Thursday, May 03, 2012

Face-Lift 1024

Guess the Plot

The Forest Avengers

1. Hans Volak has an enormous green problem. Specifically, the carnivorous forest bordering on his property has begun to encroach upon his pastureland, threatening to eat his prized livestock.

2. The wish-granting butterflies thought they were safe in the magical Forest Zone, but someone is out to capture them all, which will screw up the ecosystem. But there's still hope if 12-year-old Jason can conquer his cowardice and act the part of a superhero.

3. In the land of Sylvinia the trees of the Forest Mossling were exposed to a radioactive meteorite. Now they all have super powers and fight crime as . . . The Forest Avengers!

4. It's good anonymice gone bad! Revenge time! Dissed by a squirrel named Buffy, they're gonna gnaw their nuts and ... well, maybe just gnaw their nuts.

5. When 5th grader Kirti starts an environmental club, she thinks they'll plant some trees, go on hikes, stuff like that. But then the FBI mistakes them for domestic terrorists.

6. Forced into a ceasefire nobody wants, warring Middle Eastern nations come up with a diabolical alternative--sending terrorist foresters across the border to aggressively plant trees in each other's territory. Can plucky teenagers Jasmin and Ibrahim destroy the stealth irrigation systems and save the day?


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Like most twelve-year-olds, Jason didn’t believe in magic. Of course, that was before a bear chased him into the magical Forest Zone; the only safe haven left for threatened animal species. Jason must save the endangered Blue Karner butterfly family from the poaching Lady of the Lake. [That sentence is out of place. I'm expecting you to tell me what makes him suddenly believe in magic; instead you're claiming he is responsible for saving these butterflies, and not providing any explanation for why he has to do this.] You see, each butterfly will grant one wish to the person who catches it first. The Lady plans on stealing them all. [Do you mean capturing them all? From whom would she be stealing them?] [Can't she capture one butterfly and wish that all the others were inside her home?] [In any case, remove "threatened species" from the query and focus on the butterflies.]

Helping the butterflies seems like a no-brainer. There’s only one problem. Jason is an adventure phobic scaredy-cat. His friends know it. His sister taunts him about it. Together with his cousins, Jason makes a wary decision to band together and avenge the rights of the butterfly family. [It's not "rights" that one avenges. He can avenge the butterflies, assuming they've already been wronged. Or he can protect their rights.] [What rights are we talking about? The right to not be used as wish granters? Do the butterflies care to whom they grant wishes?] Little does he know that acting the superhero is much scarier than pretend.

When their plans go wrong and the Lady catches them trying to free her collection of butterflies, [Sounds like the plan is to free the butterflies, not avenge them.] she kidnaps Jason’s cousin and tricks him into leading her to the Forest Zone. ["Hey kid, I'm trying to find Baskin Robbins. Where is it in relation to the Forest Zone, which I already know where is?"] Chaos breaks out when the Lady learns that the all-powerful Queen Karner butterfly is an even better catch. She can bestow the ultimate prize—unlimited wishes. [I don't see why this would cause chaos to break out.] To make matters worse, Jason has to keep an eye on his smart-mouthed sister who thinks there’s no harm done if she makes a wish…or two. [There isn't, if she wishes the Lady would drown in the lake.]

Protecting both the Queen and his own coveted secret [What secret are we talking about?] from the Lady’s clutches, Jason soon discovers what bravery really is as he tries to stop the Lady of the Lake before the butterflies become extinct and the forest’s ecosystem falls apart.

THE FOREST AVENGERS is a middle grade adventure novel. It includes magical realism and is complete at 35,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

The Lady of the Lake is a familiar "name" in fantasy, poetry, opera, and ships. Does she have a real name? Is she a person or some kind of ethereal being? I would find it annoying to read a book in which a main character was always referred to as The Lady of the Lake. It would be like reading a comic book in which the villain was always referred to as The Bald Guy Obsessed with Killing Superman.

The Lady of the Lake has no need to keep or kill a butterfly that's already granted its one wish, so why would they become extinct? She should release them so they can procreate, providing new wish-granting butterflies.

If the Lady of the Lake didn't even know where the Forest Zone was, the butterflies were in no danger of extinction until Jason's cousin blabbed. They should have just stayed out of it and let nature take its course.

Freeing the Lady's collection of butterflies doesn't prevent her from going to the Forest Zone and getting more, or getting the queen. They have to murder her.

Start over. The setup is: The wish-granting Blue Karner butterflies are in danger of extinction if Cruella de Moth finds out where their safe haven, the magical Forest Zone is. 12-year-old coward Jason wants to protect the butterflies, so he recruits his cousins for a mission to thwart Cruella. But when one of Jason's idiot cousins gives away the location, it's time to enact Plan B. If only they had a Plan B.

Take it from there.

16 comments:

150 said...

Release them so they can procreate? She should freakin' farm them. One nice big cage and she's set for life.

If there's a limitation on the wishes, you might want to say so. There's just too many ways to solve this problem instantly by magic.

If Jason is a well-known fraidy cat, I'm not sure "I'm off to save the butterflies!" is going to improve his rep.

Tk said...

Details are so tricky in a query. Specifics make the story come alive, but sometimes they also raise a billion and two questions that there just isn't room to answer.

It seems to me the two key questions you need to address are:

The danger. I'm guessing that when the butterfly grants the wish it dies and that's why they are endangered? But I don't understand why the ecosystem is endangered. The butterflies are key to the whole forest?

The wishes. It seems far too easy to get a large number of wishes. Sure sis can throw a spanner in the works, but Jason could catch another butterfly and wish sis's wish undone.

Even if it's a terrible thing to make a wish because it kills a sentient butterfly, it seems obvious that one of the butterflies would sacrifice itself to save the others (and the magical zone) by giving someone a wish that the butterflies and the zone will be safe forever.

arhooley said...

Author, yeah, this is a fix-the-query site rather than a fix-the-plot site, but I think the overcomplexity of your plot is reflected in your overly complex query.

Specifically, I see no need for the eco-theme. Why say "extinct" instead of letting the magical butterflies cry, "We're all gonna die!"? That's enough right there. Tk brought up the issue of the endangered ecosystem. So, is that the stakes, with the survival of the butterflies a sub-issue? If so, that should be the central conflict, with the dreadful consequences of a collapsed ecosystem hanging before us in horrific detail. Presumably Jason and his family and their dog and cat will suffer or die if the ecosystem goes?

Kiddie lit is saturated with these sanctimonious eco-themes. Has anyone asked if the kids are getting sick of being harangued about the environment instead of being free to dream about magical butterflies?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I see blogger ate my comment. (Or EE rejected it.)

From the extreme opposite end of the political spectrum from arhooley, I totally agree with her.
Preachiness annoys even readers who are on your side, and converts no one. A novelist's job is to tell a story.

Wishes manufacture endless plotholes. All Jason or his sister has to do is wish the Lady of the Lake was at the bottom of the deep blue sea.

Anonymous said...

Evil gave you the perfect opening. Go forth!

Sort language/logic problems, i.e. the wish paradox.

Don't trick Jason's kidnapped cousin. Threaten him.

Bland/plain/familiar terms (Forest Zone)need rethinking.

Helping the butterflies seems like a no-brainer. Jolted me.
Jason wants to safeguard/protect/save the (magical/delicate) butterflies. A scaredy-cat but
willing to...

Carry on.

AA said...

Some of these recent queries are really suffering logic-wise. This is no exception.

Okay, first of all what's to stop the MC from catching one of the butterflies and wishing everything OK again?

Tk brought up a good question- why is the ecosystem endangered?. Usually it would take more than just one butterfly species going extinct to seriously disrupt an ecosystem. Ecosystems are fragile, but they're not usually THAT fragile. Also, there's the uncomfortable fact that butterflies are important to an ecosystem partly because they are FOOD for other species. You can leave this part out of a fantasy kids' story about butterflies, but you can't leave it out of a kids' story about ecosystem health.

If the Lady steals all the butterflies, she has enough wishes already that the reveal of an unlimited-wish butterfly isn't as exciting as you think it is. After all, what is there to really wish for once you're the Empress of the Universe?

How did the Lady gather a collection of these butterflies if she didn't know where the Forest Zone was? Do the butterflies live elsewhere? If they live anywhere in general, I don't see how they're endangered, or how they can be crucial to the survival of any particular ecosystem.

Rewrite this. It has to make more sense than this query does.

BuffySquirrel said...

I don't see why the Lady shouldn't trick the cousin. Tricks can be more interesting for the reader than threats. But then perhaps some people find tricks more threatening than threats, because they undermine the intelligence rather than the courage.

Also, any idiot can threaten a child. A worthy antagonist shouldn't be an idiot.

The no-brainer line jolted me, too. I wondered from whose POV that came. Obviously not Jason's, as it isn't a no-brainer for him, so whose?

Also, this bear...it stops chasing Jason once he gets into the Forest Zone? Or magically vanishes? I'm thinking a bear can easily catch a twelve-year-old. I believe the advice given for when you're under attack by a bear doesn't include running, as that's futile. Just makes it more fun for the bear.

If you want to make it obvious from the start that Jason isn't brave, perhaps have him chased into the Zone by something he only thinks is a bear. The advantage being that if it isn't a bear, his survival will be more convincing.

150 said...

If you want to make it obvious from the start that Jason isn't brave, perhaps have him chased into the Zone by something he only thinks is a bear.

That advice is gold.

Anonymous said...

For crying out loud can you please quit critiquing the critiquers? Critique the query, not the comments.

Comments are meant to help the writer. This isn't a contest.

PLaF said...

Like most twelve-year-olds, Jason didn’t believe in magic.
I wondered if this meant he never believed or he didn’t believe anymore and why.
Forest Zone – decidedly unmagical name
What about Jason makes him afraid of adventure? I question the validity of a 12-year old with this fear or of other middle grades interested in reading about someone with it. His phobia is what will bring the conflict to your story. It’s not so much about saving the butterflies or the ecosystem, it’s about overcoming this fear or acting in spite of it. Your comment that “acting the superhero is much scarier than pretend” sounds more like he wishes he had superpowers, not that he’s afraid of adventure.
Nice choice of butterfly. Because they only feed on one type of plant, saving the food source becomes as important as saving the butterfly from extinction. I think you could weave this into the story without getting preachy about the ecosystem.
I agree with the others about the excessive wishes. It’s cool to have the queen butterfly grant a wish for a job well done. Unlimited wishes plays more like a younger grade theme than middle grade.

BuffySquirrel said...

*blinks*

Anon dear, did you think I meant you felt threatened?

BuffySquirrel said...

lol, just actually read the GTPs...nice one!

Stephen Prosapio said...

Hey gang. I haven't checked in for a while.

In deference to EE, you might try playing with this opening...

Jason is an adventure phobic scaredy-cat. His friends know it. His sister taunts him about it. But when Jason is chased into the majic forest by a bear, he stumbles upon Cruella de Moth's plan to enslave all of the wish-granting Blue Karner butterflies as soon as she discovers their safe haven! Jason recruits his cousins for a mission to thwart Cruella, but one idiot cousins gives away the location, it's time to enact Plan B. If only they had a Plan B.


Hey 150, Buffy, ARC et al.!

james said...

Sic'em, Buffy!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Good to see you, Stephen.

batgirl said...

I vote for Stephen's blueprint.

Also, great GTPs!