Sunday, June 17, 2007
Guess the Plot
The Ivory Tower
1. An actual tower made of ivory looms metaphorically over a dying land in which zombies and an ice goddess try to keep a young wizard and a guy named Harold from saving the world from a mysterious plague. Also, gnomes.
2. After years of planning, Jason finally opens his upscale BDSM club 'The Ivory Tower'. But when the mayor dies in the dungeon, Jason and his clientele are branded immoral killers. How will he prove he's really the town's whipping boy?
3. The world outside her window beckoned, and Professor Horn fled The Ivory Tower to experience another way of life. Now that she knows people have to work hard out there and no one is impressed with her credentials, she can't wait to go back to her cluttered office in the Economics Department.
4. Big game hunter Dirk "Blowgun" Pratt spends a year trying to poach the elephants of the savanna armed with an empty toilet paper roll and a supply of licorice jelly beans. But the gentle animals lose patience with Dirk's shenanigans and impale him upon their tusks for a ride on . . . The Ivory Tower.
5. Ivory Tower is the hottest thing to hit Triple-X since Busty Bundtcakes. Everyone thinks Ms. Tower’s name is due to her pale Scandinavian skin and her phenomenal height, until they see her perform! It seems that Ivory is equipped for every occasion.
6. Homicide detective Zack Martinez loathed the conceited professors at the local university. And not just because he lost his ex-wife, Marie, to Marcus Denethen, head of the History department. When Marie and Marcus are discovered naked and drained of their blood in the stacks of the school library, suddenly Zack becomes a suspect.
All David wanted was a simple life and time to grieve. When his mother died and his sister ran away, there wasn't time for such self-indulgence; the same plague claimed his uncle Merric—the town's priest and David's magical instructor. [Whattaya mean "the same plague"? You haven't mentioned a plague.] From the age of ten, he worked night and day to shield his hometown from sickness and famine.
Five years later, life has settled down, and he wants nothing more than to settle down with it, spending his days chatting with local farmers [I can buy into a world in which magic is real, but a fifteen-year-old kid who wants nothing more than to chat with farmers? Come on.] and honoring local gods. It is not to be.
His coming-of-age ceremony is interrupted by Harold, a traveler who claims to have known Merric. He confirms David's suspicion that Merric was not a hedge-mage [Hedge-mage: a gardener who's a wizard with pruning shears.] but a full wizard, and reveals what Merric never had the chance to: a prophecy that holds only David can heal the spreading wasteland in the east. David protests, but when he learns that the plague was actually spell sent by his enemies, [David has enemies? He's a kid; how did he get enemies?] David realizes he has no choice but to leave home.
Soon he's headed east to unearth the Book of Life, a spellbook with which he is meant to heal the land. Adventuring life isn't easy. He is attacked repeatedly by bandits, gnomes, and undead. [Undead?! There's your hook, right there, and you've buried it in the middle of paragraph 4. You've also left it somewhat vague. The reader can't tell from the word "undead" whether you're referring to people who are vampires, people who are zombies, or people who are alive. Just as a science fiction author will refer to normal people as "humans," hoping the agent will think, Ooh, humans, I wonder what they're like, and request the manuscript, a fantasy/horror author will refer to normal people as "undead," hoping the agent will think, Ooh, undead, could be zombies, and request the manuscript. It's a ploy as old as the hills, but it continues to pay dividends.] To save a friend, he must risk his soul confronting [Hillary,] the Ice Goddess herself. When he finally reaches a safe haven, he learns that he has been challenged to a duel [He learns this? If you're gonna challenge someone to a duel, etiquette demands you do so in person, not place a personal ad.] and has two months to make up for five years of missed training. [Two months?
I challenge you to a duel.
Let's see, my inlaws 'll be here the rest of the week, and I'm already dueling Rodriguez next Friday . . .
I've got two weddings the week after that.
Now we're running into the holiday season.
Gimme a call in a couple months, I'll see if I can clear some time.
David learns to deal with physical assault, but the real dangers aren't physical. [I beg to differ. The dangers are always physical when there are zombies around.] He soon discovers that everyone has secrets, and he doesn't know where to turn.
Harold, the leader, [The leader of what?] is secretly the eastern prince—and even more secretly, adopted. [More secretly than secretly? ]
Raven, the bitter sorceress, is in fact his lost sister, transformed beyond recognition by her lust for power.
David was raised to mistrust wizards and hate kings, [I was raised to trust Mr. Wizard and to love Elvis.] but is on his way to becoming both. Neither Raven nor Harold told him that the Book is not just a tool of healing—it's the weapon with which he must unify the continent.
None of this prepares him for the greatest betrayal of all. When he finally reaches the ancient spellbook, he meets the writer's ghost and learns the final secret. The prophecy was a fraud, penned only to coerce him into service. [Is this a betrayal of David or of the reader?]
The Ivory Tower is a 120,000 word humorous fantasy that addresses the question: "What happens when the prophecy isn't true? When the unlikely hero is really is unlikely?" [Come again?] It's a broad satire of quest stories—the Smalltown Savior, the Thing of Power, and the Lost Heir are all here, and all tweaked so as to reveal their underlying absurdity. Comic relief comes in the form of David's sardonic first-person narration, [If you need to put comic relief into a comedy, it's not funny enough.] but the story is not simply a big joke. It's also a coming-of-age tale about the value of choosing one's own goals and making one's own way.
[Title Note: The Ivory Tower is an actual tower, made of Ivory, that existed long ago. Although they never visit the site, the tower looms metaphorically over the characters. To Raven, who has spent years searching for it, it represents magical knowledge. To Harold, the adoptive prince, it represents his nation's fallen grandeur. [To me it represents 250,000 dead elephants.] Most tellingly, it was both built and destroyed by the Book, and serves David as a symbol of the dangers of power.]
I'm not in the camp of those who believe a humorous book demands a humorous query. But it should at least describe situations in which the reader can see the potential for humor. The book you describe sounds like the book you're supposedly satirizing. I'm more interested in how the plot's been tweaked to reveal the underlying absurdity.
To make the query funnier, always refer to Harold as "a guy named Harold."
It's too long, and it has so many paragraphs, you'll end up skipping about ten lines. Combine some of the short paragraphs. And don't bring in so many plot elements.
The third paragraph was well developed, each sentence following logically from the last. The fourth paragraph is a list of events, no development, and less interesting. Two or three well-developed paragraphs makes a more impressive query than a lot of underdeveloped ones.