Friday, October 26, 2007

Face-Lift 442

Guess the Plot

Neska's Tattoo

1. Neska must learn to use the powers she acquired when the magic tattoo appeared on her hands in order to defeat the murderous criminal known as . . . The Usurper!

2. When Steve and Neska meet, it's love at first sight--until he mentions how much he hates tattoos, unaware of the passion flower vines encircling her.

3. When 11 year old Neska Jones gets home from the slumber party, her mom immediately notices the "skull & crossbones" tattooed on her arm. Now Bob Jones is racing across town with his hound dog and shotgun, looking for the rat that wrecked his little girl's life.

4. As the winner of the Most Churlish Clerk award at the company party, Neska thinks she has nowhere to go but up--until her weekend ends on Monday afternoon when she wakes up naked in a strange house, sporting a scandalous new tattoo and wondering who that blonde guy was.

5. It wasn't her wisest move, but Neska Smith got a tattoo one drunken night in college. Now that she's planning her third date with hunky journalist Aaron Michaelson, she realizes that he may soon see it for himself. Will he be intimidated--or amused--by her tattoo of a laughing woman holding a knife in one hand and and a penis in the other?

6. The last thing Stinky and Dwight want to do is, of course, what they must do -- if they want to hang with the Blackbrush Bankers. Their mission? Lick Neska's tattoo. The deadline? Midnight, this Saturday. The penalty for failure? Exile.

Original Version

When Neska accidentally becomes a sorceress, she has to fight against the murderous usurper who would kill her to steal her magic. [I recommend capitalizing "Usurper" so he sounds like a super villain.]

The usurper [The Usurper!!] , now King Baleren, [Boring. Always refer to him as The Usurper!!] .] murders both the rightful Andonian King and Neska's clan. She escapes to a nearby town where she agrees to guide a fleeing mage through her native mountains. The mage is killed, [Nice guide job, Neska. Hope you got paid in advance.] his magical tattoo appearing on her palms. She soon realizes that the tattoo contains [possesses] great power, power King Baleren will do anything to acquire and that she must now learn to control. [How does the Usurper know she has a magic tattoo?]

Salvation arrives in Erlant, a mage who offers to teach her to control the power that gives the ability to see the thoughts of the people around her and to fog their minds. [Thanks, Erlant, but instead of teaching me parlor tricks, could you teach me to destroy my enemies with a single thought?] But, salvation has a price, and Neska agrees in return to help Erlant find the missing heir to the throne. As much as she wants Baleren destroyed, she has no faith in their ability to achieve it. Yet together they hunt [search for] the Prince, pursued by traitorous mages, the usurper's army, [There's something odd about referring to someone as "the usurper" three times when you know his name.] and his half-demon minions called the Chanwe. [Well, that settles it; if you're going to capitalize his minions, you have to capitalize the Usurper.] She locates him by getting close to the sadistic Chanwe commander so she can see his thoughts. [Unfortunately, the commander thinks about nothing but naked women for three hours, but eventually he thinks, The prince is in the fourth cave from the left, halfway up Mt. Andonia; no one'll ever find him there.] Once they find the Prince, freeing him and reaching his awaiting army to defeat King Baleren takes them along an even more dangerous path. Then in their darkest hour, haunted by loss and with defeat imminent, Neska must call upon her deepest strengths to conquer her magic so they can triumph.

Neska's Tattoo is a completed stand-alone 90,000 word fantasy novel which could have a sequel... [Neska's Eyebrow Piercing.]


This is a clear enough description of what happens, but it does inspire a few questions:

What makes The Usurper!! think he can steal Neska's magic? Neska didn't make the tattoo appear on her palms; she got the tattoo magically. How can The Usurper!! make the tattoo appear on his palms?

Besides, when you've already usurped the throne, and you have an army of half-demon minions, do you really need the ability to read minds? You can be sure pretty much everybody is thinking, Must kill Usurper.

If Neska can't read thoughts until Erlant teaches her, how did she know she had magical powers in the first place?

When you're up against an army of half-demons, I wouldn't call mind reading ability "salvation." Knowing that the 6000 creatures charging toward you are thinking, Must kill Neska, isn't nearly as useful as a fast horse.

Why are the traitorous mages and the demon minions loyal to The Usurper!!? What do they need him for?


Anonymous said...

I didn't understand the magic or the perils, either. They seem to be out of proportion, mismatched.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about writing good queries, so don't have much of use to add, but I can say that the sentence --

The mage is killed, his magical tattoo appearing on her palms.

-- doesn't make sense. If the tattoo transfers from him to her after his death, maybe say:

The mage is killed and his magical tattoo appears on her palms.

Chris Eldin said...

You may want to work some poetry into your story.
To help you, I've come up with a list:

U Surper
U Burper
U Feathery Chirper
U Big-Gulp Slurper

writtenwyrdd said...

The plot sounds overused and possibly illogical based on the query letter. Also, the use of usurper is pretty funny...not what you need in a query.

Your story sounds like it could be a workable if slightly generic fantasy. Perhaps you can highlight what makes your tale unique and different from other epic fantasies?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Author:

I must agree with WW. From the query, this story seems to be pretty safe and generic. What's your hook? What about THIS story will make me want to pick it out of the slush of similar-sounding stories, whether I'm an agent or simply a reader?

Characters, plot, theme, and execution all seem standard fare as your query is written. Do you have something that stands out? If so, that something should go right up front as the attention grabber.

Now, standard fare in the form of characters and plot can still sell if you have a unique perspective. Perhaps if the mage who transfers his powers to Neska is somehow embodied in the girl and it's he who tells the story... Or maybe the story is told from the perspective of a talking dagger... Or maybe the narrator's voice is the hook. But something of that uniqueness must come through in the query. Right now, I'm afraid I'm not seeing anything in the query to distinguish it and elevate it out of the slush. I'm sure your story is good; it's just the query that needs another go.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Phoenix. Why doesn't the protag go hide in a cave? Something is missing.

Anonymous said...

Something to consider that comes from your query. This may not be a problem in your book, but it does seem to be one here.

If the usurper has to kill Neska to get her tattoo and the powers that come with it, then did Neska kill the mage? Why didn’t the mage’s tattoo transfer to the killer? Why won’t the same debacle happen if the usurper kills Neska?

I’m assuming that the killer of the mage is one of the usurper’s minions and it somehow knows the tattoo went to Neska. That’s a lot of reading between the lines though. Is this how the king knows he has to target Neska?

Neska’s out for revenge for the murder of her clan (the buttercup bears a sword). As was said earlier – this is a popular theme in a lot of sword and sorcery books. Along with the newly found power, the stranger who helps her awaken it and all of the danger and loss that precedes the eventual success of the mission. So what does make this book different from those?

It’s hard for me to sit back and think that a book I wrote and poured so much of my soul into doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Alas, it can be all too true. Good luck!