Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Face-Lift 1337

Guess the Plot


1. An immortal guy kills Nolan's family, and is now hunting Nolan, when suddenly a crystal falls from the sky, granting Nolan magical powers. But will he use his powers for vengeance, or to do good works? 

2. Seems like the sky is falling at some point in every novel, but this time it's literally falling.

3. When a cabal of soulless politicians launches a scheme to anesthetize progressive voters before they can reach the polls, ace investigator Zack Martinez knows two things: This could be the answer to his chronic insomnia, and he'd better get his zzzzzzzzz... 

4. An exciting, fictionalized, very-approachable-without-a-technical-background narrative of scientific progress in physics in the late 1800s-early 1900s, including Maxwell's equations, general and special relativity, and, of course, the fall of luminiferous ether theory and the introduction of space as a(n almost) void. 

5. Ethan swears to get even with everyone who's ever dissed, harassed or bullied him. Using an old goat skull, he asks Satan to punish them all. No problem, as Satan possesses the Internet.

6. The green fairy descends from the heavens. Or rather it falls, smacks a few pedestrians with insanity, goes for a night on the town, and visits two sisters, giving them divine inspiration only to make them forget it all come morning. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Nolan of Greenbrook has no hope of a peaceful death. The immortal Eldest hunts him, intent on finishing what he started when he killed Nolan's family and left him crippled. [#38 on the list of Things I Would Do if I Were an Evil Overlord, paraphrased: "If an enemy I have just killed has offspring anywhere, I will have them killed immediately, instead of letting them grow up to harbor feelings of vengeance toward me." Seems like if Nolan was left crippled, the Eldest's minions would have had no trouble finishing him off. Then again, no one ever said evil overlords were bright.] Now Nolan lives in the shadows, consumed by fear of the Eldest. His luck runs out when he stumbles across a mysterious glowing crystal. When the Eldest's genetically-engineered minions arrive to investigate the crystal, they find Nolan as well. They spirit him away to the Eldest's prison where he awaits an excruciating death.

Though it costs him his freedom, the crystal gives Nolan something in return - strange magical powers. [Did they let him keep the crystal? Can someone else get magic from the crystal now, or is it like an empty Cherry Garcia carton, emptied of its magical contents and ready to be discarded in the rubbish bin?] [Also, calling his magical powers "strange" forces me to wonder what's strange about them. Are there people who have magical powers that aren't strange?] They are weak at first, but in Nolan’s hands they become a formidable tool. After a daring magic-enabled escape, Nolan falls in with a band of fellow outcasts marked for death. They embark on a journey to a haven beyond the Eldest's reach.

The hopes of Nolan's companions grow along with his powers as he fights off the Eldest's repeated attacks, [I thought they were beyond the Eldest's reach. Are they still en route?] even defeating creatures thought to be invincible.  [Although you said his luck ran out when he found the crystal, it could be argued that his luck changed for the better when he found it. In fact, he's gone from being a disabled, frightened victim hiding in the shadows to a warrior protecting his friends and defeating invincible creatures. Finding the crystal was the luckiest thing that ever happened to him.] But Nolan is not the Eldest-slaying hero his allies want. His past still haunts him, and he desires only to live without fear and rebuild his shattered life. Even when he discovers that his powers can be spread to others, he refuses to trade peace and safety for an unwinnable war. [What peace and safety? He's being repeatedly attacked by the Eldest and the creatures.] [Also, if he doesn't want to fight, and his companions do, why not spread his powers to them, and let them go fight the unwinnable war.

Then the Eldest strikes again, and safety proves an illusion. Nolan flees once more, unable to save those he loves. Driven to despair and pursued to the very edge of the earth, he finally understands why he is being hunted. The Eldest is also afraid.

He fears what Nolan will become when he stops running. 

ETHERFALL is a 123K-word fantasy that will appeal to readers of Brandon Sanderson or E. E. Knight. Thank you for your time and consideration.

The title refers to the substance that lets the main character work magic, which falls from the sky in a crystal at the start of the book. [It just falls from the sky? If that happened right when he most needed it we'd call it a deus ex machina, so I guess it's good that it happens a couple chapters before he needs it. Still, is there an explanation of where it fell from?]


Why did the Eldest want Nolan dead even before he found the crystal? Was his entire family a threat to the Eldest? The guy has genetically engineered minions and invincible creatures under his command, and yet he's obsessed with wiping out one family? Did the Eldest's seer predict someone named Nolan of Greenbrook would one day rule the world?

It reads well. Maybe it goes back and forth more than necessary. He has no hope, but then he gets the crystal, but then he's captured, but then he escapes, but then he's attacked but then he reaches the safe haven, but then it's not safe after all and he flees...  If we had less of this we'd have room for a specific example of what Nolan's magic can (or can't) do. And what the Eldest's ultimate goal is. And what Nolan's plan is now that he's on the run yet again.


Anonymous said...

Are the fellow outcasts people Nolan helped escape from prison or did he join them afterwards? If he helps them all escape, it might read better to say so, and it would give a bit more hint as to relationships.

By 'Nolan's family' do you mean wife and children? Siblings? Parents? All of them out to second cousins thrice removed? How long ago was this? Specifying would help the reader better understand what existence Nolan is trying to rebuild, and what he's going to need to do to accomplish it.

Best of luck

InevitablePlotTwist said...

Author here. So I get to be Query 1337 and have a Zack Martinez GTP? It's like Christmas came early! :)

But seriously, this is very helpful. I needed a logic check on my query, and I think it's exposed some areas where my plot might need a little tweaking.

St0n3henge said...

Seems like too many coincidences. His entire family is wiped out- but he is left alive. Wouldn't be a big oversight, except then a magical crystal just falls from the sky. They not only keep him alive and imprisoned instead of just killing him, they let him keep the crystal? Therefore he escapes.
It's sort of like asking why the bad guys never kill Superman when he's under the influence of kryptonite. They just tie him to a chair or something.

Anonymous said...

I would avoid the word "crippling". Many people find it offensive. I stopped reading at that word, so I don't know what else your query says. Unfair? Perhaps. But an agent who feels the same way about the word won't bother to explain to you why they stopped reading.

Anonymous said...

I mean "crippled" not "crippling". Offensive, either way.

InevitablePlotTwist said...

It hasn't occurred to me that use of the word "crippled" might be a problem. It's gone in the new version of the query I'm working on, but I need to get it out of the manuscript itself too.

AA, this is why it's good to get extra eyes on a query. Nolan's powers don't depend on him having the crystal in his possession, and I completely missed that the query implies otherwise. I'll definitely add "convenient coincidences" to my list of stuff to look for in the manuscript also.

CavalierdeNuit said...

"Crippled" is offensive now? When did that happen? What is the proper word? Incapacitated? Please use whatever words you want! Don't be afraid of the word/thought police. If an agent is THAT offended by any word in that regard, a rejection by him/her is a good thing.

St0n3henge said...

"Crippled by" is not offensive in my opinion. You can't really say "incapacitated" because that could mean many different things. For instance, a drug could incapacitate you.
"Crippling" is generally considered okay. For instance, I have experienced crippling panic attacks. Come to think of it, they were also incapacitating. I'm not concerned about the term being used.

However, describing a character as "a cripple" can be a problem, unless it is an insensitive person speaking.
For instance:

"Yeah, well go beg somewhere else, ya cripple!"
sounds like something a character might say if they're just an awful person.

"The poor cripple knocked on the rich man's door."
This is something you wouldn't write in this day and age if your world is modern. It seems wrong. But in your world, it might fit. Maybe people use that word all the time in your world. We did in our world once.

When I was a kid people who were mentally handicapped were called "retarded." It was a medical term meaning mentally slow. This is no longer okay, but if I was writing a story with such a character set in the eighties, the word would be used.

Anonymous said...

I am physically disabled and I find the term highly offensive no matter how it is used. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion, but the OP is wise to change it.

Anonymous said...

My only objection to the term "crippled" is that it's not very specific. It would be more useful to say whether his leg was damaged so badly he's lost the use of it or if he's missing three fingers, or what exactly.

St0n3henge said...

I still wouldn't change it in the MS. There is literary merit in using terms such as crippled, crazy, insane, idiot, or really anything, no matter how offensive. The question is, is it organic? Would your characters be saying that? In your world, is that how people talk?
In a pre-industrial or pre-technical world, a person might be called "idiot" instead of mentally handicapped. Is this such a world?

In the query you can change it because it might take someone a bit by surprise. But it says what it means to say, and I honestly wouldn't change it.

khazar-khum said...

Huh. That's funny. I'm disabled, too, and I'm not offended by 'crippled' or any other adjective. I'm also epileptic, so 'brainstorm' is cool with me. Too many people exist only to be offended and have a case of the vapors.

Use the words that fit your story, your characters and you will be fine, pearl clutchers be damned.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Well said!

Chelsea P. said...

Just because someone is offended by a word doesn't mean you have to take it out of your MS. That said, I've found it never hurts to listen when someone is offended by something. Finding out the history of a word--how it has been used against people, to dismiss or oppress or dehumanize them, and how it continues to cause harm--has been helpful in understanding why people seek to change certain terminology. In the end, you may keep the word in your book, or you might find a better one. But listening to other people's POVs tends to cause less harm than ignoring or dismissing them.

winschod said...

Thanks for sharing, it was interesting to read!