Monday, March 22, 2010

Face-Lift 744

Guess the Plot

Witch Tourniquet

1. Which tourniquet? Yes. No, that's what I'm asking, which tourniquet? Yes, Witch Tourniquet. Which tourniquet? Exactly.

2. Joan thought she had problems when zombies started sprouting in her flowerbeds. Then, this morning it rained lobsters. Maybe scrubbing the marks off that oddly-shaped stone in the back was a bad idea.

3. Called two a bloody seen, EMT Hairy is inn the zone. Cot off guard by the charms of accident victim Merry, he falls head over heals. Meanwhile, he kneads too figure out witch tourniquet will fit thee fatso with thee concussion.

4. After setting the governor's tie on fire, Alice is sentenced to be executed. She is sent to Gallows Hill. There, a group of dead witches stalk her dreams and plot to kill her. That was one hell of a tie.

5. Wounded in battle, Steve Logan is dying when a "nurse" stanches the bleeding with a spell. Is this the beginning of a beautiful romance, or will Steve be unable to deal with the fact that his true love is a witch, sort of like Darren didn't want Sam doing magic on Bewitched?

6. Nearsighted witch Polly thought the big sign was advertising a "Witch Tournament" and decided to enter. When she finds out it's basically a witch bloodletting, hilarity ensues.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After setting the governor’s tie on fire, Alice Sheraton is discovered to be a witch; thus, the governor appoints [Schedules? Sentences?] her for an execution. Her status as a socialite, however, sets her free when her father bails her [out] and sends her to a safe house known as Gallows Hill. [I'm surprised that a legal system would allow bail for someone sentenced to die. Especially if she's a socialite.] Downtrodden, she resigns herself to being hated by the world and living a life that has no future for witches. [We just did a novel about a persecuted werewolf, now we have a persecuted witch. It's an inevitable backlash against authors who stereotype murderous villains as evil.]

But Gallows Hill isn’t the safe house she expected it to be. On her first night there, Alice finds her way to a secret library where she discovers a hellish cross that sends her visions and nightmares. To worsen matters, a dead witch called a Shadowman begins stalking her dreams, urging her to destroy the cross. [If I had a hellish cross that was sending me nightmares, I wouldn't need any urging to destroy it.] Tired of nightmares and seeking a purpose for her life, she tries to get rid of the cross, only to discover that the same Shadowman who sent her the warning wants to kill her for reasons unknown to her. [If someone wants to kill me, I don't need to know the reasons. I'm long gone.]

Not only does her stalker want to kill her, but when she can’t get rid of the cross, [Whaddaya mean, she can't get rid of it? Did she try throwing it in a lake or in a trash dumpster, or putting it in an envelope and mailing it to Ethiopia?] the leader of the Shadowmen Alliance orders her death as well. [Once you've said that one Shadowman wants Alice dead, telling us another Shadowman wants her dead doesn't raise the threat level much. Move on.] Now she must escape Gallows Hill before any of the Shadowmen have a chance to kill her. [Why didn't she need to escape Gallows Hill before the first Shadowman had a chance to kill her?]

Witch Tourniquet is a YA fantasy complete at 95,000.

My name is _______ ________, [as you will discover at the end of this paragraph when you read my signature,] and I have been published in The Oddville Press Issue V and used to write articles aimed at teens in The Xtreme section of The Augusta Chronicle. [Can you get me into the Masters?] I am also the president of the Augusta State University Creative Writing Club [Change your name to the Southeast Writers Alliance. Being president of a club doesn't sound impressive.]


I'd prefer a title that means something to me.

You'd think a live witch could handle some dead witches. Is a Shadowman more powerful than a witch? As a witch, what powers does Alice have? Can't she save herself with magic, like by turning her executioner into a warthog and transporting to another country? What's the point of making her a witch if she can't do witchcraft?


Chicory said...

Hi. I've been lurking awhile. :)

I thought Witch Tourniquet sounded interesting, but I was a bit confused on the setting. The mention of the governor's tie had me picturing modern times, but the fact that the heroine gets a death sentence for witchcraft sounds more Colonial or Middle Ages. Is the setting America, or somewhere in Europe?

Another question: what is her father's connection to Gallow's Hill? Is there some kind of family curse, or is it just rotten luck that she attracted the attention of all these Shadowmen?

Thanks for sharing the query. That must take a lot of courage.

Matt said...

Gallows Hill is a better title than Witch Tourniquet.

There are a lot of needless words and phrases that slow this query down: downtrodden, to worsen matters, tired of nightmares and seeking a new purpose in life, as well.

The opening paragraph raises questions. It might be better to just say...

"After seventeen-year-old Alice Sheraton is discovered to be a witch, she flees to Gallows Hill, a mansion thought to be safeguarded by the souls of dead witches, only..."

The reason why the witches want to kill Alice must be revealed. The purpose of the cross should be mentioned too.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Author, this is a classic case of what is clear in your head not coming through on the page. I too was confused as to the time period and location. Witch trials suggest colonial America or Dark Ages Europe, but socialites and getting out on bail suggest a more modern, urban setting.

I agree with Matthew. We need more info on what the Shadowmen want and what the cross does. I'd also like to know a bit more about Alice and how she stands up to the forces arrayed against her.

Good luck!

Steve Wright said...

I agree with Sarah from Hawthorne - I'm sure this all makes sense to you, but it's not clear to me. For a start, why does this Shadowman warn Alice about the cross, then try to kill her? It doesn't make sense - unless there's something else going on in the story that you haven't told us about.

And why does setting someone's tie on fire mean you're a witch? And who exactly are these Shadowmen and what have they got against Alice? They seem to be the main antagonists... I think... so we need to know what their motivations are. And what does this "hellish cross" have to do with anything?

(And why would you call a safe house "Gallows Hill", anyway? As comforting names go, it's right up there with the Martin Bormann Daycare Centre.)

Anyway. I'd suggest rewriting this, with a view to linking together the logic of the plot - describing, not only what happens, but why it happens. That will make it much less perplexing.

(Does the tourniquet in the title ever get explained?)

vkw said...

I have to say what everyone else is saying,

1. Setting needs to be explained. It sounded like a paranormal/modern horror and then it wasn't when it sounded like we find witches all the time and have a special place for them - if they're rich enough to get bailed out.
2. Regardless of the setting there has to be some logic with the crime and punishment. If you are sentenced to death by the governor what is the chances you can get bailed out? I would think 0 to none. Maybe she was bailed out and then put into hiding. . . so she is now a fugitive?

Whatever the case may be it needs to be explained. I don't think it will matter much if you're a socialite. . . .now maybe if you were the president's daughter.
3. Galllows Hill is like calling an insane asylum Straightjaket Island or Zombie-Time Hospital. Or a prison, Gangland Jail or You're all Gonna Die Here Prison. Just isn't that comforting, as previously noted and doesn't so much foreshadow what is to come as it makes the reader go . . .WTF? Why would anyone make a safehouse called Gallows Hill? Make it . . . hmm, You're safe now. . . that would foreshadow something bad is about to happen better.
4. Why her? Why is she being stalked by the Shadowmen? Is it because of the cross, her family, just simple bad luck, she's chosen or any witch who accidentally sets the governor's tie on fire and escapes a death sentence attracts the attention of the baddies and thus is forced to help them as they plan her execution?

Anyway just a few things that made me go, Huh? This isn't good for a query, it should make me go, "oh cool!" Or "wow" . . .but not "eh?".

P.S. EE is right if you are an evil being, (vampire, werewolf, witch, zombie, harpie - we need a good harpie story), the writer needs to explain why the reader should not want the leading lady dead. Now a writer can pull out the misunderstood card, racial predjudice cliche, only some of us are bad explanation, never knew I was suppose to be bad, but ain't trump, I've changed my ways, I'll never be that way, I'll hunt rats first . . . or whatever the case may be but really . .. tell me why I don't want your heroine dead - she's evil (witch), she has no control of her powers and if she can set the governor's tie on fire what is she going to do to my neighborhood? Oh and you know, even if she isn't evil and plans nothing evil . . . why should I believe her? Because hey if I could do magic . . . I get to be the queen with minions, alot of them, think really bad dude on steroids. And so . . . why didn't she get herself out of jail?

Anonymous said...

I agree, Gallows Hill would be a much cooler title.

batgirl said...

I'm making a guess that a witch's tourniquet is the hangman's noose. You might want to make that clear in the 'sentenced to death' bit, if so.
Personally I think setting the tie on fire is a nice quirky opening, but it sets up an expectation of humour (gallows humour?) that the rest of the query doesn't seem to bear out. So you might want to consider what tone you're trying to set.
Word ver is 'venertio' - enertia in Venice?

Stephen Prosapio said...

I agree with most of what's been written already. Especially with "Gallows Hill" -- great title for a book--terrible name for a "safe" house.

As for the lighting the tie on fire....I'm imagining maybe she did it with some sort of spell or accidental telekinesis that exposed her as a witch? This would be important to clarify. Also that whole series of events from why she'd be sentenced to death to why she'd be granted bail for being a socialite doesn't make sense as written.

Slow things down and don’t be afraid of revealing too much.

150 said...

I know from your comments elsewhere that this is supposed to have a Victorian-type setting. I'm just throwing that out there in case someone has a good idea of how to incorporate that.

Xiexie said...

*Echoes the previous advice given by the other minions*

Also, thanks 150 for the time period clarification. I think it could be stated outright. I don't think that would take away from the query itself.

Please try a rewrite, author, as this query was quite confusing.

Word ver: psted, as in: Yesterday, when I was trying to get Matt's attention during lecture, I psted at him since he was only one row away.