Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Face-Lift 652

Guess the Plot

Angel Undercover

1. She looks like the trashiest tart ever to walk the streets of El Paso, but she's actually St. Ursula, dragonslayer, and she's on a mission to capture El Creepo, scourge of Mexico, and deliver him to his well-earned firey fate.

2. Archangels Michael and Gabriel surprise Beelzebub, catching him between the sheets with a chorus of Cherubs in this shocking expose of sex trafficking between Heaven and Hell. It will make you think twice about kneeling when you pray.

3. Kidnapped by a mythological creature, shy, sweet Paige soon finds herself embroiled in political intrigue in the land of Iphesia. When a villain makes off with the Pelt of Tamair, Paige goes undercover to chase him down. Thus begins the adventure of a lifetime.

4. As Aunt Patsy's limo pulls up to the curb at the Miami Airport to collect her niece, Angel, from the chaos at arrivals, it is all too clear the poor girl has grown into a teenage recluse. What's with the three coats and five knit caps? Is that really Angel underneath all that?

5. As the blizzard of the century chills dark Twilby cottage, manly Hugh Buxton stokes the fire, bakes muffins, and finally takes refuge between the sheets, only to discover an angel has beat him to his refuge. Can he convince this apparition to cozy up and share? Or does divine intervention mean he's at the bitter end?

6. A mix-up in Heaven's bureaucracy sends a guiltless soul to the fiery pit. When Hellish officials deny all knowledge, it's up to the youngest of the Divine Special Forces Unit to don horns and tail, and risk her soul to save one.

Original Version

What's a fourteen-year-old to do when her city is in chaos, a creature out of myth kidnaps her, her own beloved sister may be the villain, and she's too shy to open her mouth to stop it all, despite her burning desire to do so? [I don't see how a fourteen-year-old opening her mouth is going to have any effect on her city being in chaos or on a creature kidnapping her. It's not like anyone listens to teenagers.] [You can drop this paragraph; it's all in the next paragraph.]

Shy dreamer Paige Moss, an ordinary girl from the violence-rocked city of Crossroads, is kidnapped by a supposed myth that turns out to be all too real. To her great relief, when the kyter brings her to its colony, her missing older sister is there waiting for her. Paige is immediately exposed to a whole new version of the world she thought she lived in, complete with magic, myth, and a cast of characters that act so human, they're actually related. [Related to humans? I can act just like a duck, but that doesn't mean I'm related to ducks.]

But Quinault Colony has problems of its own. A typically peaceful community [that only occasionally sends out creatures to kidnap girls], it finds itself gearing up for battle, with Paige's sister as its commander and her home nation Iphesia as its contender. Paige must wade through the layers of intrigue and outright lies in order to find who's at fault, if anyone. When she finally makes her discovery, the villainous Maisen takes her for the ride of her life, teaching her lesson after painful lesson and ultimately leaves her stranded to die. [Very general. Who is the villainous Maisen? Where does he take her? Who's battling, and why?]

When Paige's friends finally see her distress signal and rescue her, [What are her friends doing here? Were they kidnapped by kyters too? Or did the kyter just take Paige a few blocks?] the whole story comes out and they convince the council of Maisen's wrongdoings, but not before he escapes, stealing the selk pelt of Tamair, one of Paige's friends. [I don't even know what a silk pelt is, much less a selk pelt, but I say let him keep the thing and good riddance.] After her sister is dismissed from the colony, Paige and Tamair bear twin burdens of lost homes and loved ones out of reach. Together with their friends, they choose action over inaction and go on an adventure to prevent Maisen's treachery from hurting anyone else.

Upon their return, they are plagued by inaction until Resk, the Iphesian capital, is destroyed – by rogue kyters! [Anagram: Turkey ogres. It would help us get a visual image of your mythological creatures if they were turkey ogres instead of rogue kyters. We have no idea what a kyter looks like but we can mentally combine a turkey and an ogre. Consider describing the kyter (a simple description like "dragon-like" or "troll-like" will do) or going with turkey ogres, which look like this:

Also, exclamation points should be used in queries only after something totally unexpected. We expect rogue kyters to destroy cities. Reserve the exclamation point for sentences like: Upon their return, they are plagued by inaction until Resk, the Iphesian capital, is destroyed – by Julio Iglesias!] Paige summons all her willpower to conquer her shyness and convince the kyter colony to help her protect her own precious home city. There, [Where?] she is reunited with her sister and it is not long before all of them are faced with the biggest battle of their lives.

Angel Undercover is a YA fantasy and is complete at 100,000 words. It is the first in a planned quartet.

Kind Regards,


Paige and her sister are from Iphesia, and Sis is about to lead Quinault Colony into battle against Iphesia? Why would the Colony trust someone from the enemy to lead them? Why is Paige trying to convince the Colony to protect her precious city? From whom? Themselves? Iphesia? Maybe I need the geography and politics cleared up.

This is too long and it's unclear what the main plot is. If it's Maisen vs. Paige, focus on Maisen, who he is, what he wants, what happens if he gets it. If it's Colony vs. Iphesia, focus on what their issues are, in which case maybe Maisen is just a subplot and we don't need him in the query. Stick with the main plot and be specific. Right now I find it pretty confusing.


Robin Wendell said...

EE, Your notes all always so hilarious. Sitting in bed in a state of vast unease, (flu bug), I laughed. The cat and I are calling it the Turkey Ogre miracle. Thank you. We'll get back to you on the canonization.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I like your hook, except for the part about Paige being shy. The stakes you outline are pretty high, so being shy just sort of subdues it.

The related-to-humans thing in the second paragraph has a similar effect, but the rest of the paragraph works well for me.

Once we get to the third paragraph I feel like the query shifts to a synopsis, giving lots of smaller details that may not be necessary to the query. Two main things are going on: Paige's war with Maisen and the war between Quinault and Iphesia. Is it possible to focus on one of these wars in the query?

Dave Fragments said...

What's a "kyter" or "kyters" ?
The closest thing that I can figure out is "Der Kater" which is a tomcat because I once had to read Puss In Boots in German. But I find nothing on the internet explaining kyters.

Anonymous said...

All these undefined nouns are meaningless gibberish. The only one that meant anything to me was Quinault, but I'm not sure you realized the place exists, never mind did you set the story there in a meaningful way. Maybe you made that word up, too. Or maybe you looked at a map and realized it's just down the road from Forks, recently made famous in the Twilight stories. Maybe this is actually all inspired by Quinault mythology. I have no idea.

none said...

"Crossroads" was a tacky soap on British tv, so when I hit that point in the query, I cracked up laughing. Ahem.

As others have said, we don't have a great pool of knowledge out here about kyters, so a few words of description would be helpful.

EE, I'm thinking a selk pelt is a selkie pelt, the sealskin that a selkie sheds to assume human form. They can't return to seal form without it.

I felt there was just too much happening in this query, and it got very confusing. Concentrate on the main plot--what are the stakes? what must be done? what is keeping the protagonist from fixing things?

batgirl said...

Paige's sister seems fairly important to the plot. Perhaps she could be named? I have the feeling that the story starts with her disappearance, with Paige at first relieved to be reunited with her, then increasingly suspicious, then perhaps stepping up to take her sister's place and correct what's gone wrong.
Maisen comes out of nowhere, and I'd like some idea of his motivation or role, besides teaching Paige lessons - and if he just abandons her instead of killing her, how villainous is he?
I'm guessing that selk pelt means that Tamair is a selkie / silkie / selchie / seal-woman, but as with kyter, once you've altered the names to be specific to your world, you can't assume that a reader will know what you mean. You might want to say shapechanger-skin or something similar, though I'm not sure Tamair is essential to the synopsis either.

Rick Daley said...

You have 359 words here. For the a query, you want to boil it down to about 150, and you can do this by focusing on the main conflict.

I know it's easier said than done, I have first hand experience (see Face-Lift 602).

Try to summarize the plot in one sentence, that will help.

talpianna said...

Buffy, in some versions of the legend the selkie will die if it can't put on its seal pelt and return to the sea. There are a number of stories about a fisherman falling in love with a selkie girl and stealing and hiding her sealskin so she has to stay human and marry him; but to the best of my knowledge, they always have unhappy endings.

My first introduction to the story was Joan Baez singing "The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry."

Paige is so inarticulate that perhaps her homeland should be Aphasia, not Iphesia.

Anonymous said...

Paige is so inarticulate that perhaps her homeland should be Aphasia, not Iphesia.

LOL, I'd comment, but I'm speechless with mirth.


none said...

Interesting, Tal. Most of the selkie stories I've read have had unhappy endings of one kind or another, it's true.

DD3123 said...

Turkey Ogres FTW!

Author said...

Revised Version:

Dear Mr./Ms. Agentperson

A heart of gold and shy as a mouse. That was Paige Moss before the adventure that led her to save her city and become the hero that no one, leastwise herself, ever thought she could be. A real angel undercover..

Getting kidnapped turns out to be the best thing to ever happen to Paige. She is taken from her dangerous city to the relative safety of an exotic rainforest, full of myth, magic, and adventure. She is joyously reunited with her missing older sister, Savannah, who arranged the abduction. And best of all, she seizes the chance to emulate her heroes’ courage – a game of pretend that turns real.

But all is not well in the forest paradise. Paige can’t understand why Savannah is acting so aloof or why she’s training an army and upsetting the locals. When Paige discovers that Savannah is working for Maisen, an ends-justify-the-means visionary, she becomes a threat and a target. At great personal cost, Paige exposes Maisen, who flees into exile.

Weeks later, Paige returns to her turbulent city, a shy girl no longer, to defend it from an impending rogue attack. With her sister at her side, Paige expects one final showdown with the person she fears most, but it turns out that Maisen has become the victim of one of his own plans. The rogue firestorm he sparked is out of control and Paige and her allies must stop it.

After a bittersweet victory, Paige accepts an invitation to join the angels of Ralyn – the ones that have been secretly watching and guiding her all along.

Angel Undercover is a YA fantasy, complete at 88,000 words. It is a story of hope, dreams, and growth and is the first in a planned quartet.

Kind Regards,

_*rachel*_ said...

I’m probably going to be more brutal than I’m trying to be. This is critique-minded stream-of-consciousness comment, and I’m probably being too critical. And I am most definitely NOT always right, so you may mentally mock me if what I say is dumb. The good news: the more I criticize, the more spot-on I’ll get, so you’re being very kind by letting me. Now, on with the show.

Unfortunately, “heart of gold” immediately makes me think of two things: how I’ve seen prostitutes described that way on book covers, and the spaceship in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Most interestingly used when describing someone who should logically be scum.

You’ve got an extra period at the end of the paragraph.

Irony (kidnappingĂ good) is nice.

Wait, rainforests full of myth, magic, and adventure are safer than the city? There may be more gangsters and crooks in the city, but I’d rather brave that than a big, wet, steamy jungle with big insects, Zeus, magical spells that are probably all aimed at me, and adventures that no doubt involve scary things (monsters, cliffs, sharp swords). I would definitely prefer a dingy little 3rd-floor room not too far from the library over a rainforest any day.

What chance to emulate whose courage? My heroes got beheaded for writing and distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. Paige, on the other hand, probably needs someone who’s a little, say, violent-heroic to make this interesting.

I wouldn’t personally call a humid rainforest paradise, but the good side is that I can’t recall any other fantasies with a rainforest setting. Unique is a big plus. (Maybe Paige can be on the tundra for the sequel.)

I’d first wonder why my sister went missing, then why she kidnapped me instead of coming home or sending someone nice, and then why she’s commanding the soldiers instead of flirting with them. Oh, and why she went to all that trouble to kidnap me so I could be around her, and then won’t talk to me. Why did Savannah kidnap Paige, anyway?

Kill the locals (or the phrase, at least), unless they’re going to show up elsewhere and you mention it.

Why did Maisen get a foreign girl to train his troops? What does he need an army for? Who is he, and what’s his past reputation? You could make him sound scarier.

Clarify that she. I assume you mean Paige gets in trouble, but the last female character (assuming Maisen is a guy) you mentioned was Savannah. Just use “her” name or reword it a bit.

What great personal cost?

Why is Paige suddenly returning to the city? I thought it was bad and the rainforest was a paradise. And where in the world did those rogues come from? You’ve got Maisen as the scary bad person, and now you’ve got rogues (let me guess: ruthless vigilante sorcerers or zombie cows). Or are the rogues the army Savannah trained?

Wait, Savannah came with Paige to the city? Why? I thought she worked for Maisen—or did Paige expose Maisen’s ruthlessness to Savannah, who would have to be a bit ruthless herself to train an army (by the way, were Savannah and Maisen in love?)?

Person she fears the most—Maisen? And wait, you’ve got rogue twice. Are the rogues connected with the fire? Did Maisen start the firestorm to kill Paige? Who’s fighting whom here?

I assume the allies are from the rainforest, as Paige was so shy when she was last in the city.

Whoah, whoah, whoah, hold it. Where in any world did the ANGELS come from? You mentioned angels vaguely at the beginning, it sounded like your main plot was Paige going undercover as an angel, and you don’t mention it again until the last sentence of the plot. If you ignore everything else I say, don’t ignore this: have this mysterious helping show up once, probably twice, more in the middle of the plot. Or just discard every mention of them from the query, which is probably better. Then just stick the bittersweet victory in the paragraph above, assuming you don’t care about leaving a cliffhanger.

Skip the last sentence and add “with the potential for a series,” or something like that, at the end of the sentence before.

Questions I still have: Is this in our world or another? Swords or guns? Why did Savannah disappear in the first place?

Suggestions: a little less plot, a little more reason to like Paige. Better you describe how she feels about things and what she does than heap on adjectives—no more “heart of gold.”

Not too bad. The comments I’ve made that should be most seriously considered are the ones about typos/grammar, calling a rainforest with an army in it “safe,” and the angels. And take it as a compliment that I just wrote more in response to your query than I’ve been able to write on my short story in a week or so.

Unknown said...

Hi Author,

This is an improvement, but I think you still haven't quite captured the essence of your story.

I think it would be better if you didn't start right off with cliches (shy as a mouse, heart of gold). And I realize you are trying to get the character's change in that first paragraph, but it isn't working for me. It's too vague and general to mean anything to me right off the bat.

You really want to tell the story of her change, and yet you seem to draw back from it throughout the query. You get very vague at those points.

I want to get more of a feel for what motivates Paige to become heroic. Maybe if you wrote a summary that followed that journey more closely, it'll be clearer to you what plot elements you need to touch on, and what you can leave out.

I'm concerned that Paige seems passive in the query, and clearly that's not your intent. She gets kidnapped. She gets brave (but we don't know how, so that seems passive too). The bad guy does himself in without her help. (I admit to a little concern over this particular part of the plot, as it seems to take away something from Paige's transformation. Does she at least have an indirect cause in his demise?)

So I'd say focus more on what Paige is doing for herself, rather than what those around her are doing to her, and see if that leads to a query that feels more like the story you are trying to tell.