Sunday, June 03, 2007

Face-Lift 347

Guess the Plot

Bear Tamer

1. They call Vincent Forrester II the Bear Tamer--he knows how to make money even when the market is down. But when it comes to love, he's never been serious until Tatiana comes to work for him. Can this fiery Russian tame the bear tamer?

2. A seventeen-year-old girl--and her bear--is the only hope of the world as an evil tyrant seeks to unleash a plague of destruction. Also, a werewolf.

3. When Milton Griggs answered the ad in the South Spockett Gay Times, he never dreamed "Bear" would turn out to be Mr. Griffith from the filling station. Not that he's complaining, mind you.

4. A teenager befriends an enormous bear, and together they defeat an evil dragon which has terrorized the countryside for generations. Injured in the battle, he's taken to a nearby noble's house, where the elderly nurse recognizes him as the long-lost heir to the throne.

5. Jim and Larry live in a trailer near Jackson, Wyoming. Their favorite game is "bear tamer," but Larry's tired of being the bear, and Jim refuses to switch. Maybe it's time to go fishing.

6. What if the Indians had been able to domesticate Grizzly Bears and built an empire out of “bear-power” before the Europeans first arrived? This alternate history novel not only explores the ramifications of the Great Bear Empire, but extrapolates it out to the 22nd Century, as the “Old World” struggles to break free from the yoke of the Bear Empire’s dominance.

Original Version

It’s been one thousand years since the “plague” nearly eradicated the population of Mayall’s world. Is history doomed to repeat itself? BEAR TAMER is a 99,000 word fantasy, adventure novel.

Far away from her home, [Whose home? Oh, Mayall's. I figured Mayall's world was an artificial moon or an amusement park.] at the root of civilization, trouble is brewing in the form of a narcissistic tyrant. He is intent on controlling the world with a power that grants his needs and wants, the same “plague” that destroyed the world so long ago. [I see "plague" is going to be in quotation marks each time we use it. Meaning, it's not really a plague; it's a "plague."] One mysterious woman is on the hunt for a hero who will defeat him, but time is getting short as the tyrant’s power continues to grow.

Mayall is the most skilled archer among the bear tamers at the age of seventeen. Her brother, on the other hand is a clumsy pain-in-the-butt, a surly boy passionate only about his solitude. When refugees file into Mayall’s mountain home they tell of frightening occurrences that have driven them from their farms: unnatural storms, vague messages carved into trees, and werewolves. [Werewolves? Did you say werewolves? Suddenly you have my attention.] The tamers and the refugees are baffled by the attacks, [What attacks? You haven't mentioned any attacks. I guess we're supposed to assume that where there are werewolves, there are attacks. See, that's the trouble with being a werewolf. Even if you're a good werewolf, you have to hope the bear tamers are on the ball, because you just know you're gonna get blamed for any bear attack within fifty miles.] but too frightened to do anything about it.

In a desperate urge to take action, [In desperation,] but without proper volunteers, the council of tamers and refugees [The refugees just got there. Already they're part of the council?] agree to send one person [an improper volunteer, apparently] for information. [Conversation in the council of tamers and refugees:

The tyrant grows more powerful every day. The "plague" is upon us.

We're desperate. The world was destroyed last time this happened.

I suggest we pin all our hopes on one person.

Yes! One person.

But what can one person do against such massive power?

He can gather information.


When that one volunteer dies under the paws of her bear, Mayall takes his place, dragging her guardian, Eas, and pain-in-the-butt, Kufa, into the far west. [Let me get this straight. The council chooses a hero, but before the hero can do anything, Mayall's bear kills him? Mayall, the great bear tamer? And now, despite this monumental screw-up, Mayall becomes the replacement hero, instead of being locked in the pillory?] [Does her bear go on the mission? Or did they put it down after it killed the hero?] She is determined to gather more than just information. [What else will she gather?] Justice must be served.

The three fight through sieges, brave the storms, tackle the werewolves, [ponder the vague messages carved into trees, and] evade mercenaries, while facing the accusation placed on the bear tamers for the attacks. [Who is accusing the bear tamers? The werewolves?] The mysterious woman [You keep calling her that. What's so mysterious about her?] tracks them down with the answer they’ve been looking for, the location of their true enemy.

The woman bestows her special gift on Mayall. The gift grants her the ability to see into people’s hearts and awaken their highest potential. [Of course, awakening the highest potential of someone destined to be a sculptor or a florist doesn't do much good against Mohrgonn, lord of the dark realm.] [I think I know what's mysterious about the mysterious woman: her "gift" is capable of bringing down Mohrgonn, yet it never occurs to her to just bring him down herself.] With this she confronts the enemy that has taken over her world, accused her people for it, and killed her parents. [Hello. My name is Mayall. You killed my father. Prepare to die.] Unknown to Mayall, her enemy is aware of her ability, and plans to use her as a puppet in his scheme. Their battle is a battle of will. In the end, the real hero may be someone never suspected. [If you mean the clumsy pain-in-the-butt brother, I suspected him from the beginning.]

Enclosed is my SASE. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Revised Version

When refugees file into Mayall’s mountain home, they tell of frightening occurrences that have driven them from their farms: unnatural storms, and werewolf attacks. A thousand years ago a similar “plague” nearly eradicated the population of Mayall’s world. She wonders: is history repeating itself?

As the crisis worsens, Mayall sets out to find its source, accompanied by her brother and her guardian. The three brave storms, battle werewolves, and evade mercenaries as they make their way to the root of their civilization, where a tyrant with great magical power is intent on controlling--or destroying--the world.

Unknown to Mayall, her enemy awaits with open arms, planning to use her as a puppet in his scheme. But Mayall has powers of her own, and carries the hopes of her people. What follows is an epic battle of wills upon which rides the fate of a world.

BEAR TAMER is a 99,000-word fantasy adventure novel. The manuscript is complete and available on request. Thank you.


It was too long. If you aren't going to tell us anything Eas and Kufa do, you may as well leave them out. The revised version is short enough to allow you to add a few bits of important information.

Speaking of Eas, what kind of "guardian" agrees to let their teenaged ward go off in search of the lord of the dark realm?

What kind of first name is Mayall? Did you consider naming her Clapton? Leadbelly?

"The "plague" is a power that grants the tyrant's needs and wants? Can you be more specific? Are the storms and werewolves and vague messages on trees part of the "plague"?

Your plot is: A teenaged girl who's an archery whiz takes on a powerful evil overlord with only her ability to look into hearts and bring out the best in people. (Let's hope she also has her bow and arrows.)

What's the importance of taming bears? The only thing a bear does in the query is kill one of the good guys. Why do they tame bears, and why are they so bad at it?

There's too much vagueness. What are Mohrgonn's powers? What information do they send the hero after?

How does Mayall use or plan to use her gift? To look into the heart of Mohrgonn, and bring out his good side? To turn his minions against him? To convince other people to join the fight? Make it clear how her abilities are useful.


Anonymous said...

Apologies to the author for not having a helpful comment. I just wanted to say that, for me, that was one of the funniest Face-Lifts ever.

The "plague" is upon us.


Anonymous said...

You've got Mayall!

I sort of fail to see how archery would be a talent that a bear tamer would need to develop. It doesn't seem like it would be any help in taming bears. Still, it might make sense in the book, and EE's revision eliminates the question. That's probably for the best.

Brenda said...

*snickers at The Princess Bride reference - one of my all time favorite movies*

I can never give good feedback on anything like this. I don't read paranormal or sci-fi stuff, so when I get to weird names, my brain kind of shuts down. I liked the conversation EE put in there, and I can absolutely visualize someone speaking and using air-quotes for "plagues".

This is also a perfect example of query vs. synopses. This is a snapshot. In a true synopsis, there wouldn't be a "hero no one ever expected", because in that part of the synposis, you'd state who that was AND why no one expected him.

Geeze, maybe this is why I'm having trouble writing novels. Maybe I should have been an editor. EE, send me your slush pile - I'll give it a shot. ~razz~

Anonymous said...

This has many interesting & attractive elements but your description of the story line gives me the impression that you haven't been able to focus your narrative.

You basically have a quest plot, which starts when the protagonist sets out with her honchos to achieve the Goal, which is to get or destroy some clearly defined thing/entity. The protagonist should identify the goal and embark on her quest by about the third scene of your book, although with this wandering narrative in the query, I suspect that doesn't happen until about page 150 as you have things written now. Everything that happens before she embarks is backstory or set-up.

A quest plot query needs to succinctly tell us four things: 1] what's amiss, 2] who the 3 or 4 main characters are, 3] what the protagonist and her quest buddies must do to restore order: throw the evil ring into the fires of hell, poke the devil in the eye, steal magic beans from the wicked witch, or whatever, 4] what Big dangers and obstacles the protagonist faces.

If agents can't discern these four things in your query [and after reading this query, I can't do that], they'll probably think the book isn't ready.

As written, this query gives me the impression your Act 1 was squandered on establishing a protagonist who you then decided was no good, so he succumbs to a bear attack in Act 2, and readers must now get over him and transfer their attachment to Protagonist #2, Mayall.

Generally speaking, readers don't like this kind of manuver. It would probably be better to rewrite the beginning without having a protagonist switch, or perhaps rewrite the query so it doesn't look like you have a protagonist switch.

Robin S. said...

I saw John Mayall play (the guitar and sing) a few years ago. He still has his pony tail - except now it's chock full of iron gray hairs. Bummer.

I agree with sophia - this Face-Lift was one of your best...

"We're desperate. The world was destroyed last time this happened.
I suggest we pin all our hopes on one person."
and, this one -
"Of course, awakening the highest potential of someone destined to be a sculptor or a florist doesn't do much good against Mohrgonn, lord of the dark realm."

I'll be laughing all day. Also loved GTP #5. Good one!

I don't know much about this genre (actually, I know nothing at all about this genre, sorry) but it sounds like it could be interesting. Good luck with it.

Sylvia said...

Loved GTP number 3. I thought the revised version was very effective in refining it down to the main storyline whilst acknowledging that subplots were required.

Anonymous said...

Well, heck, EE. You pretty much covered it all and left hardly any room for brilliant ego blathering from your minions. And offered a solid revision as well. You certainly were on top of your game with this one!

Why do they tame bears, and why are they so bad at it? This was my fave line!

Author, I have only two things to add. First, twists are great in a book, but you don't want to play too loose with what you've set the reader up for. Not in category fiction. Here you use bait-and-switch twice, setting up the hero first as the volunteer killed by the bear, then as Mayall, then as the person no one expects. It's like, in a romance, if you dangle a potential lover in front of the heroine only to have him killed, then invest 80,000 words setting up another guy as the love interest, only to have the heroine choose the guy's oafish brother over him in the last couple of pages. Hey, a twist ending, but kind of a letdown for the reader.

The second quibble is with the "mysterious woman." In the query, she's being set up as pretty god like. She knows the antagonist's true identity and location, AND she can dump power on people at will. Traditionally, heroes can have guides that provide help along the way. But not too much help. This mystery woman seems to go beyond the role of guide, and as such leaves me wondering, as EE implied, why she doesn't just go take on the bad guy herself. She needs some flaw or boundary that makes her incapable of doing so; otherwise, readers will just come to expect her to show up at the most opportune moment to dole out the saving information or power. No suspense there. The hero can't find the villain? Don't worry. Yawn. The mystery woman will be right along. Notice EE has conveniently left her out of his revised version.

Good luck with your rewrite!

Anonymous said...

I was having trouble focussing on my writing so I turned to EE and found face lift 389 - Brilliant! GTP 5 made me cry I was laughing so hard.

I don't know anything about this genre but I sure liked EE's rewrite.

Good luck, writer!

Anonymous said...

I hate first novels that are, essentially autobiographical.

Anonymous said...

"I suggest we pin all our hopes on one person."


Of course, losing the quotes around plague is a necessity. It reminds of me of an exchange from a history class back in high school:

Mrs. Nelson: "There were cross-burnings right around here in the past ten years."

Andy O'Regan: "But that isn't the real KKK."

Mrs. Nelson: "What is it? A fake KKK?"

PJD said...

I totally agree with phoenix on the favorite line. Why are they so bad at it? The question gives the whole society a sort of Monty Python feel.

And I also had to laugh out loud at the first line of 150's comment. Well done.

pacatrue said...

I love the "vague messages on trees". I keep imagining things like:

"Suzie loves J..." or "Suzie has mixed emotions concerning Jake and cannot decide what she should do."

"Werewolves may or may not have taken my child whom may or may not be a girl with dirty-blonde hair."

"For an OK time, leave a scroll for Jane in some place she might come across it."

"The 'plague' has 'come'. We shall all 'die'."

By the way, author, I like the idea of the story. I'm just amusing myself.

Robin S. said...

"For an OK time, leave a scroll for Jane in some place she might come across it."

"The 'plague' has 'come'. We shall all 'die'."

Good ones. Really good.

Anonymous said...

You're mean, Paca.

That's pretty funny about the vague messages...

foggidawn said...

As if the GTPs and EE's comments weren't funny enough, the comments have had me rolling! Good thing there were no beverages at hand -- Pacatrue would have definitely caused keyboard damage.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, EE. I appreciate it.

pacatrue said...

Following EE's comment, "why are they so bad at it?" I keep imagining the following scene:

Scene 1. At council.

Elder 1: Page, you have done the bear people great honor.

Elder 2: Yes, you have lived your life as a bear tamer should and all can learn the way of the bear from you.

Elder 1: For your prowess with the bear, we bestow upon you this quest upon which all of our lives depend.

Page: I shall not fail you, elders.

Page exits.

Elder 2: There is no better with the bear.

Scene 2. 20 feet from the council. Page stops to pick some berries from a bush. A bear rises up from behind the bush.

Page: Holy crap!! It's a bear!! Ahh!!!

Page slaps at bear infuriating it until it mawls him with a great swipe, killing him.

Scene 3. Back at council.

Elder 2. Ironically, he was the best.

Elders all nod.

Elder 1. Next on the agenda is a motion to change the clan's name to the Weasel Tamers.

Elder 2. Weasels? I hear they can bite.

Elder 1. Do they? Hmmm... How about "The Lords of the Moth?"

Elders murmur assent.

Dave Fragments said...

You guys are so mean.
You guys would rewrite AIDA so that Radames dies when they crown him Head of the Army and the Triumphal March becomes his funeral procession.
(Slaves and elephants at your funeral can't be that bad!)
The Ethiopian's feel so bad for the Egyptians, they just give up and surrender out of grief. In gratitude, the Egyptian Priests bury the Ethiopians in Radames' Masoleum.

Rei said...

Another dreaded "synopsis disguised as a query letter".

EE's version is greatly improved.

pacatrue said...

I am certainly not attempting to be mean. I was hoping to take an EE joke and expand upon it. However, since I have now been accused of meanness twice, the evidence is strong that I am behaving inappropriately. Unfortunately, this is not a new occurrence for me. I am almost never cruel intentionally, but this does not cover the unintentional route, which I am apparently treading once again.

Therefore, I offer my sincere apologies to the author.

Anonymous said...

I didn't interpret your comments as mean, pacatrue . . .

I don't know how the author feels, though.

Robin S. said...


Not mean, just wicked quick and funny. (You and EE in the same room would be something to witness! If it's ever set to happen, share, please.)

You're too nice to be mean.

none said...

I assumed archery was a hobby for when the bears are hibernating.