Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Face-Lift 837

Guess the Plot

Lullaby of Allat

1. Legend speaks of the demon-child Allat, who will bring ruin to the world should he awake. The Sacred Order of Choristers are sworn to prevent this from happening, but every year their numbers grow fewer. Can a cocky young inventor with wax cylinder technology save the day?

2. Young Sir Allat is heir to the family secret: a melody that puts its hearers to sleep for 100 years. Everyone in the kingdom is at pains to amuse him, because he has a wicked sense of ironic humor and god only knows what he'd do if somebody bored him.

3. When Dr. Alison Grayden finds a copy of the legendary Medieval poem "Lullaby of Allat" in her late aunt's safe deposit box, she's thrilled. Only--how did the manuscript, lost for 600 years, end up in a safe deposit box in Burbank? Also, a djinn.

4. For years Thea has been tormented by music in her head. But when the demon Acreosate invades, she realizes her destiny: to sing him to sleep! Right after she convinces the king to put a 13 year old girl in charge of the army.

5. When a zombie shows up on her doorstep seeking an explanation for his reanimation, Louisa is thrust into an adventure that takes her to Bulgaria and the tomb of an ancient bandit who worshiped Allat, the Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld. Does Allat's lullaby have the power to wake the dead?

6. When permanent insomnia strikes the king and queen of Khobistan, their health is at risk. Then a troubadour named Allat arrives, claiming his songs can bring sleep--but for a price: their first-born. Is that price worth the nightmares that will accompany the . . . Lullaby of Allat?

Original Version

Dear EE:

Louisa Dove is the practical, hardworking assistant of a prominent archaeologist in Victorian era London. Things [What things?] take a turn for the strange, however, [That transitional phrase makes no sense here, as you haven't described or declared a situation in which "things" weren't strange. Quite the opposite, in fact: a female archaeologist in Victorian-era London is pretty strange to begin with. To clarify, in which of the following does the transition work:

Bob's job making pads by gluing the top edge of sheets of paper together is so boring, the most exciting part of his day is when a telemarketer phones to suggest he switch long-distance carriers. However, his life takes a turn for the bizarre when . . .

Bob is a unicycle mechanic. However, his life becomes strange when . . .]
when formerly deceased pickpocket Pete Daggney [Never use terms like "formerly deceased" or "undead" when you can instead use "zombie." In fact, even if Daggney isn't a zombie, I recommend calling him "zombie-like" or saying, . . . when Pete Daggney, who gives every indication of being . . . a ZOMBIE! . . . ] turns up on her doorstep, seeking an explanation for his sudden reanimation. [He doesn't need her for an explanation. If he craves blood, he's a vampire. If he craves brains he's a zombie. And if neither of those is the case, he's the son of God.] [By the way, what makes him think she has an explanation?] An occult artifact of unknown origin is to blame, [I have an artifact, and I have no idea where it came from, but I know it is responsible for turning you into a zombie.] but to undo Daggney's unfortunate state, Louisa and her mentor must track the object back to its source. [How do they know they must do this?]

Along the way, their journey is riddled with complications, thanks to the meddling of the charming Mr. Villiers, amature [amateur] treasure hunter and future English Earl, unexpected Bulgarian railway bandits, [No need to call Bulgarian railway bandits "unexpected." No one expects Bulgarian railway bandits.] [For that matter, no one expects Bulgarians.] and not one, but two secret societies [If one secret society is a drawing card, two is a major attraction. Of course, the more secret societies you have in one place, the harder it is for them to stay secret.] seeking the same prize. [If you mean the same prize that Louisa is seeking, I didn't know she was seeking a prize. What is the prize?] Now, Louisa is caught up in a race to locate the tomb of an ancient [Bulgarian] bandit king, before what is contained within can be used to raise an army of the dead [zombies], and threaten the sanctity of the British Empire. [Is "sanctity" the word you want? I was thinking "stability" or "security." Or "braaaaaiiiiins."]

LULLABY OF ALLAT is an updated version of the Victorian pulp serial, with elements taken from turn of the century [Turn of which century?] gothic novels and traditional scientific romance. [Traditional scientific romance:

It is action-packed, fast-paced and complete at 90,000 words.

[Not part of query: ((Allat is a Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld, whom the aforementioned bandit king worshipped.))]


Was the bandit king the king of some bandits or a king who was also a bandit? I don't see why a king would want to be a bandit or why bandits would want a king, but then I'm not Bulgarian.

Louisa goes to an awful lot of trouble to make Pete the pickpocket dead again. Assuming Pete wants to be dead again, can't they just burn him at the stake?

The first paragraph is a useful setup, but I think I'd prefer the second paragraph focus on what's in the tomb and who wants to use it to destroy Britain than on secret societies and bandits and an annoying earl.

For those who like to keep track of such things, this is the first appearance of Bulgarians in a query since Face-Lift 280.


Anonymous said...

I assume Louisa is your main character, but she seems to be an also-ran in her own story. What does she want? What is stopping her? How is that resolved?

If she's an assistant, and her mentor comes with them, then we have Pete the Pickpocket who wants to be dead again, the unnamed mentor who presumably runs the expedition, handles the traveling and the investigating ... oh, and his assistant Louisa. Right now this seems to be Pete's story.

Stephen Prosapio said...

"Bob's job making pads by gluing the top edge of sheets of paper together is so boring"

Heyyy wait'ta second. As someone who *has* had a job working in a printing department where I've made notepads... that comment offends me. LOL Point in fact, it was one of the coolest parts of that job! You stack all the paper and pads onto a thing which compresses them together... then spread the glue on en mass, wait til it dries (okay, so there is some down time) and then slap another coat on for good measure (and cuz you like the fumes). When they're done you take an X-acto knife and split the pads apart being careful the cardboard backing doesn't seperate from the pad. C'mon... it's the ONLY job where you can use both high-powered glue and an X-acto knife!

After that diatribe I'd better come up with something cool to say about this query huh?

Marissa Doyle said...

NOBODY expect the Bulgarian Railway Bandits!

(Sorry. Somebody had to say that.)

What EE said. Unless there isn't a main person through whose POV this story gets told, in which case, the query should reflect that.

Stephen Prosapio said...

First problem that needs to be solved is we need to know what Louisa wants. The query gives us no clue. Is it to become a full archeologist herself? To return Pete to the grave so he stops bugging her? Why does she have a connection with a pickpocket anyway?

Next, no need to introduce all the elements/characters into your plot. (ie the charming Mr. Whoever) unless it’s to give the query flavor.

Louisa Dove works for a prominent archaeologist in Victorian era London, but she can’t seem to make a grand discovery of her own. When a zombie pickpocket turns up on her doorstep claiming an occult artifact is to blame, she hardly sees it as her chance to be taken seriously, but determined to make a name for herself, Louisa sets out to track the object back to its source—where legend has it, contains a wellspring of infinite power, the tomb of an ancient bandit king—Evil Emperor.

The journey is riddled with complications: amateur treasure hunters, Bulgarian railway bandits, and secret societies seek the fabled power that comes from Evil Emperor’s Tomb. Louisa races to locate power source, before the not-so-charming Mr. Villiers can use it to raise an army of the dead and threaten the security of the British Empire—not to mention Louisa’s career.

LULLABY OF ALLAT is action adventure novel complete at 90,000 words.

I obviously don’t know if that’s your story, but by changing many of the sentences from the passive to the active tense and giving Louisa some purpose and direction, it should help point you in the right direction. Good luck!

Dave Fragments said...

I was greatly disappointed in the current MUMMY series of movies by the plot twists added by having two, count them, two secret societies involved in the storylines.

In each movie it felt like the Brendan Fraser character was really the stupid soldier of fortune and Rachel Weisz was not the brain of the museum where she starts out. Neither of them give the impression of being the brains of the defeat of Imhotep (twice) and then the Dragon Emperor. For Imhotep it was the tattood army of swarthy muscle guys and for the Dragon it was the daughter of an immortal sorceress.

That's the dynamic that this query sets up. Here is a heroine with some knowledge fighting a secret society she would never know about except for the reincarnated leader of a second secret society. If she (your heroine) just steps back from the entire plot, the two secret societies might destroy each other and the artifact.

I learned that from watching bar fights where the cop would wait until the two guys involved were tired, beat up and nearly passed out and then the cop would enter the fray. In politics it is called Triangulation.

Anonymous said...

I think it could be Louisa's story if, in the second sentence, we got a firm sense of exactly what Louisa has done that resulted in Pete being turned into a zombie. That would make it a Louisa-driven story.

As it is it sounds painfully like that interminable chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, probably labeled in the script as "we have to run through the jungle for half an hour now, because the director says so".

IOW don't make it sound like your plot is dragging your character around. And be specific. Who wants what for what, why?

Btw, writer, do follow the link to Face-Lift 280. I think your query shares some of the same issues, and the third to last comment, the retelling of LOTR without specfics, is also instructive.

Anonymous said...

I think the query can work well with a couple of revisions. You might have a very good story here, but the query isn't showing it.

Above all, I'd suggest getting rid of the pulp and scientific romance garbage, and calling it a thriller. Thrillers are hot right now and the plot of this sounds appropriate.

Joe G said...

I think the zombies should be gay, and she should be protecting the sanctity of marriage in England!

Stephen Prosapio said...

Careful. Don't go *calling* it a "Thriller" unless it really is one.

Here's a good definition I found:

Thriller is a genre of fiction in which tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world. Part of the allure of thrillers comes from not only what their stories are about, but also how they are told. High stakes, non-stop action, plot twists that both surprise and excite, settings that are both vibrant and exotic, and an intense pace that never lets up until the adrenalin packed climax.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I lost it when the recently dead turned up on on the mc's doorstep looking for an explanation for his reanimation. The logic is lacking.

Shape the query, don't chase it. The mc needs to be in the story for a reason, not just a reactive device to move along with the other characters to tell the story.

Showing it is an action packed fast paced tale is the key, telling doesn't help.

Look forward to the revision.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to make it sound like I was suggesting the author call it a thriller just because they are hot now. The query claims the book is action-packed, fast paced, and an ordinary heroine is trying to save her country from zombies while visiting exotic locales. Genuinely sounds like a thriller to me.

M. G. E. said...

"traditional scientific romance"

That one had me rolling!

Okay, this seems like a fun story, you just need to polish your prose to a professional level. That's actually difficult to do, lord knows I'm still working on it :)

This reminded me of like a femme-Indiana Jones almost, but then enough twists showed up to differentiate itself.

EE pointed out the plot holes you need to fix, but that shouldn't be impossible in this case.

The biggest problem is how all these groups at the same time end up racing for the same object.

Anonymous said...

I like the sound of "Victorian pulp serial." The story sounds cute (hope it's meant to be).

Anonymous said...

A thriller with a character called "the charming Mr. Villiers"????


_*rachel*_ said...

I like the term "formerly deceased."

Nobody expects the Bulgarian Bandit!

This sounds like fun. I am a bit worried about the "updated version" part, though it depends on where you're sending it.

Emphasize Louisa; she's the star, after all.

none said...

If he's a future Earl, he'll have a title of his own--he won't be 'Mr' anything.

M. G. E. said...

The euphemism "formerly deceased" works well as a witticism only if you've first established that the referred to character is undead.

By using the euphemism as the first description you turn what would be pleasing wordplay into a head-scratcher and almost awkward phrasing.