Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Face-Lift 893

Guess the Plot

Closed Pathways

1. When the agent for country singer Lyanna Hines is found dead backstage at the Staples Center, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, that hammer didn't bury itself in the agent's skull, and two, when his wife sees that Lyanna Hines is a juicy redhead, he's going to be in for some serious questions.

2. Thumbelina has been wandering the pathways of the Alderton Maze in search of a way out for seven hundred years, when at last she encounters the wizard-hedgeman with his magical clippers. It's spite at first sight, but they must work together to forge an exit before that wicked witch, Tiffany, returns from the hairdresser's -- or be lost forever.

3. Due to a rare disorder, Amy's neurological pathways are shutting down. She has only enough time to write down a murder confession before she's paralyzed completely. Detective Alvarez doesn't believe her story- and the real killer may strike again. Does Amy's past life hold the clues to the killer's identity?

4. Juliana thought her father was dead, but he's just shown up, demanding that she cast a magical spell that will open the pathway to his homeland. She would prefer not to, because casting the spell will annihilate the human race. Then again, what's a little collateral damage if it means getting rid of the old man for good?

5. When Emily goes for her jog at Dume Park, she discovers all but a single trail are closed for maintenance. Determined to get her cardio at any cost, she follows the unfamiliar trail, soon realizing that something hungrily stalks her from the bushes. Suddenly that legend of the Dume Park Werewolf doesn't seem so silly.

6. No one can rescue the princess because of the obstacles: monkey trees, a wicked witch's moat full of quicksand, mountainous terrain prone to avalanches, a zombie horde, and Ludlow the Shadow King. Jack, a lowly woodcutter, decides to try anyway. He has this magical ax and a trusty steed. Plus, his random companions: two fencing wenches, a juvenile delinquent, and a jolly butler.

Original Version

Dear Evil Agent,

I learned on your agency’s website that you are currently interested in urban fantasy manuscripts. I think you may enjoy my novel, Closed Pathways, complete at 80,000 words. I hope you will consider it for representation.

Small time enchanter Juliana Silva’s life goes from comfy to crazy when her mother is kidnapped through a mirror and she discovers her faery heritage is a lot stronger than she thought. Now Juliana is searching for her mom [In the mirror?] while getting used to seeing pointy ears every time she looks in the mirror. [Her mother was kidnapped by Mister Spock?] Not to mention learning how to use magical abilities she didn’t even know existed. When she finally locates her mother [In the mirror?] they have the family reunion from hell. [I had the family reunion from hell last year. The ex-in-laws and brain-dead Uncle Mort and Evilette's serial-killer boyfriend were bad enough, but then Satan crashes the party.] Juliana’s supposedly deceased father, who’s surprisingly lively for a dead guy, is actually full-blooded fae. He’s also behind the whole mess. Cyprian has been stranded on Earth since the pathways to the faery homeland, Arcadia, [It's not clear that Cyprian is Julie's father, as it would be if you'd named him when you first mentioned him.] were closed a hundred and fifty years ago. Now he wants them reopened. Juliana is the only one who can do it, but she takes off after finding out about some of the spell’s nastier side effects. Like casting it will kill her. [Why is it that a small-time enchanter has the power to do something the superwizzes can't? What makes Juliana so special?]

If she wants to live to a ripe old age Juliana has to find a way to put the brakes on her father’s plans before he finds her again. Staying alive tops her priority list, but knowing reality itself might be destroyed if Earth and Arcadia reconnect provides extra motivation. Now she and her shapeshifter bodyguard are up to their eyeballs in magical attacks, mundane gunfights, and all levels of New York society. [If her father hasn't found her yet, why is she up to her eyeballs in magical attacks?] Good thing the gorgeous guy Juliana just met is a force to be reckoned with in all three departments. But no amount of magic and money can stand against good old-fashioned treachery. Cyprian will do whatever it takes to get home. Even if it means murdering his own daughter and annihilating the human race.


It sounds like Juliana has to cast the spell that opens the pathways. Thus Cyprian should be motivated to keep her alive at all costs. I don't see how murdering her would help him get home. Nor would it annihilate the human race, as it would prevent her from casting the spell.

Why didn't Cyprian kidnap Juliana instead of Juliana's mother? How did Julie learn that casting the spell could wipe out everyone?

I don't think we need the magic mirror and the mother in the query. The setup is: Juliana Silva’s supposedly deceased father, Cyprian, who’s surprisingly lively for a dead guy, is actually full-blooded fae. He’s been stranded on Earth since the pathways to the faerie homeland, Arcadia, were closed a hundred and fifty years ago. Now he wants them reopened, a task only Juliana can manage because I, the author, have so declared.

Now we have more space to explain what Cyprian can do to force Juliana to cast a spell that will kill her and annihilate the human race (of which I assume her mother is a member, so Cyprian can hardly say, Cast the spell or I'll kill your mother). And to tell us how Juliana plans to put the brakes on her father's plan. And to hint at how hot sex with a shapeshifter is.


Anonymous said...

Intriguing assortment of elements, but how they are related is a bit of a confusion. More about how things work and what the characters do would help the query. How the mirror works and how it is used in the kidnapping and the search, for instance, is totally unclear.

Anonymous said...

sometimes it seems everything is named Arcadia. I've seen places named Arcadia in fantasy before, and there are tons of actual places named after the Greek Arcadia. It seems a bit overdone.


Not Normally Anonymous said...

Agree with EE and Anon 12:54. Interesting elements for a story, but sounds like you are too close to it to understand that we don't know anything about it until you make it clear. It's compounded because (I suspect in an attempt to infuse "voice") you don't use the most precise words sometimes:

"discovers her faery heritage is a lot stronger than she thought." -- faery heritage and stronger feel awkward together. And how much did she "thought" to begin with?

"searching for her mom" - literally in the mirror? looking at it or having passed through it? Your next sentence makes it seem like she's standing there looking at it.

"seeing pointy ears every time she looks in the mirror." seeing HERSELF with pointy ears? I assume so but unclear.

"family reunion from hell." - no idea what you mean by this and your description afterwards doesn't support this.

"Like casting it will kill her." - not only does EE's point about why her vs the super wizz's rings true, but this also seems totally contrived. It may or may not be in the story but the way it's presented here it's totally screaming "plot device".

"Now she and her shapeshifter bodyguard" - huh? where'd he come from?

"all levels of New York society" - this looks like it was tacked on as a way to make this sound "Urban" -- that's not how Urban Fantasy novels work.

Your best lines are your last ones. I'd flip this query on its head and start with those...then you'd have stakes throughout your query and could do a much more condensed set up about Julia and the kidnapping and spend the query where it needs to focus...on the plot.

My two cents. Take what you like.

St0n3henge said...

This is the kind of plot I've gotten used to seeing in fantasy queries.
Namely, everything in the story is there only because the author needs it to be.
Why did Cyprian kidnap Juliana's mother? Because Juliana is the MC and has to have something to do at that point in the story, like trying to save her mom.
How is it possible she didn't know she was half-faery? Because if she did know, it couldn't be revealed as a surprise (and major plot point) in the story.
Why wouldn't Cyprian want Juliana alive at all costs? Because her life must be in danger at all times in order to add suspense to the story.
Why is Juliana the only person who can cast the spell? Because she is the main character, therefore must be the most important person in the story.
Why is it set in New York? Because if it wasn't, it wouldn't be Urban Fantasy.
And so on, through the whole contrived book.
My advice? Recycle the ms and write a story in which the characters do things because they actually have a reason to. Then send in the query for THAT story.

Xenith said...

Panning the manuscript seems uncalled for. There's no book that's so original or well-written that someone couldn't write a bland query letter for it.

If we could sit down and write a query letter that makes a manuscript sound wonderful on the first attempt, there'd be no need for sites like this.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot to fit into a query, and you did this at the expense of clarity. I like that the MC has to battle her own father, do you see this as YA fantassy?

Just a few points:
- Did Juliana's ears start to grow pointy only once her mother was kidnapped?
- Is the bodyguard and the good-looking guy J just met one and the same?
- What does her dad, a full-blooded fae, actually do here on earth to survive? Has his magical ability been compromised by living here? And how pointy are his ears and do they make him stand out?

Unknown said...

As many of the other comments have pointed out, you're trying to cover too much. This is leaving much of the query confusing. Remember, a query letter is not the same as the back-copy. Where you are tempted to be vague and entice the agent/publisher to read more, don't. They need to be captivated by the storyline, not the "surprises" you're leaving out.

I suspect there is more to this story that would make many of the unclear details (the kidnapped mother, the magic mirror, the bodyguard) easier to understand. What are your major disaster in the novel (most have 3, some have 4 or 5 depending on the act structure)? That's the backbone of your story, and it may or may not include the kidnapped mother. Those need to be clear in the query letter.

Try vocalizing your story in 30 seconds to someone. Over and over again. That will also help you to solidify your message about your novel.