Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Face-Lift 801

Guess the Plot

Stairway to Hell

1. Evangeline is banished to hell for something she didn't do, as God screws up for the first time ever. There, she is nominated to become the next Satan. Hey, it's better than working at Starbucks.

2. There's a long, dark stairway descending to Hell, and a bright, quick escalator ascending to Heaven. Now a venerable and ravishingly handsome editor is ready to face his eternal reward. But for some reason, these stairs aren't moving.

3. Every day for thirty years Bob Henshaw has climbed the stairs to his desk at McMurty and Sons. Every day, that is, through last Friday, when they laid him off. It's Monday, Bob's climbing the stairs, and he has an AK47.

4. Peter Miff, once a prominent real-estate developer, decides to undertake mankind's greatest project: an escalator to the moon. He soon goes broke, his investors back out and he has three months to complete the project or lose everything. Think Moby Dick but with stairs instead of a whale.

5. Ringo is a frustrated drummer. Labeled “derivative” after attempts to produce his songs “Stairway to Heaven” and “Highway to Hell,” he meets two blokes (John & Paul) who promise stardom. But when they fail to get Spanish guitarist Jorge to change his name and join them, obscurity ensues.

6. The time was long overdue. The fans increasingly demanded it. The producers insisted it could not be done. But one garage band insists on heading the wrong way, on playing the ultimate sequel, on braving the . . . Stairway To Hell.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Banished from Heaven after her teammate broke a couple rules too many, an ex-stellar angel has had to resign herself to living in Satan's world. [Whattaya mean, her teammate? Are we talking about the Los Angeles Angels? Because I don't think the baseball rules specifically prohibit stuff that would warrant a one-way trip to hell.] She hates it there, [As I understand it, that's pretty much the idea behind hell.] but that doesn't mean she wants to die. [I thought being dead was one of the prerequisites for getting in.] Unfortunately for her, it looks like she won't have much of a say in that.

When fourteen-year-old Evangeline Faure learns that she has only three years until the curse set on all Hell-based angels kills her, [She's currently alive.] she decides to live life at the fullest. [She's currently alive.] That includes admitting that what she feels for a certain war commander isn't just platonic friendship, accepting that the war against Heaven is justified, and dealing with the fact that she has been lied to her whole life. [She's currently alive.] Uh, death. [She's dead? I missed it! You've been talking about her as if she's alive. Has she been dead the whole time?]

But she only understands the true meaning of life and death when her cherished commander is murdered, and suddenly everyone expects her to avenge him. Evangeline has never killed before, unless you count picking four-leaf clovers – which the demons in Hell apparently don't. [I don't see what this clover sentence is adding. No one considers picking clover killing.] So it comes as a surprise to her when she is nominated to become the next Satan, and an even bigger one when the friend who got her into this mess comes back [Comes back to hell? Has he been here before?] and tries to claim the title for himself. Then, as though her life wasn't complicated enough as it was, [She's alive.] the murderer comes after her.

Her life... starts now. [She wasn't alive?] [What does Her life... starts now. mean?]

STAIRWAY TO HELL is a 70,000-word young adult fantasy novel and the first book of a planned series, though it can stand alone.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you,


It's not clear enough to me. I'd leave out the war commander. Tell us exactly what happened to get Eva banished to hell. Then skip to getting nominated as the next Satan. What are her goals, what's standing between her and her goals, and what does she plan to do about it?

What is hell like? Are those in hell alive? What's the incentive to murder someone if you're both in hell? Give us a taste of the setting.


Stephen Prosapio said...


First to comment? Well, good that you've submitted here rather than sending these queries out. They may make sense to you, but the lot of us are "hella" confused.

First, what we know:
1. It's YA Fantasy.
2. It deals with Heaven and Hell
3. It needs a new query.

What we don't know:
1. Why would an angel get banished from Heaven for someone *else* breaking rules.

2. What the "hell" the plot entails. Other than the really confusing and confused confusion, I don't see much conflict. Conflict in a query isn't implied, it's shown.

3. Where did the old Satan go?

4. Why was she chosen as the new Satan if she shouldn't be there in the first place?

5. Are we talking about two *different* characters? Evangeline and the banished angel? If so, I think EE missed that and so did I the first two times through. We shouldn't have to guess who your characters are.

6. You need to stop trying to be cute (the whole 4-leaf clover thing and the "uh death" "life starts now" stuff) and tell us what this story is.

Anonymous said...

What's with all these stories about worlds that contain good and evil but no justice? What's with all the trivializing of morality? Is it a sign of the times? What? I'm a huge skeptic, but these queries are inviting me into worlds that hold no interest for me.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I have a quick question: If she's becoming the new Satan, what happened to the old Satan?

If we're assuming as one of your rules for your universe that angels can, in fact, die, then I guess we can assume that fallen angels, like Lucifer, can die as well. But it might be nice to know he's dead before the other minions of hell start looking for a replacement.

And how did they go about choosing a 14-year-old with no experience? She certainly wouldn't have been my first pick for the new Prince of Darkness. This might be something to include in the query.

M. G. E. said...

Wow, um, I'm gonna go with horribly flawed premise that probably shouldn't be made into a book.

"Banished from Heaven after her teammate broke a couple rules too many"
- So there's no justice in your world?

"she has only three years until the curse set on all Hell-based angels kills her"
- Apart from plot-convenience, where is this 3-year limit coming from?

"she decides to live life at the fullest."
- Life -to- the fullest?

"and dealing with the fact that she has been lied to her whole life. Uh, death."
- This didn't make any sense for a looong time, until I saw what you were trying to do. First I thought you were talking about death as a person/angel. It should really be set off with an em-dash, not a separate sentence.

"when her cherished commander is murdered"
- She's 14, she'll get over it.

"Evangeline has never killed before, unless you count picking four-leaf clovers"
Does the story have this same unserious narrative style? Seems a thematic mismatch. Is this actually a comedy novel? That might explain why a 14 y.o. is accidentally sent to hell and then also voted to be the next Satan...

150 said...

I'm sorry; I don't really understand what's going on. I'll look at a new version, though. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I am so confused. Go to Stephen's #3 then answer Arhooley then Dominique then read MGE a couple of times and slide into home plate on 150's gentle words. You got off easy.
Read the mutton chopped big guy comments many times. Please.
I wish you well. I look forward to the new query.

Dave Fragments said...

Before this comment goes completely offtrack, let's talk about Evangaline. I don't get a vibe about Evangeline that makes me want to read the story. Is she the perky, cheery Pollyanna that sees good everywhere and tries to bring that to hell? Is she the broody type that sits cool and calm while plotting her boyfriend's demise? Is she the starry eyed lovestruck ingenue that thinks tying herself to a good man (demon or angel) will complete her?

That's what I don't get here. An impression of Evangeline that makes me want to read more about her.

Blodwyn said...

I'm sorry, I don't understand the story either. I'd be happy to read an updated version though. I do think the idea of Satan as a title is pretty neat and unique.

Anonymous said...

It turns out I'm not done. I considered my own question, "Is it a sign of the times?"

the war against Heaven is justified, and . . . she has been lied to her whole life.

I detect a fondness for historical revisionism here. It seems to be quite the thing these days. The attendant intellectual hollowness (evident in this query) should warn budding authors away from it.

batgirl said...

Devils are the new vampires? Hell is the new high school? (well, that part would make sense.)
Author, please post a revision, or, better, provide a synopsis from which a query may be extracted.

St0n3henge said...

I don't understand the concepts here. You make it seem like being banished from heaven for all eternity can be caused by something as simple as a mistake. A teenager being "voted" Satan seems equally silly. Either you mean this as a satire, or you're being very flippant about concepts people take pretty seriously. If the first, I'm not "getting" the humor in the query. If the second, you'll probably have very few readers. Maybe your writing style isn't quite good enough yet to tackle such big concepts as heaven and hell, especially when you make being Satan sound as easy (and as inconsequential) as being voted class president. Either that, or there's a lot of sly humor I'm missing here. A much better query would help. I will be looking forward to future revisions.