Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Face-Lift 519

Guess the Plot


1. In the sweltering heat of a New Orleans summer, SOMETHING is killing ladies of the evening as they strut their stuff in the French Quarter. Can ace reporter Blanche Dubious and her ex-lover, homicide detective Raoul Van Helsing, chase down this otherworldly serial killer before the hurricane hits? Also, zombie meerkats.

2. Dimelda Rothpeter is a witch tired of stumbling around in the dark. In a life threatening ritual, she enchants a forest herb with the ability to delay the onset of evening. When she hangs the nightbane in her window, she attracts the attention of the Lord of Darkness, who will stop at nothing to return the planet to its regular diurnal cycle.

3. Everyone told Leah that the first few weeks with the baby would be difficult, but nothing could have prepared her for the true terror that awaited her. A cooing, sweet-cheeked infant by day; a horrifying, screaming were-baby by night. She had fallen prey to the creature born every three hundred years on the full moon: the . . . NightBane!

4. Nero Nightbane has a secret, he's really the estranged daughter of Lucifer incarnated in the body of a defrocked priest and he's having more fun than any demon as he preaches his warped version of the gospels to the hoi polloi. Will the "send your nickels and dime" message gain him fame? Or will Defender of the Faith Benedict exorcise him back to hell?

5. Banishing night seemed like a good idea at the time to magician Carl Minos. What he didn't take into account was that vampires, although minorities, were real, and they took exception. Can Carl reverse the Nightbane's effects before the vampires' sunscreen wears off?

6. Rescued by an abolitionist, Kransa will stop at nothing to gain revenge against the slavers who've kept her people down for so long. She becomes . . . Nightbane! Scourge of oppressors everywhere! The slavers immediately respond with a wave of cruel repression and death.

Original Version

Dear [Agent/Submissions Editor name here],


Slaves crave revenge. Kransa is no exception.

Even though Kransa wants to kill every Gold Dragonkin keeping her enslaved, she realizes it is even more important to free her black-scaled kin. Fighting to end the brutal oppression of her people, [People? With black scales? What are they, exactly?] Kransa is captured and sentenced to destruction by the hated dawn. [Not sure what that means. Will the dawn kill her? Is she a vampire lizard person?] As the suns golden rays lighten the sky, Kalthalak, an abolitionist, rescues her and teaches her how to kill those gold-scales. At least she'll get some revenge.

Yet a creature of darkness can never rest in a world of light. [Actually, vampires always rest when it's light.] Escaping from her gilded cage in a hail of gunfire, Kransa rejoins the struggle for freedom. [Why was she in a cage when she was rescued at the end of the previous paragraph? Who's shooting at her?] Cold-blooded murder follows Kransa in the name of emancipation. The slavers respond with a cruel wave of repression and death. Kransa doesnt care; revenge is more important.

With genocide on the horizon for both Golds and Blacks, Kransa needs to realize the greatest obstacle between her people and freedom is not the Golds machinations or the Blacks hate-filled past, but the fact that she and those around her have become the very things they despise.

At 108,000 words, Nightbane is a science fantasy thriller. I have previously published a short story, Dragons Breath in the summer 2006 issue of the E-zine Antithesis Common, which received an editors choice award.

Thank you for your consideration.

[Note: Nightbane is the persona Kransa adopts after she steps up her activities against the Golds.]


There are at least four missing apostrophes, six if Dragons Breath and editors choice take them.

Where are we and what are we? Are the golds dragons and the blacks vampires? Where does the "science" come in?

This needs a clear chronological organization. First Kransa is enslaved, then she's captured. That doesn't follow. Later she's rescued and then escapes. That also doesn't follow. There needs to be a logical transition from sentence to sentence.

If the slavers are still enslaving--and killing--I'm not sure why killing them in a struggle for freedom makes you as bad as they are. What's the better option? How would this have played out if Kransa weren't obsessed with revenge? Revenge may not be the best motive, but if no one with a more altruistic motive is doing anything . . .


Anonymous said...

LOL, somebody's got to write GTP 1, with detective Blance Dubious!

Dave Fragments said...

Blacks and Golds! That just about covers all our professional sports teams in Pittsburgh.

Kiersten White said...

I was kind of hoping for zombie meerkats. Oh well.

I think that in order for high fantasy to work well there need to be really strong characters the reader can identify with. You can create the coolest world, species, magic system, whatever, but if the reader doesn't empathize with or like the main character, all you'll have is a really great setting.

I'm not saying that Nightbane couldn't be a great character, but the impression I get from the query is that she's angry and runs around brutally murdering people. Then, at the end, she figures out that if everyone kills everyone else, no one ends up alive.

I'm sure there is more to her than that, and I want to get a sense that, not only do you have an exciting story and setting, but you also have a complex and compelling heroine. I would focus more on her and the journey she undergoes from craving pure revenge to realizing there's a better way to do things. Then you wouldn't get so caught up describing the complicated plot.

I do like the scales, though. Very cool.

Anonymous said...

Hm. The author here--thanks, EE. Much appreciated, and it's query reworking time.

It appears the missing apostrophes got eaten in the mail; I've checked "dragon's breath" and "editor's choice", and they're there. Ulp.

Seems "Dragonkin" isn't enough to convey the sense of anthropomorphic dragons--I'll rework that to be clearer, too. Thanks a lot.

I understand that revenge is a bit of a overdone motive, but when I was writing the MS I was hoping to use the twist of it actively working against the protagonist's goals, that Kransa falls into the same blind hate along racial lines that the Golds and some other Blacks are already in and that only furthers the initial justifications for their slavery. Or should I just scrap this altogether and use a secondary motivation in the query, if there's going to be an automatic bad taste in the mouths of agents/editors?

She doesn't start off obsessed, but I was given advice by my critique group that since it's this obsession that consumes her and poses the biggest obstacle towards her goals, I should hammer it home in the query. Maybe I overdid it.

I see the problem with the chronological thing now; I haven't made it clear why she was captured and sentenced to death (for coordinating passive-aggressive resistance) nor who she was escaping from (her mentor). Hopefully, that should clear up the problem once I put them in.

I'll be more clear on the "science" elements of "science fantasy", too.

You've helped me a lot, EE. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The author here again--dang those comments which pop up after you've hit the "publish" button!

I understand, Kiersten. The MS initially has Kransa (well, I hope) likeable and empathic in order to draw the reader in, and then bank on that to keep the reader reading while she succumbs to her "tragic flaw".

After reading EE's comments, I realize the query really wasn't reflecting the MS, and that it needs a lot of work.

Ulysses said...

This feels like a chronology, and I need more than a list of events to catch my interest. You outline the conflict between gold and black, between Kransa and the slavers, which is good, but is that the story? Is the story about Kransa coming to the realization that those conflicts can have no winners? If so, then tell me what causes that realization and what makes it so hard to accept.

Whirlochre said...

I'm with Kiersten — the less like our own world your high fantasy setting is, the more like our own people its citizens have to be.

Is there a love interest for Krasna? Or allies? After the Kalthalak initiation, it looks very much like Krasna v The World. Even Conan had help from time to time.

Also, I think you need to establish Krasna = Nightbane in the main body of the query. Nightbane is your title so don't tuck it away in a footnote.

I like the format.

Succinct opener, brief synopsis, summary & brief bio — it's the subject matter of the synopsis that needs a rehash and EE's notes ought to help.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, I love #4!

Author, this letter does show us the crisis at hand for your main character, but in this case, we do need a little set up as to what the main character is and where all this takes place. We don't know if your character is a demon, a dragon, a lizard, a dragonfly or something entirely new. And this lack of knowledge makes you appear careless, which isn't helping your cause. further, it distracts a reader from paying attention to the events as he or she tries to parse the letter for an answer to the question What/Who are these creatures?

It sounds like it could be a good story, from what you tell us. But a second problem I find is that the letter reads like you have written a book with an Agenda, and the Agenda is anti-slavery. Topped off with the loaded symbolism of gold- vs black-scaled critters, it feels like a safe assumption that this is the main focus of the book, not your character's adventures in freeing her people.

I'm not saying having an agenda is bad; but perhaps you might tone it down so that you don't give the impression in your letter that theme is oppressing the story. The letter needs to represent the novel, so you want to give a balanced approach that both sells the story and makes it sound appealing; and while I'm not an editor, I think I'm right in saying that a lot of people want to tiptoe carefully away when a book with an agenda is offered.

none said...

Hmm, I assumed from "Dragonkin" that they were probably...something akin to dragons. Yeah.

Re: the apostrophes. The "curly" or "smart" quotes favoured by wordprocessing software are often not supported by email clients. Best is to use standard (if dull) ASCII apostrophes/quotation marks, which are supported across platforms.

Evil Editor said...

The apostrophe in "she'll" is there, but not the other six. Usually when email messes up apostrophes they arrive here as three symbols, i.e. ^@%.

writtenwyrdd said...

Hey, it's a fantasy. "dragonkin" could mean anything so far as I could say. Nevertheless, I take your point. However, I think my basic point stands.

none said...

Those weird symbols for apostrophes etc are a pain. Brain tries to make sense of them--silly brain.

It's true that the apostrophes don't usually disappear. Strange, very strange!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, all. I've re-worked the query and added in information, changed the wording, etc, etc, taking your comments into account.

Again, thank you very much.

Robin S. said...

OK - upfront disclaimer. Queries are far from my strength.

I'm wondering about using the word abolitionist in your query. I'm not so sure it isn't too direct in its implications - sometimes I think lessons are learned in fiction - and isn't that what fiction is about, so many times - and rightly so - when points are not hammered home as much as they are danced around, in use of language and setup and, perhaps, irony.

Also - you might be well served posting your revise dquery here- there are some excellent query readers and writers around here - an dthey could take a second look.

Good luck with your work!

talpianna said...

I think the story--as well as the query--could benefit from some old-fashioned outlining of the story arc.

And, of course, a zombie meerkat or two...

EE, the Publish button under the yellow Preview window still doesn't work. Can this be fixed?

Evil Editor said...

I assume it's blogger-wide, and they're working on it. Does it happen when you comment on other blogs as well?

talpianna said...

No, it only happens at this blog.

Anonymous said...

All right, I've reworked the query, and as suggested, put it up. A few questions, if I may be so bold--

-With the addition of what she's been captured for, is it clearer?

-The first paragraph is attempting to paint Kransa in a positive light, while the remaining paragraphs attempt to portray the moral degredation which forms the crux of the story. Did it work?

-Is there still too much of n agenda, so to speak?

-Are there any more things which I should elaborate on?

I know I'm asking a lot, but here we have it. Any help would be appreciated.

Here goes:

Most slaves crave revenge. Kransa was an exception.

Even though Kransa loathes the Gold Dragonkin--a race of anthropomorphic dragons--keeping her enslaved, she realizes it is even more important to free her black-scaled kin from their gold-scaled relatives. Working to ease the pain of her people, Kransa is caught in an attempt to save her father from torture and sentenced to destruction by the dawn. As the sun’s golden rays lighten the sky, Kalthalak, the ringleader of a conspiracy against the slavemistress, rescues her and teaches her how to kill those slavers. At least she'll get some revenge.

Yet a creature of darkness can never rest in a world of light. Escaping from her mentor’s gilded cage, Kransa rejoins the struggle for freedom alongside other escaped slaves. Cold-blooded murder tails Kransa as she fights against the horrors perpetrated against her people. The slavers respond with a cruel wave of repression and death. Kransa learns not to care. She learns to forget her father and the kindness Kalthalak showed her. She learns not to question the morality of her actions.

With genocide imminent for both Gold and Black Dragonflights, the greatest obstacle between Kransa’s people and freedom is not the Golds’ machinations or the Blacks’ hate-filled past.

Blinded by her loathing for the Golds and convinced she occupies the moral high ground, Kransa needs to realise she has become the very thing she despises before she destroys all she has struggled for.

At 108,000 words, Nightbane is a science fantasy thriller. I have previously published a short story, Dragon’s Breath in the summer 2006 issue of the E-zine Antithesis Common, which received an “editor’s choice” award.

Thank you for your consideration.