Monday, February 11, 2008

Face-Lift 488

Guess the Plot

Dark is the Wrong Color of Night

1. Evan is a vampire with a problem--he can feed--and live--only by day. Unfortunately he loves Persephone, a more traditional vampire. They say opposites attract, but can these latent lovebirds overcome the barriers keeping them apart?

2. In the city of Colora, artist Tristin Periwinkle has made his name thanks to magic paint that allows his landscapes and animals to come to life. But when rival artist Orvin Brown steals the paint and creates a monster that threatens the lives of everyone else in Colora, it's up to Tristin to save the day. Also, frogs.

3. Design guru Oliver Stuart regrets taking the job decorating Lady Pertwhistle's country house. Every color he suggests is wrong, blue is so last season, and "Dark is the wrong color of night." He's ready to quit--until he meets Lord Pertwhistle. Trying to balance an impossible client and a new romance, can Oliver find the perfect hue for the drawing room? Or is pink the wrong color of butch?

4. Trudy Hench's new play about life on the bright side of the moon offends two of the lesser gods who obstruct her production with minor plagues in the form of large black spiders which are impossible to kill and intermittent bouts of irrational lust for the guy who plays "Waiter."

5. Danger and romance galore await students at Polaris Academy, the most northerly art school in the world, when a giant floe unexpectedly breaks away and the entire "solstice ice-scape" painting class heads toward the pole. Will this band of misfits and geniuses keep the igloo warm together, or will they argue over the color of ice until they freeze?

6. When Jedi master Yoda takes over the Jeopardy! franchise, questions and answers turn inside out and ratings plummet. Can the producers right the sinking ship before Yoda turns to the Dark Side to recover his place in prime-time?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Following is my query letter for Dark is the Wrong Color of Night, a humerous fantasy. [Whether you mean a funny fantasy or a fantasy about an arm bone, a typo in the first sentence is never good.] [Actually, while humorous fantasies are a dime a dozen, a humerus fantasy would be truly original. An archaeologist on a dig in Britain finds Merlin's humerus and uses it to destroy the world or to get chicks. A bullied kid finds a magical humerus and uses it to make his tormentors pay. There are a thousand ways to go. I'm considering assigning a humerus writing exercise.] The title comes from the fact that everything in the novel, people's names, the city's name, the clothes people wear, all relate in some way to a specific color. [I considered the possibility that this paragraph wasn't part of the query, and was here only to explain the title, but it's the only place that mentions the title, so we'll assume it's part of the query.]

When Merlin Tristin Periwinkle's license to practice Magic is revoked by the Magician's Union both for flubbing a spell--which exposed the Mayor's affair with his cook--and filling the courtroom with frogs during the ensuing trial, he thinks his life is over. But it's only just beginning [, for he now wields the enchanted humerus of Magenta].

Returning to his previous occupation as an artist, Tristin is certain he has an advantage. His newly amended license allows him to both purchase and use already enchanted items, such as paint. Now he's able to paint landscapes and animals that come to life. But only if the paint cooperates and he doesn't lose his voice. [Why would he lose his voice? Also, if you're not going to tell us what losing his voice has to do with it, better not to mention it at all.] [Also, if Tristin isn't the only person who can purchase magic paint, the world would be filling up with painted landscapes that would be on top of each other.] [What happens if you get a map of the Earth and paint water all over it with magic paint? Does everyone drown?

Though eventually Tristin succeeds in making a name for himself, [As an artist? If the pig you painted becomes a living pig, is the pig considered a work of art? Or a source of bacon?] not everyone rejoices at his success. One artist in particular, Orvin Brown, craves that fame for himself and will do anything to get it, including stealing the magic paint. But Orvin is ill-equipped to handle such a fickle, troublesome substance and makes some grievous errors. When he mixes Magic paint with normal paint, he creates a monster that threatens not only his life, but the lives of everyone in Colora. Unable to handle the monster himself, he turns to Tristin for help.

Now, hounded by a Magic Inspector intent on arresting him for the illegal use of Magic, Tristin and Orvin must unite to destroy the rampaging painting before Colora is destroyed for the eighth, and possibly final, time. [Should that be "arresting them"? If not, it should be, Tristin must unite with Orvin. Actually, it probably should be Orvin must unite with Tristin. Who does the inspector want to arrest? Seems to me Orvin is the one who illegally used magic.]


Explaining the title, you said the city's name related to a specific color. But Colora doesn't sound especially specific. (Unless we're talking about a specific disease.) Also, what's this about the people's clothes relating to specific colors? Do Orvin and everyone in his family wear only brown clothes? Are there people stuck wearing nothing but lime green?

Speaking of the title, must I point out the obvious, namely that dark is the right color of night?

It would help to know the intended audience. As described, it seems like a book for kids, except for the part about the mayor's affair with the cook. Will adults go for a book in which everyone's last name is a color in the city of Colora? Or will they think it's kind of lame?

On the other hand, everyone's last name is a color in the board game Clue and adults play that. Maybe you could change Brown and Periwinkle to Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum, and get some cross-over sales.

Am I the only one here who had a thing for Miss Scarlet when he was a teenager? Miss Scarlet in the billiard room with the rope. Mmmm.


Anonymous said...

Am I the only one here who had a thing for Miss Scarlet when he was a teenager?

Miss Scarlet was a he? I didn't have a clue.

Dave Fragments said...

I never pick on a title but "Dark is the Wrong Color of Night" sounds like a vampire novel or some other evil denizen of hades novel. The title doesn't sound like the title for a light-hearted romantic comedy. Oh wait, this isn't romance, either. So I am puzzled. You need a title to match the story. Acrylic Apocalypse, Water-Color Witch Wars, Impasto Devilment, Ochre Ogres, Fuchsia Fiends or something like that.

This matches New Beginning 444.

PJD said...

I think it would be a really humorous story if Tristan's 5-year-old nephew got hold of the magic paints. Five-year olds have an interesting artistic take on perspective. For example, a four-legged dog becomes an in-line dog. Suppose that came to life and tried to chase an in-line cat. Talk about funny.

By the way, great work on the GTPs.

Now, on the query: Author, I was turned off by the name "Colora" and found I couldn't take the query seriously after that. I don't much get into stories where the gimmick is its reason for being, and it seems this story exists specifically for the author's titillation with word play around color. Plus, Colora is, well, as EE says, lame. Also too close to cholera, which is a gross disease. You could change it to Dyearrhea perhaps. Or Pigmentia.

And that typo on humerous needs to be fixed. I think you meant huemorous.

EB said...

I, too, am confused about the genre. Assuming this isn't an anatomy treatise, I think I've figured it out:

It's a black comedy written in purple prose by a yellow journalist warning of the red menace.

In the libary with a candlestick. Or a 64-color crayola box. That's probably heavy enough to brain someone.

Anonymous said...

EE - Will you be my Valentine? I spewed Fresca all over my desk reading that first paragraph. You're brilliant and funny. You're simply the best.

Anonymous said...

What age group is this aimed at?

Anonymous said...

EE- will you be my Valentine? I inhaled cola (which is far more painful and potentially life-threatning than a Fresca spew) when I read your very humerous words in blue today!

Evil Editor said...

How do I choose between anonymous and anonymous? Can I be everyone's Valentine?

Robin S. said...

No. You can't.

talpianna said...

Obviously a humerus fantasy is a story about a funnybone.

I cannot possibly care about the fate of a character named Periwinkle. He sounds like one of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Brenda said...

You think every Valentine will allow you to have the rope on the pool table, plus beg for the candlestick too?

You should set a higher bar, darling.

DD3123 said...

Am I the only one here who had a thing for Miss Scarlet when he was a teenager?
Gotta go with the maid, Yvette

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Oh dear, I posted a long (surprised?) and detailed comment earlier. Did it not not make it through the blogosphere?

Evil Editor said...

I don't seem to have anything today on FL 488

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Drat. Well, it's a slow day at work, so I'll try to recreate...

Peter, sounds like you started drinking a bit early yesterday, eh? You and Benwah made me laugh!

Author: I, too, will assume that the first paragraph is instructional text, and that your real query includes the title, word count and genre.

So, I like the spell flubbing, which shows some characterization, but I'm not clear about the frogs incident. Did Tristin do it on accident or purpose -- there's a huge character difference in those choices that the query doesn't clarify.

If artist was his previous occupation, what is he at the beginning? Seer? Merlin? Are those occupations? I'm assuming his amended license gives him FEWER rights, so wouldn't he have been able to use magic paint when he was an artist before? Why does he seem able to do something more now? And, like EE, I didn't understand the inclusion of the voice bit.

I'm not clear on Orvin and Tristin's relationship. Orvin is jealous of Tris' success, yes, but we don't get a clear idea why "must unite" becomes such a priority plot point. What makes it difficult for them to unite? Orvin has already set aside his jealous feelings by reaching out to Tris for help. And now we have two inept magicians as MCs.

There are some cute bits and turns of phrases here (troublesome substance; destroyed for the eighth, and possibly final, time) IF this is intended for the tween crowd. If it's geared toward adults, there might be a way to make it work, but I don't think this query, as is, will do it. It feels too slight and not really funny enough.

As for the title, "dark," of course, isn't a color at all. For a literary novel without color-coded characters, I could seriously see this as a great title. But for a comic novel where the color conceit is so blatant, it doesn't really seem to work.

Kim Richards said...

It seems with so many comments including questions and the original post also asking questions that you're at least interested in finding out. Otherwise why ask?

If you're wondering, then perhaps the query is doing its job by drumming up interest?

Humorous is hard to pull off but we love the ones which do.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead and Bubbahotep come to mind. From what I read, this one might fall into that category.

Anonymous said...

Honestly? I like it. Sure, it needs work, but who doesn’t?
What I don’t like is the circus this place is. Evil Editor: The Jerry Springier of the Writer’s Set.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Springier?

This is Evil Editor's personal journal, fashioned for his own entertainment, and that of anyone who cares to partake. I can't imagine what anyone who doesn't care for it is doing here when there are millions of other blogs, web sites, DVDs, books, etc. Better to find something you enjoy than to suffer something you don't.
That'll be $85.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Kim: I can only answer for myself, but I ask questions because that's a helpful critique tool. And, at some level, beyond the bargain psychiatry and flirting and reminiscing you'll find here, this is a critique site. I think. I show interest because I hope when I submit something to this blog, others will do the courtesy to show interest in my stuff. And because I like the people who frequent here.

An agent or editor has no such agenda.

A query needs to raise the right kinds of questions with the right person. If the question raised is, "Wow, I didn't see that coming! That's terrific -- I wonder how THAT plot line gets resolved?" then that query has indeed done its job and a request for pages will soon follow. If the question is, "Why is this character doing X when what I just read two sentences before indicates he should be doing Y?" then the query is likely, right at that point, to be deep sixed.

However, the key is getting the right person asking the right questions. That's why lots of feedback is helpful. What I don't "get" or like, one of the other minions may well fall in love with. But even in the latter case, it never hurts to close up gaps in logic or to otherwise tidy up the writing. And figuring out where that needs to happen is, I think, why people submit their work here. They want their baby to be its strongest and looking its best when it goes out alone into the world.

PJD said...

Honestly? I like it. Sure, it needs work, but who doesn’t?
What I don’t like is the circus this place is. Evil Editor: The Jerry Springier of the Writer’s Set.

Thank you for clearly articulating what makes this site so worth the time I spend here. I didn't really get it until you used the word "circus."

Jerry Springier? What makes a person springy, and what would make him springier? Hmm. Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Kim Richards wrote: It seems with so many comments including questions and the original post also asking questions that you're at least interested in finding out. Otherwise why ask?

It's a method of critique. It highlights areas where the reader was confused or sceptical. It is less dogmatic than other methods of critique as it allows the writer to consider their own ways of solving the problem.

Generally when people ask questions of submitted work here, they are actually intending to help the writer (even if sometimes things can trip into hilarity).

See Phoenix's post at 1:57, for example. That's a good critique, if the writer is willing to listen.

Robin S. said...

I agree with evil psychiatrist and with phoenix and I realize if you’ve read anything other than a few paragraphs of the comments here, that comes as no surprise. Works for me.

There's a lot of fun nonsense going on here and it works in more than one way. It works because it's fun nonsense and pure pleasure to play around with people you like and enjoy, even if it's only their on-blog selves you know. Maybe you have to be around a while to see it, to understand it's more than the sum of its parts, I don't know, but it's there, and it's good stuff.

As for the questions, sowing thoughtful questions, or simply tossing intelligent thoughts out for consideration, rewards writers (that don’t mind listening a little) with insights - provokes fresh looks and sometimes painfully honest appraisals. And here, it’s done with a sense of humor.

Of course some of the comments are off the mark. Some comments anywhere are off the mark.

Ever had a perfect corporate day?

Ever agreed with everyone you spoke with on a given day? If so, you live alone (or you’ve somehow managed to surround yourself with people who’ve decided they’d better not disagree with you, each with and for their own reasons).

I play around here because it’s a great place to play around, but I’m also intensely interested in the reason I showed up here in the first place – getting some feedback and some advice, just enough, not too much, on writing.

I have my own opinions about the traditional critique group – I’m not fond of them. If I wanted to sound and write like everyone else, I’d join one. Go do it. Have a big time.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here at Jerry ‘Springier’s’ (by the way, when you want to be an anonymous high-handed asshole, checking your spelling is quite useful – makes you look like less of a pathetic circus-hating fool if you can stand back and say, “See, I was right, I was right, and I didn’t even spell anything incorrectly or say fuck a lot, or any at all, like that one bitch on there does, and you know, bad words are a mark of an insipid mind….blah blah fucking blah”. Then you look less like the chick who makes what’s supposed to be a really good and cutting exit line at a party, and she stalks off all proud of herself, but there’s toilet paper stuck to her shoe and everybody enjoys laughing at her because she’s a bitch with a an attitude, and uh, toilet paper running behind her).