Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Face-Lift 879

Guess the Plot


1. Fred "Watermelon-head" Weiskopf always wondered why his mother never liked him. On his 18th birthday, his dad took him aside and explained why.

2. Cats have nine lives, but Lindsay isn’t sure how many high school girls are supposed to have. After dying and coming back to life twice before she turned 16, she’s determined that this life will be her last.

3. Twins Andra and Andy stumble into an assassination plot that could mean war, but preventing it won't be easy, especially as Andy's already the victim of an assassination attempt, or at least he will be in twelve hours when he finally dies from the stab wound he just got.

4. Dirk Beefhead is a born-again Christian who's been born yet again, this time in the era of Christ. Now it's time to find out whether people in Biblical times will accept or stone a guy named Dirk Beefhead.

5. Melissa, Amanda, and Avery, the princess triplets from Alahazarc, were swept away at birth to the three corners of the land by the evil minions of the Dragon Prince, who plots to leave the rightful King and Queen grief-stricken heirless. But on their sixteenth birthday, the triplets finally meet. From there it's all a matter of sword fighting, fire breathing reptiles and fending off deceitful ragamuffins. If only the girls could stop making out with their endless string of beaus long enough to keep their heads in the game!

6. After discovering Jesus on the Tammy Faye Baker TV show, Jeff Smith was 'born again' as a Christian. He still drank, smoked, and cheated on his wife. Then one dark and stormy night his car hit a tree. Next thing -- he's reborn as a gnat. Oops. Now he must find a way to build good karma as a bug, or spend infinite lives as an insect. But what good can a gnat do?

7. He remembers growing up on a farm in 17th century Bavaria and coming-of-age in his tribe in 19th century Africa. Now, with the hormone rush of puberty (again) comes the remembrance of reincarnation (again) along with Adam/Agwa/Amanda's overwhelming desire to play with his own tits.

8. Corey has flashbacks of his two previous lives. He clocked-up enough bad karma in each to curse him for the next forty incarnations. With his trusty time machine, he can travel back to visit his previous selves - but can he talk himself out of the evil deeds?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I would like you to consider my YA urban fantasy, THRICE-BORN, complete at 70,000 words.

Seventeen years old Andra’s life is full. On top of dealing with the aftermath of drunken sex with the best friend whose advances she’d previously rejected, concealing the growing pain caused by her fractured soul, she also has to make a choice that will determine her standing in Octavian society. [I'd get rid of "concealing the growing pain caused by her fractured soul," as it's too vague.] As a mere Initiate, she is powerless until she makes her Offering and chooses a Discipline: the spiritual Dyaus who sacrifice a piece of their spirit at the risk of madness, or the immoral but powerful Prithvi, who offer blood. [Seventeen-year-old. Hyphens make it one word, and changing "years" to "year" makes it nounish. Sort of like saying auto mechanic Andra... She's seventeen, but she's a seventeen-year-old. But enough about that. Her life is full? That, to me, is a good thing. Who doesn't want to have a life that's full? But you describe a life that sucks. A more accurate opening line would be: Seventeen-year-old Andra is having a bad week. Substitute that and see how much better it reads. Of course, that may not be the tone you're going for, as it sounds a bit casual, if not flippant. But come up with something that suggests her plate is full. Like Seventeen-year-old Andra's plate is full.] [Also, it's unclear what you mean when you say the Prithvi "offer blood."] [Actually, the whole paragraph is pretty unclear.]

Andra’s life takes a dramatic turn when a mercenary Disciple attacks her astral twin, Andy, and stabs him with a cursed dagger. [Sounds like it's Andy's life that's taken a dramatic turn.] If she can’t destroy the spell draining his life, her brother will die in twelve hours. [Is Andy her twin brother? If so, why call him her astral twin?] Complications arise [It sounded pretty complicated already.] as Andra finds out that the Disciple holding the spell is her best friend’s estranged mother, the Prithvi Priestess Alazne. Andra and the rest of her friends battle time, family, and secrets best left buried [No need to mention secrets unless you're going to reveal what they are.] as they risk everything to save Andy, and stumble in the middle of an assassination plot [When you've got a cursed dagger protruding from your gut, it's hard to concern yourself with some other assassination plot that you stumble on.] that could throw their society back into war.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


What's the point of stabbing someone with a cursed dagger that kills him in twelve hours? If you want him dead, a standard everyday dagger will do the job in a lot less than twelve hours. Even a cursed dagger might kill him quickly if you stab him in the right place. Was he stabbed in the foot?

It's not clear what making an Offering means. In fact, it's not clear what the plot is, unless the majority of the book takes place in the twelve hours after Andy gets stabbed.

The first plot paragraph is complicated and unclear. Dump the whole thing; it's a turn-off. Start over. Tell us who Andra is. Then: Andra's twin brother Andy has twelve hours to live, thanks to a spell put on him by the priestess Alazni. How can she save him? Who's trying to prevent her from saving him? How is this connected with the assassination plot/war? Keep it simple.


Mother (Re)produces. said...

I'm confused. I thought an "urban fantasy" was one that takes place in our universe, but with a sort of supernatural subculture- like Neverwhere, Twilight, Harry Potter... This setting sounds like a complete fantasy setting, so... "YA Fantasy?" Or have I got it wrong?

In addition to all the stuff EE said, I don't like the phrase "Andra’s life takes a dramatic turn..." Considering how dramatic things already seem to be, this has a very 'stock transition phrase' feeling which annoys my (admitedly very easily annoyed) brain. I feel the same way about the "throw their society back into war" ending; you haven't given us enough juicy details about the characters to connect with them and care personally whether or not they are at war. I mean, we don't want ANYBODY to be at war, but why, particularly, should we care about Andra and her people?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a mess. Focus on the main plot and let readers discover the subplots as they read pages.

Dave Fragments said...

One of the reasons so many people hate Anthony Burgess' book "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE" is the vocabulary.

I can easily not read a book when everyone's name begins with "A" and there's all sorts of other weird names attached to the society.

This can't be Urban Fantasy because it is not rooted in the urban world. It's more like Tolkein style high fantasy. I think.

Voter said...

EE: "What's the point of stabbing someone with a cursed dagger that kills him in twelve hours?"

In all fairness, Tolkein used a dagger that took days to kill!

vkw said...

I had a question about the urban fantasy genre as well. It sounds like epic fantasy to me.

But to the query - What is the point of the first paragraph? It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the rest of the query.

The plot seems to be Andra's "ASTRAL TWIN" I have no idea what that means. He's from the stars or a different plane of existence but anyway.

Andra's twin is stabbed with a poisoned dagger that drains his life force away. It is Andra's best friend's mother who did it! We don't know why mom did it but apparently Andra does and she also knows that if she can thwart the evil woman's plans she can save her brother. As she is thwarting the unknown plan by doing something unknown with her friends, she discovers there is a bigger plan to assassinate SOMEONE IMPORTANT and if this assassinate is not stopped then a war will result. which leads me to wonder is Andra's delimma whether or not to save her twin or the SOMEONE IMPORTANT?

So here are things the query needs to answer (I don't think we need to know about drunk sex and teenage angst-if you think its important you can say "the boy she was best friend's with until they had drunk sex."

1. What does her religious choice have to do with anything? Can she just decide to become a Druid or not? Because if I was Andra I would avoid that entire make a choice problem and go for dropping out.

2. What is her twin? If he is just a twin drop the astral but if it is more than that, you have to explain it.

3. What is the evil woman's plan, aka WHY did she do what she did?

4. Who is the SOMEONE IMPORTANT and how does he/she/it tie into this entire mess?


Anonymous said...

First of all, thanks to everyone for their comments, you've been a great help! I'm working on a revision right now based on them.

I also wanted to clarify some things. It is indeed an urban fantasy, as it takes place in the real world, but I realize I haven't made that clear enough in the query. About the names, I hadn't realized they were that jarring, since I tried to stick to short names, plenty of vowels, no weird sounds, etc, but maybe I'm wrong. I'll have to think about it if it's really that much of a problem. Thanks for all the tips on the query's structure, they've been a great help. I also wanted to ask, how can I submit my revision to phoenix's blog once it's done? Thanks again for everything!

Evil Editor said...

Send queries for critiquing to phoenixsullivan @

Anonymous said...

Vkw, an astral twin is simply someone who was born on the same day that you were. You've got thousands of 'em yourself, but odds are good you'll never (knowingly) meet one.

I can't tell if the writer knows this, though.

If you google "was born on" and then your birthdate, you might find a couple. I did this and found a well-known author, and a car dealer in India. Kinda cool.

Evil Editor said...

My googling showed astral twins as being born within minutes of each other, and possibly also at the same latitude and longitude, so that their astrological charts are virtually identical.

Anonymous said...

I was getting a massage from a lady I'd known for years when we relized we were astral twins. Same day/same year. But enough about me...

I'll back up pretty much what everyone else said and add that you need SHORT IMPACTFUL sentences. To again quote the Miss Snark rule....10 sentences 10 words each. I don't fully agree with that exact formula, but your second sentence is 43 words long...that's about as long as an entire GTP!

What does your character want/need? What obsticles stand in her way? What happens if she doesn't achieve them?

Adam Heine said...

"I tried to stick to short names, plenty of vowels, no weird sounds, etc..."

There's nothing wrong with that, especially if it's rooted in our world. But when they all look similar and/or start with the same letter (Andra, Andy, Alazne), it makes it easier for the reader to confuse them.

Ryan Mueller said...

"Seventeen years old Andra’s life is full"

I would strongly consider changing her name to something like Sandra. I can see where you want to go with the whole Andra Andy astral twin similar names thing, but first, you should go through and change everyone's names a little bit. Then, try to read through your book. I had two characters whose names started with M, and when I changed one just a little bit, I had trouble telling them apart. Since readers are unfamiliar with your book, they will have trouble with the names as they are.

"On top of dealing with the aftermath of drunken sex with the best friend whose advances she’d previously rejected, concealing the growing pain caused by her fractured soul, she also has to make a choice that will determine her standing in Octavian society."

This sentence is way too long, and I agree with Evil Editor; you should take out "concealing the growing pain..."

"As a mere Initiate, she is powerless until she makes her Offering and chooses a Discipline: the spiritual Dyaus who sacrifice a piece of their spirit at the risk of madness, or the immoral but powerful Prithvi, who offer blood."

Again, too long. As a reader I came away from this sentence completely confused. You introduce five terms, and that's just way too much for one sentence. When in doubt, try to use as few proper names as you can.

To make this urban fantasy, you should really cut down on the names and titles, at least in the query. They probably make more sense in the context of the story, but they're confusing here.

I would comment on the second plot paragraph, but by then, I'm thoroughly lost. You really need to pare down the amount of information. Right now, it's just too much. Focus on these questions.

What does the protagonist want?
What's keeping her from getting it?
What choice/decision does she face?
What terrible thing will happen if she choose A; what terrible thing will happen if she doesn't?

none said...

I have thousands of astral twins? Wow! That makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to my life!

If it's urban fantasy then perhaps our world could intrude just a tad into the query.