Friday, November 18, 2011

Face-Lift 970

Guess the Plot

My Life as a Damsel in Distress

1. ...was really crappy. Guys wouldn't stop to help me change a flat tire, the fireman who rescued my cat from a tree gave it to a Korean family... You get the picture. Then I got a boob job. Whoa, way better.

2. The long-awaited autobiography of Lindsay Lohan.

3. Princess Peach's shocking memoir reveals that she is, in fact, the mother of the Koopa Kids.

4. Imprisoned in a tower, Princess Sophia has no Prince Charming, no fairy godmother, no one at all to rescue her. So she sits around being bored, hoping someone will save her, but no one ever does. That's about it.

5. The true story of the Chevalier of Rohan, a notorious cross-dresser who used his skills to catch the unwary at Louis XIV's Versailles.

6. As the prettiest damsel in all of Smilesville, Christabelle has her pick of suitors and is due to inherit a fortune. Then Dad loses the estate gambling and moves the family to Distress County. How will she cope, now that everyone’s too bothered with their own problems to compliment her hair?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Princess Sophia, a bona-fide damsel in distress, seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in this being an imprisoned princess thing. [I'd go with "has" rather than "seems to have." And "the" instead of "this." You don't need "being an." And I wouldn't call it a "thing." Try "deal" or "arrangement" or "situation."] No fairy godmother, no enchanted sleep, no dwarves or talking mice to keep her company, and most importantly, no prince on his way to set her free. Instead, she’s just bored. Totally and completely bored. And she’s been that way for a dozen years.

When the wicked witch moved into Sophia’s kingdom, everything went downhill quickly. Her mom disappeared, her dad was bewitched, and she ended up a damsel in distress. Kidnapped as a child and [was] locked away in a [the obligatory] tower in the middle of nowhere,[.] Sophia spends her days reading stories to the dragon who guards her (and just might eat her if she reads the tale about the dragon being slain one more time), losing terribly at chess to the strange, old man who works for the wicked witch, and watching wannabe rescuers completely fail at making it past the obstacles that surround her prison. [I'm less sympathetic about her lack of dwarves, talking mice and a prince trying to rescue her now that I know she has a dragon, a chess opponent and wannabe rescuers.] [Start a new paragraph.] But now she’s decided to write it all down - everything. Why she’s in the tower, [Why is she in the tower?] who put her there, [The witch.] what she’s been up to all these years, [Chess.] and maybe, just maybe, what happens once she’s able to escape. [What does?] Secretly hoping she’ll be able to get her story to someone so her family or friends back home will hear about her plight and mount a rescue squad (assuming they haven’t all been turned into frogs or bewitched), [The fact that she has wannabe rescuers suggests that her imprisonment is common knowledge.] Sophia dreams of the day when, just like in the books that keep her company, a knight in shining armor or Prince Charming himself will appear. He’ll make it past all of the insane obstacles that keep her away from the rest of the world, rescue her, and sweep her off her feet. And, to top it off, find her mom, fix her dad, and get rid of the wicked witch. Yeah, it’s a long shot, but a girl, especially a girl locked away in a tower with not much to do, can dream. [That's it? She sits around hoping for rescue? She's your main character. She needs to outwit her captors and get her butt out of there. Presumably she does, so you might want to mention this. Even something as vague as "But after twelve years of waiting, Sophia is beginning to realize that if she wants to escape, she's gonna have to do it herself." would be better than giving the impression she's totally helpless.]

MY LIFE AS A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 75,000 words. My book will appeal to readers who enjoy the fairy tale retellings and magical worlds of Jessica Day George or the whimsical stories of E.D. Baker. (Add personalization about specific agent.)

Thank you for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is available on request. I look forward to hearing from you.



The voice is nice, but if all that's going on with Sophia are chess games and story time, maybe it would be more interesting to set the story back with mom and dad and the witch, and whoever is trying to figure out where Sophia is.

Does she have a supply of paper and writing implements? Aren't her captors curious about what she's writing? People are already aware she's being held in the tower, and trying to rescue her, so writing a memoir that concludes: Get me out of this tower that's in the middle of nowhere! isn't going to have much effect. Nor is: Hey, idiots, knock it off with the incompetent rescue attempts and take this memoir to the kingdom I lived in 12 years ago and deliver it to . . . let's see, my mother disappeared and my father's bewitched and a witch is in power . . . screw it. Anybody got a really tall ladder?


150 said...

Oh nooo, haha. Is there plot? Characters taking action to resolve external and internal conflict? As described, this is a kid laying on her stomach in bed writing in a diary, for 75,000 words.

Author said...

Thanks for the help, Evil Editor. She does get out and a good section of the book is her escaping and taking back the kingdom. I just didn't want to give too much away but I see now that it's definitely better to give something away rather than implying there's no plot or she's completely helpless and just sitting there. Thanks for the advice!

Anonymous said...

Every now and then people show up at writers' groups etc with anti-plot stories, which what this appears to be. They are rebelling against the idea that things, big things, must happen in order to make the story a hit.

Rent yourself a copy of the movie ADAPTATION, a movie about a man failing in his quest to write a movie about swamp flowers. Mostly he lounges around talking to himself and imaging stuff, like your passive Princess. But in then in Act 3 he blunders into the bad-guy secrets of the secondary characters and must cope with illicit sex drugs car chases gunfights and murder. Also, a man-eating alligator.

As described here, you're still at the place where McKee tells Kaufman: that's not a movie.

vkw said...

Dear Author, I do think you want to tell a publisher or an agent what the plot is.

You wrote a query to sell one-third of your book.

This is where the query needs to start:

Princess S., locked in a tower for 12 years and after witnessing umpteen failed rescue attempts, puts her big girl panties on and takes matters into her own hands.

She escapes by:

She recaptures her kingdom by: finds her lost mother by:
and un-bewitches her father by:

Anonymous said...

I dunno. There's something appealing about the girl watching gallant young men riding to her rescue, only to be eaten by the dragon. I see her at the window, forlorn, and when the latest would-be rescuer falls, sighing and making another tally mark on the dragon's scoreboard.

150 said...

I'm looking forward to the rewrite, for what it's worth, Author.

St0n3henge said...

Yes, you do have to give some stuff away, or the agent will think this is your whole story. Don't be afraid of giving anything away in a query letter. The agent isn't a reader who doesn't want any spoilers. He or she is a bussiness person who wants to know about the product they are considering buying.

Your query letter is like the label of a food product. If the label doesn't contain all the ingredients, I'll be suspicious of the product. And, of course, the label should make the product seem interesting and make it stand out from the other products.

none said...

I'm guessing this is a fun story that could do well once the author gets the query knocked.

There's a slight tendency to repetition in the query that needs to be knocked on the head. You only have so many words so use them wisely.

Anonymous said...

The editor is the one who considers buying a story.

An agent considers selling it.

Tamara Marnell said...

The Author already replied, but I can't help but chime in that the idea of "giving too much away" in a query letter is silly. It's a sales pitch. Writing about the basic set-up and deliberately withholding details is like putting an ad up to the effect of: "I'm selling my chair. It's brown and has four legs." Actually, it's an antique passed down by my great-grandmother from Germany and has intricate ornamentation worth thousands, but I don't to give that away. It's a surprise for when someone asks to see it!

PLaF said...

I LOVE the idea of a princess reading books to a dragon. Fabulous mental image. I would read this book just for that.