Friday, February 21, 2014

Face-Lift 1186

Guess the Plot

Skeleton Gorge

1. Three rustlers. One lawman. Five Indians. Two hundred cattle. Just another night at the Skeleton Gorge saloon--or so Sweet Sally thought.

2. When you live in Skeleton Gorge, the biggest worry is landslides. So when a mage named Landslide shows up with an army of zombie skeletons and starts causing landslides, it's up to the Skeleton to protect the gorge.

3. When the body of Olympic figure skater Johnny Watson is found out in Skeleton Gorge, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, there's no way Watson cut out his own liver; and two, his daughter is going to be clamoring to go ice skating this weekend.

4. Unable to fathom how seemingly sane people leap from Deadly Peak, DJ Shazam hits the trail running. First order of business: learn how to rappel; it's the only safe transit into Skeleton Gorge.

5. Ezekial Young forgot to wear his Mormon undergarments, and he's about to drive his family through a gorge in Utah known to claim travelers' lives. Should he have faith they'll make it, or stop and let his wife drive?

6. Archeologist Dr Kramer discovers hundreds.of human skeletons in a gorge in an isolated mountain range. All beautifully preserved, all featuring some rather pointy incisors. All wanting to feast on fresh human blood to reform their flesh...

7. Motorcycle stuntman Mike “Crazy” Trane fails to jump 47 ½ busses in his last Vegas stunt. Newscasters across the globe label him a has-been. Mike declares he’ll make another jump: Skeleton Gorge, the ravine where all the zombies were tossed at the end of World War Z. Does he have what it takes? The living and the undead can’t wait to find out.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In the past decade, many old mythologies and fantasy tropes have been brought back into modern media and re-imagined – witches and wizards, vampires, demons, and monsters of all sorts are all finding places in books and movies. One creature that has of course transitioned along with its mythical brethren is the [skeleton. Sure, kids dress up as skeletons on Halloween, but are there any books in which the main villains are all skeletons? No. Until now. And my skeletons are even more unique because they're in a gorge.] dragon. From Eragon to the Song of Ice and Fire series, dragons are definitely coming with us into the future. But as a huge fan of these creatures and nonhuman point of view books, I noticed something very odd – there are almost no books that feature dragons as main characters. So, I did what any nerdy book-lover would do; I wrote my own story. [Your credentials as a nerd will be called into  question if you insist on declaring there are almost no books with dragons as main characters. In any case, if you summarize a plot in which the characters are all dragons, the reader will get the idea, so there's no need to devote a lengthy paragraph to the history of fantasy tropes and the reason your book has no characters readers can identify with.]

During the middle ages, dragons were driven out of the human world and into magically-shielded mountain ranges. One band of these dragons settled near Skeleton Gorge, a fantastic and mysterious canyon-land that turned against them when the mage and necromancer known as Landslide was exiled. With the help of a stranger known only as Skeleton, the dragons defeated the mage and his skeletal army, leaving a safe haven for their descendants. [Is Skeleton a dragon?] [What is a skeletal army? An army of skeletons? Skeletons of dragons?]

Fifteen-year-old Bone-Crest, like the rest of his colony, knows nothing about this centuries-old battle, [A fifteen-year-old dragon living in Skeleton Gorge and knowing nothing about that battle is like a fifteen-year-old human living in Sweden and knowing nothing about the Battle of Ueckermünde.] until he is chosen by a black dragon in a bone helmet to become the next Skeleton. A Skeleton, blessed with an inner magic that allows him or her to connect with the gorge in ways other dragons can't, [Such as?] is charged with protecting Skeleton Gorge and the dragons living alongside it from any future danger. Though the Gorge has remained safe for years, Bone-Crest and his mentor are quickly cast into a search for an heir of Landslide as inexplicable rockslides threaten the colony dragons' lives, [Who makes the decision of whether a rock slide is explicable or not?] reanimated dragon skeletons appear in the gorge's shadows, [Now that's inexplicable.] and Bone-Crest's rival Black-Thrash [Rival for what?] becomes the victim of a curse. [Searching for an heir usually doesn't mean so you can kill him. I'd say they must take him down or face him in battle rather than search for him.] Are two guardians of [from] an ancient line of protectors enough to stop Landslide's apprentice, before he and his army of the undead find the vengeance and conquest even his predecessors couldn't achieve? [Probably. I don't see how, but I'm confident they'll pull off this seemingly impossible task.]

Skeleton Gorge is a 128,000-word young-adult fantasy. Thank you for your time; I greatly look forward to hearing from you!


Not clear why you've chosen the word "Skeleton" for the protector when the enemy is a skeletal army.

It's all setup. In a land where dragons exist and humans don't, a dragon named Bone-Crest is chosen as the "Skeleton"--protector of the dragons in Skeleton Gorge. Then a descendant of an ancient necromancer named Landslide starts wreaking havoc on the land with his army of zombie dragon skeletons. That's about it. Dump the rest and tell us what Bone-Crest's plan is, what happens if it fails, what goes wrong, and what he can possibly do about it.

Landslide is a terrible name unless this is for children. Which maybe it should be, though not at this length. I can't see the YA crowd digging this.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I can't really see anyone digging it except the hardcore fantasy crowd. Books with non-human protagonists always face an uphill battle for reader identification. And while there are some excellent books that win that battle, they are... excellent books.

Writer, based on your query, I'm going to guess you could cut 50k words from your novel. Just take out all excess backstory, repetitive naming (eg "mage and necromancer", "vengeance and conquest", "the X known as X"), three-fourths of your modifiers, and bang. Reasonable length.

By the way, the first paragraph not only suggests that you might not know the word "mythoi" and that you haven't researched the market (Google returns 4.9 million hits for "main character is a dragon"). It also seeks to excuse what you should not be trying to excuse. You've obviously written a manuscript about a dragon. Skip the rationale. Own it. The agent-- or, more likely, the intern-- has read 100 queries already today and has 300 left to get through, so start talking immediately about your story.

SB said...

First, Landslide sounds like the name of a third-string superhero, like Marvel's Rictor only less powerful.

Second, I get no sense from this query of why this is a story about dragons and not humans. If you're going to make all of your characters dragons, I'd expect it to read like something other than a story about humans where I have to keep being reminded that they're dragons because they never really do dragony things.

Third, I can't tell if the bad guys are also dragons. That's sort of the problem with having 'dragon' as your default race. If there are no humans in this world (or at least this story) whatsoever, you might mention that.

Fourth, the idea of a young dragon's epic quest does sound like it could be amusing and entertaining, but I don't really get the sense that this particular story is those things.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Ok, you wrote a novel, great, what next? Are you serious about it? If you are, I think you could start with a little cutting as Alaska suggested.

My favorite dragon story is Puff the Magic Dragon, and I'm not into fantasy or YA. As far as the story goes, just focus on what EE said to do with it.

My ideal dragon story would be rated R because it seems adult dragons might be kinda dirty and fiery and rude. Maybe one passes fire a lot from the other end. Idk.

Chicory said...

I like non-human heroes -but I agree that the explanation paragraph at the beginning needs to go. Would getting a little of your character's voice in there help? (I'm just throwing that out there.) Right now the query reads like a typical quest fantasy, and if the main character is a dragon, it shouldn't.

Veronica Rundell said...

Hi author!
Your book is too long.
Your hook is inexplicable. It's hard enough to get teens to read. A story about epic dragon battles with zombie skeletons is not likely to attract a big audience. Sorry.
How does a locale 'turn against' characters in a book?
Is/Was Landslide a dragon-Mage? Did he curse the Skeleton Gorge when he was exiled?
Don't dragons live hundreds of years? (That's kinda the consensus thought..)
If so, you might need to explain why everyone pins their hopes to a ruddy pup named Bone-Crest. Surely there are more capable members of society.
Best of luck.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Non-human heroes can be great if done well. Watership Down is an example. The hero, Hazel, is entirely lapine in his outlook. The rabbit community's concerns, the dangers they flee, their whole belief system and culture, are all rabbity. The story absolutely requires that the characters be bunnies. It wouldn't work with humans.

Based on the query, this story would work with humans. I was really thrown by the dragon in the bone helmet. What would a dragon need a helmet for? Let alone one made of breakable bone? and what bone, specifically... the skull of a much-bigger dragon? Etc.

Writer, sorry for the pile-on. There's a saying that you have to write a million words before you're ready to be published. It is most unfortunately true. The few exceptions (Stephenie Meyer) merely prove the rule.