Monday, August 06, 2012

Face-Lift 1058

Guess the Plot

A Braver Thing

1. At an all-boys boarding school, Tristan and Malcolm fall in love. Problem: Malcolm is the Prince of Wales, and his father dies, making Malcolm king of England. Malcolm thinks he should keep their relationship secret, but Tristan thinks it would be braver to become the first openly gay monarch. How long till Tristan mysteriously disappears?

2. When Mark Mandover's agent tells him he needs to do something 'risky' and 'brave' to "toughen his image", he takes action. Five states, a dozen crashed cars, and three broken bones later, he's still trying to figure it out. Also, a 50-something female hostage--with a gun.

3. Jenny Braver’s fourteen-year-old sister Becky got into drugs. She dropped out of school and started turning tricks. One morning, police find Becky’s body in an alley; her pimp strangled her. Jenny gets into the life. She doesn’t do drugs; she murders pimps. It’s Jenny’s Braver thing.

4. Forsithia must decide whether to bow before the alien invasion, or do 'a braver thing' and sacrifice herself so that the ultimate weapon can be forged from her DNA.

5. Things, as everyone in Stuffland knows, are wimpy. They're not like Elements, strong and unpredictable. They're not like Matters, adaptable and changeable. All Things are cowards... except for Bruce Thing. After decades of puny scaredy behaviour, a brain operation turns Bruce into some other thing. A Braver Thing.

Skyler is not a girl. Not a boy either. Fact is, Skyler is just some... thing. Join it as it fights bullying in grade, middle and high school, learning that any thing can be brave.

Original Version

Dear Most Evilest of Editors,
Seventeen-year-old Tristan Tennant didn’t expect to fall in love at all-boys boarding school -- especially not with the Prince of Wales. A lifelong royal history geek, Tristan knows that no matter how badly he wants to shout his love for Prince Malcolm from the library rooftop, the relationship must remain a secret. [There are no secrets at an all-boys boarding school.] It’s hard, sure, but the romantic weekends at Buckingham Palace are totally worth it. 
But after the sudden death of his father, Malcolm is no longer just the heir to the throne. He’s king. [And everyone at his boarding school mysteriously disappears.]
The only option Malcolm can see for their future is a top-secret affair while he takes a queen. [Actually, he's already taken a queen. Ba dum ching.] Tristan has a crazier idea -- Malcolm should become the first openly gay monarch. It sounds gorgeous to Malcolm, but it means turning his back on centuries of tradition [Does that mean that being straight is a tradition, or that it's traditional for the king to hide his gayness?] [In any case, the term "openly gay" is fairly recent. There've been monarchs who were known during their reigns to be homosexual. Not that there's anything wrong with that.] and risking anything from tabloid scandal to assassination. [The king is gay! Long live the-- BANG!] Tristan knows Malcolm has the power to smash the status quo. He just has to show him that rules are only rules until they’re broken. [In my experience, when you break rules you get punished, and the rules are still rules. For instance, try submitting your query in 
font and see how that goes.]

 A BRAVER THING is a 60,000-word contemporary YA novel.


This is well-written. It's mostly setup, however. Here's the situation my main characters find themselves in, read my book to find out how they handle it. If you condense a bit you'll have room to tell us what they decide, who the villain is who tries to butt in, what they plan to do about it. The story.

It feels weird to call it contemporary when we all know the secretly gay Prince of Wales isn't a teenager named Malcolm. That's probably just me, but if it feels weird to others, maybe it should be set in the future (or in the recent past and labeled alternate history).


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, I'm reading this and thinking James I is what, chopped liver? Richard the Lionheart? Okay, apparently we're not sure about Richard, but we're sure about James, and since everyone seems to have known it at the time, that makes him IMHO pretty Openly Gay.

Which was fine. Apparently he also had less-fine habits: terrible table manners, fondling himself in public, burning witches.

Anyway, the above might make an agent wonder if you've done your research. You definitely want to have done your research for something like this. There are people who know a great deal about the contemporary British monarchy (I'm not one of them) so there'll be some pressure to get your facts, er, straight.

And yeah, I would want to see it alternate-reality. In the US it's easy to have a fictional president and set the story a few years in the future, but monarchs are much harder to fake.

Anonymous said...

What =I= find difficult to believe that the Prince of Wales is named "Malcolm".

PLaF said...

What makes staying the closet his only option – centuries of tradition? With Will and Kate’s recent emphasis on “traditional but with a modern twist,” this may not hold up. And it may be a personal challenge but what’s the big picture if he comes out – war with the Pope? Will Parliament force him to abdicate? Will France invade?

Anonymous said...

What they said.

What's your intended genre?

Seems like it would work better to either make it historic fiction about an actual Prince/King, or else get more fictional and make it the very imaginary monarch of a more imaginary kingdom.

150 said...

Yeah, I'm inclined to say go with some fictional small European country. (There's a world's worth of precedent: I'd read it, though. Do what EE suggests. Good luck!

khazar-khum said...

There is, of course, one immense problem with an openly gay monarch: the question of securing the succession. If Malcolm has siblings, of course, this won't be an issue. But there will be enormous pressure on him to abdicate in favor of one who will provide an heir.

Personally, I'd avoid potential problems and change details of the country.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I. Would so. Read this.

I'm also guessing that, here, "first openly gay monarch" actually means first monarch to be married to a dude. Or in a serious relationship that might lead to marriage. I'm not a history buff (sorry) but I'm guessing that hasn't happened in Wales in the past? There's a big difference (in the opinion of The People) between "Kings have voracious sexual appetites which might include mistresses or dudes" and "King is marrying a dude and now we have two Kings."

So the stakes worked fine for me. There are all kinds of bigots out there and I can totally understand why Malcolm would be terrified of coming out while King. Plenty of non-royal guys struggle with this, without the added pressure of appealing to an entire country.

I do however agree that this might work better set a little in the future. Of course, you may have already written it that way, in which case, rock on.


Becca Christiansen said...

Hi! Author here! :)

Regarding the setting: it is slightly futuristic, and slightly alternate-history. Malcolm is the fictional grandson of Edward VIII, if he hadn't abdicated and it had been socially acceptable to marry Wallis Simpson. And yeah, by "openly gay" I mean "in a serious relationship with another guy and not hiding it."

Regarding the stakes: Malcolm is an only child. His heir, his older cousin, wants the throne for himself, and when he finds out about their relationship, he attempts to blackmail Malcolm into abdicating.

Now that I think about it, EE is right and this really is all just set-up. Hmm. I think it's revision time.

Mister Furkles said...

An intriguing historical fiction would be to write about Edward II. He is believed to be at least bisexual. His father was a brilliant warrior king and Edward II was trained to be a warrior king. The training didn’t take.

Here is a more serious question: who is going to read your story? Is there a market for gay boys in YA? I don’t know YA but I thought the readers were mostly teen girls. Aren’t the stories mostly about young women. Do gay male teens read YA books? There is a market for GBLT but is there a cross over to include YA stories?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Chelsea, the Prince of Wales does not reside in Wales. Wales is part of the United Kingdom, which we Yanks like to call "England", and the title Prince of Wales has been given to the heir apparent to the throne of "England" ever since the 14th century.

I'm pretty sure James the First did have an open and presumably monogamous gay relationship and nonetheless produced an heir who became Charles I and was beheaded. (Chuck was beheaded, not Jim.) Lemme check. Whoops, wikipedia is giving him three well-known male lovers. So much for monogamy. Wiki says he also went after "sodomites". Figures. If he'd lived nowadays he'd've been a Republican Congressman and/or a fundamentalist bible-thumper...

...King James Version only, of course.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Alaska--I even had "England" and went and changed it to Wales at the last second. Doh!

Mister F, there is quite the market for GLBTQ lit in YA. Doesn't mean this'll be an *easy* sell to editors, necessarily, but plenty of people are looking to read it.

Author, I would love to read a version with the cousin in it. I look forward to the rewrite!

BuffySquirrel said...

It's not 'contemporary'. It's alternate history.

Becca Christiansen said...

So here's my revised version. I hang out on AW a lot and some very trusty critiquers suggested I call it alt-history and put the last paragraph first -- so there's no confusion as to Prince of Wales, etc.

(Also: I know it isn't called England. I'm just calling it that because I'm querying US agents and I don't want what the country is called to complicate things unnecessarily. I worry that "Prince of Wales" won't ring as many bells as Prince of England would -- thoughts?)

Dear Agent,

A BRAVER THING is a 60,000-word YA novel set in an alternate history, near future England.

Seventeen-year-old Tristan Tennant falls in love at all-boys boarding school -- with the Prince of England. A lifelong royal history geek, Tristan knows that no matter how badly he wants to shout his love for Prince Malcolm from the library rooftop, the relationship must remain a secret. It’s hard, sure, but the romantic weekends at Buckingham Palace are totally worth it.

But after the sudden death of his father, Malcolm is no longer just the heir to the throne -- he’s king.

When Malcolm’s ambitious older cousin and heir, Prince Stephen, discovers their relationship, he gives the ultimatum: dump the boy or hand over the crown. Malcolm would trade the kingdom for love, but his sacrifice breaks Tristan’s heart. He deserves to be king, but he also deserves to love and be loved. There’s never been an openly gay monarch, but who said it’s impossible? It terrifies Malcolm -- they could risk anything from tabloid scandal to assassination -- but Tristan might just spark a flame that could start a revolution.

The first ten pages are pasted below. Thank you for your consideration.


Evil Editor said...

The heir to the throne is the Prince of Wales. Anyone who knows anything about the British monarchy will know that, and if you call him the Prince of England readers will assume you know nothing about the British monarchy and will toss your book. If you're worried that people won't recognize Prince of Wales, just call him the heir to the British throne.

I'm not sure alternate history is the right label if it's set in the future. Until we know what actually happens, there's nothing to be alternate to. YA novel is sufficient as a label.

Stephen is Malcolm's heir?

An ambitious Stephen would say hand over the crown or I tell all. Not dump the boy or hand over the crown. In that scenario if Malcolm dumps the boy, Stephen gets nothing.

The tabloids might have a field day over this, but no way there's gonna be a revolution.

The implication that Malcolm can never find true love unless it's with Tristan seems far-fetched considering they're seventeen.

Why doesn't Malcolm just lock Stephen in the Tower or have him beheaded? That's what Henry VIII would have done.

You still stop short of telling us what Mal and Tris plan to do about their situation. Bringing in Stephen helps, but it's still setup. What happens after Stephen gives his ultimatum?

This would be a lot easier if you had a fictional country.

Becca Christiansen said...

"An ambitious Stephen would say hand over the crown or I tell all."

That's just it! That's basically exactly what he says, and telling would mean Malcolm would have to abdicate -- as far as Malcolm believes. It's the traditional royal stance of "It has never been done, therefore it is not done."

That actually really helps.

150 said...

So, okay. Not to belabor the point. But which is the core conflict--the one resolved at the climax? Is it "Will Malcolm abdicate?" Or is it "When Malcolm comes out as gay, will he and his boyfriend survive being their country's first gay First Couple?"

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I agree w/EE re Prince of Wales. I would guess the majority of literate Americans know that the heir to the British throne is called the Prince(ss) of Wales. Whether we want to or not.

I'd just call it "alternate reality".

This query is better in that it gives us more of an idea of what the story is actually about. But you could still tell more. Who's the protag? Mal or Tristan? Whichever, what does he do to solve his problems and why doesn't it work?

Your query is a little heavy on what I call National Geographic sentences-- sentences that start with phrases unrelated to the thrust of the sentence:

A lifelong royal history geek, Tristan knows that no matter how badly he wants to shout his love for Prince Malcolm from the library rooftop, the relationship must remain a secret.

or with clauses:

When Malcolm’s ambitious older cousin and heir, Prince Stephen, discovers their relationship, he gives the ultimatum: dump the boy or hand over the crown.

Sentences like that always feel like they belongs in italics under a high-quality color photo. :p

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I actually loved the "revolution" bit. It made me think Mal's bravery could inspire the populace to start treating gay people more equally.

And maybe it would. As much as we like to deny it, people react really strongly to sexual relationships that have nothing to do with them. This sort of thing could divide a country--half on Mal's side, half wanting him to abdicate. It's what happens after that that's really . . . well, what happens after that? In the story, I mean. Not inside my speculative head.


BuffySquirrel said...

The fact that it's set in the future does not affect its being alternate history. The 'alternate history' part is established by the change in the story's history [ie that Edward VIII did not abdicate] vs what we might humourously call real history. We have a Prince/King Malcolm because he derives from an alternate form of our history.

You can make it the Prince of England if that was a change that came about as a result of history taking a different path. Otherwise, it's the Prince of Wales and you're stuck with it :).

sarahhawthorne said...

The more I think about this, the more I like the idea. But I have a couple believability issues that are hanging me up.

First - How does a 17 year old become the eldest in a modern royal family line? After all, I'm sure a royal family has some good healthcare options and a squad of armed men dedicated to preventing any kind of fatal accident from occurring. At 17, he ought to still have his parent and grandparents living.

Second - It would be one thing if Stephen was blackmailing Malcolm for money or for power behind the throne, but I just don't believe that Malcolm would be willing to abdicate to keep his sexuality secret. An abdication is a huge deal that would invite even further public scrutiny into Mal's life. To abdicate would actually make it harder to keep a secret. If I were Stephen, I wouldn't bother with the blackmail, I'd go straight to blowing the story up as big as I could, then trying to manipulate public pressure on Malcolm to abdicate.

BuffySquirrel said...

Okay, let's assume this is set in the present day, as the author did describe it as contemporary. Edward the briefly VIIIth was born in 1894, so it's highly unlikely he would still be alive in 2012 at the impressive age of 118.

The crisis took place in 1936, so presumably therefore the child who was Malcolm's father or mother was born sometime after that. Let's call it 1938, for the sake of argument, which would make them 74 in 2012. It's certainly conceivable they'd still be alive--after all, the reigning Queen was born in 1926--but it's equally not that unreasonable that they might die. However, they must have fathered (or mothered) Malcolm at the princely age of 57. So probably his father, then!

Becca Christiansen said...

BuffySquirrel's got it right. Malcolm's father was Edward VIII's son. He married late and they had trouble conceiving, so Malcolm is a very young heir to the throne.