Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Face-Lift 969

Guess the Plot

Unlocked: A Journal

1. A three-word text message turns 16-year-old Tiffany's blood to ice. If someone has read her private short story, "What Happened When Me And Justin Bieber Were Locked In A Closet Together," she'll just DIE!!!

2. Pages from the diary of locksmith Henry Pickler tell the tortured love story of a reformed burglar trying to go legit and a beautiful detective who keeps misplacing the keys to her unmarked cop car.

3. Due to prison overcrowding, serial killer Richard Snead is released after three months of incarceration and ordered to keep a log detailing all his activities. This is it.

4. Looking forward to a new school year, Gwen is kidnapped and locked in a shed. Her captor explains that she must save the world from three magicians who want to take over. She agrees. Hey, when someone locks you in a shed, you'll pretty much agree to anything.

5. Rapunzel reflects on 25 years of marriage to her prince. Was it worth losing her locks? On the whole, she thinks not.

6. 2079. When the crew of the Martian explorer Dragon recover the crashed remains of a Russian ship on Olympus Mons, they discover a journal amid the wreckage detailing sex, aliens, alien sex, and murder. Wait--murder?

7. Locksmith Doug Carlisle thought it would be an easy $200 to unlock Pandora's newly found diary. And it was, except for the legions of vampires, zombies and werewolves who burst from its pages and started to hunt. Now Doug and his useless apprentice have to round them up.

Original Version

Title: Unlocked: A Journal

Two thousand years after the Romans took control of a small kingdom in Britannia, its story remains unfinished.

Gwen is settling into her new home on the west coast of the United States. She is looking forward to a new school year, but her plans are ruined when she is kidnapped and awakens in a garden shed with only a stranger for company. [I think we can lose the phrase "but her plans are ruined." It pretty much goes without saying that when you get kidnapped and awaken in a garden shed, any plans you had are ruined.] She is convinced that Kian, her captor, is a raving lunatic. But, when he shows her visions of a past life, Gwen begins to remember another place and time . Her curiosity is ignited, [Passions are ignited; curiosity is piqued.] and she agrees to listen to Kian's story. [She agrees? She's his captive. Who's in charge here?] [Also, as this appears to be Gwen's story, I suggest opening the query with this paragraph rather than with the Roman conquest of a kingdom in Britannia.]

He tells her of an ancient kingdom, magical warriors and three magicians who sought to take the earth for themselves. Today, they are still present and their powers are growing. They want the world, and only the magical battle that emerged so long ago can stop them. [If they couldn't take the Earth 2000 years ago, when its population (rounded off) was zero, do we really need to worry?] [While I feel certain these guys can be stopped, I don't think it's by a battle that emerged so long ago. Emerged from what?] But Gwen's power is hidden inside her ancient soul, and the only way to recover it and be strong enough to win the bi-millennial war [Is three guys against a teenaged girl really a war?] is to remember her past life. As she embarks on the journey to recover [recovers] her magical strength, she suffers the physical consequences of a divided soul, and soon finds that some memories are better left forgotten. [For instance?]

Together, Gwen and Kian travel across the Unites [United] States and England to find the three others of her kind and stand a chance against the Magicians. [Ah, so instead of three against one it's four against three. Now we're talking war.] Battling the past-lives that threaten to consume them, Gwen and her new friends need each other to piece together their memories and solve the puzzle of their last days in ancient Britannia. [Are the three others of her kind locked in garden sheds getting briefed on the situation? Or does Gwen have to convince them to drop what they're doing and save the world from three magicians? Because if a teenager tried to persuade me to join her in a war against three guys who were capable of taking over the planet, I would come up with an excuse to decline.] They are only as strong as what they remember, but a troublesome history threatens to tear them apart and leave the Magicians to inherit the earth. Even as Gwen works to reconcile reality and her former life, Kian's own desire to go home to the past may pose the greatest risk of all. [This is all vague. If you can't be specific about something, don't bring it up at all.]


Those last two paragraphs are vague. What does Gwen have to remember, and what happens after she remembers it? What exactly can these magicians do to inherit the Earth? Be specific.

Would the world be worse off if these magicians ruled it? How much worse off could it be? Shouldn't we let them have a shot?

You need more than a summary. Is this YA? How long is it? Is it in the form of a journal? This is supposed to be a business letter.

At the moment, I don't feel three magician are much of a threat to the modern world, and if they are, I don't feel confident that Gwen is the person to save us. You need to tell us what kind of power Gwen will have once she gets her memories back and explain what will happen to us if she fails.


Anonymous said...

Structure structure structure. Knew this was the real plot because the intro events were not related to what followed.

The query sounds like the book contains numerous chapters of preparatory stuff: kidnapping, dude locking girl in the shed, memory recovering psychobabble, a dissertation on reincarnation and review of ancient history, etc. None of that is needed. It sounds like you started without knowing what the story was about or who your characters were and now those chapters are mostly cluttering the narrative and killing the pace.

What's your genre? This matters. If your main chick is part of a gang of characters with superpowers going to war against some evil magicians you can start with some impressive action and make it a wizard war thriller with a gripping storyline by ditching the detours and distractions. Yes, it's true: just because you wrote a fabulous literary scene about a hapless girl locked in a shed doesn't mean it belongs in your wizard war novel. On the other hand, if your real interest is in a literary thing about a hapless girl locked in a shed, you can lose the wizard war.

Anonymous said...

Thanks E.E. - will take your comments and go on to re-write!...and then re-write some more...and then re-write some more...

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Is Brittania the ancestor of the present UK, or are we talking alternate reality here?

Why are the other three magical warriors hanging out in only England and the US? Seems like they could be anywhere by now. Presumably much of the book will be taken up with the quest for them, which will be successful. Not gripping. Maybe leave it out?

That aside, there's a lot of vagueness in this query. Examples of vague phrases that could be better replaced with specifics:

"the west coast of the United States"
"visions of a past life"
"the physical consequences of a divided soul"

Instead, say Portland, Oregon; memories of her life as a druid priestess of the Iceni; the grandmother of all toothaches.

It's also not clear to me exactly what's been going on for the last two thousand years. Did someone call time out? If not, then I assume that something we've noticed-- say, unending war-- is the mundane visible symptom of this two thousand year struggle.

none said...

It doesn't take long to travel across England; it's only +-300 miles wide.

I confess I wanted to know more about the small kingdom in Britannia.

k said...

BuffySquirrel--I wanted to hear more about the kingdom, too.

The shed seems to be from a different book.

batgirl said...

I'd suggest dropping the shed - though a literary / slipstream story about a girl held captive in a shed and brainwashed into believing she's the Chosen One and engaged in a magical war would be kind of cool - and spending more time on specifics, like what Gwen has to do. I'd also like to see a little more on Kian and her companions, though it's difficult to give them much space without clouding Gwen's plotline.