Monday, June 15, 2015

Face-Lift 1261


Guess the Plot

Walls of Sakaret

1. Alsed's home city of Sakaret has been walled off from the rest of the world for thousands of years. Then a mysterious woman shows up and asks Al to help save her people from a psychotic demigod bent on destroying the entire world. And he agrees!

2. Tom is diabetic, going deaf, and getting a little crazy. When he hears the doll house his wife bought for their daughter has walls of Sakaret, he thought she said saccharine and he dives in. Well, at least it had fiber.

3. Every year the Fae people build a wall made of sakaret, their famous cheese made from deer milk. And every year, they join with the dwarves in a battle to see who can eat it first. It's all fun and games, until some local teenagers show up, demanding paternity tests.

4. What lies beyond the ancient walls surrounding the city-fort of Sakaret? No one knows. It is the Sakaret City secret. With plague ravaging Sakaret's citizens, one rogue warrior is determined to find the legendary tunnels beneath the Walls and lead his family to safety. What he finds is conspiracy and corruption. And . . . parakeets.

5. Judy Beckwith is the best interior decorator in town. Just ask the mob. When they hired her to get rid of Johnny Sakaret's body, she stuffed him in the kitchen wall and found the perfect daisy wallpaper to cover it up.

6. Joe Wolf has had enough from those three pigs he works for. Sure, his emphysema is acting up, but when they take credit for building that new high rise out of his experimental Sakaret material, he's gonna blow them away.


Original Version

Dear Agent,

Walls of Sakaret is a story of the creation and corruption of a world ruled by the seven children of Adeloste, the Eternal King. These demigods, called Ferloren, [You've lost me already.] are ageless and powerful and like the humans they created, they are deeply flawed. A great war that consumes both men and Ferloren alike comes to a fiery and bloody end when the Eternal King sacrifices himself while sealing off the city of Sakaret with a powerful and mysterious enchantment. ["Eternal" doesn't seem like the best adjective for a king who's dead in your first paragraph.]

The world outside has been silent for more than two thousand years. [You've spent 40% of your query talking about stuff that happened 2000 years before your story begins? That's like the query for The da Vinci Code starting with a lengthy paragraph about the life of Mary Magdalene.]

Alsed led a sheltered life completely isolated behind the walls of Sakaret [This is like the TV show Under the Dome. Except with demigods.] until a mysterious woman appeared from a world long thought dead. [What world? The world outside the walls?] Now the manipulations of an unseen hand force Alsed into a desperate fight for survival against man and monster alike while he seeks to help the enigmatic woman save her people. [Who and where are her people, and what makes anyone think Alsed can save them?] What he believed was ancient myth comes roaring to life as Alsed is thrust from the safety of his homeland into a world, [No need for that comma.] rich with a history of war and betrayal, and [Get rid of either the comma or the "and."] teetering on the brink of destruction. [You're stringing together a bunch of phrases that would probably sound good in a movie trailer, but are pretty vague when we don't have any pictures to look at.]

Ill equipped, outmatched, and assaulted at every turn, Alsed and his friends must discover the means to oppose [take on] a psychotic demigod who has held a festering grudge for two millennia, coming forth from exile to set in motion a complex game with one singular ambition: burn the world. [No demigod with the means to burn the world is going to be stopped by a few people who've spent two thousand years trying and failing to figure out how to get out from behind a wall.]

Walls of Sakaret, an 87,000 word epic fantasy novel that is the first of a trilogy titled Legacy of Sakaret. [The second book is tentatively titled Ceilings of Sakaret, to be followed by Sakaret 3: Bribing the Inspectors.] I welcome your feedback and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warmest Regards,


Notes

Too many adjectives. The Ferloren are ageless and powerful and flawed, the enchantment is powerful and mysterious, the woman is mysterious and enigmatic . . . No need to tell us a two-millennia-old grudge is festering or that a myth is ancient or that a war is great and bloody.

Let's get to the main character ASAP, not in paragraph 3: 

Alsed has led a sheltered life in the city of Sakaret, which was sealed off from the outside by enchantment 2000 years ago. He and his fellow Secretions know nothing of the lands beyond their walls--until a woman appears asking for help saving her people from a psychotic demigod. The woman leads Alsed and his friends out of Sakaret and into a world teetering on the brink of destruction.

That leaves plenty of room to tell us how these people plan to take down a demigod with the means to burn the world, what obstacles they encounter besides the fact that they're weaponless farmers fighting an ageless, powerful demigod, and what will happen if they ultimately fail.

5 comments:

InkAndPixelClub said...

This is way too much setup and most of it is unnecessary. All of the stuff about the war between the gods 2,000 years ago is just creating more questions. All we really need to know at the start of the query is that the city has been magically sealed off for millennia. Take EE's advice and kill the first paragraph and the single sentence one after it. An agent or editor reading this is going to worry that your book spends too much time setting up the pantheon of your story and what happened in the war and how the city was sealed off before getting to your main character, assuming that he or she gets to the part where your main character shows up. If the book is similarly fro traded with backstory, you'll want to do some editing so the history of this world and its deities is parceled out in manageable chunks as your reader needs to know it, rather than one giant infodump at the beginning.

Starting off with "This is a story about..." wastes word count when you could be diving right in to your story and engaging the query reader. Plus, you're putting the focus on the wrong thing. Your book isn't a series of creation myths about the gods and their battles. That's the setting. The story is about Alsed.

Dump all the vague language and get specific on your characters and what happens to them. Who is Alsed? We knows that he lives in the walled-off city, but that's about it. What does he actually want? You say that he's forced into this epic battle, but what are his goals and desires? If what he wants is to help the mysterious woman save her people, why does he want that? Who are Alsed's friends? Why are they the ones to fight this battle? What skills or abilities do they have that might help them succeed? Why are they now able to leave Sakaret? What challenges will they face in addition to the demigod?

You usually want to describe your book that's intended to be part of a series as "a standalone novel with series potential." Some agents and editors see "book one in a planned series" and the like as code for "book that doesn't tell a completely story and is just setup for book two" or "book I won't be able to sell if the author flakes out and doesn't finish the other two."

alaskaRavenclaw said...

This is a lot of unfamiliar names to throw at someone in 30-45 seconds, which is about how long an agent will spend looking at a query. Give us a main character and an obstacle in his or her path, and avoid naming too many people and places.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to skip over the strangeness of the people from inside and outside the wall speaking the same language even though they've had no contact for 2,000 years. I do hope there's a reasonable explanation.

For the most part, you don't need to include your world building. The only thing I can think of that might be relevant is why the city was sealed away, which presumably has something to do with why the woman thinks Alsed (& friends?) can save the world. If is relevant and can be mentioned briefly, it might be ok to include.

Remember to be specific.

Re-post, if you want comments on the re-write.

AA said...

There are a lot of elements here. Some of them seem to be the same elements with different names.
We have:
The seven children of Adeloste,
Adeloste himself, also known as the Eternal King,
demigods,
Ferlorenare (may also be the Demigods),
a great war,
a sacrifice,
the city of Sakaret,
a powerful, mysterious enchantment,
a 2,000 year silence,
Alsed,
a mysterious woman,
an unseen hand,
monsters, or a monster,
an ancient myth (Adeloste?),
a world teetering on the brink of destruction,
Asled's friends,
a psychotic demigod,
and a complex game.

That's a lot of stuff. It's all thrown together, though. It doesn't "gel." Everyone's running or opposing something or sacrificing themselves or uncovering ancient secrets, but who is doing what and why?

We need a main character (Alsed) and his personal journey. Tell what he does and why he wants to accomplish it. Then, what obstacles are in his path. Who is this mysterious woman? Does she have a name? Finally, what does Alsed have that makes him likely to save the world or worthy of being the hero in this story.

Anonymous said...

I agree that you should minimize (what I think is) the towering, confusing, Greek-mythology-like backstory and maximize (what I hope is) the quirky, vivid Wizard-of-Oz-like, girl-on-a-mission story.