Monday, April 21, 2008

Face-Lift 518

Guess the Plot

Bad Spelling

1. From the squeel of amature pig wressling to the wiff of day-old-sushi, follow former golden girl Tori as she tumbles from Hollywood heights to the depths of open odditions. This uneuthanized bio reveals the shocking exess of an actress on the outs and a showbiz dynasty in decline.

2. Angle (or Angel, as she was meant to be called) comes from a long line of dyslexics so it’s no surprise that she is struggling with her job as assistant Editor to the Evil One. When her boss goes to collect a windfall from Nigeria she is left on her own to run the business and the blog. Hilarity ensues.

3. The spells of a young witch named Katya's have been backfiring lately. She heads to Siberia, aided by trolls and werewolves, to save her family and home from the evil shaman who cursed her father. Also, a half-vampire.

4. When Dorothea enters the local spelling bee, she thinks she'll be studying the dictionary. Much to her shock, she discovers that the bee isn't about spelling words, it's about casting spells. And with competition in the form of wicked twin witches, she's going to have to be the best speller around.

5. The story of eleven-year-old Donna's struggles with fifth grade and why her mother attempts suicide while her father, baked on meth, engages in sordid sex orgies with married seventy-year-olds. And how Donna turns it all to her advantage.

6. When you're the writer of magical formulae, one misspelled word can lead to disaster. When Laurelei's teensy mistake leads to a smoking crater where the Imperial Palace used to stand, the surviving royal heir takes exception.


Original Version

Dear Agent Name Here:

I hope that BAD SPELLING, a completed 44,000 word juvenile fantasy, might also appeal to you. [Also? To whom does it appeal so far?] [Is "juvenile fantasy" a recognized genre? I tend to think of the word "juvenile" as insulting, possibly because when I tell people their writing is juvenile they never seem to take it well.]

Katya would like nothing better than to be a good witch, but her spells don’t just fizzle, they backfire spectacularly. [A specific example would be nice here, e.g. For instance, when she tries to create a banana split to share with her boyfriend, she inadvertantly wipes out the entire population of Finland.] Her stern aunt discovers that a shaman in Katya’s Siberian father’s family has put a curse on his glacier-bound body. [Glacier-bound as in bound for a glacier, like homeward bound? Or do you mean glacier-encased? Also, is it the shaman who's glacier-bound or the Siberian father? Perhaps it would be simpler to just say: Her aunt discovers that a shaman has put a curse on Katya's family.] The supernatural shield put a damper on Katya’s magic and it’s beginning to spread to the rest of her home: the arctic island of Galdurheim. [No need to mention the supernatural shield, as we don't know what you're talking about, and we don't want to listen to an explanation. There's a curse. Let it go at that.] Katya must find the witch-hating, spell-casting shaman and stop him before the curse destroys her home and family.

She and her half-vampire brother, Rune, race across the Barents Sea, fighting off polar bears and giants--not to mention that nasty shaman--while making allies of killer whales, trolls, and werewolves. [I can't believe you've been talking about glaciers and the arctic island of Galdurheim when your book has werewolves and a half-vampire. Have you learned nothing from this blog?] In the end, Katya finds her Siberian family, defeats the shaman with help from an unusual source, gets her first kiss from an ex-troll, and finds she might just [just might] be a good speller after all.

Thanks!


Notes

It sounds like they're encountering werewolves and trolls and giants as they cross the Barents Sea. Are they in a boat?

Where are they racing across the Barents Sea from? This map of the Barents Sea appears to stretch well over 500 kilometers, and still leaves a long way to go to reach Siberia.

The last plot paragraph consists of three lists. A logical progression of events leading to the end would be better. Then you're good to go.

17 comments:

pjd said...

How does a troll become an ex-troll? Blogless, any insights on this one?

Marva said...

Thanks for the shredding. Good ideas.

First sentence leads from "You represented blah blah." That changes as needed. Any suggestions on what to call it rather than juvenile, when the age range is ten and up?

I have fixed a few of those problems while waiting to reach the top of the list.

Back to the the query for another round.

Love the Guess the Plots. Folks are very clever here. I feel like writing a different book based on one of them.

pjd: It's all explained in the book how a troll becomes an ex-troll. Nobody but a few beta readers will ever know.

Evil Editor said...

We usually see middle grade here if it's suitable for those under the young adult ages.

Nancy Beck said...

When you're the writer of magical formulae, one misspelled word can lead to disaster. When Laurelei's teensy mistake leads to a smoking crater where the Imperial Palace used to stand, the surviving royal heir takes exception.

Somebody please write this one - sounds like it could be a real hoot. ("But, Sire, who thought spelling it as 'L-O-O-S-E' when I meant 'L-O-S-E' would blow up the castle?")

Anyway...juvenile fantasy? I haven't heard it called anything like that. Maybe it's YA (Young Adult, although I doubt it at 44,000 words). MG? (Middle grade?) Maybe those who actually write that can come up with something more intelligent where that's concerned than I can.

What EE pointed out also confused me. Are you talking about the shaman or the father's body being encased in a glacier? What's up with the shield - and why do we need to know about it?

And the ex-troll (as pjd said, was he stripped of his, um, trollism somehow?) - how does he figure in this story? To me, it seems as if that's just kind of tacked on.

I'd also be careful of word choices; make sure you choose the words that mean what you want to say.

I like the title, BTW. :-)

Good luck!

Dave F. said...

I'd focus on the adventure as much as the magic. Right now, you're focused on the magic side but if I'm guessing right, the story is an adventure of her crossing the Arctic with the good creatures and battling the bad creatures.

I am also guessing that her brother is her half-brother and that his father is a vampire and her father was related to the frozen magician. They share a normal mother.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm not saying you can't sell this story, katya, but to my ears, anyhow, the elements seem like a smorgasbord with borscht. Sort of dont' go together. Doesn't mean it won't work; but I think you need to get Siberia, ex-trolls, half-vampires and spellcasting to sound like they belong together or leave the terminology out. Do we need to know the boyfriend's an ex-troll or that her brother's a half-vampire?

I think you have the elements of a good fantasy adventure, in particular with that set up of the family curse. Perhaps you might add in the consequences of failure to give it a more emotional punch? That, and whatever emotional conflict your hero is experiencing?

That you set this in Polar regions makes me think a bit of Philip Pullman, which could be good or bad, depending on how you carry it off.

Whirlochre said...

My main concern is the title.

I can't help thinking it's been done, and when I toyed with a fake plot, it was the first stone I turned over.

Having read the synopsis and salivated over the possibilities of werewolves, vampires, zombies and ex-trolls on ice, I suspect there's a better title for this.

That said — I like the sound of this and I'm guessing it will read better once revised.

writtenwyrdd said...

"When you're the writer of magical formulae, one misspelled word can lead to disaster. When Laurelei's teensy mistake leads to a smoking crater where the Imperial Palace used to stand, the surviving royal heir takes exception."

By all means, nancy, go ahead and write that one. I came up with it, but I'm not good at funny stuff.

Oh, and Marva, my apologies. How in the world I ended up with katya...

Marva said...

Thanks to everybody for the good suggestions.

I have, indeed, tossed out many of the egregious parts.

It's a shame about Pullman's book, since I finished writing this before the movie brought my attention to the Arctic connection. So, I'm not a copycat. I have it on kid-authority that Pullman also misplaced Svalbard. I'm still avoiding his books so as to not be derivative.

I used the Arctic setting since much of the action takes place in Norway. That's where the trolls come in. While the Barents is big, as EE points out, Galdurheim is less than a hundred miles off the Norwegian coast. A lot of the fairytale concept is Scandinavian, but not the Thor/Odin stuff.

Rune is Katya's half-brother. His father is a vampire. Her father is stuck in the glacier. Yes, the evil shaman is related to Dad.

I'll use middle grade then, although the 13+ also falls within YA guidelines.

Again, many thanks (mange takk) for the comments.

Anonymous said...

Did this comment come through? Maybe I shouldn't 'preview' my comments.

Anonymous said...

Shoot. That confirms that my other comments were eaten. Here's what I tried to say. It'll probably sound grumpier the second time around.

I don't think this sounds like fantasy. Fantasy, to me involves complex world-building, creepy thingamabobber peoples, bizzare rituals and confusing social mores (yeah, I'm not a fantasy reader).

This story seems more like a straight-ahead kids story with a few supernatural but not too heavy characters. It's like calling 'Star Wars' a sci-fi story when it's really just an adventure (it has more in common with Westerns than Sci-fi).

I think this is an important distinction because Fantasy is a wedge genre for many agents. Some (most?) will read the first paragraph, say "I don't do fantasy" and stop reading. Others will say "Fantasy, that's my bag!" but then read on and find that it isn't really fantasy at all.

Or I could be wrong. That's my take on it.

Marva said...

Anonymous: Interesting thoughts. I thought the presence of magic and magical beings made it fantasy. It might be called paranormal, but that always implied horror to me.

Epic fantasy (which this is not) certainly involves world-building, which is why there are so many 600-page novels.

I'd certainly entertain the idea of a different genre. What the heck! Suggest away!

Kiersten said...

If you are aiming for around thirteen, you can call it transitional middle grade. Not quite YA, but not young middle grade, either.

I've seen a lot of agents say that they like "reality based fantasy," meaning fantasy set in this world (Harry Potter, Diane Duane's Young Wizards, etc). This distinguishes it from high fantasy, where the world and the people (species?) in it are unconnected to ours. So, judging from your description, you could justify this as a reality based fantasy.

If you want to avoid sending up Pullman warning flags, you should just leave out mentioning the polar bears in the query. I'm sure that they are nothing like his in your actual manuscript, so there wouldn't be a problem.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:53 here. Yeah, I could be wrong about the fantasy thing. It's just that I was thinking that I'm pretty sure there are more kids book writers that shun fantasy than those that represent it. That may not even be true! If it true, though, I was thinking you could get away with NOT having "fantasy" in your query. I thought it might get a few extra fair shakes from agents that way.

talpianna said...

NOTICE: I posted about this before. If you use the preview function, the Publish function under the Preview yellow box won't work; you have to go back and use the Publish button under the Leave your comment box.

Since the late 1960s, I have been involved with a fanzine that was largely devoted to fantasy. The commonest term for fantasy aimed at what are now middle-school readers (we didn't even have that term back then!), like the Chronicles of Narnia, was juvenile fantasy; that meant for older kids, like Tamora Pierce's books, was called Young Adult fantasy. There was no negative connotation attached to "juvenile."

I know someone who has actually been to Svalbard. Does that give me any more street (or ice floe) cred?

I do wish someone would write #1!

freddie said...

Like the idea. Like what I know about the plot.

The title? Not so much.

Marva said...

talpianna: Thanks for the information. I never thought "juvenile" was pejorative, but I'm an old fogie.

I like that first plot, too. Maybe I can work it into Book 2.

You certainly should get ice floe cred. I know quite a bit about Svalbard now, even though it's not a location used in the book. Once I found out Pullman used it, I made up my own island.

freddie: Sorry you don't like the title, but more than one agent (along with a rejection) said they loved the title. I think I'll stick with it for now. I checked on Amazon and there isn't any other book with the same title.