Friday, September 03, 2010

Face-Lift 816

Guess the Plot

The Last Prince of Latvia

1. When zombies overrun the palace, prince Eduard escapes on foot, shielding his younger sister, princess Aija. But to become king, the law says he needs the actual royal crown, the one they left behind on the dead--now a zombie--King's head.

2. Belissa's been in love with the prince of Latvia all her life. No other man could ever catch her eye. Problem is, he's been deposed. She signs on to a revolution that could put him back on the throne, but then the bastard breaks off their engagement! Suddenly that enemy soldier looks pretty handsome.

3. Max Tannenbaum will never become a Sigma Phi unless he can show the other guys that he can get a little action. So he dubs himself the last Prince of Latvia and hits the town with his entourage. When he falls for the Princess of Estonia, he never imagines that she has her own secret.

4. In order to fulfill his destiny as a future king, Prince Ooglesach must complete Latvia's traditional rite into manhood: a death-defying obstacle course complete with ogres, demons, and a trampoline. Informed that an attempt to seize the throne is underway, the Prince must complete the course in record time. But can he keep his dignity while bouncing on a trampoline?

5. Hopelessly outnumbered by German Crusaders, Prince Wolmar hides his people in the secret vaults below the castle. The 'wine' with which he comforts them is the result of his alchemy experiments . . . and their last hope. They wake in 2020 to a very different world and a 21st-century hangover...

6. Thanks to the miracles of modern science, the last prince of Latvia has been returned from the dead, and he is out to reclaim his family's ancestral holdings. Too bad the modern science didn't work quite as well as he'd hoped. Can he reclaim his land despite the fact that his body is falling apart?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

There has only ever been one certainty in Bellissa’s life: That she loves the Prince of Latvia. [Can't you just say she has loved him for as long as she can remember? Of course there've been other certainties in her life. It's certain that she is Latvian. Thus it's also certain that she hates all Russians with a passion. And she's not too crazy about Lithuanians, Estonians, Germans and Swedes.] Which is why she agrees enthusiastically to join a revolution that will restore her brooding childhood sweetheart, the now-deposed Prince, to his throne.

She doesn’t plan on him unexpectedly ending their engagement and breaking her heart before the fight’s begun. [He's lucky she didn't succumb to that legendary Latvian temper and throw her latte in his face.]

Hopeless and lonely, Bellissa parts from him, wishing for nothing more than to leave his memory behind her, but quickly finds herself already too tangled in his budding revolution to run far. When his enemies seek her out as a target, [When you've taken control of an entire country, you ought to have better things to do than plot against the ex-prince's ex-girlfriend. You should be cleansing the country of all your non-supporters through systematic mass murders. (I know that sounds harsh, but it's the way things have always been done.)] she is forced to remain in the Prince’s camp for her own protection, harboring a secret surety [hope] that she will soon be able to win back his affection and restore their love. But when a handsome, boyish enemy soldier is captured in their camp, Bellissa is troubled by feelings arising for a man that is not her Prince, and she begins to doubt her certainty [belief] that there is only [one] person in the world that she could ever love. [She is, however, positive there are no more than two.] [Until the Dominos guy shows up.] When The Prince’s revolution begins sooner than anticipated, Bellissa finds herself caught between two sides of a fight that could change the fate of her nation, [No need to say "sooner than anticipated"; she's caught between two sides no matter when it starts. Also, I assumed it already began, as she joined it in sentence 2 of the query.] and forced to choose between two different men that she loves.

Set in nineteenth century Europe, [If it's all set in Latvia, no need to identify the continent. We know what continent all European nations are on, with the exceptions of Moldova and Belarus.] The Last Prince of Latvia is a romance and adventure novel of 83,000 words that examines the ideas of true love, relationships, and the concept of “the one.” [These themes came through clearly enough in the plot; no need to spell them out for us.]

Thank you so much for your consideration.



Why is Bellissa forced to choose? Can't she just wait, see how the revolution plays out, and hook up with whoever's on the winning side? Is she being pressured by both sides to perform revolution helping/hindering tasks?

How does she have enough contact with the prisoner to fall in love with him?

That long paragraph is intimidating. By which I mean, when an editor comes to a long paragraph, he usually thinks, Am I so impressed by this query so far that I'm willing to trudge through this immense tar pit of text? No, I'm not. Either divide it into two paragraphs, or remove all my blue words.

If this is a historical novel, that is, set during an actual revolution in Latvia that attempted to restore a deposed prince to the throne, that's a selling point worth mentioning.


Sarah from Hawthorne said...

You're very close and I feel like I've got a clear idea of what your book is about, but I did wonder about your protagonist's motivation.

Here's a girl at a turning point in history, in a position to influence what the next government of her country will be -- and all she's worried about is which boy she likes more? It's okay if she starts out only interested in romance, but if she's in the middle of a revolution it seems like she should have some deeper ideals or concern for the people of Latvia.

There's also not much of a sense of who Bellissa is as a person - downtrodden peasant in love with the guy above her station, or sheltered noble girl who's forced by war to grow up?

Stephen Prosapio said...

This isn't my type of book, but I agree with Sarah, you're close. One thing I'd suggest would be to get some hook with your lead character--something other than loving a brooding man who dumps her. She reads "victim" by the 2nd paragraph on.

Careful of those word choices EE noted. They may be remnants of prior edits but more than one of those awkward wordings is a bit scary.

Anonymous said...

I really like the premise. You might get better control of the language. "Bellissa parts from him" and "surety" are nice antiques and they might fit well in the book, but I found them a little conspicuous in the query.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be a beautiful thing if authors could get some of this free plot-doctoring before spending oodles of precious time writing a novel just to discover everyone thinks the premise is terribly flawed???

Maybe the fake agent could work on that.

vkw said...

Here's the problem with the query and perhaps the plot: Your MC is either really, really dumb or really, really naive. Why do I say that.

Okay her only love, a prince, dumps her during the revolution to take back her homeland. Under the best circumstances a woman is going to ride off in a huff - I'm taking the cat and the car. But, hey she can't because there is a war on and she'll be killed, especially if she's a noble. No need to explain that, that's what they did they killed off leaders and put new leaders in their place.

So she has to stay and suddenly falls in love with an enemy soldier!

Now she is torn between two loves? The enemy that has invaded her homeland, the enemy that will kill her if they win the war or if they can get to her when she is outside the encampment and the guy that dumped her.

This is a no brainer; side with the side that will not kill you if they win, then you can go on to love another day and get the revenge you so deserve.

It almost makes it sound like she is considering helping out this soldier because she loves him which would mean becoming a traitor to her own country.

Now I'm not much of a romantic but let's say the president dumps me, boo-hoo, the russians have invaded the US, also not so good. I fall in love with enemy spy in prison . . what am I doing there. . . well I don't know, I dont usually hang out with prisoners but anyway. . Now I fall in love with prisoner and I must choose between helping him and betraying my country. . . .

betrayal will lead to my death . . . . no brainer.

I'll stop hanging out in jails and castles and try the tavern.

Anon - yep it would be helpful to have this insight before the book is finished but I didn't find it that hard to fix somethings. Of course, I'm still fixing. . . . but better to get insight than not get published at all.

M. G. E. said...

Passive protagonists like this can ruin a book.

I agree that she sounds like someone I don't really want to know, she sounds weak, waffly, I'm not surprised the Prince broke up with her, and you give us no reason to think he wants to get back with her.

The "impossible choice" presented here isn't really impossible at all, as others have pointed out.

Still, despite any plot problems, the bigger issue is that you've communicated to the agent reading your query that you writing skills are not top-notch, and that's a problem. It's the problem that is more likely to keep you from being published than any deficiencies in plot.

Anonymous said...

The protagonist might be coming in for more criticism than she deserves. Her flip is not unknown in literature, Anne Neville in Shakespeare's King Richard III being an example. (She agrees to marry the ugly hunchback who killed her husband and father.) The query may be more at fault than the plot.

And: kudos to the authors of GTPs #1 and #5!

St0n3henge said...

I don't believe this plot is fatally flawed. I think most of the problems are in the query. Namely, we need a better sense of the main character and what motivates her.

Here are some questions that I have:

Why is she a target? EE asked this, but I'd also like to know.

Not much is said about the fate of the nation. What happens if the prince doesn't win? Is this a good guys vs. bad guys thing, or do both sides have their merits and drawbacks?

Does the MC realize she could be hanged as a traitor, or does she sincerley believe the prince would never let this happen?

Does the MC have a family somewhere? Are they nobility? Royalty?

If we're going to root for the main character, we need to know more about her than the fact that she's in love.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

As set up, this does not sound like an adventure or a romance. Women's historical fiction, perhaps. But as EE says, it needs more period detail to be convincing on that account.

Also, as set up, we don't even know for sure that the boyish enemy (check your word choice there) loves her back. She already sounds a bit delusional from what's in the query, so when I come to the sentence about her choice between two men, I have to wonder a bit about her sanity since one's a prisoner and the other has already told her "no."

It's the lack of a clear hero here and his feelings toward her that make me dismiss this as a romance. The query gives me no reason to believe that the prince is, say, breaking off the engagement in an attempt to keep her safe and that he still loves her more than crown or title or life itself, and seeing her sneak off to the house where the prisoner is being held tears him up inside in a way that might just compromise his judgment when it comes time to fight, and so he's actually risking his own life trying to dupe Bell into believing he no longer loves her.

Or that the prisoner falls so hard for Bell that he's ready to renounce homeland, flag and freedom for the sake of her dark, seductive eyes.

In the query, we need to know at the very least the love is requited if you're going to call this a romance.

Gwenevere said...

I had to read this a few times before I could tell what was happening here. Bellissa and her lover, the prince (Now disposed), have started a revolution to restore his power. Before the fighting starts, the prince dumps her. She wants to leave, but soon encounters those she helped rebel against yell, “Hey! Isn’t that the woman who helped the ex-prince start this revolution? Let’s get her!” She runs back to the prince for protection (I guess he has an army?) hopping the prince will take her back. She falls in love with an enemy soldier that is taken prisoner, the people who want to kill her. Does this sound right?

I’m having a hard time finding the ‘historical’ part of this story. Is the prince a real disposed prince of Latvia? Did this prince start a revolution to regain the throne? This is as unclear as Bellissa deciding that one of the people wanting to kill her is cute and falls in love with him.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Just wanted to add that I'm assuming the problem with belissa is in the query, not the novel. She can be passive and it might be a fascinating novel, but we need to have more of an idea about her motivation and why we,d want to spend time with her.

_*rachel*_ said...

Is this historical fiction, alternate history, or what? We need to know the genre, especially since most of us don't know much Latvian history beyond its inclusion in the USSR.

I like the premise of this, but the query could use a little cleaning. My main question is centered on why she sticks around. I'm guessing that either the enemies don't find out about the breakup or consider her to still have enough influence on the rebels to be worth catching? Expand on it.

I'd like to know how it turns out, especially because it reminds me a bit of Katniss' situation. (I devoured Mockingjay today and loved it. I pretty much cried when [spoilers deleted].)

none said...

That might be because Shakespeare was twisting the facts in order to fit Tudor propaganda. Just a tad.

I don't think the protag falling in love with an enemy soldier and failing to take the no-brainer approach is that unrealistic. People do do these things, however illogical they may seen to outsiders. After all, people have an almost infinite capacity for self-delusion and cognitive dissonance. La.