Friday, June 19, 2009
Guess the Plot
Stolen from Heaven
1. Tired of stealing plots from mortals, a daring author sets off on a quest to find a plot really worth stealing.
2. When her father sends her on an errand, Minjee has no idea he's actually sending her to be sacrificed so a thief who stole power from the ancient gods can take over her body. Minjee vows that if she gets out of this, there'll be no Father's Day gift for dad this year.
3. Andrew conquers Hollywood--top film rolls, chicks, and best of all, the exquisite pearly gates at the entrance to his new mansion. But when the shady building contractor gets struck by lightning, Andrew begins to wonder if the gates may be stolen from someone even more powerful than Oprah.
4. Funeral home director Francis Finnebaker has had it with the cardiac surgeon in his small town. Dr. Robert Huebler is saving lives that could instead have been corpses in need of some costly embalming fluid. There's only one solution to this problem. Francis will have to murder the man who steals from Heaven.
5. The angels lose the Last Trumpet, and concoct a story of demonic theft so that God doesn't get mad. God assigns Laura, a junior angel, to find the Trumpet, which by now has migrated to the hands of a demon who is just not that good at being evil. Love blossoms.
6. When St. Peter wakes up after a night of binge drinking, he realizes that those weren't his car car keys he gave to the bartender last night--They were the keys to the pearly gates! When St. Pete returns to the bar, he discovers that some punk ran off with his keys. Can Peter find him before the line outside gets so long he has to work on the weekend?
Attn: Evil Editor,
In ancient Korea, power was stolen from the gods. The culprits did not escape unscathed [Apparently they stole the wrong power. They should have stolen the power to run really fast or to become invisible.] and their restoration to this world hinges on the life of an innocent girl....
Little Minjee does not dare question why her father sends her on a dangerous, and seemingly trivial, journey to the north. Why should she? [Because she's three years old.] He is the village chief and it is hard enough to win his love and respect.
Alone, Minjee embarks on her first adventure and travels to San-Goong, a small and secluded kingdom. Upon arrival, she discovers that she was not sent there on an errand, but to be sacrificed!
One of the culprits [No query should include the word "culprits" more than once.] who stole heavenly power needs a new body and innocent, naïve Minjee is a perfect match--She was born with the rare ability to communicate with the gods in heaven and control ghosts on earth. This ability is a must for anyone wanting to wield godly power and that is why the culprits [No book should include the word "culprits" three times.] offered Minjee’s neglectful father untold power to betray his daughter and deliver her into their hands. [I think I could come up with a stronger adjective than "neglectful" for this guy.] [If I were trading my daughter for untold power, I wouldn't send her on a dangerous journey by herself. I'd hire an army of ruthless mercenary soldiers to escort her every step of the way and kill anyone who got within a mile of her.]
Minjee turns to strangers to rescue and hide her, but those who desire her sacrifice [AKA "the culprits."] are in relentless pursuit. In order to stop them, Minjee must seek the knowledge needed to utilize her untapped abilities. [When culprits are relentlessly pursuing you, you seldom have time to seek knowledge.]
STOLEN FROM HEAVEN is an 119,000 word fantasy and my first novel. In it, Minjee will have to unlock mysteries guarded by mythic beasts and discover how much of the darkness she is willing to embrace to save those who protected her.
Contact me by email at _____________________ or by phone at _______________.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Do the culprits summon the mythic beasts? If so, it sounds like they have a decent amount of power already. If they can pursue someone relentlessly, they don't seem to be confined to one place, so why didn't they just go kidnap Minjee instead of having her make a dangerous journey to them? She could've died on that journey.
What's Minjee gonna do if she gains the knowledge needed to tap her ability to communicate with the gods? Scream for help? You'd think the gods would have some idea what's going on without needing an SOS.
Does Minjee know she has untapped powers? Does her father know? I mean, when someone tells you they'll give you untold power in return for your daughter, you don't just say, Yeah, why not? You want to know why they want her and you want proof that they can give you untold power. You want a down payment on that untold power. Half now, half when you deliver the goods.
We need to know Minjee's age.
Posted by Evil Editor at 8:26 AM
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Better than Manejee I guess.
I'd totally read GTP #6!!
This sounds like there's a lot of potential, but the wording of the letter doesn't do your story justice.
I think that you might consider starting the letter with "Minje has the ability to talk with the ancient gods and control ghosts" and then explain what the conflict is without all the backstory. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to give us the emotional hook that will have us caring about the outcome and wanting to read more about Minjee. The language of the letter is passive and not all that interesting at the moment.
I hope you post a revision here for the minions to look at. Best of luck with the query process!
The name Minjee made me think of meninges, which are some of your bones. I don't think the name is problemmatic though, unlike anon 9:49.
9:49, it's a Korean name. Really.
Is this "Into the West" without the love story?
I'm with WritenWyrdd, make the query about Minjee and not about the "culprits"...
it's a Korean name. Really.
I'd have no problem with Min Jee, Min-Jee, or even perhaps MinJee, because the pronunciation then implies a small pause between Min and Jee.
The problem I have with Minjee, and I'm sure it's just me so take this with a grain of salt, is that it is likely to be pronounced like "mingy" (soft "g") or "mingey" (also soft "g"), neither of which are particularly flattering. That's all.
I think I'd like this book, so I hope I get to see it in the future!
You probably have a manuscript issue with Minjee's dangerous journey to the north. I agree with EE-- it doesn't make sense for her father to send her by herself to the "culprits" if she's so valuable.
Do you have a name for the "culprits?" If, for example, you called them "The Seven" you could revise the first sentence to "In ancient Korea, The Seven stole power from the gods. But they didn't escape unscathed..." (Not suggesting The Seven, per se--any name would work.)
I'm not well educated enough to know if this inspired by Korean mythology. If it is, that might be a plus.
How do they know she can do the magical things if she hasn't done them yet?
I think that I would enjoy the book.
I actually like the main character's name.
The length might be off-putting to some agents. Also, I wouldn't mention that it's your first novel, because that does not help with the sell. (There's a good agent blog just did a post about this. http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2009/06/this-isnt-horseracing-either.html . It might help you.)
Best of luck.
The language and tone of the query hint that English may not be the author's native language. If it is, then it may just be the author's style. It's not bad, just a little "off". Which may work in the story's favor as it's set in ancient Korea. Or may not work because the reader might have a hard time becoming comfortable with it.
The query itself seems to need a few more details. How does she escape the gods in the first place, for instance?
Perhaps list out in a comment some of the plot points and answer some of EE and the Minions' questions, and we can help you pick and choose the ones that might work best in the query. It's really hard sometimes to see your own work objectively enough to know what works and what doesn't. That's why we're all here!
This is good, but I feel like you might be overexplaining the set up and then skimping on the main action of the novel. Who - or what - are the culprits? And how does Minjee fight them?
But awesome start. I hope you post your opening!
Hmm...looking at it now, it's clear that this query would only make sense to me and people who have read the story. (These were the same people who proofread the letter)
I originally meant to alternate between culprits and thieves, but I suppose I forgot to make that change when I sent EE the revision (sigh)
I’ll answer EE’s questions first.
Minjee is twelve.
The thieves do already have a decent amount of power, but the reason they can’t just snap up Minjee is because they must spend their days hiding from the eyes of the gods.
I don’t portray the gods of this world as omniscient--think of them as being perched on a throne in the heavens with only a bird’s eye view of the world. They rely on priestesses (of which Minjee is one) to tell them what’s going on and carry out their will on earth.
Minjee is unaware of her ability. Her father is aware and he did receive a down payment of power. One of the things he receives is a drink that grants temporary invulnerability. (I know that sounds like a plot device, but I’ll explain it later). He feeds this drink to Minjee, knowing she will survive the journey.
Why didn’t he personally escort Minjee like he told the villains he would? Because what little paternal instincts he has finally kick in and he feels a twinge of regret moments before she departs--Part of him wants Minjee to get lost and return home.
Rather than making a firm decision on his daughter’s life, he passively decides to leave it to fate to make the choice for him. He is the weak-willed chief of a poor village who seldom thinks things through.
More on how the thieves stole power in a moment...
The key to wielding heavenly power lies in controlling ghosts and learning to speak to the gods is a step on the way there. The gods don’t intervene directly anymore (because the last time they tried someone stole their power) and, aside from revealing to Minjee what her powers are, they leave her to fend for herself.
Ultimately, in order to stop the thieves, Minjee has to steal the powers for herself.
Writtenwyrdd: Your right, I'm getting bogged down with backstory. The problem is that just about every nuance of the story requires a detailed explanation to make it sound plausible (Hence the long post above this). I'll start the revision immediately.
Dave: Into the West? I'll have to google it. The revision will definitely be more about Minjee.
Name Anonomi: I struggled between Minjee and Min Jee. I went with the former because I thought it sounded more child-like. If it confuses to many people I might change it.
Myth Anonomi: Yes, the novel is deeply rooted in Korean Mythology. All the creatures etc. are taken from there.
Dominique: thanks for the link. The first novel line is gone.
Phoenix: Wow, you're perceptive! I'm a born English speaker but my fiancee (Who I've been with for years) is Korean. People have been telling me there is something a little odd about my language lately and I think it has to do with her broken English rubbing off on me.
I hope I gave you some new details in the post above (looking back at it, it might be more useless backstory...) but if there is anything specific you would like to know, don't hesitate to ask. That goes for everybody.
Sarah: I think I will post the opening.
I think the most important thing is, as you and others have said, focus more on Minjee, and, moreover, focus a bit later in the story. The current query seems to be largely set up for Minjee's adventure, but the query should be about the adventure itself. One possibility is to start with the first exciting thing that happens to Minjee on her quest that makes her realize it's more than a bizarre errand. The father is no more than a sentence. Who does she fight? Is she just trying to escape? Who exactly helps her? What is it like to have these powers? That's the core of the novel, I assume.
As for the name, maybe it's best to go with Min-Jee. As you are surely aware, there's no standard way to translate from the Korean into Roman alphabet: Minjee, Min Jee, Min-Jee are all used. It sounds like Minjee is tripping a few people up, so perhaps the hyphen can scream out "not English name". You could of course change the name to something that isn't English-like. But then you'd have people yelling about how they can never remember a name like Hye-Kyung.
By the way, do you know of Ello's novel? I was wondering for a while if this was hers, since it's also a story of a teen girl in Ancient Korea with mythological creatures.
If this is a repeated post, I'll delete it. Blogger went really goofy on my posts today.
I mistyped. It's not "Into the West," it is "Journey to the West."
And the most popular western version of it ended up in two movies:
1. The Lost Empire http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0198779/
2. The Forbidden Kingdom http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0865556/
And the entire story in presented here in eye-killing small type:
Minjee's character isn't too interesting in this, unfortunately. How does she feel about all this? Who is she? I don't think you've mentioned anything besides wanting to please her crazy father. And he really is crazy if he sends her off alone. Even if she's an ugly fleabag, that's no guarantee she won't get robbed or raped or something-else-horrible.
Your first paragraph and your second don't seem to flow very well.
You don't need to say that this is your first novel, and my OPINION is that you're done with the plot by then and don't need to add any more.
Your contact information should be part of the header; you shouldn't need it in the actual query.
I have no problems with her name, though separating the syllables isn't a bad idea.
Less about the culprits/thieves, more about Minjee.
Does the invulnerability ward off the thieves? Why does she have to go away to get, um, posessed, especially if her dad has been in contact with the BGs already? These aren't things you have to resolve in your query, but I do wonder.
Based on mythology/history is always neat, whether it's your religion/history or not.
Seven Anonymous: Oddly, I never refer to the bad guys as culprits in the actual manuscript. They go by the names Tiger and Magpie (Names derived from Korean folklore) and the third one, known as the corrupter, is the one who needs a new body.
Pacatrue: I'll make it my goal to answer your questions in the revision.
I've never heard of Ello, but I like her taste in novels. Tell her she can have the Kumiho but I call dibs on the Dokkaebi. (She'll know what I mean)
Dave: Oh, you're talking about the legend of Monkey King. My tale differs from that, but I can see how you think they have a similar premise.
Rachel: Your suggestions on query form are noted and taken.
The details of Minjee...Min Jee's journey take a while to explain so I might just dodge the whole subject in the revision.
Thanks Everybody! I really appreciate it.
Ello used to be a regular on this site, but I don't think she visits much currently. Here's the web site for her book. http://www.ellenoh.com
I believe the novel is with an agent but not yet under contract, though I could be wrong.
In ancient Korea, power (what kind of power?) was stolen from the gods. The culprits (what type of culprits – mortals, demons, thieves) did not escape unscathed and their restoration to this world hinges on the life of an innocent girl....(I agree with EE culprits is not the right word)
Little Minjee does not dare question why her father sends her on a dangerous, and seemingly trivial, journey to the north. Why should she? He is the village chief and it is hard enough to win his love and respect.
Alone, Minjee (embarks on her first adventure and – not necessary) travels to San-Goong, a small and secluded kingdom. Upon arrival, (There) she discovers that she was not sent there on an errand, but to be sacrificed!
(Okay even a 12 year old protected by something should not travel too far alone. What is special about San-Goong? I buy your explanation that her father torn between being a good father and wanting to be god-like leaves it in the hands of fate to decide whether or not Minjee survives, especially if he has sixteen daughters or something. I would make her older though and I would make it clear in the query)
One of the culprits who stole heavenly power needs a new body and innocent, naïve Minjee is a perfect match--She was born with the rare ability to communicate with the gods in heaven (readers will assume the Gods are in heaven because that is where they hang) and control ghosts on earth.
(the way this is written it sounds like Minjee is a perfect match for the culprit because she has this power).
This ability is a must for anyone wanting to wield godly power and that is why the culprits offered Minjee’s neglectful father untold power to betray his daughter and deliver her into their hands.
(I don’t like this sentence. Should it read something like, “Minjee’s father was convinced by the bad guys to betray her so that he may have these powers for himself.”)
(So does Minjee’s father get her power if she is sacrificed and one culprit gets a body and the other two are restored to the world because their dead? Or invisible? Or . . . ghost? Not sure what is going on here)
Minjee turns to strangers to rescue and hide her, but those who desire her sacrifice are in relentless pursuit. In order to stop them, Minjee must seek the knowledge needed to utilize her untapped abilities.
(Hmmm. Whatt?? Minjee must, therefore, learn how to control the power to communicate with the gods and control the ghosts in order to save herself? How does she do this?)
I think this story has a lot of potential, but I am not totally sure what is going on. I think Minjee is a fine name.
I wasn't hooked, mainly because she seems like an extremely passive character. Apart from her journey and the vague 'seeking knowledge,' most of what is described here is stuff that happens *to* her. I'm hoping that's just the way the query is structured.
I do understand the difficulties of writing a protagonist who's a twelve-year-old girl and whose parents aren't telling her the truth, as I'm currently doing that myself! But there's still a LOT of scope for character development, and I'd like to see more of an indication of that.
Matthew! From your comments writing, I would never have guessed the query was yours by its style. I was picking up, I think, on the lack of contractions, some of the word choices, and a precision to the syntax that is more often exhibited in the non-native-speaker writing that I often see.
The problem is that just about every nuance of the story requires a detailed explanation to make it sound plausible
Ah, now that's the trap we as the stories' originators fall into when we try to craft our own queries. We're too close to our own work, and we get mired in all the details because we want to explain the story meticulously.
But you don't have to explain; you simply need to mitigate the number of questions raised as a reader scans your letter. Too much backstory oftentimes does just the opposite of what you hope it will do to validate your plot.
Lies of omission in a query are your friends. You can even fudge minor stuff if it serves to keep the query brief, interesting, and on point.
You've provided lots of additional info to work from. I like the challenge of reworking queries (it's actually a way for me to unwind - kind of like doing a puzzle or other word challenge - and, unfortunately, just as addictive), so I'll try to snag some time in the next day or two to rework yours for fun. A MUCH easier exercise than what EE is asking for this week!
Pacatrue: I checked out Ello's site and it seems we were motivated to write about Ancient Korea for the same reason--it's under represented in history books.
It seems so far that the only thing our stories have in common is that they take place in Ancient Korea. I wish her success, and not just because our books would compliment each other on the market, but because we have the same goal in mind.
Anon 8:25: Thanks for the detailed critique! I was hoping someone would do something like that. It will definitely help with my revision.
Tracy: I'll have to show that she learns to be assertive. I'll try and hook you in the revision. Let me know if it works.
Phoenix: You are awesome. I want to be your friend. I'll post some of the story's major turning points in a moment, just in case they help you out.
I'm not familiar with Korean mythology. I like stories about things I don't know so keep us informed as to its progress.
I almost never remember "Journey to the West" as The Monkey King. I never think of it as Monkey's story.
Plot points for Phoenix (in case you would like to use them):
Minjee's goal: Minjee just wants to be part of a loving family, which is why she is so eager to please her father. Her mother died shortly after childbirth. After her father sends her away, she is rescued form peril by two people named Sarang and Mafuyu.
Sarang is a scholar that teaches medicine and she takes Minjee to be one of her live-in students. Mafuyu is a warrior that protects them and is in love with Sarang. With them, Minjee feels a sense of warmth and family that she has never felt before.
Magpie’s goal: Magpie is the most powerful antagonist. Deranged Tiger is subservient to her and the corrupter is forced to rely on her because of the whole damaged body thing.
Magpie wants nothing more than to flaunt her power openly but the corrupter constantly reminds her that they have to hide form the eyes of the gods. She is a priestess like Minjee and her power comes from controlling the ghost of a god (an Asian dragon).
Complication: It turns out that Magpie has a recent romantic history with Mafuyu and uses that to her advantage. She captures Mafuyu and transforms him into an agent of evil.
Minjee’s protector has become her most imminent threat and the only way to undo everything is to use heavenly power. In order to do that, Minjee will have to head to Tiger and Magpie’s lair and steal the ghost dragon for herself.
You could use the Minjee's goal section and the Complication section almost verbatim in a new query.
Dave: I just rented Forbidden Kingdom. I'll definitely keep you informed of the progress.
Rachel: Hmm...why didn't I think of that before?
I wanted it to be GTP #1 so much so we could find out a great plot that would be worth stealing!
In my envisioning of your query, "pan-su" may not be the term you want, but I think you do need a collective noun to talk about your villains. Three is too many to talk about separately for a short query. And to keep with the flavor of your setting, since that is in large part your hook here, I would definitely try to use a Korean term as that collective noun or else focus on Magpie, who seems to be the leader.
In ancient Korea, three spirits -- the pan-su -- have stolen power from the gods. The theft, however, did not come without consequence. Forced to flee to the spirit world and only able to wield the new power from afar, their restoration to this world hinges on the life of an innocent girl....
Twelve-year-old Min-Jee wants only the love and respect of her father, the village chief, never dreaming he could betray her in exchange for a taste of power and immortality. When her father offers her up to the pan-su to be the vessel through which they will re-enter the mortal world, she learns about her heritage. She is a priestess, born with the abilities to communicate with gods and command ghosts. With her, the pan-su will be invincible.
A daring escape leads Min-Jee into the protective custody of a gentle lady scholar and her devoted warrior. Min-Jee quickly forms a tight bond with her new surrogate family, but the pan-su track her down, using power from the ghost of a dragon god. They capture the warrior, transforming him into an agent of evil, turning him against her -- just as they did her father.
Now the only way to undo everything and redeem the people she loves is to use heavenly power. And to do that, Min-Jee will have to venture into the pan-su's lair and steal the ghost dragon for herself.
STOLEN FROM HEAVEN is a 119,000-word fantasy. I look forward to sending you the complete manuscript.
Words escape me...You've taken the chaotic energy of my imagination and focused it into a laser.
This is an excellent revision. It's almost as though you read my entire novel before making it. You captured Min-Jee's struggle perfectly.
As for the collective noun...I am thinking of Kang-Do, which means thief in Korean. I will do some research and see if there is anything better to use.
I wish I could do more than just say thank you, but...thank you. I am greatly in your debt.
Did you know that, in Korea, the phoenix is a symbol of good luck?
Thank you, Matthew, but it's just a parlor trick. YOU gave me, in maybe 700-800 words, the essence of your story. I simply followed the main line of the story from the details YOU provided and rearranged the words YOU wrote. So really, YOU did all the hard work; it just LOOKS like I did something. But really, I'm not doing anything more than those "psychics" on the psychic hotlines do :o) Glad I could be of some small help. Now comes the really hard part: submitting!
Ooh, I like the 'good luck' thing. Interesting how many cultures embrace the phoenix in their myths! Kind of like the ubiquity of dragons...
Once again, Phoenix is awesome!
That is all.
Phoenix this was an awesome query. I am breathless. Awesome job and I love the story rather than just being intrigued.
Anon 8:25 - I think.
Yeah, I'd definitely buy the book that Phoenix' modified query is selling. Nice work, Matthew and Phoenix.
Whether the gods are in heaven or elsewhere depends on your mythology.
If Minjee's goal is a loving family, what does SHE do to achieve that goal? Being rescued by a couple of potential replacement parents isn't her doing anything.
BuffySquirrel: In order to gain a loving family, Min-Jee breaks into the lair of her enemies to steal their power. (It's at the bottom of Phoenix's revision)
Right, being rescued isn't her doing anything, but learning courage, responsibility and assertiveness are facets of her character development.
Min-Jee's father never respected her opinion, thus she never thought it was worth much. When Min-Jee is taught that her opinion matters(by the lady scholar), she gains confidence in herself.
Thanks everyone (especially, especially Phoenix).
Phoenix's query left Min Jee completely passive, as well. Seems everyone overlooked that...
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