Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Face-Lift 958

Guess the Plot

Hard Nox

1. The true story of the Greek economy and how it ruined everybody's future. Plus a guy named Ulysses uses sex, drugs, and rock n roll to forget his losses and catapult himself into the new decade.

2. A young American stands convicted of murdering her British roommate in Italy. But is she really innocent? Pretty much impossible to tell at this point. Change the channel, wouldja?

3. Hard Nox, a super hero recently out of the closet, has to raise parts of Japan by two feet, use his super breath to cool the nuclear reactors then push Antarctica back to the South Pole. Then he has an 11 o'clock with Evil Editor to discuss flying Mrs. V around the world on her Tweet Tour. Only Hard Nox can keep her on schedule.

4. The School of Hard Nox is open for applications for the 2012 academic year, offering majors in "You Dont Realise How Lucky You Are"; "When I was Your Age..." and "What Kids These Days Need Is A Good War To Knock Some Sense Into Them."

5. Everyone Nox loves dies—her parents, her brother, even her goldfish. She'd love to find true love, but she's terrified of getting close to people . . . until she finally meets a guy with nothing to fear—The Grim Reaper.

6. Thanks to that new PhD, Assistant Professor Vince Ludlow can teach his first art history course with an international field trip. But once they get to Greece, his party-happy undergrads ply him with liquor and leave him on the beach and now he's surrounded by Minotaur dudes with swords who seem to be calling him Odysseus.

7. When made man Paulie O'Shear finds his wife dead in the garage, apparently of suicide by NOx poisoning, he gets sucked into a world of conspiracy, intrigue, and murder. Oh wait. He's a made man. He's already in that world.

8. Phil Evert, biochemist, is studying the impact of transdimensional gates on the environment. Mistaken for a spy on the non-earth side, he escapes with the help of a real spy and discovers invasion plans.

9. Life as a wizard is so difficult. Especially when you're also a rock star, like Vince Spector. Just as he reaches the top of the charts with his band, Hard Nox, along comes Mary Dalton, the most clever, dangerous, and sexy witch-hunter in the modern world.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Nox Somner is a human lightning rod for tragedy. Everyone she loves dies—her parents, foster parents, brother, even her goldfish. She is terrified of getting close to people until she meets someone with nothing to fear—The Grim Reaper.

The boy Nox loves is next to die, but Grim will spare Memphis if she helps Grim out of a tiny jam. [That's one ruthless guy if he's threatening to destroy Memphis if Nox won't do him a tiny favor.] A lost bet led to Grim's boatman hiding out as a teenager at Nox’s High School for the past year. [Did the boatman win the bet or lose it?] [What were the terms of this bet?

Grim Reaper: If the Cyclopses beat the Phoenixes, you can have my scythe.

Boatman: And if the Phoenixes win?

Grim Reaper: You have to go to high school in Memphis.]

Now he refuses to return. The stack-up of souls this side of the River Styx is becoming dangerous to the living. [Especially the ones in Memphis.]

To save Memphis, [I've been to Memphis. Trust me, the place is a lost cause.] she must convince the Boatman to go back. He can’t be taken against his will so she tries to bargain with him, but the only thing he wants in exchange for his return is Nox's love. If she won’t offer herself up, she has to kill him. [Maybe he'd take a riverboat. They pull into Memphis all the time. Here's a shot of the Memphis Queen III.

And here's a shot of what the Boatman's been using.

Tell me a riverboat wouldn't make the Boatman's job a lot easier. Nox should offer him a riverboat before she offers herself. I think he'd jump at it.]

Easy as falling off a ladder. She just has to get close enough to let her bad luck strike. But the closer she gets to the Boatman, the harder it becomes to trade this boy who understands her better than anyone else ever will for the one who will never love her back. [Which one is the Boatman? The one who understands her? It would be less confusing if you didn't refer to the Boatman as a boy, as he's merely disguised as a boy. Or, instead of "this boy" and "the one," use their names.] And now it may be too late to change her mind.

HARD NOX is a 77,000-word YA Paranormal set in River Styx, Ohio and my debut novel. A native Ohioan, I grew up not far from River Styx and the setting is largely based on my childhood hometown. [There's an actual place called River Styx? Ah, Wikipedia reveals that it's known for its market and a cemetery. Is it near a river? Because they're missing out on big tourist dollars if they don't have a Boatman taking people across the river. It would be worth diverting the nearest river to River Styx just for the tourism cash if there isn't already a river. The Boatman would rake in big tip money. I can't believe no one's thought of this yet.] Should you wish to read more, I would be delighted to send you sample chapters or a full manuscript.

Thank you for your time,


Your characters are Nox, Memphis and The Boatman? Does the Boatman have a name? Is it Charon? Does anyone in this Ohio community have a normal name?

If she won’t offer herself up, she has to kill him. What good does it do Nox to kill the Boatman? Memph dies if she doesn't get the Boatman to return to his job, right?

The query is okay up until the sentence If she won’t offer herself up, she has to kill him. From that point on it's not clear. Even if it were crystal clear it would just be a further description of the setup. You could tell us what happens. How does Nox (short for Obnoxious) plan to resolve her dilemma? What goes wrong?


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This query looks familiar-- has it been up somewhere before? If so, then memory suggests that Memphis turned out to be boyfriend #1, rather than the place Marc Cohn was walkin' with his feet ten feet offa Beale.

The Ohio thing seems to confirm that. Writer, nothing in the query tells us that Memphis is a person. "Is next to die" is a hint, but in the standard query present tense, not much of one.

Having your parents and brother die is some pretty heavy @#$%. The flip addition of the goldfish makes it sound like it won't be given the weight it's due. And if she can bargain to save her quondam BF, why didn't she try to save her family?

I'm having trouble keeping track of all the males in pursuit of Nox. There's Grim, the boatman, and I think Memphis? Is he the boatman? I'm lost on this point.

Anonymous said...

Yes, confusing. Odd mix of characters and setting and some logical issues.

Sorry, but my guess was that you set the action there because that's where you live. Always convenient to set your novel in the 'hood nearby -- no research required -- but it isn't always the best setting for the characters and plot you're interested in, and that seems to be an issue here.

Just can't picture Charon as a beardless scrawny high school heart throb. What's that kid's name, Justin Bieber? Can't see it. Plus, maybe it's just me, but I'm not clear on this Grim Reaper dude, he's also a cute high school boy with acne? Wow, that seems so incongruous. How'd he get there? He's not even part of the Greek/Roman pantheon that spawned Charon.

So you're mixing mythologies and putting these characters into a seemingly incongruous setting and the main character is just a normal American girl named Nox? Or is she the Greek goddess Nox? And if so, what's she in high school for? Whatever, she's got this seriously complicated love/death dilemma because her high school has been invaded by a Greek demigod and his weird buddy.

What is the Grim Reaper, anyway? Just a symbol of death for Christians without any real personalization in Christian mythology, I thought. I'm confused.

Using existing mythic characters and giving them the traditional name comes with one big perk: readers immediately know who you're talking about. It also comes with a lot of baggage: the character already has a reputation, numerous associates, a particular setting, superpowers, etc. If you aren't using those, you've got a lot of 'splaining to do or everybody's confused.

Maybe it would help to do like Shakespeare. Just give your characters new names, even though they were inspired by the mythic. That way you can borrow the qualities that work for your story and invent the rest much more freely.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Mm, I see River Styx is up north. Not the most evocative part of Ohio. Down south, near the Kentucky border, now that's where I'd place a gateway to the underworld, Ohio-ly speaking. Time stands still there.

There's even a big ol' river.

journeytogao said...

Add my vote to the serious $&!# of losing your entire family and then your foster family! As if anyone could even stand up after all that.

If the stack-up of souls this side of the Styx is dangerous to the living, how is that a problem for Grim? Shouldn't it be a boon? I should think he'd be into plagues, contagion, etc.

"If she won’t offer herself up, she has to kill him." I can't tell whose rule this is or why it is so.

Why does the Grim Reaper himself have no power to bring Boatman back? Or why he can't hire (or coerce) another? In Pirates of the Caribbean, all those guys were willing to work for Davey Jones for a hundred years instead of dying. I only reference the finest.

150 said...

A huge part of my day job deals with NOx emissions, so this query tickles me.

For me, this query raises issues. The names are nuts. (Memphis is mythology was a woman.) The disconnect between the multiple meaningful deaths and the lighthearted paranormal-romance tone is jarring. How does Nox know she's cursed and not just very unlucky? Why would the Boatman be forced into high school, of all places? And why would he not grab the chance to get out when he could??

Listen to the minions. It sounds like getting opinions from people a step or two back from the material will be useful.

Khazar-khum said...

Why isn't Nox in counseling? With her entire family dead, how does she cope? I think you're trying for a "Lightning Thief" feel, but it is just too confusing as it stands.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm OK with the plot and the crazy names. However, take note that the stranger the names of your characters, the easier it is to dismiss the story. The more vocabulary people have to learn for your story or novel, the more work they have to do to enjoy the story. That's why everyone hates Anthony Burgess' novel Clockwork Orange.

It also means that your query will have to be precise to get it sold.

Some questions I have are is what does Nox Sumner learn and how does she grow during this ordeal? She falls in love with the boatman. How does that change him or is he just bumming around avoiding his job?
And there's Death himself, the Grim Reaper. Does he/she stay one dimensional or is he/she changed by this rather crowded affair between his boatman and Nox.

BTW - I changed my mind. Stargate has a race of beings named "NOX" and I would change that name because of the unfortunate associations.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Now I got that Chris DeBurgh song running through my head.

He is closer now and the search is on,
Reading from a map in the mind,
Yes there's the ragged hill,
And there's the boat on the river...

Man. That was a cool song.

150 said...

Been thinking about this. Just remove the "o" from the Boatman and I think you've got a winner.

Anonymous said...

Would someone please write GTP #4?!

Anonymous said...

Mythology wise this query is kind of a mess.

Nox - is the Roman form of the Nyx, the Greek goddess of the Night.
Memphis - is a minor Greek goddess.
The boatman - Charon works for Hades not the Grim Reaper.
Grim Reaper - is not a part of greek mythology

Is Nox the greek goddess? If she is, why isn't this mentioned in the query? If she isn't, why is she named Nox? Naming a character after a goddess in a story about greek mythology, but having her not be a goddess is weird.

You have a male character named after a minor greek goddess. Most people probably won't catch it, but still.

Why is Charon called The Boatman instead of his actual name? Also, Charon works for Hades not the Grim Reaper. Why isn't Hades tracking him down? In fact, where is Hades in all this?

It seems like you just want to use one little thing from Greek mythology (the river Styx, ferrying souls, and Charon) and ditch the rest. I don't think that's gonna work. If you want to use Greek mythology, then use it. I don't think divorcing the Styx etc from everything else is going to work world building wise.

Anonymous said...

Hello - first, thank all of you for taking the time to contribute your thoughts to my query.
Just thought I'd also clear up some confusion, and see if any of you have further thoughts on clarifying the query.
1) I had the synopsis critiqued awhile back on Phoenix Sullivan's blog, so that may be why it looks familiar.
2) She didn't try and save her family because they are already dead when she meets Grim.
3)There is only one male in pursuit of Nox, the boatman.
4)Grim represents Thanatos. (That would be the Greek personification of Death.)
5) He's not a teenager, and he got there because - well, he's Death and people die everywhere. The idea is that the Styx flows everywhere people die, not just in Greece.
6) Nox is in therapy, but I don't see how that is pertinent to include in the query. Do you all think it's necessary info?
7)Hades is in the picture, but he too amounts to back story.
8) Nox is the granddaughter of Nyx, and not actually the (or a) Goddess herself.
9) I may look at changing the name "Memphis", I had no idea it would be confusing. The story has roots in Appalachia, where naming people after places is rather common.
10) The story uses a lot from Greek Mythology, but looks at a modern interpretation of what happened "after" ancient Greece. The majority of the details of that are excluded from the query as back story.
Don't know if any of that makes it better. Looks like I'm going back to the drawing board for awhile.
Thank you again for the time in reviewing this!

none said...

Having a personification (Grim) of a personification (Thanatos) of death is a tad confusing.