Friday, January 30, 2009

Face-Lift 597

Guess the Plot

The Last Prince of Numea

1. The fecund queens and virile kings of Numea were the envy of surrounding kingdoms. With thirteen healthy young princes, the succession was assured. Or so the king thought, until he refuses to pay the mysterious piper in his motley cloak.

2. Numea's throne is empty, for only a prince can rule. Sandala, daughter of the last prince of Numea, joins with a snooty elf, a grumpy dwarf, and an easily-distracted unicorn, to quest to the furthest reaches of the world in search of the sex change that will save her kingdom.

3. Meet Joe Strident, president of Numea, the biggest moisturizing lotion manufacturer in the western world. His R&D boys have been working overtime and now say they have the greatest moisturizer of them all. But the new formula, Preparation V, has sinister side effects, turning the skin deathly white and inducing an insatiable craving for blood.

4. Master assassin Avarice is the last hope of the kingdom. Can one greedy, cold and ruthless killer change his ways, helping those upon whom he once preyed? Can he restore peace and civility? Nah.

5. Gilhad, Prince of Numea, wants nothing more than to marry the lovely Ernilda and unite his war-torn land -- but when Broh, the last Prince, rises from the grave and seeks out Ernilda for his zombie bride, Gilhad must raise his own army of the undead or lose his love forever.

6. As his people's Calendar of All Time roles to its end Prince Dolan of Numea must choose between the needs of his subjects and of himself. Will he eat the poison egg the priest will hand him tomorrow or is there another way that might save them all?

Original Version

"I have written a 60,000-word heroic fantasy/adventure novel aimed at adult readers entitled The Last Prince of Numea

The book follows the adventures of an assassin, known as Avarice, [If there's a master assassin hanging around your kingdom, and you don't know his name, you're gonna call him something cool like Torpedo or The Eliminator, or The Butcher of Numea, or Liquidator. Anything but Avarice.] who is compelled to aid those upon which he once plagued. [Compelled by whom? Most people are extremely reluctant to boss around master assassins.] It is set in the extravagant kingdom of Alborea, [Alborea? What's Numea? Never mind, I'm sure you'll get to that.] whose stability is maintained largely by the covert acts of this master assassin. After his deeds are manipulated to place an evil ruler into power, he joins an endeavor to restore peace and civility to the country. Although he at first seems cold and ruthless, his noble lineage and heroism are ultimately revealed.

This story travels off the beaten path of traditional fantasy novels and will be refreshing to fans of the genre. My goal was to create an engrossing world, with its own rich history, and emphasize the mystery and adventure of Avarice the main character."


So a master assassin who's been "plaguing upon" the people is suddenly hailed as a hero just because he helps get rid of an evil ruler he helped bring to power?

Is this a fantasy just because the setting isn't a real place? I expect a fantasy to have magic or fantastical creatures or something supernatural.

This isn't enough plot to interest me. It's like a few topic sentences with no elaboration. Double the number of sentences in your plot description. Give more detail. Make us want to read the book.


Anonymous said...

with only 60,000 words one fears the book would be as underdeveloped as this plot description.

Anonymous said...

Take out "upon which." Put in a full stop after your first sentence.

I don't know, man, this sounds very much along the lines of standard fantasy. Assassin, evil ruler, quest for peace, secretly noble lineage...

I suppose it's possible to create an engrossing world with a rich history in 60,000 words; A Clockwork Orange did it.

Avarice is the last prince of Numea, isn't he? Is anyone going to be surprised by that if it's in the title?

Specificity is your friend. Rather than:

After his deeds are manipulated to place an evil ruler into power, he joins an endeavor to restore peace and civility to the country.

try something like:

After a rich merchant pays him to kill a rival, leaving his corrupt son in sole control of the traders guild, Avarice joins a sect of smugglers determined to break up the guild and restore free trade.

Or whatever.

I hope you've got a page in queue for a new beginning, because I'd like to see how the writing compares to the query.

batgirl said...

I kind of liked this, until Avarice turned out to be of noble blood after all. If he _weren't_ noble by ancestry, then the story really would be travelling off the beaten path.
See Limyaael's fantasy rant point 5 for a more detailed discussion:

Whirlochre said...

Lacks detail.

Final paragraph uses up a lot of words but says next to nothing.

Wait to see how the comments pan out, then rewrite this. I'm always intrigued by assas

batgirl said...

Oh, and I know this has been brought up before, but alternative history, or alternative prehistory, even without magic, is considered a sub-genre of fantasy. Or of sf if it uses technology instead of magic.
Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword are in this subgenre of fantasy.
I think it's because swordfights, court intrigues, and epic battles don't fit into mainstream or litfic unless they can be tied to an identifiable and fairly accurately depicted historical period, but fantasy fans will read them even without magic or dragons.

Evil Editor said...

According to wikipedia, "Fantasy is a genre that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting."

And while wikipedia isn't the final say on anything, neither does the fact that fantasy fans will read X make X a fantasy.

In any case, there's nothing in the query about epic battles with swords either.

Anonymous said...

Is there a genre name for stories that use real-world physics in not-real-world settings? I wrote half of one myself and I've always wondered how to classify it.

Evil Editor said...

I don't know. If you take the novel Ben Hur and change the names of all the settings to places that no one's ever heard of, I don't think it suddenly morphs from historical novel to fantasy. You probably weren't thinking that more people would buy the book if it were set in Prawkloffa than in California. So knowing what it is you gain by setting it in Prawkloffa would help us determine what genre it is. Maybe a satire or some sort of allegory?

Anonymous said...

I think you could reasonably argue, though, that changing all the names and places of Ben Hur would take it out of historical fiction, which is expected to take place in a concrete time and place.

Then I guess you'd have to define it by the plot: adventure, or something.

I can't think of any examples of books that do this but don't have any SFF features. Anyone?

Evil Editor said...

Some Sinclair Lewis novels are set in the US state Winnemac.

Jaws is set on Amity Island.

Anonymous said...

What about "speculative fiction" as the genre?

Also, great plots. I was particularly hoping it would be number 2 - now that would be something different. And awesome.

Author, you've got an interesting character who goes through two major life changes while saving a kingdom. That's a great plot. When you rewrite, tell us the story from Avarice's perspective, perhaps along the following lines:

"For years the mysterious assassin Avarice has ruthlessly maintained stability in the decadent kingdom of Alborea. But when (a client/ his own guild/ a corrupt minister) manipulates him into placing an evil ruler on the throne, (pride/ a crisis of conscience/ the death of his beloved pet duckie) compels Avarice to take action - even if means coming out of the shadows. Teaming up with (a ragged band of peasants unaware of his identity/ his archenemies the Secret Order of the Inky Squid), Avarice must learn to (trust/ love/ kill people for ideals instead of money), which to his surprise results in (friendship/ love/ all the squid he can eat). But when (something even worse) happens, Avarice must (reveal/ come to terms with) his true identity. Can a merciless killer find his inner noble hero? And will anyone believe him if he does?"

clarkkers said...

Thanks for all the constructive feedback. This is my query (obviously) and it is my first book.

I do have trouble classifying the genre of my story. I chose "heroic fantasy" because that seemed the most appropriate, but speculative fiction, might be better. Maybe I should just emphasize 'adventure.'

Xenith said...

That's one of the ever popular and never to be resolved debates with the SF&F field: whether setting should determine the genre.

One side argues that fantasy needs fantasy elements or it's not fantasy. The other side counters with examples of popular novels published (marketed & often winning awards as) fantasy. Of which I can't think of one bloody example. Another side argues that if the story doesn't have fantasy elements, why not set it in the real world? Another side argues that tgenre is just a marketing tool anyway so stop arguing and go write. Another side argues that understanding genre helps you understand what you're writing. Etc.

Ongoing, non-resolving, but it makes a change from arguing whether a SF novel with FTL travel can claim to be scientifically plausible.

Interesting though, there are many SF novels where the only speculative element is their setting (i.e. the future), and there's little debate about that.

A test to apply to a story with a SF/F story: if the setting is changed to a real world setting, will it still be the same story? If so, why are you using a made up setting?

Xenith said...

This story travels off the beaten path of traditional fantasy novels and will be refreshing to fans of the genre.

Show, don't tell :)

Many writers of fantasy think their novels are a refreshing change from the usual stuff, but they're mostly wrong*. If you want this to be believed, you're going to have to demonstrate what makes it fresh and different.

*Except me, of course

talpianna said...

Perhaps "Ruritanian" might fit as a label.

How does an assassin maintain stability in a nation?

Assassin heroes are tricky. The hero of Maria V. Snyder's POISON STUDY and its sequels is a professional assassin who killed all the royal family, IIRC, and many aristocrats, in order to bring about a revolution to put his leader in charge of the country. The rules are pretty harsh; for example, anyone with magic is supposed to be executed, even if they've never used it, or used it only for good. Also, the death sentence is imposed for any killing, including accidents and self-defense.

At the end, the "hero" is prepared to kill the heroine, because she has turned out to have magic, at the Commander's orders--though he does say that it will be his last assassination, with the implication that he will kill himself. The magic, incidentally, was used to save the Commander's life and sanity. He resolves the issue by holding up the execution order to give her time to escape to the neighboring kingdom, where magic is legal (and where she was kidnapped from as an infant).

The books are good, but the hero remains problematic, since he's killed people who were not necessarily wicked--just royal or aristocratic by birth.

none said...

I don't see any evidence that this travels "off the beaten path". Rather, it seems to be beating the same old path. Evil rulers. All-powerful assassins. Surprise nobility (and quite why we're supposed to believe that doesn't stack with cold and ruthless, I'm not sure).

Probably want to include some evidence of the freshness, or cut out that paragraph. Or both.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, Ruritanian, good suggestion! Thanks! I think I'll pitch my next book this way, as I am a big fan of Prisoner of Zenda.

talpianna said...

Alternatively, you could use "Graustarkian."