Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Face-Lift 617

Guess the Plot

Always Music

1. The magic box left by the dwarf in gratitude for a night of revelry plays the same annoying tune whenever you open it. Little does Donald know, that tune is the key to Wizard Langebert's cupboard, which must be opened before snow falls, or Princess Lovely will perish.

2. When violence breaks out on the streets, Sarah seeks refuge in a music store--and in the arms of its hunky owner, Jack. When Jack claims to be the son of Apollo, the Greek god of music, will Sarah swoon? Or has she heard that song before?

3. Pixies move into the space under the porch of a family of Kentucky hillbillies and enchant the surly son so he starts singing all the time. He hates it until his uncle gives him a guitar, and soon everyone calls him The Bard. For the first time he thinks he might have a future outside prison.

4. Nothing much happens. Gus Nickelby can't figure the meaning of life or get laid, and the damn radio won't turn off.

5. A rare form of synaesthesia is sweeping the country, causing teenagers to hear colors as music. Is it a blessing? A curse? Or a nefarious plot for world domination by a disgruntled high school band teacher?

6. Some people hear voices — but newly elected President, Floyd D.P. Ratzenkugel, hears the Bee Gees. Night and day. Day and night. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. When terrorists nuke Arizona, pray to God the military don't call during "Jive Talkin'".

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

What if you were fated to fall in love with a Greek god? [Are we talking Aphrodite or Hephaestus?]

What if he was fated to lose everyone who fell for him? [Next week's writing exercise, for those who want to get a head start: Using a randomly chosen fake plot from this blog, write an entire query letter in which every sentence is a question.]

Sarah Parrish isn’t one for fantasies—the result of an overbearing mother and a sheltered upbringing. But when she’s the only one who can see a swordsman slaying people on the streets of Baltimore, Sarah wonders if she’s fallen into one. [One what? Oh, fantasy. That was 35 words ago, and not even in this sentence. Rearranging: Sarah Parrish isn’t one for fantasies—the result of an overbearing mother and a sheltered upbringing—but she wonders if she’s fallen into one when she sees . . . ] [Actually, you might want to dump the overbearing mother and sheltered upbringing. Let's get to the good stuff.] Fearing for her life and her sanity, she seeks refuge in a local music store—and finds it in the owner’s arms. [A business owner embracing a stranger who just entered his store is about as likely as sword fighting on Baltimore's streets.]

Jack is everything Sarah’s mother ever warned her about—and everything she didn’t. [That's true of everybody in the world.] He has a frightening past, a razor-sharp tongue, and enough rage to make Sarah wonder if her mother’s been right all along: men are not to be trusted. [Anyone who works in retail is going to have fits of rage, but what does that have to do with whether men can be trusted?] [Also, if you just met a guy and already you've witnessed him exploding with rage a few times, what are you hanging around for?] But Jack isn’t an ordinary man at all. He’s a god of music, with enough talent to send Sarah into the kind of fantasies only Apollo himself could inspire—or… Apollo’s son.

Jack abandoned his birthright years ago, when the gods sent a swordsman to kill his human wife. He’s lived in bitter exile among humans ever since, hiding from his fate, waiting for the opportunity to take revenge. [Revenge on all the gods?] Seeking refuge in him might be the biggest mistake of Sarah’s life. [She still needs refuge?] When the swordsman strikes closer to home, [He killed Jack's wife; how much closer to home can you get?] and her mother and best friend disappear, Sarah starts to think the gods are conspiring against them all. [Maybe the Greek gods wouldn't have lost their clout if they weren't still using swords to settle their differences.]

She's right.

ALWAYS MUSIC is an urban fantasy, complete at 120,000 words. The first few pages have been pasted below. I would be delighted to send you a partial or full manuscript at your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I assume Apollo didn't name his son Jack, so my question is, why didn't Jack choose a more god-like name? For instance, Springsteen.

I don't see how the opportunity for revenge is going to pop up while Jack is working in a music store. And what kind of revenge can a god of music take on gods of more macho stuff, like war and Greco-Roman wrestling?

You're the kind of person who "isn't one for fantasies." The guy you're attracted to claims to be a Greek god. And you buy it?

Is there a swordsman slaying people on the streets of Baltimore? Why can't anyone except Sarah see him? Can they see his victims?

What is the birthright Jack abandoned? His homeland? His powers? Does he know he's fated to lose everyone who falls for him? Does that mean through death?

Can you clear up a few of these issues or prevent them from coming up?


Sarah Laurenson said...

What I got from this query:

She sees people being killed by a sword-wielding maniac on the streets of Baltimore. So she shacks up with a rageful record store owner to not deal with the killings.

Sex with an angry stranger to avoid calling the cops seems a bit extreme.

Queries are a pain sometimes. I think you're trying to cram too much into this and it's coming out all muddled. And there doesn't seem to be room for your voice to shine through.

Can you summarize the story in 4 sentences and then work from there? I have found that to be very helpful for me in getting to the heart of the plot.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm with Sarah. Mostly. I think I am.

I don't get any compelling reason for Sarah to see swordfights and killings that no one else sees. Usually that type of behavior

"Pardon me miss, but do you see that warrior in armor shoving a sword through the guts of the man in green?"
"Get away from me you lunatic! Someone dial 911 on this crazy fool."
"But I see body parts, dead ones too..."

And the resolution is the men in the white coats come and take her away to a padded room.

BTW Nathan Bransford rants and raves and carries on shamelessly trying to stop people from opening queries with a single rhetorical questions. HOWEVER, you are brave enough to use two of those questions. It didn't work. Sorry to say it didn't. It's hard to juggle the possibilities of two rhetorical questions and read on.

Mostly because, as the reader is thinking "marry a god" and "will die because of that?" you go on to Sarah and her depressing parents and equally depressing home life and then introduce the reader to swords and killing and finally a music shop. It doesn't work.

Maybe starting with "After experiencing hallucinations of warriors fighting with swords, a panicked and hysterical Sarah finds the man of her dreams, her soul mate for life in a music shop. But all is not as it seems, the music man is the target of assassins from Mount Olympus."
That doesn't quite work but you get the idea. Why is Sarah fated to fall in love with a Greek god? Don't pose the rhetorical question without answering it.

And beware FATE! Oedipus was fated to marry his mother and kill his father and look what happened to him. Sisyphus's fate was to role a ball up a hill only to have it role down. Icarus was fated to roast his weenie (sorry {blush} cheap joke).

Tell us why Sarah is fated to fall in love with a Greek God and, maybe, die. Or does this have a happy ending. The Greek god is reinstated and marries her and they live happily ever after? FATE has a happy ending?

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I, too, would like to know why Sarah can see the swordsman, and why the swordsman is killing people in the first place (they can't all be Jack's human wives. Can they?) I would also like to know what she sees in Jack, because the way he's described makes him sound like a bit of an ass.

A swordsman is striking people dead on the streets of Baltimore, and only Sarah can see HIM. But everyone else would be able to see random people Suddenly Dying. Right?

150 said...

Is Sarah's mom an Amazon?

I don't know, I'm not swayed. Nothing here sounds particularly interesting for some reason, and others have pointed out the logical flaws. What makes this different from any other "possibly-human woman meets half-human man" plot? Can we get some specifics about the challenges of getting mixed up with an out-of-favor pantheon?

(Come on, EE, leave off Hephaestus. Hephaestus is hot.)

batgirl said...

One way to revise might be to look at what Sarah chooses, and follow that line. Right now she comes off pretty passive. She runs away from violence, that makes sense, but she doesn't choose Jack, she's effectively forced to fall in love with him by Fate's Dating Service (no refunds or exchanges).
Does she realise she's not in control of her emotions? What does she do about them? Does she give in, but struggle to protect Jack and herself? Does she try to ignore her attraction to him?

I'd suggest cutting her mother and ideas about fantasy, and spending more space on what Sarah does in the situation she finds herself in.

_*rachel*_ said...

If Jack is anything like Zeus, the people the swordsman is killing really could all be his wives! In that never-actually-married sort of way.

Do you have lots of references to Greek myths? I hope so--literary allusions are always fun.

I agree with skipping the overbearing mom bit.

Maybe when Sarah runs around screaming, "There's a guy with a sword killing people!" the first person she runs into is Jack? If it's something like that, you could make a more logical connection.

Does Jack play any music? You know, if Sarah's fated to die for loving him, you could send him into the afterworld to fetch her back like Orpheus, who wasn't a god of music but was a really good musician (I love fairy tale/myth/classics remakes).

Unknown said...

Okay, so clearly I'm on the wrong track. Thank you guys for the feedback.

Sarah is the only one who sees the swordsman -- but she's the only one who sees the victims, too.

She runs into Jack's store to hide the first time she sees the swordsman. Then she keeps running into him. Fate is mentioned several times through the novel, but not in the way it must be coming across here, so I'm going to have to change that.

Jack's a pretty rough guy with a heart, so I'm obviously doing him a disservice too. Think Sawyer on "Lost." Or Whats-his-name Riggins on "Friday Night Lights."

Batgirl, your comment hit home the hardest. I need to hit this from another angle to make Sarah seem more active. I didn't realize that mentioning fate was going to make it all seem like the whole thing is predestined. Hmm.

I do manipulate several familiar Greek myths in this story, but in no way is it a retelling of anything in particular.

And yes, Jack plays music. I made him a drummer.

talpianna said...

Why do the gods send a swordsman to off their victims when a thunderbolt or a plague would do as well and not charge time and a half for overtime?

Also, needs moles.

Adam Heine said...

Does anyone else think an overbearing mother and a sheltered upbringing would make one more likely to be into fantasies? Fantasies are an escape, and it sounds like this girl's childhood had plenty of need to escape.

I'm sure it's fine in the novel. So this is just more fodder for the "drop the overbearing mother" sentiment.

none said...

That's what I think, Adam--was going to say in fact :).

I didn't realize that mentioning fate was going to make it all seem like the whole thing is predestined.

In which case I'm wondering what you think Fate means?

Stacy said...

I wanna know why she sees swordsmen fighting on the street. How is able to see this?

Stacy said...

Also, as Dave said, I'd drop the rhetorical questions and start with the description of the story.

Stacy said...

How is she able to see this, rather.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hephaestus is hot. *snicker groan* Oh 150, it's too early for this.

And too early for EE's early start on the query of questions by posting a notes section of questions. Don't think we didn't notice.

Afraid I don't have anything of value to add Brigid. You'll post a revise here, won't you?

Elissa M said...

"And yes, Jack plays music. I made him a drummer."

You do realize that this is hilarious to a musician.

batgirl said...

Hephaestus is totally hot. Think of the chest and shoulder development on a blacksmith. There's a reason that blacksmithing demos at medieval events draw the ladies.
Also, wounded, rejected guy with a limp and secret pain that the heroine can heal? How can you go wrong? He even comes with a cheatin', too-beautiful former wife that the heroine can look virtuous and deserving next to.

Bobbie said...

Not sure why making Jack a musician *and* a drummer is so hilarious. You must travel in different musician circles than I do.

I personally think the idea of a Greek god of music playing the drums is pretty hot. Though I'd bet money he plays more than drums. I mean, if he's a god, he's probably got multiple talents, right?

I'm always up for a story with a good spin on old mythology. The query might not be perfect (I think enough's been said on it, especially since the author has said she's heading for a rewrite), but I'm still really curious about it and, if I were to see it in a store, would at least pick it up and read a few pages.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I think 150 was going for the double entendre around Haphaestus' hotness, working in a forge and all. ;o)

Elissa M said...

Hmm. Well, I guess I must know different musicians. The drummers I know (and have known) are as happy to be called musicians as sergeants are to be called "sir." But mostly the drummer/musician comment made me think of the hundreds of drummer jokes out there, most of which I heard from drummers (and percussionists).

_*rachel*_ said...

If the swordsman already killed Jack's wife, what's he hanging around for? Does Jack practice polygamy or something. And is it Jack's wife Sarah sees killed?

talpianna said...

Batgirl: And he always remembers to use a (vulcanized) rubber in the hot sex scenes...

azzul said...

i like it guy.. good job