Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Face-Lift 726

Guess the Plot

The Epic

1. While cramming for his exam on Epic Tales Through the Ages, Brian finds himself transported into the Odyssey. Can he survive the Epic quest and make it to his final on time?

2. An enthusiastic young writer sets out to pen the great American novel. But upon finishing it, he can't think of a title, one that is simple, encapsulates the story, and yet conveys the grand scope of the plot. So, he settles on . . . The Epic.

3. While hiding in the library from bullies, 11-year-old Steve Carter stumbles on an epic fantasy novel. First just an escape, it becomes a template for solutions to his own problems. But after the book accidentally gets destroyed, can he keep his life from falling apart again?

4. To pay off her educational debts, a girl is ordered to write an epic poem recounting the exploits of the king. But before she finishes, the king sparks a new war. New exploits will mean new stanzas. Will she ever be finished with . . . The Epic?

5. By the first day of filming, sweeping epic To Do or Die is already being called a movie for the ages. Then strange things start happening on the set, each predicted by disturbing images slipped into the dailies. Can pathologically shy production intern Salma Msuya save the day?

6. One warm April day, seventeen-year-old Jordan Wing leaves his small Montana town with a minivan, $583, a violin, a schedule of 48 state fairs, and a prognosis of less than a year to live. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. He just knows it’s going to be epic.

Original Version

By 3200 BCE the sumerians had developed a stable writing system, but it wasn't until five hundred years later that one woman stumbled onto a story that deserved to be preserved for all time.

THE EPIC, my completed 70,000-word historical fiction novel, recounts the journey of SinArala, a woman in search of a life free of male domination. When her father sacrificed her younger sisters to the gods in hopes of being granted a son and her mother died of a broken heart, she was left alone to bear the brunt of his rage. Seeking to find him a new wife, one who's [whose] bad luck she hopes will be the death of him, SinArala travels to a neighboring village. On the way, she meets Enkidu, [Change that name to Inka Dinka Doo. Trust me.] a mysterious savage, and the two strike up an improbably [improbable] friendship. Knowing that the people of her small village will surely kill him, SinArala keeps his presence a secret but when the Mad King, Gilgamesh, unexpectedly makes an appearance at her father's wedding and catches a glimpse of him, the hunt is on. [What is it about Inky that would cause the king to interrupt a wedding so he can be hunted down?]

Enkidu [Inka Dinka Doo] [Now that's entertainment.] proves elusive quarry until a sharp eyed villager guesses at SinArala's secret and Gilgamesh decides that she would be the perfect bait. Unwilling to be the instrument of her only friend's capture, SinArala attempts to flee but is caught by her father. She's sure that the beating that ensues will kill her until Enkidu [Okay, you don't like Inka Dinka Doo, how about Inky-Doo? He's like Scooby-Doo, but he's an octopus.] [Octopi are the midgets of animated films. Occasional bit parts, but never starring roles.] [I thought that movie Octopussy was going to be their breakthrough, but it didn't even have a live octopus.] steps in, sacrificing his own freedom for her survival.

Cast out from her family and her village, SinArala travels to the great city of Uruk where she finds shelter in the House of Heaven and trains as a scribe. When a chance encounter years later reunites her with Enkidu, now the Mad King's beloved companion, [She took a massive beating, refusing to give up Inky, and he becomes the king's beloved companion? How'd that happen?] Enkidu seeks to marry her. Unwilling to trade her life of relative freedom as a scribe for marriage to a man she hasn't seen since she was a child, [She was a child when she met him? How old?] she puts him off by explaining that she is not free until she has repaid her debt to her school by completing a master work. [Don't you wish you could pay off your college loans by writing a novel?] Eager to help his friend and further his own fame, Gilgamesh orders her to write an epic chronicling his exploits. Torn from the temple and life she has grown to love, SinArala has no choice but to comply and once again live her life by a man's whim. [Nowadays we don't allow cruel and unusual punishment; we've come a long way from the days when you could be forced, on some mad king's whim, to write an epic poem.] [It's cruel, of course, because even though they'd developed a writing system, they forgot to invent paper. Paying off your college loans by writing a novel is less attractive if you have to carve it in stone.]

Left in a palace full of strangers while Gilgamesh takes an unwilling Enkidu on yet another adventure, SinArala delves into the Mad King's past while trying to make a place for herself in her new home. When the two return, having procured precious wood from the god's forest, they inadvertently spark a war not only with a neighboring city state, but also with Uruk's own temple cast. Caught in the middle of the conflict, SinArala watches helplessly as Enkidu's insistence that Gilgamesh make peace causes a rift between the two friends. To spite [In spite of] their differences, when Enkidu is captured by the invading army, Gilgamesh still risks everything to save him. In the end, however, it is Enkidu who must save Gilgamesh, and all of Uruk, from destruction and SinArala who must live with the consequences. [What are the consequences? She has to write a few more stanzas?]

Thank you for your time,


This is a synopsis. If it's supposed to be a query, you need to shorten it considerably, and explain that you've written a fictional account of how the ancient story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu--possibly the earliest known literary writing--came to be written and preserved.

Synopses come in many lengths, including this length, but the pace of this synopsis is inconsistent--too fast in the last paragraph. It goes, in just a few sentences, from gathering wood to a major war, to Enkidu being captured and saving the kingdom from destruction to whatever this means for SinArala. It's like the instructor announced you had two minutes to finish your synopsis, and you went into panic mode.

That Enkidu became the king's beloved companion suggests that being a mysterious savage is far from a death sentence. What made SinArala think Enkidu would be killed?

Seeking to find her father a new wife, one whose bad luck she hopes will be the death of him, doesn't sound like something a child would think of or try to pull off.


Bernita said...

Particularly because this is a time and setting not usually encountered.
But heed EE.
(Am not sure how you got all this crammed into 70,000 words though.)

Anonymous said...

The query starts out well, with SinArala taking action against her father, but then the agency all shifts to Enkidu and Gilgamesh (per the epic) and SinArala appears to become a very minor character.

You need to keep your heroine front and center, and active, not passive.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I like the idea of a feminist retelling of the Gilgamesh story (Lord knows it worked for Marion Zimmer Bradley with the King Arthur myth) but to my eye SinArala isn't terribly proactive as a protagonist. Even if she's chafing under male rule, she seems to go along to get along, especially in the last part of the book.

Litersrygrrrl said...

I want to read GTP#6!
I agree with the others that this story has a huge amount of promise as a re-telling of the Gilgamesh epic.
And I love your heroine, but she doesn't seem prominent enough in your query. Try to focus more on her. This is HER story.

_*rachel*_ said...

Since you're working with an established story, I'd make sure to 1) say which story it is (can't hurt, anyway) 2) give us at least the basic outline/setup of the original/your version 3) emphasize what you bring to the table.

My examples:
1) Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine; Cinderella; Ella's enchanted to obey anything that tells her what to do

2) In a Dark Wood, Michael Cadnum; Robin Hood; the Sheriff's POV

3) Pay the Piper, Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple; the Pied Piper of Hamelyn; the Piper is a cursed faery in a Rock 'n' Roll band

4) Briar Rose, Jane Yolen; Sleeping Beauty; Sleeping Beauty meets the Nazis

5) Enchantment, Orson Scott Card; Sleeping Beauty; Sleeping Beauty meets old Russia meets post-USSR meets Baba Yaga

I could triple the size of this list, but it would distract from the point. You've got all the elements for this--a new, interesting twist on something old. And it is an unusual something old, too.

I'd copy and paste what you have here, maybe flesh it out a little, or at least fiddle with it, and call it your synopsis.

Then try the query again. I'm betting it'll work out well.

WV: striper: scared me for a moment. Why is there only one letter's difference between hospital volunteers and red light district workers?

Eric said...

Rachel, thanks for the recommended reading list!

Author, notice how Rachel's description of the titles in question somehow made me want to go out and get them all? Follow her lead and you're on your way.