Monday, December 03, 2007

Face-Lift 460

Guess the Plot


1. When Franny McVane got that new duck whistle for hunting season, she was hoping to summon ducks, not hurricanes. Now that she has the whistle, however, she wonders how much the people of Whitley, Montana will pay to be hurricane-free this year.

2. It is a dream come true for teenager Steffy Swanberg, aspiring actress, when she lands a spot on the "Weathercaller" show, in which participants vie to predict the weather. Too bad her first episode will be her last, unless a tornado really does destroy Fargo.

3. Chicago weatherman Freddie Hearst's biggest "fan" swears on the air that he's going to kill Freddie. Why? Freddie has predicted a sunny weekend that was instead greeted by rain - again. And apparently everyone else in Chicagoland feels the same way, because as the caller's threats become more terrifying, the ratings skyrocket.

4. Jonathan is a Weathercaller: he uses the imprisoned souls of dead wizards to summon rain. But now he's been arrested and sentenced to have his own soul imprisoned. Now I wonder, still I wonder, who'll call the rain?

5. When Dave hacked into "Project Weathercaller" he thought it was a computer game. He had no idea it was the super secret center coordinating America's 27 spy agencies. Soon Agent 419 is torturing kidnapped undercover lingerie model Mae Wong in a Polish dungeon, desperate to find a box of plutonium that never even existed. And a bomb-laden drone is flying toward Poland to vaporize them both.

6. Rob Jones is the worst TV weather guy in the world, so his future looks doubtful--until he meets weather goddess Glorietta. It's love at first sight, so she decides to help out, adjusting the weather to fulfill his forecasts. But when Springfield is treated to blizzard, flood, and heat wave -- all in three hours--no one is pleased.

Original Version

I am seeking representation for "Weathercaller," a fantasy novel with romance elements, complete at 100,000 words.

Delia has two jobs: one everyone knows about, and one she must never speak of.

Her first job is to act as Second [and her second job is to act as First. Is this a Who's on first routine, or a Monty Python skit? Let me guess: Her third job is to play first violin in the Fifth Dimension's Fourth of July concert.] to Jonathan, a Weathercaller responsible for summoning rain to a thirsty land. Pulling the clouds over the mountains is not easy; to accomplish it, Delia and Jonathan must draw power from bondspirits, the imprisoned souls of long-dead wizards. [They have the power to imprison souls, but they need to hire a guy to make it rain?]

Delia's second job is to engage in some espionage on behalf of a magistrate named Marcus, who, in return for her service, has promised to deal leniently with her imprisoned brother. Marcus believes Jonathan is engaged in treasonous research and may intend to free the bondspirits. If he frees the bondspirits, the populace will starve. Marcus charges Delia with observing Jonathan's activities, collecting evidence of his wrongdoing, and sabotaging his research.

Delia has no qualms about exposing a traitor, but as she gets to know Jonathan, she discovers he's not one. He's right to want to free the bondspirits, who are tortured souls, cruelly enslaved and denied the afterlife. [She discovers this just from getting to know Jonathan?] His "treasonous" research consists of adapting drought-resistant crops to the region-crops that could be grown without the aid of bondspirits. [Won't that put him out of a job? Ever notice that you don't see Exxon-Mobil trying to invent cars that run without gas or oil?] To make matters worse, she's falling in love with him.

She regrets having passed so much information along to Marcus. She's afraid Jonathan will discover her duplicity, and worries still more what will happen to her brother if she reneges on her contract with Marcus. But when Jonathan is arrested and sentenced to be enslaved as a bondspirit, [Bondspirits are the souls of long-dead wizards. Thus I infer that Jonathan is a wizard, but that he has so little power he can't escape a prison. And that they have the ability to capture his soul. And that they think they can get rain without him.] she knows she must act, to save not only Jonathan's soul, but her own.

I would be happy to send you a partial or full manuscript. Thank you for your time.


Who, specifically, has imprisoned the dead wizards' souls? Marcus? The populace? An evil overlord?

You say Marcus believes Jonathan is engaged in treasonous research. Is he a misguided good guy or a bad guy?

Is Delia's brother imprisoned justly? What's the charge?

Given that if he frees the bondspirits the populace will starve, I assume that if Jonathan plans to free the bondspirits, he also has a plan to feed everyone?

If you're going to enslave your Weathercaller, shouldn't you wait until after he develops his drought-resistant crops?

It reads okay, but I'd like a few questions cleared up.


Polenth said...

If 1 had been a real plot, I'd have been there. Summoning ducks would be a great story.

I'm confused about Marcus's motivations. He doesn't seem to have a reason for wanting everyone to starve to death. Or does he believe Jonathan is a fraud and it will still rain?

Blogless Troll said...

I don't think the two jobs approach is working. It seemed like a whole lotta build up just to find out she's a spy. Obviously, you need to get that info across, but I think phrasing it in a more matter-of-fact way would work better.

[They have the power to imprison souls, but they need to hire a guy to make it rain?]

It's usually the ones gifted the most power who are the least resourceful. Look at Santa. Guy's got overnight delivery skills that FedEx would drown kittens for, but he can't get through some cloud cover without a mutant? C'mon. No one asked for a flashlight?

Dave Fragments said...

I like the story. It seems that no one is either good or bad and each character has his or her flaws.
But the query doesn't do it justice.

Delia is assigned to be assistant to Jonathan because King Marcus suspects he's a traitor.

That's the story in one sentence. You can replace "king" with any other appellation.

Delia falls in love with Jonathan the wizard who King Marcus believes is a traitor. Jonathan uses the bound souls of dead men to bring rain to the land.

Two sentences.

Now you should add a sentence or two about Jonathan is researching drought resistant crops and upsetting someone's apple-cart and gravy-train. And then close it all with a sentence about Delia having to risk herself to save the man she loves, free the bond spirits and save the people from famine.

That's my advice.

PS: Blogless Troll - go read HOGFATHER for Christmas.

Anonymous said...

It's ok, but kind of bland. Maybe you could crank up the sexiness or the humor or the terrifying scariness, whatever quality distinguishes this manuscript from all the other fantasy manuscripts floating around the ether.

none said...

Presumably Jonathan can still call the rain as a bondspirit, only then he'll have no choice. Yes?

talpianna said...

Sounds like Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series, only not as much fun. At least the heroine doesn't seem to get beaten to a pulp in every book, as in that series.

Robin S. said...

This is a really funny crop of GTPs.

I think this story sounds interesting. I don't read much fantasy, but if I did...

Sarah Laurenson said...

I think there might be a good story in here, but it's hard to tell. There are a lot of questions - even more than EE raised.

Does it take 2 to call the rain or can Delia do it herself? Is she afraid for her own soul because she feels the same as Jonathan or because she thinks that rain callers or generally targeted?

What can the wizards do besides bring rain after they're dead and bonded? It seems like they're a weak bunch if they've been allowing this to happen for what seems like a long time.

If the souls are long-dead, how long before a dead Jonathon becomes one of those Delia must work with?

So the drought resistent crops are Jonathan's treasonous way of feeding the people without needing to call rain? Drought resistent does not imply no rain at all.

If Jonathan can prove his plants will feed people with very little rain, then why doesn't he propose this to the powers that be? Why does he have to go about it secretly?

Very little rain causes other issues than plants dying. What water source do these people use for drinking water?

If the crops are drought resistent, what adaptation do they need to grow in drought conditions?

If Delia is considering reneging on her deal with Marcus, why was Jonathan arrested? It sounds like she hasn't followed through.

Not all of these need answered in the query, but there do seem to be a lot of holes in your story as represented by your query.

AmyB said...

Hi, thanks for the feedback. Dave and Robin, thanks for the positive comments.

Buffysquirrel: yes, exactly.

Hmm, is my query not making it clear that Delia is a Weathercaller too? She's learning the ropes from Jonathan, but she'll soon be just as capable of summoning the rain as he is, with the help of the bondspirits.

Marcus is heavily invested in a water-intensive luxury crop and Jonathan, who blocks him every time he tries to extend the range and frequency of the rain-summoning program, is a thorn in his side. His intent is to replace Jonathan with Delia, whom he believes will be easier to control (and over whom he has some leverage). It is preferable to have two Weathercallers per region, in case one becomes indisposed, but Marcus wants Jonathan out of the picture.

Because this novel is unfinished (I guessed at the final word count), I don't even know the answer to all the questions yet myself. I don't know, for example, whether Delia's brother's crime was real or whether Marcus brought him in on trumped-up charges to gain leverage over Delia. I hope to make that bit into a subplot, but I haven't fleshed it out yet.

Anyway, Marcus's intent is to use Delia to gather evidence against Jonathan (who really is trying to find a way to eliminate the use of bondspirits in raincalling, since he believes it's cruel and exploitative). Then he'll have Jonathan arrested and--he hopes--enslaved as a bondspirit himself. Then Delia, whom he believes he can control, would become the sole Weathercaller for the region.

In this world's magic system, the more energy required to perform a task, the more power must be raised. Raincalling involves pulling the clouds over the mountains (the region is located in the dry side of a rain shadow), which requires immense energy and cannot be achieved by a single Weathercaller. That's why the bondspirits are used--but at least one "live" Weathercaller is required to call up and channel the bondspirits' power.

Stacia said...

Guy's got overnight delivery skills that FedEx would drown kittens for, but he can't get through some cloud cover without a mutant? C'mon. No one asked for a flashlight?

And that is when I fell in love with Blogless Troll.

I think the world you created here is very interestng, but agree the plot doesn't seem to sing as much as it might. I'd take out the stuff about the two jobs and start with something like Dave suggested.

talpianna said...

I'd suggest that some research on the history of the near-total destruction of the Aral Sea might come in useful.