Friday, April 30, 2010

Face-Lift 763

Guess the Plot

The Emperor's Edge

1. The citizens are revolting. Seriously. To regain their respect, the emperor will have to rely on something never before seen in Sphereland.

2. What good is being an emperor if you can't have your own private tailor, your own private mistress, and your own private assassin? And, you save money if they're all the same person.

3. Tony Spagnolo owns the world's third largest razor company. He sets out with a daring plan to steal a fantastic new blade design from The Emperor Shaving Company. Can he beat the high tech security system and get . . . The Emperor's Edge?

4. For centuries the god-emperors of Dagot have ruled their kingdom with their unstoppable fighting style - until a humble street orphan stumbles onto their secret. All he has to do now is publish it before they can kill him. Of course, first he'll need . . . a query letter.

5. Idealist Jorian Vangnor sets out to compete in the Sacred Games. The victor becomes absolute ruler of the Sycrovian Empire for the next five years. Little does he know that the current Emperor has already marked the cards, shaved the dice, and gimmicked the roulette wheel.

6. Amaranthe Lokdon is supposed to be protecting the emperor with her blade, but she has her own problems: everybody in the city is trying to kill her, and her actual weapon of choice is a coffee canister. At least she's prepared if she needs a caffeine fix.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Imperial law enforcer, Amaranthe Lokdon, is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when an arson [arsonist] destroys a giant kiln, [Fire destroying a kiln is like a rainstorm destroying a swimming pool. In the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the entire downtown was destroyed; the only thing left was a kiln.] a mysterious creature ravages innocent citizens, and a secret coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed. [I'd remove the kiln from the list of stuff that's overwhelming her. Right now it's like saying a secret service agent is overwhelmed because terrorists are attacking the White House, Klingons are destroying Washington and his toaster is malfunctioning.] Matters get worse when her investigations annoy the wrong person, and a bounty lands on her head. Soon gangsters, assassins, and even co-workers are trying to kill her. [Why would anyone want to be an imperial law enforcer in a world where if an imperial law enforcer annoys you, you can put a bounty on her head and everyone will try to kill her? Instead of having imperial law enforcers they should just put bounties on all criminals.]

The only person not attempting to cash in is the most infamous criminal in the city, an assassin named Sicarius. He has an inexplicable interest in keeping the emperor alive, which makes him the perfect ally, [If everyone's trying to kill me, my perfect ally is gonna be someone with an inexplicable interest in keeping me alive, not the emperor. Screw the emperor.] [In any case, if there are 30,001 people in this city, and 30,000 of them are trying to kill me, I'm not teaming up with the other one; I'm getting out of Dodge.] in a dear-ancestors-sometimes-he’s-more-evil-than-the-villains kind of way. [Not clear what "dear ancestors" is doing there. Is it like Oh my God? I'd get rid of it. Or change it to Oh my God. And get rid of the comma after ally.] His coldhearted indifference to humanity chills Amaranthe, but she finds herself awed by his deadly athleticism, intrigued by the past he won’t speak about, and tickled that he actually listens to her crazy schemes. Together they might have a chance to thwart the ringleaders and save the emperor, but when her curiosity drives her to unearth Sicarius’s secrets, the revelation could start a civil war....

The Emperor's Edge is a fantasy novel, complete at 105k words. I would be pleased to send it for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.



As you focus the query on protecting the emperor with no further mention of the mysterious creature, I'd leave out the creature entirely. Unless Sicarius's secret is that he's responsible for the creature's killing spree, in which case the last plot sentence might read: Together they might have a chance to thwart the ringleaders and save the emperor, but when she discovers that the mysterious creature that's been killing people is actually Sicarius in a bear costume, the revelation could start a civil war.....

If Sicarius is a wolfman, we need to know that.


Bernita said...

The story sounds great.
Just clean up the query.

Anonymous said...

Why would an arsonIST destroy a kiln?
A "tad" overwhelmed? I am not getting this but some days I don't get much. This is one of those days. She uses blades and coffee cans eh? Wow. What is a myterious creature? I have them on my walls and climbing around my balcony. Mine are small and eat bugs. What do yours do? If I were you I'd listen to Evil. A lot.
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

PS Can "chilled", "awed", "intrigued", and "tickled" work in one sentence? I'm in awe. I wouldn't have the courage to drive that one anywhere soon. B.

writtenwyrdd said...

"...a bounty lands on her head." I'm sorry, this is not helpful, but that left me with the image of a roll of paper towels bouncing off her head, and the woman looks up and screams, "Anacronism alert!"

In a more helpful vein, you are compiling a list of lists in this letter. Perhaps reduce that a bit. I don't think this is such a bad letter, but it's so full of stuff that I don't have a feel for what the crux of the matter is, and my eyes are glazed over from trying to digest all this information.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Yeah. An assassin not taking advantage of a bounty is like a writer not taking advantage of being trapped in an elevator with a publisher.

Seems like there is a story here, just not coming out through the query because you're bogged down in the wrong details. What does the protag want? What's standing in her way? What happens if she fails?

Agents and editors don't take well to having "mysterious elements" like your kiln thrown into a query and not explained. Focus on your character.

E.D. Walker said...

Is Sicarius the emperor's long lost brother or something? Is that why he wants to keep the emperor alive?

vkw said...

I think there is a story here. I can see it wants to be told but you are not doing it in your query.

I don't like the coffee canister part.

We need to know more about the mysterious monster.

"annoy the wrong person" sounds like she pokes someone or wears too much perfume.

I think I would specify exactly what that means. Does she get too close to solving the mystery or finding the culprit.

"bounty lands on her head?" really? maybe the baddie, whoever that is, puts a bounty on her head because she is getting to close to revealing who he is and what he's up to?

And it goes on. . . start over. I believe there is a story here but right now I don't know what it is.

Tom Bridgeland said...

And I'd like to know why the heroine is named after a South American grain.

_*rachel*_ said...

There's so much overwhelming her that I'M getting overwhelmed. I'm definitely interested, but it would help if you pared things down a bit.

I like the voice here--for example, the dryness of "a tad overwhelmed." Just a thought, but could you later say the bounty on her head is so big she almost considers turning herself in? I think it'd be funny, though I could be wrong.

I say pare down on what you have and elaborate on what happens after she starts working with this killer. Maybe:

When arsonists, monsters, and conspirators set out to both destroy the capital city and kill the emperor she's vowed to defend, Amaranthe feels just a tad overwhelmed. Even so, she sets out to find whoever's behind it all.

Unfortunately, whoever's behind it all thinks she's a threat and starts pulling strings. Now the city thinks Amaranthe's a criminal, and the bounty is so large even she's tempted to turn herself in.

But there's one person in the city who doesn't care about the reward, and it's not who she expected: it's Sicarius, the assassin. He has an uncharacteristic interest in keeping the emperor alive. He's also ruthless, coldhearted, and a valuable ally. He actually listens to Amaranthe's crazy schemes. Together, they'll either save the city or start a civil war.

The Emperor's Edge is a fantasy novel, complete at 105k words. I would be pleased to send it for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Or something like that. That's not one of my better query revisions.

Joe G said...

Now there's a funny story. A city with such a high crime rate the government issues bounties to the criminals if they are willing to turn themselves in and endure jail time.

Or maybe they just use the bounties to buy their way out and go back to their life of crime.

A never ending cycle of doom.

Lindsay Buroker said...

Thanks for posting my query, Evil Editor, and thanks for the suggestions, folks.

M. G. E. said...

The tone and voice of the query should match that of the novel.

The tone here reminds me of Piers Anthony. Problem is, Piers Anthony matched a light tone with light subject matter (I'll never forget the Vale of the Voles).

Your plot has a very serious subject. Assassins, plots, bounty hunters, emperors, etc. It's difficult to pull that off with such a light tone, unless you're writing in 1st person and the protag is a light-hearted jokester herself.

I don't understand the kiln being destroyed by fire either >_> The second you do something in a query that is inexplicable there's a problem.

But agents don't want you to be their problem, thus the form rejection :P

batgirl said...

Rachel, that's a damn fine rewrite, whether it matches the real plot or not. (Lindsay, are you on OWW? you sound familiar)