Friday, February 19, 2010

Face-Lift 732

Guess the Plot

Embero: The Last Dragon

1. The last dragon embryo on earth is about to be used in a stem-cell research experiment. Can Pat Robertson save it, or will the godless heathens of the Democratic party win the day?

2. Nadine reluctantly accepts the task of protecting the Last Dragon from the bloodthirsty armies of the kingdom of Embero. But as Nadine gets better acquainted with the dragon, she falls in love with him and dreams of a future together--if they can survive that long.

3. Embero's sad, lonely fate as the world's last remaining dragon seems inevitable until he meets talent scout Babs Truffaut Kantrowitz. She promises to book him in Vegas...but first, that pathetic name has to go. How about Conflagratio? Or Inferno? Something with a little more spark. Come on, work with me, people!

4. Embero witnesses the murder of his parents by Vincezne, a Dragonslayer from the south of France. Raised by a blind poet who believes he is a large dog with a knack for making campfires, Embero's sole goal is to see Vincezne burn in hell. Literally.

5. Harley Morgan is a small-time pot dealer with even smaller aspirations. Then he inherits Embero, a failing Chinese restaurant. Between the disgruntled employees, suspicious police, and his freegan girlfriend accusing him of selling out to The Man, Harley finds a surprising chance to become the man he didn't know he wanted to be.

6. Embero has a gimpy wing, a lazy eye, and scales that look more like a skin disease. He's the last dragon anybody would consider fierce. But when a blind girl begs him to come save her village from evil occupying soldiers, how can he refuse?

Original Version

Dear [Agent Name],

When the all-powerful King Joseph of Embero informs Nadine, a headstrong seventeen-year-old girl, that she must marry the ruthless prince to satisfy the queen’s dying wish, she decides to flee.

Tool of prophecy, armed with the Divine Art of controlling water, Nadine is summoned by the White Witch Evangeline. Nadine reluctantly accepts the task of protecting the Rebellion’s greatest treasure, the Last Dragon, against the bloodthirsty armies of Embero. [A 17-year-old girl is supposed to thwart bloodthirsty armies?

Rebel scout: Bloodthirsty armies are heading our way. Shall I call the men to arms?

Rebel leader: No, let's just send out Nadine.

What is this water controlling power? Can she cause tsunamis and hurricanes?]
Aided by an aspiring soldier and his sister, Nadine begins her perilous journey across the world of Earthea to join the Rebellion. [I seems like it would be hard to run a decent rebellion from the other side of the world.]

As Nadine gets better acquainted with the dragon, she discovers that he has a human soul and falls in love with him. [How does she determine this? Is it a talking dragon?] She dreams of a future with the man behind the beast--if they can survive that long.

Nadine’s love for the dragon is rivaled in intensity only by King Joseph’s fear of death. He burns a path across the world of men to obtain the dragon’s golden vein--a filament in the dragon’s heart--that has the power to grant its consumer immortality.

Directed by his father, Prince Kellan is given the singular task of capturing the girl and the dragon she loves. But the prince has secrets and aspirations of his own: by day he may be his father’s right hand man, but by night he accompanies Nadine in the form of the Last Dragon.

EMBERO: THE LAST DRAGON, a YA fantasy novel is complete at 100,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,


Why is it that Last Dragon is capitalized but dragon isn't? In fact, why are Divine Art and White Witch and Rebellion capitalized?

Nadine takes a journey across the world after fleeing the king. The king has to burn a path across the world of men to get to Nadine. In between these trips, how is the prince able to be with Nadine when he's a dragon and with the king when he isn't? Where does Nadine think the dragon is all day long when she's supposed to be protecting him?

Unless you tell us how it comes in handy, we don't need to know Nadine controls water.

Why, since they don't use the dragon's golden vein for immortality, does the rebellion consider the dragon their greatest treasure?

Why is Embero part of the title?



_*rachel*_ said...

You know, Evangeline was just not a name I expected for a witch of any kind. It feels a bit like naming your necromancer Simon Peter, or naming your pope Ahmad. It could happen, but it makes me do a double-take. Maybe it's because the last Evangeline I remember was from Uncle Tom's Cabin.

This query really doesn't make much sense. Here's an abbreviated version of what I think you're trying to say:

To escape a forced marriage to the ruthless Price Kellan, Nadine runs off to join the rebellion, where she gets assigned the thankless task of shoveling a dragon's poo. Thankless, but important--the dragon is the Rebellion's deus ex machina.

During her time pooper-scooper-ing, Nadine gets to know the dragon and realizes he's got a human soul. Human enough she's falling in love with him. Unfortunate, since Prince Kellan's father plans to gain immortality via filet de dragon. Even more unfortunate, since Prince Kellan's soul is double-timing between his human body and the dragon's.

And then what? What's the plot? This is mostly set-up, I think.

I'm not a fan of using the word ruthless; it's telling instead of showing, and that's what Boaz was before he got married.

Anonymous said...

The query letter is pretty fair, it describes characters and some plot points.

However, the story is too stereotypical in some elements. Nadine is the "chosen one" for some reason. At least Harry Potter was special for a reason (mommy's magical love shield!).

The king is after her, the prince is in love with her, she can control water, the witch needs her, she has the last dragon, and she fights armies.

Why? How? Where did all this unnecessary awesomeness come from?

Oh, and "Earthea" looks way too much like "Earthsea"

Ellie said...

I like the idea of the prince being both the dragon the girl loves and the man that's hunting her -- reminds me a little of C.S. Friedman's Feast of Souls. Interesting predicament for the prince, being the thing he's helping his father hunt. I'm actually more interested in that aspect than whatever Nadine's doing (this is just an opinion; I'm not trying to suggest you rewrite the book or something.)

I agree with what others have said: too much setup, not enough story. And I don't get any sense of Nadine's personality.

Also, yes, you must change the name Earthea; it looks like you're writing Ursula K. LeGuin fanfics and you typoed Earthsea.

Evil Editor said...

Ya know what it also looks like? Earth.

Dave Fragments said...

I like GTP #5. That would make a fun story.

What is it with dragons? Why do we love stories about them?

Isn't the real story about the last dragon and how it falls in love with a mortal and then must decide what to do? The creature is dragon by night and prince by day and eventually it succeeds in marrying Nadine or fathering a child of its own to become dragon-by-night and human-by-day.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Evilea Editorea is stupidea!

See? Adding an E and an A to the end of anything completely disguises it.

Is this story a take off on The Minion and the Mistress? We've got girls falling for trolls and now dragons. What ever happened to realistic young girls falling for older cute boys? Sigh. Kids today, I tell ya...

I had issue with naming the king and prince later in the synopsis. If they're vital to Nadine's story, mention them earlier and track them through the pitch. I also wasn't a big fan of a "human soul" in a dragon. Either a beautiful soul or a human was turned into a dragon. From my experience humans and dragons have very different souls.

K said...

I think that it might help to concentrate on Nadine and the prince. There's a lot you put in your query that caused me to have an information overload- a lot of that could be cut. Not from the story, but from the query.

It wouldn't hurt, for instance, if we found out about the witch from reading the story. Or the king. The forced marriage could be mentioned as a passing comment instead of a main plot point.

I think you just have a little too much going on here. Cut it down, and you'll be golden.

Jeb said...

I also saw 'Earthsea' on first reading.

Trying to figure out the rest of the letter made my head hurt. Sorry.

As others have said, focus on the two main characters: what do they want, and why, and what stops them getting it?

Adam Heine said...

After reading it a few times, the story sounds kinda cool. But an agent won't read it a few times. No one should have to.

Is this the story?

Gifted with the ability of waterbending, Nadine is chosen to protect the last dragon. But King Joseph wants to capture Nadine and force her to marry his ruthless son, and he needs the dragon's blood so he can become immortal.

As Nadine and the Dragon run from the king's army, they fall in love. But what Nadine and King Joseph don't know is that the Dragon is really Prince Kellan -- the king's son, betrothed of Nadine, and the reason Nadine ran away in the first place.

It's a nice twist at the end, but I'm unclear on what Prince Kellan's goals are. Is he villain, goodguy, or a bit of both?

(Also don't call it waterbending. I just thought of The Last Airbender when you said "controlling water". There's probably a cooler way to refer to that power.)

Author said...


Dear Evil Editor,

Most girls dream of becoming a princess, but Nadine is far from the typical seventeen-year-old maiden. When King Joseph announces at the annual Embers Ball that she must marry his son Kellan, the ruthless and arrogant Prince of Embero, Nadine decides to choose her own future - and flees.

In the course of her flight, with the greatest reward in living memory driving the entire kingdom to pursue her, Nadine is magically summoned by the white witch Evangeline. With the fate of the world at stake, and left with no other option, Nadine accepts the task of protecting the Rebellion’s greatest treasure, the Last Dragon, against the bloodthirsty armies of Embero. Aided by aspiring soldier Robert and his spell-weaving sister Annabel, the quartet begins their perilous journey to the Mainland.

As Nadine gets acquainted with the Dragon, she soon discovers a human soul trapped in the beast and falls in love with his carefully disguised spirit. Armed with her new found love, she prepares to make her stand against the armies of King Joseph.

Nadine's love for her dragon is rivaled only by King Joseph’s fear of death. His forces burn a path across the world of men to obtain the golden vein--a filament in the dragon’s heart--that has the power to grant its consumer immortality. Directed by his father, Prince Kellan is dispatched with the singular task of capturing the girl and the dragon she loves. But what Nadine and King Joseph don't know is that the Dragon is really Prince Kellan -- the king's son, betrothed of Nadine, and the reason Nadine ran away in the first place.

Thank you,

Sarah Laurenson said...

Most girls would not dream of marrying an arrogant, ruthless prince even if they wanted to become a princess.

What is “the greatest reward in living memory”?
Whoa. Too many names in this one paragraph. We don’t need to know them all.

Nadine falls in love with the dragon. Do we need to know there's a human soul inside it?

Is Kellan being in the dragon the big answer in the book? We really don't need to know it all.

This reads fairly well, but also a bit confusing with everything and everyone thrown in for good measure.

Who's POV is the story in? Can you back up and reduce the number of characters down to say 4 (sort of) - the King, the girl, the dragon and the prince?

Nadine wants to set her own course and she falls for the Dragon. The King wants to make Nadine marry his son and he wants to live forever by killing the Dragon.

These two are clashing all over the place. Concentrate on them.

Eika said...

Okay, that is much improved.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

If a character appears only once in the query and has a descriptor, best not to use the name, too. Name overload is the surest way to stall a query. "white witch", "aspiring soldier" and "spell-weaving sister" are enough. Except in this case, they're really too much, because none of these characters are necessary to the query.

Completely clueless as to why the fate of the world is at stake here. Or why she has no other option than to accept her task.

Also, why is Kellan as man ruthless and arrogant, but Kellan as dragon not if they share the same soul? If the dragon's spirit is carefully disguised, then logically, the real soul is Kellan the man's ruthless and arrogant one. And I'm not rooting for Nadine to fall in love with that soul.

So obviously, I'm still a bit confused as to what's going on...

Dave Fragments said...

I think you explain too much that isn't important. There's too many names, too many words. CUT HALF of them out. Try something like this:

Most 17 y/o girls dream of becoming princess, but not Nadine. When the King announces that she must marry the ruthless and arrogant Prince Kellan, Nadine flees.

Nadine doesn't get too far before the White Witch gives her the task of protecting the Last Dragon (1). If the King kills the dragon and eats the "golden vein" that supplies blood to the dragon's heart, he becomes immortal. Aided by an aspiring soldier and his spell-weaving sister, she begins a perilous journey to save the dragon and the kingdom.

Nadine soon discovers a human soul trapped in the beast and falls in love with the spirit. Armed with her newfound love, they prepare to make a stand against the armies of King but not before they discover that the dragon is Prince Kellan (2).

(1) Why is this dragon special to Embero? Give the reader FIVE words. Protecting the last dragon --that keeps Embero prosperous, --that guards the kingdom's gold, --that holds back the demons of hell. Don't use ten words.

(2) Here is where you need to explain a bit more of why Kellan is not what he seems. I reached this point and realized that through two versions of the query, you never hint at why Kellan is special. Why is he a dragon? Why doesn't the King know that he has to kill his son? Of course, this is why we need a reason for the dragon (point 1). If Shakespeare was right with King Lear, then the father will regret (big time) killing his son. Perhaps even like Oedipus, pluck out his eyes and give us a bloody visage for marrying his Mother.

And with that, we reach the climax of your story... Which we still don't know and still can't decide the fate of the query without. There are many sins I can forgive in a book if that book has a good ending. That doesn't necessarily mean happy ending, just a satisfying ending.

Kate Avery Ellison said...

To the author of this query -- I would totally read this book. Love the fun little twist where the hunter is also the beloved. A lot of the queries on this site make me roll my eyes, but this one caught my interest. Keep working on it.

150 said...

Lose that first paragraph; N's actions are so common for fantasy heroines that she is exactly the typical seventeen-year-old maiden. Better not to raise the question.

I'd like to know why the white witch chose N for such a difficult, important job.

It is much better than your first try. Good luck!

Word ver = "mione", a word I've never seen outside of Harry Potter fan fiction.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I feel like we're missing a key point: what, exactly, is Nadine prophecied to do? What is it about her that she's both forced to wed a prince and recruited for dragon-sitting duty?

Other than the fact that Nadine is headstrong and 17, we don't know anything about her. Maybe you should open with this info, i.e.:

Ever since her birth, Nadine knew she was literally destined for greatness. Nadine is the One Who Speaks With Water, prophecied to deliver the kingdom of Embero from the greatest danger it has ever faced. But her training comes to an abrupt halt at 17, when King Joseph declares... etc.


Headstrong village girl Nadine always wished for a life of adventure. Until the day the court soothsayer pegs her in a vision, naming her as the bride of the future king of Embero. Immediately King Joseph declares... etc.

Security word: Ringnomp, which would be a great name for the dragon.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Okay -- this is much improved. At least I get a sense of what this story entails. I know you must have a complex plot and rule structure, but I'm still not seeing how the Prince can be arrogant and ruthless, but as a dragon kind enough for her to fall in love with. I don't understand why/how the dragon lives on the other side of the world protected by the rebellion, but is then (I'd assume) back in the kingdom with dad (although I suppose he could fly) but then why would he need her protection.

The story just doesn't seem to go from point A to point B. The king wants to kill the dragon and that makes him a despot? If he knew the dragon was his son would he still want to kill him? Ahhhhhh. Now there's a story. But here you seem to want the best of all worlds. The dragon is prince AND the only hope of the rebellion? That doesn't make sense. If the dragon kills the king, then the prince becomes king right? So why the rebellion and hiding and other stuff?

Anyway, I think you're getting closer and it sounds like a cool story with potential, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the time to write that all out. It's like you're still trying to get to the "thing behind the thing."

Oh and lose this: Nadine's love for her dragon is rivaled only by King Joseph’s fear of death.


Author said...

Revised version, with new title:

Dear Evil Editor,

When free-thinker Belle is informed at the Embers Ball that she’s affianced to the egotistical Prince of Embero; she is simply appalled. On the eve of the grand wedding, she flees, and a reward without parallel is issued for her head.

Belle, like her mother, has the ability to control water, but unlike her mother, she has been marked from birth as the guardian of the Last Dragon. This mighty beast possesses a golden vein—a filament in the heart—that has the power to grant immortality, something the King of Embero longs to have. Aided only by an aspiring soldier and his spell-weaving sister, Belle journeys to the Mainland.

Belle falls in love with the Dragon when she discovers that a beautiful soul exists within him. What Belle and the King of Embero don't know is that the Dragon is really the prince--the king's son, betrothed of Belle, and the reason she ran away in the first place.

BELLE, a YA fantasy novel is complete at 100,000 words

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Sarah Laurenson said...

Not sure Belle is a better name, but...

I think this is better. It's more concise, simpler.

Aided only by an aspiring soldier and his spell-weaving sister, Belle journeys to the Mainland.

The Mainland means nothing to me. I have no frame of reference for it. And what does journeying to the Mainland mean to the story? If she needs all that aid, I would hope for something stronger than journeying.

150 said...

The semicolon between "Embero" and "she" should be a comma.

Is the king concerned whether whoever captures her head keeps it attached to her neck?

I am not entirely sure at what point the prince becomes a dragon, if Belle has been marked from birth to protect him but the king is setting him up with human girls. Sometime between the engagement and the wedding?

This reads much better. Good luck!

Dave Fragments said...

I had the same thoughts as Sarah when she commented about the mainland.

Instead of journeys to the mainland you can say flees to the mainland and the reason is to avoid the marriage and save the dragon.

That strengthens that sentence. But I'm not fond of the flow between the paragraphs. What would happen if you dropped that sentence entirely. Of course, you still need the info it carries. So come back up to the first paragraph, when she flees the wedding she does so for two reasons: 1) she doesn't like arranged weddings and 2) she knows of her "prophetic" destiny and seeks out the dragon. So the last sentence of the first paragraph now has to carry that extra information about the dragon.

The reward is a minor plot detail that you don't need. Think about rewriting that sentence to make Belle's escape twofold, fleeing the wedding and seeking out the dragon of prophecy.

Changing the words that way would give each paragraph a distinct duty: the first to introduce the wedding and lead to the prophecy, the second to describe the prophecy and the third to present the complication of the love affair.

BTW - I'm not sure that "affianced" works as well as "betrothed" ... And I'm not sure you still don't need a hook in front of these three paragraphs

Ellie said...

Yes, this works much better. I don't think you need to mention her mother at all, though.

And I'd maybe find another phrase than "simply appalled." It just reads like a stuffy society lady to me. "When Lord Watson shows up at the Embers ball wearing a blue cravat instead of a red one, Belle is simply appalled." Not the kind of emotion that makes one run away with a dragon. But this could just be me.

Anonymous said...

Belle of the Ball?

Belle falling in love with "The Beast?" SeriouslY?

Anonymous said...

affianced? if you're writing for YA's, would the average YA reader be aware of such a word? I think the average adult/commercial fiction reader would struggle with it...

Anonymous said...

The White Witch makes me think of Narnia.