Thursday, October 27, 2011
Guess the Plot
1. Nan loves Timmy, but she begins to doubt her choice when Bob Bigford comes to town and she sees the longest chainsaw in the world stowed in the back of his pickup.
2. Laid off by the FBI, Mary Hudson needs a new gig. What is an woman over 50 to do? The answer is clear-cut. She removes every trace of experience and education from her resume, dons her tallest shoes and shortest skirt, and gets hired as the receptionist at Mumford, Blackwell, Jones and Dupont, a law firm.
3. Forensic artist Sophie Langley has a great life. Great boyfriend, great job—even a consulting gig on a hit TV show. But when hunky actor Dirk Beefcake makes it clear he wants a relationship with Sophie and her boyfriend, her future becomes anything but . . . Clear Cut.
4. Finally Diana gets a station at exclusive Clear Cut, salon for Hollywood nobility. Maybe an agent will notice her. Or an actor? Either way, she needs to stop dyeing everyone's bangs green.
5. The rules are clear-cut. In order to reach her career goal, Nanoken Riverborne must first perform three impossible tasks. The first of which is to find some wiggle room in the word "impossible."
6. Everyone laughed when Dr. Adam Tandashian claimed to have perfected the invisible laser, a surgery technique so powerful it leaves no scars. Hollywood beckons, but first he wants to rid his pesky ex-wife of her brain.
There are three impossible tasks in the world: helping the helpless, redeeming the irredeemable, and changing the unchangeable. [It's certainly not impossible to help the helpless. For instance, a person who's paralyzed might be called helpless, and you could help him by washing his feet or changing the channel on his television. "Helping the unhelp-able" is more in line with the rest of the list, but the list is silly. You may as well add to the list of impossible tasks: slicing the unsliceable, stabbing the unstabbable, painting the unpaintable, editing the uneditable, etc. They're impossible by definition. Also, your tasks are all vague. They aren't tasks, they're categories of tasks. Driving a car from New York to Bermuda in twenty minutes is a specific impossible task. It's easy to grasp. It doesn't seem to fall into any of your categories, however. If your list is not the only three impossible tasks, you need to provide some reason that these are the three you've chosen to list.] That's not supposed to stop priestesses. Just to finish her training, Nanoken Riverborne has to do something impossible. [When she reports that she did something impossible, won't her superiors say that it quite obviously wasn't impossible?] There's no way Ken will fail. She'll do anything to be a priestess. Her family owes priestesses everything. [Does her impossible task have to fall into one of the three categories you listed? If so, drop the first sentence and open something like: Nanoken Riverborne has been training most of her life to become a priestess. To complete her training, she must feed a starving child, reform Borgo the Disemboweler, and prove that pi = 4.] [Note that I've made the tasks more specific.]
Traveling across the continent to the purple pools proves a quester is worthy to be a priestess. [If the Purple Pools are worth crossing a continent for, they're worth capitalizing.] [If making it to the Purple Pools makes you worthy of being a priestess, why do you also have to do the impossible?] It's also a great way to encounter people in need of exorcisms, something only priestesses can do. [But she isn't a priestess.] That's one way to help the helpless. Some others include protecting the weak, small children, and the mentally ill, like Ken's mother. Ken will help the helpless, all of them she can find, even if it kills her. [First you claim helping the helpless is one of the three impossible tasks; then you list numerous ways to do it. Define "impossible."] [By the way, if I haven't made it clear yet, I recommend leaving the part where she has to do the impossible out of the query.]
Finishing her training also means choosing a bodyguard from convicted felons. Ken chooses Rafe after he pulls a rapist off her. [Whoa. She has to choose from convicted felons while she mingles with them at a party? How are these felons close enough to attack her?
Head Priestess: Here's a group of convicted felons. Get to know them, but you may not ask them what their crime was. Choose one as your bodyguard.
Ken: For starters, I'll eliminate the one who's currently raping me. Let's see . . .
[Why would the rapist attack her before knowing if she's going to choose him as a bodyguard? If he's chosen, he can wait till later and rape her when there's no one around to pull him off.] It doesn't even matter that Ken's the only one in her class not allowed the juicy details of his crimes; he's just three years older than Ken and says she reminds him of his sister, tidbits that convince Ken he'll be easy to redeem. [If he's easy to redeem, he's not irredeemable. She needs to redeem the irredeemable, so she should choose the guy who's so irredeemable he rapes her during the bodyguard-choosing ceremony.]
Changing the unchangeable means freeing a slave. [Why don't you just say she has to free a slave instead of change the unchangeable?] Ken has no interest in that. Who wants to convince a lazy, conniving slave to walk across the continent, anyway? [Where I come from, a lazy conniving slave is a dead slave.] In a thousand years, no slave's completed the journey that dozens of questers make every year. Ken thinks they don't want to be free.
[Premise 1: To become a priestess you must free a slave and convince her to walk across the continent.
Premise 2: No slave has completed the journey for a thousand years.
Conclusion: There are no priestesses (unless they live more than 1000 years).]
One does. Saphron can't do simple math, has never ridden a horse, and her religious knowledge is so lacking she may as well be helpless. [I'm just wild about Saphron.] Ken can't not help the helpless; it's all she's ever wanted to do. That's a problem [because it's impossible]. Freeing slaves is supposed to stay impossible. Too bad Ken vowed otherwise before the priestesses told her.
Clear Cut is a complete YA fantasy at 110,000 words. It should appeal to fans of Graceling.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
This is all setup. Is there a villain? Someone who doesn't want Ken to become a priestess? Or are the whole 110,000 words devoted to accomplishing three tasks? Dorothy travels to Oz and performs some tasks, but someone's out to get her. Does Ken have obstacles other than the fact that her tasks are "impossible"?
The Purple Pools just doesn't have the same ring to it as Mount Doom. No one would cross an entire continent to get to purple pools.
The title doesn't give any indication of what kind of book this is.
Start over. Keep the setup brief. To become a priestess, Ken must cross the continent with a freed slave and a convicted murderer while doing a, b and c. Then tell us the story. What happens? What if she fails? Who wants her to fail? What does she learn about herself, life, the world? The slave and felon may be what makes this different from other quest books. Make sure you mention how instrumental they are.