Monday, December 12, 2011
Guess the Plot
Daughter of the Woods
1. Each Spring the elves of V'Larnye drug a strong young male and tie him to the Brach tree, where he will wait to be taken away by the Daughter of the Woods, never to return. When Evar'D is chosen as the sacrifice, he is resigned to his fate...until he sees what has come for him. Also, a talking owl.
2. Bob and Terry Woods were thrilled to finally have a daughter, but OMG, Missy grew so fast: at age twelve she's over six feet tall and weighs almost 300 pounds. Terry made her a grizzly bear costume for Halloween and that was fun, but now she won't take it off. Plus, she's hoarding apples and walnuts in a den out behind the shed. Bob wonders: is she part Sasquatch?
3. Having been labeled a criminal, Cassie flees into the woods, pursued by an entity that will stop at nothing to destroy her. That's about it. She's in the woods. And she's somebody's daughter.
4. Hank and Myra Woods's two-year-old daughter, Jayden, is just as cute as she can be. But why have the cats run away, and why does the poodle quiver and yelp whenever Jayden comes near it? And why has the family's hard drive melted?
5. Pinocchio gets a hardwood action-figure girlfriend who sets out to clean the toyshop using the apprentice's broom, but it turns out to be cursed. Plus, a witchey cat.
6. Ann is the pride of the Woods family. She graduates summa cum laude and works for the State Department. Bureaucracy is so boring that she also works as a CIA assassin. Then State sends her to peaceful Bhutan. Desperate for action, Ann sneaks out at night and murders innocent people.
Dear Evil Editor,
I appreciate your review of this middle grade query which melds Native American fantasy and a coming of age adventure, together in a dystopian milieu.
Like others in the Great Forest, fourteen year-old Cassie's face is etched with a mystical tattoo that aims to define her. When it labels the timid girl a criminal, however, her life changes. [So the tattoo changes from day to day?] Now, fleeing the dark order that marked her, she travels a dangerous road. Her fledgling talent to weave spirits with animals could protect her, or embroil her so deeply in a rebellion that the Blessed will stop at nothing to destroy her. [Who's rebelling against whom? Who is the Blessed? What happens when you weave a spirit with an animal? Why would a dark order mark Cassie as a criminal?]
Her mentor, White Feather, finally catches up, but only hastens the impending collision [Who's colliding with whom?] when he sends her to find his friend, Danvin. [Why does he send her to find Danvin?] Cassie discovers he's been imprisoned, and must choose between her own safety and the wellbeing of those she loves. [She doesn't love Danvin, so how is that her choice?] Like her father once said, "Even when no choice is good, you still have to make one." [Father was a master of the obvious. We can do without him in the query.] No one's surprise could top her own as she rushes headlong back toward the fortress she had escaped. [What fortress? There's been no mention of a fortress.] In the end, she unearths secrets, not just about the Blessed and her forest home, but about a strength hidden within her.
DAUGHTER OF THE WOODS is a tale of confidence and perseverance. Complete at 48,000 words, this fantasy adventure stands by itself, and also has strong series potential.
I realize you're writing to an adult, but I expect the tone of a query for a middle-grade book to be lighter. This sounds like a query for literary fiction. Let's start by getting rid of the first sentence. We want to focus on Cassie. You can meld stuff in a milieu at the end if you absolutely must.
There's way too much vagueness. I can't say I know much about what happens in your book. Here's my guess:
Imprisoned in a fortress, fourteen-year-old Cassie wakes to find the mystical tattoo on her face has morphed into a scarlet "C", labeling her a criminal. Knowing this means she'll be hanged at dawn, she escapes into the Great Forest where her mentor, White Feather, sends her to find his friend Danvin, just to get rid of her. Sort of like the Wizard of Oz making Dorothy go get the witch's broomstick. Turns out Danvin is imprisoned in the fortress, so Cassie breaks back in to rescue him. She gets him out and he reveals to her that the Forest is enchanted and she is destined to become the legendary . . . Daughter of the Woods.
Turns out I didn't need to mention the Blessed in this version. That's probably a good thing.
Start over. Tell us what happens and why, focusing on Cassie. What are her goals and obstacles? What happens if she fails? Tell us the story in clear language that convinces us you can write in a voice that would appeal to a twelve-year-old.