Thursday, July 24, 2008

Face-Lift 547

Guess the Plot


1. Jimmy’s baby brother witnessed the murder of their Uncle Wences, standing in his crib as the assailant swept through the front window and strangled the old man. The detectives promised to solve the case but Jimmy was unconvinced. All they had to go on was the cryptic word his baby brother kept repeating: “Tarawa. Tarawa.” Unfortunately, no one knew what the hell that meant.

2. Justin was busy saving a bus load of preschoolers when the Justice League handed out the rallying cries for its members. Now he's stuck screaming, "Tarawa!" instead of something cool. It's affecting his self-esteem, his sex life, and--most importantly--his marketability for endorsement contracts. What's a superhero to do???

3. When her town is ransacked and burned to the ground by roving bandits, Tarawa is forced into the wilderness. On death's door, she's rescued by a mysterious monk, who trains her in the ancient art of killing. Years later, she's capable of killing anyone with a single blow. But when she finds love in the form of a simple farmer, she must decide if life is worth something after all.

4. Kidnapped from Earth by the king of the elfes of Tarawa, Fay Emory sides with the Tarawan enemy, Suva, in war. The big question is, when a war has lasted a thousand years, is there anything a 12-year-old girl can do to end it? Also, a frog that isn't transformed into a prince.

5. When Master Sergeant Shepard McManus wakes, he sees the rising sun of Tojo flapping over the base. The assault had failed and Tarawa stood firmly in the hands of the Japanese. Thus begins the alternate history of Japan as the dominant power in the Pacific.

6. In Tarawa, words are dangerous tools. Speaking the wrong one can be deadly. When Lieh, street urchin and petty thief, discovers an ancient dictionary, she has no idea the terrors she'll unleash on the city. Can she figure out how to undo the damage, or will her words come back to haunt her?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Researching via the Internet, I found your agency and decided to contact you for representation of my young adult fantasy ‘Tarawa’. With an approximate count of ninety thousand words, it has similarities to Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials Book One, The Golden Compass’, whose protagonist’s life is challenged [by?] her parent’s [Parents'?] secrets. [I'd rather you tell me something about your book before you bring up Philip Pullman's.]

Twelve when kidnapped from Earth by her long-absent father Deryck, King of the Elfes of Tarawa, Fay Emory rebels. Stunned she is an Elfe, [If she made it to age 12 without even knowing she was an elfe, it can't be much different from being a human.] Fay does not want to be a princess either. Befriending a frog faery a kiss will not transform into a prince, rejecting a king her father betroths her to, [Sorry, sire, but I refuse to marry beneath myself.] and wearing a sword but refusing to fight, [Fight? Don't be silly, this is just an accessory.] Fay’s differences propel her to champion Tarawa’s enemy, the underworld Troll kingdom of Suva. Ending an unjust war that’s lasted a thousand years is a lofty goal. [If there's anyone still alive after a thousand years of war, they must be fighting with squirt guns and snowballs.] It’s also as dangerous as Fay fears. [That's it? What happens? What's her role in ending the war? Warrior? Negotiator? Marry the Suvan prince? None of these seems reasonable for a 12-year-old kid.]

Having decided to write fiction, I attended The Wimbledon Writer’s Conference in Middlemarch, England in 2005, [where my writing stayed about the same, but my backhand improved immensely,] and Erstwhile College’s ‘Writers’ in Purgatory’ Conference in Hell, Nevada in 2006. Based on recommendations, I have studied books on technique and written virtual reams to improve my skills. [I, too, have written virtual reams, in my persona as Poet Laureate of Sim City. Someday I may start doing some actual writing.] Regularly, I also exchange pieces and critiques with writers I met at both conferences.

Enclosed in this email are the first ten pages and a brief synopsis of ‘Tarawa’. Thank you for taking time for my query.



For some reason I can't get that song out of my head. How does it go? Tarawa Boom De Ay?

Tarawa sounds like baby talk. Replace the "w" with any other consonant or any consonant plus an "i" or an "h."

The title means nothing to anyone.

Apparently Tarawa isn't on Earth. How did the kidnappers get Fay there?

Young adults usually don't want to read about 12-year-olds. Have you considered making Fay older or calling it middle-grade?

Lose the paragraph with your credits and give us more information about the plot.


Dave Fragments said...

I have a distant cousin who performs Broadway songs (Garland, Streisand, Liza) under the name Fey George the Girly Boy. He favors pink feather boas and open toed spiked heels. He kisses lots of toads, well really trolls really and he does fly around a lot. Flutters, really. It's all a big mystery to me, this strange world of faery.

Tarawa is an Atoll in the Marianas (Pacific) and was hte site of an important battle in WW2. It ranks with Iwo Jima .

I won't say a another word about Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay

but my backhand improved immensely - good shot!

with squirt guns and snowballs - A great zinger!

Poet Laureate of Sim City - That's as prestigious as Copy-Editor for the School of Mime. The pay is White Gloves and all the pasty white makeup you can use.

EB said...

Dave beat me to it, but the very first thing I thought of was Tarawa, Battle of. So, yeah, perhaps another name might be in order.

With regard to the credentials paragraph, something doesn't quite smell right here....

Elissa M said...

Should have known Dave would be first to mention the battle of Tarawa (besides GTP #5). Suggest a different name to avoid confusing folks who paid attention in history (not to mention the few left who were there).

talpianna said...

And Suva is the capital of Fiji. Do you think we don't know these things?

It's pretty hard to make trolls the good guys, what with their fondness for eating people.

Despite the names, these characters don't seem to have much to do with the traditional images of Elves (whether Seelie or Unseelie) and Trolls. Are you just using the names as gimmicks, as Eddison did in THE WORM OUROBOROS?

And I agree that there's no real plot here, just a sketch. And too many unanswered questions: Why is Fay on Earth? Is her mother human or Elfe? Did she flee the King with their baby? And if so, why?

And what about Naomi?

DD3123 said...

And here I was thinking we'd reminiscence the heroics of fellow devil dogs at bloody Tarawa.

YA was far, far away from my thoughts of what this would be about.

Anonymous said...

The blue words were exceptionally funny, to me, today. Thanks Evil.

I had an immediate strong dislike for the wording of this. Iwas annoyed for some reason. I finally realized my annoyance was due to the author's use of gerund phrases such as:

Researching via,

Befriending a frog faery, rejecting a king, and wearing a sword but refusing

Ending an unjust w, and

Having decided to write . . .

in a repetitive manner in the construct of lengthy sentences. I should add that I was reading the blue words first and the actual query black words after, as I chucked at EE's wit and tried to make sense of the character names and plot.(BTW I really needed a laugh and your Evil Edits were Excellent!) To be fair, I've read it again here in comments (where everything is black and white) and I have to agree with others who ask for more plot but not with those who'd heard of "Tarawa". (Sorry Dave for the apostrohed "had") Also thought the MC's age was too young for YA.


Xiexie said...

ME and I share the same grievances with the gerund phrases.

Having said this (;p), author, could you tell us the rest?

Also, what's the significance of the frog who doesn't turn into a prince with a kiss other than that he's a frog whom a kiss won't change him into a prince? Why can't he just be a frog? (And what can a frog really do in a battle against evil Underworld Trolls?)

Anonymous said...

If Harry Potter is middle grade, the sophistication of this as described here seems to be in whatever category comes before that. Early readers? I don't know. Maybe with more specifics the complexities and aptness for young adult readers would become apparent.

fairyhedgehog said...

I don't know why but the frog who won't change into a prince appeals to me.

As a story device, I mean. I know how some of you think.

Stacia said...

I knew Tarawa sounded familiar.

And I agree about the sentence structure. The plot itself is unclear in this query, and the writing makes it harder to unerstand. She wears a sword but refuses to fight? Do twelve-year-old girls normally fight? Why does she wear the sword at all if she's not going to use it--I can't imagine it would be for comfort.

We don't need to know you exchange critiques with people, or that you've read lots of books on writing, or that you've written a lot before this. It's okay to not have a lot of credentials, really it is.

Blogless Troll said...

Nothing to add about the query, but there's a hilarious travel memoir out there called The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by a guy who moved to Tawara and lived there for two years.

E.D. Walker said...

The query didn't flow well for me and you have some rather awkward structure and phrases, as anon 11:22 pointed out. The whole thing feels like you're trying too hard to sound lofty and interesting.

But my biggest problem with this was you took a whole paragraph to say you went to two conferences (the last one two years ago), you have other people critique your work, you read books on writing and you write a lot. Well, good for you but these aren't really pub creds. These are the kind of things agents expect writers to be doing to hone their craft just as a baseline. These things don't, I'd say, make you sound much more appealing for publication than anyone else in the slush.

Now, I'm not sure about the conferences but if I had to guess I'd say the agent/editor won't care what specific conferences you went to unless you met them at those conferences and you're jogging their memory.

Basically, you take too much time to present lackluster credentials and then you compound the problem by sounding (to my inner reader) really snooty about it. "having decided to write fiction" sounds to me like you think you're conferring some great honor on the publishing world or something.

Take EE's advice and trim this para to almost nothing. You don't have a lot of space so use what you have to sell the story itself better.

Best of luck,

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Gerund phrases? Is that what it is? And here I was thinking Yoda had written a novel...

writtenwyrdd said...

Weighing in a bit late, but my thoughts, for what it's worth:

Ditto everyone else on the awkward construction. You sound like you are trying too hard to impress your college professor. When clauses and adjectival phrases make up three times the size of the actual base sentence (rather like this particular sentence) you have a problem. Example: "Twelve when kidnapped from Earth by her long-absent father Deryck, King of the Elfes of Tarawa, Fay Emory rebels."

Overall, it sounds like there's a reasonably interesting mid-grade or YA plot in there; but you need to give us the info a bit more clearly. What's the conflict? What's at stake?

Finally, a suggestion. You might consider not using cutesy alternate spellings of common fantasy terms. I know a lot of people do it, but adding an e onto elf bugs me. It looks like you have bought into the Olde Englishe addinge ofe ee's ontoe thee ende ofe youre wordes, which, as you can see is just not helpful for pronounciation or clarity.

Anonymous said...

To all who commented, thank you for the input. Believe it or not, it is appreciated. All actual names used in this story were changed.