Monday, March 28, 2016

Face-Lift 1308

Guess the Plot


1. Evil Queen Merylan's head goon Schultz wants a vacation. But he's the only guardsman who's survived every hero, champion, and assassin whose come after her. Hijinks ensue when the temp he hires attempts a coup d'etat. 

2. Corey's twin dies at birth, leaving Corey as the sole heir to the magical Huraff kingdom. When dark forces unite to defeat him and steal the throne, Corey's ghost twin is there as his silent invisible defender. But who will protect Corey from his defender when he decides he wants the throne for himself? 

3. What do you do when you're a new superhero in need of a cool name? You go to the Justice League, The Avengers, and even the X-Men to get some advice. But they're all busy with their lame missions, so Ralph is stuck with . . . Defender.

4. Move over Superman and Transformers. There's a new hero in town, one who fights off plaque, tartar and gingivitis. It's Defender toothpaste, available soon after my Kickstarter campaign reaches its goal.

5. When squeaky-clean Public Defender Brett Sarkesian is found dead in the bedroom of notorious Hollywood Madam Linda Cappelli, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, he was shot somewhere else, because there's almost no blood; and two, it's a good thing he's at Cappelli's house on business, because otherwise he'd play Hell trying to explain this one to his wife.

6. When Defense Attorney Amy Sterling is taken to the world of Argonatia, she must defend Prince Cosmos, accused of a heinous crime. How could someone so attractive be guilty? she wonders. And how can she save him when in Argonatia "legal defense" means trial by combat?

7. Caden has always longed for the day he'd be a knight, defending the kingdom from the monsters that wander the countryside. But now that he's sixteen, and old enough to start training, aptitude tests show he's a healer, not a fighter. Well screw that! That's women's work! 

8. The A.I. security system "Defender" reaches the logical conclusion that the only way to protect humanity from itself is to take over the world. In an unexpected twist it turns out it was right, and absolutely nothing goes wrong.

9. In a reckless attempt by insurance companies to rig auto rates, fenders everywhere are disappearing. The insured band together to defend against The De-fender, never seen, only heard as a faint dropping of screws.

10. Varick has defended the keep, the maiden, and his honorable lord. Now if only he could convince them that what he was really doing was attacking them. 

Original Version


Sixteen-year-old Caden believed he'd become a knight, like the legends he adored as a boy. Like all others growing up, he saw half his village killed from [by] predatory creatures wandering the countryside. [Villages get destroyed; villagers get killed.] [Who do you mean by "all others growing up"? Are you saying everyone saw half their village destroyed? Or are you just talking about Caden's village?] The kingdom trains fighters with innate magic then deploys deploy them across the continent, killing the monsters. But the academy tests demonstrate Caden is a healer, a job usually reserved for women and a talent too valuable to risk in combat. [Ah, a world in which women's work is considered more valuable than mens'. Way to cater to the gender of most readers.] 

Determined to correct this joke of fate (he's a boy, dang it--he wants to inflict wounds, not patch them!), he'd risk expulsion [rather] than spend the rest of his life on the sidelines babysitting the careless. [In a world where healers are too valuable to risk in combat and men are expendable, you'd think a male would be proud to achieve the coveted title of healer instead of whining that it's women's work. If tests showed I would make a better elementary school teacher than sewage worker, I wouldn't complain about being transferred.] But the headmasters refuse to hear his appeals. When he tries to join the after-school club for knights, the teacher overpowers and humiliates him. When he defends his dorrmmates' [dormmates'] honor after a prank goes wrong, the school punishes him for fighting.

Then he discovers an underground dueling club. At first, this looks like the way to prove himself, but the club is a pretense [front?] for a cabal thought wiped out after starting a civil war within the kingdom. Their blood rituals summon demoniac [demonic] behemoths, and the duelers have spilled a lot of blood.

But Caden can't link the clues before the monster is summoned. [Clues to what? Which monster?] Now with the school threatened and a second civil war on the horizon, Caden is faced with a choice: follow the path laid out and become an instrument of the kingdom or break free of his destiny and become something more. [If you mean become a highly valuable healer or an expendable knight, it's not clear why he suddenly has this choice. I'm better at blogging than at golf; I'm pretty sure if a war breaks out I won't be invited to join the PGA tour.] [Also, he's an instrument of the kingdom whether he's a knight or a healer. Is he considering a third option?]

DEFENDER is a 91,000 word YA fantasy with series potential. I have been previously published in "Electric Spec", "Stupefying Stories", and received an honorable mention in the 2010 "Writers of the Future" contest. My first novel MERM-8 was published by Musa in Fall 2014.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I don't get the impression that the message of the story is that women are useful too, which Caden learns after choosing knighthood and getting wounded and patched up by a woman. So I don't see the need for "a job usually reserved for women" and "he's a boy, dang it." Can't he want to be a knight just because he always wanted it, without giving him a sexist attitude about it? 

The first two paragraphs are all setup. Condense them to something like:

Sixteen-year-old Caden has always aspired to knighthood, but academy tests have revealed his aptitude lies in healing, not fighting. The last thing this fearsome warrior wants is to spend the rest of his life patching wounds instead of inflicting them.

Then Paragraph 2 is where he joins a dueling club to prove himself, only to find it's a front for a cabal looking to start a civil war within the kingdom. Add something about the clues he finds and what he plans to do about his findings.

Then a paragraph about his choice. Who grants him this choice that he didn't have before? You've made it clear he would choose knight over healer. Does he now see a downside to that choice?


IMHO said...

I was intrigued by the set-up, a boy fated to work at a traditionally female job, which provides all kinds of possibilities for tension, conflict, and character growth. But, as EE points out, if the healer role is merely something to avoid ('ew, healers have girl cooties'), then the story sounds pretty standard (an unlikely hero struggles to become warrior & defeat monsters). Is this the case?

Or is Caden forced to take classes in healing? Does he use that knowledge in any way? Does he come to any different understanding of the world?

Tk said...

Voting for all of EE's comments.

Anonymous said...

The sexist world building with a sexist attitude built in is a big turn-off. If this isn't a big part of the story, you might want to consider eliding over it. Also, if jobs are reserved for a specific gender, why bother with the aptitude tests?

Is this heading in a paladin (knight with healing magic) direction? Because if it is, you might as well say so and I hope your world building covers why no one else has thought of this in however long it's been going on for. War-torn societies tend to be fairly pragmatic about using what works and putting a machismo gloss on top when they think that's important. At any rate, rather than just what the choice is, try to include what the choice is going to allow him to do, i.e. The Plan. You may have covered the obstacles, it's hard to say without knowing what the plan is.

Work bit harder in showing the logical correlation between cause and effect. And be a bit more careful about spelling errors.

JSF said...

I don't think it's necessarily sexist to have a male character that would rather be a warrior than a nurse. That's normal. I saw an advertisement for the National Guard that read all field positions were now open to women. I guess some women would rather be warriors than nurses. It seems to be a common theme with both sexes. Since those boundaries are real, maybe a subplot destroying those boundaries? And a hint that it might happen? But to create a world where that tension doesn't exist would seem too contrived. Dragons? No problem. No boundaries between the sexes? I just can't buy that.

The biggest fault I can see is the link between cause and effect is not clear, which might come from assuming I understand the world you have built. I haven't read the book so I know nothing.

This seems to be a good archetypal story that will work well. EE notes look like the clearest fix for this (of course.)

Evil Editor said...

It's not sexist to prefer any occupation over another. However, to declare, "I'm a boy, dang it, I'm not doing work women do," sounds as sexist to me as telling girls they can't be soldiers because it's a job men do.

And let's not forget this is not a society in which healers (not nurses, there's no mention of nurses in the query) are considered less important than fighters. They're considered too valuable to risk in combat. As this is a world with magic, it's not a stretch to assume healers have their own innate magical abilities, as the warriors do. Perhaps the academy tests show which students have the innate magic that's good for killing monsters, and which have the innate magic that's good for healing the wounded. My point being that even in our society, which has been known to scandalously undervalue nurses, a boy who would choose soldier over nurse might choose magician with healing powers over soldier. Plus, it's already been stated that he wants to be a knight like the legends he adored as a boy, which is a good enough reason without bringing in the issue of which sex most often does which job.

JSF said...

Indeed. That makes sense. Thanks.

JSF said...

PS. I think I might need some Patching up by a magical healer about now. They can do that, right?