Friday, January 20, 2012

Face-Lift 983

Guess the Plot

Flesh and Steel

1. The sociopath known as the Butcher of Kafran-Helai falls in love with a local villager, and has second thoughts about creating an army of robot werewolves to overrun the village.

2. Lois Lane once got goose-flesh just thinking about her hunky man of steel. Turns out his feet are cold as ice, he's too heavy to be on top, and she can't friggin' breathe when he hugs her. Also, grabbing a magazine and announcing "I'm off to the Fortress of Solitude" was only funny the first hundred times.

3. There's a war. People die. There's a plague. More people die. There's a smith and a doctor. They philosophize about life, do business, and die to the ZOMBIE HORDES!!!!!!

4. Jerome, lives in a world of science. He switches places with his alternate reality self who lives in a world of magic. They're both happy until they find out their universes are now colliding. If they destroy technology in both universes will they be able to stay where they are?

5. Vegas show promoter Roxy has what she thinks is the perfect concept for a new act: naked sword fighting. Rehearsals soon prove that the idea is not without a few hitches.

6. Afflicted with a rare bone disease, Charles Garvin agrees to an experimental treatment in which his bones are replaced by steel rods. He decides to become a superhero known as Captain Steel, but it turns out he weighs so much he can't even get out of his hospital bed.

Original Version

Sfanior thought she was going to be killed when she [added a silent "f" to her name so that no one could spell or pronounce it.] demanded the Butcher of Kafran-Helai stop stealing and desecrating her village’s dead. [When someone named the Butcher of Kafran-Helai comes into my village, I'm overjoyed to find he wants only the dead.] [Take our dead; they're obstructing goat-cart traffic anyway.] Instead, the sociopathic and strangely charismatic Friché merely imprisoned her in a castle maintained by automatons, patchwork combinations of human, animal, and machine. [Robot werewolves.] Despite Friché’s difficulty grasping concepts like respect for the dead, Sfanior is drawn to her. [This sociopath may have fed my dead father to his hogs, but I'm a sucker for anyone with the "it" factor.] Compared to the stuffy rules and stifling traditions of the village, life in Friché’s castle is freedom. [Except when the moon is full and the robot werewolves run amok.] Sfanior soon finds her growing feelings eclipsing her desire to defend her home, especially when Friché finally returns her love. [Question for discussion: Did Clarisse ever return Hannibal Lecter's love?]

Sfanior is ready to turn her back on her former kith and kin when Friché receives a client who offers her a job. Make that a noble from the capital, who offers the very secret assignment of creating an army of automatons for the queen. Friché is overjoyed, but Sfanior is suspicious (why approach the Butcher, of all people?) [Wait, Friché is the Butcher? Am I the only one that wasn't clear to? I thought she was one of the Butcher's minions.] [I guess I'm just not used to women being nicknamed the Butcher of Anywhere.] [Also, whaddaya mean, Why approach the Butcher? The Butcher has a castle full of automatons, and thus seems like the obvious person to approach if you want an army of automatons. My question is, How do you keep your assignment secret when it involves creating an army of anything? There's a reason Hobbits didn't often travel to Mordor. Word quickly got around that there was an army of Orcs being created.] and she cannot help feeling abandoned when the work sucks up all of Friché’s time. [Hey, when you fall for a sociopath, the price you pay is having to play second fiddle to her "work."] Her suspicions are soon realized when she discovers how the client intends to tie up loose ends once the job is done – with an execution. [I can live with the fact that you've hired my lover to create an army of robot werewolves that will destroy my home village, but I will not stand for an execution.]

As Friché draws [Withdraws?] further into herself and the noble’s threat hangs over her head, Sfanior has to decide what is most important: her kin and kingdom, or her love.

FLESH AND STEEL is a romantic fantasy of 60,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Can't Friché program/train the army of robot werewolves to protect her from the noble if he should betray her?

Usually people who have armies aren't that interested in villages. They want to attack other kingdoms. Is it her village that Sfanior wants to defend from the army of robot werewolves?

Also, usually in a romantic fantasy, neither of the people who are in love is a sociopath creating an army of robot werewolves. It may be difficult for readers to root for the heroine to live happily ever after with someone known as the Butcher of Kafran-Helai.

What I'm saying is I'm sure in the book the Butcher has a softer side, but that needs to come across in the query if you're going to describe the book as romantic.


Aika said...

I think you need to bump up Sfanior's likeable qualities. I'm sure she redeems herself by choosing kin and kingdom, but your query emphasizes the opposite, the part where she abandons her principles and family for her bad girl crush. Why would a reader like her?

Also, the query reads as if it is mostly set-up. Sfanior falls in love with the sociopath who's been attacking her home. That leaves you with just one sentence of plot - now she discovers a scheme to assassinate her sociopath lover. (My reaction was: "perfect", which I don't think is the reaction you want to evoke. Can you make it clearer she has an actual dilemma?)

The automatons sound interesting and super creepy. Are any of them made of parts of Sfanior's relatives? Do they talk sense into S?

vkw said...

Is it me or is this a no brainer?

"Sfanior has to decide what is most important: her kin and kingdom, or her love."

I admit I don't read romances. I started to read one a long time ago and couldn't stomach it. Never tried again.

However, I've seen this particular delimma a few times in queries - should I save my familiy and homeland or stay with my lover? Hmmm. Let me think. . .I wonder if someone will think I am a sociopath for not doing whatever I could to defend my friends and family. The answer would be YES. Hmmm, let me think, should I stay with my sociopath lover who basically is ignoring me and making deals with the evil queen or try to save my homeland? Hmmmmm. I wonder if someone will consider me socially and intellectually challenged for even contemplating what most would find to be obvious answer to that question. The answer is still YES.

If your hero has some valid reason to hate her kinfolk - like they tear the heads off of chickens and roast children alive, then perhaps you should let us know. Otherwise a different delimma should be considered.

Perhaps the hero's delimma is more along the lines she knows there is nothing she can do to help that wouldn't end up with her being killed. So should she even try? If she does succeed, she'll lose her lover and that's going to be sad but at least she can live with herself. And, if this not the case. . . do you have a hero you can tell us about?

Whirlochre said...

Sfanior sounds like a pun waiting to happen. Or a snake creeping about in a pair of knickers worn by a hussy.

No matter how I try, I can't get past this, subjective me.

Meanwhile, decide on your style. The strangely charismatic section makes you sound erudite but later you use more casual phrases like "sucks up" and "tie up loose ends".

Agree with vkw about the dilemma.

Disagree with EE's first comment - Sanior would be a great name for a protag only in an advert for disinfectant.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Okay so say Friche is born of a race that Sfanior's people have oppressed and vilified and she's not really a villain, Sfanior just starts out thinking she is because that's what she's always been taught. And maybe she's stealing the dead to use as her patchwork automatons to defend against Sfanior's people's army because it's the only way to survive. And MAYBE the Queen has been kind of ambivalent about the war between Friche and Sfanior's people but now that she wants something from Friche, Friche will have a fighting chance against those stuffy ruled villagers with stifling traditions.

In other words, maybe there is something really wrong with Sfanior's people and that's why choosing between them and Friche is a relatable dilemma. We get "stuffy rules" and "stifling traditions" but what we really need are "barbaric customs" and "a penchant for locking up their women" in order for us to understand why a sociopath's castle represents freedom for Sfanior. We need, at least, something to somewhat vilify the villagers because otherwise Friche sounds like an unsympathetic psycho and Sfanior sounds young and naive *at best*.

These are, of course, just my opinions. And the story may well support my theory that there is, in fact, something bad or sinister about Sfanior's villagers. If it does, we just need to see that in the query.

The writing is enticing and there are a lot of intriquing elements here. I just need to understand the main characters a bit more.


Khitty Hawk said...

Author here. Hi everyone.

(Who submitted GTP #5? Have you seen this?:

I dunno EE, if people have no problem pronouncing ‘sphere’, ‘Sfanior’ shouldn’t give them that much trouble.

Remember the person who asked if I could practice query-writing for something in the really early stages? Like ‘barely have a chapter written’ early? Yeah, that was me.

I wrote up an explanation to everyone's questions, but it ended up being twice as long as the query itself. Would you like me to post it anyway, asking the readers what would be most relevant to put in a query?

So far I do plan to boost everyone's likability by 200% and explain how they fall in love instead of just merely stating it.

Khazar-khum said...

There's a big difference between 'sphere' and 'Sfanior'.

I was thrown off by the Butcher being a woman. Not because I think women aren't inherently capable of butchery, but because the title 'butcher' is typically used for a male.

Why should she pick her now-distant lover over her home? Does the Butcher distance herself from her lovers before turning them into robot werewolves?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

At one time the feminine ending for a person engaged in a trade was -ster. This survives in the surnames Brewster, Webster [weaver], Baxter [baker], I can't think of any others right now.

So I suppose a female butcher would be a Butchster. We talked before about people named Butcher. I'm pretty sure no one is named Butchster.

I do remember reading once a passing reference to a female butcher in 18th century NYC.

About the only thing I have to say about this query is that giving your characters odd names is problematic. For one thing, it makes it difficult for readers to identify with the character if they can't remember his/her name.

Khitty Hawk said...

How so? ‘Sphere’ is /sfiɹ/ and ‘Sfanior’ is /sfanioɹ/. The initial consonant clusters are identical.

Along those lines, how is everyone pronouncing Sfanior? Is it with the /a/ in father or the /æ/ in cat? If it's the latter, yeah I can see how that could lead to some bad puns. I'll admit that I use more unusual names because I'm tired of fantastical names that fit too well into English phonology.

Reading the comments, I've replaced 'sociopathic' with 'antisocial'. I meant that Friché has some problems with empathy and understanding why people do illogical things, not that she's a closet serial killer who tortures bunnies.

@Chelsea P.
I wouldn't call the villagers barbaric so much, but they are definitely repressive to women. The only reason Sfanior even confronts Friché is because her father caught her flirting and demanded she must marry to prevent any further shame. Sfanior, who's heard some horror stories, panics and asks the elders if they would let her be if she could chase away the Butcher.

Looking at the story again, it now seems that it's less that Sfanior must choose between Friché and her village and more that she wants to be treated equally, and Friché ends up doing so first. Will change that.

(As for the automaton army, uh, it's actually a cover story? The client actually needs some ridiculously complicated surgery that no one can know about and plans to nuke the area when she's gotten what she wants. Kind of like Sfanior's backstory up there, I wasn't sure if this would make the query too complicated.)

Evil Editor said...

A lot of words have a silent first or second letter (psalm, pneumonia, ghost, knife), so when we see a word that begins with two letters we've never seen a word begin with, we can't be blamed for wondering. If you were from a different world and reading a novel set in ours, and came across Chloe or Siobahn, or Stephen, you might read the entire book mispronouncing the name.

Which is not to say her name's an issue (we've certainly seen worse in other queries and in books) but at least we're familiar with a lot of words that begin sph. If you love the name, why not spell it Sphanior?

Personally, I recommend Stefania or Stephania. Sounds similar, and readers won't toss the book just because the name Sfanior is on every page.

none said...

Must be my anglo-centricity coming out, because I have no problem with Sfanior at all. I think it's a lovely name.

That said, I have big problems with the plot.