Monday, November 09, 2009
Guess the Plot
1. The cello is said to be the instrument closest to the human voice. But Zoe didn't expect hers to start humming on its own. Nor did she expect the notes to sound increasingly like human words, impassioned and pleading words. Now if she can just keep her music teacher from finding out...
2. Claire lost her six-year-old heart to Bobby's recorder solo in their first grade Christmas Pageant. Twenty years later she buys the night club where Bobby plays the sax from the Russian Mafia. They seek resonance amid syndicated crime, wannabe musicians, and alley cats.
4. Jordan Seymore's braces broadcast amusingly evil subliminal messages. Now, dad carries a doll, sis meows, and the school cafeteria has served “chili” 27 days running. Can Jordan convince autoshop student Sally French to help reharmonize his mouth?
5. No one understands. Beautiful voices are Fiona's life. Looks, brains and money are unimportant. Now 32 years old, with Mom breathing down her neck and old friends having babies left and right, Fiona listens in vain for Mr. Right. Until one day she hears “Stick 'em up, lady!” Could this be the one?
6. Emma Drishumm has just learned that she has a super power: the ability to stop time by shopping for shoes. Now if she can just figure out how to use this power to defeat the soul-sucking demons that are chasing her . . .
Dear Evil Editor,
I am seeking representation for my young adult, fantasy debut novel RESONANCE completed in 116,000 words.
Ace school exams, always be nice to customers and come home early, are things that Emma Drishumn understands, except the concept of her dead father that she strongly believes to be alive and soul-sucking shadow demons chasing after her. [A horrible start to your plot description. If you change "except" to "unlike" it begins to mean what you want it to mean, but it's still awkward, and I wouldn't call her dead father a concept, and mainly, you're comparing apples to oranges . . . and plums. Comparing the "rules to live by" that she understands with those she doesn't understand would make sense, but you're comparing them with the concept of death and with shadow demons. It's like saying, Although Emma understood why her mom wanted her to do the dishes, she had little grasp of philosophical hermeneutics and zombie cows.]
Curiously observing the demons' feasting ways, she is cornered and almost eaten by them if it had not been for a dashing young king and a condescending shadow stalker, introducing themselves as Bringers of Salvation and Death. [This isn't a sentence. You could change "she is cornered and almost eaten" to "she would have been cornered and eaten." It'll make sense, but you ought to make this two sentences. One gets the impression you were told to summarize your plot in three sentences and are cramming your eight sentences into three by removing some periods.] The two surmise that she is a Bringer as well, since she can nonchalantly walk through the Cloak: a phenomenon that hides human awareness from the demons; but as she discovers the power to stop time while shopping for shoes, the Bringers rethink their conclusion since no Bringer has ever had that ability. [I surrender.] [I gotta say, the power to stop time while shopping for shoes is possibly the least useful superhero power ever.] [Unless . . . okay, if she sees a crime going down and runs into the nearest shoe store to buy some pumps, thus stopping time, does time start up again when she leaves the shoe store, or does she have a lag period while she breaks in her new shoes during which she can run to the crime scene and handcuff the criminal? That would make it somewhat useful, but as there may be few shoe stores in areas that have heavy crime, she might want to have a shoe salesman accompany her everywhere she goes so she can shop for shoes at a moment's notice. They'd be a crime-fighting duo, like Batman and Robin. Call her sidekick Zappo.
When Emma sees a crime being committed, Zappo immediately starts trying to sell her some shoes. Whether you want to call them Emma Drishumm and Zappo, or give Emma a cooler name, like Stopwatch, is up to you.]
As the boys offer protection, her world darkens as she is forced to help them save human souls but is unable to do so for her own best friend. [Who are the boys? The king and the shadow stalker? Is a shadow stalker a boy who stalks shadow demons?] After recovering from shock, she finds that she alone believes in her best friend’s existence. [Finally a nice simple clear sentence. Although there's been nothing about her best friend up to now, and we don't know what shocked her. Did she get zapped . . . by ZAPPO!?] In an unavoidable confrontation with a greater demon, the situation turns from a simple demon-slaying-day into a dire fight for her life as she uncovers the true reason for the demons’ pursuit and her confabulated memories regarding her best friend and her father. [The memories may be confabulated, but the query is discombobulated.]
Thank you for your time.
[P.S. I got the resonance title from when a Bringer realizes his true power its called resonance.]
What does "a phenomenon that hides human awareness from the demons" mean?
Scrap the whole thing. Start over and force yourself to abandon complex sentences. Simple and clear is what you should be striving for. Get rid of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Focus on Emma. Who she is, that demons are chasing her, that she has escaped them so far through her ability to stop time, but she has a plan to defeat them for good, if only . . . .
Posted by Evil Editor at 10:14 AM
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What EE said. Sounds like some interesting plot elements but the text isn't working. Figure out how to get your word processor's grammar checker going and learn to get it to help you clarify what's going wrong. Yeah, the idiot software is often wrong, too. But learning to determine when it is and when it isn't, will help you.
Yes, I have to agree. You may have an interesting story here, but it's not coming across in a query which, I'm afraid, reads as if it's been ineptly translated from the original Serbo-Croat.
Use simple declarative sentences to tell us who the main character is, who the antagonist is, what's at stake, and what the main character does to resolve the situation. (Yes, I know, easier said than done. But if you do it, I think you'll have a better query.)
Metaphysically, this query proves the existence of Soul Sucking Demons. The tell-tale signs of their activity are all over the prose. They've already sucked the sentences down to about a quarter of the number you should have. They've sucked the meaning out of simple words like "except," "concept," "if it had not been." Once they're done with your grammar, they're going to start on your plot, and then on your characters, and then....
Yeah, you should probably be worried right about now.
Like vampires, everything they touch also begins to suck, which explains a lot about the sentence structure....
Cheap shots aside, take the time right now to devote several weeks to mastering the skill of writing clear, concise sentences that your reader can understand and easily follow the first time through. (Some books or classes may help.) You won't regret it. That, or call in a reputable firm of exorcists, exterminators, or Bringers. (My wife sometimes brings cookies; does that count?)
Note: Don't depend on your word processor's grammar checker, as the Soul Sucking Demons have been devouring it too. Here is photographic proof.
Oh EE, I think I love you.
If you have sentences like this anywhere in the actual novel, get thee to a grammar class, creative writing class, or critique group. Frankly, if I'd been reading submissions (though I never have), I'd have stopped after the first sentence of this query.
You lost me at "debut", and a YA that's 116,000 words probably won't fly for a first timer. But I could be wrong.
The query letter needs work but I swear I'd read this. Are you sure "fantasy" is the right category? I don't know, it sounds like just a regular story. The bit about the shoes made me think it's satirical, even.
Polish up that query will ya?
. . . if she sees a crime going down and runs into the nearest shoe store to buy some pumps, thus stopping time, does time start up again when she leaves the shoe store, or does she have a lag period while she breaks in her new shoes during which she can run to the crime scene and handcuff the criminal?
LOLoved how you took that concept and ran with it. Really quite amusing!
Whenever my wife buys a new pair of shoes, time stops.
Haha, wow, fantastically terrible. A query like that makes me nervous to read the actual manuscript. A great reminder to be straight-forward and simple in query letters, because trying to sound smart usually just backfires. (http://fromsarahwithjoy.blogspot.com/)
The first sentence was terrible, and it went downhill from there.
Evil Editor, where have you been all my life?
Hey guys, thanks for the comments. When I read this, I was really laughing hard. And I took it all in and rewrote the freaking query. So here it is. Do what you must.
Emma Drishumn is a demon magnet. When the sky darkens and the sun turns black, demons attack her: in the school graveyard visiting a professor, in the mall shopping for shoes, in the airport after landing in Spain for vacation, and in a party where she almost gets her first kiss.
Almost in the clutches of demons, she is saved by a king and the angel of death and tells her she's more than an attraction for destruction, after she discovers the power to stop time—and consequently, her allure grows to gravitate even nephilims, necromancers and more eccentric creatures. Now, she fears there's more to this than plain hormones.
RESONANCE is a fantasy novel completed in 116,00 words. Thank you very much.
The first paragraph is okay, though I'm not sure why a school would have its own graveyard.
The second is the same old problem. The first sentence isn't a sentence, could be interpreted in more than one way, makes little sense, and has misused words (I'm guessing "grows to gravitate" is supposed to mean "attracts"). You can't consider this a simple sentence.
I'm surprised to find she ever thought being attacked by demons was a matter of hormones. That wouldn't occur to most people.
The first paragraph is okay. Second paragraph is totally confusing. I can't even parse some of the sentences.
Took another look and it's really just the one, very long, confusing sentence.
Again, what EE said.
The first paragraph was oodles better-- so much better that I almost wondered how it happened.
Then the second paragraph came along, and it was back to the original voice: confusing and grammatically creative.
If you can simplify the second paragraph the way you did the first, it could work, although I'm left wondering about the writing style in the novel if this was how you chose to write the query...
The first paragraph made sense and was even humorous. The second was unintelligible. Rewrite it, and include a bit more plot.
Again, if you're having problems like this in your novel, get help before querying.
But I feel like there's some weirdness with the first graf- the first sentence is passive, then the second sentence has a million commas in it. I'm a comma whore, myself, but you know, for a good query, you need to cut those babies down (see! I can't help myself).
What's a nephilim? Let me Google that...
Nevermind that the school has a grave yard, what do we think about a professor who arranges for her to visit him/her there? My problem with this version, is it still doesn't tell us what she, the protagonist, does in the story... it's just a list of random manifestations with no causality.
Yes - you need to keep that sentence-simplifying momentum going into paragraph two.
It wouldn't hurt, either, to give us some idea of what happens in the story - this still seems to be all setup (MC attracts demons, MC has time-stopping powers - yes, but what happens?)
Actually, both my high school and university had graveyards, both from the 1800s, and my middle school was a short walk away from a war memorial with lots of names and a few tombstones.
We went to the nature walks near the war memorial and found branches for the set of the fall play at the graveyard. I think we also went out there for some science class or other, maybe looking for leaves.
A school graveyard isn't too improbable, provided it's not too recent.
Glad you're a good sport.
On the new query, ditto the above comments. The first paragraph proves you can do it; now do it to the second paragraph too. And then tell us the plot.
Keep it simple, simple, simple: Character is an A. Character wants B because C. D stands in her way. To overcome it, she must do E and F, or else G will happen. With the help of a motley band of dwarves and ninjas.... oh, wrong plot.
Hey thanks guys. Thank you for pointing that out. I kinda figured it would be the same reaction again. But really thanks. I've rewritten the thing and got this one instead:
Emma Drishumn is a demon magnet. After she incidentally sees a man disappear and the sky turn blood red, demons chase her everywhere for unknown reasons: in the school graveyard visiting a professor, in Spain for vacation, and in a party where she almost gets her first kiss.
When a demon suddenly gets too close, she freezes time. Startled by this discovery, she runs in panic only to be sought out by a king and the angel of death. The two offer her protection and guidance. Reluctantly, she accepts their proposal only to be immersed in a war between demons against the saviors of mankind. Now, she is faced with a decision of whether or not she continues to be the prey or choose to be the hunter.
The whole thing looks much better but:
Now, she is faced with a decision of whether or not she continues to be the prey or choose to be the hunter.
What's to decide?
Maybe separate the decision from the effect?
"Now, she is faced with a decision which will determine whether she continues to be the prey or becomes the hunter."
Or somehow make it clear why she would chose to be prey.
It's getting there. The first line is pretty great, but the list at the end of the paragraph could go.
My thoughts -
Emma Drishumn is a demon magnet. - Great line -
After she incidentally (delete the adverb) sees a man disappear and the sky turn blood red, demons chase (plague, hunt - use a stronger verb to convey what the rest of the sentance tries to get across) her
(IMHO the rest of the sentance can go) everywhere for unknown reasons: in the school graveyard visiting a professor, in Spain for vacation, and in a party where she almost gets her first kiss.
When a demon suddenly (lose the adverb) gets too close, she (Emma) (accidentally) freezes time. Startled by this discovery (you don't need to tell me it suprised her if you tell me what she does as a result. Trust me, I'll get it), she runs in panic ("in panic" isn't necessary for the same reason) only to be sought out by a king and the angel of death (Names would go a long way here. Is it one or two people? And King of what?). The two (two people then) offer her protection and guidance (In return for what?). Reluctantly (Adverb alert), she accepts their proposal only to be immersed in a war between demons (and) the saviors of mankind (who are these now?). Now, she is faced with a decision of whether or not she continues to be the prey or choose to be the hunter (And this is a choice? Hum. let me think about that. You'd be better off - IMHO to tell me what she does and how she can help with this war).
I wish you'd find a way to put back the line about the hormones (minus "plain"). I thought that was a cool hook although I didn't understand it.
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