Thursday, May 14, 2009

Face-Lift 631

Guess the Plot

Star Child

1. Susan's had a rough pregnancy so far, and the worst may be yet to come. How will she handle learning that her precious newborn is a ball of flaming hydrogen and helium?

2. Jessie can usually see things coming, but she never anticipated the elderly woman arriving on her doorstep on her 21st birthday asking if she's "come into the family magic yet." Seems her birth parents weren't exactly what she thought.

3. High school student Jenna Baker is proclaimed to be the prophesied Star Child, destined to lead the Aurian Empire to peace. But not so fast! Fellow student Matthew Sparks is also proclaimed to be the Star Child. Suddenly the two are on the brink of a war that could destroy an empire and cause them to miss several days of school.

4. Annabelle thought being born the same day a star fell was a good omen--until the other children who share her birthday start vanishing. Now Annabelle must rescue the others before the sun goes nova.

5. With more gold stars than all of her second grade classmates combined, Jessica becomes trapped in an alternate reality where chewing gum is encouraged and wrong answers rewarded. Will it all go down on her permanent record?

6. When Sol donates Earth to the Stellar Soccer League, Maryanne’s life is shaken to pieces. With the aid of a giant plasmaphone, can she convince the kindly Rigel to boot them back to Sol?

Original Version

When sixteen-year-old Jenna Baker stumbles upon another world, and is heralded as the awaited chosen one, it all seems too good to be true—and it is.

Snooping in the bedroom of top student and social outcast Matthew Sparks, Jenna discovers a key that unlocks the world of Auria, where the Magus of the Empire convinces her that she is the anticipated Star Child. [We're moving awfully fast here. Is this a literal key? Into what does she insert it? What's she doing alone in Matthew's bedroom?] Accompanied by a cocky elven prince and an Ahani warrior woman, Jenna journeys for the whispers of an ancient riddle that will lead her home [Home to her high school or home to her empire? Also, what do you mean "journeys for the whispers"?] and mend the rifts between nations.

But when Jenna learns the Magus is from her world too, ["Her world" meaning Auria? Or Earth?] and is using her to conquer the last free peoples for the Empire, she questions whether she is really the one Auria has waited for. When Matthew attempts to rescue Jenna and is proclaimed the Star Child by the Magus’ enemies, the two find themselves on the brink of a war that could destroy everything and leave them trapped in Auria forever.

[Aurian 1: The long-awaited Star Child has finally appeared to us. She shall bring us peace evermore.

Aurian 2: The Star Child is here, true, and peace is upon us, but it's not a she, it's a he, and he appeared to us.

Aurian 1: Bullshit! Your Star Child is clearly a fraud.

Aurian 2: We shall settle this in the manner of our ancestors: all-out war.]

Star Child is a young adult fantasy, complete at 72,000 words. I have drawn on my background in archaeology and linguistics to create a world of cultural, linguistic, and political depth. Polynesian myth weaves through the book, as well as shadows of Roman, Hittite, and Mesopotamian culture. I am currently working on the sequel.

My story “X” was published in the literary magazine Y as their 2007 fiction contest winner. I also won the Z fiction contest in 2000, and my non-fiction is online at A. I joined the collective of B [If you're part of the Borg collective, put that in the first paragraph. It's a major selling point.] in 2008 and currently work in literary acquisitions and marketing. [In addition, my C and D are E, F and G, and H will be I in J when K Ls.]

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.


Aren't these kids a little old to be the Star Child? Maybe it should be the Star Adolescent.

What does the Magus do besides tell Jenna she's the chosen one? Does he tell her to journey with an elf and an Amazon? Where and why? Shouldn't he stay with her?

Is Auria a planet? A galaxy? A video game? Are these high school kids supposed to lead armies in war?


Hepius said...

I love high fantasy, but if I see the word "elf" or "elven" one more time I'm gong to @#$% @#$%, and then I'll %$#$!

Seriously, you can have some mystical, magical, long lived race in your novel, but don't call them elves. I see the word elf and I think "Tolkein rip-off" and I am already prejudiced against you. You now have the task of convincing me that I'm wrong.

Just my opinion. I'm sure there are plenty of elf-lovers out there who disagree.

150 said...

You could cut this: "top student and social outcast" by saying this: "nerd". Also, to set up the conflict it might help to add another label: "sixteen-year-old cheerleader Jenna Baker," or mathlete or prom queen or actress or fellow nerd or whatever.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

The pattern and pacing of the query is good. Now it just needs the right details plugged in.

Here's where I had questions (not including the ones EE notes):

Are "top student and social outcast" the most relevant things about Matthew?

What is the Star Child chosen for? If it's mending that rift after answering the riddle, then I think that mending the rift should be the first consequence of answering the riddle and being led home should be the second.

Does it matter for the query that the Magus is from her world (like the Wizard of Oz was from Kansas, too)?

I think if you delete everything in the "Star Child is" paragraph after "72,000 words", you'll have a little more breathing room to ground the story for the reader.

To be honest, given the details of the story in this query, I think that if the tone in EE's GTP were carried over into the actual novel, it would make for a more accessible, less "standard fare" high fantasy. As it is, what's the real hook in your tale? You'll want to play that up a bit.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I'm interested in how Matthew followed her. Did he already know about the key or did he find it after she got transported into Auroria. I'd like to hear a bit more about him in the query.

Still, sounds good. I'd bite.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Yeah. Because Tolkien invented elves. Just like Rowling invented wizards. Also, Jenna finds the entrance to Auria in a bedroom, so this MUST be a Narnia rip off! OFF WITH HER HEAD!!!!

Anyway. I really like the premise of a false chosen one, and that the Magus is manipulating Jenna to take over the empire. I also like the inclusion of archeology and linguistics. However, I don't think we need to know the Magus is from Earth unless we get more information on why that is relevant. Someone from Auria could (theoretically) want to take over the empire too.

I also had a problem with, "Jenna journeys for the whispers of an ancient riddle that will lead her home." Not only is it very vague, it also makes me wonder why Jenna wants to return home right after she's been convinced she's the chosen one.

_*rachel*_ said...

The first two paragraphs feel pretty cliche, but I like what comes after that. Going into another world, being declared a prophesied hero, and questing with fun characters can be done well, but has been done a lot. Is there some other way to put it?

Based on what I've seen around here, I'd delete most of the stuff about including mythology, etc. The essential stuff is: wordcount, genre, audience, series potential. Maybe mention drawing on mythology, but shorten it.

I've always liked the idea of popping into another world on the bad guy's side, but never really seen it done. My various versions are still in my head.

I'd argue that elves are accepted with approximately the same mythical status as dwarves and flying horses, only less rooted in classical (ie, Greek) myths. Oh, and a whole lot more popular, due to LOTR and Santa.

A little more on Matthew would be nice.

All in all, sounds fun!

pacatrue said...

Is there any way to work all the world-building you say you've done into the query? Perhaps because I'm a pseudo-linguist living in Hawaii, your discussion of Polynesian myth and language struck me as very different in the YA publishing world and possibly a strong pull. However, none of that uniqueness is in the story you are telling. Give us a better picture of the world you've build by showing it.

Amanda Sun said...

Thank you everyone from your comments. I really appreciated the advice and learned a lot, but also had a good laugh at my own expense. :)

Not sure if this is the right place to put it but I have rewritten my query to be less confusing and more to-the-point...I hope. Here it is:


I am seeking representation for my 72,000-word young adult fantasy novel Star Child.

When sixteen-year-old Jenna Baker snoops in classmate Matthew Sparks’ bedroom, she hopes to unravel the truth about his strange behavior and absences from school. What she finds is a key that unlocks a doorway in the woods to the parallel world of Auria, a landscape of harpies, phoenixes, and an Empire determined to expand at any cost.

Mistaken for a rebel and kidnapped, Jenna loses the key and her way home, until the ruler of the Empire offers her a deal—piece together an ancient riddle to find another key and become the awaited Star Child, a figure destined to convince the rebels to unite under the banner of the Empire.

But Jenna discovers the Magus has his own agenda—abandoned in Auria as a child, he's ready to exact revenge on both worlds. When Matthew attempts to rescue Jenna and is proclaimed the Star Child by the rebels, the classmates find themselves on opposite sides of a war that could leave them trapped in Auria forever.

I have been previously published in the literary magazine x as their 2007 fiction contest winner. I also won the x fiction contest in 2000. My BA in Archaeology and Linguistics inspired Star Child and Auria draws on Polynesian and Mesopotamian myths.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Dave Fragments said...

The second version is much, much better.

I would open with the line "I am seeking representation for Star Child, a 72,000-word young adult fantasy."It says the same thing and puts the Title of the story first.

The fourth paragraph bothers me in that it talks about Jenna and Matthew at the same time. It's like there is a sentence missing from the middle of it. That might just be me and not you.

BTW, you could do without "in the woods" in the second paragraph.

You called him merely a "ruler" in the third paragraph and "Magus" in the fourth paragraph. Plus you referred to "empire" in the second paragraph. That's a teeny, tiny bit like 3 names for the same thing. So here's my suggestion (and it IS just a suggestion. There's a number of other minions who are truly spectacular at queries, so wait for them to comment too.) In the second paragraph, say "and a magician determined to expand his empire at any cost" and then in the third paragraph replace "ruler of the Empire" with "magician." And in the fourth paragraph, just replace Magus with Magician.

Hepius said...

Far superior to the original version. Well done.

I like that you mentioned other traditional fantasy creatures in this version. (I'm the anti-elf guy. And yes, Tolkien did "invent" the modern notion of elf found in fantasy literature today--much supported by Dungeons and Dragons).

If elves were going to be your only fantasy creature, my objections would be greater. They are easier to swallow (yum) in a world populated by traditional fantasy creatures drawn from a variety of mythologies.

Ruth (Book Focus) said...

Much, much better! My only suggestion would be:
"Mistaken for a rebel and kidnapped, Jenna loses the key and her way home, until the Magus, ruler of the Empire, offers her a deal"... just to explain who the Magus is when you bring him up later. Other than that, this reads like a really good query to me.

...Although I'd be really interested in reading more about the Mesopotamian/Polynesian aspects of the world, too. But it's hard to know how you'd work that into your query, and your query's already good enough that I wouldn't suggest changing it. It's good you do bring it up, though, as that definitely shows a "unique" aspect of your story!