Thursday, March 01, 2007
Guess the Plot
1. Some people inherit lovely children and Italian villas, but not Omn Turner. All he gets from Mary after 20 years of devotion is 15 dollars, a deaf poodle, and six smelly overcoats.
2. A soldier and a dragonslayer embark upon an epic quest to locate "Omn's Tears," the key to preventing the power-hungry emperor from unleashing a disastrous magic that could unravel all of creation.
3. The other kids teased Omnipuplotto Smirnichovich every day of first grade and he cried so much it ruined his entire life. For second grade, his parents shorten his name to Omn Smir, but the damage is done. He goes on to become The Sobbing Serial Killer.
4. Omn is more than human: he is an immortal embodying the spirit of Yoga. Returning to mortal form in the year 2008, he weeps at the physical state of mankind's midriff and vows to bring Yoga to everyone who has reached the age of majority.
5. When Omn, the moon god, cries, his tears turn to silver-blue flowers called Omn's Tears. When Ro'od finds sixteen Omn's Tears in a perfect circle, she alone understands the omen. Can she find the newly born Chosen One before the evil sorcerer destroys him?
6. Dressmaker to the Queen, Omnibus Pajamay has everything she could wish for--until her tears are found to render fabric colorfast and shrink-proof. Now it's the rack for Omn--and not the one in the closet.
Attn. [Agent Name],
I read that you represent works of fantasy, among other genres. My novel, OMN'S TEARS, is a 114,000 word epic fantasy. The sequel, BIRTH OF DARKNESS, is nearing completion, and the third installment is in the planning stages. [The fourth book in the series is currently the gleam of an idea I had last week while bowling. Book five will be based on a dream that I can no longer remember. And the final installment will be written by my as-yet-unborn child.]
The Adiran Enforcers used to be an organization of justice and peace, but when Captain Ryon begins asking too many questions about his recent missions, his eyes are finally opened to the brutality of his fellow soldiers and superiors alike. [Apparently the questions he asked were, What was all that agonized screaming I heard coming from the brig last night? and How come when I came out of the bathroom this morning, everyone on this entire planet had been annihilated?] Now the very people who have long been his comrades-in-arms have become the enemy. [On the other hand, those who have long been his enemies are still his enemies.]
Kain never cared about another living soul in his life. But when the Enforcers hire him to track down the last remaining dragon in Adira, for the first time in his dragon-slaying career he finds himself at a dragon's mercy, bargaining for his life. Forced into helping this dragon track down the information she wants,
[Dragon: You killed my parents, my brothers and sister, and every other dragon in Adira. And you came here to kill me. Now burn!
Kain: Hey, wait a minute, I'll make a deal with you.
Dragon: What kind of deal?
Kain: You let me live, and I'll assist you in tracking down some information. Any information you want. I'm great at finding out stuff.
Dragon: Hmm, I'm dying to know who won the big jousting tournament.]
Kain finds himself in a web of trouble, the least of which is his captor. [A giant spider.] [If his captor is the least of his troubles, shouldn't you be telling us about the most?]
But when Ryon, Kain, and company [Ryon, Kain and company? Kain's working for the Enforcers, and the Enforcers are now Ryon's enemy. How are they in the same company? Why are they in the same company? Who else is in this company? The dragon?] meet an enchanting woman from a mythical realm, [If you're in a realm that has dragons, it takes a bit of nerve to refer to someone else's realm as mythical.] they finally discover the truth: [This makes it sound like they've been searching long and hard for this "truth." The truth about what? There's been no indication that they were after any truth.] the Emperor, in his lust for power, is on the verge of unleashing a disastrous magic that may unravel all of creation. The only way to save their world is to find the remnant power of the Creator, Himself: Omn's Tears. [Which is what? Jewels? An object? Does the enchanting woman tell them where to look? After they find it, do they have to throw it into Mount Doom?]
Most of my writing experience has been in the realm of scientific analysis and journals, due to my graduate student work in physics at University of California, Irvine, from which I currently hold a Master's Degree. This is my first novel.
I would be delighted to send you a full manuscript (or a partial and synopsis) for your consideration. Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you.
So, apparently Kain and Ryon are searching for answers to something, and having no luck. Out of nowhere an enchanting woman appears and fills them in. How convenient. Maybe she should go find the Tears of Omn, whatever they are.
Something's going on that leads Kain and Ryon to work together to try to get answers. Early signs of the unraveling of creation? We need to know what that is.
Amazing how much easier it is to accept a world in which there are dragons than a world in which there are dragons seeking information.
Posted by Evil Editor at 3:31 PM
Labels: Epic Fantasy
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Dragons are easily distracted. Dangle an enchanting woman in front of one, and you can, well, kill it while it's engrossed. Of course, the enchanting woman gets fried in the process, but that's life.
From what I've seen on the blogs of Snark and other agents, it might be a best to stay mum about the envisioned sequels and focus all the space and energy in your query on the one book. If they like it, they'll chat you up about what else is brewing. Likewise, discussion of the day job and nonfiction can wait.
The characters have interesting qualities but you need to provide more information about what they do and how they get involved with each other. This query's like an equation that includes a list of entities a b c but not the operational signs + - x that govern their relationships so we don't know how they get combined into a coherent unit. I'm guessing this is one of those plots in which "unexpected alliances" are somehow formed between the main characters, who clearly start off with nothing in common. We have no clue how they get from nothing-in-common to united-in-a-mission-to-save-the-world.
I'm assuming you plan to sustain this long long series by making sure they never quite save the world, so I'm hoping there is some intermediate goal of sufficient magnitude to give this first story a satisfactory beginning middle end structure, but I don't know what that goal is. Lots of miscellaneous characters running around swashbuckling and zapping each other with death rays can be amusing but that gets old fast if they're stock characters and there seems to be no particular point to the action. As the query is, I fear the book might be a lot of miscellaneous scenes strung together to make one long long long long beginning.
Uh dragons, ooooh!
a) Ryan (ooops, Ryon to be different), a cop, policeman, goon, enforcer discovers how brutal he is.
b) Kain, a bum? A horny goof? A dragonslayer meets the manslayer dragon. Rather than just pan fry Kain or feast on Kain’s entrails, the dragon lets him live. These are, after all, civilized beasts.
c) A mystic woman (with no name but that’s OK she has big tits. - - - - Sue me for being a male chauvinist pig later.) does that hoodoo and voodoo that they do so well...
Well, they all find themselves, by coincidence, in the same Adira shopping mall (it could be a grass shack in Kokomo, the poor neighborhood of Adira). And coincidently form a quest to find the last remnant of creation to save the universe from a Wizard who just happens to in town and more than slightly megalomaniacal. And how do they find the las remnant of a god that disappeared? Since it’s Omn’s Tears, I’m guessing that someone “has” or “has to” shed tears in some magical way while confronting the evil, wicked wizard. Maybe, it’s a crystalline jewel in a mystic forest glen.
Ah! Grasshopper! It is the journey and not the destination. And, it’s the way the characters change and develop on the journey. How does Ryon pay for his unknown brutality? How does Kain repent for killing all the dragons? How does the mystic Babe improve with the quest. Most interesting, Does the dragon get the girl? Do Kain an Ryon fall in love (hey, it could be a counter-culture novel). Has this comment sunk to “inquiring minds want to know.”
There have to be reasons for these characters to interact. I’m sure you have them, I just can’t find them in your query.
The Adiran Enforcers used to be an organization of justice and peace...
Read all the comments on the new beginnings. They will tell you not to start with backstory. Doubly so for queries.
EE summarized your hook in GTP#2. You should use GTP#2 as the seed for your query. Add in the character motivations, what brings the characters together, and the critical plot points, and you'll have a much more concise and focused letter.
I loved GTP #3 - You can't say "Omnipuplotto Smirnichovich" out loud without grinning. At least I can't.
It seems to me that GTP #5 would be a great plot for a fantasy novel.
With my query-writing skills at the level they are (i.e., subterranean) - making any comments on your query would be like asking someone severely lacking in social skills to lead group discussions at a weekend therapy retreat.
I've also got a master's in physics (high temperature superconductivity; how 'bout you? :-) )and write fantasy. However, unless you're writing hard science fiction, I don't think there's much point in mentioning your degrees in your query letter.
What I've heard is, if you have no publication credits, and no directly relevant experience, the biography paragraph can be omitted. Scientific papers (alas) don't count as publication credits.
Alternately, you can make your bio paragraph extremely short, noting only a few interesting facts about yourself (in no detail) and saying that the book is a first novel. That leaves more room for describing the book itself. Hurrah!
Finally, I'll ditto what the anonymouse said regarding not mentioning sequels. Your agent has to sell the first book. Then, that book has to sell well enough for the publisher to be willing to put out the second. Mentioning sequels in a query is a serious case of putting the cart before the horse. The agent is only concerned with whether the first book is saleable or not.
You could mention that the book has potential as a series, or that it's a stand-alone first novel in an envisioned trilogy, but that's all.
First off, I warn the author that this is a comment that will be of no help to him or herself in improving their query. I'm just amusing myself. Verbally.
With that out of the way, Anonymous 11:56 AM said,"This query's like an equation that includes a list of entities a b c but not the operational signs + - x that govern their relationships." I agree with this statement, but with the author's physics background, it also makes me want to do lots of different voices.
The main one is a sort of Jack Nicholson doing a stoner impression, saying, "It's like you're Newton and ya got your force and your mass, but ya GOT NO gravitational constant, man!"
Or perhaps the valley girl teen saying, "it's like totally like you know you got particles which are comPLETEly subatomic, but your strong force? so not here."
Huh. I thought I'd have more than that. But the well's run dry. That's why Robin Williams is a comedian and I'm a blog commenter.
I'm probably the only one bothered by a certain "but" in a certain sentence, but...
Kain never cared about another living soul in his life. But when the Enforcers hire him to track down the last remaining dragon in Adira, for the first time in his dragon-slaying career he finds himself at a dragon's mercy
I can't help picturing Kain falling head over heels in... care... for the dragon at first sight.
bargaining for his life. bargaining for his life. Forced into helping this dragon
Now he sounds like a masochist.
I'd like to hear more about the Emperor (if he's the main antagonist, that is) and his motivations. Unless he's ignorant or unhinged, why is he trying to unleash magic that will destroy a world he wants to rule?
Also, this may flow better if you mention fewer characters. For example, the enchanting woman only crops up in the query for Ryon, Kain & Co. to discover the truth. Why not just have: But when Ryon, Kain & Co. finally discover the truth etc etc? It'll sound less like a lady ex machina and more like they worked for it.
If the guy gets a crush on that dragon, look through the 20 or so "facelifts" proceeding yours and you'll find discussion of the merits of that particular twist.
Wow. I feel decidedly under-educated after reading some of these comments.
I was worried it was going to be #5. Again.
No doubt I've read too many of these query things, if no where as many as an agent/editor must read, but they too often sound the same. Not surprising because they seem to use the same words & phrases. Dare I say it, cliche-ridden.
begins asking too many questions
his eyes are finally opened
finds himself in a web of trouble
finally discover the truth
is on the verge of unleashing
the only way to save the world is to find
How can you expect a query to stand out from all the others when it sounds just like them?
(And why is it always the last dragon? Obviously the fault of dragon slayers, but just once, can't we have the second last dragon?)
[The fourth book in the series is currently the gleam of an idea I had last week while bowling. Book five will be based on a dream that I can no longer remember. And the final installment will be written by my as-yet-unborn child.]
Didn't we have this joke in an earlier facelift?
And why is it always the last dragon? Obviously the fault of dragon slayers, but just once, can't we have the second last dragon?
Of course, you're referring to the father of Arthur: Uther Penultimatedragon.
But it's always the last because the story always takes place before the Endangered Species Act took effect.
Never mind Endangered Species--if a species has exactly one example surviving, it's already extinct. Unless that she-dragon just happens to be pregnant, and dragons, like Adam & Eve's offspring, aren't averse to a bit of incest.
Didn't we have this joke in an earlier facelift?
I think most of EE's jokes are his way of making a point. In this case, the point being that telling an agent you have a novel in the planning stages doesn't improve your standing much more than telling her you have an idea for another novel. What makes the Face-Lifts entertaining, among other things, is that when EE has to make the same point, he doesn't use the exact same words, but finds new amusing ways to do so.
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