Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Face-Lift 1227


Guess the Plot

The Layer

1. She was the most prolific worker in this horror house of reproduction, which was quite the feather in her cap. But can she escape before her brains become scrambled? With the help of a handsome stranger, she’ll win her freedom, or die trying. Yet there was something sinister in his over-easy manner, which didn’t quite jibe with her sunny-side-up disposition…

2. Henrietta consistently produces double yolkers. She's the pride of White's Egg Farm. But when newcomer Chicka starts pushing out triple yolkers, sometimes twice daily, watch the feathers fly as these two battle it out for the title of . . . The Layer.

3. When one of Farmer Brown's hens starts laying golden eggs, a custody battle breaks out between Farmer Brown, his ex-wife, and the farm supply store that sold them a dozen chicks.

4. Since she was hatched, Eulabelle has been groomed to be a champion. Calamity strikes when she is infested with lice. With the state fair just around the corner, can she get clean in time to win the coveted grand prize?

5. Sticks and stones may break his bones… but bricks are his trade. Drifting from town to town, looking for trouble; and usually finding it… Bond’s the name. Flemish Bond. He is… The Layer.

6. There is a layer of matter separating the world of the dead from that of the living. When Dr Fran Borden accidentally pierces it during an experiment, the two worlds meet in a violent cataclysm of lust, anger and...no, wait, that's not this book. This book is about the lives and loves of Wisconsin bricklayer Eddy Elliot, Esq.

7. John is a bricklayer with a troubled past. It wasn't until a demolition crew imploded one of John's buildings that Detective Lewis learned just how troubled. How many bodies had John entombed in concrete in his lifetime?

8. Pat makes beautiful cakes for the aging rich in Tampa, FL. Despite the hundred dollar tips, he wants a new life. Will his five-foot-tall cake with the "magic" hidden layer get him on a national cooking show?

9. After flying from Rome to London, Aria is abducted at the airport and forced through a portal to another dimension known as the Layer. But do they want her because of her ability to breathe underwater or because of her uncanny resemblance to the princess? She doesn't know, and they're not talking.

10. Gilthoniel, Elven Queen of the Golden Forest, has kept her lands in a perpetual state of the autumnal weather she loves for millenia. But when human housing developers begin bulldozing the edges of her forest, she has no choice but to make those beautiful, fluttering leaves deadly. With the workers dying en masse on site, will the humans finally leave her beloved land alone?

11. Everyone in the little town of Big Knob loves using good old George McFee for their odd jobs. But as the number of red-headed children increases, some are beginning to wonder if the dear old Irishman isn't a bit too loved.



Original Version

Dear [Mr./Ms. Name of Agent],

[Refer to agent's representation of specific YA fantasy novels, depending on agent] I am submitting for your consideration THE LAYER, an 89,000 word YA fantasy that will resonate with fans of Obert Skye's Leven Thumps and Michael Scott's The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. [I would either put this whole thing after the plot summary, or cut it to: I am submitting for your consideration THE LAYER, an 89,000-word YA fantasy.]

Aria visualizes her Roman-sun-soaked life as a near-perfect watercolor that is drowned by the chance to meet her biological parents. [I can't tell from that sentence whether she wants to meet them or doesn't.] Aria tells herself that the scenario is simple. She will travel to England, say, “Hey, what’s up, bio-parents?” and return home. Landing at Heathrow Airport, you can only picture her torrent of rage  [Wait, what am I doing at Heathrow airport?] when she discovers that her supposedly “simple” trip—is a fraud.

Forced through a portal, Aria finds herself on the Layer, a dimension where the Mylaurdian species thrives. [My Lord!] [Hang on. We were in the middle of a YA book about a teen meeting her biological parents. If it's gonna turn out she was lured to London by someone who knows she's never met her biological parents and who has a vested interest in forcing her through a portal, you need to prepare us for this. Instead of opening with the watercolor life, open with something like: When Aria receives a plane ticket in the mail, along with an invitation to visit the biological parents she's never met, she never dreams she's being lured to London by an alien species known as the Mylaurdians. Then tell us what the Mylaurdians want with her.] [Is this portal in the airport? Can anyone go through it or do you have to be forced through?] While their aquatic counterparts have dried up, the human-like Mylaurdians develop only land animal abilities. [Are we talking about their dried-up aquatic counterparts on the Layer or on our side of the portal?] To them, riding elephants, talking to koalas, and monkey librarians are mainstream. [Actually, riding elephants is mainstream in our dimension. So is talking to koalas, although here they don't talk back. As for the librarians, are they, themselves, monkeys, or are their patrons monkeys, or do they work in monkey libraries (libraries that house monkeys instead of books)?] [I'm not sure, even after reading your examples, what you mean by "develop only land-animal abilities."] At first, all Aria craves is a ticket home—it's not her fault that the Mylaurdian king's daughter is missing—and it's definitely not Aria's fault that she looks exactly like her. [No, it's your fault.]

But as much as she resists, Aria cannot avert her mind from the Layer due to a secret that whets her thirst for her heritage—She can breathe underwater. [She's Aquawoman. Or a mermaid? I prefer Aquawoman. It's about time two superheroes hooked up. I mean, celebrities are always getting romantically involved with other celebrities, and superheroes would be major celebrities, so it's totally unrealistic that Superman digs Lois Lane instead of Wonder Woman. A comic in which Aquaman and Aquawoman fight super villains together and also argue over whose turn it is to do the laundry would sell big.] [Can you do laundry in salt water? Probably, as long as your detergent is Tide.] [Could she breathe underwater in our dimension?] [Breathing underwater is useful if someone is trying to drown you, but since it's hard to speak, hear, see, read, walk, or out-swim sharks, it's not that big a deal.]

I have studied under Eileen G'Sell, winner of the American Literary Review's 2012 prize for poetry. Like Aria, I have lived in Rome my whole life.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Aria is abducted, forced through a portal to another dimension, and we never find out why? Do they think she's the king's daughter? Do they want her to impersonate the king's daughter for political reasons? Do they need someone who can breathe underwater? Surely they tell her what they want from her.

We want the story. You've provided a few random facts about this other dimension, but nothing about what happens after Aria goes through the portal. That's your story.

Who calls this dimension the Layer? If it had a cooler name, your book would have a cooler name, and people wouldn't think it's about a hen.

25 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The first thing that strikes me is that your two comps are middle grade, not YA. They also don't sound very much like your novel. There are a lot of YA novels in which teenage girls discover they are actually the daughter of the King of Fairyland; why not comp one of them?

(By the way, it's not necessary to comp at all.)

In re monkey librarians, may I be the first to say "OOK"?

Try to rewrite this in simple sentences. As it is, the flowery language is not just obscuring meaning, but is sometimes actually inaccurate. (Eg the relocation of the reader to Heathrow Airport.) That's not helping. Go for simple.

Here's an example of what I mean:

But as much as she resists, Aria cannot avert her mind from the Layer due to a secret that whets her thirst for her heritage—She can breathe underwater.

could be

Then Aria discovers she can breathe underwater.

The second example saves you major wordcount, and the reader will understand exactly what you mean. I've read the query three times and I can't figure out if Mylaurdians are water-creatures, or only Aria is.

Keep it simple.

I'd also avoid naming awards won by your instructor. If you don't have impressive qualifications of your own, don't call attention to the fact. Qualifications are unnecessary anyway.

SB said...

I'm confused about everything in this query. It leaves me with the impression that there might be an interesting story behind it, but the query itself is just confusing. I suspect you're trying too hard to word things. Try just explaining the plot in the simplest terms you can, then work from there.

EE, as I understand it, DC switched things up a few years back, and Superman actually is with Wonder Woman now. The major comics big-wigs apparently hate marriage now, so they've broken up iconic superhero marriages that have been around for decades. Not just Superman's. Because apparently the immature frat boys who run the show want their macho heroes free to play the field instead of tied down to some chick. (Okay, yeah, that's a whole other issue, sorry.)

InkAndPixelClub said...

I feel like there could be a good story in here, but your query is obscuring it rather than highlighting it.

Avoid starting your query with a metaphor, particularly one this convoluted. Since i don't have a good sense of Aria's life yet, it doesn't help me to have it compared to something else. I couldn't tell that Aria starts off in Rome because you have her visualizing her life in Rome as something. People visualize what they can't see, like their future vacations, not what's already in front of them. Kill the metaphor and tell us what's happening and how Aria feels about it.

I have no idea what the Mylaurdians are supposed to be like based on your description. You tell us they had aquatic counterparts who "dried up," which could mean either they died out or they became land dwellers. You tell us they are human-like and "develop land animal attributes." (Do they develop them as part of their maturation process, or did they evolve these traits a long time ago?) then we have the conversations with koalas and monkey librarians. Are the koalas and monkeys Mylaurdians? Are they completely normal koalas and monkeys that the Mylauridans can communicate with? I need a straightforward description of what the Mylaurdians look like and what abilities they have that are important to the story.

A person being dragged into an adventure because he or she looks exactly like someone important is a worn out cliche. It may not be the kiss of death for your story if the rest of it is good and avoids such overused tropes. But it will almost certainly have some agents rolling their eyes because they've seen it before. A lot.

Was Aria always able to breathe underwater? If so, surely she would have discovered this before now. And if she has known that from the start, you're much better off starting with that than the watercolor of Rome. If she wasn't able to breathe underwater before, why is this new ability a compelling reason for her to stay?

Dump the first paragraph and get to the point in the story where Aria's desires shift from getting home to whatever else she wants. Tell us what she does to try to achieve this new goal, or the original goal of getting home and what's preventing her from doing it.

A new title that doesn't conjure up images of hens and bricklayers so easily might be in order.

khazarkhum said...

Is Aria the last of the water-breathers? Why was this never spotted before? I'm sure people would have noticed that she could swim underwater for hours.

Anonymous said...

some thoughts:

My understanding of poetry is that it's purpose is to cram as much information as possible into as few words as possible. All you have here is pretty words that aren't getting the message across.

Strive for clarity.

The two cliche situations are going to be a problem (portal story and mistaken identity story). You need to convey why both are ESSENTIAL to the plot, and what makes this plot different from the many other stories that use these cliches.

Erm, a simple search on mylaurdian turns up the book on line. If you are seriously trying to sell this to a publishing house that's bad.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I assumed that it wasn't a case of mistaken identity but that she actually was the missing princess.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Eep. Anonymous is right. I hope what's online is an earlier version of the story and that you've revised it a lot since then. If so, delete! If not, revise.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I was assuming mistaken identity since the author states the character has lived her whole life in Rome (like the author) and the mylaurdian's know what the grown-up princess looks like. But, I can see it going the other way too. Still a cliche

InkAndPixelClub said...

Googling "Mylaurdian" also brings up another draft of the entire story and other versions of the query, some of which seem stronger than this one. Author, I'm not sure why you went from starting with Aria nearly drowning in the Mediterranean before realizing she can breathe underwater to the clunky watercolor metaphor. The former puts your reader right in the middle of the action and gives Aria a reason to want to see her biological parents. The latter is just confusing and makes it hard to see why she'd agree to fly out to meet them.

It does, however, seem painfully obvious that Aria is the lost princess. If there's another problem that readers won't solve before the characters do or if Aria is not the lost princess and there's compelling evidence that she isn't, that should be in the query.

Anonymous said...

Note: cliches can be all right as long as you have a fresh take, interesting spin, something to make people want to read more (no new plots under the sun etc, etc :} )

Selena said...

To clarify what Anonymous and AlaskaRavenclaw are talking about: publishers don't tend to buy books that are already completed and put online, partially because the first rights are gone and partially because it's easier for people who want to read the book to get it for free after the book is on sale.

It looks like you've only posted parts (big parts, admittedly, but still, not the whole thing), so I don't know if this will be a problem, but it's something to watch out for.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yes, the rights issue is certainly part of the problem. The other part is that from what I saw, the writing just wasn't of publishable quality.

I don't want to really go into the latter since we've been asked to critique the query, not the manuscript, so I'll just say that there are some issues with sentence structure and pacing.

Reading the manuscript aloud may be a good place to start on the revision. If a sentence sounds clunky, or if a character spends too long thinking about or rationalizing an action, that should become apparent on a read-aloud.

It may be the revision's already been done, and the manuscript is now tight and smooth. Either way, the long sample needs to come off the internets.

SB said...

I think "trope" is a better word than "cliche" here. Like the anon said, plot devices like this get reused all the time, and that's fine as long as it's done in an interesting and original way. (Try coming up with a totally unique plot that can't be boiled down to one or more tropes. Given the extensiveness of the TV Tropes site, I really don't think it's possible.)

Cil said...

Hi Author, I agree with the I&PC you should start with her almost drowning. The opening sentence at the moment is too hard to get through.

You have to explain the mylaurdian's better. After reading your old queries as well, I have come to the conclusion that they are humans with animal powers. I presume you they have powers like echolocation, wall climbing, and eating whole hippopotami. If the part of the species who had abilities from ocean dwelling creatures have gone extinct we should know why. If the last of the water dwellers died out 13 years ago during a genocide this would tell us something about Aria's situation.

I would also suggest you put your opening up for the minions as well.

I hope that helps.

Author said...

Thank you for all the feedback! It has been very helpful. Concerning the title, what do you think of the simple one, "Abilitied"? It's a term which I use in the novel.

I also gave the query a second shot. Does the following work better?

After swimming-champion Aria crashes her head against a diving board on her fourteenth birthday, she awakes from unconsciousness in the Mediterranean's depths. Convinced that this is the end of her Roman life, she gasps for breath—until one gulp turns into relief and she breathes underwater.
 
Just when she thinks her life can't get more confusing, an adoption agent appears the next day offering her the opportunity to meet her biological parents. When she said yes, she didn't expect it to be a fraud—And she definitely didn't expect to be child-locked in a car and portaled to a different dimension. Here, the eccentric Layer is populated by Mylaurdians, a human-like species with land animal abilities like eagle vision, cheetah speed, and bat hearing—but the species with aquatic abilities went extinct centuries ago. The Mylaurdian king had found Aria through her swimming competition pictures, and since she looks exactly like his missing daughter, Raphaela, he insists that Aria is the key to finding her. When Aria feels a compass-like pull from her necklace, her only biological inheritance, she can't help but grow convinced that she is indeed the key—and that tracking down Raphaela is the only hope Aria has to solve the mystery of her biological parents, her extinct species, and her and Raphaela's identicality.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

You're still overwriting.

Use as few words as possible.

Always.

Example:

After swimming-champion Aria crashes her head against a diving board on her fourteenth birthday, she awakes from unconsciousness in the Mediterranean's depths. Convinced that this is the end of her Roman life, she gasps for breath—until one gulp turns into relief and she breathes underwater.

I'm going to take out everything that's either inherently obvious or unnecessary:

After Aria crashes her head against a diving board on her fourteenth birthday, she awakes in the Mediterranean's depths. She gasps for breath—until she breathes underwater.

How did a swimming champion not know she could breathe underwater? Most of us, en route to learning to swim, inhale water a few times.

The next paragraph is a transition-less jump.

But it is somewhat clearer who the Mylaurdians are in this version.

Reading this I just feel the manuscript probably has similar issues and that you're not ready to query. But if you're determined to query, start out by writing a single sentence under 20 words in length that sums up the story. Build the query from that.


Author said...

I'm taking a break for a while before going back to the manuscript for a read-aloud. At the moment, I've looked at it for way too long to be able to improve it.

However, I need a query for a different reason, so I really appreciate all of your feedback!

After Aria crashes her head on a diving board, she awakes in the Mediterranean’s depths. Each gasp of saltwater tells her that her fourteenth birthday will be her death day. Then, right before she drowns, she develops the ability to breathe underwater and swims back to her birthday party in time for cake.

For the rest of her birthday, Aria tells no one, but her secret torments her. Just when she thinks her life can’t get more confusing, an adoption agent appears, offering her the chance to meet her biological parents. The sham agreement papers she signed did not inform her that she would be child-locked in a car and portaled to a different dimension. A warning would have been appreciated.

This dimension is populated by Mylaurdians, a human-like species with land animal abilities like eagle vision, cheetah speed, and bat hearing. You’d think that they’d have aquatic abilities, too, but nope, that species went extinct centuries ago. The Mylaurdian king had found Aria through the Internet, and since Aria looks exactly like his missing daughter, Raphaela, he insists that Aria is the key to finding her. Aria does not share that belief—until her necklace, the only thing her real parents left her, starts to pull at her gut like a compass. She can’t help but grow convinced that her necklace is leading her to Raphaela—and that tracking her down is the only hope Aria has to solve the mystery of her biological parents and extinct species.

What do you think?

Evil Editor said...

Better. I don't like the "Just before she drowns she develops the ability to breathe underwater" bit. I'm sure this ability must have been granted her by the Mylaurdian king or caused by banging her head on the diving board, but here it sounds like a Deus ex machina.

What did she think she was agreeing to in the sham agreement papers? Not clear why she has to sign papers to meet her parents anyway. Since when is "portal" a verb?

Is this fourteen-year-old supposed to be a member of a species that went extinct centuries ago? If so, maybe you should say they "supposedly" went extinct centuries ago.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Compress paragraph one down to one or two sentences. The important part is the revelation that Aria can breathe underwater, so you want to get to that as soon as possible. Plus if you solve the problem of Aria's near drowning in the same sentence where you bring it up, it'll take the focus off how convenient her powers matching her predicament is.

The necklace pulling at her gut is not a good image. Presumably she's getting some kind of directional sense and has some reason to believe that it comes from the necklace. You just want to say that without language that could conjure up visions of the necklace yanking Aria's small intestine around.

I'm having a hard time buying that the Internet works in an alternate dimension. Or was Aria discovered by Mylaurdian agents In our dimension?

This is better than the previous draft, but I think you're running into trouble because there are two seemingly unrelated stories going on here:

1. Aria is adopted, doesn't know her birth parents, and discovers that she can breathe underwater. A chance to meet her birth parents ends up with Aria in another dimension. It's populated by creatures with animal-like abilities, but all members of the species with aquatic abilities have gone extinct.

2. Aria is adopted and doesn't know her birth parents. She's offered a chance to meet them, but instead, she ends up in an alternate dimension populated by creatures with animal-like abilities. The king of this realm has brought Aria here because she looks exactly like the king's missing daughter and the King is convinced that Aria can help him find the lost princess.

See the problem? It feels like Aria having underwater breathing powers has nothing to do with the lost princess doppelgänger story, and vice versa. the necklace and Aria's belief that finding the princess will answer her questions about her heritage aren't enough to make these feel like the same story. I'm sure they connect up in the book, but you need to get some of that connection. Into the query. I'm sure you can at least partially explain one of these mysteries without giving the entire book away.

Author said...

Thanks, EE! :) Does this fix things?

After Aria crashes her head on a diving board, she awakes in the Mediterranean’s depths. Each gasp of saltwater tells her that her fourteenth birthday will be her death day. Then, right as she's sure her lungs will compress into nothing, one gulp turns into relief. She breathes underwater, and swims back to her birthday party in time for cake.

For the rest of her birthday, Aria tells no one, but her secret torments her. Just when she thinks her life can’t get more confusing, an adoption agent appears, offering her the chance to meet her biological parents. She accepts. The sham proposition papers had outlined a simple trip out of Rome, and had not informed her that she would be child-locked in a car and transported to a different dimension. A warning would have been appreciated.

This dimension is populated by Mylaurdians, a human-like species with land animal abilities like eagle vision, cheetah speed, and bat hearing. You’d think that they’d have aquatic abilities, too, but nope, that species supposedly went extinct centuries ago. The Mylaurdian king had found Aria through the Internet, and since Aria looks exactly like his missing daughter, Raphaela, he insists that Aria is the key to finding her. Aria does not share that belief—until her necklace, the only thing her real parents left her, starts to pull at her gut like a compass. She can’t help but grow convinced that her necklace is leading her to Raphaela—and that tracking her down is the only hope Aria has to solve the mystery of her biological parents and extinct species.

Evil Editor said...

There''s no need to resend the query after fixing such minor problems. And this hasn't fixed the problem that there's no explanation for suddenly being able to breathe underwater. I don't really see the need to use an entire paragraph just to tell us she can breathe underwater and another entire paragraph to tell us she's been transported to another dimension. I assume most of the book is set in mylaurdia, so I would expect you to spend most of the query there. You could even start the query there: When his daughter goes missing, the king of Mylaurdia
Is distraught...until he whatever.

In other words, don't devote so much of the query to setting up the situation. Focus the query on the main character's goal. What does she want, what's her plan, what's standing in her way, what happens if she fails to get it?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Please follow my advice about writing a single sentence under 20 words in length that sums up your story.

Once you've done that you'll see what details need to be included in the query.

Cil said...

As the others said, we need less writing and more of the plot. Brutally cut what you have, and then expand again.

As Ink and Pixel mentioned, the first paragraph could be a sentence mentioning that she is 14 and that she can breathe underwater. The second sentence can be about being adopted and ending up in the layer. This will condense two paragraphs into two sentences.

I would avoid using phrases like you would think. You don't know what I would think. I think they should have plant abilities and sit around all day photosynthesizing and not moving. Now that'd be the life.

The mention of the internet seems odd. I would avoid mentioning how they found Aria. They are supernatural and they found her. That is enough for now.

Now after that you can explain the story. What does Aria want, and why does she want it. I assume Aria is connected to Raphaela and she wants to know about her parents, so tell us how she is connected and what she learns or hopes to learn. Is there an antagonist? Is someone trying to stop her? Is there any reason she can breathe underwater? Give the reader information that allows them to understand the story.

At the moment it sounds cliche. Young girl ends up in another dimension and has to save the day. We need to know what makes this stand out and what the plot is, not just the inciting situation.

Also I hate to steal words from ARc's mouth, but the main character doesn't do anything at the moment. Currently she almost dies, is transported to another dimension and then follows her necklace around.

I hope that helps.

K Hutton said...

I just wanted to add encouragement, but also that if the adopted Aria who has superpowers turns out to also BE the long-lost magical Raphaela, this isn't going to be a shocking plot twist. You're aware of this, right? There's going to be more to it than that, right?

Also, it seems strange that the Kind would find someone that looks exactly like his missing daughter and think, "Oh! Someone who looks just like Raphaela!" instead of simply "I found Raphaela!"

Those are the major plot hangups for me. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

apologies if this is a double post -- please remove one

After Aria crashes her head on a diving board, she awakes in the Mediterranean’s depths. Each gasp of saltwater tells her that her fourteenth birthday will be her death day. Then, right as she's sure her lungs will compress into nothing, one gulp turns into relief. She breathes underwater,

This looks like it contains some information important to the plot that should be included in the query. The rest can be reduced to the bare minimum needed.

and swims back to her birthday party in time for cake.

If this didn't happen would the plot change? If not, this detail is unnecessary in the query.

For the rest of her birthday, Aria tells no one,

probably an important detail

but her secret torments her. Just when she thinks her life can’t get more confusing,

suddenly being able to breathe underwater has thrown her life into a tailspin? Confusing hyperbole (at least, I hope it's hyperbole). I would think that, being a swimmer, she can see the advantages as well. Personally, I think I'd be curious and start trying to do research on mutant powers :p

an adoption agent appears, offering her the chance to meet her biological parents. She accepts. The sham proposition papers had outlined a simple trip out of Rome, and had not informed her that she would be child-locked in a car and transported to a different dimension.

Again, verbose. Why would she expect the papers to inform her she would be kidnapped?

A warning would have been appreciated.

unnecessary

This dimension is populated by Mylaurdians, a human-like species with land animal abilities like eagle vision, cheetah speed, and bat hearing. You’d think that they’d have aquatic abilities, too, but nope, that species supposedly went extinct centuries ago.

world building detail. I don't know enough about the plot to know if it's significant. That's a problem when you're trying to tell me enough about the plot to make me want to read more

The Mylaurdian king had found Aria through the Internet,

I agree with the previous commenter--this feels out of place

and since Aria looks exactly like his missing daughter, Raphaela, he insists that Aria is the key to finding her. Aria does not share that belief—until her necklace, the only thing her real parents left her, starts to pull at her gut like a compass.

this imagery doesn't work for me. I know what you mean, the problem is 1) compasses don't pull at peoples guts under normal circumstances 2) necklace and gut aren't normally associated

She can’t help but grow convinced that her necklace is leading her to Raphaela—and that tracking her down is the only hope Aria has to solve the mystery of her biological parents and extinct species.

failure of logical connection. I don't know why she would think any of these things are related.

Other points:
1)I don't see any reason for Aria to start in our world. The plot as expressed would work with her being orphaned/found/whatever in the layer

2)Aria's reaction to being kidnapped is to help her kidnappers? In exchange for what? Does she even care about going back to our world (see point 1)

3)Three goals:
-find princess - this is adequately set up
-biological parents - regardless of them being the bait to get her there, this seems disconnected to other set up (not looking at outcomes, at set up)
-extinct species - again, there are bigger issues unless there's a desperate reason to make this species no longer extinct (Star Trek IV -- are the mylaurdians being invaded by aliens?)