Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Face-Lift 1279

Guess the Plot

The Blood Blade

1. Eduardo Rodriguez has had it. Starting tomorrow he's trashing his razor and getting an electric shaver.

2.As the king lies on his deathbed, his youngest son slays his older brother and marries his widow. Then the Bahari tribe forms an alliance with the nobles to overthrow the ghostlings. Oh, and everyone wants . . . the blood blade.

3. 14-year-old Jacob Moonbright is destined save his hometown of Ivaline from the armies of Shadowguard, and he needs the Blood Blade to do it. There's just one problem: the blade is in the clutches of the over 5000 members of the American Pawnbrokers Association.

4. A scientist, stricken mad by the loss of his lover, goes on a quest for a mythical weapon fabled to raise the dead. But when he finds the Blood Blade and uses it to resurrect his gigolo lover, he unleashes an ancient evil on a modern college campus.

5. The prince of Troander is driven from his kingdom by monsters and mercenaries who don't realize that in the dead of night the prince will magically transform into a deadly assassin, wielder of . . . the blood blade.

6. A surgeon. A scalpel. An appendectomy gone horribly wrong. Can Detective Mary Dunning find the murder weapon before the mad doctor turns his attention on her? 

Original Version

Dear EE,

Seventeen-year-old Arek Pa’Gorin, the orphaned prince of the Kingdom of Troander, is oblivious he has an alter ego- an infamous assassin named Rykter. [I recommend changing his name to Rhektum. It's appropriate for a guy whose occupation includes the word "ass" twice.] [Also, I can tell already this story needs a little comic relief.]

Wielding the mystical vampiric Blood Blade and bent on ridding the world of evil men, the assassin only manifests while Arek is sleeping. [It sounds like "virtuous" would be a better description of the assassin than "infamous" if his goal is to get rid of evil.] Though they inhabit the same body, neither is aware of the other. [You already said Arek is oblivious, so this doesn't add much.] That is, until the Lord Regent hires the assassin Rykter to kill Prince Arek. [Is Prince Arek evil? Or does Rhektum take jobs on the side to pay the bills?] [Not clear how being hired to kill his alter-ego makes him aware he has an alter-ego.]

Prince Arek flees the kingdom, but danger continues to stalk him. [It sounds like he's fleeing because the Lord Regent hired an assassin, but it also sounds like he now knows he doesn't have to worry about the assassin. So why's he fleeing?] Not only are the Lord Regent’s mercenaries on his trail, [Usually you hire a hitman because if you send your mercenaries to do the dirty work you'll be blamed. Usually if you don't care about being blamed, and you've got mercenaries on your payroll, you don't spend money on an infamous assassin. That would be like the president, despite being surrounded by Secret Service agents all the time, hiring The Jackal to protect him.] but he is also pursued by a horde of mutated creatures known as the Dragonspawn. [Not only that, but no matter how fast and far he goes, he can't seem to get this Rhektum dude off his tail.] Now that Prince Arek has left the protection of the castle walls, the Dragonspawn see their opportunity to recover what was once theirs. [Which is what? The castle? The kingdom? The throne? Maybe the Dragonspawn will kill the Lord Regent when they attack the castle, solving Arek's problems.]

With a mage’s apprentice, an assassin and a handful of King’s Guardsmen to protect him, Prince Arek must travel to seek the sanctuary of family he has never known. [I'd feel safer with the assassin and the guardsmen than with family I've never known. Why must he do this?] On his journey he wonders if killing people as Rykter makes him a bad person. [Of course it doesn't. Didn't he ever watch Dexter?] Worse yet, he worries that he will wake and find all of his protectors brutally massacred. By him. [Isn't he aware that his alter-ego kills only evil men?]

Dealing with his assassin alter ego and avoiding the pursuit of both men and monsters, Prince Arek must live long enough to reach his eighteenth birthday so he can return to Troander and claim his throne. [Yes, those men who drove him away and want him dead and the monsters on his trail will all suddenly relent and welcome him home with open arms when he turns eighteen.]

The BLOOD BLADE, complete at 83,000 words, is the first installment of an epic fantasy series. [If the book has a satisfying ending and can stand on its own, say so. The reader will want to know how many books you expect them to invest in.] Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work.


I assume the Lord Regent wants Arek dead so he can rule over the kingdom. If Arek turns eighteen and then gets killed, who rules? If it's the Lord Regent, then I'm not sure turning eighteen makes Arek any safer.

It seems like the idea of being hired to kill someone and that someone is, unknown to you and the person who hired you, yourself, is the most interesting aspect (I found it cool in A Scanner Darkly), but your character somehow immediately knows he's after himself. Did you consider leaving it that he thinks Rhektum is always right behind him?

Combine the first two paragraphs. The fourth paragraph doesn't have much of interest. If you dump it you might have room to tell us why characters do what they do. 

Henceforth, until further notice, the more than 5000 members of the American Pawnbrokers Association must make at least one appearance in the fake plots of each query critique. 


Anonymous said...

I'm a bit confused as to how much 'rek & Ryk know about each other after Ryk is hired. I assume Ryk figures it out, so how does 'rek know? And do either of them try to communicate?

I'm also confused as to the prince's flight. It sounds like X number of years into the regency, the regent suddenly decides its time to kill the prince. I'm wondering why now? What changed?

Don't state the obvious. If you tell us there are mercenaries, dragonspawn, and an assassin after him, you don't need to say 'danger continues to stalk him.'

The wondering about killing feels out of place. If it's crucial to his character, try to fit it in a different way.

Give us one primary goal (we currently have several), general recommendation would be the goal for act I, ymmv.

Maybe clear up the consequences. I'm guessing take back the throne or die?

Hope this helps

Anonymous said...

The story has a lot of cool elements, but they're not fitting together for me. Someone being hunted by their assassin-alter-ego has great possibilities -- but why would an assassin who kills only bad guys kill Arek? Or his protectors?

Why must Arek leave the castle for the Dragonspawn to recover what once was theirs? (Do NOT answer this question in version 2 of your query; try to avoid raising it to begin with.)

As far as I can tell, Arek's journey to his relatives should be only half his adventure; he will have to journey back, too, right? Once again, I get a sense of too much setup, too little what-happens.

Does the Blood Blade need to be both mystical and vampiric? I'm getting a little glutted on fantasy, even for an epic fantasy.

Finally, what's up with Arek's character? Does he change? Does he learn? I'd like to know why I care about him and his quest for the crown of Troander.

AA said...

I'm confused.

I can't tell at what point Arek and Rykter become aware of each other. It isn't clear. More to the point, Arek does a lot of soul-searching about whether being Rykter makes him a bad person. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't, but what difference does it make to the ending of the story? Does his conclusion on this matter make an appreciable difference to the story?

The Dragonspawn go after Arek the moment he leaves the castle, presumably to get at the sword. But Arek/ Rykter has the sword EVERY time he goes out. So what makes them so determined to get the sword back THIS time? Or am I wrong and they want something else? What? Arek's signet ring? His royal jock strap?

If Arek's figured out that he/Rykter is likely to kill all his benevolent protectors in his sleep, I would think he would send them home. Unless he discussed this with everybody and they're all cool with it.

This doesn't seem to be a “quest” story, since the MC leaves the castle, not to go find or conquer something, but because it isn't safe there. Then after he waits out a reasonable amount of time he goes back. I don't see what's heroic about it.

Apparently he can't go back home because he isn't eighteen. Is the Lord Regent honestly going to stop trying to kill him when he turns eighteen? Why not just leave him out there?

InkAndPixelClub said...

There seem to be two separate major issues in this story. First, we have the prince who doesn't realize that he becomes a vengeful assassin by night. Then we have the Lord Regent who's trying to get the prince killed. The assassin being hired to kill his own alter ego is not coming off as a great way to link these two problems. There's no clear reason why the Lord Regent hiring Rykter leads to Arek realizing that he and Rykter are the same person. And having his alternate personality hired to kill him is actually kind of lucky for Arek, since even if Rykter doesn't realize that they share a body and does decide that Arek is bad enough to be on his hit list, it's tough to assassinate someone who never seems to be around.

The first sentence is awkward to the point where it's obscuring the cool premise. "....is oblivious to the fact tat he has an alter ego..." would be more grammatically correct, though it's still quite a mouthful. Make the "prince by day, assassin by night, neither identity knows about the other" idea sound as exciting as it should right from the get go. You can drop the name of the kingdom and the fact that Arek is an orphan. If they're truly important enough to be in the query, you can address them later.

I would guess that Rykter is one of several mercenaries and assassins the Lord Regent hired to kill Arek, which is why he's still being pursued by mercenaries after Ryk is hired. But I shouldn't have to guess. Make it clear.

Pay attention to Anon #1‘s question: why is this happening now? Did Arek's parents just die recently, leaving him as the only thing standing between the Lord Regent and the throne? Did Arek do something to indicate that he won't be an easily controlled puppet monarch? Why can't Arek simply have the Lord Regent arrested or executed for conspiring to kill him? What will change when Arek is old enough to rule?

Lacking much info about either Arek or the Lord Regent, I'm worried this is one of those stories where we're supposed to root for the prince simply because he is the rightful heir and boo the villain because he wants the throne for himself. Certainly hiring mercenaries to kill somebody isn't a very redeeming character trait, but I don't know enough else about either of them to see why I should want Arek on the throne as opposed to anyone else.

"A standalone novel with series potential" is best if you can honestly say that. "The first installment of an epic fantasy series" raises all kinds of difficult questions for an editor or agent: "Does this book tell a complete story?" "How many other books are there?" "Are any of the other books finished?" "Is the author going to flake out before completing the series?" "When do I find out what's in the other books?" "Am I going to need to sell or publish the entire series?" "If the second book never gets published, am I stuck with an incomplete story no one wants to read?"