Thursday, April 11, 2013

Face-Lift 1116

Guess the Plot

Thicker Than Blood

1. Two vampires undertake an experiment in their night school science class to discover what is thicker than blood. Answer: custard.

2. Marie loves Guy, but he loves her sister Valerie who loves Guy's sister Cecilie. Plus a one-legged grasshopper cook and a geneologist obsessed with the letter M.

3. When Merlinia G. Wetzelsperger's budget vegan blood mix begins producing unstable gloopy results, lawyers demand a rewrite of the powder/water ratio instructions.

4. There's a new substance on Planet Zera-Phor, a sludge called Pheron, and it's ruining everything. The waste product of alien breeding rituals, Pheron poisons wells, kills plants, and sticks to your shoes like gum. When the protagonist learns one of his parents created him out of Pheron, will he believe that it's...Thicker Than Blood?

5. Tar. Glycerol. Gorilla Glue. There are many thick substances out there, but none that can bind certifiable maniacs together like blood. Also, a soothsayer grandfather.

6. Jillian must confront the Ashkum--Alderi's feared council of elders--to rescue her dearest friend Elia from execution. What she doesn't know? Elia's guilty, and her sacrifice is a set-up.

7. The empress has been kidnapped, and civil war is imminent. Two estranged brothers decide to work together to find her, because blood is thicker than water. But will they discover something else is . . . thicker than blood? Also, a nuclear knife.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Thicker Than Blood is an adventure fantasy novel about a kidnapped empress, an ancient knife and a long-lost brother.

The kidnapping of the Empress has thrown the Empire into turmoil. Jack is a thief who has been commissioned, by an unknown patron, to steal a treasure from the palace in her absence, a knife with the power to destroy whatever it touches. [Including the person who steals it?] [Including the display case in which it rests?] [Presumably not, so I'm guessing it destroys what it touches only when its wielder wills it to do so? So if I walk up to some guy I want to kill, I only have to touch him with this knife, whereas if I had a normal knife I would have to touch him harder. That would make him somewhat easier to kill, although when you approach someone while holding a knife, he's going to try to avoid being touched by it whether it's a magic knife or a steak knife. Also, if he has a sword and sees you approaching with a knife, I don't like your chances no matter which kind of knife it is. Especially if his sword has the power to destroy whatever it touches.] [If I touch a tree with the knife, does it crumble into dust? Disappear? Just fall over? Also, if I touch a castle with the knife, does the whole castle get destroyed, or just the one stone block I touched? You can see why I ask. If you want to destroy one floorboard of your castle because it creaks, the knife would come in handy unless it destroyed your whole castle. But if you want to destroy your enemy's whole castle, you don't want to have to walk around touching every brick and board and flagpole, because they'll notice what you're doing and send out archers.] Along the way he comes into contact with his older brother, a sometime lover of the Empress, whom Jack has spent half his life avoiding. As they are forced to work together for the first time in fifteen years, Jack has to confront the tensions that drove him from his home and discover whether they lie between the brothers or only within himself. [Do they have to work together? If they split up they have twice as much chance of finding the empress.]

Meanwhile, tension is mounting in the royal palace. Long-established factions, held in check by the Empress, are gaining power in her absence and there are whispers of civil war. Rajel, a young, newly-arrived prince from the Southlands, attempts to navigate the complex palace politics while concealing his own identity. [Not clear why Rajel is important enough to be in the query. Dump him or make it clear.]

Time is running out in the search for the Empress, and she is not the only one in danger. Jack has to choose between helping his brother find her and fulfilling his commission to steal the knife before it falls into the hands of evildoers. [How does he know the "unknown patron" who commissioned him isn't an evildoer? If there are evildoers in the palace, they already have the knife. If they aren't in the palace, why is the knife safer with Jack or the patron than it is in the palace?]

Complete at 110,000 words, Thicker Than Blood explores the relationships between family and identity, ambition and loyalty, ideals and duty. It is intended for an adult audience of fantasy lovers.

I have enclosed the first chapter, and the manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time.



If there's any risk of the knife falling into the wrong hands, why not destroy it or throw it to the bottom of the ocean? It's not good for only one side to have a weapon that can destroy anything.

Can you throw in an example or two of things the good guys have destroyed with the knife?

I assume the whole army is out looking for the empress. Why should these two brothers have any luck?

If your summary shows the themes, there's no need to point them out

It's best if you can show the knife is connected with the empress's rescue. It sounds like a subplot. Do they need the knife to rescue her? Does protecting the knife do anything to reduce the chance of civil war?

Setup: The empress has been kidnapped and two estranged brothers agree to work together to rescue her. But first they must get the Knife of Endor because they need it to destroy everything standing between them and her. Now what  happens? What goes wrong? Who betrays them or tries to stop them? What's the plan? Tell us the story. Make us want to read it.


BuffySquirrel said...

So the Empress is just a plot token to be rescued by somebody-or-other? She can't do anything herself?

Why kidnap her anyway? If you want turmoil, civil war, etc, just kill her. Otherwise she's always going to be a rallying point for one side or the other.

What happens? How do the events of the novel illustrate the themes? Why so many themes? Pick one and do it justice.

Also, EE, I find these constant demands that I prove I'm not a robot to be anthropist.

C-3PO said...

I, on the other hand, find it infuriating that I cannot figure out what those letters are.

And that my opinion of the query letter should be considered any less valid than that of a squirrel.

Veronica Rundell said...

Remind me never to read a new query while eating. I think I still have a piece of beef lodged in my windpipe. That knife ramble--oh goodness... It's exactly how I feel about supernatural relics.

I agree. This whole thing is set-up, and from the limited and too general plot description it feels very recycled: like The Golden Child, with brothers, or Romancing the Stone, with brothers. See, these were favorites of mine when I was probably 10, and this query describes a plot that feels that stale.

You spent 110,000 words building your characters, story, and conflict and your 250 word query telling us little more than: Girl gets kidnapped, Thief bro and estranged bro try to solve the mystery, while thief bro tries to steal a magic knife and save the world.

This is fantasy, right? So, what is unique about this world? Why is the Empress important, other than to drive these two guys back together.

Give us a flavor of this world.

Petty court intrigue seems so pedestrian. There must be more in the book. Maybe Rajel is important in this, but you haven't told us enough for us to get it. Right now I'm thinking he's the proverbial butler in this mystery/fantasy you've written.

If we can't figure out from the query what the heck is thicker than blood in your story, the title's not working.

I love GTP #2.

I hate that I struggle to discern the smeary verification letters.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I hate that I struggle to discern the smeary verification letters.

With me it's the numbers. They're either very light or out of focus, or both.

Writer, focus on your protagonist and what he wants. Keep the focus there. Don't let it go away from there.

Kelsey said...

Once you've condensed the set-up, I'd like to know a bit more about the brother--what is the thing that makes him most interesting to the reader? What's his conflict?--since it seems the brothers' relationship is key to the story.

(That the Empress has a sometime-love affair with this brother seemed to me the most unusual part of the query, although I admit, I remembered your query wrong and thought the brother was the thief--and an Empress sleeping with a thief would be a much more interesting conflict, in my opinion, than if the brother turns out to be an average noble of the court.)

I second the others' comments. Keep at it.