Friday, November 27, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1288 would like feedback on the following revision:

Smugglers have inadvertently awakened a dragon. Trapped in an artifact, the dragon secretly compels the smugglers to bring it treasure to fuel its magic. It also sends them to kidnap Shimmer, a girl who can set it free.

Guard Tali Adilrein is hired as Shimmer's bodyguard after rescuing her from the kidnappers. Tali survives an assassination attempt. She finds traces of magic during an apparent accident that severely injures her partner. To protect her client from more direct magical attacks, Tali calls on the dragon magic she abandoned when it started turning her into a monster.

The trapped dragon will soon grow powerful enough to break free. When it does, it will lay waste to the city and kill Shimmer. However, if Tali uses her own magic to stop it, she will change into a dragon, and her client will become her victim.


Evil Editor said...

P1: "A girl who can set it free" isn't telling me enough. What gives this girl above all others the power to set the dragon free? Where did she get her "gift."

P2: Either tell us what Tali is a guard of, or leave out "Guard."
I prefer you mention the rescue before the hiring: After rescuing Shimmer from the kidnappers, Tali Adilrein is hired as her bodyguard.
Drop the assassination attempt; I can't tell who was attempting to assassinate whom.
Who's this "partner"?

P3: If the dragon will soon be powerful enough to break free, why did it need Shimmer to set it free?
Apparently it's a known fact that once one becomes a dragon one loses all memory of life as a human and thus feels no allegiance to someone she was protecting as a human. In which case Tali's choice seems to be lose/lose. Either Shimmer is killed by the dragon or she's killed by Tali the dragon. The original dragon will also lay waste to the city. Will Tali the dragon? If not, the choice is obvious; if so, there's no winning choice.

It sounds choppy. More like reading an outline than a summary.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Though I know it was EE's suggestion, I'm not sure starting with the dragon works. Maybe lay it out as more of a mystery and show Tali starting to realize that these seemingly random incidents are connected and point to a dragon being involved.

Second paragraph still feels like a string of disconnected events. I don't know who was trying to assassinate Tali, how, or why. I didn't know she had a partner to get injured. And I'm not clear on why these events lead her to start using dragon magic again. There needs to be a clear narrative flow to the query. Maybe something like:

Guards Tali Adilrein and (Tali's partner) are hired as Shimmer's bodyguards after rescuing her from the would-be kidnappers. They figure the job will be easy, but they figure wrong. First, Tali is set upon by assassins (where? how?) and just barely survives the attack. Then (Tali's partner is gravely injured when (thing happens). It looks like an accident, but when Tali finds traces of magic on the (thing related to the accident), she begins to suspect that a (powerful magic user/dragon) is after Shimmer and wants Tali and (partner) out of the way. As the attacks grow more brazen and more dangerous, Tali has no choice but to call on the dragon magic she abandoned long ago.

There's my re of a clear choice at the end here, but it sounds like a total no-win situation. Either way, She member ends up dead; it's just a matter of who kills her. It sounds like Shimmer would be better off with anyone but Tali as a bodyguard. Two not great options for the protagonist is fine, but if they both end with slightly different versions of the same outcome, it doesn't seem to matter so much.

Author said...

Thanks for the mystery query prototype, InkAndPixelClub. It removed the mental block I was having on my attempts.

A few questions:
Calling Tali a private security agent seems awkward in a fantasy setting. Would calling her a mercenary work or should I leave it off?

Do I need to explain in the query why (the good guys suspect) the dragon wants Shimmer? Or will it be enough for them to be certain the dragon will kill her if it gets her?

P3 is Tali's dark moment. Would it be better to give her plan(s) after that for a bit of hope? Or should I pick something earlier like her deciding whether she's willing to start using dragon magic and risk turning into a dragon?

Thanks for all the feedback so far, and thanks in advance to anyone else who comments.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

What kind of artifact?

AA said...

I'm not clear why the dragon wants Shimmer. He wants her to set him free, but he will also kill her? Is that afterward? Why would he kill the only person who can set him free? Unless he just gets strong enough to break free, then he apparently doesn't need her at all.

At this point I'm suspicious you don't really need Shimmer in this story. The way it's written here, she's a damsel in distress you threw in to put the hero in danger and make the stakes seem higher.

I'm also confused about the partner. You didn't mention a partner before the partner gets injured.

"Do I need to explain in the query why (the good guys suspect) the dragon wants Shimmer?" No. You do need to explain why the dragon would bother to kill Shimmer after is has already broken free, or write it so the question doesn't come up.

There does seem to be no winning choice. Become a dragon and kill Shimmer or just let the other dragon kill Shimmer. Either way, Shimmer is charcoal briquets.

A dramatic choice would be more like: Marry the repulsive Count Stanley and be set up for life, or marry your one true love who lives in a hovel with his goats and probably die of cholera.

"Or should I pick something earlier like her deciding whether she's willing to start using dragon magic and risk turning into a dragon?"
Unfortunately, turning into a dragon sounds way too cool. Even if it wouldn't be the protag's choice, a lot of salesclerks with whiny kids and a husband who did a disappearing act years ago might love the idea of becoming a powerful dragon and torching the boss.
I'd clarify the choice she has to make. Is she focused more on saving S. or the city? Will saving S. do any good in the long run? Make that clear and then you can refine it if it needs it.

InkAndPixelClub said...

I think calling Tali a mercenary would be fine. It gives her a little more background than just having her name, so I'd put in in there.

You could just say that the characters suspect that a dragon is hunting Shimmer and not give a reason why the dragon is pursuing her, so long as it's clear why the characters believe that a dragon is behind the attacks. Or you could briefly explain that the characters think Shimmer is being targeted because she might be a valuable power source for a dragon. (Can dragons sense this trait in people? Can Tali?) Maybe try it both ways and see which version you prefer.

If your character is faced with a big decision, ideally both options should have pros and cons. Right now, there's no clear upside to either option. Defining what will or might happen when Tali becomes a dragon could help either version. If you end with her trying to choose whether to use dragon magic, you'll need to explain the downsides of becoming a dragon. If you want to describe what she might do after becoming a dragon, you need the pros and the cons. Does she risk losing her memories and humanity? Will she be hunted and treated as an outsider for the remainder of her life?

Another thing you'll want to clarify in the next draft is who Tali is. I don't have a sense of what she wants or how invested in this situation she is. If it's just a job, she could theoretically walk away before she has to make any tough choices. So does she care about the people involved?