Monday, April 19, 2010

Face-Lift 758

Guess the Plot


1. They don't stop. They drone on and on. They nitpick and complain and harangue and argue and drive Simone bonkers. Oddly enough, she's deaf. Also, a hot otologist.

2. With his homeland in chaos and the Inquisition on his tail, Ethan turns to his only weapon: his own voice as he reads his captivating poetry. As he says, A broadsword will quite often kill, but nothing's worse than listening to verse.

3. Telephone operator Doris Spellman is put out of work by a computer. When her son sends her a laptop for her fifty-eighth birthday, Doris vents her frustration on the laptop, which coughs up information on the machines' plot to destroy mankind. Can Doris save us all or will she be sent to a mental institution for hearing . . . Voices?

4. Uber-wealthy oil heiress Stephanie Barron has been deaf since infancy. But when the brilliant and handsome surgeon Karl Weidman says he'll restore her hearing if she'll marry him, she says yes... and discovers, post-surgery, that her new husband sounds like PeeWee Herman on helium.

5. A collection of essays taken from interviews with whoever would give the author the time of day.

6. Annoyed by arguments in the apartment above her, Deb Winkler investigates, only to find the loft deserted. One night she hears a violent fight break out and cowers in her apartment . . . until she hears cries for help coming from above—in her own voice.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Ethan is a poet with a rare gift. His poetry [actually rhymes.] can do more than captivate audiences: it can command thoughts, or even alter reality itself. As Ethan struggles to control his new abilities, he stumbles upon the grisly slaying of an Inquisition Operative. [We need to know what the Inquisition is, or else we're gonna think Spanish Inquisition. (If it is the Spanish Inquisition, change "operative" to God's Torture Squad.)] Sent to retrieve a dangerous artifact from a hidden shrine, the murdered agent was betrayed by his partner, and now the artifact is missing. [Actually, I'm pretty sure the partner has it, so it's not exactly "missing."] Without the artifact, Ethan's home, once a safe haven from the bustle and pollution of the city, is suddenly filled with misfortune and chaos. [Ethan's home was always without the artifact. It was in the shrine. Perhaps you mean Ethan's village or homeland. If you name his home it'll be easier to talk about it.] [Similarly, if you'd tell us what the artifact is, you wouldn't have to keep using the word "artifact." All I think of when I hear "artifact" is an old thing. Try reading the previous two sentences substituting "old thing" for "artifact": Sent to retrieve a dangerous old thing from a hidden shrine, yada yada, and now the old thing is missing. Without the old thing . . . See, it gets annoying.] At first trying to avoid trouble and stay out of the hands of the Inquisition, Ethan seeks only to further his poetry career. [You can make a career out of poetry? What kind of twisted world is this?] But with his friends kidnapped by a deranged criminal and Ethan pursued by the Inquisition, he can no longer remain uninvolved. [This seems to contradict the previous sentence to a degree. Trying to stay out of the Inquisition's hands, he focuses on poetry. But pursued by the Inquisition he can't stay uninvolved. In both cases the Inquisition is after him, so what changed?] Forced to confront his own cowardice Ethan must make a choice: continue to hide in coffee shops and gin dens, or learn to control his gift and find the stolen artifact before the home he loves is torn apart. [If you're hanging out in coffee shops, are you technically "hiding"?] [He was already struggling to control his abilities back in sentence 3, so how can you imply that only now must he decide whether to learn to control his gift?]

My novel VOICES, is a 100,000-word SteamPunk-Fantasy that will appeal to readers of both China Mielville [If you're gonna mention him, may as well spell his name right.] and Bruce Sterling.

Thank you considering my submission, the manuscript is available upon request.



Your story starts when Ethan decides he must spring into action. But we get nothing about what happens after that. Less setup, more plot.

Recovering the artifact would be a bigger challenge if it were in the possession of the Inquisition rather than one guy.

Why is the Inquisition chasing a poet instead of their traitorous member? Do they think Ethan has the artifact?

It's not clear what you mean by his poetry can command thoughts and alter reality. What, exactly, can he do? Change history? Make every member of the Inquisition think, I must commit suicide immediately? How does he know his poetry has these powers?

We don't need the friends who've been kidnapped, as they're not mentioned anywhere else.

Paragraphing would help. After the 2nd sentence and after "chaos."

Maybe you should start from scratch: When the Jade Scarab is stolen from Numbville's sacred shrine, the village plunges into chaos, and only cowardly poet Ethan Milktoast can halt the descent. To do so means taking on the Inquisition, an organization dedicated to the eradication of rhyme.

Ethan's poetry can command thoughts, or even alter reality itself. But before he can use it to take down the diabolical Inquisition, he must learn to control it. He must learn when to attack with blank verse and when to defend with a rhyming couplet. He must learn the risks of reciting a Haiku and accidentally using the wrong number of syllables. And that no matter how perilous his situation, he must never, never attack with a Limerick.

That pretty much covers your setup, and still leaves room to tell us about the climactic poetry slam.


_*rachel*_ said...

Go with something like EE's rewrite, replacing the funny stuff with what actually happens. Though the version you sent in isn't Vogon poetry, it's no T.S. Eliot.

When I heard the title, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition. NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION! When you started talking about the Inquisition, though, I did expect it to be the Spanish Inquisition. OH, DID YOU? NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION. What I mean to say is that you should establish that this is, in fact, not the Spanish Inquisition SAYS YOU by giving us a few clues that this isn't Earth before you mention the SPANISH Inquisition.


150 said...

I can't really figure out where or when this is supposed to take place.

In the line: "My novel VOICES, is a" you need a comma after "novel" too.

As always (AS ALWAYS) it could do with more specificity.

Good luck!

angela robbins said...

So I envision his last poetry session to go something like this:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I will transform into a hot, sexy, irresistible gazillionaire...

Oh, wait that doesn't rhyme. Who cares, I'm stinkin' rich and surrounded by tons of chicks.
To hell with poetry!

The End

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I just want to say that *rachel* is my hero for working a Monty Python reference AND a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference into one comment.

Unknown said...

You also mention this is a steampunk novel, but not one sentence in the query gave me a clue that it was set in a steampunk world. There is zero atmosphere here.

Jeb said...


Isn't that the title of a Vogon love poem?

Rachel, I adore you!

Author, this is steampunk? There is absolutely nothing in the query to support your claim. Give us a wondrous machine, or two, or something.

(for steampunk fans, here's the ultimate steampunk computer:

Stephen Prossapio said...

I agree with what's been written so far. Again a protaganist can only resist "protaganation" (or THE SPANISH INQUISITION) for so long. Hiding out and going to coffee houses is not protaganist-worthy action. Show us what he is DOING.

I like the idea that poetry can change things.

Tom Bridgeland said...

I am wondering what the Inquisition is inquiring into. Is this a religious inquisition, government, private gang, or what? What do they want to know, and why do they want to know it? Something to do with the mind-altering poetry?

Quick! Send a revision to Phoenix!

Joe G said...

I'd go with what EE and other said. On an unrelated note...

I'm going to send in a query like this:

"Albion Kelethor was a vampire-werewolf-venus flytrap-caterpillar quatrybrid who was wanted by the Mulgate Division, a conspiratorial underground group that secretly controlled the Kingdom of Alfalfa and was lead by Albion's girlfriend 300 years ago Brianna Dance'n'dream because he had the Wishing Stone, which would do something awesome for somebody if they figured out what to do with it.

Albion spends most of the book hiding out in a coffee shop down the street from his apartment using his mutant power to solve crossword puzzles using only the word "nougat" for every question while Brianna searches desperately for him until my twist ending, which is so awesome you will surely want to read my book to find out what it is.

My book is a 174,000 word work of literary fiction. I would like to know how much you are willing to pay me to have a glance at my genre shattering genius and find out if Albion ever evolves into his fifth form, Werevamtterflytrap, evil editor."

P.S. Did anyone else totally want to read the one about the girl who hears her voice in the upstairs room?

P.P.S. How much ARE you willing to pay me, EE?

Anonymous said...

How nifity
When poetifity
Meets gravitifity.

Mental free falling. I'll be adding "ifity" to every word that runs through my mindifity all day.