Monday, January 25, 2010

Face-Lift 723

Guess the Plot


1. Exiled from her village, Quill happens upon Fox, injured and lying in a ditch. They make a pact: Quill will Nurse Fox back to health and Fox will teach Quill to survive in the demon-filled forest. When they discover the demons' dastardly plans, which may include burning down the village, they must decide whether to issue a warning or to relax and enjoy the carnage.

2. Toni "Foxfire" Harris is the youngest pilot ever to be awarded her wings for SHEPARD - a super-secret branch of the Air Force. When the aliens attack, will her skill keep her in the air long enough to save the planet? And why do those alien boys have to be so gosh darn CUTE?

3. Alan is writing like a madman. Why? He's had a novel handed to him on a silver platter- in a dream, to be exact. After months of typing till his fingers bleed, lest he forget a plot twist, he has another dream: Joyce Carol Oates suing his ass for plagiarism.

4. When Jared and Jason's father is killed by a mysterious explosion at the Foxfire Lab, they know there's more involved than a simple gas leak. Can they find the culprit--or will they unleash a zombie apocalypse?

5. International superspy Jack Halligan is betrayed by his own side and framed for a crime he didn't commit. To clear his name, and prevent nuclear war, his one chance is to seduce the glamourous femme fatale known by the codename Foxfire. Given the circumstances, Jack will have to wait till next week to come out of the closet.

6. A black-ops unit investigating sudden radio silence from a nuclear command bunker discover a team of high school nerds have disabled America's nuclear arsenal. Is it a political statement, or just a way to impress girls?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor

Nineteen year old orphan, Fox, lives alone in the forest, struggling day to day against hunger, isolation and the elements. [It's rough growing up an orphan, but when you reach the age of nineteen, it's time to consider leaving the forest and checking out civilization.]

Oh, and the Demons.

However it’s not the man-eating demons, but a fall, which puts Fox in jeopardy. He’d always thought he’d be devoured by the demons, not that he’d die because he didn’t watch his footing… like his father.

When her irresponsibility causes the death of a child, fifteen year old Quill is ousted from her village, sent to live alone in the forest amongst the demons. It’s not even the death sentence that angers Quill, but the knowledge that the village thought they’d be better off without her, despite her remarkable tracking skills. It’s those skills, however, which turn her condemnation into hope when she discovers Fox injured and trapped in a ditch. [All the important information from the first three paragraphs (there's a demon-filled forest and Fox is injured) is contained in this paragraph, so why not start the query with this paragraph?]

Surely they can’t trust each other; after all, it’s abandonment which brought them together in the first place. But a deal is made: Quill will help Fox recuperate if Fox teaches Quill the way to survive amidst the forest and the demons.

Their trust in each other grows until a demon attack reveals a shocking secret about the nature of the demons, their land and its residents [--a secret so shocking that to reveal it here might cause cardiopulmonary arrest in the reader].

Now Fox and Quill have to make a decision: do they stay complacent and suppress the secret, dooming their abandoners to death? [It would be most refreshing if that were their decision. I recommend rewriting the ending to make it so.] Or do they risk their lives in an attempt to expose the truth?

Foxfire is an 85,000 word fantasy novel. I have a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


It may seem obvious to you (and to Evil Editor) that your main characters are a fox and a porcupine, but I suspect some readers will need this spelled out for them.

What's the secret?

How does exposing the truth risk their lives? The demons are already their enemies, and if the villagers would kill them for coming in with a warning, they can always find some other way to warn them. A letter nailed to a tree in the village square at 3 AM, for instance. Is there some reason Fox can't enter the village? I didn't get the impression he was an outcast, just an orphan.


Matthew said...

The demons are people, right?

Stories with animals as main characters remind me of Native-American myths. Interesting.

Anne said...

...Maybe i'm confused, but i was under the impression that Fox and Quill are people, and the demons are just that.

The fact that Foz is 19, the demons are man-eating, Quill lived in a village and was ousted for killing a child...those were the things that made me think that Fox and Quill were just names and the MCs are human.

John said...

Quill is exiled at 15 and meets Fox at 19. If she needs Fox to teach her how to survive, then how has she survived for the last four years or so?

Evil Editor said...

Fox is 19, Quill is fifteen, not nineteen. Let's hope there's no romantic angle.

John said...

Oops. My bad.

Matthew said...

Anne makes a good point. I guess clarity is needed.

Anne said...

@ John-
per the query, it says that she needs help learning how to survive in the forest amongst the demons (instead of surviving where she was raised- in a village amongst others)

wendy said...

Interesting premise.

If there isn't a romantic angle I think you should change the ages and add one in. If there's a gun on the mantle in the 1st Act... (or a teen boy and girl alone in the woods!) ...then it better go off (so to speak) in the 3rd.

I agree with EE that you haven't adequately delineated the risk(s) the characters are facing. And I don't know if it's important, but I thought the characters were human with animal based names because they live in a tribal/nature based society.

Good luck with your story.

Blogless Troll said...

Assuming Quill isn't a porcupine, where did she use her remarkable tracking skills if not the forest? And if she has tracked things in the forest before didn't others in her village at least give her a few survival pointers? Like, "Hey, in case we get separated, don't eat the purple mushrooms, the big yellow leaves will make your bum itch, and don't look directly into the demons' eyes because they'll eat you."

Bernita said...

My biggest problem is: "When her irresponsibility causes the death of a child" and her main complaint is that they should have valued her tracking skills implies she thinks "what's another village brat more or less?"
Irresponsibility isn't the word for it.
Doesn't make for an immediately attractive character.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Author:

I'm not getting a sense of why Fox has "abandoners" that could be doomed to death if he's an orphan. Seems they're already dead. And while technically he's an orphan in the conventional sense, I'm not sure I would ever use "orphan" to describe anyone over the age of 18. Or do you mean "orphan" in another sense that I'm not getting?

Not feeling a lot of sympathy for Quill either after having killed a child through irresponsibility. She feels petty rather than remorseful in the query: I can't be trusted to not kill a kid but doesn't my skill at tracking more than make up for the other kids' lives I might put in danger if you keep me around?

Their trust in each other grows until a demon attack - is this cause and effect? Their trust stops growing when the demons attack?

The thing about secrets and speculating about them is that the reader doesn't know why there's even a question or how it should be answered. For instance, if the secret is that there's a megavolcano about to blow its top in two days and there's no hope that anyone can leave the forest in time, then whether Fox & Quill divulge the secret is really moot. Otherwise, as EE alludes, I don't want to read a straight fantasy about a couple of slackers who aren't going to risk whatever to save the world, so no sense setting it up this way to begin with. Um, actually, I guess EE is saying the slacker slant is more unique and hook-y -- but it would call for a whole different setup in the query than what you have here ;o)

I think this query needs to showcase other facets of the MCs' lives to draw us into caring about them. The ones here feel a bit slight. And then the danger they're facing needs to be spelled out more concretely. Otherwise, I'm not seeing anything storywise or voice-wise to make this stand out from the rest of the fantasy hopefuls out there.

Also, the phrase "Oh, and the Demons" (why cap'd here?) makes this feel like you're going for YA voice, but the genre doesn't indicate it's for a YA market, despite the ages of the MCs.

Dave Fragments said...

Foxfire is the name of a movie with Clint Eastwood. I'm sure you know that. Firefox is the browser I use. I'm sure you know that. Unless Fox the character spits fire, or has red hair or is anthropomorphic, maybe foxfire is an overused name.

Those two beginning paragraphs that end with the tiny vermiform appendages (Oh, and the demons, & like his father) remind me of that game some of my coworkers used to play at the Chinese restaurants with the fortunes. The one where we added "between the sheets" after each fortune. That might seem a silly statement but the query felt gimmicky as I read it.

One statement that struck me as completely illogical was that since Quill is a good tracker, the villagers should tolerate the death she caused and let her remain. That sounds familiar BTW. I've heard of this story before.

You see, Quill is exiled from her village as a result of her negligence and she gets a chance to learn life's lessons when she meets Fox and helps him survive the demons and eventually save the village. So Quill goes from bad to good. Fox gets a home and the village is saved from demonic possession.

Perhaps the opening line could be something like: When Quill learns of demonic plans to destroy the village that cast her out, she must decide on saving them or running away. It's not going to be a simple warning because Quill was exiled for accidentally killing a child.

That gets to the emotional heart of the story.

And if this is really another "Babe the pig" story, well, good luck.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Hi - author here. Thanks everyone for all your help.

They are indeed human - I thought by the inclusion of their ages, the fact that the demons are man-eating and also that Quill lives in a village was enough to get that across. If it's not, any ideas of how to get that across without just stating "19 year old Fox, who's a human BTW,..."?

She got her tracking skills from her teacher in the village and the surrounding area, but not neccessarily the demon infested forest. Do we think it's neccessary for me to include where, specifically, she got her education? Do i need to make a disctinction that tracking is very literal in this sense - in that she can track animals, but she doesn't know that those purple mushrooms are indeed poisonous. The village is very segmented regarding roles, if that makes sense.

EE - Fox is indeed an outcast. That's a quick fix in the Query.
Do i need to spell out the secret? I worry that if i do, which is really the plot of the story, the query will read more like synopsis. If that makes sense.

Thanks again everyone!

Sarah Ahiers said...

Bernita and Phoenix - thanks for the input. She's really not supposed to be a sympathetic character, but she certainly isn't a murderer. More along the lines of a babysitter who looks away for a moment and her charge wanders into the street. I will work on making it seem less that she causes the death and more that her negligence results in the death of a child. But she does indeed feel that her skills are worth enough to the village that they shouldn't exile her, and she's actually correct, but she's been a pretty big F*** up recently and the village decides to take their chances.

Phoenix - thanks for answering my questions regarding the secret aspect. I will change it to make it a more concrete threat and less vague. Also the caps is a typo - thanks for catching it ;-)

Dave - Foxfire is just a working title for now until i can come up with something better.
I'm glad you mentioned the "like his father line" since it was one i had serious issues with. It will be cut.

"Perhaps the opening line could be something like: When Quill learns of demonic plans to destroy the village that cast her out, she must decide on saving them or running away. It's not going to be a simple warning because Quill was exiled for accidentally killing a child."

This is helpful, though there are no plans to destroy the village per se. And don't worry, they don't save the village nor do they return there to live happily, after they've learned their lessons.


Evil Editor said...

I was joking about them being a fox and porcupine, and can only conclude that those who assumed I was right are those who hang on every word I say. Of course if it's a problem you can just give Quill a girl's name instead of naming her after an object.

Telling us the secret reveals what the danger is, gives us an idea whether anything can be done about it. We don't need three paragraphs, just a sentence that proves everyone's doomed unless...

Sarah Ahiers said...

Wendy - i thought about a romantic angle but ultimately decided against it. I didn't want a whole - we hate each other, but now we love each other" cliche. There are other romantic interests.

"And I don't know if it's important, but I thought the characters were human with animal based names because they live in a tribal/nature based society."

This is right on, thanks.
I will work on the highlighting the risks more

Khazar-khum said...

To tell us they're human give them full names. "19 year old Fuxtanopolis "Fox" Yablonski, orphaned at the age of seven, lives in the woods. 15 year old Quindianella Jones, AKA "Quill", exiled from her village after carelessly leaving a three-year-old alone with ravenous wolves, finds Fox in a ditch."

Sarah Ahiers said...

EE - thanks! She does actually also have a "real" girl name, so if it does seem to be a problem it's an easy fix.

Thanks for the clarification on the secret. I will get to work on that.

Everyone thank you so much! It's so wonderful to get some fresh eyes on it who don't have an understanding of the plot beforehand. EE minions are straight up awesome sauce

Blogless Troll said...

People with mad tracking skillz are usually experts on the surrounding terrain so why is she helpless in the surrounding terrain? You're assuming the opposite of normal is obvious to us. That was my only point. It's a minor point. So just ignore it.

Dave Fragments said...

This is helpful, though there are no plans to destroy the village per se. And don't worry, they don't save the village nor do they return there to live happily, after they've learned their lessons.

Be careful. You might be setting up an expectation that Quill goes back to the village and gets forgiven when that isn't going to happen.

And since you say that Quill and Fox aren't in a romance but do save each other and teach each other a few of life's lessons, then the impact of the story is their learning from each other. You should consider that Quill's negligence and banishment from the village backstory.

I think that Quill and Fox help each other grow into adults and accept their shortcomings or past deeds or histories. That makes a nice story. Tell us more about it. Make us care for these two unlikely characters.

Anonymous said...

I was joking about them being a fox and porcupine...

But if they were, that would pretty much rule out the romantic angle...

Sarah Ahiers said...

Blogless - no i understand, it's a worthy point to make and i appreciate it. If that's what you thought when you read it, someone else could think that too.

Khazar - that would normally be a great idea except Fox just has the one name, no surname, no other name. But i may use Quill's real name which is Maree

_*rachel*_ said...

There's not enough info here to make it interesting.

GTP 6 is the basic story of the movie Wargames. Though without the Cold War.

Xiexie said...

Well I arrived late to the party. I think you're pretty golden, author.

Also, Quill could be girlified into Quille just to be feminizingly French. :-p

(Word verification: falcess --> He fell into the falcess, and no one would venture to retrieve him.)

Adam Heine said...

Dave F wrote: "Foxfire is the name of a movie with Clint Eastwood. I'm sure you know that. Firefox is the browser I use. I'm sure you know that."

Just fyi, the name of the Clint Eastwood movie is Firefox, just like the browser. But I thought of the movie too when I read "Foxfire".

Evil Editor said...

There is a Foxfire movie with Angelina Jolie, made from the Joyce Carol Oates novel mentioned in one of the fake plots.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Thanks all! You've been a lot of great help!