Monday, May 14, 2012

Face-Lift 1027

Guess the Plot

Damsel to the Rescue

1. Terri doesn't want to rescue princes; she wants to garden. Then her mother offers her the garden she's always wanted if she'll rescue the prince from the Dark Lord, so Terri sets out on her first mission. But can she beat all the other prince-rescuing damsels to the prince?

2. Felicity spends her time acting helpless to snare men, though these relationships are always short-lived. When her current boyfriend gets lost hiking the Adirondacks, Felicity makes a decision: No more damsel in distress. It's Felicity to the rescue.

3. Everyone always teased Gary Damsel about his name. It didn’t help that he was a scrawny germaphobic nerd, either. But when the big game against a rival middle school comes around, and Gary has the only basketball-playing dog in town, it’s...Damsel to the Rescue!

4. Yolanda leads a double life. Damsel by day and dragon rescuer at night. Soon all the kingdoms dragons are hidden in her sanctuary, but can she keep them secret from her fiancé, the most prolific dragon slayer of them all? Particularly when she needs his gold to feed them?

5. Damsel Lynette has just been rescued from Malcontusion the Dragon by foppish Sir Gordon . Now Malcontusion is sore, bruised, and looking for revenge. When he kidnaps Lynette's secret true love, Chester the bootblack, Lynette steals Gordon's sword and rides to the rescue!

6. Princess Ursula is heir to the throne of Albegesnia . . . if she tames a noble and unique steed. She settles on the dragon Corla, but Corla is held as part of a circus run by handsome but cruel Lord Alcomb. Will she save Corla from Alcomb's clutches, or redeem Alcomb and say to heck with the throne?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I thought you might be interested in DAMSEL TO THE RESCUE, a gender-role-bending YA fantasy adventure. [Once we eliminate what's unnecessary here ("I thought you might be interested in," "role," and either "fantasy" or "adventure"), there's so little left that it may as well be added to the first sentence of the last paragraph: DAMSEL TO THE RESCUE is a gender-bending YA adventure complete at 83,000 words.] [Now we can start with something I actually might be interested in.]

Terrilyn Darkhorse comes [hails?] from a long line of successful, prince-rescuing damsels. Now that she’s sixteen, she’s expected to uphold the family tradition. But Terri dreams of being a gardener and would rather remain at home, tending her garden, perfecting her plant magic, and staying far away from the highly competitive world of damsels. [That last sentence could be shortened to: But Terri would rather tend her beautiful garden than enter the world of competitive damseling.] [Yes, "damseling" is a word . . . now.]

Then the local prince is kidnapped and Terri’s mother makes her an offer: Beat the other damsels and be the one to rescue the prince, and Terri can have the family’s second estate, Trellis, to turn into her own gardens. [I'd drop "Beat the other damsels and be the one to" from that sentence.] Terri has wanted Trellis since she was a little girl, so she sets out with her best friend Rune as her official sidekick, hoping to avoid the other damsels altogether. [I'd change the last five words to "out-damsel the other damsels."] [Yes, "out-damsel" is a word. If Michael Chabon can make up words, so can you.]

Before long, Terri and Rune are set upon by hordes of trolls and find themselves rescuing rival damsels from man-eating trees. As the onslaught of enemies grows, [Drop that phrase; it's not the onslaught that grows.] Terri learns to rely on her magic and an unexpected source of aid—her rivals—to conquer each challenge. Because she is determined to succeed, even if it means coping with snotty elf princesses, chainmail bikinis, and the most powerful Dark Lord the world has seen in five-hundred years. [The Dark Lord deserves his own sentence (or two), not a spot on a list that includes snotty elf princesses and chainmail bikinis. Dump the bikinis and put the snotty elves up with the trolls and trees. Even if it's not exactly true, you could start this paragraph: But rescuing the prince won't be easy, not when Terri is spending most of her time rescuing rival damsels from man-eating trees and evil trolls.] [And she needs to defeat the Dark Lord, not cope with him.]

DAMSEL TO THE RESCUE is complete at 83,000 words. It will appeal to readers who appreciate Tamora Pierce’s strong heroines and Patricia C. Wrede’s quirky sense of humor. [Never heard of either of them, but I lead a reclusive life.]

Included are the materials you request in your submission guidelines. Thank you very much for your time.


I like the title, the concept and the voice. And now that it's been shortened a bit, you may have room to tell us what the Dark Lord wants with the prince and how the world will change if he isn't rescued. Or how a 16-year-old gardener plans to defeat the most powerful Dark Lord the world has seen in five-hundred years.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This query is very well done. I agree with all of EE's comments except the one about deleting "Beat the other damsels and be the one to". I like that line because it suggests a whole 'nother element to the story: the fierce competition to be an Alpha Damsel.

Looks like a winner to me. Does not, however, look like YA. It looks like standard fantasy. I have a friend who reads fantasy by the truckload and her shelves are full of this stuff: damsel reversals, chainmail bikinis, etc.

The current YA market, OTOH, seems more oriented toward feeding the damsel-in-distress trope than subverting it.

(Have heard of both those authors but couldn't get into their stuff.)

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Ps-- I'd also drop "gender-role-bending", and even "gender-bending". It's unnecessary to point it out, and there is, as I said, quite a bit of that stuff out there.

Evil Editor said...

I feel the addition of "out-damsel the other damsels," + referring to the damsel world as "competitive," and mentioning rescuing "rival damsels" sufficiently suggests the element suggested by "Beat the other damsels and be the one to."

If it doesn't, I'd at least change "beat" to "outrace."

none said...

Eh, this kind of gender-role reversal is old hat these days. That said, does sound like a fun book. Although I note that the tired dark=evil stereotype is being perpetuated.

However, how does she expect to win if she insists on not eliminating the competition? Isn't she on the side of the damsel-eating trees? Does she *want* the poor trees to starve? Some gardener!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, I hoped this was the real plot. Sounds like a fun story. I agree with what EE said.

Evil Editor said...

Eh, this kind of gender-role reversal is old hat these days.

Like you wouldn't have jumped all over the author for being old hat AND sexist if the roles weren't reversed.

Tk said...

Good job author - your voice comes through and you make the story sound fun.

One nit: Darkhorse? I feel beaten-over-the-head with that. You might consider subtlizing (?) that name.

none said...

EE dear, if I did that, I'd never be done jumping.

Kaia said...

The reason for the repetition is that every time I think I've adequately communicated my story, I turn out to be wrong. I'm autistic, so this isn't terribly surprising, but it is frustrating.

The points I seem to have missed are:

1. This isn't just a "girl(s) defy society's rules" story. This is their place in society. I've reversed the roles entirely. The boys get to sit around looking pretty until they're kidnapped, upon which they get to sit around looking pretty until they're rescued. Right down to the idea that they're supposed to remain good little virgins until the damsels claim their prize, winkwink nudgenudge, etc. (AlaskaRavenclaw, it's actually precisely in response to that trend that I got the idea for this story.)

2. The story has a lot of humor to it. I figured, since I was going to be dealing in one of fantasy's big issues anyway, might as well run roughshod over as many cliches as I could find. Hence the Dark Lord and the chainmail bikinis.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I might do this without this thing becoming 3 pages long (which tends to happen when I try to get into the more complicated aspects of my work)? I hope you don't mind me asking; it's just, sadly, there is no Query Writing for Neuroatypical Dummies. :)

Evil Editor said...

You didn't miss any points. Your query is fine, especially if you tighten it up with the suggested changes.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I actually think that if you sent this out as is you'd get requests. The purpose of your query isn't to tell the whole story. It's to get requests.

(Basically, between you and me and the internet: your query is going to be read by an intern. The intern will reject most of what comes into the inbox, and select out a small proportion of queries to be rej-- er, read by the agent. It's my belief this query will make that cut at least some of the time.)

But you do have this problem of audience: the independent damsels who seem to be so desperately missing from today's YA list are, indeed, nothing new in mainstream fantasy. So what makes this YA? A 16-year-old protag isn't enough.

An agent may redirect you as to genre. But you'd need an agent that actually handles both fantasy and YA to do that.

none said...

I'd suggest sending it out into the wild. Choose, say, five-ten agents you're interested in and let fly. See what happens.

Rachel6 said...


Seriously, this is right up my alley (and my sisters', and my friend's), and it sounds really funny. Also, if you don't take "damseling", I will. :) Good luck with your book!

Kaia said...

Well, it's good to know I haven't completely messed up (again).

AlaskaRavenclaw, I don't think independent damsels really disqualify it from being YA. There's a fair bit of YA fantasy like that--it's not all Twilight. The aforementioned Tamora Pierce writes YA fantasy. Alison Goodman's Eona is another example. Garth Nix as well.

I'd be a bit surprised if anything in the query is enough for an agent to dismiss it as not YA, and I'd be downright shocked if anyone who read the manuscript didn't think it was YA. Terri deals with plenty of typical teenage problems. She just, you know, also deals with basilisks and trolls. ;)

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Kaia, that still doesn't answer my question. I know that Garth Nix writes YA, but that doesn't explain what makes your ms YA. And I certainly didn't say that independent thinking made your character not YA. But never mind. Carry on. I'm sure you'll get some positive responses. When you do, listen carefully.