Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Face-Lift 765

Guess the Plot


1. When people of different races "intermingle" their bond is called heartsouls. They can then do magic, which is illegal, but very tempting if you're not at the top of the food chain.

2. Heartsouls, brainaether, stomachbile. . . René feels he's just one step from understanding reductionism. Can he figure it out before the other rationalists laugh at him?

3. Once a generation, two fae are born with identical hearts but switched souls. To survive, they must meet, marry and have children. But what happens when both are born male?

4. A confused cardiac surgeon transplants his patients' souls with disastrous yet hilarious results.

5. A teacher snaps when his students plunk out the only tune they know on the piano for the kazillionth time and orders his pet demon to steal their hearts and their souls.

6. Anna and Daryn are, like, meant to be one soul! But Anna's dad is so a monster, and Daryn's not going to get the girl until he he gets a level 45 mace of doom.

Original Version

Dear EE:

Over the last thousand years, the people of Maore divided their society [The Maore are widely considered the most lethargic people in the galaxy.] and in the process turned their backs on magic. The races, Argent and Silver, that the Spirits meant to be joined, split, and magic died. Now two people have the chance to bring about change.

Marguerite Navarre is an Argent, part of the elite race of Maore. Marguerite finds life at the top of the food chain to be filled with [sharks, and just below them,] smug, boring people and endless lectures on duty. Then her home compound is attacked and any Argents found are killed [and eaten, demonstrating that life at the bottom of the food chain isn't so great either.] including her parents. Marguerite flees for her life and is rescued by young men of the subservient race of Silvers. [Where are the Silvers, food chain-wise?]

Although prevented by law and custom from associating with Argents, these Silvers do not follow the rules. They agree to help her get to the capital to warn the Empereur. To one of the young men, Marguerite is both drawn and repelled. [Drawn to, repelled by.] He is her opposite in every way, from his enormous confidence [Women are always drawn to a man with enormous confidence. Which explains why I keep getting emails promising to enlarge my confidence.] to his complete lack of scruples. He cannot be honest about his age- let alone his motives. [How does she know he's not being honest?

How old are you?
Lying bastard!!]

As the killing of Argents continues, [Who is killing them? Are you sure the Argents are at the top of the food chain?] [You already said any Argents found in the compound were killed. Are they now being killed beyond the compound? What exactly is a compound? By its most common definition, I would expect the subservient race to be kept in a compound.] Marguerite’s unprecedented relationship with the Silver [It's not unprecedented; the races intermingled before they split.] has caused them to develop magic. A magic of fire and air, that only works when a Silver and an Argent form a bond called heartsouls. [If the relationship is the bond, then you're basically saying Forming a bond has caused them to develop magic that only works when they form a bond. Which is somewhat repetitive.]

Now Marguerite is confronted with a choice, slink back to her old life, ignoring duty and her new friends, or become a weapon to stop those responsible for murdering the Argents. To do this, Marguerite must face the anger of her fellow Argents [You can't spell Argent without anger.] and trust the charming Silver with whom she’s bonded, despite the ease with which he lies. [If you name him you won't have to keep referring to him as "the Silver."]

Heartsouls is an epic fantasy with strong elements of romance complete at 140,000 words. It is the first of a series, with the second well on its way.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.


If I understand your message correctly, you're saying the French are superior to the Americans, but not as superior as they think they are.

You claim silver and argent are the races, but later say that argent is part of the elite race. What are the other parts?

You say one of Marguerite's choices is to slink back to her old life. How can she do that when all the Argents in her compound have been murdered?

What exactly is magic? What can you do if you have magic of fire and air? If magic is really powerful, I find it hard to believe no one's been tempted to bond and use it for centuries.

Maore is an actual place on Earth. Is your Maore a planet? Country? Maore also sounds a lot like Maori.


_*rachel*_ said...

This is a rare case where calling two races Silver and Argent is probably OK, because they used to be one people. So whatever you do with the query, keep that in.

Why does the Empereur use the French spelling if he's a Silver? Is he Argent?

There are a few places, like the second sentence and the fourth paragraph, where I feel like your sentence structure is getting in the way of the meaning. Being more direct while saying the same thing would clear it up a bit.

Skip the food chain bit.

Who attacks the compound? Why? Use the answer to make that sentence active instead of passive.

All in all, you get your point across, but sometimes you choose a less direct way. If you can be a little more straightforward, you'll have room to tell us more about their journey to the Empereur and how they defeat this mysterious enemy.

Anonymous said...

And I'm not the only person who's going to notice that the races are named the same thing. "Argent" is an archaic name for "silver", and is still used in heraldry. Is there a reason for naming both races the same thing?

vkw said...

We need to know more about the enemy. I think you have a story here. It may be a bit too long, however, for your first book.

You may have to think of developing a triology to compensate for this.

Matt said...

140k is a tough, tough sell. You'll need to write the query to end all queries.

Naming the races Argent and Silver will give this novel's international translators a headache.

Anonymous said...

I love EE. He is the only reader who's mentioned the french words. He also found a place called Maore after I carefully googled it and got nothing. Not carefully enough I guess.

Argent means money in french. The Argents have the money and live in walled compounds at the center of the cities. The silvers are lower- like silver coins are worth less then gold.

I didn't say who attacked the Argents because they don't know and I didn't want to give it away. Should I use something like "mysterious attacker"?

I also left her heartsoul's name from the query so you wouldn't know which one he is right away. That I can change.

Thanks for the help.

Evil Editor said...

Argent means money in french.

It also means silver in French.

Evil Editor said...

I didn't say who attacked the Argents because they don't know

Was it people? Does that narrow it down to Argents or Silvers? Or are there other races of people? If those are the only possibilities, the Argents aren't going to claim they don't know who did it; they're gonna claim it was the Silvers. This, of course, means it was the Argents, or you wouldn't be trying to keep it a secret. Sorry, but the cat's out of the bag.

Anonymous said...

The attackers are creatures created by magic, so the villian can stay hidden. I didn't want to complicate the query more by describing the creatures. I couldn't think of a way to say it in few words.

Argents are a small part of the population. The more of them die, the less chance anyone else discovers the magic because it takes both races working together. That is the motivation for the attacks. The villian wants to wipe out all the Argents he can. He/She uses magic- meaning one of each race is involved.

It was so difficult to condense into a query. What to include, what to take out.

Marissa Doyle said...

"I also left her heartsoul's name from the query so you wouldn't know which one he is right away."

Yes, but the agent needs to know. A query letter is not the place to play coy and keep secrets.

I did find the French a little much--why did you choose it? If this is a planet colonized by Frenchman or something, fine...but there has to be some good reason.

150 said...

I was another one of those who read this and said, "But 'argent' is just a fancy way of saying 'silver'..." I would be happier if the names slid farther apart, if it was the Sills versus the Argentry, or if one of them was upgraded to gold or reduced to bronze. Something like that.

It is worth noting that the map of Maore that EE found is the second Google result.

Jeb said...

Sounds like something I would enjoy reading, if I already knew what it was.

If you don't understand the above sentence, welcome to my world on reading this query. I THINK I know where it's trying to go, but getting there might take a lot more mental energy than I can spare for something that's supposedly going to be leisure reading.

You need more clarity and less holding back on the tantalizing clues. The agent (or, more likely, their underpaid assistant) won't read the whole manuscript to find out who was behind the attack on her compound, much less the real secret identity of her saviour. Trust me on this.

(word ver: morti
Deadly or what? )

Anonymous said...

Michelle -- in a query, you have to tell things immediately that you wouldn't immediately reveal in a story. You're querying an agent, not seducing a reader into reading your book. Or, as someone once explained it to me: "You don't do a striptease for your gynecologist."

Anonymous said...

Juliet: You rescued me!
Romeo: Yep
Juliet: Your not supposed to do that, your a Montague.
Romeo: I should have left you to die.
Juliet: Then I couldn't warn the emperor.
Romeo: Now I love you, but it is forbidden.
Juliet: That makes sense.
Romeo: I know, right?
Juliet: Now I'm magical.
Rome: That's the mushrooms talking.

Joe G said...

I feel like I have a good idea of the situation, but not of the plot, or what the true conflict is, because you apparently think it's too clever to waste on a query. If it's that good, waste it, by all means. Have confidence in your ability to come up with a clever plot and hook the agent with it. Be critical of yourself before you ask others to be.

Can we say once and for all that a true conflict is NOT choosing between "doing nothing and going home" and "acting out even though it is scary and dangerous"? That's a perfunctory choice every protagonist must make at the beginning of their story. Obviously if your character does not act, there is no story. To have a character choose NOT to act is a profound statement with repercussions, but this isn't French existentialism (or is it...?).

I just feel like it's something I see in a lot of the queries. "In my novel, My Year with the Monkeys, Jane Goodall must choose between her comfortable upper class life and going to live with the monkeys." Duh. It's the sort of redundancy that makes me go "Does her novel really need to be that long?"

Same with the endless exposition before you get to the plot... if you can convey your story efficiently, you give hope that the writing is efficient as well. There's a big difference between "Jane sits and dithers between monkeys and tea" and "Jane LEAVES her boring life to live with the monkeys!"

Joe G said...

I want to qualify all that by saying I don't really have a problem with the naming. It went over my head and I think it's perhaps even a little clever if you're trying to make a point about the dual nature of the two people. Also, I am interested in knowing more about the two main characters, and wish you had spent more time on that.

writtenwyrdd said...

This is largely unexciting as you give a lot of backstory and explanation without giving us personal stakes for your protagonists. What happens? What's at stake? What are the consequences for your protag if she fails? And why should we care? You need to tell us things that engage our emotions and our interest so that we want to read the story to find out what happens.

I'm not at all fond of the French spelling of emperor, but at least you use it in combination with Argent. I also think that if you are going to use Argent and Silver for races, you might use Silver in the title?

Heartsouls is goofy-sounding to me and a bit pretentious. But just because I hate it doesn't mean anyone else will find it objectionable. But the problem I have with the word is that it doesn't sound like it really describes what's going on. You keep mentioning a bond that allows them to create magic, but if there is some soul bond that happens, why would the races have split and (by implication) become less than they were?

If you can explain how 'heartsouls' fits into the ancient split and the present-day story, it might fly better.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Michelle: I do think a query can have a bit of a mystery and tease in it, but remember that an agent is out to uncover the unique in stories. Your setup sounds like something that may have been somewhat original in the 60s when any number of similiarly themed Star Trek episodes aired, but now it will need an oomph to get noticed.

If your hook and what's unique about your story is the very thing you're keeping secret, that's a self-defeating strategy. If you don't make your story stand out, it won't stand out.

"You don't do a striptease for your gynecologist." -- Love it!!

And a tip of the tah to Mr. Anagram himself: "You can't spell Argent without anger."

none said...

I don't see that the author needs a better reason for using French names than for using English names. If it is an alien planet with no Earth connections, both are equally inappropriate and therefore equally useable.

writtenwyrdd said...

Buffy, agreed, she's the author and can do what she wants. But I still think the use of French spellings of common words is pretty much a smeerp and pretentious because it calls attention to itself. So unless the society is overtly French beyond a few spellings and a race name, I believe the choice is a fail.

Bernita said...

Phoenix said: remember that an agent is out to uncover the unique in stories.

batgirl said...

Is the heroine's name meant to evoke the historical Marguerite de Navarre?
My first thought on seeing the name was that this was alt-hist. I like the idea of drawing the imagined world from French sources instead of the usual Celtic or Germanic, but I'm curious whether it's carried through or mostly superficial.

Heather Munn said...

EE, you think subordinates are more likely to live in compounds? Sounds like you've never been to Africa.

The rich live in walled compounds so the poor don't steal their stuff, or hang round their houses and beg.

Evil Editor said...

Guess it depends on which African country you're talking about. According to Random House dictionary:

(in the Far East) an enclosure containing residences, business offices, or other establishments of Europeans.

(in Africa) a similar enclosure for native laborers.

any enclosure, esp. for prisoners of war.

Heather Munn said...

Michelle, I would say don't hold back on us in any way. I think Phoenix is right that you CAN do a bit of tease in a query, but I still feel like that's the same kind of advice as "It's okay to break the rules of writing sometimes." It think those things are reserved for the pros.

Basically, spoilers are good. The reaction to a spoiler is first "He did WHAT!" and then "Oh crap, why'd you tell me that?" Anything that makes your agent say "He did WHAT!" is very, very good, and your agent's not going to say the second thing, because she's not reading your book for pleasure. She's reading it to find out if it's any good, and the sooner she knows yes or no the happier she is.

So, tell us the guy's name, tell us who attacked the compound and why, (without worrying about all the details--how 'bout two words that give us what the attackers look like, maybe "strange magical monsters", "murderous invisible attackers," "lethal winged pigs"?) And tell us what her choice is a bit later in the book.

Someone pointed out to me that every book, and every movie too, has an Act I, Act II and Act III. In Act I the situation is set up and the initial choice is made, or the initial problem solved. In Act II the plot thickens, things get messy and bad, our hero is in desperate straits; in Act III comes the climax, the hero's final choice and action, and resolution. Think any trilogy you know: the first three Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings.

All that to say, you're giving us your character's Act I choice: whether to take action or not. (It's like in Lord of the Rings: is Frodo going to take the Ring to Mordor? That's his choice in the first movie.) What you need to be doing is summarizing the relevant bits of Acts I and II as briefly as possible and then focusing on Act III and its climax and choice in your main paragraph. It's hard to do this briefly; I suggest writing a longer version first so you don't frustrate yourself, and then working on shortening it.

Heather Munn said...

That's interesting, EE, I didn't know it was used both ways. I lived briefly in Nigeria, where compounds with walls topped with broken glass enclose the rich (Nigerians and foreigners) the way I described. (They also have "guards" who open and close the big metal gates for cars to go through. I once asked if these guards were paid extra since it's a position of trust, and the compound-dweller looked at me like I was nuts... and I thought "You are so going to get robbed.")

I bet the compounds in the dictionary are in South Africa, probably.

Evil Editor said...

Didn't they keep the prawns in a big compound in South Africa in District 9?