Monday, July 07, 2008

Face-Lift 541

Guess the Plot

Legends of Sauria

1. Royal intrigue, conspiracy and ambition combine to threaten the Saurians just as King Oran nears the end of his 500-year reign and the mysterious Nrye emerge from thousands of years of isolation to begin an all-out war. Can anyone seize the reins and create new . . . Legends of Sauria?

2. The asteroid struck. The sea boiled. The sun disappeared behind a shroud of darkness. All across the fabled land of Sauria they died, the mighty and meek alike. Now the last-of-the-last huddle together, recounting myths and legends to their few and precious young. Can this desperate bid by the hadrosaurs to keep their culture and their kind alive succeed?

3. It is said that they are a land of losers, of men who have never known intimacy or the touch of a willing female. As a child, Lululani heard the Legends Of Sauria; as a woman who's not very attractive, she will journey to Sauria and uncover the reasons behind the endless rejection. Her master's degree in Personal Hygiene will prove valuable.

4. Her legends preceded her birth by a century, yet when she was born, no one recognized Elberon. But when she takes the Sauria Crown by force, the legends are renewed, and continents join forces against her.

5. A million years ago, anthropomorphic Sauropods ruled the earth, their reign cut short by a few egg-sucking moles. Hiding from the world in caverns beneath the South Pole, the Saurians are preparing an attack on the usurpers - mankind. A lone Antarctic explorer is mankind's only hope.

6. Garrod Durrheth is a great hero. But he has a dark side-- a pact with the enemy to keep his realm safe when he grows too old to fight. Now his grandson, Shurrahh, will be taking over. Will the old warrior reveal his secret, or must Shurrahh fight to keep all Triceratops' safe?

Original Version

Dear Evilest of all Editors,

I am seeking representation for Legends of Sauria, a SF/F novel complete at 90,000 words.

King Oran, who has ruled over the Saurians the last 500 years, lies on his deathbed. [Has anyone else noticed how seldom anyone survives lying on their deathbeds? Makes you wonder why they don't sleep on the sofa.] With so many Royal candidates to replace him, his death could catapult the Saurian race into civil war over the throne. What’s worse, the Nrye, who have remained hidden for thousands of years, have [grown tired of no one pronouncing their name right, and have] attacked.

Damascus and Malakai, being Oran’s only sons, are the top candidates for King. [Who are the other candidates, and why are they considered candidates?] And the brothers struggle to prove themselves worthy in the midst of an all out war with the Nrye. When they finally work together on the battlefield their success gains the favor of the royal bloodlines.

But there are those that would rather see Oran’s familial line end with him, and they plot to pit the brothers against each other, secretly fueling each of their ambitions for the throne. [Much easier would be to kill them.] The brothers must stay loyal to their blood through the many deceits of the conspirators all while holding the Nrye at bay.

I thank you for your time and consideration.


I don't see that pitting Damascus and Malakai against each other ends Oran's familial line. Surely the "royal bloodlines" who are pleased with the sons' battlefield success are also related to Oran?

I don't see where the SF genre comes in.

I note that no one is referred to as a person or human. Are the Saurians saurians? If so, say so. If not, maybe Sauria isn't the best name for them. If you make up a race of people, and choose to call them the crocodilians or the rodents, it's only going to cause confusion.

The conspirators are your villains. Your bad guys. Outside of the good guys, they're the ones we want to know about the most. They provide the conflict. Thus: who are they?


Natalie Whipple said...

The first paragraph seems like back story to me. Who are the main characters? The brothers? Maybe start with them?

"Damascus and Malakai both want their father's throne, but they are the only ones seeking to rule Sauria..."

Elissa M said...

I want the Saurians to actually be saurian. Otherwise, this seems like a generic fantasy. If they are really saurian, make this very clear at the start and describe what type(s) they are. Tyrannosaurs are quite different from Apatosaurs. If they aren't truly saurian, change their name.

writtenwyrdd said...

I would first recommend that you pick a label for your book that is appropriate. No one calls their book SF/F. That's a generic term for bookstore shelves. You want to label it either fantasy or science fiction, not both (unless it's science fantasy, in which case say so.)

At any rate, you do need to clarify 1) if these Saurians are indeed dinosaurs as we all seem to be thinking they are; 2) who the contenders are besides the brothers (over 500 years there might be a lot of brothers and even a few sisters, hint, hint); and 3) who are the enemies (as EE notes.)

It's great that you give us a general idea of events in the query. But we don't get enough that makes us become hooked on the story. Why should we care about the Saurians? What makes the enemy bad, the Saurians good, the stakes high?

You also discount the king himself. Doesn't he play a role in what's going on before his death? It sounds like he's still alive, at least for a good percentage of the book...

Keep plugging away. It sounds like it could be a good read.

Dave Fragments said...

Oh rot! my initial post had too many errors in it so I fixed them all. Some days the fingers don't work and the eyes are on hiatus.

If this is a society of anthropomorphic lizards acting like lizards, then you should say so in the query. If this is a society of humans with odd names, or anthropomorphic lizards, then that should be made clear, too.

This sounds more like political or courtly intrigue and/or a mystery than sci-fi or fantasy novel.

Two sons vying for the dying father's throne and bad guys trying to eliminate them. King Leer and MacBeth are similar.

The query has to tell the agent, who is behind the intrigue and who wants the two brothers dead and why.

For example:
As much as Neil Gaiman's STARDUST (book and movie) was fantasy about a falling star turned into woman. BUT, the basic story that set everything in motion was that the king was dying and the sons wanted to rule the empire. The hero only wandered into the situation of the dying king by meeting the fallen star. This is still a king's court drama about dukes, knights, duchess, princes. It was set in a fantasy world. It's still courtly cloak-and-dagger mixed with boy-meets-girl.

In another example, take the truly hard core framework of Babylon Five's subplot involving Londo Molari of the planet Centauri. Londo's rise to emperor is classically of a duke or prime minister rising up in the ranks by serving a lunatic king. Then he kills the crazy king before the loony destroys the court (in Londo's case, the planet). It's still court intrigue even with the Shadows, Vorlons and spaceships. Londo Morlari of Centauri Prime behaves like a human but he isn't.

Now both those have fantastical settings but very human plots. In Stardust it's the search for true love (dancing pirates aside) and In Babylon Five it's the classic case of lust for power that corrupts. Think about Shakespeare - King Leer is definitely a tale of power corrupting. MacBeth is also that.

That should give you some ideas about how to describe your story in exciting terms.

BTW - If you really wrote a lizard society with lizard-like behaviors and political intrigue, the differences would make it fascinating.

EB said...

Anthropomorphic dinosaurs...anyone read Eric Garcia's "Anonymous Rex" series of hard boiled dinosaur detective books?

I, too, am a bit unclear about who's fighting for what here. But anthropomorphic dinos with their own culture could be nifty.

none said...

Two sons vying for the dying father's throne and bad guys trying to eliminate them. King Leer and MacBeth are similar.

Umm, no.

Anonymous said...

Two brothers competing for a throne almost always makes for a good story but, you've really "buried the lead" in your query.

I know I'm repeating many other minions here, but you might want to try describing your story in one sentence. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy and where/what is the biggest challenge?

Beware passive language!
"King Oran, who has ruled..."

Lots of promise here. I can't wait to see it in hardcover.

pacatrue said...

Something about this reminds me of Kirososawa's Ran, i.e., samurai King Lear.

Are the two brothers our main characters? Do you want the reader to either pull for or at least follow one of them more than the other? Are they our (flawed) heroes? Right now I'm getting a picture of the society and situation rather than the people. Is the King a partial protagonist, a la Ran, or just the set up?

Dave Fragments said...

King Lear was three daughters given the kingdom, two of which went goofy with power and cast out their father. You have to be goofy to cast out your father, don't you? If not goofy, then power-crazy?

Akira Kurosawa's RAN (chaos) was three sons. It is a relentless chronicle of the lust for power by two of three sons and how they destroy their family. Hence it's name - RAN which means chaos or disorder.

In MacBeth, it's MacBeth the soldier (a man who kills many and commands respect for it) and his Wife who desire the Kingship and they just kill, kill, kill, kill... Kill the king, Kill the king's son, kill the servant, kill the wife and son of the hero (surrogate son) MacDuff and then die by the sword. The wage of unrestrained ambition is death.

In all three cases, someone is after the throne and will destroy everything to get the power.

In FL 531, we have two sons and the "greedy evil noblemen" trying to achieve the throne. The bickering sons aid the "greedy evil noblemen."

So there is the shape of the story. If we can envision the query for MacBeth, Ran and Lear, then we can envision the query for FL 531. Like Kurosawa's Ran, it's claim to uniqueness is the exotic nature of the society it is set in.

Julie Weathers said...

I hate to even weigh in on these queries because I have struggled so much with mine, but for what it's worth.

"I am seeking representation for Legends of Sauria, a SF/F novel complete at 90,000 words."

I would open with a personal note about the agent.

When you describe your book, and not sure if it should be at the beginning or end or if there is a preference, you have to know what you are pitching. You have a science fiction or a fantasy and it wouldn't hurt to even add in a sub-genre.

You need to have some kind of hook and a dying king and people squabbling over the throne isn't strong enough.

Why would anyone besides the heirs be considered for the throne?

Who are the villains and how do they impact the MC? What is the pivotal plot point? What hangs in the balance?

Short, sweet, get in and get out. I'm learning that really is the secret to query letters. Your job is not to sell the book, it's to entice the agent into wanting to see more.


Stacy said...

Is there an inherent rivalry between the two brothers? Do they hate each other like Cain and Abel?

The query focuses a little too much on the epic stuff. Like Dave said, we need to know who is behind the intrigue. Figure out between which characters there lies the most conflict and focus on that. The epic stuff should be more in the background as an imminent threat.

But then, I suck at these query things.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

There's plotting for the throne, but the query doesn't indicate it's the two sons ruthlessly vying for it. In fact, they're depicted as trying to prove themselves worthy to succeed. And they "must stay loyal" in the end. Some of y'all seem to be reading something different into the story than what this query says about the brothers.

Julie and Freddie -- you guys don't suck at queries. You just suck at writing your own queries. Big difference. And perfectly natural. We all know a good query when we read one. And we know what works for a query. We're just query-blind when it comes to our own stories. Kind of like hysterical blindness. Temporary insanity. No need to apologize for your opinions about other peoples' queries. You're right on target.

talpianna said...

I think the plot could use a few zombie meerkats, not to mention egg-sucking moles...

PJD said...

Zombie meerkats! Tal, you're such a tease.

Whirlochre said...

This is a very broad canvas — and also a general one. If you replace the names, you could be talking about any one of a number of conflicts.

So — you need to be more specific about all concerned.

Are the Saurians dinosaurs? Are the Nrye not dinosaurs? Is it pistols at dawn, claws at dusk, or T Rex Boosters in the middle of the night?

none said...

King Lear was three daughters given the kingdom, two of which went goofy with power and cast out their father.

Still wrong.

pacatrue said...

I shall never be reminded of something again.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Healthy debate, Paca. Please don't ever not be reminded of something. What else would we have to talk about? We're just happy you're not going all incognito on us here, too :o)

Stacy said...

Julie and Freddie -- you guys don't suck at queries. You just suck at writing your own queries. Big difference. And perfectly natural. We all know a good query when we read one. And we know what works for a query. We're just query-blind when it comes to our own stories. Kind of like hysterical blindness. Temporary insanity. No need to apologize for your opinions about other peoples' queries. You're right on target.

Aw, shucks, Phoenix. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Author here, Wow, thank you so much for all the good advice. Yes I did aim very broadly because the first time I tried to add the details it was too long and hard to follow.
The Saurians are reptilian people, I guess I will have to add that in.
The two brothers are the main characters, and they are very close, despite their father's favoring one.
Oran is King, but cannot decide who succeeds him, instead it is left to a popular vote by all of the royal bloodline, which is huge, but not necessarily directly from Oran.
The brother's are quite powerful and together, could not be easily killed, which is why the conspirators try to pit them against each other.
Also, there are four different species of Saurians I am working with - Dactyls, Dragons, and Snakes and a fat dwarf type--Gilans.
Thanks for all your guys help I will try to sort all this out and re-write when my day job lets up.

batgirl said...

I'm being distracted by wondering what shape the deathbed (not to mention the other furniture) of a lizard king would be. It would have to allow for the tail, right?
What does the saurian language sound like? Does it have more sibilants, or more gutturals? This doesn't seem to be reflected in the names, particularly since they're either place names (Oran, Damascus) or modified human names (Malakai). Maybe you could bring out the alien / non-human nature of your protagonists a bit more strongly? As the query reads, it's almost as if you're trying to hide that aspect.