Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Face-Lift 539

Guess the Plot


1. Daniel, an albino midget with a speech impediment, and his beloved pet rat, Siatcha, adventure across the wilds of Ambrogia, meeting strange creatures and stranger people. When they befriend the Black Witch, she undoes an ancient curse, returning Siatcha to human form and allowing Daniel and Siatcha to finally enjoy each other's love.

2. Only the Siatcha can end the curse of the descending skin, but the Siatcha resides in the cannibalistic lands, and is himself cursed with the curse and has no intention of solving the curse. Which means the world will end. Unless . . .

3. Siatcha played Pelé in an old-timers' one-on-one charity soccer match. When Siatcha elbowed Pelé in the eye, the crowd moaned, but thought it an accident. After two more "accidents," and Siatcha kicking Pelé where the sun don't shine, the crowd stormed the field. Will Brazil and Argentina go to war?

4. When Siatcha winds up in a mental ward after a suicide attempt, she meets a mysterious songwriter who turns out to be Sondheim's bastard son. After a lifetime enduring endless jokes about her odd name, now her name is the beloved title of Sondheim's new play, Gotcha Siatcha. Suddenly life isn't so bad after all. Also, a deranged bartender.

5. Buck Carson rides into Siatcha on a rented mule and announces he's the new law in Western Alberta, CA. Can Earnest Evergood, the newest Mountie, wrangle his posse and save the town of Flintwhistle?

6. Lily always wanted to be a writer, but was too shy to submit. Her roommate Siatcha submits one of her manuscripts without telling Lily. Before she knows it her book is being represented by powerhouse agent Polly Trautwein. How can she pay Siatcha back, when she's just murdered her?

Original Version

Dear Perfect Agent,

Minya lived the choice life as a child of the Godking, first king of the god-like Choseli. [This is one of those first-sentence rejects for EE, even though it's not full of errors. Other editors might read on.] But when a strange cursed skin begins to descend upon the Choseli, [A skin? Descends on them? Now you've lost the rest of us.] causing them to either go mad and kill others or kill themselves, Minya's perfect world is shattered. The curse won't disappear, [Actually the Curse will disappear when Minya's about fifty, but by then she'll have killed many people.] and if one kills a Cursed, he'll get the curse and instantly go mad and kill others. The only way to stop the killing was through suicide. With Minya's brother already dead and her father next, she would sacrifice anything to keep the last of her family [Herself.] alive.

So when a rumored cure called the Siatcha is said to reside in the cannibalistic lands of the Ryakes, Minya defies reason and races to get it. But Minya doesn't find a magical object as she had expected. Instead, she finds the Siatcha to be a man named Jaden, [How does Minya know Jaden is the Siatcha?] cursed with the same curse, and who has no intention of solving the curse. [This is a gag query, right?]

Jaden is running from a past he wishes never existed, trying to find the one woman he had lost. All Jaden wants is a happy ending, but the Choseli require him dead, the Ryakes desperately want him back, [Of course they want him back; Jaden was on tonight's menu.] and the humans need his help. It's only the curse that keeps them all at bay.

Minya, torn between saving her father and helping the tortured man she's begun to know, realizes that Jaden is the key to everyone's dreams, but she wants his dreams to come true, too. Yet every day, the curse drives Jaden closer and closer to madness, and if he ever lost control, not only would he lose his last hope, but the world would end. [The world would end? Why?]

Siatcha is a 110,000 word YA fantasy novel. I currently reside in the USA, but routinely live abroad because of work. This is my first novel and I'd be happy to send a partial or full manuscript at your request. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.



The solution is obvious. Round up all the Cursed and lock them in a building. Come back later and they'll all be dead. Except possibly one. If the last one doesn't commit suicide, someone kills him and then we wait and see if that guy commits suicide. Sooner or later the only Cursed still alive turns out to be one of the suicidal ones. Problem solved. Unless some more skin descends.

Do the Ryakes eat other Ryakes? What are Ryakes? I would think there'd be a lot of tension living in a cannibalistic society. You don't want to eat your best friend, but you're not sure he's got the same moral fiber you have. Especially when he shows up at your door wearing a bib and carrying a salt shaker.

Siatcha makes me think Sasquatch. Wait, Satchmo! Consider changing the title to Satchmo. You might get some extra sales from jazz fans.

You could call the book Jaden or call Jaden "Siatcha."

If the Choseli want Jaden dead, and they're truly god-like, why don't they kill him? You didn't see Zeus or Thor sitting on their hands wishing someone would die of old age. Gods take action.

Cannibal 1: I hate my sister-in-law.
Cannibal 2: So try the asparagus.

Start over from scratch. Send us what you come up with after hearing the minions' advice.


Dave Fragments said...

Is this FL #539?

Dear author,
Huh? I have no idea what your novel is really about.

Young Adults want to read about other young adults. Preferably YA with some teen angst - dating, parents, dating, teen strife, coming to terms with adulthood and authority.

So your query has to somehow fit into that mold (not mold as in cheese, mold as in the device that creates a statue).

Minya's family bears a terrible curse. According to the curse, they must suffer disfigurement and death or become psychopathic killers.

I just can't bring myself to say: Minya must search for a cure in a land of cannibals. That turns me off as contrived. Perhaps the query shouldn't focus on cannibals.

So let's make it: Minya must search for her only possible cure in a foreign land where she finds the apostate, Jaden. Jaden knows how the curse came into being and how it all must end.

That sounds cryptic and you better change it into something better in the query.

Can Minya save herself and Jaden? Or will the curse destroy her family and the country she loves?)

If I wanted to be a smart ass, I'd add "Film at eleven." But I don't want to do that. You have a novel here and (sorry to be blunt) this query doesn't work.

Step back from the story details and figure out what Minya's journey is all about. How does she struggle and grow up in the story. What is her interaction with Jaden? Is he her lover? How does Minya lift the curse? Those are the elements of the story that belong in the query.

I'm hoping that other minions have better advice or better insight here.

WouldBe said...

How about veil of despair instead of descending skin? I had trouble following it and thought EE should outline it for the lesser beings.

110K words is quite long for a YA novel, HP aside. It is longish for any first novel, I think. (EE will know.)

I suggest you find a way to simplify the query. Don't make the agent or editor struggle; they won't.

Good luck

Anonymous said...

Does the skin just drop out of the sky, land on people, envelop them in its cursed nastiness, and then drive them nuts? Or is it a metaphor for something else?

PJD said...

I currently reside in the USA, but routinely live abroad because of work.

I think you should present this as a memoir. Minya has to travel to the cannibalistic land, you routinely live abroad... not that far off, given the recent trends in memoirs. (By the way, this should read "... but I routinely....")

The Choseli require him dead, the Ryakes desperately want him back, and the humans need his help.

Wait a minute. Humans? When did humans come into this? Are they cursed, too? Are any of the named characters human?

I don't get the whole god-like Choseli, descending skin thing, or why Jaden is a cure if he himself has the curse. Also, I don't get why Minya is interested in helping Jaden reach his happy ending. Here he's got the fate of the world in his hands, and he's more interested in crying into his beer about some wench who dumped him. Loser.

I would probably like this more if Minya had to search in the land of cannabis instead of the land of cannibals.

EB said...

Um, what?

This may be the first time I didn't think any of the GTPs were real.

The first two sentences make no sense to me. "Cursed skin." Like on pudding? Are we talking leprosy here? Or is it like an animal skin?

Why is the MC the only one heading off to cannibalistic lands to hunt a cure? Particularly since I'm under the impression that Minya is not an adult.

"Jaden is...trying to find the one woman he had lost. All Jaden wants is a happy ending." This sounds perilously like a trip through the alleys of Amsterdam's red light district.

Why is the fact that you live in the States but travel abroad of relevance to your query? Unless this is a Joseph Conrad book.

Whirlochre said...

I can't figure out what's going on here at all, and your overuse of the word 'curse' has me thinking I've been hexed.

I'm guessing there's mystery in this novel, which is fine, but this is way too mysterious for a query. It's almost as if you're falling over yourself to be clear about the mysteriousness of your book.

Anyone old/young enough to read YA will know that Jaden is in fact the star of the massively popular Yu-Gi-Oh GX cartoon series, so unless you wish to remind them of this other fantasy universe as you spell out details of your own, I'd change the name.

I have no idea whether you can solve a curse or if lands can be cannibalistic, but I do think this query could be made clearer.

Brenda said...

(De-hexes poor Whirl... I so hate when that happens.)

2. Only the Siatcha can end the curse of the descending skin, but the Siatcha resides in the cannibalistic lands, and is himself cursed with the curse and has no intention of solving the curse. Which means the world will end. Unless . . .

And that about sums it up. I'm with EE - I stopped after the 2nd sentence. Sorry I have nothing constructive to add.

pacatrue said...

I say this a bunch, but perhaps try writing down a single sentence that represents the climax of the book. Now the agent/editor needs to understand what takes the protagonist to that point. It sounds like you need Minya and Jaden and the curse. Anything else an absolute must? Try writing the one paragraph version that just has those three items and ends with the climax. Then fill it out to the full query format.

Scott from Oregon said...

There was that one cannibal who passed the tourist in the jungle...

talpianna said...

I think I've figured out the descending-skin thing: the Choseli actually live in the Ryakes' organic-waste trash container (they recycle), and they discard the skin and other fatty parts of the people they cook (they watch their weight).

The Ryakes are cannibals. Are they, perchance, editors? (Or, for that matter, moles?)

Xiexie said...

Minya lived a perfect life as daughter of the Godking, but when a mysterious illness descends upon the kingdom, it's now fallen to Minya to find a cure.

This is the entire premise right? If so, start from here.

Minya lived perfect life --> Illness ravages the kingdom --> Minya finds that Jaden's the cure --> but his curing isn't a simple process.

I say for now, try to make this query as simple as that. Map it out and then try some adding a frill or two later.

Julie Weathers said...

Maybe it's because I'm sick, but this isn't registering at all.

I'm sorry, author, but this needs a complete do-over. I really want to vomit now; and I wasn't far from it before.

Julie Weathers said...

Author, I would take a look at the Snowflake Novel Writing method. It helps lay out a plan when you're starting, but it's also good for going back and dissecting your work.

Perhaps that will help you get a handle on what you're trying to do.

Off the top of my head, this is too long for YA. It has too many yuck elements that aren't going to appeal to children and parents. Kids like gross stuff, but it has to be presented well.

As a parent, I'm probably not going to invest in a book where suicide is the only option to escape something.

Anonymous said...

What they really need is a good Rabbi. and shriving. Lots of shriving.

Anonymous said...

Dude, what? Doesn't this mean that Jaden himself is mad? And won't he give the curse to this chick he's trying to find, or is it only communicable through descent of cursed skin and not person-to-person?

Robin S. said...

Cannibal 1: I hate my sister-in-law.
Cannibal 2: So try the asparagus.

Thanks for the pre-holiday grins.

EB said...

debhoag: a rabbi sounds helpful, but given the cursed skin, maybe a mohel would be better

writtenwyrdd said...

I have no idea what your story is about either, author. It also sounds depressing. Really depressing, not my cup of tea as a YA reader.

What your letter's biggest problem is in my opinion is that you are dancing around the facts instead of giving them to us. Telling the specifics in a query is a good thing. It tells people what your story is and gets them interested in reading it. Don't be coy; say why Jaden/Siatcha isn't interested in ending the curse, why the Choselli want him dead, etc.

Also, be careful of wordiness and streamline your sentences.

I'd have to see more about this book before I'd be willing to say I wouldn't want to read it, but so far it's not interesting me.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I really hope the author weighs in on this one.

talpianna said...

Well, 150, I believe that the author is Gordon Ramsay. He did reply, but it was unprintable.

And is this one of those books like many cozy mystery novels in which recipes are given in the back?