Saturday, September 30, 2017

Feedback Request



The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1353 would like feedback on the following revision.


Dear Agent,

Entering the labyrinth means you'll face your worst fears. Exiting ensures you'll return home with supernatural abilities and become one of the "gifted." With the help of her power of invisibility and an iron will Rio, a colorblind, seventeen-year-old has earned the position of Arch-Huntress. Yet when the king requires an heir he arranges a courtship between Rio, his only daughter, and Leon, her childhood friend. She will be forced to abandon hunting to become a loving wife and mother.

Just when Rio starts to accept her new life, the sound of a gunshot erupts in the middle of the night. Guns are the ancient weapons of the mechs, robotic creatures who served the Crimson God, but the false god was defeated by Rio’s grandfather. Those are all stories told to her by her now deceased mom. Believing her mother, she ventures off into the jungle of Vivuli where she finds an outsider named Slim. With shackles around his ankles, he claims to be an escaped slave of the Crimson God.

After inviting the slave into her home, things become violent when a strange curse, known as the “Blood Lust” creeps into hearts of the citizens. Now Rio must decide if this outsider is worth protecting. She has no idea who Slim is. If he’s telling the truth, he’s the key to defeating the reawakening god, bent on revenge. Her choice will determine if she’ll become Vitova’s next great hero or if she’s destined to become the next Joan of Arch.

My YA fantasy novel, Crimson Stone, is complete at 82,000 words. I selected you as a potential agent because you represented other YA novels with magical realism. I am credited for writing a short, young adult themed, screenplay named Saint Alex (2013). My manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request. Thanks for your time and consideration.

25 comments:

Evil Editor said...

P1: As the labyrinth, and gifted aren't mentioned after the first two sentences, I don't think we need those sentences. Nor do we need to know Rio is colorblind. Not every courtship results in a wedding, so perhaps the king should arrange Rio's marriage. Thus:

With the help of her power of invisibility and an iron will, seventeen-year-old Rio, the king's only child, has earned the position of Arch-Huntress. But when the king requires an heir he arranges a marriage between Rio and her childhood friend Leon--a marriage that will force Rio to abandon hunting and become a loving wife and mother.

P2: The sound of a gunshot lasts a second or two. Starting to accept her new life seems like a much more prolonged event, not something that happens at the same time. You say "These are all stories..." but you've only mentioned one story, Grandfather defeating the Crimson God.

P3" Not crazy about the two places mentioned being Vivuli and Vitova. I don't want to have to keep track of which is which when reading the book. What's with Joan of Arch? Are we on Earth? Why isn't it Arc? If it's Earth's Joan, she was a hero, wasn't she?


Now that I'm done, I don't see why we need to mention Leon's name. He does nothing. The first paragraph makes me think we're going to be reading about Rio's wife/huntress conflict. By the end we're onto the citizens' blood lust curse. I'm not sure the middle paragraph adequately connects the first and third. If the main plot is how the God is dealt with, maybe we should open with the God awakening. Is the God seeking revenge on the family of the man who defeated it, or on everyone? Are the Gifted going to take on the God, or just Rio?

IMHO said...

Ditto EE -- many of the details are unnecessary for a query.

You call the Crimson God a 'false god', but describe it as re-awakening and as having god-like powers. A false god is something worshipped that does not actually have divine powers -- e.g. Baal in the Christian bible.

Is this a world with many gods, one of whom was defeated? Or is there one true god, and the Crimson thing is a demon or other supernatural entity who is pretending to be the only god? This may seem like a minor thing, but if your query is imprecise or confusing, an agent may assume your story is too, and reject.

Anonymous said...

Within the first three sentences, I was left wondering that if exiting the labyrinth leaves you with supernatural powers, where did she gain her powers of invisibility to begin with that helped her with the labyrinth? What power did she gain through the labyrinth? Plus, for a second I thought that Rio was someone entirely different due to you saying her/she first and then saying Rio.

In the second paragraph, saying that she in believing in her mother makes it sound like she is still alive despite saying she is dead in the previous sentence. It shouldn't need to be said that Slim has shackles around his ankles when you later say he is a slave. Too much description for a query.

For the third paragraph I am left wondering just what does taking care of the slave have to do with the Blood Lust that is going on with the citizens? (Wait, Joan of Arch? What world are we in again? Should we know this person?)

InkAndPixelClub said...

There’s just too much going on here for a query. I can’t telll what’s important to the main story. It starts with the labyrinth, so I figure that the story will be about that. But by the next sentence, I can’t tell whether the protagonist has gone through the labyrinth, will go through the labyrinth at some point in the future, or has nothing to do with the labyrinth. Then the issue of Rio having to abandon her position as a hunter to enter into an arranged marriage and start raising children. So I assume this must be the plot. But then that disappears and the actual story is about robots and slaves and a reawakening god. Plus Rio is colorblind and can turn invisible and I don’t know how any of this figures into the story.

Focus on the main story, which seems to be the return of the Crimson God. If you leave out the labyrinth, the arranged marriage, and Rio seeing everything in black and white, you can focus on what will happen if the Crimson God returns, why Rio is the only person who can stop it, the choices she has to make and the potential consequences of those choices. You start to do this, but it;s not clear how choosing to protect Sllim determines her success or her failure.

St0n3h3ng3 said...

First, it doesn't start well. You switch from “you” to the main character. The main character is more specific, so use her.

Second, you don't specifically say Rio went through the labyrinth, so why do you mention it at all?
It's sort of like me saying, “The secret to a good cake batter is not to overbeat,” but then continuing with a recipe for brownies.

I agree that her being colorblind is not important to the query.


“Guns are the ancient weapons of the mechs, robotic creatures who served the Crimson God, but the false god was defeated by Rio’s grandfather. Those are all stories told to her by her now deceased mom. Believing her mother, she ventures off into the jungle of Vivuli where she finds an outsider named Slim. “

Too many details in such a short space. It's confusing. Then you mention the blood lust and it gets worse.

You can cut it down:

 With the help of her power of invisibility Rio, a seventeen-year-old has earned the position of Arch-Huntress. Yet when the king requires an heir he arranges a marriage for Rio, his only daughter. She will be forced to abandon hunting to become a loving wife and mother.

Just when Rio starts to accept her new life an ancient enemy returns. The mechs are robotic creatures who served the defeated Crimson God. Pressed into service, Rio is posted to the jungle of Vivuli where she finds an outsider named Slim who claims to be an escaped slave of the Crimson God.

Things become more violent when a strange curse, known as the “Blood Lust” creeps into hearts of the citizens. Now Rio must decide if this outsider is worth protecting. If he’s telling the truth, he’s the key to defeating the reawakening god, 

Her choice will determine if she’ll become Vitova’s next great hero or....(something disastrous)

It's still not great. Slim is the “key,” but what does that mean? It's vague. Also, you need to make it more clear what, exactly, the choice is. What does Rio have to do? What does she have to risk?

I very strongly suggest changing the name Slim. It is a common cowboy nickname.




khazarkhum said...

Some questions raised by the query:

Is there a penalty for the Labyrinth? If you enter, is there a good chance you won't exit?

Does everyone have to enter the Labyrinth, or is it a trial reserved for a certain set of people? IE, all Royals, nobles must go, for everyone else it's dependent upon behavior/ability.

Why do we hear that Rio's a princess so late in the query? That's pretty important information to hold back.

I realize you only have a couple hundred words to work with, but these all seem like points too important to ignore. You could have, for instance, something like this:

'The elite of Vitova must enter the Labyrinth on their 13th(or whenever) birthday. If they exit, they're endowed with special gifts. Princess Rio, only child of the King, gained invisibility, which she has used to become a master huntress.'

Now we know about the Labyrinth, what it does, who it affects, as well as how it's affected Rio. We also get some idea of the political situation, plus what her gift has enabled her to do.

Something to consider.

Mister Furkles said...

Too many pleonasms. Trim and make every word count.

P1: The opening paragraph is too detached, too abstracted. Make it more personal. And it reads like backstory. If the labyrinth is a major plot element, explore that. Otherwise just mention that Rio has the power of invisibility.

P2: Just when → As
starts → begins
the sound of a gunshot erupts → bad passive, try ‘She hears gunshots...’
Is the Crimson God the same as the false god? If so: but the false god → who

This sentence contributes nothing to the query: Those are all stories told to her by her now deceased mom. AND of course, ‘Believing her mother’ is not needed in the query.

off into → into

The prepositional phrase ‘With shackles...ankles’ belongs in the previous sentence. AND I would go with ‘where she finds, Slim, an escaped slave of the Crimson God.’ It doesn’t matter yet whether he is genuine or something else.

P3: The thread seems to get lost in all these miscellaneous events. Concentrate on the main character and the main conflict. That is about all you can cover in two hundred words. And By the way, Joan of Arc (note spelling) is the great hero who saved France and she was very successful.

Try again.

Anonymous said...

This feels like a list of events. How do the paragraphs connect? How do the EVENTS connect? What's tying everything together?

Eric B. said...

Thanks for all your advice. Here is my updated query...
The scars on her body will always remind Rio of her time in the labyrinth, but with an iron will and the power of invisibility, the seventeen-year-old has earned the position of Arch-Huntress. Still, her father, the king, requires an heir, so he arranges a marriage between Rio and her childhood friend Leon--a marriage that will force her to abandon hunting and become a loving wife and mother.
So when Rio hears a gunshot echo in the middle of the night, it's her chance for one last hunt. Guns are the ancient weapons of the mechs, robotic creatures that served the Crimson God, who was defeated by Rio’s grandfather. After hours searching for mechs in the jungle, Rio and Leon find an injured outsider with broken legs, but miraculously, they have already started to heal because of his extraordinary gift of regeneration. His name is Slim and he claims to be an escaped slave of the Crimson God. Out of curiosity, Rio and Leon escort the outsider back to show the king.
Instead of executing the outsider as her father commands, Rio implores her father to let Slim enter the Sapphire tournament to test his abilities. Not only will Rio and Leon have to train Slim how to fight and race chariots, he’ll have to face warriors with invisibility, superhuman strength, and blinding speed. Meanwhile, the Crimson God has his own plan. He allowed Slim to escape so he could lead him to Vitova where he means to kill the family who defeated him many years ago. Rio, Leon, and Slim are now the only ones who stand in-between the reawakening God and his vengeance.

khazarkhum said...

Eric B:

Sapphire Tournament? Regeneration? Is the Labyrinth part of this too? And then there's chariot racing. Is this 'Ben-Hur', remodeled into a fantasy novel?

Eric B. said...

Is that a bad thing?

St0n3h3ng3 said...

Well, this ads more to the story, but it has problems of its own.

The Crimson God apparently wasn't defeated, as he is still around.

“Instead of executing the outsider as her father commands, Rio implores her father to let Slim enter the Sapphire tournament to test his abilities.” Why?

Do you need to mention the Sapphire tournament? Problem is, everyone's going to wonder what it is, and how it works, and you really don't have time to explain that. It's like the Labyrinth thing.

“He allowed Slim to escape so he could lead him to Vitova where he means to kill the family who defeated him many years ago.” It doesn't seem possible the Crimson God doesn't know where this family lives, especially since the dad is a KING, which generally denotes a Kingdom.

Nothing in this story so far connects.

Rio is an amazing hunter, but must retire to a family life to produce an heir. Or, she can have a baby and many nannies could raise it, since she's a Princess and all, and she could live the lifestyle she enjoys. Come to think of it, aren't there others who could fight the robots? Why would the king risk his only daughter if this is the greatest known danger?

The Crimson God was defeated, but he shows back up again. Why now? How did he get “undefeated”?
What does the grandfather really have to do with anything? Does it matter that the Crimson God was defeated by the grandfather? Couldn't it have just been anybody?

What does Leon actually do? Does it matter they've been friends for a long time? Why is that important to the story?

The Crimson God doesn't sound that hard to defeat. First Rio's Grandfather did it (by himself?) and now it's up to Rio, Leon, and Slim. So if one person could, three should be able to, easy. Is there any way you could make him actually sound scary?

InkAndPixelClub said...

You’re getting to the man plot faster, but therre's still a lot of superfluous information in here. And even the events that seem important to the story don’t connect up logically.

Ditch the labyrinth. I’m sure it’s very important in the book, but it seems like something that happened before the story began and there's not adequate space to explain it in the query.

If you can show Rio doing something with her invisibility power in the query later on, it makes sense to mention it. If not, it isn’t helping you.

Rio's main problem as the query begins is that she's a huntress and presumably enjoys that. But she’s also a princess and Dad wants an heir, so he arranges a marriage between Rio and her childhood pal. This can work, but you need to be clear on why being the Arch-Huntress and being a wife and mom are mutually exclusive and why the king wants grandkids now.

The connection beitween the first and second paragraphs is much better here. Rio sees tracking down the source of the gunshot as her last chance for adventure before settling into the domestic life.

I’d save the information about the Crimson God for when Slim shows up. Just focus on the fact that a gunshot means a mech and how Rio tracks the shooter.

Why is Leon along for the hunt?

"...an injured outsider with broken legs, but miraculously, they have already started to heal because of his extraordinary gift of regeneration."

Unless we know that his legs were broken very recently, the fact that they're healing doesn’t seem miraculous. If Rio and Leon find him unable to stand due to his broken legs and he’s walking around with ease a few hours later, that's legitimately miraculous.

Everything after this loses me. I don’t know why he king wants Slim in particular or outsiders in general executed. I don’t know what the Sapphire tournament is and what anyone hopes to gain by entering Slim in it. The only character whose motivations I understand at this point is the Crimson Godand even then I don’t know why he needs an escaped slave to lead him to his enemey's kingdom or how that plan was intended to work.

I'd devote the first paragraph to Rio's last hunt and why it's her last. Paragraph two can be what she decides to do after finding Slim and why. Paragraph three can explain how this ties into the return of the Crimson God and what our heroes can do about that.

Anonymous said...

If no guns have been fired since Rio's grandfather's time, how does Rio know that what she heard was the sound of a gunshot?

khazarkhum said...

Eric B:

Basing a book on 'Ben-Hur' isn't bad. But in what ways is it based on 'Ben-Hur'? If all you got out of 'Ben-Hur' was that a Jewish guy races chariots, you missed the theme and point completely, which is, of course, redemption.

But there's other things to consider. Namely, Leon. Why is he mentioned at all, except to say something like. "Rio is set to wed Prince/Baron(whatever title) Leon, her lifelong
friend."

The Crimson God isn't such a threat if he can be killed by one man. Now, if the Crimson God killed Rio's grandfather, and there's been tension ever since, it explains why Rio is a hunter and the king wants heirs now.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I do not get why everyone is writing about these odd/weird worlds and characters.

I read this stuff over and over. None of them want me to read on. I want enticing real characters in a world I can relate to.

Guess I am aging, yup, getting old. This stuff is nonsense I can not relate to or even get. Cut out characters, same old same old.

Where is the brilliance, the fun, the captivation? Wonderful sentences that touch me.

Sorry, writing isn't indulgence in whatever fantasy world you create; it is connection with the reader. With great characters.

Sorry writer, a fail for me. But this sure isn't my genre. So if it is good in the genre, great, would I read this? Sorry.

I would ask you, respectfully, what makes a great story. Indulgence doesn't.

Good luck, I think you might be cutting your teeth and set this one aside and try something real, for what it is worth.

These fantasy worlds - kind of like computer games.

I do not mean to sound so harsh. Find your voice, I hope in maybe a different genre. This is not going to be picked up by an agent.

Take heart, there is other stuff in you to write.

I do wish you the best. I am sorry if I sound so critical.




khazarkhum said...

It's not just you, Wilkins. Fantasy should, theoretically, be an endless source of themes, plots, stories. All too often it turns into a chosen one saves the world, which is indeed the plot of many a video game. Fantasy should have fun and romance, too, but too many people don't think it will work if it isn't portentious like Tolkien.

St0n3h3ng3 said...

I just like people to think of a story as an organic construction. This happened BECAUSE that happened. Since he did this, she did that.

I think too many queries in all genres are like this one, especially over the years I've been reading this blog. Where is the motivation? Why does it have to be THAT person?
What causes the magical happening to happen NOW? Why is only one person qualified to take on this task?
A lot of times I think characters exist in the minds of the writer to play out their fantasies. Like when you were a kid and you played with action figures. But books require an actual story.

Old tales are frequently confusing to me for this same reason. A knight happens to meet an old woman, who happens to be a witch, who happens to give him a magical tinder box which happens to summon three magical dogs- and so forth. It was fine for people back then. Nowadays we need causation and motivation.
I'm not saying things can't be magic just because they are. Like the amulet in the Secret of NIMH. Nobody really cares WHY it's magic. But that is the only thing in the story that remains unexplained. Everything else that happens is driven by character motivation.

I do agree creativity is lacking in fantasy stories. That may just be too much exposure to the same themes over and over.
It's frustrating that the writers who make sense aren't really that creative and the writers that are creative don't really make any sense.

On the other hand, if you do come up with anything completely new nowadays, it may be a hard sell even if it is well written. Publishers don't seem to publish much that hasn't already been done. It's a lot like the movie industry, and we all know how much they love sequels.

Anonymous said...

Chosen stories and portal stories and labyrinth/tournament stories have their audience, just like spy stories and a story about a teacher who moves to Bangkok and learns (and teaches me) to connect with students and a culture which I have nothing in common with.

Personally, I like stories with forward momentum which tend to be the antithesis of stories told to savor the language. I'm also a fan of stories written by people from countries where English isn't the native language and stories about people who have life experiences which aren't possible for to me to have.

Author,

Write what speaks to you. Do it as well as you can.

With your query in the comments, I'm wondering if you switch main characters part way through your novel and hence if there are structural problems. This is form-letter rejection bad.

Does Ben Hur aka Slim run down the Crimson God with his chariot as a satisfying conclusion to the novel? Do you have a satisfying conclusion to the novel? If so, who is involved in that conclusion and what is the sequence of steps that lead to it?

What you need in the query are the first few of those steps connected in a logical sequence that give us a good idea where the story goes, why it goes there, with just enough background to tell us how the characters might get there. At the moment I see disparate elements that don't seem to be connected so I'm not sure if they're important to the story or are parts of subplots or background or what.

Good Luck

Mister Furkles said...

Yeah. I hear yawl. Crazy fantasy stories. Like witches predictions, kings murders, ghosts haunting castles, and the woods laying siege to a castle. What goofball would come up with that? ... Oh, yeah. Shakespeare. Forgot.

So, storytelling is not simple. Story ideas sell for what they are worth: $0.00. It's the implementation that counts. All that you've said matters. Great characters. High conflict. Constant tension. And a plot that intrigues the reader.

One problem with queries for epic fantasy is the desire of the authors to include all the spiffy stuff about the fantasy world. What is needed in a query plot description of 200 words: who is the main guy--pick one, what is the main conflict, what choice or dilemma is faced by the main guy, and what does s/he do about it? That's a lot for 200 words. So, author, forget about all the spiffy details and stick to the main character, the main conflict, and the dilemma faced by the MC.

khazarkhum said...

Anonymous--

Princess Rio had to enter the magic Labyrinth as a teenager. when she exited, she had a gift--invisibility--and a curse, colorblindness. Still, she becomes a master hunter with hopes of marrying her childhood friend Duke Leon.

Before the marriage can take place, Slim, a stranger, arrives. Er warns that the evil Crimson God has returned, and will soon conquer the kingdom. The Crimson God does just that, destroying everything and taking Slim, Leon and Rio prisoners.

Slim and Leon are forced to take place in a chariot duel to the death, with the winner claiming Rio as his bride. In the fury of the race, Slim accidentally kills Leon. Absorbed by the action, the Crimson God is stabbed to death by Rio, revealing him to be mortal. She and Slim, the secret son of the Crimson God, marry and rule their world in peace.

~200 words, and there's a plot, characters, and story. I gleaned it all from the Query.

You know, EE, that might be a fun exercise--write the storyline based on the query. Then we'll see how close we've come to the real one.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Kh, St0

I so dig your comments. Thanks for not crucifying me.

Just because someone wrote it doesn't mean I want to read it.

Who really cares about these alternate worlds? I don't. I want to read about real people in real situations and their real reactions. Not a piece of puff pastry(read author indulgence) that leaves me cold and unwilling to read on.

If you want to get published, you better figure out the market. And write for that.

So again, author, no disrespect meant here. But please give me a real story I can relate to.

Not some fantasy whatever.

This isn't your genre. I can't figure out the query and I'm pretty not bad in that area.

Write about your wonderful Gramma, her fruit pies, her holding her youngest son as he died in her arms, one of 8, after the new horse in the traces went nuts and her son fell under the new nag's heels.

Author, I do not want to criticize, but I am I guess.

I am happy you finished your ms. I would be more happy (happier) if you wrote a real tale I can relate to.

It has taken me 4 novels (3 of them shit) and years of writing to get a NY publisher interested in my latest. He can reject this current one. I hired an editor who worked with the publisher who said he would reread my first 50 pages if I went to this wonderful editor - who has best selling authors in his stable.

Will my ms be good enough? I do not know.

But I can tell you if it ain't your finest, it ain't your best. Hair pulling, head banging and all.

Good luck, I'd set this aside and get real - what deep secrets are you hiding you don't want anyone to know? Try writing about those.

Best,



Anonymous said...

K,

EE does that. Has - for a long time. Like years.

I personally would like to see Evil get down and really dirty - and spit out the truth in a not so nice way to wannabes.

But that's me. Saying that, a good jolt or two can really force you to hone your skills. And, painful as it may be that harsh, truthful, unemotional reality makes you write better.

So keep on hopefuls, Evil you are so balanced and truthful in your comments. Thanks, even though you might have a heart of pure EE. Which we all love,



InkAndPixelClub said...

Wilkins MacQueen> At the same time, just because you don’t want to read it doesn't mean no one does.

You clearly don’t like fantasy and that’s fine. But it doesn’t mean that there's no market for it and everyone should write nothing but realistic fiction. Everyone should write fiction with compelllng narratives and relatable characters. Fantasy can have that just as easily as any other genre. For every editor and reader who agrees with your stance on fantasy being indulgent and unrelatable, there's probably at least one who craves more imaginative stories of fantastical lands and thinks Nana and her pies and her dead kid are dull as dirt.

St0n3h3ng3 said...

There's a big market for fantasy if what I've seen on Kindle ebooks is any indication.

For some reason, though, poorly written fantasy seems worse than poorly written regular fiction.
It could be because we're comparing fantasy to the greats, like Tolkien.

Or it could be that, somewhere around the time Jardox goes down to the river Xingit to make a proclamation to the Flatherings about drawing territory lines in the land of Terrazzando while the rain pelts his vellusium and he shakes water from his dreppart, you just want to bang your head against the wall.