Monday, July 13, 2009

Face-Lift 654

Guess the Plot

Chasing the Goddess

1. Lady Cynthia Whitmore is the only person who can free the goddess of night from the orb in which she's been imprisoned for a thousand years. But the god of day wants the goddess in the orb, and he's willing to smite Cynthia to stop her.

2. Born into a long line of deities, trainee Goddess Tracey decides that a life of unknowableness and smiting isn't for her. She runs away to follow her dream of becoming a writer, pursued by an assortment of gods, demi-gods, demons, imps, pixies and other supernatural beings sent by the junior God School to bring her back.

3. When the Midvale Book Club and Wiccan Circle miss a syllable in their incantation to the earth mother, the ladies reach the wrong deity and accidentally set loose Shiva, goddess of destruction. Can they appease the goddess before she smites them all?

4. Unaware of the true cause of Harvey Widget's disappearance, his girlfriend Pruddy Jones follows a trail of clues that will ultimately lead her to the supernatural lair of Machina, goddess of the Roboti, a sect of engineers "destined" to replace all humans with unbreakable mechanical puppets. Will Pruddy be their next victim?

5. Former veterinarian Waldo Sullivan discovers the true reason dogs chase cars: religion. Automobiles have all the qualities the ancient Prophecy told canines to expect in the Chosen One, the goddess who would liberate them. But no one takes Waldo seriously. Not even Maddy, the most sympathetic nurse at the asylum.

6. Tired of dating losers Ares and Hephaestus, Aphrodite decides to try her luck on a multi-myth version of The Bachelorette. Will Odin hang himself after she refuses his proposal? Will she sleep with Gilgamesh?

Original Version

(Proper Salutation):

Lady Cynthia Whitmore touched a goddess when she was eleven years old. To Cynthia it was just a pretty orb, but by picking it up, she became the goddess of night’s chosen to free her from the orb, restore her kingdom and to free her people from a curse. [You've lost me. What exactly did she become by picking up the orb? Is there a word missing after "night's," something like "savior" or "lackey"?] [Once Cynthia frees the goddess of night from the orb, why can't the goddess restore her own kingdom and free her people from the curse? Surely she's better equipped to handle this than Cynthia.] But the god of day struggled to capture her and will smite anyone to keep the goddess encased in the tiny prison. [What does the god of day gain by having the goddess of night in an orb? Is it always daytime as long as she's imprisoned?] [Also, smite? Who says smite these days? We do say smitten, but smite and smote are out. Smut, of course, is always in.]

For a thousand years, the goddess’s followers and the fay have waited for Cynthia and watched over her after she found the orb. No one bothered to tell Cynthia of her fate until she was twenty-three. [No one bothered? That makes it sound like there was no reason not to tell her, they just kept letting it slide . . . for twelve years. They wait a thousand years for Cynthia to come along, and then they can't be bothered to tell her who she is?

Fay 1: At last we have the power to free our goddess.

Fay 2: Hey, she's been in the orb a thousand years; another decade won't kill her.]

She discovers that, Marcan, her childhood tutor and current guardian is a fay. Anthony, her mentor at the university is a follower of the goddess [When your mentor at the university tells you he's a follower of a goddess who has been imprisoned in an orb for a thousand years, it's time to slowly back out of the room. And the university.] and Irial, his best friend is another fay who has been watching her from the shadows.

If those secrets were not enough, Cynthia learns of the curse that has plagued Anthony for centuries. A curse that makes him long for her blood, [How can he have been plagued for centuries by a curse that makes him long for Cynthia's blood, when she's only 23?] [What do you mean, "makes him long for her blood"? Does he want to drink it?] made worse by the fact that he’s fallen in love with her. [In the early weeks of a relationship it's always a bit awkward informing your sweetie that you long to drink her blood.] He’s not the only one for Irial has also come to love her in the years he’s been watching her. [They're both smitten.] [It's creepy enough when a fifty-year-old guy chases after a 23-year-old; these guys are centuries old and trying to hook up with one. Aren't there any immortal fay women available?] Marcan worries about keeping the peace between them until they fulfill their mission.

All three men must wrestle with these issues while ensuring Cynthia makes it safely to the goddess’ temple in order to free her. The god of day is on their trail to stop them either by killing Cynthia or taking back the orb. [They've had the power to free the goddess for twelve years. It's their own fault if the god of day stops them now.]

My fantasy novel, Chasing the Goddess, is complete at 118,000 words. This is the first of a trilogy, but can stand on its own.

I have a Masters in Library Science and currently work in an academic library.

Thank you for your time.



Is the orb in the temple? Does the god of day know where the temple is? Why didn't he just go get the orb years (or centuries) ago?

Can't we give the god of day and the goddess of night names? When you read stories about Greek and Norse gods they go by their names, not what they're gods of.

It's almost all setup. The plot, which you gloss over in two sentences, is that Cynthia has a mission to free the goddess, Someone wants to stop her while others want to help her. And if she fails . . . What? What will change once the goddess is free? The world has gotten along without her for a thousand years. Now suddenly she must be released from the orb? Maybe we're better off with the goddess in the orb. Did you ever think of that?

Where does the chasing come in? The goddess is in the orb. The orb is in the temple. It's not like she's on the run.

Start over, give us three sentences of setup and six about the mission and the stakes, and make sure all your sentences are clear.

Friday, July 17, 8:00 PM eastern, 5:00 PM Pacific, MGM-HD Network, Woody Allen's Sleeper, with a great orb scene.


Matt said...

This query mildly intrigued me, which I suppose is the best you can do when it's all backstory.

Follow EE's advice and come back to us with the rewrite. My suggestion is to focus on Cynthia and show us how she feels about all of this. Mitigate the number of questions your query raises--If you can't answer it within the 250 words, avoid it.

Is this the same Cynthia that slept with a horse in a New Beginning from awhile back?

Anonymous said...

Wow - does this critique sound familiar. Seems like all of EE's minions make similar mistakes - that must be our greatest weakness that the evil minions can smite us with.

Here's the delimna - I write from the beginning to the end, I am going to tell you the backstory so you dear agent can grasp the plot and the excitment of this story by osmosis. (I'm not saying you did this author but I certainly did and your query had similar concerns to my query)

The query is mildly intriguing. I have no good advice to give but to wish you very good luck.

What is the easiest way to write a good query? anyone want to comment?


Evil Editor said...

Read Face-Lifts 1 through 564 including all reader comments. That's where osmosis comes in.

Anonymous said...

Seems to incorporate numerous popular plot elements which means the prose needs to be especially awesome for the query to stand out, since the competition seems to be very crowded with vampires, chosen ones, and various gods-on-earth.

At least you resisted the temptation to put in a werewolf and teenagers with wands.

Anonymous said...

Concerning SMUT, Tom Lehrer says:

Give me smut and nothing but!
A dirty novel I can't shut,
If it's uncut,
and unsubt- le.

I've never quibbled
If it was ribald,
I would devour where others merely nibbled.
As the judge remarked the day that he
acquitted my Aunt Hortense,
"To be smut
It must be ut-
Terly without redeeming social importance."

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

EE, in the first paragraph, 'chosen' is a noun.

GTP2 is not mine, but it's my autobiography. Dammit, who told? At least they spelled my name right,

Evil Editor said...

Noun or not it's not a sentence. The part after "chosen" needs to modify something. It can modify chosen if chosen isn't a noun, but then we need a noun (savior?). If chosen is a noun, the rest of the sentence needs something else to modify. Something like "with the responsibility" or "obligated" or "bound by Fay law." "Chosen" can't play both roles.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm having trouble with time and age here. Marcan, Anthony and Irial are ancient and Cynthia is a college student who was perfectly normal until she touched the ORB at 12 years old. But nothing happened to Cynthia until she hit age 23 years old.

Is that like the two semesters I walked around with Eileen Rooter (heir to the Rootin' Tootin' Roto Rooter fortune) stalked me in college? Or that summer camp job where Peter Walthrop tried to come out of his closet in my presences in his bikini? Or my first ex-wife, Babs Brookline who wanted me to find trout in her pond but all I got was crabs?

Let me repeat two words: nothing happens. A twelve-year old fondling an orb is not exciting. A 900 year old fondling a twelve year old is Lolita with a bad case of wrinkles.

If the story doesn't begin with something more exciting that happens after her 23rd birthday, I'm not sure I want to read it. Perhaps this is a preemptive strike on the "first" of a series and an unfair preemptive attack. But when I first read "Harry Potter" I had the same thought. Why are we starting with a baby? And my point being that if you don't write a compelling story after that opening chapter with the 12 year old and the orb, the book might be all backstory and not interesting enough to stand on its own.

I realize that what I've just said is unfair because I only have the query and I'm judging the book. But that's the only part of the story you describe in the query, the backstory. What happens after Cynthia is told she is the chosen one. I mean what really happens not the truly predictable reaction of "No I'm not." and "You're all crazy." How does the revelation change her life? What new skills and attitudes must she learn? Does her college life change? Does she stay on Earth (in Normal Nebraska) or go off to some other world of the Fay or Fey? That's the story you need to describe in the query.

BTW - There is only one Queen Of The Night -- Mozart's Die Koenige Der Nacht -- listen to 2 minutes of Bel Canto and you'll know why:

Anonymous said...

EE -

reading 560 plus face lifts is not osmosis that is called vicarious learning.

"Learning", like in working only without pay. . . .

Okay I'm done whining. I have been reading them and I'm learning and making progress - slowly.

the idea of an osmosis pill, however, is quite tempting, better yet a mind reading agent would be cool.

Anonymous said...

Dave may have a good point here. If nothing happens between 12 and 23, then the heroine should just find the orb at 23 and be done with it.

Or perhaps it is the prelude, that starts out little cindy found this orb and little did she know . . . . .

Now 12 years later, evil and good forces come to head because something has happened that will allow cindy to set the goddess free.

I want to know why anyone wants to set the goddess of night free. . . if everything has been just fine without her - why bother.

and why can't cindy just hand over the orb to all three of the men and promise to marry the one that survives - provided, of course, he not the one that wants her blood and is rich and good looking?

Anon - I just read something on the internet that werewolves are the new vampires . . .but it came from the internet, so that may or may not mean much.


It would work then.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I feel as though you've sort of overwritten the query. Try saying the same things in a simpler manner, maybe with fewer $3 words. Add a little more voice.

It sounds like you have an interesting story on your hands -- albeit a long one. You just have to make sure that comes through in the query.

Eric P. said...

"Orb" is such a goofy word. Orb. Orb. Orb. Orb. Orb. Orb. I can't get past it.

Which may be just as well, because it appears that if I got past it I'd have to say, "Oh, not another story where a girl finds out she's the Chosen [One], has to go on a quest for the battle between light and darkness, and a vampire falls in love with her!"

Your story isn't really that much of a cliche, you say? Fair enough. Use your query letter to show (not tell!) us why, exactly, it's different and better.

Anonymous said...

Orb isn't an odd word for anyone who knows Latin. The Pope issues a yearly message titled: Urbi et Orbi -- translated -- "To the City and the World."
It is the Papal address and blessing on Easter and Christmas.

Unknown said...

Speaking of osmosis, they likely don't teach the correct use of commas in Library school, but a librarian has presumably opened a book or two over the years and thus could have absorbed the basics.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there some sort of Queen of the Night in Desperately Seeking Susan?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there an orb in the Da Vinci code?

There was a queen of the night in Desperately Seeking Susan - I googled it.

I always thought portal was weird in fantasy novels because it sounded Science Fiction but Rowling did with the portal key.

Did I have a point? Yes, it's the eye of the beholder. . .


Xiexie said...

The "chosen" (cos I read as a noun too) issue could be solved as follows:

...she became the goddess of night’s Chosen, the one to free the goddess from the orb, restore her kingdom and to free her people from a curse.

I don't know Dave. Seeing that this is to be part of a trilogy there are probably events where in which she finds out when everyone comes outta the woodwork when she's twenty-three.

There's more backstory there too, I'm sure. I do agree that the eleven-year-old thing doesn't necessarily need to be in the query unless it's handled like this:

Fay, fairies, imps, pixies, vampires and sh!t have begun to reveal themselves to Tracey. She finds that they're her best friend, mentor, teacher, the high school janitor, the crazy lady in front of the old Woody's building, etc. Little did she know that at 11 when she touched that dark orb in the Goddess of Night's temple, she charged herself as the Goddess's Chosen, the one to [refer to my suggestion above]...

Am I making sense?

writtenwyrdd said...

Finding the orb years before the action starts makes it prolog fodder, and we all know how much people "say" they hate prologs.

Overall, too many elements are introduced in this query for me. Makes my brain hurt trying to keep track, and it does seem to be mostly backstory.

I think you need to pare down to your elevator pitch (a one sentence description of what happens in the book) and work from there. If it's about a girl who saves "the world"--whatever that world is-- you focus on her, not on trying to explain the entire mileau you've created.

This sounds like it might be a good story, but you need to sell it, give us an emotional hook.

pulp said...

I'm with Jeb.
When I was a librarian (children's, academic, and public library reference librarian), I kept being shocked at the number of librarians who were lousy at punctuation and grammar, were not especially literate, didn't read much, and generally brought shame to the profession. I blame it on library schools shifting to "information management."

Everybody doesn't have to be good at everything, but a librarian should know enough to use a reference source to check punctuation before presenting writing to the public.

I haven't been telling agents I'm a librarian (retired, now) in the bio para of my queries. (Except for the children's story queries I sent around, because being a children's librarian gave me tremendous experience with selecting and "field testing" kids' books.) Should I have been? I didn't think it had anything to do with my writing qualifications.

Sephina said...

I figured this would get posted while I was on vacation. I honestly thought I was adding elements to the query letter that I was learning about from reading past face-lifts. But I can see from the comments what I need to fix, which is what I needed. I had come to roadblock while writing the query letter and needed the feedback to get me moving again. So thank you for your comments.

And I do use reference books to help with grammar. I'm just a little slow when it comes to commas.

Thanks again!