Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Face-Lift 435

Guess the Plot

The Third War of Gods

1. The first time didn't go so well. The second, well, that whole Hiroshima thing put paid to it. But Satan is back and ready for more, and this time he's got a plan he's sure will succeed.

2. It has been foretold that Rogund will defeat the King of Dreams at the City of Gods. But how can one 16-year-old boy stop the King's nightmares from consuming the gods for the power of their dreams, thus saving the world for men and gods alike? Also, wolfmen riding on horses.

3. He's just a little drummer boy. Or is he? When Max taps his little drum the thunder up above roars in reply, waking the Gods, and after fifty thousand years of sleep they're ready to party! But the One True God has different ideas.

4. John hears through his buddies at the bar that the gods are getting ready for yet another war. He could barely sleep during the last war, now they want to fight another one? John considers getting his hands on a nuclear weapon, thinks better of it, and instead drinks himself into a stupor in preparation for . . . The Third War of Gods.

5. Talina lived in world where she seemed to have little say in her fate. People came into her life and then vanished never to be seen again. Everyone who shared her extraordinary powers was intent on killing her, and she could heal herself by eating, of all things, beetles. When there's a sudden pause of all life apart from her she realizes she is the protagonist in a series of computer games called "War of Gods." Can she defy all logic and escape her digital prison?

6. In the first, the Greeks knocked off the Norse. In the second, it was the Romans over the Greeks. Now theologian Kevin McCready has found and opened the real Pandora's Box, releasing all the gods to wander the heavens, bickering over heavenly real estate. Will Kevin be held resposible for . . . The Third War of Gods?

Original Version

The Third War of Gods

16-year old Rogund has been prophesied to defeat the King of Dreams, god of nightmares, [rajah of reverie, vision vizier, potentate of hallucinate,] and save the world -- but Rogund is bleeding to death, and the bodies of his desert tribe are piled around him. Even as Mother Death comes to reap his soul, he swears to hunt down the outlanders that killed his family, no matter what the cost.

Mother Death shows mercy and lets Rogund live, but she commands him to face the King of Dreams at the City of Gods. Rogund disobeys her. [Rogund, Rogund. Even I, who've never heard of her, know that no good can come from disobeying Mother Death.] Instead, he sets out after the outlanders that murdered his tribe. After he raids their camp, Rogund learns that the outlanders' Prince -- Dirna IrSul -- is also prophesied to defeat the King of Dreams in the City of Gods. [Turns out thousands of guys have the same prophesy. The seers figure sooner or later someone's gonna kill the King of Dreams at the City of Gods, and then they'll look good.] The King's nightmares already swarm through Prince IrSul's homeland, consuming men and gods alike for the power of their dreams. [If you already have the power to consume gods, do you really need more?] Desperate and running out of time, Prince IrSul will kill anyone that might get in his way -- especially a boy nomad bent on revenge.

Rogund chases the Prince toward the City of Gods, obsessed with murdering him. But soon an even darker force appears: an army of nightmares has caught Rogund and IrSul's scent. Now wolf-men on horses made of bone hound the heroes' steps, hungry for their dreams. [If I may quote from Face-Lift 78: "If there's a wolfman in a book, it should be stated clearly, up front." The last thing you want is for an editor or agent to stop reading your query letter before getting to the part where you mention the wolfman.]

When Rogund, IrSul, and the King of Dreams collide at the City of Gods, their hate for each other will decide the fate of men and gods alike.


These so-called gods seem awfully vulnerable, what with getting consumed and having their fates decided by a kid and a prince. As we tend to think of gods as all-powerful, you might want to set this up by declaring that the King of Dreams, god of nightmares is the most powerful god, or is on his way to becoming the most powerful thanks to his army of equestrian wolfmen. Then again, if he's the most powerful of the gods, what chance does Rogund have against him?

Every time I read Rogund I think Rogaine. Change his name to Rogaine, give him a flowing mane, and you may land a lucrative product placement deal.

Presumably there's more to this, like genre, word count, expression of gratitude to the reader for wasting her time, and the other little things that turn a plot summary into a business letter.


Peter Damien said...

The problem with Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic series is that now, every time someone writes about the Dream King, or a female Death, I cannot help but think of Morpheus and his sister. And then I wind up on THEIR side.

EE is usually right, but the specific bit he's right about this time is the vulnerabilities of the gods. It can be deftly handled, the ways of hurting and killing gods, but from this letter, they just seem...wishy washy.

(Begin Rude Generalization) These days, if you tell a 16-year-old that he's to destroy the King of Dreams, he would go "ZOMG!" and talk about how he feels about that on his MySpace page, unto death. (End Rude Generalization).

Bernita said...

Yes with the word count, etc.
Think this story has considerable promise though.

Robin S. said...

OK- which one or two books in the epic fantasy genre should I read, so I know both:

1- what to expect
2- what is expected

in them?

How about Neil Gaiman (and which one) plus one other book - I don't have a lot of extra time - so they can't be large tomes.

I need primers, please.

Author- good luck with your work.

EE- "potentate of hallucinate" was a really good one.

Dave Fragments said...

I like the idea of "Mother" Death and that a 16 y/o is eloquent enough to stay Death's hand. Obviously, death comes to all, but is Rogund's reprieve only until he complete's his vengeance {?} or for all time?

And I like the dual prophecy - two men have been told that they must face the King of Dreams (who for some reason is only dreaming nightmares). Prophecy is a tricky thing.

I think that the peril is the conquest of the world by incarnate nightmares. Rogund's quest is that he must defeat the King of Dreams when the nightmares threaten the country or else the world will sink into one big long nightmare, never to wake again. That unifies two elements of your story.

I see the outlanders and Prince Dirna-Irsul (reminds me of Dinah Shore planting a big kiss... sorry, I got carried away) as a complication. They raid Rogund's village and kill him and his family but Mother Death permits Rogund to avenge their deaths and fulfill the prophecy.Now we ahve all three elements together.

So begin your query something like this:
When nightmarish wolf-men on skeletal horses come to devour Rogund's dreams, he knows that the time of the prophecy has arrived and he must journey to the City of the Gods and defeat the King of Dreams.

Then you can introduce the Prince.

Something like:
Rogund's journey is cut short when he and his family are slaughtered by outlander Prince DIno Irsul. Rogund begs Mother Death for time to revenge his family's death and complete the prophecy. When Death agrees, Rogund pursues Prince Irsul to the City of Dreams where both men must join together to defeat the King of Dreams.

I couldn't quite fit the revenge conflict into those words. You can do that.
And does Rogund die at the end?
Does Prince Irsul die for his crime?
Does the King of Dreams discover the bluebird of happiness and start dreaming happy things? Like instead of Godzilla on Hate Pills, Beany and Cecil on valium?

Evil Editor said...

The trouble with recommending one or two epic fantasy books is that they're all series. If it's any good, more books are written set in the same world. LOTR was intended to be one book; the movies were true to the books.

The Mists of Avalon tells the King Arthur stories from the women's viewpoint.

Perhaps you've already read Homer's Odyssey?

For a stand-alone book that's not long, try Nobody's Son by Sean Stewart. It was written for YA's, but it has some clever features you'll appreciate more than they would.

Basically, what you should expect is an average person meeting a challenge that's epic in scope in world where fantastical and magical stuff exists.

My favorite Neil G. is Neverwhere, and it's not too long. I wouldn't call it epic fantasy.

none said...

Robin, what you need is Diana Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

Robin S. said...

I read the Mists of Avalon, but it's been a while. I'd have thought the Arthurian legend epic was almost a separate genre - even though epic and fantasy. But I see what you mean.

Yes also on The Odyssey - I read it in college.

I can't tell, when reading eipc fantasy queries that you receive, what is or isn't a good/overdone/expected/interesting plot line.

I'll check out the website, buffy- and order the two books you mentioned - the Gaiman book (even if not epic fantasy) and the
Sean Stewart book.

Thanks, EE and buffy.

Peter Damien said...

I think that whether you're writing fantasy or not, EVERYONE should Diana Wynne Jones' book. What a wonderful book. (Just like all her other stuff, for that matter.)

Lightsmith said...

I really liked this. The book sounds interesting and the query is well written.

One thing I might clarify is the usage of the term "nightmares." Initially it sounds like you are referring to nightmares in their traditional sense, i.e. bad dreams, and at other points it sounds like the nightmares are corporeal beings, but it's not always clear (to me, anyway) which is which. When you say that nightmares swarm through the Prince's homeland, is this referring to a plague of bad dreams which consume the "sleep energies" of men/gods while they are dreaming? Or are the nightmares physical beings who are literally eating people? Later, when you refer to the equestrian wolf-men, are they nightmares? The way it was phrased, I wasn't sure of the relationship between the two.

Maybe these things were clear to everyone but me, but I was a little confused.

Overall, though, good job.

Anonymous said...

If you're really interested in reading an epic fantasy, I could send you my teenage diary. It has all the key elements, and scratch 'n' sniff.

Just let me know.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Rogaine with a flowing mane! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

OMG EE, you totally made me forget my comment! And I liked this query and had a good comment too!

Anonymous said...

ee -- I like the rogaine poem. :) Maybe I'll work it into my draft somewhere ;) (joke!) As for the gods being wishy-washy, I'd like more advice on how to address this in the query letter. The gods in my book are very much in the Greek an Norse tradition. Powerful, petty, and terrifying -- but they can be killed by each other and -- very rarely -- by men. Any tips on getting this across in a query letter hook?

pete - I think I should write the story about the myspace page hero next ;)

bernita - All I can say is that I was too new to the site when I sent it in, and realized my mistake almost immediatetly. When I submitted, I felt that I could handle the formulaic parts of the query letter, and that the "hook" was the part that needed the most polishing. I have no particularly impressive credits, so the rest is very short. I've included the odds and ends below, for perusal:

Opening: "'The Third War of Gods' is a 100,000 fantasy novel about the fragility of gods and men."

Closing: "Enclosed is an SASE for your repsonse. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, (me)"

robin s - thanks! I reccommend George RR Martin's "A Game of Thrones". It's the first in a series, but it will give you a taste of the genren.

dave f - Very useful feedback, thanks! I'll be digesting that for a while, so I can write the next (and hopefully better!) draft. Good questions, too. I hesitate to answer them, because ending also hinges on three other characters that won't fit into the hook -- and I'd have to explain all of them, too.

lightsmith -- good question. The nightmares are real beings, that come in as many forms as you can dream them. The wolf-men are just one aspect.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

Evil Editor said...

Powerful, petty, and terrifying -- but they can be killed by each other and -- very rarely -- by men. Any tips on getting this across in a query letter hook?

I think you got their vulnerability across. We only cal them wimpy because there aren't a lot of gods getting killed in the mythology we've read. Perhaps if you mention what it takes to kill a god, we'll see that it's a big challenge for Rogaine, and not just a matter of throwing a bucket of water on him.

Anonymous said...

Potentate of Hallucinate! Bwaaaahahahahahahaha!

Nancy Beck said...

Robin S. - I 3rd or 4th or whatever Neil G's Neverwhere. I've only read other of his (American Gods) and didn't care for it.

Definitely not epic fantasy, but it could be called either urban or dark fantasy.

Dave - I think you hit it spot on about the dual prophecy. Reminds me of the dual prophecy in The Belgariad, which is also epic fantasy. Except it's got plenty of humor, and one of the most fun characters, Silk.

If you have time, Robin S., you might consider picking up that series (yeah, it's 5 books, which will probably put a crimp in your time).


Nancy Beck said...

Shouldn't it be vizier of vision?