Guess the Plot
Misgivings of Pawns
1. We're supposed to move forward little by little, but what's the point? We almost never make it to the other side. Those rooks and bishops and knights would eat us for lunch. No, we're staying put, it's too dangerous out there.
2. They are treated like pawns by their government. Yet even a lowly pawn can become a knight. Well, in chess anyway. But not in the Valnesian Empire. where they are squashed like bugs.
3. In the nightmarish not-so-distant future, humans have voluntarily subjugated themselves to a ruling elite called the Overseers. One day, 16-year-old Atricia gets too inquisitive about the hierarchy and finds herself in a Correction Camp. A mysterious, barely communicative boy rescues her and takes her to the Outlands, where rebels are preparing to restore humans as rulers of their own destiny. The fate of mankind rests on Atricia's shoulders. But first, she must figure out whether she is a Suzanne Collins character or a Stephenie Meyer character.
4. When the young wife of chess champion Feodor Wadzyk is found strangled in the family garage, homicide detective Zach Martinez knows two things. One, the 80-year-old chess master didn't use his own jock strap to kill the 20 year old model; and two, tonight is family game night, so when his Dad says the goddamn top hat is a hotel, the goddamn top hat is a hotel.
5. It was a mistake to come this close to shore. We could get caught in a net. What? Oh, I thought you said Misgivings of Prawns.
Dear Evil Editor,
My name is ________, and I am a recent high school graduate living in ________ in a town called ________. [I know it's unfair, but almost all of the people to whom you might send your query will lose interest after reading the phrase "recent high school graduate. Solution: Omit this sentence. They don't care where you live and if they want to know your name, it's at the bottom of the letter.] [By the way, I haven't been able to figure out what belongs in your second blank. My best guesses:
1. my parents' basement
2. a material world
3. Walmart ]
I am searching for an agent to represent my first book, Misgivings of Pawns, which is a 120,000-word epic fantasy story following a boy named Roland Traske on his journey through The Valnesian Empire. Within this book, I wanted to relate the mental hardships that losing one’s family, home, and way of life can cause while still telling an entertaining story. I ended up with a book that I’d love to read. [Excellent. That's one copy we can count on selling.] Roland, however, is an unwilling adventurer, and although his actions will decide the outcome of a conflict no one in his world saw coming, he’s nowhere near happy about it. Here’s what he has to say…
Hello, my name is Roland Traske, and this book is all about me...
…and how my life collapsed into fire and rubble.
Here, you’ll find the people, places, and events that started everything. I was barely a man in these pages, [Earlier you called him a boy. Tell us his age. Also, if he's a teen we'll be wondering whether you intend the book for a young adult audience or middle grade, or adults.] and The Valnesian Empire was being torn apart by conflicting beliefs and politics that I thought I understood. It only took one day for everything to come to a head and leave me broken, homeless and wandering.
That day and the days after doubtless had the makings of a good story, but as I ran from my ruined home and my ruined life, that was the last thing on my mind. When I fled across The Empire in the backs of wagons and on bleeding feet, I wasn’t worried about the plot. When I arrived in Watching and was sent on a hopeless errand by a desperate Lord, I wasn’t thinking about style. [I'm more interested in whether you were thinking about those things when you wrote the book.] When Fate revealed its own twisted plans for me in a place of death and darkness, I wasn’t dwelling on grammar. When I was gifted and cursed with powers I didn’t understand, I never considered symbolism. When I stood in defense of a city that wasn’t mine, I couldn’t care [have cared] less about character. [However, now that I'm trying to make a buck off my story, I'm told that all this crap I never cared about actually matters. Who knew?] [This is just a list of things that happen in the book (You left your ruined home, fled across the empire, attempted to run an errand, developed a super power and defended a city.) which you appear to be using to explain why your book isn't well-written. It also goes on too long. Three items is the most that should be on a list. Did you notice that my list of places you live had three items? Sure I could have continued:
6. the psych ward
7. Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
9. a double-wide trailer
10. the funk
but you would have gotten bored.]
All the way, I carried Pity at my side and a legacy on my back, but I also had a city of death on my conscience. I brought an end to ally and foe alike as I ran from my guilt, and it stung me each time, but I pressed on regardless. Now, looking back, I see that it had to be me. I was the only one who could have done what needed done [doing] and shouldered the weight that brought on. Looking back, I see that it was a good story, but I was the one who had to live every second of it. All I ask is that, as you read, remember that a good story does not always make for a good life and that I lived this one…
Because I’d give anything to change it all. [That whole section is vague. We want to know what happens in your book. What is Roland after? Who is trying to prevent him from getting it? What's his plan? What goes wrong?]
Roland is a little morose right now, but there may still be hope for him down the road. Included are the ______ of Misgivings of Pawns, the beginning of his story. If you’re interested in the full manuscript, please contact me at this email and let me know. I’m currently preparing for college and working on my second book, Trials of a Knight.
I couldn't tell if the section from Roland's point of view was the book's prologue or was an attempt to do something clever. Most agents would rather hear the story from you than from your character. If writing queries from the POV of a character in the book led to frequent success, everyone would do it, and agents would . . . Well, actually, they would accept it because otherwise they'd have to go back to being editors. But the point is, agents don't want you to be clever, they want to know if you have a good story. Therefor, I recommend boiling your book down to three paragraphs:
1. The setup. Who's the main character and what's his situation when the plot begins to unfold? For instance: As war, pestilence and natural disasters consume the Valnesian Empire, sixteen-year-old Roland Traske watches as a marauding army destroys his home and kills his parents. He flees on foot, hitching an occasional ride on a wagon, and finds his way to the town of Watching, where a podiatrist cures his bleeding feet.
2. The Story. What does he want? Revenge on those who killed his family? To reach Pleasantville? To save his new home from an approaching danger? What's the biggest obstacle to attaining this goal? What's his plan? How does he go about it? What's this power that presumably gives him a chance of succeeding?
3. The Dilemma. What choice must he make when the chips are down? What's the downside of each choice?
Focus on Roland. Within each paragraph connect ideas with transitions/cause and effect. Each sentence should lead logically to the next. You're telling a story, not making a list.
Come up with a more intriguing title. I recommend Leon Trotsky: A Life