Friday, May 19, 2006

Face-Lift 26

Guess the Plot


1. Amy's Mom is horrified to discover she's picked up . . . ascanthia of the anus! Who else had Amy's Dad been with?

2. Acanthia is the hottest nightclub in town, until a shoot-out between rival boy-bands leaves four patrons dead. Ricky, a boy-bander with a heart of gold, struggles to prove his innocence with the help of his greatest fan.

3. A new online video game hypnotizes kids, leading them to believe they can fly. When gravity intrudes and parents complain, the manufacturer enlists the help of the ACLU in defending their rights.

4. It's up to Ken Randall to keep the evil vice president of a nearby city from using a magic gem that could destroy the world known as . . . Ascanthia.

5. In the fantastic jeweled city of Ascanthia, the child-ruler Atrasius must rouse a decadent populace and circumvent a corrupt senate, before the nomad queen Amarantha and her ruthless Askazi tribesmen reach the city's gates.

6. After Ascanthia escapes her dysfunctional and over-educated family by moving to the big city, only to find that her blue-collar workmates are just as messed-up, she parlays her common-sense approach to life into Internet success with the pseudonymous advice blog Ask Anthea.

Original Version

Dear Agent Nameless:

In the world of Ascanthia, all living creatures possess a great power called Energy. However, not all Energy is created equal. Strict regulations are placed on the use of Energy, and different Energies have different levels of respect. [It's always hard to critique these books in which the God-like Author creates a world that isn't governed by the usual natural order.

EE: "You're saying even roaches and toads and barnacles have this great power? That's ridiculous."

GLA: "And yet, in Ascanthia, it is thus."

EE: "Seems like it would be impossible to strictly regulate the use of Energy, when all living creatures have it."

GLA: "And yet, in Ascanthia, it is thus."

EE: "What if a cow misuses its Energy? Do they send it to the slaughterhouse? Do different species regulate their own? Or do people regulate the Energy use of all species? What do you mean by "levels of respect?" People with level 9 Energy respect thumb their noses at people with level 7 Energy respect? Can a healthy possum's Energy have a higher level of respect than a sick human's? If your dog's Energy has a higher respect level than your own, does he--"

GLA: "Asshole." ]

While most people accept these categories without thought, Ken Randall fights against his own label, positive that he is more than people believe. ["4?!! Why, I'm a level 6 on my worst day!"] However, when Ken's life turns upside down, and everything he thought was true becomes false, [For instance, he finds that his world is not called Ascanthia, but Connecticut, that he lives in New Haven, and his name is not Ken Randall, but Gargantua, Lord of the Dark Realm.] his objective changes to save the entirety of Ascanthia. [What is Ascanthia? A planet? A country?]

Ken learns of a mysterious gem, containing the power to steal an individual's Energy, leaving them as a mindless, violent puppet, controlled by the gem's possessor. When rumors appear that the vice president of a nearby city obtained the gem and plans to use it, [This is the threat menacing all of Ascanthia? That some guy is going to steal some other guy's Energy?] [Move the story from Ascanthia to Earth, and you've got the plot of Prison Break.] Ken is asked to stop the danger. [Ken is asked? The entire world is threatened, and they ask a lousy Level 4 Energy respect guy to handle it? They're out of their minds!] [And yet, so it is . . . on Ascanthia.] Knowing this fight could finally prove him as a hero, Ken accepts and begins an epic journey with his best friends to defeat evil. [An epic journey to a nearby city.] breaking into a church and battling a lethal monster in the process. [There's no way a lethal monster could be defeated by a guy named Ken. On Earth or on Ascanthia. Thus it has been professed by Evil Editor.]

I would be pleased to send you a complete copy of my manuscript for Ascanthia (word approx. 54,200) if you would be interested. I am also inquiring at a couple other agencies as well. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Evil Editor regrets that he doesn't know enough about Ascanthia to create a useful revised version of the query; however, perhaps the following could be adapted to the Ascanthian universe:

Revised Version

Dear Agent Nameless:

Ken Randall has been a lowly mail clerk in the basement of Ascanthia Corporation's home offices for twenty years. Ken just knows that he deserves to be the head of Shipping and Receiving, but he keeps getting passed over by people whose Education has a higher level of respect. However, when Ken "accidentally" opens a letter marked "Private," intended for the company vice president, and discovers that the vice president is planning a leveraged takeover of Ascanthia Corp., he springs into action. He organizes his fellow mail clerks and makes an epic whistle-blowing journey to the Securities and Exchange Commission, breaking into a brokerage firm and defeating Godzilla in the process. In the end, Ascanthia Corporation is saved, and while Ken remains a lowly mail clerk, he does find a fifty-dollar bonus in his next paycheck.

I would be pleased to send you the complete manuscript (word approx. 54,200). Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Anonymous said...

"People with level 9 Energy respect thumb their noses at people with level 7 Energy respect"... Does Ascanthia have anything to do with Scientology?

Seriously, though, I just snorted coffee on my monitor. Very funny! Thank you, EE.

Stacie Penney said...

Agent Kirstin from the Nelson Agency posted about a "Fantasy Exam" a while ago. It asks 74 questions about conventions that are common to fantasies. Seriously, this guy hit three of them. Just in the query.

No wonder "same but different" needs to stand out in the query.

Anonymous said...

Askance-ia. -JTC

Jenna Black said...

I never thought to use dialogue in my critiques before. If I could come up with one as hilarious as yours, my critque partners would be in big trouble, seeing as we meet over lunch! (Note to self: brush up on Heimlich manover before next meeting.)

Anonymous said...

after all this hard–boiled, smashingly honest critiques (which successfully demonstrate how ANY writing could be looked at as being ridiculous), I wonder some people still have the... energy to keep writing. Btw, EE, *cough*, have you thought of publishing your 'Face Lifts'? I'd like(read: I want) a copy with a personal dedication 'to the first Blog-reader that mentioned EE is himself a most talented writer'. Thank you in advance.

Evil Editor said...

EE merely awaits notification from an agent that a contract offer is imminent. (A contract whose terms include the provision that a plastic shield be included with each copy sold, as there seem to be an inordinate number of coffee spewers in EE's audience.)

Stacia said...

Sounds to me like Ken believes he's not a number, he's a free man.

(I know, I know. Groan. At least, groan for those that got the reference, puzzled, blank looks from those that didn't.)

Anonymous said...

Too funny, EE. That one was mine. It really helps to see it from somebody's point of view who hasn't read the book. Since I know what's in the book, I leave important stuff out (like that only humans can actually use Energy and why Ken is asked to find the gem. Hmmm. Maybe I should just rewrite the whole book with Ken the mailclerk. Thanks EE.

Flood said...

EE merely awaits notification from an agent that a contract offer is imminent.

That's too bad. I'd love to see EE's query letter.

Jessica, it's nice to see you took the revisions in good fun and got something tangible out of it. Will you resubmit a new query to EE? Does EE revise revised queries after he's revised them?

Anonymous said...

That was a very graceful response, Jessica. Good luck with the rewrites; you certainly have the professionalism to be a writer, given that you can take a ribbing and still focus on how to use it to improve your work.

And EE? That was tooooo funny! *iz still giggling madly*

Anonymous said...

I especially appreciated the rewrite of this query--a good reminder that this sort of fantasy needs to have a reason to be set elsewhere, or what's the point?

Anonymous said...

... And neither Yves nor commenters have yet called out the the "54,000 words" part.


What about the second half of the book? Is it a Saturday Evening Post serial, er sumpthin'?

54K is still solidly in novella territory, J.D. Jr.

Maybe you need a 20K word backstory preface?!? Yeah!!! Like the opening crawl of Star Wars, only longer!

Rei said...

You beat me to it, Dwight. An ideal SF/F first novel size is 100-110k. Yes, some people get 200-300k monsters in as their first book, and some people dip below 100k (I've seen one place that takes as low as 70k, although that's rare), but if you want to have half a shot at selling, go with 100-110k.

And yes, stay c, this is all horribly cliche. You might as well have a band of plucky adventurers discuss their plans to recover the Sword of Power from the Mountains of Death in order to strike down Lord Blackheart in his Fortress of Obsidian and retake their land in the name of their rightful leader who was separated from her parents at birth, Mari Siyuu.

Brenda said...

This has got to be one of the funniest I've read from EE - the dialogue had me rolling.

Jessica - good for you! Keep that positive attitude and you'll be wonderful for your future agent/editor to work with - you take the critism with a smile and work harder to improve based on the suggestions. What's not to love about that?