Friday, August 15, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. When Josh Boink forgets to issue a product-safety recall on a million pounds of hot dogs, he really forgets: in the five days since he shoved the memo beneath a stack of invoices, thousands of Americans have become ill. When Josh realizes his error, he races against time to confiscate as many of the bad dogs as he can, because half of North America is suffering from a deadly form of gastrointestinal discomfort: Plaguewind.
2. In the 1920's, Plaguewind, racehorse of the decade, has put a small eastern-European nation on the map. But when this communist country discovers that the horse has royalist antecedents, a political crisis seems imminent. Only one man has the secret that can preserve peace for another year: Plaguewind's great-grand-dam was an over-worked cart horse.
3. When archaeologists uncover a mass grave in Tibet they unwittingly let loose a virus that has been dormant for centuries. The airborne disease kills in hours and makes AIDS, Legionnaire's Disease and SARS look like a mild case of chickenpox. Half of Europe has already gone dark. Can scientist Greg Hart find a cure before it's too late?
4. Being one of three brothers with magical powers might sound like fun, but little Plaguewind would prefer to wield a sword to smite the enemy. Ashamed of his rather pathetic talent, he leaves home and sets off on a quest to uncover some other way to help his siblings destroy the evil Gothcarrions. It will take an encounter with the wise Marmerlard to show Plaguewind that any magical power is better than none--even if it's only lethal flatulence.
5. A wind-borne plague threatens to wipe out the entire population, unless the crew of the Phyrno can sail north and find the lost city of plague survivors. But with no water available, they must sail on land, and they find that their ship isn't nearly as fast that way.
6. The Lommalians have long built their cities from the most plentiful wood available on the planet: balsa. But when global warming leads to Lommalia's first-ever breezes, it's up to meteorologist Chanh Braakpho to figure out a way to rebuild a planet. Also, a gold anemometer.
[Brief specific reasons for choosing to submit].
When Patrick Union, staunchly independent trader and captain of the land-sailing plainship Phyrno, is hired to stop a wind-borne plague that is weeks from wiping out the whole country, he quickly realizes he's in for the worst winter of his life. [If the whole country's gonna be wiped out in weeks, I wouldn't worry too much about the entire winter being lousy.]
Union must sail into the teeth of the brutal northern snowstorms to try to locate a centuries-lost city, which is purported to be infested by demons. [Lemme get this straight. He's got a few weeks to find a city that's been lost for centuries, and his means of transportation is a ship that sails on land?
First Mate: Cap'n, not to belabor the obvious, but we haven't moved in six weeks.
Captain Union: Check the almanac. See when hurricane season starts.]
If he can find it, he must find out, with the help of an otherwise-useless historian, how a fraction of its population managed to be the only survivors the last time the plague came through nearly a thousand years ago. [Lemme get this straight. He not only has to find the place, he has to do it in a snowstorm, and then he has to conduct a research study on something that happened a thousand years ago while fighting off demons, and then he has to return. And his means of transportation is a ship that sails on land?] [Can you add something to make it a little more difficult?] Complicating matters is the malevolent Traders' Guild, which develops an avid interest in stopping the Phyrno and killing all aboard her, both in the pursuit of its doomed quarantine efforts and as part of its campaign to cinch its control of trading into complete monopoly. [I'm not clear on why Union preventing a plague from wiping out the entire population is bad for the Traders' Guild.]
Betrayed by his crew, struggling against the ravages of weather and sabotage to keep his ship in working order, and harried at every turn by agents of the Guild, all Union wants is to finish his task and get back to trading. [These agents he's being harried by, are they chasing him down in their own ship that sails on land, or do they have something faster, like a land barge being towed by a giant tortoise?] The plague, however, is spreading and killing even as he races northwards, and by the time he finds the city, even he is infected. [It suddenly occurs to him that maybe he should have been racing southward.] Can he find a cure and get back to civilization with it in time to save himself—or anyone else? [No.]
Set in an alternate world of swords and sails, my windpunk science fiction novel Plaguewind [I refuse to create another label category on this blog for windpunk novels.] is complete at 132,000 words. The stage is left set for a pair of sequels that follow Patrick Union's quest to redeem himself in the wake of the catastrophic events set in motion by the advent of the plague and the forces he inadvertently unleashes by disturbing the lost city. [He finds the city and prevents the plague from wiping out everyone, and this proves to be a catastrophe?]
I am midway through an MFA in fiction writing at Western Michigan University, and also hold a BS in engineering [Lemme guess: Your engineering degree led to developing ships that sail on land, and when you applied to grad school they rolled their eyes and suggested you switch from engineering to fantastical fiction]. I have included [specific things as specified]. Thank you for your time and consideration!
You make the task sound impossible. It might be better to make it sound almost impossible. For instance, if you don't mention that the plague is already spreading and killing, we might think there's hope. You might also consider leaving out the part about the demons and only having a few weeks and the crew sabotaging him and the Guild trying to kill him and the snowstorm and the thousand years, and having to find a cure after he finds the lost city. Now the only obstacle is that he's in a ship that sails on land . . . Hmm, better leave that out too.
What I'm saying is, what seem like a reasonable number of problems over 132,000 words seem insurmountable when compressed into three paragraphs. Maybe the Guild is your main villain and you should focus on them, rather than list everything working against Union.