Thursday, August 02, 2007

Face-Lift 391

Guess the Plot

To Serve in Heaven

1. Tired of not fitting in with the other angels, Shem joins a company of dysfunctional misfit angels. When demons and wizards unite against the angels, Shem gets his wish: his first chance to fight against evil. Also, an eccentric swordmaster.

2. Upon dying, Michelangelo sees the angry face of God . . . who didn't like how his portrait turned out. Now, Michelangelo has been charged with painting a much larger ceiling--the ceiling of Heaven itself--and getting the details RIGHT this time. Will God's micromanagement ruin Michelangelo's artistic vision?

3. Satan couldn't believe it when his performance review came in. No longer would the board of directors allow him to reign in hell. Now he must serve in Heaven. And God is a lousy tipper.

4. Sometimes the afterlife isn't all it's cracked up to be. Joe was a bartender in life, and while he narrowly escaped eternal damnation, in Heaven he's a busboy. Maybe that deathbed conversion wasn't such a great idea.

5. Hell just wasn't any fun. Sure it sounded good when Satan used that famous recruiting line: It's better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven. The trouble was, Satan was the only one who did any ruling. Everyone else suffered eternal torment. Can Elgin find that elusive chink in the brimstone that will allow him to escape? Also, a clock that runs backwards.

6. Jury duty in heaven is hell. After 1,562,354 years, Molly learns she still can't talk about Satan's trial after his fall from heaven . . . which means she will never, ever get to be on Oprah. This leads her to the biggest existential crisis she has ever faced. Luckily for her, she has plenty of time to think about it.

Original Version

Dear {Agent}

The Grigori—or, Watchers—is ostensibly an elite order of angels chosen to protect the City of Lights. In truth, it is a haven for the disaffected. [Angels. You just can't trust 'em.] Volunteers come seeking escape from the council's oversight [What council?] and the company of other misfits. A magician driven by obsession with forbidden research develops spells for the order. A berserker indulges his taste for blood. An eccentric swordmaster finds a use for his gifts—even if he'd rather be a dancer.

The day after young Shemyaza joins, the order's leader is found dead in a snowbank, murdered by demons. It's final proof of what Shem suspected all along—the demons and wizards have once again united against the angels. What he didn't suspect was that the ruling council would appoint him head of the Watchers despite his lack of seniority. [Is this the same council as the one in the first paragraph? Because earlier you said misfits joined the Watchers to escape the council's oversight. Now you say the council appoints the Watchers' leader, which implies they have mucho oversight.] Evidently, the other Watchers are too dysfunctional to be trusted.

The outbreak of war is the best thing that ever happened to him. Shem finally gets his to chance to fight evil—and is suddenly swimming in more respect and praise than he can handle. But the war isn't going well, [If his first chance to fight evil is going badly, why is he getting so much praise?] and he blames the council. Some days it seems they aren't even trying. [They're the Randy Moss of angelic councils.] He begins to investigate the council's origins, fining only secrets and misdirection at every turn.

Desperate for information about his own homeland's history, he turns to an unlikely source: Cain. The First Murderer and enemy general mistrusts his supposed allies, too; an alliance of necessity is formed. [I can see turning to Cain if he needs an ally; why did he turn to Cain for information about his homeland's history? Cain was, after all, an unlikely source. Aren't there any likely sources? Plus, if I'm a leader and I'm at war with demons and wizards, I think I'll put off the history lesson till things quiet down.] Shemyaza knows he's playing a dangerous game, but if he can win the war, isn't it worth it? Even if achieving peace means [destroying the entire universe?] betraying Cain and the Council?

To Serve in Heaven is a 90,000 word fantasy of power and divided loyalties. Set in another world, but infused with biblical symbols and imagery, it chronicles a young angel's growth from a naïve pawn to a canny iconoclast. May I send you the completed manuscript?



We don't need the 1st-paragraph list of examples of the types of angels who are Watchers. You could start with the second paragraph, adding what it is Shemyaza joined.

According to Wikipedia, the leader of the Watchers was named Samyaza. He also had several aliases, including Shemyazaz, Shamazya, Semiaza, Shemhazi, Semyaza, Amezyarak, and Shemp: the fourth Stooge.

So was Shemp appointed leader because they thought they could use him, or because the others were too dysfunctional? It seems the plot starts when war breaks out. The Council appoints Shemp as leader, thinking he'll be their stooge, but he surprises them and leads his team of misfits to victory. That sounds interesting, but I'm not getting that from the query.

Wait a minute, a bunch of misfits save the day--isn't this the movie Stripes, with Bill Murray as Private Shemyaza?


Anonymous said...

Um...just recently read a couple of books with Grigori in them. Romances, though. Maybe yours won't seem like a repeat.

pacatrue said...

"Wait a minute, a bunch of misfits save the day--isn't this the movie Stripes, with Bill Murray as Private Shemyaza?"

I was thinking Police Academy 9: Heavenly Hijinks.

EE, love the Randy Moss and [Angels. Can't trust em.] jokes.

As for the query, the idea does sound interesting, but the query confuses me as it is.

Dave Fragments said...

try something like:
Demons and Wizards have declared war on the Angels in Heaven and the angel Shemyaza, reluctant leader of the Watchers and bumbling nerd, has to find a way to save the Celestial City.
Then you have to make a suspenseful and exciting statement about how or why Shemyaza elists Cain's aid to win the war.

Now I have a philosophical bone to pick. Isn't Shemyaza's solution a little existential? Doesn't making the end (victory) justify the means (dealing with the damned) seem just a little "situational ethics" to you? Let me ask it this way - is Shemyaza morally ambivalent and ethically ambiguous? That's more exciting than a nerdy, clumsy angel BTW.

Anonymous said...

Shemyaza is, of course, a Jesuit.

Kate Thornton said...

Loved the GTPs - I couldn't pick out the real one!

I am confused about the story, though. Is it set in Paris (the City of Light) or Rome (the Eternal City) or Waukegan (the clocks stopped here)?

And the council is confusing to me, too. What exactly is it that they do?

I love these religious fantasy stories - but I need to know more about what goes on in this one.

Robin S. said...

Well, I've learned a lot here today, Googling all over the freakin' place, to find out who Randy Moss is, to find out about
Grigori, and, earlier today, to find out about Melanie Mills and her 'gang' of aliases.

Apparently I don't get out much. All this time, and I never knew that.

Anyway, while confused a little by the plotline drawn by the query, (my guess is this is one that reads better than it sounds in this iteration of its query form) I'm also interested.

(And also, may I just say that when I looked these guys up on wikipedia, following in EE's footsteps, I was more than a little bummed to find out that when angel guys and human women got together, their offspring turn out to be hideous giants. I mean, what's that about? Angels + beautiful women = GIANTS?! What the hell - so to speak. That's the only choice? Well, honestly. What a comedown.)

writtenwyrdd said...

Storm Constantine (I think it's him anyhow) has a whole series of dark fantasy books about the Grigori, btw.

I think the letter is not yet doing the story justice. Dave's version sounded good, and I really liked his point in the second paragraph. The situation is a bit off for what one might expect of the judeo christian heaven. Not that I care, seeing as I am neither jewish nor christian. Just sayin' it might make this a strange one to sell. Then again, Sympathy For The Devil made Hell a bunch of bureaucrats.

I'd expect this to be a high fantasy sort of story, based on the elements you describe. And it sounded like it could be a good read. Good luck on the revisions.

none said...

Storm Constantine is a her not a him!

Stacia said...

I agree. Sounds like the story is better than the query.

An I read about Grigori in Garth Ennis' Preacher. EE, I'm shocked you haven't read that one.

GutterBall said...

They're the Randy Moss of angelic councils.

God, I'm glad it's almost football season again. I missed it.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the word "misfits" means something different to most of you than I had intended. Shem is neither bumbling nor a nerd; he's a courageous warrior whose impulsive, independent nature gets him in trouble with authority.

@Dave. First off, as something of an existentialist myself, I'm not sure your characterization of existentialism is fair. Existnetialism is perfectly capable of informing moral action.

That said, ignoring the word "existentialist" and addressing your question-- Shem isn't morally ambivalent. He always does what he thinks is right. He is, however, quite ethically ambiguous. As a matter of fact, in the first draft he was called "Lucifer."

I do like your suggested opening though, and am working on a query based on it.

Anonymous said...

I shall await your rewrite, Orion! Please post it. Just stepped in here while watching "Fallen," which also has Grigori in it, which made me think of your query and all the awesome GTPs. This was one of the better lots of GTPs as far as consistent snortiliciousness! Just have to commend all the GTP authors!

Others have addressed my same concerns with the query, with one exception. Is this really set in another world, in an alternate reality, on another plane or what? Just wondering how/why Cain is still considered the "First Murderer" if this is another world. I could easily get biblical allusions related to heaven and hell on another world, but not earth-history-related allusions.

Anonymous said...

To answer your question, Phoenix, it's set on another world entirely, but with named analogues to many biblical (and extrabiblical) phenomena. Besides angels and demons,we have the Trinity, the Tree of Life, The Messiah, Adam and Eve, and more.

(I don't cram all that into one story, of course, but it's out there in the setting)

While I'm working on the re-write, could anyone still reading tell me which of these is a better hook? Neither is perfectly polished, but I'm having trouble deciding. Combined with Dave's suggestion, that's three possible directions.

In a flying city paved with pyrite, the Council of Archangels reigns. For centuries they’ve, used demons and angels, kings and wizards like pieces on a chessboard. The trouble begins when a white knight tries to break the rules.

Young angel Shemyaza has had one wish as long as he can remember: to exterminate black magic and those who use it. When the war breaks out, his dreams should come true. Instead, he discovers that the greatest obstacle to victory is not his enemies—it's his friends.