Monday, May 22, 2006

Q & A 17 Who's next?

Guess the Plot


1. Thou shalt not kill, so GABRIEL does everything but. Armed with stun guns and a rubber chicken, he goes to war against the Clown Cartel.

2. Doctor Death, the self-proclaimed lord of crime, finally meets his nemesis –The Deity. Will Death bow to The Deity’s commandment - “Thou shalt not kill!” -?

3. Detective Jane Simms stalks a ruthless serial killer who bashes prostitutes over the head with a stone tablet.

4. Satan does have a charming side, and Alice fell for it. Telling her parents about her new boyfriend will not be easy.

5. 4 faiths + 6 religious leaders = what else? Planetary war!

6. When “Thou Shalt Not Steal” is carved into a dead thief’s chest, Detective Moses Wilson must find the killer before nine more sinners die.

I'm sure everyone knows you're backed up beyond belief, but for those of us who have submitted queries for your destruction, is there any way for you to let us know who's still in the running for a critique and who has to find a hanky and wipe their tears away knowing they didn't make your cut?

Evil Editor is a bit disorganized. He seems to have lost the query letter for a book entitled, Schooled. (If it's yours, resend, please). While searching for it, he came across a query for Reality Bites, which he hadn't included in his list of Queued Queries.

Evil Editor hasn't discarded any queries; he looks through all of them periodically. But there are those he passes over each time because:

1. They're very brief. (Which is fine if you normally attach a synopsis, but it doesn't provide much material for EE's critique.)
2. They're not half bad, meaning Evil Editor's write-up won't be filled with the hilarity his readers demand. (As is the case with this write-up, by the way.)

In an effort to reduce the size of the queue, Evil Editor presents below the authors' plots for four fantasy novels that he probably never would have gotten to, along with some notes that apply to at least some of them.

Dioscuri: Neophyte

When his over-reaching mentor is killed by a new species of demon, Braedyn, an unremarkable neophyte among the powerful and sorcerous Elect is sent by their king to find his master’s exiled blood brother, Timberal. Braedyn travels to the island Ryaln with an ambitious assassin named Rapture to unwind the mystery of the demons and his master’s past. Braedyn recounts his education in the northern, foreign, city of Enodian and his encounters with its secretive people and dangerous creatures. The three Elect, Braedyn, Rapture and Timberal sail for the mainland. The past is not long escaped as the mystery surrounding Braedyn’s two mentors, dead and new, unwinds. Braedyn must reconcile the experiences of his past with the potential of his future.

Eagle’s Heart

Alena Toh’Kendrew is King Viroun’s Master tracker. It is a job in which she is quite skilled, but her visits to court hold a deeper promise than just employment. Her forays into Agnesian politics afford her the opportunity to search for her Line, her heritage and family name, and find out what is causing the amazing luck she seems to be experiencing. But when another lead turns into disappointment, Alena is ready to leave court for the quiet life of the monastery where she was raised. What Alena doesn’t realize is that while she returns home, forces are gathering beyond Agnesia’s borders that will change her life.

The kingdom of Walbrigge and the zealous religious leader, Shakbaan Belsed, are locked in a power struggle. Belsed is using King Gannon’s brother, Judasei, as a puppet, and after Judasei’s armies force the Walbriggan royal family to retreat to Agnesia, Judasei steals the throne. Prince Benedek asks King Viroun for someone to track spies he is sure will have information on Belsed’s plans, and Alena is asked to return to court to take the mission. What follows is a quest to save Walbrigge and the world from Belsed’s plans to use the Eagle’s Heart to open a gateway for a god, Malin’gar. It is also Alena’s quest to discover her Line and how to control her growing, magical powers.


Brennus, the leader of the Elite, has always feared the power of the orphaned miscreants congregating in the Underground, the ruins left after the war. When they unite under an unlikely leader, he has no choice but to exterminate them. His brother, Nocturne, does not see things that way, and when he falls in love with Blue, the reluctant leader, he is forced to choose between loyalty to an ideal and the woman championing it or to an oppressive system manifested in his brother. The decision isn't hard, but the repercussions are. Add to this conspiring advisors and an independent younger sister who is determined to undermine the sexist authority of the Elite, and the Underground seems like the least of Brennus's problems.

But where power divides a family, sometimes not even love can rebuild it. As Nocturne and his sister fight Brennus for their own reasons, they put an end to his plans and eventually, to the man. All that's left is to pick up the pieces… easier said than done in a world where blood means little and even the smartest of men is simply a fool waiting to be unmasked.


For thousands of years, the Church of Torin has retained absolute control over its followers, but when Tarille, brother to the Favored Son, is left in charge in his brother's absence, his actions trigger a cascade of events that lead to open warfare among Torin's Children.
Commandment explores the conflict between public duty and personal liberty through the lives of six leaders of four different faiths on a world where the thirteen powers that shaped the universe still hold direct sway over the Children they created. As brothers, lovers, and friends are forced to choose sides in a conflict that threatens one of the most powerful religions on the planet, the stability of other faiths are rocked as another young radical draws inspiration from Tarille and begins a revolution of his own. The gods themselves are called to take sides as the priesthoods fall into turmoil. At the heart of the conflict, both Tarille and his brother are drawn into love affairs that go against every law they were raised to follow. As the church dissolves around them, they are pushed steadily towards a final confrontation that will change life for the Children of Torin forever.

(Evil Editor has deleted those portions of the letters that don't advance the plot.)


Some display better writing than others, but they're all difficult to improve upon without access to more information.

These might make good outlines from which to create longer synopses, but as the only plot description, they don't distinguish themselves from each other. The problem with describing a fantasy novel in a paragraph or two may come when the author tries to bring too many characters and settings, most of them with unpronounceable names, into the description. Concentrate on the hero, the villain, and the conflict. Compare these one-paragraph Lord of the Rings descriptions (which Evil Editor has just thrown together, and he doesn't want any LOR experts telling him he messed up the facts):

A hobbit named Frodo Baggins comes into possession of The One Ring. Knowing the Ring is needed by Sauron, the Dark Lord, in order to lead the forces of evil to domination of Middle Earth, Frodo sets out for Mount Doom, the only place where the ring can be destroyed. Accompanied by a small party of stalwart allies, Frodo must overcome monstrous creatures, Sauron's armies, and the seductive spell of the ring itself to complete his epic adventure.

A great quest is undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf, a wizard; Merry, Pippin, and Sam, Frodo's hobbit friends; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a mysterious man called Strider. The Fellowship must cross the lands of Rohan, Gondor, and Rivendell to bring The One Ring to Mordor, where it must be dropped into the fires of Mount Doom, preventing Sauron, the Dark Lord, from completing his dominion over Middle Earth. The Fellowship battle an army of Sauron's orcs at Helm's Deep, face constant threats from Gollum, the ring's previous holder, who desperately wants it back, and cross mountains, swamps, forests and rivers to reach their final goal.

Now imagine you'd never read the book or seen the movie, and all of the names were strange to you, which is the case when an editor is reading your query. Additional information is a good thing, but if the simpler description were expanded, it should be by adding more about Frodo's quest, and maybe one more character, say Gandalf or Aragorn, not by cluttering it with numerous people and places and minor events.

And now, Evil Editor will attempt to get something amusing out before the end of the day.


Lea said...

Hey EE,

Since you are so overwhelmed, it looks like you need an evil editorial assistant. I'll gladly take the job. I have worked as an unpaid intern, 40 hours a week, for the past 6 months at a literary agency in New York. I'm as evil and bitter as they come, especially when dealing with hopeful aspiring authors, everything you need in an evil editorial assistant!

Evil Editor said...

The point of working 40 hrs. a week without pay, Silly, was to gain the experience needed to get a job working 40 hours a week with pay. Not to move "up" to a job working 56 hrs./wk. without pay.

Lea said...

Yes, that was the original point, of course, but that is much easier said than done. The number of jobs offering pay are few and far between and there are hundreds of applicants for just one position. The number of jobs offering "experience" with no pay are plentiful. I've become accustomed to being slave labor.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

"The problem with describing a fantasy novel in a paragraph or two may come when the author tries to bring too many characters and settings, most of them with unpronounceable names, into the description."

Heh. There's a reason I've decided to go against convention and give the characters in my fantasy WIP names like Fritz, Rodger, Thomas, and Lilac.

Well, there's actually two reasons, the second being that I want to give names different regional flavors, and the easiest way I could think of doing that was to give characters names that corresponded to different real-world places.

Anonymous said...

Can someone let that one novelist know - he/she cannot name an evil King Gannon.

You may recall that Gannon often terrorized the land of Hyrule and a certain Princess Zelda.

Anonymous said...

Here’s the problem with the two examples from LOTR: They are both dull, dull, dull.

While the second one is too crammed with names and details to be useful, the first one is too bland. If I were reading that paragraph as a query, I would pass over it. There is nothing there to suggest that it is full of emotion, courage and loyalty – the kind that stays with you for years after you’ve finished it.

Tolkien was one of the greatest writers of our time… but if his query looked like that, he’d never get published because no one would ask for a partial.

Anonymous said...

The author of the character Nocturne might want to be aware that Silhouette is releasing a new line called Nocturne. You may still choose to use a name that will be emblazoned on the cover of several new paranormal novels (not short Sil romances) every month, but at least you'll know!

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

So, if you don't post our queries, can we assume those not posted do not suck (that much?)

Evil Editor said...

If Evil Editor were trying to create a query letter for Lord of the Rings that would get a request for a partial, he certainly would have written more than three sentences. He was merely trying to make a point applicable to the four query letters above.

Query letters that don't get critiqued will probably get mentioned in some regard. It would be nice if everyone who submits could get input of some kind, even if it's not a full write-up.

Anonymous said...

There is really no need for EE to be backed-up beyond all belief given that we can infer, from make-over XXX, that his medicine cupboard contains a box of ex-lax.

Anonymous said...

I have worked as an unpaid intern, 40 hours a week, for the past 6 months at a literary agency in New York.

What do you *eat*? I can only assume that's what happens to manuscripts that have no SASE or are otherwise slated for recyling. Are they any more palatable with ketchup?

I thought the example LOTR paragraphs actually made the point very well; I think a lot of people who are otherwise quite organized hit a mental block when trying to describe the work in a few paragraphs.

michael gavaghen said...

Does anyone else wonder how sf/f writers come up with the names for their characters and planets and dark lords? I think I figured it out: Look to the right of the comments page on Evil Editor's blog, and locate the word verification code. Mine right now is a-r-e-o-c-h.

Areoch: grim planet of the seventh hesitation, where the meek Ecitines once fled for protection, before being bred as an entire race of pool skimmers.

Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho said...


hlspwzyg: a poor intelligent equine with no friends, becaue nobody can pronounce his name, not even he himself.

Brenda said...

Michael figured out the secret. Who told?!

Anonymous said...


Of course he doesn't eat the manuscripts with ketchup--ketchup's expensive and completely overshadows the flavor of the writing. As for those SASEs he does receive, well, I've heard stamp glue is very nutritious.

Anonymous said...

Best way to think up SFF names: get baby-name book from every language you can think of, then jigger the spelling a little.

And Gannon isn't such a bad guy--my son realized that after watching a short on Crying at a slumber party. Aww.