Thursday, February 10, 2011

Face-Lift 868

Guess the Plot

The Puppet Mistress

1. Biography of Beatrix Hoppleton, owner of the world’s largest collection of puppet memorabilia which includes the matching sock of the pair from which Lamb Chop was crafted, and Yoda’s whiskers.

2. Kermit's binge drinking, philandering and kinky sex demands: Miss Piggy tells all.

3. When nerdy computer genius Todd Herman's inflatable date begins to talk to him, he's unsure whether to call a priest or a shrink. Also, a goldfish with a Facebook page.

4. Cenric Alva: Is he a knight, cursed by a "puppet mistress," a wicked sorceress who controls his every move as he battles monsters of Spanish folklore? Or is he a collection of pixels in a game being played by a sixteen-year-old girl? You decide.

5. When her husband's overactive urge to control her every movement passes, Jane is relieved. Meanwhile, Frank seems to be spending all his time in the basement - he's building a subterranean love nest for Candy Kane, his life-sized inflatable puppet mistress!

6. By day Carl is the quiet man at the insurance company who handles the small business accounts. At night, though, he and his RealDoll Noriko become Puppet and Mistress, a crime-fighting duo who search for evildoers on Craigslist.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

“Should you accept the challenge of this quest, you will be bound to the magic of the game.” When sixteen-year-old Vaila Grayson ignores this opening message on a mysterious video game, she never realizes what a mistake it was.

Unlike every other game she’s played, this one has no saves, continues, or resets, and Vaila must put her skills to the test of a lifetime. She might be able to focus, if her video knight was a just a collection of pixels. But Cenric Alva is a real knight, [How does she know this?] under a sorceress’s curse. Cenric believes he has fallen victim to a puppet mistress, a wicked magician who now controls his every move. [I'm not clear on what the curse is. An actual knight in, let's say the 14th century, is cursed by a sorceress to become a computer game avatar in the 21st century? Is the knight still in the 14th century, or is he in the computer game? How does the sorceress know about computer gaming?]

Mental challenges, frustrating side quests, and impossible riddles are the least of her problems as Vaila and Cenric confront terrible and fascinating monsters conjured from Spanish folklore. When a battle with such a beast causes an accident that binds Vaila’s spirit with Cenric’s, the pair must now endure each other’s physical pain and wild emotions. [In short, Cenric must endure his own curse while also enduring Vaila's.] Should Cenric die, their intimate connection would also bring about Vaila’s premature death. And so Vaila has only one chance to save them both.

[Vaila's dad: Okay, Vaila, you've been playing that silly game for fourteen hours straight. Tomorrow's a school day. Get some sleep.

Vaila: No can do, Dad. I'll die prematurely if I stop.

Vaila's Dad: Actually, you'll die prematurely if you don't.]

“The Puppet Mistress” is a young adult fantasy novel, complete at 70,000 words. This story captures the complexities of gaming while adding an element of romance. [Romance between Cenric and Vaila? Is she sitting in front of her computer the whole time or is she physically wherever Cenric is?]

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to sharing the entire manuscript with you.



I don't see why Vaila never realizes what a mistake it was to ignore the opening message on the video game, even when her life is on the line. I'd be thinking, Man I shoulda paid attention to that message.

I'm forced to wonder to what extent those who enjoy reading about knights battling monsters will be equally interested in the complexities of gaming. No doubt there's some crossover, but is there enough? Are the complexities of gaming merely touched on, or are they the main focus? Gamers might prefer playing the game to reading about someone else playing it, while non-gamers will want minimal gaming minutiae.


Anonymous said...

What EE said. Multiple plots interwoven is always challenging because there's the danger readers who are keen on one will think the other keeps getting in the way.

I'm trying to picture her at the computer resisting the urge to stop and go eat sleep or pee... Which does not intrigue. Much about the complexities of gaming, for 8th graders? Really? In what sense?

You meanwhile have a second line of narrative going in which there's the knight the witch etc and this seems workable as a plot for a fantasy novel. I don't see the benefit of breaking away for updates on some teen at a computer or babble about the complexities of gaming. Maybe it all works in the book. The way you describe it here leaves me puzzling over the structure: how can this work?

Several popular youth-oriented books / movies have used a book or a board or computer game as a portal into a fantastic world. But the kid always goes to the other world. I can't think of one wherein the kid stays in Kansas and only interacts with Oz via computer. Maybe it would help to review the descriptions of those other plots to see if you can get some new ideas about how to describe what your book is about.

none said...

The second sentence of this query hurts. During a one-off action (ignoring the message) Vaila never realises it's a mistake. Well, she hardly has time, does she?

'When sixteen-year-old Vaila Grayson ignores a warning from a mysterious video game, she has no idea what a mistake she's making.'

Eh. What would she do differently if she didn't ignore the message? Put the game back in its box? Get in a food supply and a portapotty? The warning isn't all that helpful even if you do read it.

If there are no saves, continues, etc, surely Cenric will die the first time she makes a mistake? Does the exciting gameplay involve him sleeping for hours? While she's not actively controlling him, does he just sit on his horse and wait for her to come back? What if he gets attacked while she's out of the room?

There are lots of questions that arise from this query that aren't answered, and which whoever's reading it can't easily answer for themselves. For example, does Cenric actually need Vaila to help him out on his quests? After all, he's a knight and she's a kid. What does she bring to the game that's so important she gets to be in control?

Start again. What does Vaila want? What's stopping her getting it? What will happen if she reaches her goal? If she doesn't? What's at stake?

I think this could be a great story. I like the idea of Cenric and Vaila bickering over the best way to slay a monster. Just needs a better query.

Anonymous said...

I, three, am confused about what exactly this all looks like. Does the whole novel play out in real time (the game having no Pauses)?

Also, is the title supposed to be some dual-meaning thingy, like The Last Samurai? Are Vaila and that sorceress both puppet mistresses? Otherwise, I'm not sure why you'd name it after a character who seems perfunctory and two-dimensional.

"their intimate connection would also bring about Vaila’s premature death" is rather clinical. - Their magical bond will drag Vaila to whatever doom awaits Cenric. - If Cenric dies, then so must Vaila. - etc.

Adele said...

The big hurdle for me is that I can't see Vaila becoming convinced she will die if a computer game hero dies. Surely if some character in the game tells her she is bound by magic to suffer the fate of the knight, she'd just laugh at them. She could test the statement but the only way to test the statement would be to kill the knight and then the reader would know but Vaila'd be dead.

You need to convince me that the plot will work.

Re your second sentence: The first clause describes a single point in time (when she ignores...) but the second clause describes a continuing situation (she never realizes...) Plus the statement doesn't sound true - surely she must eventually realize she has made a mistake?

Chelsea Pitcher said...

All right, I'll bite. I'm a game dork as well as a fantasy dork, and this sounds like fun to me. I do agree that you might explain a few things better, but the premise has sparked my interest.

More than anything, a few specific words tripped me up. Several people have commented on the opening paragraph, specifically the word "never". I think this can be easily remedied by tweaking the sentence.

The next trip up was "controls his every move". "Every move" implies he has no control, which seems contradictory to his team-up with Vaila. Maybe something more like this would work:

"But Cenric Alva turns out to be a real knight. In fact, the whole game becomes real the moment Vaila begins playing. To make matters worse, Cenric believes he has fallen victim to a puppet mistress, a wicked magician who now controls his movements at the worst possible times."

I'm making a few guesses there, but you get gist. Gaming is huge, so I'm sure there's a market for this. We just need a bit more info to understand the world you've created :)

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

This query left me... ambiguous. I feel like I need a little more information here as to how and why this is happening.

Why would someone create a game that would bond a modern child with a real knight? It seems like figuring that out ought to be the real plot of the novel, not completing the game quest.

In a kids book or even middle grade you can just say "it's magic!" and leave it at that, but for YA I think you need a little more world building.

Hope this makes sense.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

And by "AMBIGUOUS" I of course meant "AMBIVALENT".


angela robbins said...

anyone hoping for #2?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

anyone hoping for #2?

ME!! And I also wanted to know more about Lamb Chop's twin.

As for the query, I think the comments point out what the author needs to demonstrate in the letter: that the logistics of the story itself have been well thought out and that the mechanics of the play don't get in the way of the story.

Can you do that and still be showing us the story? Of course:
Vaila suspects it's no ordinary game when X happens the first time she takes a break for lunch. And she knows something's not right when Y happens after she falls asleep.

Also, since the query mentions a romance, I think the age of the knight would be important. Most young men weren't knighted before they were 20 or 21, and with Vaila being only 16, you might have a problem. Assuming they're the couple in question. But the query isn't very specific about that.

Overall, though, I'm in the camp that cautiously believes this could be a fun story IF it's been carefully thought out.

Vaila's Dad: Actually, you'll die prematurely if you don't: hehe!

Rivka said...

I think this would appeal to the Deltora Quest crowd, which is HUGE, especially overseas. But it is not clear whether the game has entered your heroine's world, or she has entered the game world, or she's just watching from a console, or what. I think adding some specific hurdles she and her knight have to face might clarify things.

All-Stars said...

Thank you for taking the time to post some feedback. I hope that the revision will clarify some of the points you all highlighted. Just to answer a few things here:

1) Vaila plays on a home console in a manner similar to the Wii or Kinect. Vaila never physically gets sucked into the game.

2) Vaila and Cenric do have an "online" romance (I cut this during revisions)

3) Vaila makes mistakes and Cenric pays for it. It is her job to keep him safe, afterall.

4) My critique group thought the novel was a lot of fun. Awesome since they are outside my target audience. Hopefully the revised query piques more interest.

none said...

You get points for using the correct form of piqued. Lots of points!

batgirl said...

I think this has a lot of potential. Dorothy Heydt's 1998 fantasy A Point of Honor combined our-world intrigue with a computer-based fantasy quest.
The question I would ask is what obstacles does Vaila face in her own world? Is there anything keeping her from the game and from interacting with Cenric? I feel that she needs her own 'quest' or that she should bring something to the quest that Cenric lacks, otherwise why not just tell Cenric's story?
I think if you can bring out what's at stake for Vaila, that would make for a stronger query.