Friday, March 07, 2014

Face-Lift 1191


Guess the Plot

Princess of the Four Corners

[Sorry, author of When Fire Ignites, but we have to go out of order because only one fake plot has come in for your title.]

1. Cinderella is married and happy with her prince. Or is she? Seems like she never gets to leave the castle, not even to visit the Korean fusion food truck down the street. Maybe she'll accept the handsome gardener's invitation for a night stroll since the prince is never around anyway.

2. When 10 year old Sylvania wins Young Miss Colorado her star-struck mother signs on to the pageant circuit. Winning Princess of the Four Corners is the first big step Sylvania must achieve, but is she cut out for the cutthroat world of big-time child pageants?

3. Sally Lapone longs to be named Queen of Quilt Fest, but her points are never perfect. A mysterious little man with a very long nose tells her he can help her...for a price. Should she trade her beloved Marie Osmond dolls for a chance at being the Queen?.

4. Growing up on the sprawling Navajo reservation, Naomi Begay sees beauty all around her. But when a friend convinces her to enter the "Princess of the Four Corners" beauty pageant, a contest traditionally won by Anglo teens from Albuquerque or Flagstaff, Naomi is exposed to the ugliness of competition -- as well as the beauty within every person.

5. Princess Winny has flitted about in satin dresses for seventy years. She owns everything to the horizon. Too bad she lives in BFE and "everything" is a flashing yellow light, a gas station and a hovel. But the frackers are in town and they want mineral rights. It appears she will be screaming, "Off with their heads!" more than usual from now on.

6. The soul of the princess was removed sixteen years ago and distributed to four babies. Now those four girls have been brought to the castle so the princess's soul can be restored to her by the wizard. But the wizard can't find the spell and he didn't memorize it, and . . . Shit! Now an evil sorceress wants the soul!



Original Version

Dear Agent,

When a group of warriors tears sixteen-year old Gwinn away from her remote village to take her to the king, she has no idea why. She’s shocked to learn she’s a Bearer – one of four girls selected when she was a baby to hide a piece of the princess’s soul from Metheda, a vengeful sorceress. Metheda has been killed, and the warriors are bringing the Bearers to the castle so the wizard can perform the spell to restore the princess.

But the spell nearly kills the Bearers. The wizard discovers someone replaced it with a fake, [They take these incredibly elaborate measures to protect the princess and then the leave the spell lying around?] [It sounds like the spell is an object. Normally a spell is a series of words. Maybe accompanied by a recipe or a ritual. Would it have killed the wizard to just memorize the spell?] so he confines the girls to the castle grounds until he can either find or recreate the true spell. Not content to wait, Gwinn begins her own search [It shouldn't take the wizard more than a few minutes to determine if he can recreate the spell. She can't wait that long?] even as she struggles to figure out where the princess ends and she begins. [Has she considered that without the princess's soulness she might have become a serial killer?]

When signs of dark magic surface, Gwinn suspects Metheda is still alive. One of the Bearers is attacked in the gardens, and after testing the magic used in the attack the wizard confirms Gwinn’s fears – the sorceress has returned. [Brilliant. A sixteen-year-old figured it out before the wizard did. This guy is the most incompetent wizard since Rincewind.] The Bearers search for clues and find evidence Metheda is amassing an army to the east of the castle. The kingdom sends all of their forces to fight, hoping to make a final stand against Metheda.

Unfortunately, she’s been hiding in the castle the entire time. [The entire sixteen years? Has she been disguised as a cook or hiding in a trunk in the attic? How do you amass an army while hiding in the castle?] Gwinn must find a way to defeat Metheda without the aid of the kingdom’s warriors, and locate the stolen spell, if she ever hopes to return home. [I get why locating the spell will help her. Why does she have to defeat Metheda?] [Why would whoever stole the real spell hide it in the castle? Why wouldn't they destroy it so it could never be used?]

PRINCESS OF THE FOUR CORNERS is an 85,000-word YA Fantasy. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

What difference does it make to Metheda whether the princess's soul resides in the princess or in four sixteen-year-olds? Is Metheda's army less likely to triumph if the princess has her soul? Does Metheda want the four soul-parts for herself? If so, why? If not, why not just kill the four girls?

I seem to be more interested in Metheda's plans than in whether Gwinn gets what she wants. Possibly that's a sign that the well-written query is not focusing enough on Gwinn's problem, which is that carrying around a fourth of the princess's soul is a burden she doesn't want (even though a week ago she didn't even know she had a problem). Or perhaps it's that there are three other girls with the exact same problem, so I'm less inclined to see Gwinn as the focus. Are the other three also interested in defeating Metheda? 

Presumably the soul was distributed to others to keep Metheda from getting it. We need to know what will happen if she now gets it. The fact that Gwinn's goal of figuring out where the princess ends and she begins is solved whether her soul-part goes to the princess or to Metheda would be interesting if Gwinn had to choose whether to keep the soul-part or give it to Metheda, but as no one seems to know where the spell is, I guess that decision never comes up.


13 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

EE, you have not pointed out that Metheda is an anagram of Hated Me.

The whole soul thing doesn't sound very thought-through. It's coming across as just a device for turning an ordinary girl (Gwinn) into a special snowflake.

Where's the princess in all this, by the way? What's she like without a soul? Why did it have to be removed? In my opinion this kind of surgery is usually unnecessary. When I was a tot, people used to have their tonsils out as a routine matter. Before that it was appendices. Nowadays we know better.

The title "Princess of the Four Corners" suggests that the book is about a princess-- which it apparently is not-- and also, yes, that it is set in a remote area of the American Southwest.

SB said...

Personally, I'm still trying to figure out how the princess lived without her soul in the first place, and why it's so important to have it now if she never needed it when she was alive previously. I think that when people talk about someone's "soul" in a query as a major element like this, they should give us an idea of what they mean by that, because different people have different ideas. To me, a person can't live without their soul because the soul is the person. So if you're going by some other definition, like the soul is her "life force" or whatever (or in this case, backup life force?), it would be helpful, I think, to give an idea of that.

I also don't know what the Four Corners are in this story. Made me think of the SW area too. Four soul pieces, but why call them corners?

Veronica Rundell said...

I'm distraught at the thought of soul fragments and wizard tangents....

Author, you gotta make your story sound logical, and plausible. It sounds neither.

This Schmendrick of a wizard should not be the last hope of a soulless princess. What, pray tell, happens to the Bearers when they give back the soul-quarters? Why would they care to do so? How will having a soul help defeat a Voldemorticia of a sorceress? Is a princess's soul so powerful that it can defeat dark magic simply by existing?

Look, YA is a tough genre. And YA fantasy is an extra special kinda subset. These readers demand a well-put together premise and delivery. I can't say as the query has convinced me you have delivered...

Try again. Outline the stakes. Make this make sense. Get us to care about the MC's plight.

Alice Witten said...

Hi EE and Minions!

Author here. Thank you so much for the critique! I still have some work to do.

Some info relating to the questions/comments:

Condensed version of the back story: King kills Metheda’s husband over a land dispute. Metheda wants revenge. After several failed attempts to kill the princess, she unleashes a plague on the kingdom that kills children. Peasants want to give Metheda the princess so their kids stop dying. King wants to avoid a revolt so he has the wizard create the spell to remove the princess’s soul (SB you’re right, I’m using ‘soul’ as ‘life force’) and hide the pieces in four baby girls. Without her soul, the princess appears dead. King holds a fake funeral; Metheda crashes it because she wants proof the princess is gone. Wizard attacks her but she escapes. Soul-piece babies are sent to live in four different remote areas of the kingdom until Metheda is killed. Wizard hides the princess’s body in the castle. Story picks up sixteen years later…

The original spell was hidden and locked away. Metheda broke in and replaced it with a fake, but she’s unable to destroy the original.

Metheda got to the castle at the same time as the Bearers, and her Metheda-decoy is amassing the army to lure away the warriors so Metheda can kill the Bearers and destroy the princess.

The other three girls want to defeat Metheda but I never figured out how to weave them into the query without making it sound like Gwinn wasn’t the focus (or that they weren’t a terrible 80’s cartoon band – Gwinn and the Bearers).

Suggestions on which parts would be good to include/cut/change to address issues/questions? (or if the above explanations made everything worse?!)

I hope that didn’t sound pretentious or combative (I may or may not have read the “A Sweet Disorder” classic post from Saturday, including all of the comments). I’m so far down in the weeds it’s hard to look at the story with fresh eyes. I appreciate any and all feedback!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of soul fragments, but some things do have to be explained. Firstly, if you are removing a persons soul/ life force, do they age? Are we going to have a 16 year old princess without any life experiences or memories? I once read a series like this, where 6 people were fused into one at the age of 17. The fused person was distraught by his lack of a past. The six people who were fused to create him were battling for control of the fused body to complete their own life goals.

The other question to answer, would be if the MC defeats Methenda by guile or the discovery of her magical powers. This will be important to understand the direction the book will be moving in.

Finally, why does the MC want to have her soul used to resurrect the princess? I hate going to the dentist, let alone having something as complex as my soul being partially removed.

Alice Witten said...

Let's try this again...thoughts on the below revision?

Dear Agent,

When a group of warriors tears sixteen-year-old Gwinn away from her village to take her to the king, she’s shocked to learn she’s a Bearer – one of four girls selected when she was a baby to conceal a piece of the princess’s life force from Metheda, a vengeful sorceress. Metheda has been killed, and the warriors bring the Bearers to the castle so the wizard can restore the princess.

The wizard insists it’s a simple spell. The princess will pick up her life where it left off and the Bearers can go back to their old lives, which is all Gwinn wants. But the spell nearly kills the Bearers. The wizard discovers someone replaced it with a fake, so he confines the girls to the castle grounds until he can recreate the true spell. Not content to wait, Gwinn begins her own investigation even as she struggles to figure out where the princess ends and she begins.

When signs of dark magic surface, Gwinn suspects Metheda is still alive. One of the Bearers is attacked in the gardens, and after testing the magic used in the attack the wizard confirms Gwinn’s fears – the sorceress has returned. The Bearers find evidence Metheda is amassing an army to the east. The kingdom sends all of its forces to make a final stand against the sorceress.

Unfortunately, her decoy is to the east. Metheda’s been hiding in the castle since the Bearers arrived. With the warriors out of her way, she plans to destroy the princess’s life force, leaving the kingdom without an heir – and she’ll kill the Bearers to do it. Separated from the rest of the Bearers, Gwinn must risk her life to defeat Metheda if she hopes to save the kingdom’s heir and return home.

RESTORATION is a completed 85,000-word YA Fantasy. Thank you for your time and consideration.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Good for you for taking time to rework this! I don't read YA, but I like your story. I think everyone is going to tell you to shorten your revised query because it reads too much like a synopsis. You get three short paragraphs max.

Evil Editor said...

I would dump the entire second paragraph and change the first sentnece of the fourth paragraph to: But the threat from the east is a decoy.

Veronica Rundell said...

I like the revision, including EE's suggestion, but in para 3, not sure how the Bearers could find evidence of Metheda's forces in the east. It seems as if scouts would turn up this type of Intel.

Best of luck!

January said...

Gwin does not have an active role in much of this query.
What makes her special enough to stand up to the sorceress? What does she know from her life in the village or learn from living at the castle that will enable her to have even a long shot at success?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

January's right. Gwin doesn't really do anything till the end of the 2nd paragraph, which is pretty late for a protagonist to start protagging.

SB said...

I'm not sure this version's really grabbing me, but it certainly makes a lot more sense, in my opinion. I definitely feel like I understand what's going on now, so I think that's improvement.

Alice Witten said...

Author again! Thanks for taking time to read the revised version and giving additional feedback. I really appreciate it!