Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Face-Lift 1105


Guess the Plot

The Accursed

1. Gabriel, Prince of Vampires, must find a young bride to bear his heir or his line will die, so he chooses 16-year-old Amy and Jesus H Christ I already hate this book.

2. Fury must survive the citadel's eight floors of torment in order to die. If she doesn't survive them, she lives. It's a bit paradoxical, but trust me, it all makes sense in the book.

3. Finally. The REAL story of Hudson's disastrous voyage to discover the Northern Passage. As described in the newly-discovered diaries of Juet, Hudson, mauled by a werecaribou while on a water-gathering expedition, fled the Discovery to protect the crew from his ravenous appetite for timber. Told in verse.

4. "Dearly Beloved..." Pastor Anton always says at the beginning of his Sunday sermons. But he knows that fully one tenth of his flock are The Accursed, beings in human skin who walk the earth "converting" mortals. How is the pastor so adept at recognizing these lost souls? He's one of them.

5. Frederick loses jobs. A bankrupt restaurant, laid off from a delivery service, and fired for cursing a customer. One night on his way home from the pub, he meets Leo de Leeuw, a lion. Leo promises him great wealth if he helps other lions escape from the zoo. He gives up drink and works obsessively for weeks. Finally, he frees the lions. But he doesn't get paid. The lion was lyin’.

6. Bayleigh's school is a nexus--all kinds of magic and bizarre creatures roam its hallowed halls. All, except for her. Because in this place of magic, undeath and love, she's . . . the accursed.



Original Version

Dear Most Evil Editor,

The Accursed is a dark fantasy about a woman who can’t remember her real name and doesn’t know why she’s unable to die. Since you [represented, made your preferences plain, et al] I thought you might be interested in this book.

Fury is a matchless fighter haunted by a past she can’t remember. [If she can't remember her past, how does she know it's her past that's haunting her? Maybe it's the ghost of Christmas future.] Though her every wound heals in moments, pain is her constant companion. With a single touch, Fury can heal others by taking their injuries as her own. ["The Empath." Star Trek, episode #67.] Death refuses to allow Fury beyond its gates, [She's already beyond them. She wants to get inside them.] and, searching for a means to die, Fury enters Nekatix, the infamous city without laws. [Well, there's one law: you must return your DVD or they won't send you another one.] There, she meets Vorlinax, [Sounds like an antacid.] a ruthless Guildlord fascinated with her capacity for survival. In return for becoming his bodyguard, Vorlinax agrees to find her entrance into the next world. ["If you be my bodyguard, I can be your ticket to hell."--Paul Simon.]  [What makes her think he can find her a way to die?]

She serves Vorlinax alongside Nevrik, [Amazing how three such different words can sound like the same word. I recommend changing them to Netflix, Vortex and Newman.] a pervasively cheerful swordsman with silver pupils eerily similar to Fury’s own. When the nameless ‘High Ones’ take Fury prisoner for breaking the city’s only law [I told you there was a law.] and touching a Monument, more than infatuation urges Nevrik to find and set her free. Someone wants them to delve into the deepest secrets of Nekatix and destroy the city at its core. Enduring fire, steel, lightning, and countless other torments, Fury faces death when she no longer wants to meet it. From the buried memories of her mother’s brutal murder to the origins of her immortality, Fury will leave no secret untouched or foe intact to punish those responsible for her pain.

If Fury falls to madness or despair before reaching the heights of Nekatix’s Unwrought Citadel, she will spend eternity in ceaseless anguish. [She's immortal and in pain. She's already spending eternity in ceaseless anguish.] Only if she overcomes eight floors of torture, illusion, and memory [Are the torments actually countless, as previously stated, or are there eight of them?] will Fury find the escape for which she longs. [Which is what? Is she back to wanting death? Is overcoming all eight floors the way to destroy the city from its core? What happened to Vortex?]

Thank you for your time and consideration. The Accursed is 100,000 words.


Notes

It's not clear enough what's going on. Did the nameless High Ones put her in the Unwrought Citadel? Or did she go there willingly after Newman rescued her from them?

Is anyone fighting with her in the citadel?

If surviving the eighth floor destroys the city, and I'm the High Ones, I'm snatching her out of the citadel as soon as she reaches the seventh floor, locking her in a safe, and throwing it in the ocean. I'm not gonna assume she'll never get past Borgo the Disemboweler on floor 8.

Focus more on story. Tell us what happens, chronologically.


39 comments:

AA said...

This is what I got out of this on a first reading:

Fury, who has silver eyeballs sort of like those creepy blank eyes Little Orphan Annie has in the comics, is in constant pain but can't die. So she goes to Netflix to find someone who is willing to hawk a ticket to the afterlife. She runs into Kevorkian, a Guild member who promises her a way out.

Fury, Kevorkian and Fury's dog Sandy are happy until Fury breaks a law in the lawless city. Suddenly, it's Kafka's "The Trial." Fury is rescued by Sandy but for some unclear reason has to pass through the seven gates of Hell, only there turn out to be eight of them. Fury realizes that Hell isn't as fun as she thought it was, and changes her mind about wanting to die. Something unclear here about supressed childhood memories.

Then if Fury gets to the Wrought Out Council in time, they'll grant her wish. I don't know what that is now. Apparently Kevorkian either gets lost in Hell or falls into Dante's inferno.

Yeah, it's confusing. I think I'm gonna need the Cliff Notes version of this one.

AM Lyvers said...

Pretty sure the creators of Mortal Kombat would be all over this to turn it into a video game.

It reads like the author is too in love with the aspects of the story, but doesn't reveal actual details in a coherent way of what actually happens. I'd write out what's at stake, who stands in the way of MC accomplishing her task, and the consequences of what happenes if she fails. Use that to revise.

IMHO said...

Having trouble thinking up cool names for new worlds? Simply move a hand one key over on the keyboard, close your eyes, and type a familiar word. Virginia = vorgomoa (right hand moved one key to the right). Thomas = rhomA (right hand to the left). Nathan = matjam. Katniss = latmoss. Video = bifro.

Kelsey said...

I'm not sure I understand your MC's motivations, which means I'm not sure whether I respect her much(not a good thing!).

So she's immortal, not of her own choosing, and wants to die. Then she falls in love and doesn't want to die anymore. To me, without understanding why, this makes the MC sound a)apathetic and/or b) like a bimbo.

And I don't know why she wants to die, because I don't know whether, when you say "pain is her constant companion," you mean that she is literally in physical pain every waking moment, or you mean figurative anguish over not remembering her past, etc.

If you mean literal pain, I can be sympathetic to her desire to die (that would be terrible). In this scenario, I don't see her as apathetic--good. But then, why would falling in love with Nevrik change the fact that she's in constant pain?

If you mean figurative anguish, then I have a hard time feeling sympathy for her because she may not have any family or memories, but is that really the only thing holding her back from making a new life for herself? Why doesn't she have friends and other loved ones before she meets Nevrik, who would give her something to live for? Is immortality really that bad--especially an eternity where she could do real good by healing people?

It's a hard sell to ask readers to root for an MC whose driving goal is to kill herself. You have to have REALLY GOOD reasons to pull this off. To then brush away these REALLY GOOD reasons as soon as she falls in love may make the reader feel cheated, because the main conflict they invested their sympathy into, once a hunky man is introduced, turns into no real conflict at all.

Also--since this is fantasy couldn't the MC first try to lift the curse she's suffering from or make it her goal to find out why exactly this is happening to her, BEFORE deciding that her only option left is to kill herself?

I'm sure you have a solid premise in your novel. It's just not coming through in the query yet. Good luck. Keep working at it!

150 said...

Painkiller Jane plus Healing Hands?

I feel like fantasy authors in particular tend to want to emphasize worldbuilding, portent, and the goshwow elements, but for real: the most interesting thing you can tell us about your story is who does what, and why.

My attempt:

Fury, an empathetic healer weary of a life lived in pain, takes a job as bodyguard to a ruthless Guildlord (?) who says he can [get her into the afterlife] [kill her off for good]...

I'm concerned that the next step (touching the statue) appears to be unconnected to her new job, and that the character who reacts to it isn't her.

Then I sort of lost the thread of what happens.

Evil Editor said...

It wasn't clear to me that she's fallen in love with Nevrik. He's infatuated with her, and while it says something more than that infatuation makes him want to rescue her, that something more could be the fact that someone has a mission for the two of them. Ity never says how she feels about him. In fact, I thought the silver pupils might mean they're brother and sister.

Veronica Rundell said...

This smacks of kung fu movie with a twist. Like, I don't know... Kill Bill Part 1 meets Kill Bill Part 2.

Fury, huh? Does fury have the same definition wherever this is set as it does in ours? It's hard for me to take that name seriously, especially as Fury doesn't sound particularly furious, what with wanting to be dead and all.

Guessing from all the modifiers [every wound, single touch, infamous city] in this query that you can probably cut 10K words from the manuscript, for the better.

How long has Fury been conscious of her immortality? Days? Weeks? Eons? Give us some sense of the pain she feels so we can get on board with her goal: to die.

Also, if Fury wanted to die so bad why didn't she touch the Monument straightaway? Help us figure this out.

Kelsey said...

Re: Whether she loves Nevrik--

That's true, the query doesn't state whether she loves him back. It was the combination of saying that Nevrik was "more than infatuated" with her and then, a couple sentences later, stating that she "faces death when she no longer wants to meet it" that made me think it was a mutual romance. I also thought them both having silver eyes would eventually mean they had the same kind of curse placed on them, or something else like that where they're two of a kind.

Evil Editor said...

Technically, it doesn't say he was more than infatuated. It says it was more than his infatuation that urged him to find her.

Shadow (the author) said...

AA: I never mentioned a dog.

Um... Oops. Kelsey, Fury didn't fall in love; NEVRIK did. She's not in love with him. She still wants to die, but now she wants to do it AFTER she brings down the city. To bring it down was the reason she was made this way by a being who then erased her memory of the event. And she also wants to die because it't too easy for her to kill, and she feels like a soulless killing machine who only rarely defies that impression by healing, which also causes her pain and isolation.

AM Lyvers: Yeah, it prolly would make a good game. Had that in mind, actually. Bad thing?

Evil Editor's intuition is more or less right on. The same ancient being infused both of them with unusual powers, the mark of that being silver pupils.

Veronica: The manuscript is actually pretty tight. It's also in first-person, which hopefully induces more sympathy with the MC. I will be making the book no more than 100,000 words total. It's a pretty linear plotline. Agony, friendship, discovery, purpose, struggle.

EE is right again. The same being that gave Fury and Nevrik these powers want them together, and destroying the city. But if it's so unclear only EE gets it, I guess I better change it anyhow. After all, the query screeners are not as awesome as EE.

Alright, I get it! Nekatix has to go as the name of the city. Blech to you guys, and worst wishes to Netflix, of which I'd never heard until AFTER naming the city, and who rendered my name a sad comedy to the masses.
Is Nevrik really so bad?

As for the name Fury, Nevrik gives it to her as a sort of a joke, because she can't remember her own name, and it stuck. I meant to give her a different one, I really did.

Perhaps if I just imagine all my query drafts on EE before sending, I'll know better than to send them...

Has there EVER been a perfect (or at least acceptable) query posted on here? Even after revisions?

AA said...

"She's not in love with him. She still wants to die, but now she wants to do it AFTER she brings down the city. To bring it down was the reason she was made this way by a being who then erased her memory of the event." "The same being that gave Fury and Nevrik these powers want them together, and destroying the city."

This is vital information to understanding your story. It should probably be mentioned in the query.

All we're getting here is a bunch of disparate fantasy elements that don't seem to string together into a story. That's the confusion. For instance, I never got the idea of Fury as a killing machine. You mentioned her major trait as being healing powers, and healers are usually extremely compassionate.

As far as Nevrik is concerned, there could be a lot of explanations for the eyes, like they're really brother and sister, or they belong to the same alien species. You can't expect people to come to the right conclusion unless you just tell them what the story is.

So, for your next revision, you're going to have to spell things out. For instance, instead of "Fury will leave no secret untouched or foe intact to punish those responsible for her pain," we'll need some clue as to who those beings are. And instead of
"Fury enters Nekatix, the infamous city without laws," you'll need to mention that ONE law instead of saying there are NO laws.

Also, instead of "Someone wants them to delve into the deepest secrets of Nekatix and destroy the city at its core," you'll need to say this is an ancient being. I thought someone had just HIRED them to do it.

I still don't understand why Fury is arrested and then busted out of jail. It doesn't seem significant or important to the plot in any way. Is there a reason why the story requires Fury to have a criminal record or be on the run from the law? If so, you haven't mentioned it (therefore I don't know).

Veronica Rundell said...

I hope you'll submit your revised query, because the explanations you gave actually make the MS sound rather good.
Perhaps in the revision you'll leave out the sweeping log-lines and be more direct with the character, her challenges and the plot.
I'd still be careful with modifiers. Agents are sensitized to them. Wouldn't want any to think (as I did) that the MS will be overloaded with 'too much tell not enough show.'
Best of luck--and don't sweat getting roughed up here. This is free (and yet invaluable) advice. And I've certainly seen query success stories on the blog.

Evan said...

So a couple people got a martial arts movie/game vibe from this. For me I can't help but think of Bruce Lee's Game of Death whenever I see anything with a "climb this tower, overcome stuff on each floor" plot. That's the one where Bruce Lee, wearing that famous yellow jumpsuit, climbs a Tower of Death and fights martial arts masters of ascending difficulty on each floor and in the end beats Kareem Abdul-Jabar with sunlight and saves somebody or whatever... You know, I'm pretty sketchy on the details. It's been a while.

Anyway... Shadow, try to narrow it down and focus on Fury's main goal, what's in her way, and the stakes (which are kinda in the last paragraph but unclear due to confusion over Fury's motives).

The "soulless killing machine" idea should probably be in there so we can get a better idea why she *wants* to die. We need an idea of who Fury is to make us want to experience the story through her. Is there a compelling narrative voice? If so, try to incorporate that voice here (that doesn't mean type the query in 1st person, definitely don't do that >_<).

Try to avoid telling us about characters that aren't central to the plot. Vorlinax and Nevrik honestly don't sound all that important if the story is mainly about Fury overcoming the Unwrought Citadel and destroying the city.

Oh and in answer to your question, I don't think EE deals in queries that are good-to-go on the first try. They're not as fun to kid around with. For a few (and I do mean few) examples of queries that were successful the first time around, head over to the Query Shark blog. There's over 200 queries on there, and almost none of them were acceptable on their first try. Some of the authors worked hard at improving their queries and did get to "yes."

Evil Editor said...

200? There are over 1100 on this blog. Many of those whose Face-Lifted queries went on to success have been kind enough to report back, though I'm guessing most never return to the blog after having their own query critiqued. You may read of some of our success stories at http://evileditor.blogspot.com/search/label/Success%20Story

Anonymous said...

Shadow, "all right" is two words.

Evan said...

Ah, thanks EE, it's kind of hard to find the success stories here.

Come to think of it, where's the search feature? Or the link to browse labels? Or any labels on articles? I don't see any.

I pointed out QueryShark because Shadow asked about queries that were right on the first try, and QS has a handful linked right there on the side panel. All 5 of them. So like 2%.

Was I correct in saying there aren't really queries here that were good-to-go on the first try?

Well, there's this: http://evileditor.blogspot.com/2012/04/perfect-query.html
But obviously not everyone can produce immaculate masterpieces like these.

Evil Editor said...

To search the blog, assuming your computer screen looks like mine, go to the front page of the blog and there should be a white rectangle in the top left corner. Type something in it.

Shadow (the author) said...

I have read ALL the QueryShark archives. Yes, though it nearly made me forget how to write an accurate sentence. The difficulty of getting on QS is why I eventually ended up here.

Will continue musing on the advice, and get back to you on a revision. The book itself actually is first-person, you know, so that the character can really come through -- if I pulled it off.

And, you guys, I hate to disappoint, bu I've never even heard of most of what you're referencing to say that the story reminds you of. (Um, bad sentence? Anyway.) Painkiller Jane? Never heard. I'm not a Trekkie, but I have watched some original Star Trek. Never seen the episode EE referenced.

Hence, I can't be copying. It all seemed pretty original to me (should have known better) but only because I never saw the similar things people have already done. Unfamiliar with the Bruce Lee movie you mentioned, Evan -- I'm more into Jackie Chan. Seen almost all of those. Did see the Protector, where, yes, he did annihilate his way up the stairs, but honestly, this is WAY different.

Drowning in boiling blood. Illusion, unbearable screeching sounds, fire, malicious suffocating plants, an overrun of snakes and spiders and centipedes, crawling down her throat and into her ears and making it all so much worse because she can't actually die...

Until she makes it to the next floor and begins again. Each floor a new torment; each way of defeating it a new puzzle. Sorry if that's not original -- I explained why I thought it was.

EE had a valid point about the 'High Ones' not actually letting her make it to floor 8 if she made it to 7, but it's more or less autopilot. They figured no one could make it past floor 1; the rest were just amusements. So they don't KNOW she made it up each floor.

Or... is that too weak?

And, Anonymous? Sorry to burst your bubble, but alright is correct in the context I used it. To quote my dictionary:

Some people think the one-word spelling is justified by the analogy of already and altogether, and that it is sometimes useful to be able to distinguish between all right and alright (just like altogether and all together): "The answers were alright" (= satisfactory). "The answers were all right" (= all correct). Though alright is generally considered nonstandard it is often used in informal writing.

So... In the informal sense in which I used it, my way was correct.

AA said...

You don't have to respond to every anonymous snarker who picks on your grammar in your comments. I use a lot of colloquialisms in my comments. They're just comments on a blog. You're right, anyway.

I also wouldn't worry about "things this reminds people of." Every work is going to remind someone of some other work. Most ideas we can come up with have been done, in a form, by someone else. They weren't done exactly the way you did it, though. If someone mentions a book or game with a city with levels a protag has to get through I'd Google it just to make sure it isn't too much like your work. If not don't sweat it.

Evan said...

Ah, I derped EE, my settings were blocking the search bar from showing up. Still not seeing how to browse or search labels, though. If I type a label into the search, like "success story," all I get is every post containing both words, not posts tagged with a label like the link you posted. Sorry, I don't mean to get your goat, I just would really like to browse through all the labels here. :)

"EE had a valid point about the 'High Ones' not actually letting her make it to floor 8 if she made it to 7, but it's more or less autopilot. They figured no one could make it past floor 1; the rest were just amusements. So they don't KNOW she made it up each floor.

Or... is that too weak?"

It could be stronger. What EE pointed out is a potential plot hole. If the citadel is defending Nekatix from complete destruction, they should be more serious about keeping an eye on it. A villain with a "NO ONE could ever get past my machine-gun wielding weredingo defense system" mentality is a dumb villain. If the High Ones thought no one could ever get past the first floor they might as well have filled the remaining floors with kittens and bunnies.

A story with active antagonists is usually more interesting than a story without them. What if the High Ones found out what she was up to and used all their power to stop her? What if she has to face them directly?

Just make sure you're not missing an opportunity. I'm sure there's plenty of ways to up the ante by having the High Ones involved. It also makes the query letter easier when you can point at these guys as the ones trying to stop Fury from achieving her goal. After all, they have a good reason to want her to fail.

Evil Editor said...

Okay, don't say I never did anything for you. Selected labels are now listed in the sidebar.

Evan said...

AWESOME! Thanks so much EE! Excuse me, I have many many posts to read. :)

Shadow (the author) said...

Hey! So... I did a revision. Less emphasis on the towers, more on Fury. thoughts?
---
Fury cannot die. She is a reckless fighter, striking down all who oppose her. Though her wounds heal in moments, her curse doesn’t spare her any pain. She can heal, but only by assuming the injury of her patient, along with its requisite agony. All who gaze into her blood-tinted eyes and silver pupils recoil in fear. She wanders aimlessly, fleeing her misdeeds, unable to remember her childhood or her real name.

Kratix, the infamous City of Darkness, has but one law: Touch the Monuments, and die. There, Fury meets Nevrik, a pervasively cheerful swordsman whose pupils are also silver. Nevrik works as a bodyguard for one of the Guildlords controlling the city’s resources, and Fury takes the same job. Their employer is a powerful magician, and in return for Fury’s services, he seeks to undo her curse.

During a fight in the marketplace, Fury falls against one of the Monuments -- a strange spire of twisted stone. Minions of the unseen High Ones, the true rulers of Kratix, trap her underground, testing the limits of her immortality through torture. After Nevrik rescues her, a voice begins to whisper in Fury’s head, driving her onward with a single, burning desire: the destruction of Kratix.

Through endless, barren mountains, storms of poisoned lightning and flesh-dissolving rain, past the spiteful spirits of the long-forgotten dead, and monsters of living stone and shadow, Fury must fight her way toward the truth. The High Ones built Kratix to feed on pain and suffering, corrupting everything it touches. To unmake Kratix, Fury must reverse the twisted energies that built it at their source -- the central tower of Kratix. There, above eight floors of horror, illusion, and despair, lies the key to the city’s ruin. There also lies the secret of her birthright, her parents, and the truth of what she really is.

Shadow (the author) said...

Oh, and I know I don't have to respond to anonymous snarkers, but it irritates me when they do it and they're not even right. The growing editor in me, I suppose. If it had been in the actual query, fine, but it wasn't.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Personally I would have been put off by "alright". I think of a colloquialism as something spoken, not written, and since "all right" and "alright" would be pronounced exactly the same way, no colloquial effect is achieved by the non-standard spelling.

150 said...

Hence, I can't be copying.

No one's accusing you of that, but no idea is purely original and it can be very useful to know what's come before in your category. TV Tropes is good for that. If nothing else, it can give you an easy term to use and spare you wasting your entire first paragraph explaining something we've seen before.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EmpathicHealer

(Again, nothing wrong with using an existing idea! You just want to be conversant in it, so you can reply with, "No, it's not QUITE like Raven in Teen Titans, because...")

This is better, but I'd still like a stronger cause-effect throughline. In what order do things happen? Why are they fighting in the marketplace? (And why aren't the monuments guarded against stumblers?) Then I'm not sure what the exact path is from Nevrik rescuing her to going after Kratix. Try paring it down to clear, simple language, before building it back up again.

AA said...

This explains Fury better, and the story is clearer. It also clears up the city with no laws.

The problem, I think, is that you aren't using your words toyour best advantage.

"She is a reckless fighter, striking down all who oppose her." At this point, it isn't clear who is opposing her, or why anyone would want to. "All" suggests more than one person has done this. I get the idea of a person who kills suddenly, out of anger. The name "fury" reinforces this idea.

"Nevrik works as a bodyguard for one of the Guildlords controlling the city’s resources..." "City's resources" makes me think of the official in charge of water and sewer. Maybe there's a more exciting job description you could give this guy.

"A strange spire of twisted stone." So it's pop art? It's best not to describe the monuments. It made me think you were going to mention the significance of the monuments, or why it's so bad for people to touch them, and you don't.

"Testing the limits of her immortality through torture." I can see how the limits of one's mortality can be tested through torture, but this I don't really understand.

"Through endless, barren mountains," In the middle of a city?

"Through endless, barren mountains, storms of poisoned lightning and flesh-dissolving rain, past the spiteful spirits of the long-forgotten dead, and monsters of living stone and shadow, Fury must fight her way toward the truth." This makes it seem like Fury was sent on a journey away from the city. If I didn't know the story this is what I would think. But then you say: "To unmake Kratix, Fury must reverse the twisted energies that built it at their source -- the central tower of Kratix." This would be in the middle of the city.

"Corrupting everything it touches..." Does it touch things, or do things touch it?
"There also lies the secret of her birthright, her parents, and the truth of what she really is." I would think this would be the most important thing to fury, not just destroying the city. You'd think people could just avoid going there. The most important part is the part that is personal, and you've made it almost an afterthought.

Also: There are lots of adjectives and adverbs. You can stand to lose some of them.

Veronica Rundell said...

Okay, so I read the revised query and it feels overlong. Not sure if 308 words is too much, but you haven't even got the greeting, word count and salutation in there. This will add further bulk. I still feel as if it would benefit from removing at least every second modifier.

Comments on the content: I still have some issues with the story's logic. Why is Fury such a fighter? Can't she just lie low and avoid injury by NOT fighting? If everyone recoils in fear when they see her red/silver eyes, who is she fighting? Why doesn't she touch healthy, uninjured people in order to heal herself? (That way she won't absorb their pain...) What misdeeds?

IDK--maybe it's me. The way you state the one law--'Touch the Monuments and die' seems like an instant execution is in order, not an underground torture regimen.

Why is she fighting her way toward the truth? I thought she was determined to destroy Kratix. How does a city 'corrupt everything it touches'? Shouldn't any who enter become corrupt/cursed? Also, I can't tell if what/who is feeding off the suffering--the High Ones or Kratix.

These are my thoughts, for what they are worth. This version is far better than the first, BTW, so the process of collaboration you sought here is perhaps working.

PS--thanks EE for including the links. Spent last night looking up queries with Bulgarians and pornography tags, because, well, why not? And seriously, you were right--the manuscript with the Salvadoran (sp??) kiddie-porn subplot, probably not meant for the light of this world.

Evan said...

PS--thanks EE for including the links. Spent last night looking up queries with Bulgarians and pornography tags, because, well, why not? And seriously, you were right--the manuscript with the Salvadoran (sp??) kiddie-porn subplot, probably not meant for the light of this world.
And here I spent all night reading high fantasy queries about prophecies and alien race wars, was I missing out? Be right back.

Ok, the Salvadorean pedo thing wasn't as horrifying as I thought it would be. But the other porn-tagged query had an undercover cop, "Shadow Fallico," pretending to be a porn star. Shadow Fallico. Phallic-o. Hilarious.

Anyway... I like that the new version introduces less names and sticks closer to Fury. You actually could cut most of the second paragraph along with any mention of Nevrik, none of it seems important to the overall plot (as far as this query is concerned, at least). There's no point in mentioning the Guildlord and his promise of a cure since that amounts to squat once Fury sets out on her quest to destroy Kratix.

So you could combine paragraphs 2 and 3 into:

Kratix, the infamous City of Darkness, has but one law: Touch the Monuments, and die. During a fight in the marketplace, Fury falls against one of the Monuments. Minions of the unseen High Ones, the true rulers of Kratix, trap her underground, testing the limits of her immortality through torture. After she manages to escape, a voice begins to whisper in Fury’s head, driving her onward with a single, burning desire: the destruction of Kratix.


I was thinking the same thing as 150, why aren't these Monuments protected? Anybody could run into one on accident. Do the High Ones leave them right there in the open on purpose, and drop banana peels all around them, just to harvest torture victims?

What's more, why in the world is one right in the middle of the marketplace? If everyone knows that you're as good as dead for touching one (I hope they know, it's the ONE rule), wouldn't they keep their fruit stands as far away from one of those things as possible? If I'm doing my shopping in Kratix, I'm only going to the market stalls farthest away from those things. No use risking a torturous death just because some bumbling oaf knocked me into a crazy statue.

Wouldn't it be more interesting if the Monument WAS guarded and Fury touched it on PURPOSE (protag choice rather than victim protag)? If you go back to the whole "wants to die, soulless killing machine" thing and put that in the first paragraph, it makes sense. Fury wants to die but can't, touches this thing so some immortal dudes will kill her, is tortured instead of killed, the torture was so bad now she wants to at least live long enough to destroy the whole damn city and those asshole High Ones along with it.

sarah hawthorne said...

Hi Author!

I missed the first go round on this, but I do like your revision. I think it's a lot stronger - but you're still getting a bit bogged down in plot mechanics. Things like her ability to heal with a touch, that her employer is a guildsman and a magician, who Nevrik is working for, all of those things may be important to the plot but they aren't important to the query. Here's my pared version that might give you some ideas:

Fury cannot die. Though her wounds heal in moments, her curse (spares her no) pain. She wanders aimlessly, fleeing her misdeeds, unable to remember her childhood or her real name.

(In) Kratix, the infamous City of Darkness, Fury takes (a) job as a bodyguard for a powerful magician. There, (she) meets Nevrik, a pervasively cheerful swordsman (who seems to share her curse). (But after she falls afoul of the High Ones, rulers of Kratix) a voice begins to whisper in Fury’s head, driving her onward with a burning desire: the destruction of Kratix. 

The High Ones built Kratix to feed on pain and suffering, corrupting everything it touches. To unmake Kratix, Fury must reverse the twisted energies at their source -- the central tower of Kratix. There, above eight floors of horror, lies the key to the city’s ruin. There also lies the secret of her birthright, her parents, and the truth of what she really is.

Mister Furkles said...

You write well enough and with a little cleanup your query will be fine.

Here is my problem: I don't like Fury. She is "cursed" with eternal life, is an invincible warrior, she can suffer pain but for a short time. She has no significant vulnerabilities and her desire is to destroy the city and kill everybody in it.

I like the High Ones more. At least they are trying to preserve the city.

Show Fury's weaknesses. Show her trying to do something noble.

She comes across as a self absorbed bitch who doesn't care for any body but number one.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Veronica, yes, it's too long. It's too involved. It's a synopsis rather than a query. 100 words about the story should be enough. Say four or five sentences. The query reader's going to make her decision in less than a minute, and if she can't figure out what the story is in that time, well...

I agree with Mr. F about not liking Fury. That's actually why I haven't commented before... all I can say is that the story doesn't appeal to me because the hero seems to want death and oblivion.

(Also because I like a story where it seems like there might be a chuckle or two along the way. But that's by the by.)

And yeah, "Salvadoran" is correct. In Spanish "SalvadoreƱo".

Shadow (the author) said...

Oh, dear. Thank you everyone...even Mister Furkles, I suppose. Fury is (I think) more likable in the story, but I'm having a hard time bringing across her driving dynamics, her sense of isolation, and why she does and doesn't want to die in the space of a few hundred words. Yes, I knew it was too long, but you did what I hoped: gave me some idea what was and wasn't necessary.

So -- half of you say cut the adjectives, the other half complain when I do, because then Fury has no personality and no motivation. Cut the descriptors, get to the point. OK, but then there's no soul, no sense of what's happening and why. 'Just the facts, ma'am', gives you no sympathy for Fury. Sympathy for Fury means less time for facts.

Oh, and my bad, but the quest sounds like it happens in two places because it does. When she escapes the dungeons, she comes out in the mountains ABOVE Kratix, then works her way back down (learning and fighting along the way) into the city, where she then makes her way up the tower.

So you like Kratix better than Nekatix?

I'll be back in the next week or so with another stab (haha) at it.

Oh, and maybe I should say that one of Fury's conflicts/flaws is that she doesn't know what she is or what she's supposed to be. She could be a perfect (literally) mercenary, or a vigilante taking down rapists, thugs, thieves, and murderers. Or she could try to heal, though everyone fears her even as they thank her. Or she could just kill, because no one can kill her. Her actions have no consequence in that respect.

Evan! You're brilliant! Fury could touch the Monument with a combination of hope and defiance -- such as, 'maybe they can kill me (yay!)' and 'screw them if they can't!'

I think I'm gonna work that in. Thank you so much!

AA said...

Okay.

Here are two sentences from page 16 of each of two books. (You'll just have to trust me that this is indicative of each writer's style.)

1. "Patience, her eyelids heavy, was lying in a king-size bed, semi-propped up with overstuffed pillows. A servant in a demure French maid's outfit straightened up."

2. "As soon as he saw the old man he knew that something truly unpleasant awaited him. In the man's eyes shone a horror that could not be imaginary."

In the first example: Do I care if the bed is king-size or queen size? No. Do I care about the difference between "semi-propped" and just plain "propped"? No. Do I care if an outfit that an extremely minor character has on can be described as "demure"? No. This is what I put up with to read Robin Cook.

In a query letter, though, you don't have the luxury of writing like Cook. All that verbiage has to go.

Now:

"She wanders aimlessly, fleeing her misdeeds." You realize someone can't wander aimlessly while fleeing, right?

"She can heal, but only by assuming the injury of her patient, along with its requisite agony."

Is she a healer who wants to dedicate her life to the sick and injured? Not really. She doesn't actually seem to do that in the query. Then why put it in?

"Minions of the unseen High Ones, the true rulers of Kratix, trap her underground, testing the limits of her immortality through torture. After Nevrik rescues her..."

This may be interesting in the book, but in the query it amounts to: She gets captured, she gets rescued, back to the main storyline. Leave it out.

Also, does Nevrik need to be in the query if the one thing he does is rescue Fury? Seems to me, no. He may be important to the ending, but you don't actually reveal the ending.

You need something like this: (cobbled together from your two queries and some other stuff you said.)

Fury is a matchless fighter who cannot die. Though her wounds heal, her curse doesn’t spare her any pain. All who gaze into her blood-tinted eyes and silver pupils recoil in fear. She wanders, unable to remember her childhood or her real name.

Kratix is the infamous City of Darkness. The High Ones built Kratix to feed on pain and suffering, corrupting everything it touches. There Fury meets one of the ruthless Guildlords who control the city, and takes a job as his bodyguard. The Guildlord is a powerful magician, and in return for Fury’s services, he seeks to remove her curse.

Then a voice begins to whisper in Fury’s head. An ancient spirit being is calling her to delve into the deepest secrets of Kratix and destroy the city at its core. To unmake Kratix, Fury must reverse the twisted energies that built it at their source -- the central tower of Kratix. There, above eight floors of horror, illusion, and despair, lies the key to the city’s ruin.

If Fury falls to madness and despair before reaching the heights of Kratix’s Unwrought Citadel, she will spend eternity in ceaseless anguish. If she succeeds, she wins the secret of her birthright, her parentage, and the truth of what she really is.

Now it's a classic good vs. evil story, so you don't need to know the characters too much to get the gist of how the story goes. It's an archetype.

It's also a "man versus -----" story. In this case, "woman versus spiritual forces." The theme justifies not describing the protag too much, because we expect the character of the protag to be revealed through the struggle. It's a trick, but I'm getting around not being able to get a handle on Fury because of her identity crisis.

Note that I make Kratix a character. That's because it is capable of doing evil, so it's sentient, or close enough. It's also the main focus of your queries and takes up the most space in them. Kratix is your antagonist.

Shadow (the author) said...

Oh! Thanks, AA. Actually, the revise I went home and did (before seeing your latest post) works in most of what you suggest. I'm changing the focus of the plot to make Fury more active and -- ta-da! -- leaving Nevrik out of the actual Query. He's important, but not to the premise. So, once more:

*** Fury’s been a perfect mercenary too long. Her wounds heal in moments, but that doesn’t stop the pain -- or the certainty that every fight she enters is a massacre. Sick of being a heartless killer, she longs to undo her curse and die a natural death. Rumors of forbidden magical arts lead her to the city of Kratix. Here, there is but one law: Touch the Monuments and die. Of course, Fury disobeys.

The unseen rulers of Kratix, the ‘High Ones,’ seize Fury in retribution. As she escapes, a voice inside her head urges her to destroy the city. Fury seeks the Lightshard -- a lightning-charged crystal -- with which she can reverse the twisted energies of the city. The High Ones desire ultimate power, using Kratix to harvest the life-force of their subjects. They send poisoned storms, monsters of living stone and shadow, and other nightmare beasts to attack Fury. When she finds the Lightshard, Fury also resurrects the memories of her mother’s brutal murder at the hands of the High Ones, making her more determined than ever to destroy Kratix.

Yet, as Fury draws closer to the city’s central tower, where she must place the Lightshard, she begins to doubt her inner voice. Her mother died opposing the High Ones, risking her life to steal the shard and hide it. Is the voice really trying to help Fury unmake the city -- or is it using her to fulfill Kratix’s purpose and destroy the world? ***

Coming in at a sleek 248 words. :) I've decided to take 'the Voice' from an annoying but exclusively helpful entity to one that Fury can doubt. (MS revisions imminent.) The shard can either destroy or complete the city -- what does she do, where does she put it, who does she trust?

And, I think I'll take the tower levels from 8 to 5. When she thinks to wonder how/why they let her get that far (like EE) it can dawn on her that perhaps they WANT her to reach the highest floor...which means they've been using her. Or have they?

Would his Evilness bestow upon this unworthy author the favor of revealing his opinion on this latest draft?

Thanks again, guys, for all your continued help.

Evil Editor said...

I would change the 1st paragraph to something like:

Cursed with immortality,Fury’s been a perfect mercenary too long. She longs to break the curse and die a natural death.

Rumors of forbidden magical arts lead her to the city of Kratix, where is but one law: Touch the Monuments and die. Of course, Fury disobeys.


Not sure where to go from there, because it sounds like she touched the monument hoping to be punished with death, yet she escapes her captors. If she wants death, why escape? The law says she must die; did the High Ones try to kill her? Did they try cutting off her head? Dropping her into the ocean with a thousand pound weight chained to her?

She goes to the one place she might find what she wants, and decides to destroy it because a voice in her head tells her to? I think you need to provide a better reason for her complete reversal.

Evan said...

Hm, I feel like adding the Lightshard/mother stuff to the query has kinda jumbled things around. I'm sure it makes the story stronger, but it also complicates the query.

The mother stuff would fit better if that was baggage Fury started with; it seems like searching for the truth of her origins would be important to someone with deadly powers. It would make sense if she's wandering this crazy world searching for answers, and clues about her past lead her to Kratix. Then, clues about her mother's death lead her to touch the Monuments, and the truth about the High Ones and her mother's death put her on the warpath to destroy them all. After that it's basically: here's what she can do to achieve that, here's what's in standing in her way.

Part of what's wrong with the second paragraph (raising questions like EE's) is the lack of info about what goes on between touching a Monument and escaping. Maybe a sentence in there about what the High Ones' imprisonment/torture did to Fury, how that changed her mind from suicidal to vengeful, would clear things up? I'm guessing the High Ones DID try to kill her as the law states, but it didn't work, so they're like "Sweet! Another nearly-indestructible torture-toy!" I'd also guess that whatever they put Fury through is what ended up killing Fury's mom.

For me the core of this story seems to be a vengeful badass out to take down a bunch of evil bastards by going toe-to-toe with whatever horrible things they can throw at her. In a way, it IS a bit like Kill Bill. Or at least what little of those movies had actual plot. It's a vengeance quest: heroine can't rest until she's made them pay, righted all wrongs, learned the truth, and so on.

Shadow, if you'd like some help with revision ideas or whatever, feel free to contact me. Kheper (that symbol, you know the one) hotmail (etc.).

AA said...

I applaud your determination here. I don't think you're going in the right direction with this, though. Here are my observations:

"she longs to undo her curse and die a natural death..." In order for this to make sense, you first have to mention that she's been cursed with immortality. Remember that the last version of your query is the only one the agent will see, so make sure there's nothing from previous queries that you meant to include but forgot.

"a voice inside her head urges her to destroy the city." I don't like this anonymous voice. A lot of people hear voices. Most are schizophrenic and take medication for it. I'd make it clear first and foremost that this is a supernatural being. I don't take advice from anonymous voices in my head. I certainly hope Fury wouldn't either. She doesn't need a reason to DOUBT the voice, she needs a reason to TRUST it.

"The unseen rulers of Kratix, the ‘High Ones,’ seize Fury in retribution. As she escapes..." This is confusing. If she wants to die, why does she escape? Can't the High Ones themselves even kill her? Again, you're forgetting this is a totally new query. The agent doesn't have your backstory. There was a reason I suggested leaving this part out, and I still suggest it. It's a detour on the way to the plot's resolution.

"Fury seeks the Lightshard -- a lightning-charged crystal..." A crystal is interesting, but its introduction brings up new questions. How does she know she needs this? How does she know how to find it? How will she know how to use it? It might be best to leave it out.

"Fury also resurrects the memories of her mother’s brutal murder at the hands of the High Ones, making her more determined than ever to destroy Kratix." Since we didn't know that she had lost those memories, this comes out of left field. Of course I knew, because I've been following this thread, but the first the agent will hear about it is in your final query. If you insist on mentioning this, first point out that these memories had been lost to Fury.

I don't believe this query will work well mainly because it doesn't solve Fury's problem. You deliberately state at the beginning of each query that Fury wants to DIE. At the end of the query, she is very determined to destroy the city. The only way she can do that is by NOT dying, or NOT acheiving her original goal. This is confusing enough, but now you've muddied the waters even more by suggesting that Fury starts to rethink her determination to destroy the city at the last minute! I'm frustrated with Fury and the whole story.
Somebody has to achieve a goal, or at least make a decision and stick with it, at some point!

Ruth said...

Just read this for the first time... the MS sounds really good to me! But I agree with what others are saying about the query.

I think adding the lightshard crystal makes the query too complicated.

And am I the only one misreading the monument law? Kratix (a much better city name) has one law: Touch the monument and die.

It sounds like the law, when you enter the city, is to go touch the monument and then die, presumably then joining a city full of undead citizens.

Maybe it could be rewritten as something like, IF you touch the monument, you (will) die.

Or is that just me?