Thursday, August 06, 2015

Face-Lift 1270

Guess the Plot


1. Only teenager Skye Briar can put an end to humans' destruction of Earth, for she is the daughter of the one and only Mother Nature. But those who profit from the devastation of nature will stop at nothing to destroy Skye. Plus she has a hunky boyfriend. We're doomed.

2. Before Mother Nature was a mother she was a dyslexic teen tormented by the other sprites -especially Jack Frost. When he writes her name wrong in the ice is he mocking her, or has she finally thawed his frozen heart? 

3. Clem has a pet Nutria named NATURAE, who needs a heart transplant. The vet wants payment in full before the operation and Clem sets off on a wild crime spree. He robs a health food store in Memphis and a laundromat in Murfreesboro. Can Clem come up with the money in time?

4. Alexia Brentwood is not about to grow old gracefully. Her seventy-five-year-old skin is as taut as a teenager's and her long brown hair as silky as a child's. But her secret to youth comes at a price. Every full moon she must find another dose of the magic elixir Naturae or she'll wind up looking like Keith Richards in a dress.

5. When attorney Sophie Bennet loses another high-profile case, she's forced to enter the Naturae Naturopathic Clinic or lose her job. She's supposed to get techniques on stress relief and a good night's sleep. But when she meets hunky Zach, the towel guy at the spa, she has her own ideas of "stress relief." Then Zach turns up dead in the mud bath and Sophie gets a blackmail note in her robe. Now Sophie needs more than just Naturae to help her sleep. She needs an Uzi.

6. Smaller than elves, tinier than fairies, the Naturae live close to the ground where their magic helps trees take root and flowers grow. Unfortunately, being so little and close to the ground makes them vulnerable to bustling beetles, curious cats, and weed-whackers.

7. Steve Hodgson persuades the new World Government to put his newly-invented AI in charge. After all, "Naturae," as it is called, is perfectly rational and omniscient and would be the best decision maker. The trouble is, Steve programmed it to be a bit too "natural," and it soon becomes red in tooth and claw and the world is once again on the brink of destruction. Now Steve has to deprogram the thing, with the assistance of the feisty, red-headed female journalist who was predicting this all along.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Abandoned for unknown reasons by her mother as an infant, Skye Bryar grows up in the small town of Deep Cove, a uniquely beautiful girl with secret abilities that even she does not understand. It is not until she meets Holt, a mysteriously quiet and undeniably handsome out-of-towner, that she is led to the truth about her past, and finally learns who- and what- she really is.

When Holt rescues Skye from a strange encounter with some very dangerous men, he whisks her away to a world that she never knew about, but one where she truly belongs. This is the island of the NATURAE, where those who can control the pure elements- earth, air, fire or water- reside. They are ruled over by none other than Mother Nature, the Queen of the Earth. Skye is shocked to learn that this woman is in fact her own birth mother- making Skye the Elemental Princess, the only individual on earth who holds the power of [over] all four elements within. [Mother Nature doesn't hold this power?]

It is on this island that Skye discovers she is the key to something much greater than she could have ever imagined. Mother Nature brought Skye [her] into the world with a prophecy that her child by blood would be the only one who could [to] put an end to the humans destruction of the earth. But an elite group of people known as the Avarice, [If that's an  acronym standing for Association of Vile And Rapacious Individuals Consuming Earth, you don't need "the" in front of it, and AVARICE should be all caps.] who profit from the devastation of nature, have been searching for Skye since the day of her birth, and they will stop at nothing to prevent her from changing their ways. ["Changing their ways" doesn't sound so threatening. 

We must stop this child now, before she manages to change our ways. 

Come out with your hands up and we'll give you a chance to change your ways.

You'll never take me alive, copper. I'm too set in my ways to change them now.]

As Skye embarks on the journey to harness her powers, [What are her powers, exactly? For instance, can she turn into fire like the human torch and swim with the fishes like Aquaman? Are these powers useful in preventing ocean pollution and rainforest destruction?] she develops new friendships with those around her, and a deep connection to the earth and its elements. And a [blossoming] romance with Holt blossoms, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about the world she left behind. [Everything? There's not a single thing she doesn't question?]

But will Skye be willing to help Mother Nature, and the earth, even if it means betraying the humans she loves? [Does she love the humans who are causing the devastation of nature? How can protecting the planet from AVARICE be called betraying humans?] Or will the Avarice get to her before she even has a chance to choose sides?

NATURAE is a YA paranormal romance novel. The novel has a unique focus on the current and important issue of how humans are impacting the environment, intertwined with extraordinary magic, a heart wrenching love triangle, [Who's the third side of this triangle?] unwavering friendships and betrayal. This is intended to be the first in a 3 or 4 part series. [Does it have a satisfying ending or are we left hanging, waiting for the next installment? Are you querying the whole series or just this book? ]

NATURAE is my first novel, inspired by my travels and experiences around the world. With a bad case of wanderlust and a love for animals, I have lived in many countries including Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic and Mexico, and have worked with animals including dolphins, sea lions, horses, penguins and sharks [, the latter of which explains my two missing limbs]. My intimate connection with nature world-wide has only further highlighted the many issues our earth faces and I hope this novel will inspire the younger generation to make a difference. [If we want our planet to be respected, we can start by capitalizing its name, as we do every other planet and every ocean, country, city, mountain, etc.]

Thank you for your consideration of this query. At your request, I would be happy to send along part of the story, which is complete at 50,000 words.


It's a bit long. I've pointed out some phrases that you can afford to lose. You can also shorten the paragraph about you to something like: My experiences working with animals and nature around the world have touched on many issues our planet faces, and I hope this novel with inspire young people to make a difference.

Not sure how hot the love interest gets, but I tend to think a book in which a girl gets whisked off to an island where Mother Nature lives would be more appealing to a younger audience than YA.

I'd like to know more about what happens in the book. This is mostly the situation. What does Skye actually do? And perhaps more about the betrayal and the love triangle would reveal aspects of the story we're not getting.


InkAndPixelClub said...

There are people who can control water, earth, fire, and air, a single person who can control all four, and a legend that states that this person will one day save the world? This sounds dangerously close to the basic setup of the Avatar TV series. Yes, the four elements and people who can control them have been around longer than that, but you're going to have to work extra hard to point out differences and convince and editor or agent that this is not thinly veiled Avatar fanfiction.

Similarities to Avatar aside, this feels like pretty standard YA fare. You have your young woman with strange powers she doesn't understand, a mysterious and hunky stranger, a secret birthright, and some bad guys. It's not necessarily a deal killer, but it does mean you'lol really want to showcase the elements that make your paranormal teen romance different.

The prose is somewhat bloated, as EE's edits demonstrate. Especially with a query, you want to keep the writing lean and free of description that doesn't add to the reader's understanding of the story. I'm not sure what "uniquely beautiful" means and I don't think Skye's appearance is important to the story anyway. I'm not sure what her secret abilities are or who they might be secret from. Knowing that Holt is mysteriously quiet instead of understandably quiet doesn't give me a clear picture of who he is. And so on. There are too many words in here that just aren't pulling their weight.

Avoid vagueness. From the end of paragraph three on, your description of what's happening becomes unclear. I don't understand Skye's powers, so I don't know how she might be able to use them to save the world. I don't know whether she can make it so the bad guys are physically incapable of harming the planet, magically convince them to stop, or turn them all into shrubs. I don't see the connection between the blossoming romance with Holt and Skye starting to question everything. 'd rather know a few big things Skye is starting to question. If Skye's decision is to matter, I need to know what she will have to do if she sides with her mother and the Naturae and who it will effect.

This sounds like a message heavy book, which is something you need to be smart about with a YA audience. With young kids, you can have good fairies fighting an evil pollution monster and they'll get the idea that nature is awesome and portion is bad, older kids are going to be a bit more savvy about the complex issues involved here. So you need to demonstrate that your book is smart enough to reach them and doesn't oversimplify or just use magic to solve real world problems. The last story paragraph hints at some shades of grey, but you need to be clear about how Skye would be betraying humans - and which humans she'd be betraying - if she fights for the planet. I'd also consider renaming the Avarice. It' stood on the nose and I'm reminded of James Cameron's "unobtainium" from the other Avatar.

I'd slim down the last few paragraphs to title, genre, word count, maybe some comps, and a little about yourself. Don't include anything that isn't present in the story portion of the query (like the heart wrenching love triangle). Describing your book as "a standalone novel with series potential" or something similar is preferable. As EE points out, some editors and agents see "part one of a series" and think "beginning of a very long book in three or four pieces without any closure before the last book."

Anonymous said...

This is another one where I wish we'd had a crack at the subject matter before the book was written. One of the dreariest jobs I ever had was editing high school social science teaching materials. Not an opportunity was missed to drill in the message that we're killing the planet and we must recycle, ride our bikes, and read by candlelight. How did Skye miss it?

Is this subject really "current"? Hasn't it been around since the 1970s? Is a focus on "the current and important issue of how humans are impacting the environment" really "unique"? Google "Young Adult Fiction with Environmental Themes."

I'd humanize Skye and heat up this story. Skye wants to save her life from the folks at Avarice, get close to Holt, maintain her friendships with the non-recycling folks of Deep Cove, and rescue Earth. There's room in there for some sex and violence, but right now Skye comes across like the Virgin Mary, whom I was ever and anon harangued to emulate in Catholic school.

khazar-khum said...

Who's her father?

Shouldn't that matter just a wee bit?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Skye is uniquely beautiful and has powers no one on earth has. Oh dear. I think the average reader is going to have trouble identifying.

It all sounds-- look, I'm not trying to be mean here, but I found myself thinking of a tv commercial for deodorant. Once you put on Naturae, everything is fresh and green on a beautiful island with Mother Nature swishing around.

This is definitely not what you want us thinking, so focus in on Skye. Give her a redeeming flaw.Then give her a challenge she can't handle. Tell us how she handles it.

Mister Furkles said...

Okay, I'm voting for number seven. I knew the query wasn't number seven because, well...its number is seven. But number seven is the best story in the lot.

AA said...

If there's one singular most popular (and most used) trope judging by this site, it is: Teenager discovers he/she is actually royalty in another world, followed closely by: Teenager discovers he/she has magical powers. Since these are used very frequently, and often in conjunction with each other, your writing had better be stellar and your storyline spectacular to get past the feeling of "Not one of those again!" stories.

There is a focus nowadays on strong female protagonists. Be sure you show what Skye actually does, besides being rescued, whisked away and "developing friendships" (making friends?).