Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Face-Lift 702

Guess the Plot

The Tooth of Time

1. After his parents die, Kelvin goes into a cave on an island known as the Tooth of Time. Suddenly he's in a new universe full of fantastical creatures, where he takes magic classes and plays an exciting new sport. Also, a dragon.

2.Billy had long been able to tune in songs from the radio on his dental fillings. But now he's starting to get dire warnings from the future-- and no one will believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

3. All Eddie wanted was an extra quarter for his last baby tooth. Instead he stumbles onto the awful truth: tooth fairies are aliens bent on cloning humans to use as slaves in the ice cream mines of Garglepuss IV. Only the dentists can save us now!

4. Clockmaker Alex Burton prides himself on the company's bizarre, punch card operated timepiece. But when baby Joey starts teething on the punch cards, the true nature of the machine is revealed and they find themselves 150 years in the past. Steampunk ensues.

5. Zelda the Tooth Fairy is dying, but a rare "tooth of time" would grant her immortality. Jimmy has one; will it come out before it's too late? Unaware of his treasure, Jimmy wonders about that voice that keeps goading him into fistfights.

6. Susie lost her first tooth in time to completely ruin her school photo. On the way home she lost it again, this time out of her pocket. All Susie wanted was a fifty-cent piece, but her search for the tooth lands her in Colonial America.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I would greatly appreciate your consideration of my recently completed middle grade/YA novel, THE TOOTH OF TIME.

11-year-old Kelvin doesn’t believe in magic. Why should he? His parents are dead and his relatives have abandoned him and his 9-year-old sister Corly at the Group Home for Troubled Children - but only after making sure they could claim the inheritance..

So it isn’t surprising that, after the siblings escape from the Home, Kelvin is initially skeptical when a homeless man confronts them, claiming to be magical. The man says some other incredible things: that he was friends with their mother who was born in a different universe and that he has been watching over them since their parents died, waiting for the right moment to return with them. [It would have been easier to watch over them as a janitor at the Group Home for Troubled Children than as a homeless guy. Does the Home allow homeless guys to hang around spying on the kids?]

The new universe of Belleterra is a place of magic, fantastical creatures, new friends, and an old and important prophecy made by one of the childrens’ ancestors. The Belleterra government thinks that Kelvin and Corly may be ‘The Ones’ to discover certain secrets that, if the prophecy is correct, will help to prevent a terrible war. Unfortunately the universe is also home to the Ubeltors, an evil society of followers of the late dictator Malificus Ubel, who also want to find the secrets using whatever means necessary. [Have they considered looking in Kel's mother's coded journals?]

Kelvin tries to help the government, but soon finds he has more pressing matters at hand: he sucks in his magic classes, he can’t decipher his mother’s coded journals [He can't? I guarantee he can, and does.] and he really needs to practice his favourite new sport, echolosolo. Then there’s the matter of someone sabotaging his echolator, instructing a dragon to kill him, and kidnapping his sister!

THE TOOTH OF TIME (approx. 107,500 words) is the first of a five book series that will unfold a tale of mystery, magic, suspense and fun. It is appropriate for ages 9 and up.

I would be happy to send you my complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


[Author's note: The title (The Tooth of Time) is the name of a small rock-island set in the midst of a river. In the heart of the island is a cave where the children 'cross-over' into the new universe.]


With main characters who are 11 and 9, this shouldn't be labeled YA.

The name of the island suggests it takes people through time, not to a different universe. And where does the tooth part come in? Is the island shaped like a tooth?

The book may not resemble Harry Potter in any way, but if you bring up plot points in the query that bring Harry to mind (dead parents, magic classes, a prophecy that the MC is "the one," a new sport . . . ) you suggest it's a HP knockoff. How many of these can you leave out of the query?

Try dumping the "Kelvin tries..." paragraph, which is a random list, and just finish the previous paragraph with: ...including kidnapping Carly. This works only if it's the Ubeltors who kidnap her, but the point is to focus on the main plot.

It's hard enough to sell a first novel for adults that's over 100,000 words. Even HP was rejected by a slew of publishers.


Bernita said...

I think I remember this.
The query is much improved.
I keep wondering, if kids liked Harry Potter, they might like similar adventures.

Anonymous said...

I too went through the query ticking off themes and plot elements of Harry Potter ilk. Which inspires a been there / done that sensation. If you go through prior Face-Lifts on this blog you will find numerous queries about 'magic school' students who must learn to save the world, most of them boys with dead parents. You might want to look those over and see what your competition sounds like.

Eric said...

Yes, I'm afraid you have me thinking, "I liked this story better when it was called Harry Potter." I couldn't spot a single plot element in the query that didn't look a little too familiar. Prophecies, dead parents, governments, a magical journal, followers of a late evil dictator, magical sports, magic classes....

Not that there's no market for books that are similar to other books people like-- compare The Sword of Shannara with Lord of the Rings-- but I'd like to see how what you've got is fresh and distinctive and why I shouldn't just pick up HP again. And not just "Well, Harry Potter had Hagrid, but here's he's a homeless guy..." Show us your creative elements.

On the positive side, you do handle the query well; it's just the plot elements themselves that have me wondering. (And I wouldn't say "He sucks," at least in the query...)

Dave Fragments said...

I usually read the six or seven plots trying to figure out if I can pick the story just based on the title.

Today, I read the first four words stopped. That was it. That's the plot. WHY?

Because it is easier to write about a kid with both parents dead. That kid supposedly has issues and a troubled past. The other gimmick is the kid who was molested as a child. As we know, molestation always creates issues and reflections for the rest of the story. It's a cheap and easy way to make a character sympathetic and provide oodles of plot twists.

Adding relatives who are lying and cheating the kid is so Little Orphan Annie and Lemoney Snickert.

Now that doesn't mean that this is a bad story. It sounds interesting. I guess that I am asking people to think of better plot twists and backgrounds for their characters.

As for the query, what happens to Kelvin that will entertain kids who read it? Nine year olds kids don't have too much of a vocabulary. Nor do they read full length novels. I hate to be snide and sarcastic but I just finished Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" and that kinda soured me on kids writing.

Also, focus this query on the first novel.

Sylvia said...

1) His parents are dead and
2) his relatives have abandoned him and
3) his 9-year-old sister Corly at the Group Home for Troubled Children -

I then thought "where's the verb gone" followed by "Why didn't EE correct it" followed by "OH, I see!" as I reread it. It's not a big deal but I thought I'd mention it.

It was his new favorite sport that brought on the Harry-Potter comparison in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Then there's the whole Malificus/ Malfoy

Or the whole Dementors/Ubeltors thing.

The name Kelvin grates. But that just may be me.

Marie Simas said...

I love Harry Potter! This book is going to be the best ever!

Where are all the Hobbits?

Marie Simas said...

Also-- forgot to mention that the name "Kelvin" has to be changed-- I was such a geek in High School; we used to say stuff like, "It's a million degrees Kelvin in here!"

"The Kelvin" is a unit increment of temperature-- scientists use it when they describe the temperature of the sun. I think I heard Carl Sagan use it first and I picked it up and started using it in my regular vocabulary.

For the sake of all geek chicks everywhere, please pick another name!

Stephen Prosapio said...


I like that word!

I agree about the 9 year olds not wading through a 107K word tome. Wow.

"I just finished Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" and that kinda soured me on kids writing."

Dave, you owe me a new computer monitor! We need a spew alert for stuff like that!!!

Whirlochre said...

I one short query, you've conveyed the message that your book is markedly Potterish, which means that either it isn't (in which case you need to rewrite the query) or it is (in which case you may have a lot of work to do).

Rowling plundered the locker, there's no doubt about that, but in doing so she may have swept it clean.

Tracy Holczer said...

I'm wondering if you've read your genre. Indicating that your story is MG and YA is one of the things that made me wonder. So my first suggestion is to read at least 50 middle grade fantasies so you can see where your own work is derivative. I think you can make cliches work sometimes, but you first have to recognize them, to see where you can turn them on their collective ears.

pacatrue said...

I just want to applaud "macaronipants" for her terrific name.

Anonymous said...

Never read HP. And yes, I picked it off, even before EE said it.