Thursday, May 16, 2013

Face-Lift 1125


Guess the Plot

A Royal Pain

1. For years, the palace staff has tolerated Queen Zenilda III's so-called practical jokes. But when her banana peel prank puts Lady Mitochondria in intensive care, the rest of the ladies-in-waiting stage a palace coup.

2. The King has gout, the Queen has headaches. Physicians have been useless so far. When a gentleman shows up peddling a "cure all" he's invited in. Is he a harmless quack, or something more sinister?

3. Her face graces the covers of most magazines and her dress sense is widely copied. But even those who wholeheartedly despise the "future queen" are surprised when she reveals herself to be an alien with plans to imprison and torture humankind.

4. The king's heir Alexan is betrothed to Jayna, but they just met and they can't stand each other. Add to that the fact that Jayna must constantly roam the land or she'll simply die, while Al prefers to sit around the palace, and you've got yourself . . . A Royal Pain.

5. When the Hungarian ambassador is found shot at the La Brea Tar Pits with the royal jewels stuffed in his rectum, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, Zoltan Vargas didn't fall on those diamonds while taking a shower, and two, Zoltan is a kickass name.

6. Mad King George lays another "magic egg" in a mystery location. The Groom of the Stool is the only one excited. There seems to be no way to potty train King George. But just when the royal staff is about to give up, a time machine lands in the garden and Mary Poppins steps out.

7. Unwed Princess Lorena will go homicidal on the next sadist to sneak a pea under her mattress. Then she meets King Frenik who's just as sensitive as she. Unfortunately his kingdom is in revolt and Lorena has one day to save him from the guillotine. Starving peasants. Ill-equipped knights. Scheming vassals. Surely kings don't need to put up with all these plebeian affairs.



Original Version

Dear Editor of Supreme Evilness,

I saw (somewhere) that you are interested in young adult manuscripts. [You misread it. I'm interested in young adult mannequins. I'm doing my own interior decorating this time.] I think you may enjoy my young adult fantasy novel, A Royal Pain, complete at 55,000 words. I would like to invite you to review the manuscript and consider it for representation. [More concise would be: I am seeking representation for A Royal Pain, a YA fantasy complete at 55,000 words.] [Even more concise: I have A Royal Pain, and I heard you have Ibuprofen.]

Getting betrothed to a princess he’s never even met is the last thing seventeen year old Prince Alexan of Vakela wants to do. [Just because someone doesn't want to do something doesn't make it the last thing he wants to do. I could name a thousand things that would make an arranged marriage seem like a cheese danish from Andre's Hungarian.] His intended, Princess Jayna of Pardin, isn’t exactly thrilled about the arrangement either, and when they meet to exchange vows neither one of them is surprised to discover they can’t stand each other. But the ceremony is put on hold when Gustus, Jayna’s tutor, is kidnapped and the betrothal contracts he carried stolen; contracts that would also confirm Alexan as heir to the throne of Vakela. [Lemme get this straight. Alexan is the prince and heir to the throne, but if some tutor from another kingdom loses some contract, someone else becomes heir to the throne?] Faced with such a crisis Jayna does the only sensible thing, taking matters into her own hands and riding to Gustus’s rescue with Prince Alexan along as her unlikely accomplice. ["Accomplice" suggests a crime. Perhaps "comrade in arms"?] [If they can't stand each other, and the betrothal contracts have been lost, they should be celebrating.]

Disguised as poor farmer’s sons they track Gustus’s kidnappers to a far off city and a dangerous criminal underworld apparently run ["Apparently run" meaning "not run."] by none other than Alexan’s disinherited older brother, Davin. [If you just say "by Alexan’s disinherited older brother," we'll infer that it's none other than hm.] But things are not what they seem and soon Jayna and Alexan discover that Davin is nothing more than the pawn of a ruthless crime lord. Voris has addicted Davin to a potent drug and plans to have Alexan killed before his claim to the throne can be confirmed, then set Davin up as a puppet king for him to rule through. [Of course he can't rule through Davin until the current king is also dead. I mean, if you killed Prince Charles's older brother in 1955 so that you could rule through Prince Charles when Queen Elizabeth II died, you've been waiting 58 years. You're probably dead.] With Jayna’s surprising street smarts, and the help of a band of young thieves, Jayna and Alexan manage to free both Gustus and Davin and return to Vakelon [Vakelon? I thought it was Vakela. Of course places do change their names from time to time. For instance, Persia to Iran, Siam to Thailand, Ceylon to Sri Lanka and Chad to Ochocinco.] with no one any the wiser. [Not even Voris? Surely he eventually notices his meal ticket is missing.]

After the betrothal ceremony [There's a betrothal ceremony before the wedding? So when the were meeting to exchange vows two paragraphs ago, those weren't the wedding vows? Those were the vows to take the vows?] Jayna returns home, now close friends with both Davin and Alexan, but just as opposed to the marriage as ever. For she and the brothers now share a secret that will forever keep them apart even as it binds them closer: Jayna is part Ghaltani, one of the mystical, nomadic people of the high mountains for whom it is fatal not to roam the land. [This is a secret? Has she been roaming the land all her life up to now? Has anyone said to her, "Hey Jayna, how come you're constantly roaming the land like a Ghaltani?" Was the secret known to her mother? Why would they arrange a marriage between a Ghaltani and a couch potato?] And if Jayna should marry Alexan, and be tied to the palace, it will mean nothing less than her certain death. [If you just say it will mean "her certain death," we will infer that it isn't something less than that.] Now it’s up to Alexan to find a way to save the strange princess to whom he’s betrothed…and who has become the best friend he’s ever had.

A Royal Pain is a stand-alone novel with series potential. I have included (whatever your website said you wanted.) My previous writing experience includes locally published short stories, poetry, and brochures. When I’m not writing I am either riding a horse, showing a horse, or teaching my students how not to fall off a horse. [Did you consider making all the characters in your book horses? It would be like Watership Down, but with horses instead of rabbits. I see Alexan in the movie being played by Mr. Ed.] Please feel free to contact me at any time to request a partial or full manuscript. Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Notes

This "roam the land or die" rule seems rather arbitrary. Can you roam any land? What are the early symptoms of not roaming the land? When you go to the doctor because you're feeling lousy, is her first question always When did you last roam the land? Can you roam back and forth between two camps, or do you have to keep roaming to new lands?

Why would Voris want to create the appearance that Davin is running the criminal underworld? If I were Voris I would keep Davin locked up until I was ready to make my move.

Rescuing Davin and Gustus feels like the big climax. If it isn't, I expect Voris to come after the heroes. Instead the big climax seems to be Alexan must decide whether he'd rather be king or roam the land with Jayna, but since the current king may rule another forty years, it's not that big an issue.

Even after you cut the first paragraph down to one sentence and get rid of your credits and horse obsession, it's still a little long. We can do without a lot of the detail and vague phrases, like Disguised as poor farmer’s sons, After the betrothal ceremony Jayna returns home, things are not what they seem, does the only sensible thing . . .

Perhaps we can dump the Ghaltani paragraph entirely and pretend that the big finish is With the help of a band of young thieves, Jayna and Alexan must rescue Davin and Gustus and get home before whatever.

The title suggests this might be more comedic than it apparently is.

8 comments:

Veronica Rundell said...

Hey author!
I'm a bit concerned with two issues:
1. The language you use is cliched, verbose and casual. You take ten words to say what three will do--and it makes me wary that the manuscript will be the same. Also, this is a business letter representing you as a professional--not a letter to a friend. Cut to the chase, be professional. Don't offer to send pages--tell the agent that pages are attached, in accordance with specs.

2. I can't tell who is the MC of this story. Jayna, Alexan, both? Is it written in two viewpoints, or one? If one, give us a query centered on that character's goals etc.

Other things to consider changing: TOO MANY NAMES
This isn't character soup, it's character feast, complete with vomitorium.

'Roam or die' dictum seems not too hard to live with, IMHO. Many heads of state travel extensively--besides many monarchs didn't cohabitate...so you need to clarify why it's critical that this is a mismatch.

OTOH, I'd really consider if it's necessary at all as a plot device because I find it implausible in the extreme that parents would arrange a marriage that would result in the certain death of their daughter. The entire premise of arranged marriage is to build an alliance, after all.

BTW, how did Jayna's Ghaltani parent survive being a sovereign? It's clearly workable if he/she did so--so, again, I'd take EE's advice and cut that part entirely--novel included. The love triangle between Jayna-Alexan-Davin should provide enough conflict for the novel's resolution.

Otherwise, sounds like a fun adventure. Best of luck!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Sure. Makes sense there would be a betrothal ceremony in a medieval-based fantasy, since it was a medieval custom. It's still the custom in many cultures today. In some cultures betrothal is as binding as marriage.

Writer, your story idea sounds interesting. But you're slowing it down with so many cliches and extra words that this query failed the toaster oven test. (When the toaster oven went "ping" I immediately got up to get my chow, instead of finishing your query.)

Here's an example:

But things are not what they seem and soon Jayna and Alexan discover that Davin is nothing more than the pawn of a ruthless crime lord. Voris has addicted Davin to a potent drug and plans to have Alexan killed before his claim to the throne can be confirmed, then set Davin up as a puppet king for him to rule through.

That's two sentences with half a dozen cliches. Don't waste time telling us that things aren't what they seem. Things are never what they seem in fiction. When you use cliches, you're avoiding giving us more specific, helpful info.

But Jayna and Alexan discover that Davin works for the evil Lord Voris. Voris plans to have Alexan killed, then set Davin up as a puppet king.

(I left out the drug addiction because it's a motive for a secondary character, and you want to focus on your protagonists.)

Evil Editor said...

My comment wasn't meant to suggest there was no such thing as a betrothal ceremony, but to ask about the phrase "exchange vows," which is generally assumed to mean marriage vows. It sounds like the ceremony is to sign the stolen betrothal contracts.

By the way, when two people meet for a joyous official ceremony involving the signing of betrothal contracts it seems weird that those contracts are in the possession of a tutor, or that the kidnappers know they're in the possession of a tutor, or that the two people getting betrothed can go off on this adventure and return with no one the wiser. Why weren't they missed?

Alice said...

The 'roam or die' twist is the most appealing aspect of this story--I would much rather read a book exploring that idea than the whole arranged marriage thing, which doesn't really grab me.

The roaming seems to be a minor plot twist, but if it's something that could lead to a protagonist's death and profoundly affect their relationships and actions, I feel like it should take centre-stage. There's so much to it that I want to know about. Can they roam any land, or do they have territories that they have to stick to? How do they die? Why do they die? Has any Ghaltani tried to settle down and live a regular, non-roaming life? What happened to them and how does that knowledge (or lack of it) affect Jayna?

khazar-khum said...

It is, and was, extraordinarily difficult to disinherit a prince. Therefore, the usual method involved his execution, to prevent just this sort of conspiracy forming.

It's logic problems like this where so many fantasy stories break down. Why must Jayna keep moving? How often does she have to move? Weekly? Daily? Like Veronica says, she doesn't have to live with Alexa, just have his kids.

Anonymous said...



I didn't understand whose story this is. It starts with Alexan, then wham, it's about Jayna? ("Faced with such a crisis Jayna does the only sensible thing") - I expected Alexan to be doing something at this point, not her. The query will be more coherent if you stick with one person's story arc.

Jayna's keep-moving curse comes out of nowhere in the query and I don't get why she'd be put in an arranged marriage that will certainly kill her. What do the Pardin/Ghaltani get out of the deal that make it worth sacrificing her life? What does Alexan have to do to save her other than agree to a mobile household?

Who decides who becomes next king? The restrictions on these two kids appear arbitrary.



P.S. re the filler words - they slow down the reader, which is only irritation-inducing for the speed-reading agent/editor. They also raise too much confusion, since they introduce details that can't be explained. This is essentially what you said:

A Royal Pain [is] young adult fantasy novel, complete at 55,000 words.

Getting betrothed to a princess he’s never met [doesn't thrill] seventeen year old Prince Alexan of Vakela [ - or] his intended, Princess Jayna of Pardin. When they meet, they can’t stand each other. But the [betrothal] is put on hold when Gustus, Jayna’s tutor, is kidnapped and the [documents] he carried [- that would confirm Alexan as heir to the throne - ] stolen. Jayna [rides] to Gustus’s rescue with [angry] Alexan alongside.

Disguised as poor farmer’s sons [the unlikely accomplices] track Gustus to a dangerous criminal underworld, [where they discover] Alexan’s disinherited older brother, Davin. Ruthless crime lord Voris has addicted Davin to a potent drug and plans to [kill] Alexan, then set Davin up as a puppet king. With Jayna’s surprising street smarts, and the help of a band of young thieves, Jayna and Alexan manage to free both Gustus and Davin.

Now close friends with Alexan, [Jayne remains] as opposed to the marriage as ever. [She reveals her] secret: Jayna is part Ghaltani, one of the mystical, nomadic people of the high mountains for whom it is fatal not to roam the land. [Being] tied to the palace will mean her certain death. Now it’s up to Alexan to find a way to save the best friend he’s ever had.

A Royal Pain is a stand-alone novel with series potential. I have included (whatever your website said you wanted.) Thank you for your time.

A M Pierre said...

Quick note: 55,000 words for a fantasy (YA or not) seems more than a little short. When I told an agent I was aiming at around 72K for a YA Sci-Fi, she told me that gave her pause since it might mean it wasn't developed enough.

The general consensus (I spoke with several) was 80K was long enough to imply you've developed your sci-fi/fantasy story without being too long for a debut.

Just food for thought :-)

CavalierdeNuit said...

I agree with the previous comments, and I will emphasize Veronica's comment:

"This isn't character soup, it's character feast, complete with vomitorium."

I am rather confused. This sounds like a cool read, if I can figure out what's going on. The query is difficult because you want to entice, but you have to keep it simple.

Janet Reid's advice with sentence structure in a query:

"I cannot over emphasize the need for simple, clear writing in a query: subject, verb, object. Start with that. Embellish as needed. Don't start with hilariously long convoluted sentences and try to edit them down."