Friday, December 23, 2011

Face-Lift 979

Guess the Plot

Tyger, Burning

1. One of the world's most accomplished and eminent scientists offers a solution to the impending world fuel shortage.

2. A famous golfer/womanizer intentionally misspells his name at Heaven's pearly gates, but Saint Peter is on the ball for a change and sends him to Hell.

3. William Blake is transported to 21st century Indonesia, hires a local guide, and goes in search of the last remaining Sumatran tigers. But when a forest fire breaks out, can he rescue the cubs?

4. Gay super-villain Tyger, a man who can transform into a burning tiger, escapes from his cell and goes in search of his arch-enemy Kallie, a lesbian superhero with scalpels for fingers.

5. A poet stricken with cancer fights to stay alive as he hopes his daughter will visit him in the hospice. A heart-wrenching story broken up by the inclusion of the main character's hope-filled poetry.

6. Professional wrestler Tyger, who dresses in a tiger costume, realizes that he should have sprung for the flame-retardant version when he discovers he'll be wrestling washed-up superhero "The Flamethrower."

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

People with abilities they shouldn't have. Abilities that are impossible. A man who can transform into a tiger, apple core eyes, and orange, black stripes, burning. A woman with metal fingers instead of flesh, scalpel-like. [An author who needs no verbs.] They are called Caps.

Kallie is a Cap. She is stronger than anyone she's ever known, and she aches to be the hero she could be. She shatters bones of those who would steal, spills blood of those who would kill. [How does she determine who would steal and kill? Even if she reads minds, you can't just walk up and break someone's bones on the grounds that he would have stolen in the future. Does she always arrive at just the right moment to catch criminals who are about to steal or kill? ] When the man who maimed her years ago is broken out of his padded cell, Kallie knows he will find her again. John Doe plucked the fingers from her hand, and he must remember how she tastes, and now she finally has the chance to hurt him like he hurt her.

TYGER, BURNING, a gay/lesbian superhero novel [A what?] complete at 90,000 words, is written from two points of view: The woman preparing for her final encounter with John Doe, and the man responsible for breaking him out. It is my first novel. I have a B.A. in creative writing from Eckerd College.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration [and evilness].


It's not obvious whether John Doe is the guy who can become a tiger, or if that's the guy who breaks John Doe out. I would expect a tiger to have done something more violent than "pluck" Kallie's fingers. Like at least rip them off.

If "Tyger" is the name John Doe goes by: Most superheroes and their nemeses have secret identities, but we don't call them John Doe, we use their awe-inspiring super names. If this is a world in which super powers are known to exist, JD would be referred to as Tyger.

Thus if Tyger is the character who breaks Doe out, I'd refer to him as Tyger, the super-villain responsible for breaking him out.

This is all set up. Kallie's arch-nemesis has been sprung from prison and she wants to capture him either to make the world a safer place or for revenge. Now, what's her plan? What's making it difficult? What's at stake? Is this guy out to destroy the world, or does he just want to pluck Callie's toes now? Tell the story.

I think you can do without the first paragraph. You might want to open: TYGER, BURNING is a gay/lesbian superhero novel complete at 90,000 words. This makes it clear what we're dealing with, and you can describe the characters' powers as you introduce them.

I assume you've thought about whether the gay/lesbian aspects of a gay/lesbian superhero book need to be brought out in the query letter, and have determined that they don't? After I'd read the summary, it came as a surprise when you declared it a gay/lesbian superhero novel. Possibly that's because I'm so naive I didn't realize that spelling "tiger" with a "y" is code for gayness. Is this a superhero book whose main character happens to be a lesbian, in which case I'm not sure it's even necessary to call it gay/lesbian? Or is it a book you don't think would appeal to those who aren't gay/lesbian?


Anonymous said...

What EE said.

This is full of puzzlers. For instance, why are they called Caps? And who all is included in that group? Women with metal fingers, only? They are named for their hats? Is departing from standard English part of your world-building strategy? Maybe that's a club/union all freaky people belong to, the Cap club. I don't know and am not sure I care enough to work on this mystery. Do I really need to learn new vocabulary to read your query? I hope not. Reading on, we encounter more puzzling details and cryptic statements. Finally, you mention it's your first novel and whew! That explains so much.

Everything might all be clear in the book, or it might be as puzzling throughout as it is in this query. Don't know. Writing for an audience is not like writing for oneself. Sometimes the text one finds brilliantly original and amusing and perfectly clear does not work for the audience. Sometimes writers groups can help you increase the clarity, sometimes not.

150 said...

I'd go with "superhero novel with LGBT themes", not that the first part necessarily precludes the second.

You don't have to go nuts trying to describe that this is a world full of superhumans who sometimes fight crime a/o attempt world domination. It's 2011, we're totally on that ball. "Kallie, an accountant with superhuman strength and a side job fighting evil in spandex" will cover it, and then you can get on to what you DO have to go nuts over, which is, who is doing what to who and why. You've got that John Doe is out of prison and he and Kallie are trying to hunt each other down. How? How do they get in each others' way? What if they fail? And how is the jailbreaker so important to the plot that he gets half the POV scenes?

Anonymous said...

Writers who overwrite. Those who would confuse "voice" with not finishing a frickin' sentence. These are the ones who must remember that a query is a business letter.

thepopeofbeers said...

Author here!

Thanks for all the feedback. And, proactively, I'd like to thank any future commentators for their future feedback.

So the tiger of the title IS the Cap who breaks out John Doe, but he's not actually the other narrator. That would be the tiger's boyfriend, and he helps with the break out. 150 definitely brings a valid concern about why he gets to narrate, and it's because there's another plot running alongside the Kallie/John Doe tango, but the two don't mesh until halfway through TB. I wasn't sure how to handle that in a query, so I just ignored it and hoped Kallie and John Doe would be enough. I'm afraid the query will run long otherwise. I'm not sure what to do about that.

As to what's at stake... John Doe ate Kallie's fingers, and I tried to heavily imply that by mentioning he remembers how she tastes. If she loses their final encounter, then he'll finish... well, eating her. Must not have come through, though; I can make that more explicit.

About the gay/lesbian angle, should I leave that out? Both narrators are gay, and the side characters run about a 50% chance of an alternative sexuality, so I didn't want to surprise anyone who requested a full (getting ahead of myself here, I know) with all the gay. TB isn't an erotica by any means, and I can take it out of the query if you guys feel no one will care.

The first GtP is my favorite, by the way. I almost spit water all over my keyboard.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

The premise is interesting, but I think you have a chance to tell us a lot more. I would love to see a version with the romance woven in, and in that way, you would eliminate the issue of having to tell us that it's a gay/lesbian themed story, because we would see it.


Chelsea Pitcher said...

Okay, technically my comment came after yours, author, but when I posted it yours hadn't posted yet, so . . I'M BACK!

I think there's no harm in posting a longer version here. I'm sure we minions would be happy to tell you which things we'd lose or keep ;) Even if the opinions vary greatly, you'll get an idea of what information people find necessary.

Anonymous said... would eliminate the issue of having to tell us that it's a gay/lesbian themed story, because we would see it.

On the other hand, if you don't telegraph up front what it's all about, the morally outraged might have to actually read it before beginning their protests...

thepopeofbeers said...

OH-kay, took a quick swing at a rewrite.

TYGER, BURNING is a superhero novel complete at 90,000 words.

Kallie's fingers were stolen from her, but she's still stronger than anyone she's ever known, and she aches to be the hero she could be. When the man who maimed her is broken out of his padded cell, she knows he will find her again. She can regenerate, but John Doe plucked the fingers from her hand, swallowed each one with care, and he took too much. She can already feel the phantom crawl of his tongue, and she will kill him before he tastes her for the last time.

Danny's the reason John Doe's free, and he did it because his boyfriend told him to. Marcus is looking for the source of their impossible abilities, and he's convinced John Doe can supply them with the blood they need, but all Danny's looking for is another handle of vodka and figures, "Why the fuck not?" During the break out, Marcus is badly wounded, John Doe escapes, and Danny finds himself scrambling to salvage Marcus's plans. There is someone else, though, they could use instead. Someone whose abilities are very similar to John Doe's. Someone named Kallie.

TYGER, BURNING is written from Kallie's and Danny's points of view.

none said...

It's always amazing when people are affronted by their own ignorance.

Go google William Blake, why not.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Okay, "fingers were stolen from her" isn't working either. The words don't evoke the act. In fact...

I'm afraid your writing is a bit awkward. Since your comment was much more straighforward than your rewritten query, I'm guessing the problem is that you're reaching too hard for new ways to say things. You don't need to do that.

Someone or other said once said that the writing should be a clear pane of glass through which the reader sees the story. Someone else said good writing, like good breeding, never calls attention to itself.

Spleak painly.

Mister Furkles said...

Ref P-o-B’s rewrite,

This is much better. A couple of comments about P2:

If Marcus is Danny’s boyfriend, it isn’t entirely clear. If not, how does Marcus relate to Danny?

Their abilities can’t be "impossible" if they have them. This is nitpicky. Still agents and editors are nitpicky readers.

Why does Marcus need their blood?

Just because you have homosexuals in your story doesn’t mean it is LGBT. If it is intended for LGBT readers you should mention it somehow. It may pique the interest agents and editors who handle LGBT. They may not be otherwise interested in superhero novels.

Anonymous said...

It's always amazing when people are affronted by their own ignorance.

Indeed. Yet, it seems to me the one most consistently and regularly affronted here is yourself.

Anonymous said...

Revised query is much better. Hope the book finds its audience.

150 said...

Why not take a stab at a rewrite where Danny's story is mentioned first? That way it might make a smoother flow as to who is opposing who. (And again: you don't have to say "he ate her fingers" in like three different ways, once is enough.)

thepopeofbeers said...

@Mister Furkles

Yes, sorry, Marcus is Danny's boyfriend. I'll make that more clear. And you're right about the "impossible" word choice.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can explain why exactly Marcus needs blood in the space of a query letter. I was thinking about rewriting the line to read, "Marcus is convinced their abilities are in their blood, and John Doe is one of the few Caps who can supply them with enough," or something, something.

thepopeofbeers said...

I must admit I am a little confused as to why my revised query didn't get a shout-out. I mean, for example, the query before me got its revised query added to the main post.

Evil Editor said...

The revised query in the one before yours was written by Evil Editor. Occasionally EE posts the author's "Original Version" and then EE's own "Revised Version."

Revised versions written by the author go in the comments. As your revised version was submitted while your query was still the top item on the blog, and people tend to check the comments to see if new ones have arrived, there was no need to state it was there. If you were expecting more comments, perhaps the fact that it was Christmas weekend had something to do with it (although author revisions rarely get as many comments as the originals).

thepopeofbeers said...


Oh, no, I wasn't expecting more comments or anything. Just was confused. Thanks for the clarification and, of course, for the feedback on my query :)

none said...

Lol, Anon, you do try hard to annoy me. Sadly, you have no idea how. Bless!