Monday, July 28, 2008

Face-Lift 548

Guess the Plot

Not Just Jane

1. There's also George. And Judy. And Rosie and Elroy and Astro. What I'm trying to say is that the Jetson family is not just Jane.

2. Frank McFarlane should be happy with the wife his family picked out. And he is--Jane is sweet and good natured, everything he should want. But George wants more--not just Jane, but Sally, Lucia, and Andrea, too. Can he convince them that polygamy is the way to go, or will he be stuck with just Jane for the rest of his life?

3. When Jane took a job in a costume shop she thought it might be a little exciting, but she didn't expect to suddenly develop super powers and become . . . Princess Janisha! From now on, she's . . . not just Jane.

4. When anyone asks who the girl next to gorgeous Maya Jennings is, everyone answers the same thing: "Oh, that's just Jane." But Jane is tired of it, and sets out to make people notice her, too. When her video rant making fun of Maya becomes a viral sensation, everyone notices--including Maya. Is it worth losing her best friend to have everyone know that henceforth, she's . . . not just Jane?

5. Tarzan's a creep. After thirteen years of blissful tree-swinging with Cheetah and Jane, his wife, the ape man announces he wants to swing in the bedroom, too. But a corseted Victorian lady doesn't easily assume loose laces OR loose morals, so Jane takes up a new hobby: Dominance.

6. It sucks being named Jane Doe. It doesn't help that she's quiet as a church mouse at the morgue, where she works. It also doesn't help that she dresses like a homeless woman, especially when a serial killer starts murdering homeless women around the city. Police think she's the next Jane Doe to die. Can Jane develop some fashion sense before it's too late?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Some jobs offer the chance of promotion; this one offers a new life.

Until now, fifteen-year-old Jane’s only escape from her ho-hum life and overprotective parents were her day-dreams. But Jane believes the job at the costume shop will provide at least a little excitement. [For instance, she thinks if Spiderman gets ink on his costume while battling Doctor Octopus, he might drop in for a clean set of duds.] What she did not expect was a doorway delivering her into her dreamland. She soon learns her ‘day-dreams’ were actually the result of a close connection with Gregoria, the land of her birth. And her arrival has triggered old rivalries. [What were the odds she'd end up in Gregoria? It's what's known as Gregorian Chance.] [From whom does she learn she was born in Gregoria?]

The Domovye have a long-standing grudge against Jane and her family. [How can they have a long-standing grudge against Jane, when she's fifteen, and she just got there?] Torben, the young captain of the King’s army, helps Jane escape the Domovye. [When did they capture her?] During her quest [What is her quest?] Jane will discover ancient traditions which tie her fate to Torben’s and grant her unique abilities to control her environment with her emotions. In order to harness this power she must learn to control her emotions.

[Torben: Jane, we need a tsunami to wipe out the Domovye army. Go into a jealous rage followed by fear of sharks and then love of puppies.]

Now she must evade capture long enough to claim her birthright, rescue her mother from torment in the enemy’s dungeons [I assume Jane got to Gregoria through the doorway in the costume shop. How did her mother get there?] and reconcile a land torn apart by war and hatred. In order to do this she must remember who she truly is; Janisha, the young Princess -Gregoria’s only hope for peace.

NOT JUST JANE, 45,000 words, is a YA fantasy filled with magic, adventure and first loves.

I thank you for your time for in considering my work.



If by "first loves" you mean Jane and Torben, she's fifteen and he's an army captain. Unless he attained that rank before he finished high school, this sounds a little unhealthy.

Do they use the Gregorian calendar in Gregoria?

What are the Demovye? Another people? Dragons? Aliens?

I think if you answer some of my serious questions with specific information it'll sound less muddled.


Anonymous said...

I was gunning for GTP #4

Robin S. said...

Gregorian Chance made my day.

Dave Fragments said...

Some jobs offer the chance of promotion;
Sorry to be snarky but, my first job was file clerk and even it had promotion potential. Then there was my buddy the garbage collector who was promoted to shift foreman. Most startling, was the simple steel worker who started in the mill as a helper, put himself through college and eventually rose to be head of the company.

You got two hooks there. Or two attempted hooks. I use costume shops to all the time. They make easy, boring openings.
"I need a costume!"
"Sure, how about being a baboon?"
"It's the dream of a lifetime come true. Can I live in an imaginary world and have perpetual sex?"
"Sure, happens every day, bend over while I attach your new tail"
Substitute centaur, dragon, robot, dinosaur, mannequin, space aliens, women with super-large bosoms, bronze statue, satyr, Tarzan, etc. for baboon. See what I mean.

"When Jane takes a job in a costume shop, she discovers a magical portal to a magical world whose inhabitants greet her as Princess."
This is kinda pedestrian as an opening in a query. However, it moves past the backstory and into your main character's struggle.

Jane's parents are all backstory. what does Jane have to do and how does she do it? How does Jane grow in the story? She's 15, surely she doesn't get married at that age... but does she assume the throne as Princess or go back to her mundane earthly life a reassured, new woman?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I'm still laughing at Gregorian Chance.

writtenwyrdd said...

The details you mention sound like a workable fantasy story, but we do need to know what the mission/question she has to accomplish is, and how her mother ended up a prisoner. One is led to assume mom is on Earth since her daughter is.

As you describe the opening, it sounds rather silly, to be honest. A costume shop fronts a door to another universe? It may work fine in the telling, but sounds like the offhand sort of opening to a paranormal romance, which doesn't require quite the rigorous worldbuilding of a true fantasy.

Anonymous said...

It does seem like you'd need a revolving door between the costume shop and the fantasy world to support the query.

Is her ho-hum life family different from her fantasy royal family? There seems to be no return to the ho-hum world, so do you really need it for the story?

And gosh, there seems to be a lot of material for 45K words...gain birthright, reconcile a land torn apart by war and hatred, bag an army captain....

--Bill H.

Anonymous said...

The title is sort of tepid. This is the Wizard of Oz plot in disguise, isn't it? But that has a great title. Not just Dorothy would never get the same readership.

talpianna said...

This is the sort of story that ought to start in one of those dusty little antiquarian bookshops that is never there when you try to go back to it.

As for romance, Jane is fifteen in OUR world, but not necessarily in Gregoria.

Coming down to size said...

Thanks for the comments. Most of the one raised are exactly what I have been struggling with when writing the query - how to convey the details without going into too much boring detail.

E.g. Enemy, I needed a magic creature that was not as nasty as Goblins (plus they have been done to death) and learned about Domovye which fit in with the story fairly well (A domovoi Russian - literally, "he of the house" is a house spirit in Slavic folklore - Domovye is plural for Domovoi) Still not 100% sure how to word that in the query but I will work on it. I have some ideas now that I know the previous query doesn't work.
(Sorry for infodump but I don't know how to link HTML in here so the above is an extract from Wikipedia.)

Romance - Jane is 15 in Gregoria, but so is Torben - he was kind of a chosen one so to speak and raised specifically to be an army captain (the book obviously contains more details about this), that's why it is first love & being YA there is a little smooching but not too much else. The story focuses more on rescuing Jane's birth mother (who has been imprisoned for 13 years, her imprisonment was the reason for Jane's departure from Gregoria.)Again, while I am writing this post I can think of a few ways to maybe reword this bit too.

I am still borderline as to whether it is actually MG but there are a few deaths & major betrayals so don't know if it would be suitable for younger audiences.

Title - I am not 100% set on it I have tried others but none seem to fit the story quite as well. It may change, but it is a good working title for me for now.

Word count I did the query based on count now - I am working on getting it a bit longer but I am also trying not to become verbous (although many would argue I already am!) :) I have embarked on a major rewrite based on New Beginning 533 so it will be interesting to see whether that boosts or drops word count.

Can I say again - thanks everyone. I may be a glutton for punishment but I love feedback - even snarky comments. It is much better than living in a fantasy land where everything is rainbows and puppies.

Evil Editor said...

I don't see how you can claim Jane has overprotective parents when her mother's been in prison in Gregoria 13 years. Is she adopted?

The author's opening was New Beginning 533, and she has placed a new version in the comments there, hoping for input.

Coming down to size said...

Sorry I did mean to mention that too. Jane discovers she is adopted on arrival in Gregoria. Until then she does not know, sets-up some conflict between doing what is right (rescue) and feeling betrayed.

E.D. Walker said...

Ok, author, you said you had a thick skin so I'm just going to let this excerpt from agent Kristin Nelson's blog talk for me. The post is titled "You Know You Have A Tired YA Fantasy Theme When… "

There are 5 points she addresses in the post. Your query seems to contain at least 2:

"1. Your main protagonist is the “chosen one” and only he or she can save the world....

4. If you have to go through the portal to actually begin the story."

Really, just go to her blog and put "portal" in the search bar. There's a whole lot more: "What’s with portals sucking young adult characters from the modern world into the world of fantasy? Why can’t the characters just exist in the alternate world you want to create?" ~Kristin Nelson ( )

A lot of editors and other agents feel the same way. The average girl going through the magic portal and suddenly finding herself a princess with a world to save is pretty overdone. It seems to me that as is this query doesn't have enough original elements to distinguish it from the pack of Princess through Portal YAs stuck in the slush piles all around New York.

What makes this different? What makes this special? Voice? Weird characters? And using the Russian whosit instead of more common Goblins doesn't seem to be enough to me. Figure out what breaks this out from the pack and emphasize that.

I hope you post a revised version.

Best of luck with this.

Xiexie said...

I just read your infodump and that Jane was adopted here I think is a biggie about her parentage and should go in the query insofar as cos you've mentioned her captured mother.

writtenwyrdd said...

You know what I always hope to see when the magic door to Fantasyland is evoked? That the protagonist hates discovering she's a changeling/fairy princess/whatever and Wants To Go Back To Normal. That would make me sit up and take notice. Just saying. But if your version is well written, author, you might have a chance. The vampire novel isn't over yet either despite the knee-deep slush piles.

Also, I suspect the Narnia movies have jumpstarted the trend's resurgence.

Sarah Laurenson said...

A little smooching, a little violence and betrayal? Middle grade can handle that. Have you read Harry Potter? But don't worry too much about the exact genre.

She's adopted in this world while her parents are in the other world and her real mom's a captive in the other world? How did she get to this world to be adopted? Do her adoptive parents know about the other world? Did they own the costume shop? Is there conflict with her adoptive parents when she gets that job? When she talks about her day dreams? Are they protective of her in that they don't want her finding her way to the other world?

If she's a princess then mom's a queen? And where's the king? Who's running the place while this chaos is going on? And mom's been captive for 13 years? That's a long time for some other power to be in charge.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be a picky person, but in GTP #3, there's a misused adjective:

"When her video rant making fun of Maya becomes a viral sensation"

Viral refers to viruses. You probably meant virtual.

Anonymous said...

Oops. I meant GTP #4.


Evil Editor said...

Though I don't write the GTPs, I must stick up for the author of this one. Viral is a term attached to video (as well as marketing and other terms).

none said...

Does she meet Mr Benn at all?

talpianna said...

But--the Domovoi is basically a protective house spirit, rather like a hob, unless you manage to piss him off.

It really pisses ME off when people use traditional folkloric names for beings that aren't a bit like the traditional versions.

Let's see....I'm going to set my book among a nomadic people who live in conical tents on the grassy high plains, ride spotted horses, fight with bows and arrows and tomahawks, and live off the buffalo herds. I'll call them--Hessians!

Anonymous said...

You actually got my attention with your explanation of the Domovye. I've seen a lot of YA fantasy with faeries, but using Slavic folklore is relatively new. If there's a Slavic angle to the setting and characters, I'd play that up.

Beth said...

I went back and looked at your revised opening. I'm commenting on it here since you might not think to go back to old posts to look for comments.

Basically, it's all backstory and exposition. There's no actual story beginning.

Find the place in the novel where something happens to jolt Jane's life out of the status quo and into the adventure. Or start out with some problem she has to solve. Use action and dialogue. Write a scene, not an explanation. All that information about Jane is not necessary for the reader to know when the story is just starting. You can weave it in later.

Anonymous said...

Some screenwriter's book I read once advised that the best place to begin telling the story is the latest point at which you won't need to dip into backstory to 'splain stuff. Which seems to work pretty well. Starting at the near-end and spending 22 chapters in backstory is sort of like the Moby Dick structure, but that's not told as backstory.

All those hads are monotonous and any structure that makes you feel compelled to do this is ill-conceived. It's just plain unbearable to try reading 22 chapters with the same verb in every sentence. I would give up on page 1, page 2 at the latest.

batgirl said...

talpianna, will your Hessians wear tall tasselled boots and make their clothing out of burlap?
I second the problem with Domovoi. That's like saying your bad guys are Brownies - I'm trembling at the very thought. They will dust and mend me into destruction!