Monday, June 07, 2010

Face-Lift 780

Guess the Plot

Elitist Morals

1. Adultery? So last year. Drugs? Are you kidding? Illegitimate kids? Been there, done that. Starvation diet to stay thin? Don't make me laugh. Vote Republican? What--are you some kind of immoral beast or something?

2. In a world where a pantheon of gods kidnap soon-to-be-followers from the streets, Markus Mark attempts to prove he is the holiest of the holy by obeying every law ordained by every god known to man, elf, sylph, or otherling.

3. Very impressive and intense events occur that illustrate the point of the story. The point is all about Elitist Morals and how bad they are. In the end, the reader will be disgusted with the Elitists and their bad Morals. The innocent victims may or may not be saved, but anyway you'll get the point. Elitists have bad Morals or no Morals.

4. All the little mushrooms in the forest like to clump together in haphazard harmony except for one clan--the Morchella, who have created their own enclave girt with pine branches . . . or has Big Agri-Business infiltrated even this sylvan paradise?

5. In the 41st century a World War breaks out between humans and Elytes. Elytes are vampires, but note that vampires is spelled with an "i" rather than a "y." On the other hand, Elytes is spelled with a "y" instead of an "i" so you probably all hate me anyway.

6. Cassie is the new girl at a school where the entire population of students and teachers is divided into two groups: those who are elitists and couldn't give a care about what's right and wrong; and those who have actual morals and know right from wrong. Which side will Cassie choose, knowing that once she does, she's stuck there for her entire elementary school life?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Elitist Morals

It's over two thousand years in the future and the world has been torn into another world war. [World War MCDLXXVIII. When will humanity ever learn? When will we stop the senseless numbering of wars in Roman numerals, forcing everyone to spend several minutes trying to translate the numbers into the international language, American?] [I'm not familiar with the expression to be torn into a war. Torn apart by a war or plunged/descended into a war are more common.] Except this one is between the two dominant species on the planet-- [sharks and cockroaches.] vampires and humans. The humans are fighting for their lives against one species of vampires called Elytes. [They actually have nothing against the Elytes except for the pretentious way they spell "Elytes." They'd have surrendered long ago, but they're afraid if they do, the Elytes will force them to call themselves Humyns.] The Elytes are fighting because they only consider humans as animals. [Didn't you ever take zoology? Humans are animals. We only consider ourselves superior to other animals because we dine on them.] [When vampires enter a World War with humans, don't they risk destroying their food supply? If they wipe us out, whose blood will they drink, given that in 2000 years chimpanzees will be extinct?] [The Elytes must have a better reason to fight than that they consider humans as animals. We consider horses animals, but we don't fight them.]

Riley Zvei is a vampire, but not an Elyte. [She'll drain the occasional human of his blood, but it's not for political reasons, it's because she's thirsty.] She is what is known as a Moralle vampire. [When you start spelling moral with an extra le, you're more Elitist than the Elytes.] She along with her twin brother, Sean, work for the humans on the largest front of the war as spies. The humans pay them to spy on the Elytes who pay them to just fight in the war. Now, though, after meeting a mysterious, mute Moralle by the name of Simon, Riley begins to wonder if she's actually playing for the right team. [She's playing for both teams.] [If you're so loyal to your cause that meeting a mute is enough to make you switch sides, your heart was never in it.]

After an argument with the human general, General-- [I would say "the human known as 'General.'"] [Did General always go by General, or did he used to go by Colonel?] he won't tell anyone his name-- over battle tactics, Riley decides to switch sides and convert to being an Elyte. [Her first act is to change her name to Rylë.] Her brother is appalled, General is dead, Simon still loves her, and Riley is an Elyte. What more can go wrong? [It's not clear that any of this is "wrong." Now that Riley's an Elyte, General being dead is a good thing. And what woman wouldn't want to be in a relationship where she gets to do all the talking?]


Does Riley get information from the mute by playing charades?

How does she know Simon is a mute and not a mime?

Elytes were claimed to be a species of vampire. To convert to being an Elyte, wouldn't Riley have to change her species?

I assume you know a query letter needs word count, genre, some kind of closing.

Just because we're human doesn't mean we think humans are the good guys. Apparently Riley believes humans are the bad guys, and as she's the main character, we may think she's on to something. Thus we need to know what makes her switch sides. You don't join the other team just because you met a mysterious mute or because you disagree with your side's battle tactics. What's the real reason?

Switching sides isn't necessarily healthy when you've been a spy. When you go to the Elytes and say "I've been spying on you for the humans all this time, but now I wanna work with you. So . . . what's our plan?" you can't expect to be welcomed into the fold.

And what difference does it make which side Riley is on in a World War? If she's the key to victory you need to explain why.


150 said...

Good gryef.

J.M. said...

EE took a brief crack at your prose. Your repetitiveness smacks of amateurism. The following isn't what you said, but it's the impression I was left with:

It's over two thousand years in the future, and the world has yet again, in our long and war-torn history, been torn into yet another world war. Except this time, it's different. It's not the same type of world war that we typical humans in the 21st century have always known in the last couple hundred years, which would be a war between different countries with humans fighting each other as usual. No, this time it's a war between two different species: vampires and humans. In this war, the humans are fighting for their lives, and the vampires are the ones who are fighting against them, trying to take the lives of the humans. If the vampires win, the humans will no longer exist on the planet, thus ending the world war.

Riley Zvei is a vampire, except it turns out that there are actually two types of vampires, and she is the type that is NOT fighting the humans. The type that is fighting the humans are called Elytes, and she's not an Elyte -- she's another tyape of vampire, called a Moralle, which is not fighting the humans.

Okay, you get it.

Another thing: why is the title "Elitist Morals"? I see no indication that within the vampire species the Elytes are elitist and the Moralles are moral.

Dave Fragments said...

Moralles reminded me of Morels which are fancy mushrooms I can't afford to cook with... But I'm not going to pick on the names or the i's and y's of the spellings.

To paraphrase your hook - 2000 years in the future and war still exists - doesn't work. You need a different hook.

But before you create a new hook, let me explain something personal. One of the great boring things for me and I would guess others who do not care for the current crop of vampire literature or whatever other books I don't read because of my likes and dislikes is the suggestion that a story is wonderful, magnificent or readable it it contains TWO, TWO, Two types of mints. That is, two types of vampires in one story. My Eyes Glaze Over. I am not your audience. Worse than that, there is a paragraph explaining that there the two flavors of vampire representing good and evil (chocolate and vanilla?) (Pink and Blue?) (ying and yang?). Like, every story ever written presents some side of good and evil from Aesop's fables and Aristophanes' Lysistrata to Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent and that strange sickness in BLACKHOLE by Charles Burns. It's all good and evil.

I guess this is a lot of wind and foolishness to say after reading the query, I don't know why your story is unique and new.

In the year 4010, vampires rule the earth and humans are in short supply. So obviously, the short-sighted vampires want to eat all the humans and the far-sighted vampires want to keep them alive for future survival.

You see the problem there - Like one side wants "drill baby, drill" and the other side wants to "save the whales"... What do the vampires do when they run out of blood?

Those are different sides of the same question.

I surmise that Riley discovers something that causes her to doubt her beliefs and struggles with the old and new belief systems. Now there's a story that anyone might care about. Even a hardened cynic like me loves a good crisis of faith. The point of all my grandiose, bloviating and very windy exposition -- focus on Riley's mind changing experience and the fallout from her changing sides.

Anonymous said...

Why are young people so fascinated with vampires?

batgirl said...

This is my dumb question: why are Elite and Moral spelled one way in the story and another way in the title?
And if they breed, are the offspring Ethyks?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

150 and Barbara, y'all made me laugh. As did EE's GP and his rant on Roman numerals (and, yes, dammit, I did spend far too much time trying to decipher them, meaningless though they were).

Author, I'm going to go all OC on you regarding your choice of the term "species". Since I don't know how vampires are born into your world and they may not be once-humans that were turned, I won't ding you for calling humans and vamps separate species. But you say early in the query that there are two dominant species: humans and vampires. But then you further classify the vampire species into two other separate species.

Now, you can't divide a single species into multiple species. You can divide it into breeds, races or subspecies, but a thing divided is no longer the original thing.

You may have some genetic difference that separates them into their individual classifications, but when you name them so allegorically, it sounds as if there is a choice involved.

Sorry, I was so baffled by the multiple species thing I couldn't figure out what was happening at the end: why Riley changes sides, what the mute has to do with anything, and what the stakes in general are.

M. G. E. said...

Puns. I hate them in titles. I doubt I'm alone in this.

Let's say that you're book was a wonderfully written, well-done story, chances of it keeping the current title = virtually zero.

Next, you completely skipped over the central rationale for your MC's change of heart. I'd like to know what new information makes her reassess her entire life up to that point. That's key to the query; it's the central motivating incident on which the story hinges.

Focus on things that are important to the story and leave out that which isn't--the fact that a general is named 'General' and doesn't tell people his name is totally irrelevant, or at least is beyond the scope of a query. Leave it out.

Sadly, most agents would've trashed this query after your first line when you misused the "war torn" phrasing:

"It's over two thousand years in the future and the world has been torn into another world war."

Words are your tools and misusing a word or phrase is a dire infraction that bodes horribly.

The "It's..." sentence construction is weak as well. Stronger to begin with a real word:

"Two-thousand years from now the world is embroiled in war between..." etc.

Others have mentioned the premise being a bit hackneyed. I tend to agree. Not every story is publishable, and this one sounds suspiciously like a trunk-novel.

Good luck on your re-write!

Joe G said...

Two kinds of mints?! What sort of strange world is this you speak of?!

I think perhaps the author realizes nobody in their right mind would pick up a book called Elytist Morrelles. Surely whann that Apprille with his shoures soote, the droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote... and bathed every veyne in SWICHE licour...

The most interesting thing in the query to me was the General who is such a General he actually calls himself General. I was in such suspense about what his name might be, and then you killed him off in the last paragraph. Ah well.

Anonymous said...

I tinkered/boiled it down to see if I could get clarity.

It's two thousand years in the future and a world war between vampires and humans has eruted.

Riley Zvei is a vampire She and her twin brother, Sean, work for the humans as spies and soldiers for the vampires on the bloodiest front. The humans pay them to spy, the vampires pay them to fight.

After meeting Simon, Riley and her brother have to choose one side and dump the other, making life more dangerous. The general of the humans ends up dead after an argument with Riley. Her brother is scared, Simon loves her, and Riley is running scared (determined
whatever fits).

I tried to reduce it to just the facts ma'am. I hope this helps. Rethink, reorder, rewrite. It is very hard to condense a story into a query. Good luck, takes great heart to let it hang out. Look forward to your next version, Bibi

Stick and Move said...

What woman wouldn't want to be in a relationship where she gets to do all the talking? That's priceless. Classic EE.

Queries are hard, author, and this one needs work. Someone else mentioned a possible trunk novel. Hard for me to make that call but if this is your first novel, you might put it down for a while and start something new, come back to this one later. You've already missed the peak of the vampire craze, I'm afraid, but it'll come back around. Get this one ready for the next cycle.

Not Completely Anonymous :-) said...

The only thing more embarassing than admitting to printing this thread out and reading it at the bathroom stall would be someone hearing me snicker and giggle while in said stall. Sheesh you guys!

Good for you for posting on here and letting us (good-naturedly) take our cracks at it. As you obviously know writing is a lonely "sport" and any chance to laugh at ourselves (especially if "ourselves means someone else!) is welcome.

As for the "basic facts" -- I'm sure they may seem exciting and unique to you. No author intentionally writes a bad or boring book...yet the fact is that only 1 in 200 (or more) completed novels gets close to a publishing deal. only 1 in 100 gets an author agent representation.

But the painful truth is that the facts of your book...the way they're presented...they're BORING! Not only that they don't really make sense based on our knowledge of vampires/vampyres and humans/humyns. Just saying it's 2,000 years in the future doesn't make it make sense that world war between vampires and humans doesn't really make sense. We need some sort of set up that both makes sense and hooks us.

Read "Hooked" by Les Edgerton. It's an entire writing book that discusses how to hook a reader. My sense is, as someone else commented, you need some time away from this one to get a better sense of what the story is about and how to pitch it to make it sound interesting and unique.

Dave Fragments said...

I crapped on vampire novels in an earlier comment. Then I found this:

Justin Cronin On 'The Passage,' Why The Vampire Story Will Never Go Away (VIDEO)
Posted: 06- 8-10 12:40 PM
Literary fiction author Justin Cronin's new vampire book "The Passage" is shaping up to be the biggest book of the summer.
Cronin didn't set out to ride the coattails of Stephenie Meyers's success, however, he explained on "Good Morning America" this morning. He said he had never read the "Twilight" books, and that they became popular just after he had started writing "The Passage," a book that his nine-year-old daughter convinced him to write while they were out jogging. He insists that, while the book is about vampires, that they are really the "vehicle," and that the book is actually "about the things I've always written about" -- "love, honor, courage, valor. . .the bonds between parents and children..."

Still, Cronin assured, the vampire story will never go away, because it asks an essential question: "What part of your humanity would you be trading away if you got to live forever? It's ultimately a fable to reassure us that it's better to be mortal."

Cronin got a surprise phone call from Stephen King during the interview -- a "voice from above," who said that he loved the book and "hope[s] it sells a million copies." "For a novelist," Cronin marveled, "I find myself absolutely speechless!"

You can read an excerpt from "The Passage" on the "Good Morning America" website.
And my opinion is that the first sentence is truly brilliant.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Curse you, Not Completely Anonymous! What a clever way to drive traffic. Yes, I clicked. And it was -- YOU!

Stephen Prosapio said...

LMAO. Leave it to me to accidentally discover a new marketing trick. I did that just so my name wouldn't come up on google searches with the athroom-bay omment-cay right there!

Dave you sold me on that new Vampire book. Or S. King did. I agree that the vampire story won't go is a fad/craze that will pass and faster than most currently think. Remember the Jonas Brothers?

Anonymous #2 said...

I have to disagree with Cronin about the questions vampire stories raise.

It seems as time goes on that vampires are losing their weaknesses -- Twilight vamps are practically gods. Soon there won't be any downsides to being undead, and it won't cost a bit of humanity.

Vampire stories will never die, but I wish they would.

Dave Fragments said...

Anonymous #2 -
Even immortals trade offs. They still aren't "human."

I remember the Alien KOSH in Babylon Five. He said "We were old when the galaxy was young" referring to his Vorlon race and the Shadows. But he also said he envied the white hot existence of humanity that burnt so bright for an exceedingly short period of time while the old races merely marked time as the ages passed. He argued that it was the immediacy and the fragility of human life that made the race so dynamic and energetic, so willing to take risk in the face of death. This character is a being who is almost a godlike -- at least an archangel, immortal, worshiped and capable of creating and destroying worlds.

Also, Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire tamay be said to be a meditation on the futility of an unfulfilled life. Louis de Pointe du Lac is the saddest character I have ever read. He has no chance of redemption even when late in the book he relates how motion pictures gave him a chance to see the sunrise again. It isn't redemption or resurrection.

And therein in the thing all vampires lose - the chance at human resurrection or redemption into a better life.

Anonymous #2 said...

Good argument, but it centers around the old version of the vampire. A twilight vampire can see the sunset whenever he wants, as long as he can take the sparkling.

Immortals like Kosh are different than vampires because they were born that way -- being a vampire, in this day and age, is a career choice.