Friday, August 24, 2007

Face-Lift 407

Guess the Plot

The Cursed Queen

1. He was a royal. He was a cross-dresser. He was from Queens. Could anything else go wrong for Pat ("Geisha") Tudor? Oh, yes.

2. After a delivering a brutal fashion critique to a wandering Gypsy woman, Gavin finds he can no longer croak his way through his favorite show tunes.

3. The story of Queen Maria Expletiva, so hated by her subjects they had to invent new words to express their loathing, and to describe her personal blessing of the Spanish Armada.

4. Forced to marry a king feared for his cruelty and savagery, Ariashal discovers the man has no name or face, thanks to an old curse. Now Ariashal hopes her own curse is still working, the one that states that every man she marries will die.

5. Once a month Queen Hepsabah felt the curse approaching. Her body swelled to enormous proportions. She craved pretzels and chocolate and chocolate pretzels. What she didn’t crave was the King. When she runs out of Midol, will the King make it to the pharmacy on time, or will she sic the hounds on him again?

6. When Syrji learns the drought her family has tried to flee for years is specifically following her, she runs from home. But two rogue mages recognize her for what she is - a walking curse and a reincarnated queen. Each means to use her, and Syrji must play them off each other to reach their citadel, where she can break the curse and gain a kingdom.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

Ariashal is cursed: Every man she marries dies.

When the man she loves is murdered just before her sixth wedding, [You know, when you find out that the first five guys your sweetie married dropped dead, you might want to consider just moving in together.] she longs to withdraw from the world. As King Turabar’s only daughter, however, she is a pawn in the family’s schemes for power. To fulfill dynastic ambitions, she is forced to marry the King of Angevar, a sorcerer feared for his cruelty, savagery and might. [Do they hook the daughter up with the sorceror king to form an alliance, or hoping her curse kills him?]

Once they are married, Ariashal slowly gains his trust. [I don't recommend doing anything slowly when you're under this curse.] She learns that has a curse of his own: his visage and name taken by a jealous god. [Does he have no name or visage? Or does he have a different name and visage, like the name Goober and the visage of a cow?] [It would be hard to negotiate treaties if you were a king with a cow's face:

Okay, then it's agreed, you guys get our seaports, our mineral rights and all of our military equipment, and we get your pastureland.]

Her brother’s treachery forces her return to the land of her birth, where the true nature of her curse is exposed. Together Ariashal and the King seek to defeat their curses. [It would seem they've already defeated hers; they're married and he's not dead.]

I am seeking representation for my paranormal romance, "The Cursed Queen", which is complete at 108,000 words. May I send you some sample chapters?

I am a member of RWA, and have published a vampire short story. I have a BA in English and post-graduate work in both Literary Criticism and Art History.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.



Are they using the curse as a weapon? Were they with the previous five husbands?

This peters out when she marries the sorceror king. There's room to tell us more. What is the true nature of Ariashal's curse? What is her brother's treachery? What can they do to defeat the curse placed on the king? Is the goddess available to discuss it? Why is the king still alive? Sorcery?


Anonymous said...

Quite possibly the best clip-art ever.

writtenwyrdd said...

Scaaary clip art. Backs away sloooowly, then turns and runs, screaming with hair on fire...

The letter is okay except for the glaring plot holes that EE points out. How can she slowly gain this king's trust if marrying him will kill him? Sounds like a good paranormal romance story if you have explained this potential problem in the text.

Blogless Troll said...

Change the "Q" to a "J," swap the crown for a purple hat, and it's dead-on Nicholson.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised at the end of the query to hear it described as romance (even if paranormal). The description of the story seemed more "fantasy" to me. If it really is first and foremost a romance, it would be helpful to give a better sense of the, well, romance. By the end of the query I didn't sense that they even liked each other, much less had a passionate love.

Pete said...

SOMEbody needs to organize an intervention for Evil Editor. God only knows how many book contracts he's lost because he's shown up for meetings in high heels, suspenders and a bra.

Robin S. said...

I'm sorry- I don't have time to say much right now - except -

This version of EE is freaky funny.
The white makeup and red lips - so hot.

Stacia said...

Is that Dawn French?

As Anonymous said, a romance query needs to focus on the romance. The rest of the stuff is interesting, but the primary story is the MCs falling in love. Your query needs to say what keeps them apart--their internal conflict--while giving us an idea of the plot, which is their external conflict.

Which made no sense. I'm sorry, I'm burned out.

Tell us who they are and why they can't fall in love--the internal reasons, not the curse. Tell us what happens in the story next.

Dave Fragments said...

Sheherazade holds off death by telling the story of the 1001 nights.
Turandot holds off marraige with riddles.
Henry the 8th just killed his wives.

How does Ariashal and the Nameless King forestall death? Ralph Stanley's singing? Spare me over for another year

The exciting plot is how they both defeat or lift or remove their respective curses. I'll bet it's the power of love, since this is a romance. Fair enough, but you have to say that in the query.

Unless he is reincarnated, resurrected or comes back as a ghost, we don't care about her lover who dies early.

Princess Ariashal is cursed, any man she marries must die {how & when}. But when she marries the King of Angevar, a man cursed to live life without a face or name, she discovers her Brother's treachery {what is it? what dismal deed is he going to do?}. They save the day with paranormal powers.

You need to specify why this is a paranormal romance. Also, if you reveal the King of Angewar is cursed by a god, then you might need a line or two about his curse. However, I warn you, trying to write the query with two operating curses can sound silly. Be careful with your words.

A cursed King and his equally cursed Queen battle to lift their curse. Can the love between Ariashal and Angevin survive? Can it grow to defeat traitors, gods and telepathy?

You need a hook like those but not those. They only half work.

Anonymous said...

Step away from the Photoshop. Please.

Author, I got only one thing from your query. That your MCs are both cursed. Problem is, I don't even really know what the curses are. Um, everyone dies. Maybe a little more explanation. Like the husbands die within a month, a year, whatever of being married. That time frame also could be used to advantage in the query by setting it up that after Ariashal starts falling in love with the king, they have only X time to discover the nature of the curse or the king is dead.

As for the king's curse -- clueless. Is it the jealous god committing the acts of cruelty and savagery in the guise of the king? If that's not the case, then a cruel and savage hero is not your best bet for a romance hero. Make that clearer, please. If that's the case, I had to work at understanding it.

Highlight the romance arc, and give us a little better idea of the stakes. Make room for more story by condensing your credential/closing paragraphs.

I am a member of RWA, and have published a vampire short story. I look forward to sending you sample chapters of THE CURSED QUEEN, a [spicy/sensual/sweet] fantasy romance complete at 108,000 words.

And explain how this is a paranormal, please. A fantasy romance, yes. But paranormal? Not seeing it. A mention of the level of sex in the story is generally expected in a romance query, too, especially if it's not explicitly shown in the query.

And certainly not something to explain in the query, but it seems odd to say 'every man she MARRIES dies' in the first sentence, then follow that up with a man who is murdered BEFORE she gets married. How does this curse work again? Not so consistently, it seems...

jjdebenedictis said...

Ariashal's curse seems inconsistent. "Every man she marries dies", except that her sixth sweetie dies before she marries him and her kingly husband doesn't die at all.

You're missing a name or pronoun in the following sentence: "She learns that [???] has a curse of his own: his visage and name [are?] taken by a jealous god."

The only part of the query that hints at a real plot (rather than being backstory) is the paragraph starting with "Her brother's treachery..." Even then, the conflict is vague. "Ariashal and the King seek to defeat their curses." That's it? What's so gripping about that quest that I would want to read this book? You really need to give more specifics.

I'd suggest outlining your novel using the following structure, so that you really know what all your main plot points are:
- Ariashal has a problem, which is [something].
- To try to solve her problem, she [does something].
- This results in [another problem].
- To try to solve this problem, she [does something else].
... etc. ...
- To try to solve her latest problem, Ariashal [and King No-Name?] try to [do something].
- This works, and she [they?] finally have a situation she can live with, although her life will never be the same again.
- The End.

Once you've done that, try rewriting your query. Currently, the query is so vague about the plot that it sounds like the book doesn't really have one. That's bad news, if you're trying to convince an agent/editor that you've written something wonderfully gripping to read.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to try and answer some of the very good questions.

"Paranormal Romance" is something of a catchall bin, and every thing I looked at from RWA says to put 'fantasy romance' (is there really any other kind?) in 'paranormal'.

I can see some of the plot holes, which of course are answered in the book, but that doesn't count in a query. Synopsis, yes, but not query.

Yes, her family is cynically using her to make a land grab.

I loved everyone's GTPs.

I'll think & work & see if I can do better.

Anonymous said...

[Do they hook the daughter up with the sorceror king to form an alliance, or hoping her curse kills him?]


Chris Eldin said...

I'm sooo turned on.

Looks just like Minister Bob.

Chris Eldin said...

I guess I should try to write something helpful.

I think your opening line needs to be stronger.

When the man she loves is murdered just before her sixth wedding,

This sounds comical--A Series of Unfortunate Marriages. I would delete the word 'sixth.'

I didn't understand this sentence: She learns that has a curse of his own: his visage and name taken by a jealous god

And you mentioned the King also has a curse. I think you should say what it is.

You say that the plot holes are explained in the book. But your query should entice the reader, not confuse them. I think overall you have a nice flow in your query. But you do need to explain those few things....

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

"Paranormal" is catch-all for contests, awards and such in RWA. You'll notice that the name of the specialty chapter in RWA even breaks it out: Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal. It's important to distinguish since some agents who rep romance won't touch fantasy or futuristic elements, but are all over paranormal. A small nit, but it's dotting the "i" and crossing the "t" in "nit" that help give us a favorable edge in the slush.

Also, when pitching romance, the conventions are a bit different from other genres. Re-read December/Stacia's comments about the romance being front and center in the query. Hero and heroine get equal play, and we need to know what keeps them emotionally apart for 300 pages. We also need a few plot specifics around the rest of the story since the word count indicates you're going for single title and not category.

Would love to see the rewrite!

JJ, were we channeling each other or what? :o)

- Phoenix, RWA PRO (as are a few other commenters here, too *wave*)

jjdebenedictis said...

JJ, were we channeling each other or what?

:-) Yeah; I noticed that too. Cute coincidence that our comments ended up right next to each other.

Bernita said...

Too many husbands.