Friday, May 16, 2008

Face-Lift 527

Guess the Plot

Lizbah: Genesis Revelation

1. With the help of an oak tree, Lisbah sets out to disrupt the Circle of Time, in which the world is continually created and thus destroyed.

2. Lizbah's painstaking research leads her to a stunning realization: Cain didn't kill Abel! The real murderer is still out there, and only shy, stuttering Lizbah can stop him before he kills again.

3. All her life, Cornelia Lizbah has envied John Grisham's fame. Her literary endeavors, however, have been limited to the occasional rant in the letters pages of her local newspaper. Then she hits on a truly marketable concept: a severely abridged Bible for worshippers with ADD.

4. Forget Eve and Lilith--Lizbah is the true first wife of Adam, and she's determined everyone will know it, even if she has to travel back in time, defeat God, and rewrite scripture from scratch.

5. While reading Genesis, Lizbah, a precocious eleven-year-old girl, has a revelation: she was meant to be Eve. But starting a "Garden of Eden" club at school won't be easy. And choosing her Adam from amongst the obnoxious, gassy boys in her class will be even harder.

6. When Lizbah decides to read the Bible straight from Genesis to Revelation, she thinks she'll learn about God. What she learns is far more shocking, as she discovers that King James himself put a code into the scriptures, leading her to a secret too terrible to imagine.

Original Version

Dear E.E. McGhee,

Lizbah: Genesis Revelation

Destined to be a god, determined not to become one, and damned no matter which path she chooses: Lizbah sets out with four friends (one of which she created herself [A marionette.] ) to disrupt the Circle of Time. The Circle of Time is a perpetually repeating series of events in which the world is created, and thus destroyed in the end. [It's like the movie Groundhog Day, except that instead of every day being repeated, it's every twenty billion years. Apparently living through the same twenty billion years over and over gets really monotonous.]

With the help of an ancient Oak . . . Lizbah and her friends just might succeed in disrupting the Circle of Time. [You've already said they're out to disrupt the Circle of Time. This paragraph adds nothing except that they're being aided by a tree. And I'm not sure admitting that one of your heroes is a tree is a good thing.]

Complete with witches, warlocks, and warriors; the story of Lizbah will change how we view our past, present, and future. [A bold statement, but can you back it up with any evidence?]

Lizbah: Genesis Revelation is a completed 95,000 word fantasy novel. At your request; either a partial, or a complete manuscript will be immediately forwarded to you.



What is meant by the "world"? The Earth? The universe?

Why do they want to disrupt the Circle of Time? What happens if they fail?

Start over. Give us nine or ten sentences of the plot. Focus most or all of them on Lisbah. Who is she, what does she want, what's keeping her from getting it, why should we care?


Kiersten White said...

I'm sure EE will cover this, but you are using : and ; incorrectly in most cases. Semi-colons separate two complete but related sentences that aren't divided by a conjunction. Colons set off a list, or something described immediately before the colon.

So, "Destined to be a god, determined not to become one, and damned no matter which path she chooses: Lizbah sets out with four friends" should have a comma in place of the colon. The following information is not a list or anything that justifies using a colon.

Elipses (. . .) should be used sparingly and are not effective in "With the help of an ancient Oak . . . Lizbah and her friends just might succeed in disrupting the Circle of Time." Once again, you should use a comma.

In "Complete with witches, warlocks, and warriors; the story of Lizbah will change how we view our past, present, and future" and "At your request; either a partial, or a complete manuscript will be immediately forwarded to you" both use semi-colons incorrectly. Since a semi-colon separates two complete but related sentences, you are creating fragments. Both should be replaced by commas, or reworded.

And there's your Kiersten Thinks Punctuation Is Awesome Lesson of the Day. Free of charge.

And I agree with EE--there's a hint of a great premise here, but you need to build the story more.

writtenwyrdd said...

We've got the premise, but what's the story? Also, I think the reference to Genesis is a bit too biblical and might confuse readers that this is a christian novel, which it sounds like it isn't.

Anonymous said...

Still, I don't get why Lizzie wants to disrupt this thing that seems to be going perfectly well. Was the world about to hit the timepoint where it is destroyed and regenerated? I'm sure it makes sense in the story but it looks forced in the query unless that's explained.

Evil Editor said...

The semicolon and ellipsis should all be commas. The colon in sentence 1 is less bothersome, as it's preceded by a list. Sort of like Red, white and blue: these are the colors of the American flag. It's still better with a comma unless the part following the colon can be better connected to the list. Does disrupting the Circle of Time solve the problem implied by the list? I assume so, but it could be made clear.

Julia Weston said...

I agree with previous posters. If I knew a bit more I could be hooked. I'm not sure about the word Genesis in the title being a potential deterrant; I think quite a bit of fantasy is peppered with religious references/symbols, so I sort of expect it.

Kiersten, how was my semicolon use above? ;)

Anonymous said...

To me, "Complete with witches, warlocks and warriors..." mocks the genre. I don't happen to be a fan of fantasy, and it's the kind of thing I would say condescendingly about those types of works.

Maybe it's just me but I think you might want to show a little more respect for those beings.

Anonymous said...

GTP # 2 is actually a pretty neat idea for a comedy/satire on the forensics-based TV shows.

Imagine using modern forensic to solve ancient crimes like the Cain-Abel thing. Of course, if hilarity could ensue, all the better.

none said...

If she's damned whatever she does, why does it matter what she does? What's her goal--and why?

(Semi-colons fine. Deterrent misspelt.)

Stacy said...

I agree with the anonymous 11:56 comment. I don't know if you're trying to show this is a fantasy novel by mentioning witches, warlocks, and warriors, but all you need to do is describe the plot. The agent will get it.

Besides the punctuation issues, this query is way too thin. We need a logical sequence of events that describe the plot in a nutshell.

Kiersten White said...

Perfectly, Julia. And I like the last one, as well ; )

Anonymous said...

Scrap this, write a query telling us what actually happens, and resubmit. We'll look at it again.

Bonnie said...

I wondered about a couple of things:

Is this a serious story, or is it supposed to be satire? The name Lizbah sounds like Lizbeth with a speech impediment to me, and some of your other wording sounds irreverent (as a couple of people already pointed out).

And are they the good guys or the bad guys? Being damned and trying to disrupt something are usually bad-guy characteristics.

Sarah Laurenson said...

OK. I had too much fun playing with this one.

It looks like a very interesting story, now please flesh it out a bit more so we can tell for sure.

Here's what I played around with:

Lizbah has an earth shattering dilemma. She’s destined to be a god, determined not to become one, and damned no matter which path she chooses. Plus if she and her four friends succeed in their mission to disrupt the Circle of Time - a perpetually repeating series of events in which the world is created, and thus destroyed in the end - then all hell could break loose. Or maybe it will stop breaking loose.

Helped by an ancient and sentient Oak and hindered by a motley crew of witches, warlocks and warriors, Lizbah and her friends (one of which she created herself) set out to make the impossible happen and have a good time with the local boys, too.

pacatrue said...

I'd suggest minimizing the Circle of Time discussion, since perhaps the most popular fantasy series of the last 15 years or so is the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. No problem with having time be cyclical in your world -- time for the most part is either cyclical or linear in the mythologies of the the real world -- but it can't be a focus of the query. Mention it in one sentence as you tell us the what Lizbah does in the story.

By the way, I'm currently working on my own Oval of Time series. More Ovaltime please!

Adah Lael said...

Ovaltime! Ha! Are puns allowed on the Evil Blog? Don't they cheapen the Evilness of the Evil? Then again, the minions cannot be expected to be as evil as E.E. himself I suppose.

I wanted to put my vote in that I'd ask to read the story if I were looking at queries. It sounds interesting (and I rarely say that of any book). The whole 'destined to be a god' thing is of course the most intriguing, as is the fact that she made one of her friends herself. It's easy to go overboard bragging on a character but you handled it succinctly.

Like the others I'd love to know more about the actual line up of events: she goes here, she does this, she does that, she wants this, she wins this way, and this is why she has to win. Bam, bam, bam.

I agree that the witches and warlocks thing is shaky; it makes it sound a little like the Wizard of Oz. Except Dorothy has an oak tree instead of a cowardly lion.

Also, "the story of Lizbah will change how we view our past, present, and future" is a little grand and presumptuous, don't you think? People in this world are so jaded, I really doubt ANYTHING could change how we view our past, present, and future, especially a fantasy novel. It certainly won't change how a hard-boiled editor will view his past, present, or future except maybe to chuck the query in the bin. Maybe you should say it offers thought-provoking alternatives to how we COULD view our past, present, and future so we have an option.

talpianna said...

Why is she destined to be a god? And why is she damned if she is and damned if she isn't? This is tossed off as a throwaway comment but should be the key to the story.

Renee Collins said...

Well, this settles it. When I finish my query, I'm sending it to Kiersten for a grammar check. :)

Kiersten White said...

I'm always available, especially for Renee ; )

Anonymous said...


talpianna said...

Adah: Freud called puns a sadistic form of humor, so surely they only enhance the evilness of the blog!

none said...

Puns are impacable.

pacatrue said...

Very nice, buffysquirrel. I missed it at first reading.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hey, R. Lyle:

I'm with 150. You still haven't let us know what happens. What's the story beyond the setup? I took a peek at your blog in hopes that would clear some of this up and I could make some salient comments, but didn't find what I needed there either (although, psst, you might want to clear up that non-stylistic sentence frag that leads off your title bar description -- probably a typo, but it IS your first sentence...).

Why don't you do as 150 suggests and give us a revision? A real re-visioning of the hook and query, not just a rewrite with a few words changed here and there.

To your points, IMO:

1. Aren't we all? Cliche. Although keep "destined to be a god, determined not to become one" in the revision somewhere.

2. Unless this is a mythology we are already familiar with, probably not something we need to know.

3. Likely not going to have room for subplots in the query. This will take too long to explain. Leave it out.

4. Stories have conflict. If it's not between characters, it's gotta be something. What's the conflict?

5. and 6. These statements contradict one another. Point 5 is not new (see Hamlet's 'more things in heaven and earth' speech), so I wouldn't dwell on it in the query.

7. This is something interesting that has query potential.

8. Unless you can make that statement make sense in one sentence, leave it out. If you can make it make sense, I would not say "redefined". That makes it sound like you're trying to introduce a new philosophy into our world view. On the world you've created, past, present and future work differently. But don't say differently either because you don't want to compare your fantasy world to the real world. Just say how past, present and future work in your world if it's important to the core of the story.

More ovaltime please and Impacable *giggle*

Evil Editor said...

Change the semicolon to a comma after "The peace is short-lived."

Is Lizbah the only survivor? Or the only survivor who's trapped in a torture chamber? Some punctuation or rewording would make it clear you don't mean the latter.

Dave Fragments said...

It's exciting enough to make me want to read the story. Add the boilerplate to the end of it and send it out. Don't add to the beginning because that's a nice hook and you'll want it after "Dear Agent."

Anonymous said...

It should be "prophesied," not "prophesized."

Does the soldier have a family? Why does he take Lisbah in? How old is she at this point? Do they have some sort of romantic relationship? Why does she need to take up arms to protect him?

We don't need the name of the battle, and your book doesn't actually end with her trapped in a torture chamber, does it? Why doesn't she want to become a god? I would think that if a bunch of people kept killing everyone I knew, I'd be rather interested in the idea of having the power to create peace.

Most importantly: Who is running the campaign to kill her and why?

The problem with every version of your query is that it doesn't actually tell us anything. Lisbah doesn't want to be a god, but we don't know why; she wants peace, but doesn't want to become a god to get it. Someone wants to kill her, but we don't know why. What does Lisbah want? Who is preventing her from getting it?

Kiersten White said...

This is much better written than the first one.

I'd use prophesied over prophesized, but that's just me.

My problem with this is that it's all backstory--it sounds like you are querying for her past, but then you find out that none of that even happens in the manuscript. You need to query for the story you are telling in this book; set up is all well and good, but an agent will want to know what he/she is reading.

Anonymous said...


You need to use the Snark formula.

X is the main guy; he wants to do:
Y is the bad guy; he wants to do:
They meet at Z and all L breaks loose.
If they don't resolve Q, then R starts and if they do it's L squared.

Just play it straight, don't try to be fancy. Once you've laid out the bones of your story, you can embellish them.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hmm. While this latest version is clearer as to what happens, what happens is, well, not really all that exciting or different as described in the query. Chosen One's village is wiped out. Chosen One is pressed to fight to save the kingdom. Looks like Chosen One may not win, and then ...

The novel in this version sounds like sword & sorcery with the emphasis on "sword." In the first version, the emphasis seemed to be more on the "sorcery" aspect.

While the first version was confusing and inelegant, it at least had a germ of difference. It hinted at a broader reader experience than a straightforward derivative Chosen One story.

Now the trick is combining the two, giving us the stakes, and making us root for Lisbah.

Anonymous said...

Arlyle, that's the formula to write the query. Every book, including classics, can be written in those terms. Check it: Ishmael is trying to make a living on the open seas. Captain Ahab is hunting the white whale that took his leg. When the crew spots the white whale, Ahab risks their safety, livelihood and ultimately lives in pursuit of his prey. If Ishmael can't help his captain finally achieve his obsession, they all might die trying.

X and Y don't represent good and evil, they represent two forces trying to attain opposing goals. If you haven't got that, you haven't got a book.

From what you've written, the first line of the formula would be "Lizbah wants to avoid her godly destiny and live in peace on a farm" but you give us no indication of who DOES want her to be a god, who forces her off the farm. Who or what is stopping her? Remember from the list of basic conflicts that Y could be another person, herself, nature, society, or the supernatural. Explain why they clash and what happens when they do and what they have to do to stop clashing. It's not cramming your book into a box. It's laying it out in terms of the story.

Anonymous said...

Right-o. :) It's a perfectly good soapbox, you just misunderstood my point. Good luck with the rewrite.