Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Face-Lift 986

Guess the Plot

Working Ghoul

1. The zombie apocalypse was supposed to be the stuff of blockbusters. So why does Jeff still need to report to his cubicle by eight to get brains on the table for his family? At least his zombified state makes the drudgery of data entry easier to bear. For him. For the reader, not so much.

2. Since she can remember, Sandra has wanted to be only one thing; a gravedigger. Sandra's parents are already horrified when she lands a dig-gig right after high school instead of going to college, but when she starts bringing her work home with her...

3. A zombie sidles into Tombstone with nary an idear the newspaper misspelled "ghoul" for "girl" in the help wanteds. He gets so upset he upchucks his last meal of brains and cream gravy, which the newspaper terms "White Erp" in its next edition ... and a legend is borned.

4. The hookers on Fremont's Wharf are all long dead. Some of them got their start lifting their hoopskirts for Civil War soldiers. But now some one is murdering them for real.

5. The residents of Darkmoon City are undead, and they don't want humans encroaching on their homeland. It's a territorial thing. Of course, when the person doing the encroaching is gorgeous, all bets are off. Also, an unemployed drummer.

6. Charlie Lester just loves her job in the city morgue. Death fascinates her. Especially violent death. But now a murderer is stalking the morgue workers, and it's up to Charlie to solve the crime. If she wants to.

Original Version

What happens when an undead agent goes to investigate a haunted house?

Sharmayne is an Awakened, an undead who lives and works in the underground realm of Darkmoon City. [Are you saying only those undead who live and work in Darkmoon City are "Awakened?" Or are you saying all Awakened are undead, and some of them live in Darkmoon City? If the latter, I'm not crazy about defining Awakened as undead. If they're called Awakened in this world, just call them Awakened. We'll have no trouble figuring out what Awakened are, namely mindless animated corpses who feed on our brains.] [True, we refer to zombies as undead, but to us they're fictional. In fictional worlds, where they're real, they're called Ghouls or Walkers or Unconsecrated etc.] As an Awakened, she has no memory of her former life as a human. She's become an agent, one of the people sent to investigate claims of human encroachment on their world. [If an investigator finds that a human has encroached, does she immediately report back, or does she first eat the encroacher's brain?]

But when she gets to the troubled Stanton farm, she learns that things are more complicated than she first thought. [Based on the opening (see previous post), five agents have been killed trying to investigate the Stanton farm. Thus it seems odd to imply that she wasn't expecting a complicated situation.] Yes, the place is haunted by the ghost of the late owner; but the current resident, the distractingly handsome Mark Stanton, has every right to be there, too. [If it's a farm, I assume it's not underground. Unless it's a mushroom farm. But you said Sharmayne worked in the underground realm. Why does she think Stanton, if he is above ground, has encroached on Awakened territory?]

While sorting out the complex matter, she also has to deal with her relationships in Darkmoon City. There's her friend, sister agent Lynisara, who works as a botanist; her boss, Srgt Mallory; and her longtime friend, Khorianon, a drummer who loves her while looking for his big break. [You've decided to list some characters rather than continue with the plot. Can you could at least slip some more specific information into the character descriptions? For instance:

There's her friend, sister agent Lynisara, who is developing a plant-based acid that can melt a human's skull while leaving the brain intact and cholesterol-free; her boss, Srgt Mallory, who thinks he's God's gift to zombiehood just because he's been eating brains since the Crimean War; and her longtime friend, Khorianon, an unemployed drummer who tries to win Sharmayne's heart by bringing her fresh brains for breakfast.]

Can she settle the dispute over the farm? And will she be lost to the handsome Stanton, or does the perpetually-unemployed Khorianon have a chance at her heart? [I'm more intrigued by whether she has a chance at the handsome Stanton's heart. Is Stanton open-minded enough to admit he's fallen in love with an Awakened?]

"Working Ghoul" is a fantasy romance.

I look forward to hearing from you.


You define an agent as someone who investigates claims of human encroachment on their world. Then you say that Lynisara, an agent, works as a botanist.

This is mainly setup. Sharmayne's an agent, tasked with investigating the Stanton farm. What's her plan? What happens when she gets there? In what way is Stanton a threat to Darkmoon City? Is Shar torn between two lovers, or does she have no interest in one of the men? Either replace the character list with plot, or reduce the setup to one paragraph and add a plot paragraph.

The first sentence mentions an undead investigating a haunted house. Which may give the wrong impression of what kind of book this is. Usually haunted houses are investigated to determine if they're really haunted.

I have a theory that the term "zombie" is used only in comedies because all words that start with "z" are funny, and serious zombie works don't want their zombies to be laughed at.


Aika said...

I like this because the story sounds interesting, from the pov of the undead person.

In the second para, you seem to lose that pov. Wouldn't the Awakened consider the place "haunted" by Stanton? I'd expect it to read more like: Yes, the place has a current human resident, the distractingly handsome Mark Stanton. But Stanton has every right to be there and the ghost of the late owner isn't actually being encroached on.

(Also, I don't see the complication - if Stanton has the right of possession, what's the other side of the story?)

I disagree with EE about defining Awakened - if you didn't, we'd be confused. In the book, of course, you can let it unfold naturally. But I do agree about putting in more plot.

(Love the title too, but I adore puns, mostly 'cos I can't make them for beans.)

Evil Editor said...

According to Wikipedia "Undead" is a collective name for fictional, mythological, or legendary beings that are deceased and yet behave as if alive. Undead may be incorporeal, such as ghosts, or corporeal, such as vampires and zombies.

Thus calling the Awakened undead doesn't clear up any confusion. The sentence: "As an Awakened, she has no memory of her former life as a human." performs the same task as calling her undead.

150 said...

Sounds interesting, but take EE's advice. Like Aika, I didn't think the conflict sounded very complex.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Like I said in the comment trail of the previous post, I'm having real trouble with the intersection/relationship of the undead world and the human world. Is this Stanton guy underground? Or do the undead claim some of the land that's topside, too?

If they claim rights to haunt all the land that somebody now dead once owned, you must have several cases of ghost vs. ghost.

And also as I said before, however much I like the idea and the set up (and I do) I don't know what's at stake, other than presumably someone's romantic feelings getting hurt. Tell me more!

Unknown said...

If this is a fantasy romance, your query needs to focus on the romance, not the mystery or the MC's random friends. The investigation into the farm is the McGuffin that gets her to the hottie and allows the romance to start. Start over and focus on the romance.

It sounds like it could be a good story.
Nancy aka kings_falcon

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you start this as a twisted zombie mystery adventure thriller but then the main character's motivation shifts from her dangerous mission to solve the mystery to having a girlish crush on this dude. I'm not sure that works.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

From the opening, I had thought this was a zombie/police procedural. But if it's a zombie/romance, that's a little bait-and-switchy. If your main focus is the mystery and the romance is incidental, that's okay: plenty of novels have a romance element without being romances.

Just make sure your query focus, story focus, and genre all match.

Since no one else brought this up-- I would like to see more voice in this query. The title has voice, and suggests humor or at least a humorous tone. It's nearly impossible to be (intentionally) humorous in a query, but a bit more voice could do a lot for you.

It also looks like you need to try that old trick of reducing your novel to a single sentence, no more than 20 words long. Then build the query from there.

Laurie said...

Agree with all that's been said - I'd need more about the actual story. Your opening sounded more like a mystery, with the five dead agents, and that's heavy enough that I'd expect it to be mentioned in the query. If it's a romance, I'm not qualified to comment (not a romance fan), but, as said above, I don't see any conflict other than having to choose between two guys.

Be careful about the bait and switch - drawing people in with the promise of a crime story, with romantic elements, and having it turn into a pure romance half way through. Your opening does not say romance to me, it says police procedural - so you interested me, but you might turn off the romance people who would be your audience.

Laurie said...

@AlaskaRavenclaw - looks like I cross-posted with you; otherwise I'd have said I second what you said.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Laurie, when I saw that we had both used the phrases "bait and switch" and "police procedural", I thought someone was going to accuse us of being sock puppets.

Anyway, K-k, you heard it here first, second and third... be true to thy genre. Personally I think the police procedural would be way more interesting but there's probably more market for zombie luv.

Anonymous said...

Bear in mind, you're probably only thinking "Bat and Switch" because you read the opening first.

An agent/editor would read the query first and know what genre to expect. A book buyer would know from the location in the store and the blurb on the back.

So it would only be "Bait and Switch" if it was described as a romance and nobody kissed.

Khazar-khum said...

Author here.

Thank you all for the advice & input. Like I said in the other thread, this is the very first rough draft of this idea; I wanted to get some advice from the minions about whether or not it's worth continuing.

Sharmayne works for the agency that mediates human/undead encounters. In this case she's investigating a farm where the ghost owner is demanding that he get help taking his home back. The new owner, as you might expect, isn't thrilled about having some undead attack him in the barn, or having an aggressive ghost in the kitchen. Sharmayne's 'new age' approach of talking before attacking is therefore somewhat revolutionary.

This investigation seems simple enough, but as it unfolds it drags more of Sharmayne's friends--and Stanton--into danger from the enraged ghosts.

Awakened killed in the human world stay dead. If killed in Darkmoon City, they can be revived--but then they lose their memory.

Laurie said...

Ah, then this isn't a police procedural. It sounds more like this is an ongoing war between the Awakened and the mortals, and a romance between people on the opposing sides.

Is there a reason no one's talked to mortals before? Because it seems a pretty obvious approach - people have been negotiating, even in war, for millennia. I'm not saying this can't be the case, but I'd guess there's a major reason for it, in which case, the new recruit saying, Why not just talk to him? should get more resistance from the Sarge. "We don't talk to them, never have, no point, they just kill us" or something like that?

But if this is first draft, I wouldn't worry about it now, I'd keep on with the story. You'll probably completely re-write the opening once you get through the first draft. Good luck - I think this could be fun.