Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Face-Lift 1256

Guess the Plot

Jade Snow

1. Kids living near the Fraklya Dragon Farm quickly learn to never eat the jade snow.

2. A fun and fact-filled book of what to eat to turn your bodily excretions every color of the rainbow. Also contains useful tips on vitamin disorders, hard to diagnose medical conditions, and ways to remove stains.

3. Jade Snow has aspirations to rise through the ranks and make something of herself, possibly attaining the exalted position of palace slave. When she saves the life of a visiting dignitary will that help her cause . . . or doom it?

4. Agent 005982 must carry out her first assignment by going undercover as a dancer in a Las Vegas gentlemen's club. Does Jade Snow have the courage to earn the respect of her male colleagues by taking down one of Russia's most dangerous spies, and in a bikini?

5. Elsa and Anna have a new money making scheme. Elsa makes the snow, Anna trades it for jade. When Hans intercepts the latest buy, all Arendelle takes the heat. Drug running for jewels, Disney style.

6. When chef Sal finds a dead green-skinned alien in the back alley of his restaurant, he thinks it might be an opportunity to spice up his menu. His green ice-cream, known as Jade Snow, is an immediate success. If only people would stop complaining about developing extra limbs…

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

The Jade Palace is all Xue has ever known. [I don't know if her name is Xue, but my waitress at The Jade Palace doesn't even bring me a menu because she knows I always order wonton soup and Noble Chicken and Shrimp. That's the kind of service that earns her an extra 2.5 percent on her tip.] At sixteen, she’s finally ready for the formal entrance exams — if she passes, she will exchange her white apprentice gowns for the colours of her new Bureau and be a palace slave at last, [When the next rung on your chosen career ladder is slave, you started too low.] with a monthly stipend, a chance to rise through the ranks, and honour for her family. [Just as westerners take pride in their first family member to go to college, Xue's family takes pride in their first member to reach the exalted position of slave.] [I wonder if my waitress considers herself a Jade Palace slave.]

But what does family honour mean to an orphan? [Nothing, so let's not even ask the question.] Xue has her eyes fixed firmly on the Plan: pass the exams, enter the Needlework Bureau, one day embroider gowns for the empress herself. [Sadly, when Julia Roberts walks the red carpet on Oscars night, they announce the name of her gown's designer, not of the slave who did the needlework.] Her twin brother, Wen, has similar ideas; passing the exams is his only chance at one day being a court physician. [Basically, they'll both be tested on their talent with stitches. Ba dum ching.] 

Then everything changes. The day before the exam, Empress Qi returns to the Jade Isles with a strange guest. As part of the treaty the empress has just brokered with the remote kingdom of Hawksfell, Beorn Broadaxe, the king’s son and war-chief in his own right, has come to train the empress’s personal guard.

The court seethes with rumour and suspicion — it is said that Hawksfell remains mired in magic, which is outlawed in the Isles on pain of death. [Which explains why David Copperfield has never performed in the Jade Isles.] Why would Empress Qi, renowned for stamping out the magic bloodlines once and for all, make such an ally?

And why has Xue, of all people, become tangled up in all this intrigue? For when Beorn is poisoned at his welcome feast and goes into a coma, his lieutenant Aesa seems to think that Xue can save him… With magic. The Hawksmen call a person's magic their fairing, and Aesa’s works like this: she can identify magic in others, and she has seen that Xue has a healing fairing. [A glance ahead reveals that we're not half finished, yet we've already reached the upper limit of query length and forged onward into forbidden synopsis length. Perhaps we should reduce what we've covered so far to:

The day before seamstress Xue is to take the formal entrance exams in hopes of achieving the honored rank of palace slave, Beorn Broadaxe, a visiting dignitary from Hawksfell, is poisoned. Broadaxe's lieutenant, Aesa, has the ability to recognize magical powers in others, and identifies Xue as a healer who could save Broadaxe's life. Too bad Empress Qi has outlawed magic on the Jade Isles.]

When she kidnaps Xue and successfully forces her fairing to emerge, Xue is thrust into a world to which she cannot belong, facing questions she cannot answer — who are her parents? Does Wen have magic too? How long can she keep this a secret?

It turns out she can’t. The truth was bound to come out.

The empress sends her right-hand man, the [brutal] eunuch JianGuo, after her; with no good options, Xue flees for Hawksfell with Beorn and Aesa, who are now wary of their Jadite hosts. She doesn’t say goodbye to Wen. She doesn’t look back.

But when Beorn sends spies to the Jade Isles to investigate the attempted poisoning, they bring back disturbing whispers… JianGuo has taken Wen as an apprentice, something he has never done. Empress Qi still wants Xue. [For what?] And Beorn’s father has taken the treaty further and agreed to go to war against the Askivan empire, the biggest threat to the Jade empire, throwing Hawksfell’s lot in with the Jadite army.

[2nd paragraph:

Aesa kidnaps Xue and trains her to use her healing power. Although she is able to save Beorn, in the eyes of Empress Qi, Xue is now a criminal; she flees for Hawksfell with Beorn and Aesa. The empress wants Xue back, and uses Xue's twin brother Wen as leverage.

Wary of JianGuo’s motives and fearing for her brother, Xue wants to return to the Isles and give herself up in exchange for Wen. Having trained and developed her fairing under Hawksmen tutelage, she signs on to the king’s army as a healer in order to make the journey without suspicion. [Seems to me there'll be a lot more suspicion if she shows up with an army than if she shows up alone.] This drives a rift between Beorn and herself; the war-chief, whom she has come to care for, believes that everything the empress is doing is a trap, and refuses to lead the small army he commands into war.

Even Aesa tries to stop her from going, sharing Beorn’s belief that it is precisely what Empress Qi wants — but having abandoned Wen once, Xue cannot abandon him again. [If Xue simply decides to go back to trade herself for Wen, then I don't see how the others can think it's a trap. The empress doesn't even know Xue is coming. If the empress offered to trade Wen for Xue, we need to know that.] She leaves for the Jade Isles with the king’s army. But what will she find? Answers and secrets, but none the ones she’d wanted…


Refusing to abandon her brother a second time, Xue agrees to return to the Isles and give herself up in exchange for Wen's freedom. But Beorn, whom she has come to care for, believes it's a trap, that the empress cannot be trusted to free Wen. Even Aesa tries to stop her from going. But Xue is not to be dissuaded, for while she may never reach the lofty goal of slave, if she can free Wen, at least he might go on to create a successful hair products line.]

Complete at 85 000 words, Jade Snow is a YA fantasy novel that stands alone, but has potential to expand into a series.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

*The title is a translation of the protagonist's name, YùXuĕ.


Possibly the information I chose to include in my three paragraphs isn't what you would have  chosen, but if you can get it down to that length you'll have a much tighter query. Focus on Xue; we don't care about the politics and armies.

I feel Xue should have a goal of rescuing Wen rather than giving herself up.

Now that Wen is JianGuo's apprentice, does he go with JianGuo in pursuit of Xue? Also, what are the duties of a eunuch's apprentice? Does a eunuch's apprentice have to become a eunuch? Because it seems like that would reduce the field of applicants.


InkAndPixelClub said...

Before anything else, take EE's advice an pare down to at most half of what you have here. This is sprawling and the story is getting lost among the irrelevant details. I don't need to know that the Hawksmen call magic "fairing," that Wen want's to become a court physician, or the entirety of Xue's plan for getting ahead in life. These may be important factors in the story, but they're unnecessary for the query. Your story doesn't start until paragraph four and there's no guarantee that an agent or editor will read that far if there's a big stack of queries to go through and no time to do anything but skim for what grab the reader's attention right away.

Also, if you have pages and pages setting up Xue and Wen's life as orphans, their plan to take the entrance exams and become palace slaves, their dreams for the future, the arrival of the Hawksmen, and the banquet, your manuscript may be in need of an edit as well.

Are healer particularly rare? If not, why wouldn't the Hawksmen bring a healer along when the king's son is visiting a foreign country. Bringing the person who can sniff out magical abilities in others is a longshot for helping if Beorn gets sick or poisoned.

I can guess that Beorn is sending spies to investigate his poisoning because he suspects that people in power were involved and a formal inquiry will be led to red herrings and dead ends by those same people. You don't want the reader of your query to have to guess, though. You want to be clear. But why is Beorn learning about his father pushing the treaty forward and agreeing to go to war through spies instead of through official channels?

This may be a nonstarter since you're going with Chinese names for the Jade Empire characters. But since it does appear to a fictional empire based on China, you might want to consider changing the spelling of Xue's name to something a bit more phonetic in English so no one gets tripped up on the pronunciation.

I have no trouble believing that there's a good story in here. You just need to unbury it from the extra stuff so the main character and plot can shine.

AA said...

This is long and rambling. You'll have to shorten it by at least half.

I'd re-think the name Wen. Here's the definition of a wen: "a boil or other swelling or growth on the skin, especially a sebaceous cyst."

khazarkhum said...

Hi Author

I don't have problems with the names. What does bother me is the way she seems to blow hot/cold with her brother. And do the Hawksmen go through the whole palace, looking for anyone who might have magic ability? Otherwise, why pick an underaged seamstress?

Anonymous said...

The brutal eunuch! Has he been around lately, or is this his first appearance in eons? I've been away for a few years...