Monday, January 14, 2013

Face-Lift 1094


Guess the Plot

Imogen and Leander

1. When the body of controversial octenagarian female impersonator and cabaret singer Leander 'Imogen' Sullivan is found half eaten by his 36 cats, homicide Detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, the cats didn't pull the trigger on that 9mm, and two, he'd better get their Burmese Dazzy some catnip, just in case.

2. Brash Imogen's distaste for men changes that magical night she encounters Leander in the college library. Who can argue with destiny, right? Apparently Imogen's mom, Eunice. She sees Leander for who he really is: her long-lost son.

3. Priscilla, Penelope and Constance are all in love with handsome new Rhode Island Red Leander. But all he wants to crow about is plain little Imogen. Will their love continue unruffled, or will the old hens use the pecking order to break up the love nest?

4. Imogen, a gerbil belonging to Mrs. Brown's 3rd grade class, conceives a passion for Leander, the white mouse who lives in a cage atop the dictionary case. But with Maxwell the python in a fishtank on the radiator between them, how can they ever be together?

5. Seventeen-year-old Imogen marries Leander Thurston, handsome owner of Kerrigan Meadows Plantation. Imogen loves Leander but is horrified by his treatment of his slaves, so she embarks on the dual life of loyal plantation mistress and matron of the Underground Railroad.

6. When Princess Imogen's evil stepmother finds that Imogen has married Leander, instead of her stepbrother Claude, she goes on the warpath. Imogen and Leander both flee the kingdom. Unfortunately they flee in opposite directions and have no more contact with each other.


Original Version

Dear Agent,

Between a banished husband, a negligent father, an evil step-mother, a brutish step-brother, and an impending war, [I hate opening with a list.] things [Things? What things?] are getting almost too much for sixteen-year-old Princess Imogen to handle. [You're better off dumping this sentence.]

When fleeing to an enemy nation looks like the best available option, one cannot deny that things have gotten truly disastrous. [This is going to suggest to the reader that fleeing looks like Imogen's best option, when in fact you're talking about another character.] But when King Cameron of Greater Dale [Greater Dale is a terrible name for a kingdom. Unless they named it that to annoy the people of neighboring Great Dale, in which case it's fantastic.] discovers Imogen’s marriage to his ward, Leander Dulac, he banishes him, leaving Leander no choice but to flee north to the enemy Hill Lands. [Fleeing from whom? When the king banishes you, instead of imprisoning or beheading you, you are required to leave the kingdom; being hunted down isn't part of the deal.] Imogen finds herself alone [Define "alone."] in a Court ruled primarily by her cruel step-mother, Queen Atia, who hopes to force Imogen to abandon her husband and marry her step-brother, Claude, and a father so under his wife’s sway that he is trying to force the match and does not comprehend that his country will not survive the upcoming war with the Hill Lands [That's the name of the place? Hill Lands? Is that what the people who live there call it? I recommend going with Great Dale.] that Queen Atia proposes. [Those last two sentences have so many characters and complications, no one's going to stick with the story.]

However, when her husband’s new friends abroad persuade him that she has betrayed him, Imogen suddenly finds herself with only one ally either at home or abroad.  With the help of her friend, Imogen fakes her death and flees south to the Forest of Fae. [How come Leander had no choice but to flee north, but Imogen can flee south? When you're fleeing, you choose the route, and the pursuers have to follow. If I'm Leander, I'm fleeing to the Forest of Fae, not the enemy Hill Lands.] [Also, what's with all the fleeing? I want to read about characters who stand their ground. All the characters we're supposed to like have gotten out of Dodge.] [Also, are you really fleeing if no one's chasing you? The whole point of faking her death, I assume, was so she wouldn't be chased.] Luckily, she falls in with a companion who can keep her alive, even if he cannot stop her from trying to return home to prevent a war.  The same war Leander, convinced he has caused Imogen’s death, has returned to his homeland to die in. [It's Romeo and Juliet, but with fleeing.]

Hopefully, they’ll be able to save their homeland and each other. [Yuck.]

IMOGEN AND LEANDER is a 55,000 word YA Fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes

This needs to be simplified. Get rid of everyone who isn't essential. Especially Claude. No 65-word sentences. No lists of more than three items. It's better than these things usually are when I tell people to start over, but start over. Focus on the main plot, which seems to be this:

When Princess Imogen marries Leander, the king's ward, Queen Atia is enraged, as she had other plans for her stepdaughter. She has Leander banished from Greater Dale.

Friendless in the court, Imogen fakes her death and heads south to the Forest of Fae, hoping to find Leander, not realizing that Leander fled north, where the enemy Hill-Landers are preparing for war with Greater Dale.

Word of Imogen's death reaches Leander and he returns to Greater Dale to fight and die defending his homeland. But Imogen is also making her way home, hoping to prevent the war. Can the two of them hook up and flee the kingdom before all hell breaks loose?


Work with that, but don't add any names.

11 comments:

IMHO said...

What EE said.

Plus, is she simply 'hoping' to prevent war, or does she have some information/power/macguffin that will prevent war. Is there a ticking clock? The query lacks any sense of urgency, for me.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Writer, you've got a lot of National Geographic sentences.

They don't do it as much as when I was comin' up, but Nat'l Geo used to caption all of its beautiful photos with front-heavy sentences like this:

Learning to swim before they learn to walk, these toddlers play in the river while their mothers wash clothes.

Beginning each sentence with a dependent clause, these captions eventually drove the reader mad.

All but two of the sentences in your first three paragraphs are National Geographic sentences. It makes it very hard to figure out what's going on.

Solution: Rewrite this in short, simple sentences.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm going to second the point that there is too much information here.

AS I understand it, Imogen secretly marries Leander which gets him banished the the King and Queen (her parents) discover the marriage. Leander's coming back to wage war on the disapproving parents. Imogen tries to prevent that war by fleeing into the land of the fairies. Both of them get word the other has died and that complicates their marriage, the war, and for some reason the fairies.

That's not the plot you want to sell. It might be close to the plot you have but what I read is not what you wanted me to read.

The entire query is sort of a Nixonian statement -- {wrongly attributed to tricky Dickie, BTW} -- “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

AA said...

"Beginning each sentence with a dependent clause, these captions eventually drove the reader mad."

I LOL'd.

Hills and dales, huh? It makes me think of Hill Valley. I've always loved that one. It's absurd, yet somehow prosaic.


Anyway, what EE and Alaska said: Simplify. We can't emotionally connect with characters and diagram sentences at the same time.

Make the stakes high and the choices clear.

IMHO is right. Where's the ticking clock? Imogen must make --- decision before --- happens. Time is running out to stop chaos from ensuing, right? That needs to be clear.

Also- they run away from home, then they come back? What was the point of running away? So dramatic things can happen? There doesn't seem to be any purpose to at least half of this. And I agree with EE in that I'd rather see characters who know how to stand their ground. Especially when nobody's chasing them!

I really need to care more about these characters because at this point I don't.

Anonymous said...

Did you know:

The Kingdom of Duloc is part of the Shrek Universe

Leander Dulac might have been thrown out for not wiping his face

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s680M8bBNiI

Kelsey said...

When fleeing to an enemy nation looks like the best available option, one cannot deny that things have gotten truly disastrous. But when King Cameron discovers his daughter Imogen’s marriage to his ward, Leander, he banishes him, leaving Leander to travel to the only friends he has outside his home country – who unfortunately live in the enemy controlled Hill Lands.

Imogen finds herself with only one ally in her father’s court, which has become primarily by her cruel witch of step-mother, Queen Atia, who still thinks she can force Imogen to her son. Imogen must struggle to outwit the Queen and get through to her father, who is so under the Queen’s sway that he does not comprehend that his country will not survive the Queen’s rapidly approaching war with the Hill Lands.

Imogen’s efforts to prevent the war are interrupted, however, when Leander’s friends abroad convince him that she has betrayed him and must die. To save her life, Imogen’s ally fakes her death and leaves her alone in the forest of Fae – without the time-consuming complication of explaining anything to her beforehand. Fortunately, once there, she falls in with a companion who can keep her alive, even if he cannot stop her from returning home to prevent the war and save her father from the enemy and an even more murderous stepmother. The same war Leander, convinced he has caused Imogen’s death, is returning to his homeland in disguise to die in.

The young couple have only a few days to save their king, their country, and each other – if they can get back in and find each other that is.

IMOGEN AND LEANDER is a 55,000 word YA Fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

A Perkins said...

Imogen finds herself with only one ally in her father’s court, which has become primarily by her cruel witch of step-mother, Queen Atia, who still thinks she can force Imogen to her son.

I read this sentence three times and I still don't get it - either grammatically or thematically. I assume that by "force Imogen to her son" you mean forcing Imogen to marry her son...but she's already married, so what does this mean?

To save her life, Imogen’s ally fakes her death and leaves her alone in the forest of Fae – without the time-consuming complication of explaining anything to her beforehand.

This raises a few questions: namely, why does Imogen go along with faking her own death and banishment without requiring any sort of explanation?

"Dude, I want to fake your death and dump you in an inhospitable forest."
"But why...?"
"There's no time to explain - just help me bring in this fake blood!"
"...Sure, why not."

The same war Leander, convinced he has caused Imogen’s death, is returning to his homeland in disguise to die in.

I'm not sure I understand Leander's motivation. As presented in this query, this is how it seems to play out:

"Your fiancee has betrayed you - you should kill her!"
"For some strange reason I believe you - I think I will kill her!"

[a couple days later]

"Hey, I just heard your fiancee died before you could go and kill her for betraying you."
"Oh no! Somehow this is all my fault even though I didn't kill her! And now I feel guilty even though just yesterday I was on my way to kill her myself! I'm going to go home and die now."

More than my random nitpicks above, though, I don't see the proactive nature of your protagonists in this query. Leander is duped into acting on false information - TWICE! Imogen doesn't seem to do anything on her own - she can't convince her own dad to listen to her, someone else fakes her death and dumps her in a forest to save her but doesn't even think she should know why, and she'd be dead if not for another ally showing up to protect her.

As the heroes of this story, I want to see them doing things to take charge of their fate, instead of being carried along by everyone else.

Kelsey said...

Hello author,
from one Kelsey to another--

This query is an improvement, IMO. Feel good about that. There are still some long, bumpy sentences in there though that need smoothing out--for example, "... in her father’s court, which has become primarily by her cruel witch of step-mother, Queen Atia, who still thinks she can force Imogen to her son." Try to phrase everything as simply and clearly as possible.

I'd suggest making the opening paragraph about whichever of the two MCs has the main POV. The revised query's first parag. focuses on Leander, but the rest switches focus to Imogen.

Now some comments story-wise:
1) It would still make more sense to have Leander executed than banished, because then Imogen would be a legal widow and eligible to re-marry. Does the King at least try to have the marriage annulled? Since this is the crux of your romantic conflict, make sure it's as strong and reasonable as possible. If a reader sees this conflict and thinks, "Why don't they just ___?" that's pretty much the kiss of death to your story.

2) If I were picking this up in a bookstore (and I do enjoy fantasy) I'd put it down again because the main goal of the MC is to convince someone else to do or not do something rather than DOING something herself--it's too passive for me. Is persuading her father really her only action? Maybe shortening some of those thorny set-up sentences at the beginning would leave room to show a succinct example of how she outwits the Queen--intercepting her mail, contacting the King of the Hill Lands to negotiate a treaty herself, SOMETHING more active than just trying to convince her father to stop.

Coupled with reading that when faced with the challenge of surviving in the wilderness alone, Imogen doesn't even overcome that herself-- she "conveniently" stumbles on a friendly person who can help her. I'd rather read about her scrubbing for roots and berries and becoming stronger for it.

Also...the evil stepmother? I debated whether it was a deliberate nod to fairy tales rather than a cliche, but as is your query makes her sound like a standard 2-D Evil Villain.

Keep working on it. Try to bring out the parts of your story you are the most passionate about--they're likely the best and most interesting parts to the reader, too. Good luck!

Veronica Rundell said...

Everything the others said, but boiled down to: Simplify--the query (and the story, probably)

There seems to be so much back and forth and not a lot of character-driven choices in the plot description. Character + stakes = story, but the MC (MC's) should steer the boat, not be tossed about on the waves.

Also, are you sure you've really invested enough time in your world here? 55,000 words seems short for YA fantasy. Considering that you have to describe three locales, each with its own population and customs, it seems very short. Might be a red flag...

PS--My 10 y/o son still continues to pitch me "Great Dale/Greater Dale" to use as setting of a story. Comic gold. :)

Tk said...

This is a definite step forward, keep at it!

To show your heroine being active, just cast everything that happens in terms of her actions. Don't let her be "forced" or "find herself" in situations, and say what she does, not what her allies do. She secretly marries Leander. She makes plans to outwit her stepmother. She sets out on the dangerous trek back home because she's sure she can prevent the war. Here's an example. Hopefully my wild guesses aren't too far off what really happens in the book.

When sixteen-year-old Princess Imogen secretly marries her father's ward Leander, she expects her parents to be annoyed. Are they ever. King Cameron annuls the marriage and banishes Leander to the Hill Country. Queen Atia locks Imogen in the tower while plotting a second wedding for Imogen - with Atia's loutish son.

Atia is also plotting a war with the Hill Country - in which Cameron will be killed and Atia emerge ruler of both lands. Imogen struggles to outwit her stepmother, clue in her clueless father and cancel both wedding and war, but her plan to kidnap Atia goes awry. It's Imogen who wakes up alone in the forest of Fae. Now she faces a perilous trek of five hundred miles through rat-infested fire swamps before she can stop the war and save her father and her kingdom.

And find Leander again. But Imogen doesn't know rumours of her death have reached the Hill Country along with the declaration of war. A bitter Leander disguises himself and heads for the frontlines, determined to die.

IMOGEN AND LEANDER is a 55,000 word YA Fantasy.


(Is Atia really a witch? You do say it's a fantasy, and there are no other fantastical elements. I'd be interested to know whether anyone else but Atia has magical powers and whether said powers are a plot point.)

AA said...

Your version of written English is awkward. I don't know where you picked it up.

"But when King Cameron discovers his daughter Imogen’s marriage to his ward..." You don't need the "but" since you're not contradicting anything.

"which has become primarily by her cruel witch of step-mother..." Which has become primarily what?

"who still thinks she can force Imogen to her son." To WHAT her son? To wed her son? Again the missing word.

"who is so under the Queen’s sway" Who is so MUCH under the Queen's sway...

"The same war Leander, convinced he has caused Imogen’s death, is returning to his homeland in disguise to die in."
Leander is the subject of this sentence, not the war.

Look out for -ly adverbs as well. You use them too often- truly, unfortunately, primarily, rapidly, and so forth.