Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Face-Lift 395

Guess the Plot

Her Dress is Darkness

1. Nudist Shelly Wellter is too demure to sunbathe, so she moonbathes at night. But her sweet shyness is no match for Bull Grumby's ardor - and his flashlight.

2. Physicist Moira Wartby is determined to make a splash at the company picnic. But the dress she fashions from a Black Hole does more than draw people to her.

3. Lynn hopes her Vampire romance novel, 'Her Dress is Darkness', is a bestseller. It has to be, because she poured her soul into it . . . literally.

4. To Walter, Lydia is sunlight, cloaked in a shroud of darkness. But when a strange black frog bites Lydia, Walter discovers an evil lurking beneath the shroud. Also, a dragon.

5. She likes to say she's in mourning for her life, but Bianca's black gown is neither a fashion statement nor an homage to Chekhov. It's pure Evil in wearable form. Unless Trevor Weiss can get her to take that dress off, Bianca could lose her soul with one swish of her taffeta ruffles.

6. In the cutthroat world of fashion design, Ellen DeLong has always been second rate. That is, until she makes a deal with Satan and gains the magical Shears of Endor.

Original Version

Her Dress is Darkness:
(95,000 words, dark, literary fantasy with epic overtones)

To eleven-year-old Walter, Lydia is sunlight in a dark place: a lone, caring presence in the face of his unstable mother and missing father. Together, they explore the innocent woods of their quiet valley and make up stories about a huge, brown blade left in a hidden copse. [No need to attach an adjective to every noun. The more you use them the less powerful they are.]

When a strange, black frog bites Lydia in the wood, [Bites her in the wood? What is she, a marionette?] Walter discovers an evil lurking beneath the shroud of the old Priory, an evil rooted in magic and Making, buried in his forgotten bloodline. [How does her getting bitten by a frog lead to him discovering an evil at the Priory?] Secrets conspire to return him to a lost world, [Return, meaning he's been there before?] a world belonging to a terrible Queen of ancient lore, a world where innocence is devoured. In the land of Temeres, nothing is as it seems. [Of course, we don't know how things seem, so it doesn't help to tell us we're wrong.] Dead gods stir in the Groves of the Deep, preparing for a return to the world of light, [Define "dead." Apparently it doesn't mean what I thought it did. Will the gods return as zombies?] while an eleven-year-old boy, a wooden knight, a glass dragon, and an ancient warrior strive to protect what remains of purity. Lydia has been taken, her soul trapped within the Queen's far tower. But nothing—not the Pale Queen, nor her hunger, not her Darklings or her beast and the Drum of its Heart, not even her cursed, immortal knight [All right already. Nothing.] —will keep Walter from fulfilling his promise.

He will find her. And he will bring her back. [I doubt it. He's eleven. The Darklings will stop him.]


How come Groves of the Deep is capitalized, but not the world of light? How come Making but not magic? Darklings but not beast? Queen? Priory? Drum of its Heart? Seemingly random capitalizing could get annoying if it's book-wide.

This reads more like an ominous prologue than a query letter. Try telling the story in everyday prose, rather than poetry. If that doesn't work we can go for a combination of the two, but this version, while it has tone, isn't telling me clearly what happens in the book.


writtenwyrdd said...

Okay. Lots of implied drama and strange capitalization choices. But no actual drama. I gather from reading this that the actual story is Walter goes someplace to rescue Lydia. That and the complications that arise in the quest are your story.

I think what's happened is you are listing a bunch of cool elements from the book, but not the story. What you get is chaos and the impression that you as a writer don't know what your story actual IS.

Dave Fragments said...

95,000 words, dark, literary fantasy with epic overtone.

That sounds like a wine description:
"Modest apple and citrus flavors with hints of underripe nectarine, finishing with a burst of peach overtones."

Let's try something like a hook:
The Pale Queen ... ... (that's a little bland)

The Pasty-Faced Queen of Temeres (a land of unreality) kidnaps Lydia planning to use her virginal innocence to restore the Dead Gods to power. Can Walter save his sister in the magic realm, or ...

Sorry about the cheap clown makeup, but the villian needs more than the adjective "pale" possible, porcelain or limestone or marbled.

WouldBe said...

You have nice imagery and I like your names of people and places, but the quantity is overwhelming in the short space of a query. What might help is to clearly lay out at least two plot points in the quest that send the main character(s) off in a different direction, the last one leading to the conclusion, of course.

Anonymous said...

I'm not crazy about your title--using pronouns in a title really turns me off. Who is "her" supposed to be? It makes me feel lame to say "Her Dress is Darkness;" how could I admit to reading such a book? I would have to sew a book jacket for it, like those ladies that read erotic romance at the DMV.

Better titles might be...
"The Dress of Darkness," or "The Pasty-Faced Witch," but don't try "She and He in the Innocent Woods"

Robin S. said...

Hi author,

I've just read this through a few times - by the way - I really like your title - and, while I agree with EE (and I'm sure he's just so highly relieved to hear that), that you may have some overwrought prose here, it seems this 'wouldbe 7:54 pm' person has distilled your solution down pretty well for you.

The description in your query sounds a little like the movie trailers/commercials you see on TV - and I think I just read somewhere in the past few days - to listen to movie trailers to get a feel for what a query should "sound" like. And your query has me thinking the retort for that one is, 'and maybe not'.

You've got quite a bit of interesting stuff here - it just maybe needs a different definition here. I don't pretend to have the answer. I just think you need to try again - step back- take a look at your book - and maybe draw it down to the essence 'wouldbe' talked about. Obviously this has to be well-written and engaging, but maybe pared back is better. (In the words of the great and powerful EE, regarding adjectives: 'The more you use them the less powerful they are'.) I think he's right.

Blogless Troll said...

I agree with aj about the title. And giving us more of the story would help too.

However, "nothing is as it seems" is a pet peeve of mine and a query killer, because it signals the author is being lazy, or hasn't thought things through. There's always something that is as it seems, even if it's just a single pebble buried under some leaves at the top of a hill, which may or may not also be a kangaroo. You can't get anything done in a world where nothing is at it seems because everyone's worried about whether the air they just breathed was really air, and the hospital is always full of people who inhaled a tangerine by mistake. Of course, it's not really a hospital...

Unknown said...

Blogless troll -- i spewed my salad all over my computer and... well lets just say you owe me a salad and a new pair of Depends.

i agree with you about that line, too. it makes me mad because the author is trying to say that the reader won't have sense enough to guess at what might be going on.

sometimes it is a shock (in a good story), but often it is not.

otherwise, i agree with changing the title.

i didn't care for the strange names of people and places. for me, they are too hard to keep track of when reading a story if EVERY person place and thing has a strange name.


Nancy Beck said...

Loved 1 (is she a cousin of Gomez and Morticia Addams?) and 6 - "magical Shears of Endor" bwahaha!

dark, literary fantasy with epic overtone

Why don't you just simplify it by saying it's dark fantasy?

Walter discovers an evil lurking beneath the shroud of the old Priory, an evil rooted in magic and Making, buried in his forgotten bloodline.

I read this sentence several times, and kept getting snagged on Making - why is it capitalized? Is it a place of some sort? What sort of place is it?

I think there's a story lurking within this query, but I think you've thrown too much stuff into the mix - a lot of it can be simplified, although you might want to give us a very brief idea as to the people and places in the other world (after all, the other world is from your imagination).

Good luck with it!