Monday, May 23, 2011

Face-Lift 909

Guess the Plot


1. Anonymous, snarky commenter on a writing blog by day, at night Susan Semple turns into the caped avenger known as . . . Da Minion!

2. An ancient war rages in rural Kentucky. On one side: a steel mill. On the other side: the last remaining descendants of Noah, who still have dominion over animals.

3. Carlos is king of the jungle gym. At least he was until Sarah usurped his throne. Now he will do anything to win back his rightful place as the ruler of the playground.

4. Getting kidnapped by aliens is the best thing that ever happened to struggling trout farmer Gordon Bent, as it leads to his rise from experiment subject to Supreme Emperor of the New Galactic Order.

5. Canada,1867. The problem: what to call the country. The Kingdom of Canada? The Yankees would freak out. The Constitutional Monarchy of ... too long... Join in the fun as a couple of dozen bearded white guys come up with a title everybody can live with.

6. When the owners of the popular S&M nightclub Dominion extend the basement, they inadvertently open a portal to Hell. The demons stream in to inflict the usual torture, but how will they react when they realize the patrons like it?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Nova McDonough’s father has always been a mystery. Despite their estrangement, when sixteen-year-old Nova relocates to small town Kentucky to live with her father, the McDonough family secrets bubble to the surface one by one. [The first sentence is vague. Drop it and start with the second sentence. Except drop "Despite their estrangement" and call him her estranged father.]

Nova learns she has a remarkable gift with animals, a secret six local families share. [Does that mean six families know Nova's secret, or six families also have gifts with animals?] [Lots of people have gifts with animals. Dog trainers, Tarzan, snake handlers, Aquaman, Birdmen of Alcatraz . . . Assuming Nova's gift goes beyond theirs, maybe you could give an example of what she can do.] She learns there’s a temple in the forest symbolizing the core of their power over which an ancient war rages. [I can't tell if the war is raging over the temple or their power.] [Where, exactly, is this war raging?] On one side are those like her, descendants of Biblical Noah, [Thanks for specifying that it's Biblical Noah, so we wouldn't think it was descendants of Yannick Noah.] who yet wield dominion over animals. On the other side is the seemingly innocuous local corporation, Providence Steel. Choosing one side means protecting her mystical birthright, while choosing to protect the innocents on the other could make Nova a target. [Is the seemingly innocuous steel mill the innocents? What do they need protection from? Animals?] [Here's my guess at the plot. The birds and fish complain to the descendants of Noah that the steel mill is polluting the lake. So the Noahns summon an army of wolves and mountain lions for a battle of biblical proportions. The steel mill quickly converts the sheet metal department to sword manufacture. Now if only the Noahns had a fire-breathing dragon who could melt swords, it would be a perfect metaphor for the arms race. Tell me there's a dragon.]

As events unfold, Nova finds the struggle to fit in at her new school is the least of her worries. [It must be, as it hasn't even been mentioned yet.] Instead, she must juggle her growing fondness for local boy Robert Blevins, a practitioner of dominion [What is dominion? A religion? A sport?] who already has a beautiful girlfriend, uncover her father’s mysterious past, and contend with the other Sons of Noah, who have the deadly dragon, Leviathan, at their disposal. [Yes!]

Even when newcomer Brody Clark enters the mix, shamelessly flirting and offering to even the odds, in the end there is blood. [I'm not sure what happens when Brody Clark enters the mix in the book, but if he wasn't worth mentioning until now, he shouldn't enter the mix in the query.]

DOMINION is a Young Adult Fantasy about Christian teens. It is complete at 74,000 words and is potentially the first book in a trilogy.


Considering how long Noah lived, and assuming he passed along his genes, his current descendants are probably his grandchildren.

Why didn't Nova already know she had a remarkable gift with animals?

Do the Noahns' animals always attacks in pairs?

If this is being submitted as a Christian book, you might want to make it more obvious that the Noahns are the good guys. Preferably by telling us what the bad guys are doing that's bad.

In other words, we need to know what this raging war is all about. Big-armed steelworkers taking on people who can order wild boars to attack sounds exciting, but we need to know what they're fighting about. Why would a local steel mill be on one side of a war that's described as "ancient"?

I suppose the fact that sporting events are often described in military terms should preclude me from complaining that six families versus a seemingly innocuous corporation isn't exactly a raging war.


Anonymous said...

If the only human survivors of the Flood were Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives, then who on earth isn't a descendant of Noah?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have some interesting characters but this query doesn't really convey what they're doing in this book. You need to make the main plot clear, there's no need to mention all the little subplots.

The query gave me no idea this would be considered a 'Christian' story until you called it that. For one thing, Noah was clearly not a Christian, plus all of your 'Biblical' elements seem to be from mythology Christians share with Jewish and Islamic traditions. Also, I don't see any reason why a person would need to be a 'Christian' to appreciate these characters and their story. So maybe there's no need to apply that 'Christian' label. Or maybe there's something in the book you haven't mentioned that would make it uninteresting or offensive to non-Christians for reasons we don't see in the description provided. If so, you should let us know what that would be.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the tale's "Christianity" needs to be proven to us outsiders if the whole query/publication process is intended to happen within the vast American "Christian" subculture.

(I put the word in quotes only because the movement tends to exclude traditional churches.)

But I do agree the main plot has gone missing.

About the title: When I realized the tale was meant to be "Christian", I immediately made a connection to the right-wing political movement known as Dominionism. Author, if that's not your intent, google the term and decide whether maybe you don't want to change the title.

Especially if the steel mill owners are the bad guys.

Dave Fragments said...

Does the small town in Kentucky exist on a river? Steel mills only exist on rivers. That's because they consume so much coal for processing the steel that they need barges to transport the tonnage coming from the mines. And unless you put a rolling mill nearby, you need a railroad to transport the billets to the rolling mill.

I grew up with the red glow of steel mills filling the western sky.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Since this is YA and you clearly have some high school stuff in there, I might start with Nova's struggles in school and her interest in the boy with the beautiful girlfriend. Otherwise, with all the raging war stuff going on, the high school stuff sounds trivial in comparison.

So, Nova moves in with her estranged father. She has some school/unrequited crush issues. Then she learns about the Noah animal stuff, and the war with the steel millers who are bad because . . . Then maybe mention how the crush boy gets entangled in the whole thing (because I'm guessing he does) and what the actual stakes are (at present they're kind of vague.)

That's my suggestion anyway. Look forward to the rewrite :)

Oh, and since we're sharing, I figured "Christian story" at the mention of Noah.

Anonymous said...

Aren't most teenagers in American fiction "Christian"? Just saying, you know, given the demographics. So is this a more subtle way of saying "THIS IS FOR THE CHRISTIAN MARKET"? Why not just say so? Especially if your market is a Christiany publisher, I suspect they don't mind if you make a big deal about it.

Anonymous said...

Actually it was Leviathan and Kentucky that tipped me off-- made me think of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.

Only I think there they say Leviathan was a dinosaur.

Perfectly serious, non-hostile question to the author: Is your novel taking the POV that the earth is 6,000 years old? I know there's some disagreement about this within the movement... it probably makes a diff in who might be willing to publish your novel.

Anonymous said...

My 11:36 comments were not meant to question whether the work was appropriate for a 'Christian' audience. As far as I know, any novel meant for general audiences would be appropriate for most Christians.

However, I understand there is a genre specifically meant to appeal to some 'Christian' readers and those books are not well suited to more general audiences because they include content other people tend to find uninteresting, incomprehensible, or offensive. It isn't clear whether you say it's a 'Christian' story because you wrote it specifically for that sort of audience and don't think it is suitable for more general audiences or if you wanted to be sure the agent knows you don't think it will be offensive to Christian audiences even though Noah is a big deal, magic happens, and Jesus isn't actually a character in the story. Or what. The 'Christian' label seems unnecessary, if not misapplied, so I was trying to understand why you used it.

If you really think the story will only be popular among readers with a specific religious philosophy, that makes a difference in the marketing and an agent would want to know about it. If not, this label isn't needed and you can use the space to say more about the plot & characters.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Aren't most teenagers in American fiction "Christian"?

This is the second time I've heard this assumption and I don't get it. At all. I read a lot of YA and I'd be hard pressed to think of a single one where the character is openly/obviously Christian. And I would never assume a religion unless otherwise told. Is it just me?

none said...

Admit it, EE, you peeked ahead.

I thought Leviathan lived at the bottom of the ocean. Doesn't sound like a comfortable place for a winged, fire-breathing creature.

Evil Editor said...

The Christian book market is a major force in publishing. While it doesn't rival the best-selling genres, it's no slouch, and it could be argued that labeling your book (which has appeal across genres) Christian, Inspirational or Religious could lead to better sales on the grounds that it will be in Christian bookstores and religious book sections of general bookstores, where it may be more easily found by those seeking Christian books than it would if shelved as general fiction.

Many agents don't handle inspirational fiction. Some specialize in it. If you're submitting to one of the latter, of course you want to stress that the book will appeal to that market.

It does seem better to state the book is for the Christian market than to say it is about Christian teens, especially as the plot summary doesn't say anything about the characters' Christian religion, unless dominion is some form of Christianity.

Adam Heine said...

Yes, Biblically, every human alive is a descendant of Noah. That part threw me.

There is some room to play with that, if you want to imply (for example) that the Bible didn't tell the whole story, but probably that should be hinted at in the query.

Though even if the Bible didn't tell the whole story, I still think ALMOST all humans would be descendants of Noah.

Anonymous said...

@ Adam - If the book is being touted as a Christian book, I'd think it's not a good idea to take the track that the bible didn't tell the whole story...

Sounds like an interesting premise. If the dad is a Son of Noah, I'd make that part of the hook, not leave it vague. In general terms the entire plot of this novel is rather vague. Not a good thing...

Adam Heine said...

I agree, Steve. If it's for the Christian market, then it's probably not a good idea to mess with the Bible.

If it's for the secular market, though, that might be an okay tack to take. But as with other commenters, the line about "Christian teens" makes me wonder if this will be marketable in that arena.

arhooley said...

This gift of dominion seems much too big -- heck, it's biblical -- to be contained in this small Kentucky setting. It should be a worldwide movement, with all of nature itself hanging in the balance.

none said...

If you say they're Christian teens, I guess we have to believe you, but it might be better if the query showed how their Christianity affects the plot.