Thursday, November 30, 2006

Face-Lift 236

Guess the Plot

Wind Weaver

1. The new boutique in town, Zephyrus, has made a big hit with clothes that are lighter than air. But when her best friend is blown off a cliff by her new skirt, Ariadne sets out to find the source of the fabric--and discovers a secret that will rock the climatology community to its core.

2. Bubba Herman and five of his buddies have been booted from the varsity football team for too much partying. But will the school principal let them on the field at half-time during the big game to demonstrate their precision farting routine?

3. A sentient pirate ship named Wind Weaver sails through enemy territory, desperately searching for a new captain.

4. A shocking exposé of the appalling conditions in the textile mill where the fabric for the emperor's new clothes is manufactured, narrated by an seven-year-old thread cutting gnome named Smick.

5. Colonel Huffelrump's insatiable appetite for spicy curry has led to digestive problems, but it's his daughter, Lady Martita Gasbag, who is found in poisoned gastric distress. Before expiring, she leaves a cryptic clue. The air is thick with suspicion and it is up to nosy spinster Amelia Pettipants to sniff out the culprit.

6. A bashful seamstress eats one too many helpings of bean-kabob at lunch. When she returns to her loom on the factory floor, flatulent hilarity ensues! Also, a farting dragon!

Original Version

Dear Mr Evil,

Wind Weaver is a Fantasy novel, complete at 120,000 words.

Sentient pirate ship Wind Weaver delights in chasing down her prey, but when Captain Grace Hallery dies, the Weaver must run a different race -- to find Grace's only surviving son before the ship fades and dies.

A sentient ship fades within weeks of losing its captain, and only a close blood relative will serve as a replacement. The Weaver must risk a voyage through enemy territory [Isn't everywhere enemy territory when you're a pirate?] to find the baby abandoned fifteen years before. Nobody on board knows his name, or what happened to him, yet the Weaver is adamant they will be reunited. [So, your main character is . . . a boat? After it figures out where the kid is, does it send a sentient rickshaw to pick him up and bring him down to the docks?]

Nate is a fifteen year old servant boy on the run. Caught between smugglers out to kill him, and an elfman who might eat him and whose round-eyed mate claims his ship talks, Nate chooses the less immediate threat. [Less immediate because the elfman marinates you overnight before killing you.]

Which is how Nate finds himself captain of an opinionated pirate ship, [I see the ship as a combination of Foghorn Leghorn and Krusty the Clown: "Swab, Ah say swab my decks, boys, and someone get those barnacles off my aft, they're killing me. Oy."] manned by a crew that doesn't care for him. Satyrical first mate Henry resents a boy usurping the command that should be his. When an accident strands Nate onshore, his beloved Weaver is forced up the coast, and beached. ["Get, Ah say get me off this reef before Ah get tubeworms! Hello? Have any of you schmucks ever even heard of biofouling? Oy, it's the crew from hell."] Separated from her captain, she will soon fade, and Henry can claim her wooden carcass for his own. [Not clear what "fades" means. Becomes transparent? Vanishes? What does the carcass consist of? Does Henry know there'll be nothing left but a carcass if he takes over?] Those still faithful to the Weaver need to reunite her with Nate before she dies. [Ah, Ah say, Ah'm fading. Where's that shmegegi of an elfman with my new captain? You can't get good help nowadays, even when you threaten to keelhaul 'em."] Then all Nate has to do is confront the man he fears most, and win over the ship and the rest of her crew.

I am a editor and slush reader for ---------- Magazine, and I've had a couple of short stories published in science fiction and fantasy magazines. In writing Wind Weaver, I have drawn on some of the experience I've gained while crewing on the [sentient] brig ---------.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


It's clearly written, and I suspect those who can accept a talking pirate ship will want to check it out. Though it seems a bit long for a book about a talking pirate ship.

Wind Weaver is a decent name for a ship, but calling it The Weaver isn't so impressive. I doubt the crews of the Golden Hind and the Titanic referred to their ships as the hind and the tit.


Anonymous said...

By golly, I had no idea which was the real plot until I looked. A sentient pirate ship, on the heels of the sentient bar of soap, was the one I was sure it wasn't.

I don't really get this story at all, and I don't think the query is as clear as Evil says it is. I was pretty confused about the talking boat, Nate, etc.

Kate Thornton said...

"I doubt the crews of the Golden Hind and the Titanic referred to their ships as the hind and the tit."

OMG, EE - you make me convulse!

Anonymous said...

I too thought the query was confusing and contained too much detail. Also, not sure what you mean by satyrical -- does he bear the physical characteristics of a satyr? Or is he just licentious?

Finally, "I am a editor" bodes ill. Remember to proofread.

Anonymous said...

"I am a editor." How did I miss that? LOL Love the satyr too.

Stacia said...

I don't get it--if the ship fades away, and only the blood relative of the captain can keep it from doing so, how can the first mate take it over? Even the skeleton? Why doesn't he just build his own ship and power it with his own energy or whatever?

PJD said...

I wasn't confused at all, except for the bit about a talking, thinking ship that needs a crew to sail it. How does such a boat come into being? Is it born as a rowboat and grows into a ship? OK, I'll ignore that line of questioning for now, though I would like to know what good a sentient ship is if it can't sail itself.

It seemed pretty clear to me on first reading that the captain of the ship has died, and if a blood relative isn't found, the spirit in the ship will "die" leaving behind a regular old non-sentient boat. It's a quest adventure type story, with two main characters (the boy and the boat) converging for an assumed happily ever after.

My problem is that I have a really, really hard time caring. I don't relate to sentient boats. I get that the boat doesn't want to "fade," but why should any of the people in the story care whether it does or doesn't, beyond who gets to sail it? And if it becomes a non-sentient "carcass" (regular boat, I'm guessing), and you can still sail it, well... um...

I'm not sure I see any reason for the 15-year-old to have any particular attachment to the boat. He was abandoned at birth. Where was the boat when that happened? Didn't it stick up for the baby? Or did it just want to chase down its prey and forget the baby?

When and how does the "opinionated pirate ship" become Nate's "beloved Weaver"? The last part about "those faithful to the Weaver" implies that the ship does have a compelling character, one that men will follow like a captain. But it's unclear to me why Nate would have to win over the ship and the crew if the ship and the crew are dead-set on reuniting them to begin with.

Finally, what about those NOT faithful to the Weaver? Why doesn't one of them just kill Nate? They're pirates, after all! In fact, I don't really understand why Henry doesn't just bump Nate off when they first meet. The ship dies, and Henry gets the carcass, and the crew gets to continue to be pirates. Problem solved.

All in all, I guess I can see that it could hang together with strong characters, but generally it seems like a contrived plot with a lot of holes. I'd like to get a sense of the characters in the query.

kiss-me-at-the-gate said...

Pirate Captian Grace Hallery immediately brings to mind real-life pirate captian Grace O'Malley. While it's not a bad thing to make me think of, it's so close you might want to change it just so it doesn't seem like you're copying wholesale.

The idea of the sentient ship made me think of Robin Hobb's Liveship trilogy... but the connection there is more tenuous, so you're probably all right.

It sounded pretty interesting, although I'd agree with the first anonymous and nitpicker that it was a bit confusing.

GutterBall said...

...referred to their ships as the hind and the tit.

Oh, there goes the Hawaiian punch again. Right out the nose. Thanks alot, Mr. Evil.

And I think I'll stick to the Black Pearl for my ship of choice. It's worth a soul that's worth a hundred souls, so that's good enough for me.

Maybe this is just because I'm a closet pirate-aholic, but ships don't need to be sentient to be compelling characters in a story. If it's written well, and if love for the sea is built into a story, and if the captain and/or crew is fascinating enough, a ship takes on a life and worth of its own without being sentient. Heck, captains/crew tend to talk about their ships as if they were sentient anyway. It's a romance of the sea and the bark that carries them across it.

I mean, to me, the Black Pearl is just as much a character of the PotC movies as Captain Jack Sparrow, and it's not sentient at all. And that's just the most recent ship-oriented movie I've seen. Most are like that.

But hey, I haven't read any of your story, so the opinionated ship might well be fabulous. It just sounds like you might be better off focusing on Nate as a main character instead of the WW for query purposes.

Your mileage may vary.

Word ver: rjdfu - it's like kung fu, but not as fluid.

Bethany K. Warner said...

Sentient ships. Already read those books. Robin Hobb's Liveship trilogy...

Anonymous said...

Picture Hal from 2001 with a bit more zing, on a wooden ship with elves. I can dig it. And the idea of a sentient ship "fading" isn't that different from when they switch off Hal. After that, it's just a boat, right?

The story sounds neat, and I didn't find the letter confusing. The one thing that had me scratching my head was the genre. Fantasy, sure. But is it YA? Seems to me with a 15-year-old protagonist and the plot elements here, that's the audience that would initially read this. It might develop an adult following, like the Harry Potter books did, but it feels like a YA book. If it is, you need to state that. If it isn't, why not? Is there explicit sex in it or something?

none said...

I love the idea that an idea can only be written about once. Oh, your story has people in it. Sorry, already read that.

Anonymous said...

Buffysquirrel said...Oh, your story has people in it. Sorry, already read that.


Or is it snap!

Oh, hell, I feel old right now.

Anonymous said...

Robin Hobb didn't invent the idea either. She probably got it from Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang (which if sentient ships don't float your boat, will give you the galloping bejabbers).

Anonymous said...

If the ship could write, oh, the stories it would tell... All those adventures... and parrot poop. I wonder, also, I would love to read whether the pirates get seasick.

Seriously, I don't know how you editors do it. I would need a beginning to poke at.

Xenith said...

I've had to away overnight and I know this would come up while I was gone.

Less immediate because the elfman marinates you overnight before killing you.

I think I used that joke myself :\

Thank you though! I feel much better about sending it out now

Xenith said...

nitpicker: both (and this is why we have proofreaders ;)

pjd: I have a 120,000 word document explaining all that, I think that might be a tad long for a query letter though

kate: I had the same thought the first time I put her name together. I've tried changing it, but she sticks her fingers in her ears and refuses to cooperate.

Dave Fragments said...

question: When you say "Satyrical first mate Henry" do you mean
Satyr or Satire? Is the ship crewed by elfs, commanded by a Satyr, and captained by humans? How many other different races are in the story?

And if I read the query correctly, the Windweaver loses the mother, finds the son and then loses him again? I wasn't clear on that.

Anonymous said...

Well, the idea isn't new, as others have said, but you could make it work. I can think of four different books/series which use the concept, though. The idea of a pirate ship might work, but I don't know if we are talking an Evil Empire mileau (where being on the wrong side of the law is somewhat heroic) or the ship's role is something else. Just being a pirate ship may not be enough, or perhaps I should say it may be too much. The reader needs to empathise with the ship somewhat, at least.

It sounds workable, but you don't give us a plot here, you give us the background. What, exactly, is the plot?

Anonymous said...

I think this story sounds appealing, but I do think the sentences in the query are a bit hard to parse. I would try to clean that up and clarify the plot. In other words, prove you can write a nice, clear sentence, since probably your book is also made up of sentences...

Xenith said...

Dave: satyr (satyrical satyr?), it doesn't work that well as an adjective :\ We also have a half-elf (torn between being human & elf, of course), dragons, some discussions about the existence of mermaid, smugglers, a mother who smothers her babies (which is why she only has one son), the obligatory navy captain seeking revenge, & a train. Not that the train is part of the plot, but one needs a train.

And yes, you read the query correctly

Anonymous said...

The difference with both Anne McCaffrey and Robin Hobb to this premise is that they both fleshed the sentient-ship idea out and provided explanation. Hobb in particular made her sentient ships entirely plausible within her world, and the How of their existence was part of the point of the books.

I don't know if this author is able to come up with something truly original to explain it, cause fantasy readers are very discerning for the most part and can see through a plot hole and a flimsy idea straight away.

Anonymous said...

Having read The Ship Who Sang (and watched the show Andromeda), I don't have any trouble with sentient ships. However, I do tend to assume you mean a SPACE ship. I know you refered to this as a Fantasy, and many people believe that fiction set in space is by definition sci-fi, but there are fantasy books set in space.

Also, I'm having a lot of trouble with the sentence: "Caught between smugglers out to kill him, and an elfman who might eat him and whose round-eyed mate claims his ship talks, Nate chooses the less immediate threat."

It has too many 'ands'. At first glance it looks like he has three choises. It also contains too much information. 'Elfman' - ok. Tells me this is a fantasy world inhabited by more than just humans. But 'who might eat him'? Elves on the Atkins Diet might be important to the story, but do you have to mention it here? It clutters up the sentence. And what do you mean by 'round-eyed'?

Seems to me the important bit is that Nate is being threatened by smugglers and he meets a loon who thinks his ship talks.

Which brings up another point - is this ship the only sentient one? If not, why does Nate appear to doubt (based on the word 'claims') that the ship talks? And if the ship needed the captain's heir to stay alive, why did the captain abandon her kid?

I'm interested, but also confused.