Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Face-Lift 910

Guess the Plot

The Dragon's Children

1. Within a week, the school was razed to the ground and the staff and students were eaten or had fled. She should have gone with home schooling.

2. When Sir George slew the dragon, he didn't realize its nest was already full of eggs -- eggs that would soon hatch, producing 27 hungry babies. They are now big enough to chase down and devour slow horses and small cattle. Can Sir George find and slay all these monsters, or is Britain doomed?

3. He's not an actual dragon, he's the vile man in charge of the orphanage, and is only called 'the dragon' behind his back. And those are not his actual children, as in offspring, they're just the random orphans who ended up in residence. But why do they all seem bug-eyed and identical? When Anita Bendire begins her new job as the cook she soon realizes something sinister is going on. Something that threatens the future of all mankind.

4. Lizzie and Andy always wondered about their scaly skin and habit of breathing fire whenever they hiccupped, but Mama's revelation about a brief liaison with a dragon leaves them stunned. Particularly when they find out that their deadbeat Dad has a huge treasure trove. Armed with a lance and a lawyer, the kids go on a quest.

5. Belinda is having the best summer ever. She's been out on two whole dates with Drew – so hot with his crooked smile – and he even loves her prominent nose. Date number three is this weekend and she just might get her first kiss. The only problem is hay fever season is starting and well . . . her sneezes can get a little "fiery".

6. Bored with spending their time watching clouds, two teens who were adopted by a dragon leave home to see the world. But they encounter bandits and princes and thieves. Oh my. Can they make it back to Papa Dragon before the universe ends?

Original Version

Dear Editor,

Garan and Eira, adopted siblings in the fantastical land of Trian, know a lot about living on an island. They know how to gather mussels and watch the clouds and how to tell themselves stories to cut through the monotony of everyday life. [If everyday life is monotonous, why is this place described as fantastical? Maybe the first sentence should say "in the tedious land of Trian." Usually we try to hook the reader with something intriguing; opening with your main characters gathering mussels and watching clouds risks the editor falling asleep, conking his head on his desk, breaking his pince-nez and blaming you. ] To the dragon who looks over [looks after?] them, they appear content – until Eira’s seventeenth birthday, when all their anger comes rushing out at once. [What are they angry about?]

Spurred by rage, the dragon [What's the dragon angry about?] complies with their wishes [You've made me so angry I'm going to give you a triple serving of ice cream.] and sends the adopted siblings off the island they’ve nearly never left and into the world that they know only from books and stories. [Get rid of "they've nearly never left."] At first in awe by the newness of it all, [Get rid of "At first"; it's understood. Change "in awe by" to "awed by." Change "the newness of it all" to something less vague.] Garan and Eira soon find that it is not all what they imagined [What did they imagine, and what is "it" really like?] and that for all they know about the island, they know very little about the real world. [We know very little about the real world. Is it our world, but with dragons and mussels? Are Garan and Eira human?] After deciding to break the dragon’s command and leave each other to make their own way, both struggle to learn how to survive, amidst the strangeness of learning of life and love. [Get rid of "learn how to." Replace "amidst the strangeness of learning of life and love" with something less vague.]

On their own, they meet princes and bandits, fortunetellers and thieves, all the while experiencing the wonders of emotions for the first time [As I recall, they experienced a rush of emotion on Eira's seventeenth birthday.] and having the adventures they never expected. [What adventures? Why were they so anxious to leave if they didn't expect to have adventures?] But will they remember the dragon’s command to return within a year or will they disobey him again, breaking more than just their lives apart? [What does that mean? What happens if they don't return?]

An 80,000 word YA Fantasy, THE DRAGON’S CHILDREN is refreshing and new, [What is it, a soft drink?] [If editors listened to authors' opinions of their own work, nothing would get rejected.] exploring exactly what humans will sacrifice to gain control. [I can't say that that theme came across in the plot description. Who sacrificed what, and what do they now control?]


Start over. Paragraph 1: The setup. Kids? adopted by a dragon decide they want to make their way in the world. Dragon says Be careful what you wish for and sends them off, warning that they must return within a year or their coach will turn into a pumpkin. Paragraph 2: Some specific things that happen to them, especially bad things. Paragraph 3: The deadline approaching, they're in danger, something threatens to prevent them from getting home in time. Presumably the dragon swoops in and saves them and they realize there's no place like home, but you don't have to reveal that if you don't want to.

I know there are dragon books even for adults, but somehow I feel like when there's a dragon it's for kids, and if you want to call it YA you need to show why it would appeal more to, say, a fifteen-year-old than a ten-year-old.

Is Garan older or younger than Eira? It seems like the elder sibling would not let the younger one go off alone in the dangerous new world.


Khazar-khum said...

If they went from a fantasyland island paradise to New York, this could be very funny & entertaining.

Instead it sounds like they go from Island Fantasyland to Generica Fantasyland.

They also sound like twins. Are they supposed to be twins? How & why did they end up with a dragon? What happened to their parents? Are they special kids, royals or magicians, who need a dragon's protection?

There's a lot to work with here, and so far all I'm seeing is missed opportunity.

none said...

I live on an island and I've never gathered a mussel in my life. I wouldn't know what to do with the poor thing if I did gather it. Although I do know how to knock limpets off rocks, if anyone's interested....

No, I have no idea what to do with a limpet, either.

Truth is, there are islands and then there are, yanno, islands. I take it this is a small island, perhaps with a couple of palm trees and a rock? Not, perhaps, an island the size of half New Zealand.

This query is crying out for more specifics. What do the children want? What stands in their way? What are the stakes? What's the choice they have to make? Do they cook the mussels?

I think people who pick up books about dragons want to read about dragons, not some kids who run away from the dragon first chance they get, leaving the reader with dragonless page after dragonless page.

Anonymous said...

EE is right, you need to start over and get specific about what happens.

This description sounds like you started with a potentially sophisticated and gripping tale about overprotected youth leaving home, but then metaphorized it into some sort of twittering middle grade elf romp.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Khazar-khum. If they went to a world we know, that would be kinda interesting. As it is, it's not.

Without specifics, it started out sounding dull and then when you actually separated the characters so that they could have unspecific adventures one by one, probably with alternating chapters in shifting POV... well, I groaned aloud. I didn't know what was happening and now I don't know in duplicate.


Anonymous said...

Also, I've never met a 17 year old who thought he/she was a child. They all have to cope with adult issues and they all feel like adults. You may view 'young adult' readers as children, but their primary aspiration is to better comprehend WTF life is about in the terrifying and terrible world of adults. So maybe it would help to convey your great understanding of what appeals to this audience by getting a title that doesn't include the "children" word.

Anonymous said...

Author, you've got a problem constructing sentences and narrative.

To the dragon who looks over them, they appear content
EE noted the problematic preposition
– until Eira’s seventeenth birthday, when all their anger comes rushing out at once.
One second ago they were gathering muscles and watching clouds -- now their anger rushes out?

Spurred by rage, the dragon complies with their wishes
Spurred - rage - complies. Which of these three words does not belong? Also, the dragon was watching a pair of contented teens two seconds ago -- now he's full of rage?

At first in awe by the newness of it all,
EE suggested a change, but at the minimum it should be "awe of," not "awe by."
Garan and Eira soon find that it is not all what they imagined
"All that they imagined" or "all they imagined," not "all what they imagined."

After deciding to break the dragon’s command
I could accept "break" a command, but "defy" would be closer.
and leave each other to make their own way,
Make their own ways
both struggle to learn how to survive,
What's happening in this clause is that they're struggling and learning -- what are they DOING? What events are transpiring?
amidst the strangeness of learning of life and love.
So they're struggling to learn amidst the strangeness of learning. And I'd change this so you don't have two "of"s in one phrase. But I'd change the whole thing anyway because I still don't know what's HAPPENING.

But will they remember the dragon’s command to return within a year or will they disobey him again, breaking more than just their lives apart?
I think I see what you mean, but it sounds weird. "I have eaten not only the cake, but the ice cream up." Change it to something like "breaking more than their childhood union" or whatever.

An 80,000 word YA Fantasy, THE DRAGON’S CHILDREN is refreshing and new, exploring exactly what humans will sacrifice to gain control.
I think what you mean is "to gain freedom," not control. There may be something refreshing and new about your explication of this theme, but there's nothing new about the theme itself. Moreover, I'd leave your theme out of the query, or rephrase it in terms of the characters and story -- "What are Garan and Eira willing to sacrifice for their own freedom?" But this is the first time we have any notion that there's a tradeoff in this story. What IS there to sacrifice? What can the dragon take from the kids if they blow him off?

batgirl said...

Too much time on backstory, and too much vagueness. There could be a good story here, but presumably it starts when the twins leave, so start your summary there as well.
Are Garan and Eira human, by they way? I sort of want to ask why everyone is so rageful, but that would only lead to more backstory.

I admit, though, I do like the detail about gathering mussels, and I wish there were more specific elements like that in this query.