Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Face-Lift 405

Guess the Plot

The Song the Trees Sang

1. Just give us some waterrrrr and some yellow sunshine.
A breeze now and then and we’ll be just fine.
Hope that ol’ loggerrrrr don’t fire up his saw,
Don’t wanna be a kiosk, or a bench in a mawlllll.

2. Riding their Pony, Magic, in the forest, two girls suddenly find themselves in a new world, where animals talk and trees sing songs. Hmm, this is sounding a little . . . Maybe I better have my mommy tell you about my book.

3. Once upon a time it was: 'Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you draw near?' Now it's all battle hymns. Why are the trees on the warpath? Is it because its . . . Pruning time?

4. It was insidious. As annoying as an advertising jingle, it stuck in everyone's head until it seemed the entire land of Millipund would go mad. Only Raina, the blind and deaf daughter of the woodcutter, can save the others from . . . The Song the Trees Sang.

5. While bivouacking in the Redwood Forest, Sergeant Buck of the Marines hears a strange song from the trees. Is it an alien siren? Or just a homeless dude camping in the canopy of the redwoods?

6. Ellen's sister, Annie, is autistic. When a real-estate developer starts to clear the neighboring farm, Annie begins singing a weird, haunting tune. Is she singing . . . the songs of the trees?

Original Version

The Song the Trees Sang

When ten-year-old Jaice and her older sister Joscelyn go for an ordinary ride on their pony, Magic, they are surprised to discover a river they don’t remember running through the forest near their home. Magic won’t turn back, though, and carries them across the river – to a new world where animals talk and trees sing songs with hidden messages. Almost as soon as they arrive, all three are captured by centaurs. [You call this an ordinary ride on their pony? What happens on their remarkable rides?]

Magic, they discover, has brought them here to retriever her filly. [What's Magic's filly doing in this new world? Was she horsenapped? How does Magic know this world exists, when the river wasn't even there last time they went for a ride?] But while Magic can go back and forth across the river, no-one else can – including her baby. And this country seems to be under a curse: Magic’s filly is the only female of any species born in many years. Magic’s half-brother, Adonai, and a lioness are fighting for control, [Lioness vs. Pony: part 7 of our twelve-part series, Nature's Greatest Combatants.] and both believe that Magic – since her baby was a female - must know the secret of breaking the curse. She doesn’t . [You'd think the centaurs would be the ones challenging the lioness, instead of a pony. Are the centaurs minions of the pony? If so, those are some wimpy pathetic centaurs.] [Centaurs are like horses, except they can shoot guns.] [I think it would be amazing if some year there was an unannounced centaur in the Kentucky Derby.] [I'd like to see a centaur-unicorn race. On the one hand, the centaur would want to win the race, but on the other hand, he might not want a unicorn coming up behind him.]

Jaice and Joscelyn are imprisoned on an island, [Is the island in the river?] and in the process of escaping, Jaice discovers that she can cross the river both ways. [You already said no one except Magic could could go back and forth across the river. I quote: "No-one."] She’s always resented being in the shadow of her smarter, prettier sister, but now that she has to leave Joscelyn behind and try to save both of them, she’s scared and not sure she’s up to the challenge. Jaice meets Grae, a boy who has previously appeared in her dreams along with a dapple-grey stallion. [Oh thank goodness, a boy has shown up. Now everything'll be all right.] Grae doesn’t know how or why he got here, and doesn’t much like girls, but they realize they need each other to survive and get home again.

After finding the stallion who joins them in helping Adonai defeat the lioness, and discovering the cause of the curse, Jaice has one more challenge: getting her sister, Grae, and Magic’s foal back to their own world. She learns that she has her own special magic and that if the others will trust her – as she is learning to trust herself – she can bring everyone safely home.

I’ve had three short stories published in children’s readers, but most of my writing has been for adults: hundreds of magazine articles and fourteen non-fiction books. [Yes, but we want to know whether this book is for children or adults.]


You're telling us too much of the plot. It feels more like an outline than a cohesive description of your story. Come up with a topic sentence for each paragraph and build on it with a logical progression of ideas, cause and effect, etc. This jumps from idea to idea to much.

Is the song the trees sing important? I wasn't crazy about the title, and the query hasn't convinced me to change my mind.


Blogless Troll said...

and trees sing songs with hidden messages.

Tra-la-la (Look, another horse.)
La-la-la-la (Do it again, Benny.)
Tra-la-la (Hoof glue says what?)
La-la-la-la (Tee-hee-hee)

There's something interesting in this story idea, but I can't figure it out from the query. It's all over the place. I'd also shoot for weird sounding names spelled plainly, rather than plain sounding names spelled weirdly.

Anonymous said...

This may be a logic problem, but...
If there are no females in the land, where did the lioness come from??

Anonymous said...

Pony v Lion, right up there with Zombie v Shark. And probably just as weird.

Lynn Sinclair said...

Sounds cute, but you've thrown too much at us. Include word count and, as EE suggests, an idea as to what age group the book is for.

Just one nit--why spell the names Jaice and Grae?

WouldBe said...

What EE said.

The curse: this curse is just on the land where trees sing (probably laments, considering the curse), right? So, if it was remarkable that Magic had a filly, it must be that Magic had the filly in LWTS and had been there enough to have met what I would have to consider a deadbeat stallion, since he has not shown up to help his filly and mare. Magic has had quite a closet life; wouldn't Jaice or Joselyn have noticed the pregnancy?

I guess if this story is for middle graders, the above logic issues probably don't matter.

Grae seems like an afterthought, baggage. He shows up late in the story, only to be saved by Jaice.

I guess I'd rather hear a bit more about why the land where trees sing is in such conflict than all the nitty-gritty details of the quest.

Stacia said...

And no one has yet made a joke about mourning for Adonai?

I think the story sounds fun, at its core--the kind of adventure I would have liked as a kid. Unfortunately, this business with ponies fighting lions (and somehow winning?) and people who are or aren't allowed to cross the mysterious river and how the foal got there to begin with I just don't get.

It sounds like the animals are having the adventure, not the children--they just sort of watch, and then the boy shows up and they try to rescue the sister, but all the world-building just goes on around them; they don't actually become part of it.


Anonymous said...

um...Adonai? As in "Lord?" I don't usually pick on names, but that one brought me up short, making me think we were in religious territory all of a sudden.


none said...

For me, this land of singing trees needs more to distinguish it from Narnia, as, going by the query, there are many similarities. Children get there accidentally, the animals talk, there's centaurs, and there's a curse and fighting over who's in control, and sibling rivalry. The book probably isn't anything like the Narnia stories, but that isn't coming across. What makes this book different? Tell us.

If Magic's filly isn't weaned, how has she survived? If she is weaned, how come Magic hasn't forgotten her? Or are these horses in name only?

writtenwyrdd said...

If the kids are necessary to the story, why are they required? I presume (reading between the lines) that Magic the magical pony kidnaps them in order to use them to aid her cause??? (Maybe becasue people have hands. Could it be that simple?)

Anyhow, what EE and December said.

I think the title isn't working with the query, either. What you describe and what the title implies are vastly different to me.

Anonymous said...

This isn't the first time I've seen a tossoff comment along the lines of "it's just middle grade, so X problem probably isn't an issue." That's a fallacy. In my experience, it's harder to write for kids than for adults. The editing is more hands-on, and the writing has to be right on target. If the logic is strange, it has to be consistently so. Lazy writing and bad writing are not acceptable.

As for this beginning, the My Little Pony aspects make me think this is possibly a chapter book or early middle grade. Am I right? (I own that stallion. He's the Platonic archetype of the My Little Pony. I wouldn't put him up against a lion, but his kill rate on rabbits and birds is pretty impressive.)

It's a fairly standard story, but if it's done well, it will be an enjoyable read.

pacatrue said...

The songs the trees sing: Woody Guthrie.

What did the lonesome tree sing to his sweetheart in another forest? I pine for you.

What did his friends call the tree who sang love songs all the time? Sappy.

What did the kind critic say about the tree actor? His performance was wooden.

Why couldn't the tree family get any sleep? Their pet tree barked all night.

What's a tree's favorite Sesame Street character? Grover.

Favorite deodorizer? Glade.

Favorite female name? Maple.

Favorite male name? Ash.

What nickname makes all the school trees snicker? Woodie.

What did the blogger trees say to each other when they saw paca's puns on EE? Let's leave.

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. Tip your browsers well.

WouldBe said...

Toss off? Children aren't short adults. The older they get, the more information they demand. When they're very young, they don't care how long Sleeping Beauty could live without intravenous feeding if the prince doesn't show up in time. An avid, adult mystery reader would want to know what kind of poison was used.

Anonymous said...

I like the title very much, just not for the book this query is about. Girls as MCs with ponies means you're de facto targeting girls. Girls want to read about ponies but not necessarily about trees. Maybe get the pony's name or the word "pony" into the title. Obscure doesn't work so well with the wee ones.

Your transition issues (EE says jumping from idea to idea) really need to be dealt with. The paragraphs don't seem like they even belong together. For instance, the jump from Magic to the girls suddenly being imprisoned on an island (why isn't Magic imprisoned with them) is very jarring. Then all of a sudden in the next paragraph the girls are finding the stallion in Jaice's dreams and the secret to the curse. Where did either of those come from? Does the stallion know the secret to the curse? How are these things related?

And what happened to Magic? She seems to be the lynchpin, but disappears halfway through the query.

Part of the problem with giving too much plot in the query is that you're bound to be left with plot holes. If you bring something up in paragraph one, it needs to be resolved by the end. If you don't bring it up, you don't need the resolution.

Now, you've kept the language of the query simple, which is the right feel for a chapter book, but it isn't very exciting. Too factual (maybe all that non-fiction you've been writing, eh?). It could use some spice. And a lot of tightening. That first paragraph, for example, could go something like this:

When ten-year-old Jaice and her older sister Joscelyn saddle up their pony, Magic carries them across a mysterious river to a world where animals talk and trees sing songs with hidden messages. This isn't a peaceful world, though, as the sisters find out when centaurs capture them and imprison them on an island in the middle of the enchanted river that can only be crossed by [magical beings].

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. Finding good entertainers is as hard as finding good query letters these days.

Ah, Pacatrue,
Tell me, do,
What would we do
Without you?