here

Then there a few tell (not show) terms:
… mimics – means nothing without details
War is brewing … – how about War breaks out between … brewing could take a long time
… delves deeper – than what and how?
… readying humans – how?

She has a policy? Do teen girls have policies? It needs more power. She hates being forced into …

She wonders if it is worth fighting for? It isn’t her war; why would it be worth anything to her?

I would change “growing attraction” to “growing affection”. Affection shows a deeper emotion than mild lust.

Overall, it sounds like a good story. As others said, you need to bring something fresh to YA faerie stories. Maybe vampire heifers allergic to human blood?

Jo-Ann said...

Author
Overall, it sounds like a fun read, and i like that it's the girl going off to rescue a boy. (and a bit spooky for me to read, as I once wrote - and abandoned - a story about a set of twins who are kidnapped to a magical world their parents had connections with).

It's hard to pack all the relevant aspects of the story into a query - so there will always be questions about it.

I needed a little more about Evie's stakes (or steaks if you decide to go with the heifer thing).

I'm guessing she needs to choose whether to do as the fae want and control the Seifer assigned to her, in exchange for bro's safe return. Or sympathise with the Seifer and turn against the fae, at the risk of bro (and possibly long lost Dad too), being executed or otherwise punished.

That's just a guess. May I suggest you spell out Evie's dilemma so your reader doesn't need to guess.

I couldn't help wondering how old the twins were. Even though this isn't strictly neccesary, most MG/YA novels will give some indication of the age.

Keep going. Post an update!

Emily said...

Hey everyone. Thank you so much for all of your comments, they were really helpful. I have a revision that I was hoping I could have some feedback on. I'm just posting the pitch part of it. Thank you in advance.

Seventeen-year old Evie is devastated when her twin brother Colby disappears, especially since it so closely echoes the disappearance of their father twelve years earlier. The only clue she has is Colby's recent obsession with the stories their father used to tell them, stories about the fae.

Evie uses the stories to find a gateway to the court of the fae folk. It's a place on the brink of war with demons, the realm's strongest warriors. Humans alone have the power to control captured demons, pitting them against their own people, and so Evie is expected to fight.

Fighting is the last thing she wants to do. But when she learns that Colby has been captured and is being held in the demon stronghold the fae king makes her a deal: if she fights for him, he'll help her rescue her brother.

When Evie first meets her demon, Darrien, she's repulsed by him. However, she soon realizes that although he looks like a monster he isn't one. She can't deny her growing feelings for him, anymore than she can deny that sending him out to fight could very well be his death sentence.

Somehow, Evie has to find a way to save both Colby and Darrien before she's forced to make an unbearable choice. But to do that, she might just have to stop a war.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Better, here's the "but".

The mc does not make one decision throughout the query.

She is: devastated, finds the gate, uses stories, learns, meets, realizes and can't deny, and so on.

In the last 'graph she may be FORCED to make a choice.

She needs to make choices/decisions with consequences early on.

Long at 5 paragraphs, sharpen draggy passive sentences.

Good luck.

Vicorva said...

Hiya, Emily, here's a comment from a usually lurking minion.

I wouldn't have read your story based on the previous query. I would read this. It's engaging and easy to follow.

I'm still not completely convinced of humans having the power to control the demons - it doesn't confuse the query, but I'd have to read the story to say whether it made sense in practice.

As a side note, I see a lot of YA heroines falling for demons/vampires etc, but this is the first one that LOOKS repulsive or monstrous. This kind of deviation is what I like to see.

Anyway, good work and good luck. :)

Mister Furkles said...

This is much better. Wilkins hit it with Long at 5 paragraphs, sharpen draggy passive sentences. I was especially confused by P2S2: “… on the brink of war with demons, the realm’s strongest warriors.” It only makes sense after reading P2S3.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I agree with Wilkins McQ; the character still lacks agency. She's still being pulled through the story.

This is clearer than the last version, but you're spending a lot of time saying a little (everything in the first paragraph could be said in a sentence, and dad doesn't belong in the query) and a little time saying a lot (I had to reread to see why the demons were fighting on both sides).

Do make sure you've revised your manuscript with an eye to the character's agency.

Anonymous said...

Seventeen-year old Evie jumps through the gate to find her twin brother. The same gate her father spoke about in bedtime stories always led to King Jules and his court of fae folk.
King Jules and his fae love gladiator human/demon matches. Evie is seized upon her arrival in the kingdom is faced with a death match with demon Darrien. The King, whose position on the throne is precarious, tells her if she can destroy the demon Darrien he’ll release her brother. The fae love a King whose champion kills demons.
When Elvie and Darrien meet at kill practice she looks into his eyes and sees a tortured soul. She looks beyond his hideous appearance as he puts a hand softly on her shoulder and tells her she better be prepared to slice his heart out. Darrien is no demon, he’s (her father, best friend killed a year before, her soul mate).
Elvie has to figure out a plan to get Darrien and her brother back on the other side of the gate. She has to change when the kingdom erupts into war and King Jules orders all humans and demons killed.
Author, Darrien is released from his curse as he goes through the gate. (Or what ever happens.)

Not your story but I boiled it down to what I got. Beauty and the Beast save sibling.

Use strong active verbs. Add starch.

PLaF said...

The second query made your story sound much more interesting, but I agree that, short of finding the fae gate, Evie doesn't have much pluck.

Here’s a thought:
Maybe Evie is the one to broker the deal to the king: fight in the war in exchange for the rescue of her brother from the demon stronghold.
It might help her case if there are not too many humans doing this already and her help could turn the tide of the war (should the war break out).
Once she falls for the demon, she’ll be left with the unbearable choice of saving either her brother or her lover (?) while sacrificing the other. Then maybe she could use her mad negotiating skills to broker a peace.

Emily said...

Hello again everyone. Thanks for your continued comments. This is my latest revision. I tried to shorten/sharpen it up and I used your suggestion, PLaF, to make Evie the one to broker the deal.

So, here's the revision...

When Evie's twin brother Colby disappears, Evie's only clue is Colby's recent obsession with the stories their long gone father used to tell them, stories about the fae.

Evie uses the stories to find a gateway to the fae court. It's a place on the brink of war with demons. Humans have the power to control captured demons, pitting them against their own people, and so the fae expect Evie to fight. It's the last thing she wants. But when she learns that Colby has been captured and is being held in the demon stronghold she makes the fae king a deal: she'll work for him if he'll help her rescue her brother.

However, when Evie meets her demon, Darrien, she realizes that although he looks like a monster he isn't one. She can't deny her growing feelings for him, any more than she can deny that sending him out to fight could very well be his death sentence.

Somehow, Evie has to find a way to save both Colby and Darrien before she's forced to make an unbearable choice. But to do that, she might just have to stop a war.

BuffySquirrel said...

It may be an adequate rendition of the plot but it still feels lacking. Perhaps there's just no zing. Nothing to excite the reader about the story.

Maybe it's the lack of emotional resonance. We don't feel Evie's loss. We don't feel her initial revulsion then her growing affection for her demon. The query's flat.

Also, I have problems with 'might just have to stop a war'. That's her dilemma? Oh no I might have to stop a war? As if that's a bad thing.

Mister Furkles said...

Emily,

You may be getting fewer comments because it’s so much better.

So, here is one but it is not really better, just different:

Remove ‘recent’, ‘long gone’, and the second ‘stories’ from sentence one and replace ‘used to tell’ with ‘told’. Then it reads:

When Evie's twin brother Colby disappears, Evie's only clue is Colby's obsession with the stories their father told them about the fae.

Maybe that is just how I write and not any better.

Okay then, another thing. Some were concerned about humans controlling demons. If you give a name to the kind of demon and say “…in the land of the fae, humans can control the XXXX demons”, then it is easier to suspend disbelief. But, you might want come up with your own name because XXXX is an Aussie beer that puts humans out of control.

Another: If your story doesn't have boys controlling demons, you might consider having only girls able to control demons.

AA said...

A couple of the things I thought of:

I wonder how her brother could be held captive by demons if humans can control demons. And don't say, "Humans can only control captured demons," or certain kinds of humans or certain kinds of demons or something like that, cause those types of contrivances just destroy the believability. Either they can, or they can't.

Second, I've got to wonder how a teenager is supposed to know how to control a demon in battle and not get it killed within seconds. Unless she is really good at realistic war-based video games. I'm assuming the demon has only one "life."

Other than that, I have to echo what others have said about a lack of emotional connection to the story. Somehow we feel distant from the characters.

It's probably because one of them, Colby, we actually never meet in the query because he's locked up. Darrien is a demon- hard to connect with that. The king of the Fae is probably evil, but in a vague way, and he's hardly described. Evie is seventeen-years-old and holds a grudge against her dad, but I think you even left those details out in the last version.

Also, no one seems in control of his/her own fate or anyone else's. Darrien is captured AND controlled, adding insult to injury. Colby is captured and bound, and it seems like fate drew him there to begin with. Evie is working for the king and has little choice. It almost seems like fate drew her there, too. The dad has disappeared and is probably dead. Even the king has no guarantee he'll win the war. It's depressing. I'm sure there's a good ending, but it's so hard to see what Evie could possibly do it's hard not to expect a deus ex machina ending.

Anonymous said...

Heya.

Your story has points in it frighteningly like the one I'm working on. *cue creepy music* You haven't been digging around in my brain, have you? HmmmMMMM?

Think concrete (as in "concrete & steel make a mighty strong building - and story and synopsis and query).

Find every phrase you've used that is vague, such as, "is the last thing she wants" and make it concrete--tangible, something the reader can picture in his mind, if not hold in his hand. Failing this, use a verb in the active tense--she hates it or loathes it or some such thing.

Story Stuff to Consider:

Keep in mind Evie is a teenager, so it's hard to go over the top as far as emotions go. :) It may be politically incorrect, but it's nonetheless quite human to HATE something or someone--even for politically incorrect reasons. You're telling us a gut-wrenching tale of a young girl in a situation that most adults could not handle emotionally. Kick us in the guts! If you keep your heroine politically correct (with "policies" and whatnot), she'll be both unbelievable and boring. Make her real by making her raw. Make her raw by peeling off her skin and revealing her emotions and their causes.

If your girl is just a nice, sweet girl at the start of the story (and it could help her growth arc if she is), she will go through a personal Hell in making the decisions she's forced to make. Put her at a crossroads every time she needs to make a decision. Let her see the good and the bad with each of the directions she can take (i.e., with each of the choices before her). The further along in the story you go, the more difficult it becomes for her to choose which road to take because the one road she knows she needs to take to reach her goal is the most dangerous, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

I'm going to take a wild guess here and say that it seems to me as though you have not moved out of your comfort zone in your writing of "negative" emotions. Challenge yourself: Write something emotional the mere thought of which makes you cringe. Locate the "cringe" inside of you. When you feel it, look closely at your thoughts. What is it that has made you cringe? Describe in detail what you see in your mind's eye, your thoughts, how you feel, and your physiological reactions. (This exercise is for you--it's not part of your story.)

Once you have a "cringe" down on paper, dive down in your personal emotional reservoir, smack into another emotion. One that Evie must feel.

Hm. Maybe hatred. Hatred (in general) of war (specifically). Pour it out on paper--thoughts, mind pictures, physical reactions, feelings. And remember to tell us why.

I have nothing against war. When a teen tries to sneak in front of me in line at the market, I tap him on the shoulder and tell him to get his butt to the back of the line. That's war--a mini-war. I have reasons for my wars. I have reasons for not engaging in certain wars, too. Is Evie so bland and brainwashed she just plain hates war because she's supposed to hate war, or does she have a solid, concrete reason for hating this particular war or type of war?

How does this reason for hating war affect her actions throughout the story? If it doesn't, it might seem to be just a convenient excuse for a conflict. At the very least, see if you can't work in a bit of foreshadowing of this hatred of war. Maybe Evie's older bro was killed in a war.

This is your lucky day! The alarm just rang telling me to rush off to the laundry room, meaning I'll have to hush up and leave you alone.

Best of luck with your story!

And please stay out of my brain. =)

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Em,
You've rewritten this in 4 paragraphs from five. Great.

But nothing else changed. You still have an extremely passive mc and plot holes as the others have pointed out.

I'd set it aside for a bit.

Please really look at the verbs in the query. She's still not active enough or interesting enough. She still hasn't made a decision.

Shortening isn't about shortening. It's about tightening and getting rid of the plot holes/questions brought up.Simplify, clarify.

Breathe some life into her.

Best my dear.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Heya.

Your story has points in it frighteningly like the one I'm working on. *cue creepy music* You haven't been digging around in my brain, have you? HmmmMMMM?

Think concrete (as in "concrete & steel make a mighty strong building - and story and synopsis and query).

Find every phrase you've used that is vague, such as, "is the last thing she wants" and make it concrete--tangible, something the reader can picture in his mind, if not hold in his hand. Failing this, use a verb in the active tense--she hates it or loathes it or some such thing.

Story Stuff to Consider:

Keep in mind Evie is a teenager, so it's hard to go over the top as far as emotions go. :) It may be politically incorrect, but it's nonetheless quite human to HATE something or someone--even for politically incorrect reasons. You're telling us a gut-wrenching tale of a young girl in a situation that most adults could not handle emotionally. Kick us in the guts! If you keep your heroine politically correct (with "policies" and whatnot), she'll be both unbelievable and boring. Make her real by making her raw. Make her raw by peeling off her skin and revealing her emotions and their causes.

If your girl is just a nice, sweet girl at the start of the story (and it could help her growth arc if she is), she will go through a personal Hell in making the decisions she's forced to make. Put her at a crossroads every time she needs to make a decision. Let her see the good and the bad with each of the directions she can take (i.e., with each of the choices before her). The further along in the story you go, the more difficult it becomes for her to choose which road to take because the one road she knows she needs to take to reach her goal is the most dangerous, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

I'm going to take a wild guess here and say that it seems to me as though you have not moved out of your comfort zone in your writing of "negative" emotions. Challenge yourself: Write something emotional the mere thought of which makes you cringe. Locate the "cringe" inside of you. When you feel it, look closely at your thoughts. What is it that has made you cringe? Describe in detail what you see in your mind's eye, your thoughts, how you feel, and your physiological reactions. (This exercise is for you--it's not part of your story.)

Once you have a "cringe" down on paper, dive down in your personal emotional reservoir, smack into another emotion. One that Evie must feel.

Hm. Maybe hatred. Hatred (in general) of war (specifically). Pour it out on paper--thoughts, mind pictures, physical reactions, feelings. And remember to tell us why.

I have nothing against war. When a teen tries to sneak in front of me in line at the market, I tap him on the shoulder and tell him to get his butt to the back of the line. That's war--a mini-war. I have reasons for my wars. I have reasons for not engaging in certain wars, too. Is Evie so bland and brainwashed she just plain hates war because she's supposed to hate war, or does she have a solid, concrete reason for hating this particular war or type of war?

How does this reason for hating war affect her actions throughout the story? If it doesn't, it might seem to be just a convenient excuse for a conflict. At the very least, see if you can't work in a bit of foreshadowing of this hatred of war. Maybe Evie's older bro was killed in a war.

This is your lucky day! The alarm just rang telling me to rush off to the laundry room, meaning I'll have to hush up and leave you alone.

Best of luck with your story!

And please stay out of my brain. =)