Thursday, August 02, 2012

Face-Lift 1057

Guess the Plot


1. When a black kitten offers her freedom, a slave jumps at the offer. But she soon discovers that freedom means turning into a panther when the moon wanes. Her secret crush, the prince, could never love a werepanther . . . or could he?

2. Ravyn Wyrmtail is her real name, not silly 14-year-old Paisley Blake. At night she morphs into her true self, a fiery green dragon with golden eyes. Well, that's what she thinks--but the trolls who live in the garage know what really goes on.

3. Werewolves unite from all over the world to join in the DarkMoon Project. Good thing there are millions of them because it's going to take a lot of hands to sew a black pillowcase big enough to stuff the moon into.

4. Vampires hijack a space shuttle and fly it to the dark side of the moon where they won't have to spend sixteen hours a day in their coffins. But it turns out the dark side isn't always dark when you're on it, and there's no one there whose blood they can drink. Also, there's no air to breathe.

5. Luzi DarkMoon left the reservation, went to law school, and joined the FBI. When her brother is murdered, she returns to the Tohono O’Odham Nation to find the killers. She joins an international drug smuggling cartel, ever mindful that discovery means torture and death. She’ll capture and convict them or die trying.

6. Violet's musical career runs into a wall when she is caught plagiarizing the songs of a popular British rock and roll band. Her thought processes obscured by cloudy thinking, she has a momentary lapse of reason and builds an atomic bomb deep in the heart of her mothers secret saucer cabinet. She will show those animals, and make them wish they had never learned to hear.

Original Version

Dear (Agent),

Sometimes, freedom is but another shackle.

More afraid of death than legend, Shadas accepts the black kitten’s offer. Bond with me, NightShade promises the slavegirl, and I will set you free… But when her blood answers the lure of the waning moon, Shadas finds that ivory claws and slit pupils are only the beginning. [I certainly hope so. Promising someone freedom but delivering slit pupils and claws is like a genie offering to grant you one wish and you wish for a mansion and he says, "Your wish is my command," and suddenly you're a toad, and you're thinking, WTF?]

Rage strains the barrier between beast and human as Shadas’ new instincts struggle to break free. Shadas reveals her dangerous secret on the night of the Dark Moon, when her full transformation to a panther is finally possible. She rescues the exiled Prince of Tellura [From what? Was he a captive of his enemies? Cornered by an ogre?] —and that’s when it all goes wrong.

Though this power protects her, Shadas wants to be human again. She knows Prince Velphas could never love her as she is. [Whereas she had a shot when she was a slave?] Velphas treats her kindly, but his determination to save Tellura from tyranny and civil war comes before anything else. Torn between desire for Velphas’ love and despair that she’s unworthy of it, Shadas remains with the prince as the panther in her grows more fierce.

Now Shadas fears a moment of fatal weakness, terrified of finding herself at Velphas’ throat. Shamed by her bloodlust and driven by unrequited love, Shadas walks a path as narrow as the edge of her blade. Unless she can resist the call of darkness, Shadas will destroy her love, doom Tellura, and lose the last of her humanity.

--- --- ---

DARKMOON is my second epic fantasy novel, [Don't say this unless you're going to tell us the first was published.] complete at 96,000 words. It is the first book of the NightPanther Chronicles, set in the medieval-like countries of Tellura and Atarne. Book two, DarkSlayer, is already underway, and book three will be called DarkBane. [The books that follow will be called DarkCrystal, DarkFire, DarkShadow, DarkGate, DarkNight, DarkMage, DarkThrone, DarkQuest, DarkSong, DarkSpell, and DarkTower. I have no idea what happens in these books, but combining "Dark" with another cliche fantasy word is my trademark title strategy.]

I’ve been writing fiction for 6 years, and I’m an active member of the Figment online community. I live in Ohio with my cat, who I often imagine is actually a NightPanther. I found you ------- (ya-da ya-da) [This paragraph isn't needed.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The plot summary is all setup. It's well-written, so perhaps if you attach a synopsis you can get away with this, but some would prefer that you condense Shadas's situation (your first three plot paragraphs) into one paragraph, then tell us what happens (Do they form an army or a commando unit? Is Shadas the only character with a special power?), then close with your last plot paragraph.

Not clear what you mean by "it all goes wrong" when she rescues the prince. How would it have gone if she hadn't rescued him? Better?

Change Shadas to Shada. It eliminates the problem of whether to make the possessive Shadas' or Shadas's. It also sounds more feminine. Shadas sounds like a villain. Velphas has the same "s" problem, but that name should be changed entirely, as no king would name his son Velphas. It sounds like a Pakistani chemical company.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Never try to sell the first book of a series. Sell "a stand-alone with series potential." You may well end up selling a series, but at this stage, call it "a stand-alone with series potential" anyway.

(You may not want to mention you're working on the second novel, for that matter. The agent and editor will each want you to do a lot more work on the first one before it sees print. Even if you think you've already polished it to the nines. They won't want to think your mind is on book 2-- even if it is-- when they still want a ton of work done on book 1. Speaking from experience here.)

Don't admit that you've only been writing fiction for six years. In fact, don't do a bio at all unless the particular agent wants one.

I feel like you're paying more attention to style than substance in this query.

Shadas is coming off as a bit passive. Every major choice seems to be made by the kitten or the prince. Try to rewrite the query so that things happen because of Shadas's (I'd go with the Strunk & White style on that) initiative.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Oh, and one other thing... I know there are a bunch of "how to write a query" sites out there that tell you you should start with a log-line. Not true. Log-lines are very hard to do well, and can easily become bad first impressions. You're better off without 'em.

Rachel6 said...

The premise is interesting, and I'm curious about the civil war the prince is trying to prevent. But what goes wrong when she saves the prince? You jump from the rescue to her life as his pet panther-in-love.

And yeah, don't say how long you've been writing. You either say "I have these publishing credits" or you just say "thanks for your consideration." Don't make her wonder about your (lack of) experience, just wow her with your writing!

Anonymous said...

shadas's is too close to shad ass.

Just sayin'.

Taeryn said...

Taeryn (the author) says: Ok, thanks guys. I know the setup must be condensed, but I'm hindered by the fact I have a brand-new fantasy creature. (I don't really want to use the word 'were.') I know if I used a vampire or werewolf the whole thing would be easier to explain, but where's the originality in that?

Ok, dump the logline. Yes, I've been getting a lot of conflicting advice. I've usually seen that the agent WANTS to know it's series; easier to sell than a bunch of stand-alones. And no, EE, every title will NOT begin with 'Dark', only the first 3. The next set-of-three begins with 'Golden' while the last 3 start with 'Silver.' (They're like mini-trilogies within the series. Is that OK?)

I'd prefer not to use a bio, as I haven't any fiction credits, but I've also been told that's essential. Also, I keep hearing yammering that I MUST (suck up to?) tell the agent how/why I found/chose them. Again, would prefer not to, but...

And is Velphas REALLY such a terrible name? I understand the possessive problem, but honestly, that happens in real life, doesn't it? Would Shadia please you better?

And finally, I was pleased that I had fewer comments than some queries. EE confirmed my fears about the weak points of the query, but not the plot, thankfully. I just need to get the sense of plot to the query. Also, he said it was well-written. That made me glow.

Maybe it was just rhetorical, but I'd like to answer the question : [Not clear what you mean by "it all goes wrong" when she rescues the prince. How would it have gone if she hadn't rescued him? Better?]

Maybe. And yes, she did have a better chance with him as a slave. Shadas can't succeed with Velphas until she trusts/respects herself, and that's even harder as a NightPanther as a slave. And no, it wasn't an ogre, it was the clutches of his enemies. I'll make sure to mention that next time.

none said...

Umm, no, women shape-shifting into panthers (as opposed to being *accused* of shape-shifting into panthers) is not at all "medieval-like". Anyway, you already told us it was faux-medieval with the epic Fantasy reference.

I love the idea of someone being tricked by a cute lil kitten. I'm less enamoured of the whole 'will the Prince love me' part. And I hate the tagline. "Sometimes, a glass of milk is but another cowslip".

I'm a little concerned that the novel is written with the same kind of trying-way-too-hard-to-be-writerly-ness as "rage strains the barrier between beast and human". When Shadas gets angry, she changes into a panther, yeah? So say that.

Also, the beast/darkness/evil associations are tired. And that's the kindest way of saying it.

Taeryn said...


Thank you, BuffySquirrel, for taking the time to comment. I am not offended. You are right. The query sounds WAY tackier, lamer, stale, etc, than the book actually is.

(That sounded bad. What I mean is, the query sounds lame, while the book is not. All I can say is that I'm an avid fantasy fan and I've never read anything like my book, not that I'm certain nothing like it exists.)

That's part of the problem. How can I make the query serious without it sounding like, 'This is the vampires all over again, except it's a werecat instead' because that's NOT what it is. I incorporated fantasy creatures into a medieval setting inasmuch as that's what their culture, technology level, etc, reminds one of. (Reminds me, anyway.) It is not in any way a historical novel.

Also, I am working diligently on changing both Velphas' and Shadas' names, as EE had a valid point. They've been bugging me for awhile; I just needed a push.