Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Face-Lift 1137

Guess the Plot

The Khan's Daughter

1. Feiyan is the main attraction in the city brothel, and she's loved by all the royal guards . . . literally. The buff guard in a leather mask is a prince in disguise, and he's ready to tame her.

2. Teen romance goes bad when Clarity learns she's expecting. Chaka goes ballistic, but helps her daughter make the tough decision. All seems to get better until SNL parodies Chaka's PSA for Plan B.

3. The khan's daughter discovers the king has been sacrificing children in order to protect against sorcerers. The only way to stop him is with a magic relic, But if she resorts to that, is she really any better than the sorcerers?

4. Princess Jamilah wants more from life than sitting around some seraglio, so she disguises herself as a boy and joins the army. Raez wants more from life than the army, so he disguises himself as a maid to get inside the palace. Since they apparently never meet up or even know about each other, this whole thing is a pointless waste of time.

5. On the drug-riddled streets of Atlanta, Genghis "Khan" Short is a one-man DEA, judge and executioner. The Korean mob is after him, but Genghis refuses to back down. That is, until they take his daughter.

6. Left on a deserted planet to die, Khan escapes to wreak havoc on the man who abandoned him. After reducing his archnemesis to a pool of blubbering angst, destroying the man's ship and killing his son, Khan settles down and gets married. Now, Captain Kirk's back and he will not be sated until he does . . . the Khan's daughter.

Original Version

Evil Editor,

Sangar, the daughter of the khan, discovers a mass grave in the shadow of the king’s prison. [There's a king and a khan?] [Idea for a movie: a giant ape named King Khan climbs the Empire State Building.] She confronts her uncle, the king, and his chilling response stuns her – it takes sacrifice to protect against the sorcerers. [I'd put that in quotation marks so it's obvious it's his chilling response.]

She gets [understands] sacrifice. For a century, her family has provided a guard against those who wield magic, every minute of every day. [No need to specify that it's every minute of every day. We infer it's not just a couple days a month.] They protect a relic that any sorcerer would kill to find, their sacred duty – preventing its use. [You don't need anything after "find." Except perhaps what the sorcerer would do with the relic.] For the king, sacrifice means stealing children from his enemy’s palace and discarding their bodies on a mound of bones. [If someone's been stealing children from your palace for a century, it's time to install a moat.] [Also, is it sacrifice if it's your enemy's children you're killing?

Shaman: If you want a bountiful harvest you must sacrifice your daughter to the volcano.

King: I got a better idea. We'll sacrifice your daughter to the volcano and get by on a mediocre harvest.]

Sangar tries to stop the murders, eventually turning to the powerful relic her family has sworn to protect. [No sorcerer has been able to get near it for a century, but this teenaged girl has easy access to it.] If she unleashes its magic, she could depose the king. Like the last sorcerer to wield it, she might pull down the very mountain peaks, [Very mountain peaks? Did you leave out a word?] but such betrayal would be against generations of her [very] family. [This makes it sound like pulling down the mountain peaks is a good thing. Get rid of the mountains. If she unleashes its magic she could depose the king . . . but not without betraying generations of her family.] And if she actually steals the khan’s relic, she’ll have to protect it from sorcerers who are hunting it. [So what? She'll be doing that anyway; it's her family's sacred duty.]

The KHAN’S DAUGHTER is a YA Fantasy complete at 50,000 words. I’m a member of SCBWI. I’ve enclosed the first ten pages per your agency’s website. Thank you for your consideration.


How can Sangar pull down the mountain peaks if a sorcerer already pulled them down? Are they back up?

Why don't they destroy the relic?

What can sorcerers do with the relic that they can't do without it? We need to know what will happen if a sorcerer gets it. Preferably something more horrible than mountain peaks temporarily dropping.

If the king believes sacrificing children protects against sorcerers, and he's sacrificing children, why does the relic need to be guarded from sorcerers?

If a sorcerer shows up to steal the relic and you're the family member guarding it, what do you do?

Does this relic have a name or does everyone just refer to it as the relic? I recommend calling it the Lug Wrench of Rohr.

When your enemy is having their children kidnapped, murdered and thrown on a pile of bones, you don't get to claim that you "get" sacrifice just because members of your family take turns guarding a relic.

Sangar sounds more like an evil sorcerer's name than the heroine's.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Writer, beware of overwriting. Use clear, concise sentences to tell us about your story.

Anonymous said...

As written, the sacrifice of the children and the relic being protected seem disconnected. If there is a connection between them you might want to make that clearer.

A reason why sacrificing children protects against sorcerers and what the sorcerers do (with or without the relic) besides pull down mountains (which doesn't sound that bad considering it might provide farmable flatland) might also help. i.e. make the stakes clearer.

Hope this helps

Anonymous said...

I really have to stop reading this blog while I'm at work. EE, your parenthetical comments regularly cause me to break out into laughter! And snorting. So embarrassing.

PLaF said...

Sangar discovers children are being sacrificed to prevent a relic from falling into the hands of sorcerers.
What are the sorcerers want with the relic that makes it worse than killing children? Deposing a murderous king doesn’t seem like a bad thing in comparison.
Don’t get me wrong, this story has an interesting premise. The reasons why she should stop the killing are obvious. The reasons why she can’t are not compelling.

Tk said...

Hi author,

Like Alaska, I'm not connecting with your word choices; there is a distancing feel from grand phrases such as powerful relic, those who wield magic, sacred duty, against generations....

However, on the plot level, assuming S is actually going to steal and use the Lug Wrench (LOL EE), not just think about doing so (recommend you write it that way), it seems you have escalating stakes and a protag who has protagged herself into a lot of hot water, both good signs. Forgive me for playing with your query written in a different register:

[Teenage?] Sangar just joined the Khanate, the family firm. Their century-old mission: keeping the Lug Wrench of Rohr, a magic amplifier, safe from sorcerers. It's an important job; the last sorcerer who got his hands on the thing used it to drop a mountain on the capital city.

When her uncle sends Sangar down to the basement to do some filing, she discovers a mass grave. She confronts the family and their chilling response stuns her – human sacrifice is the power that repels sorcerers. Every [year?month?week?], one of the khans steals a child and discards the body on a protective mound of bones.

Sangar can think of only one way to stop the next murder: steal the Lug Wrench. Now she's not only betrayed her family, but both sorcerers and khans are hot on her trail. And if she tries to use the Wrench, she might flatten another mountain range... making a few human sacrifices a drop in an ocean of destruction.

khazar-khum said...

One of the things about this sort of Lug Wrench of Doom plot that bothers me is this: If the LWOD has been kept secure for a while, everyone is doing OK, why steal it, run all over the place, and then destroy it? Is breaking it going to make things that much better? Will it make things better at all? Or will it just unleash a new disaster?

Usually the plot assumes that destroying the LWOD is a Good Thing. Well, maybe it shouldn't be.

Unknown said...

Hi author,
I've been sitting on my thoughts about this query for too long, basically because I guess I struggle with the child sacrifice aspect of this plot.

I really can't get behind a protagonist who isn't sure she should stop the murder of innocents.

Plot holes otherwise: Sangar's power seems small compared to the others guarding the LWOD. How can she obtain it?

Also, what's the difference between a king and a khan? Seems that one is appropriate in one setting, while the other is for a different one, and never the twain shall meet, so the combo here is jarring.

Nobody has mentioned this on this query but 50,000 words is a short YA fantasy--they are generally mush longer, nearly double the word count. Bear in mind some readers will see your word count and wonder if the book is thin on world-building or plot.

Evil Editor said...

What's with these comments about the Lug Wrench of Doom? It's the Lug Wrench of Rohr.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I've revised with these in mind. I would appreciate hearing what you think of this:

Sangar belongs to a race of bat-people who have distrusted humans and their sorcerers since the war. For generations, her family has hidden and protected a relic that can magnify a sorcerer’s power tenfold. Sangar would give her life to keep it secret, but when she finds a mass grave of human children, her uncle – the master khan – has gone too far. He insists these children might have heard some of the sorcerers’ plans to find the relic. If torture led to a few deaths, humans won’t miss slave children, anyway.

Sangar is disgusted. She flies to the other khans to intervene, but they won’t defy her uncle’s authority. She even considers an alliance with the sorcerers, but her uncle was right about them – next to the relic stone, they don’t care about the dead children. Eventually she turns to the forbidden relic. She can end the master khan’s rule, but unleashing its power betrays her father and generations of her clan – and draws sorcerers like a signal fire.

THE KHAN’S DAUGHTER, a YA Fantasy in the vein of GRACELING, is complete at 50,000 words. I’m a member of SCBWI. The first ten pages are enclosed per your agency’s website. Thank you for your consideration.

Evil Editor said...

P1: Wouldn't it be easier to hide the relic somewhere else than to torture children because they might know how the sorcerers plan to find it? Why would the sorcerers discuss their plans in the presence of these children anyway?

P2: Whaddaya mean she flies? These bat people can fly? Even if they can, she pleads with them or asks them to intervene. Flies to them to intervene doesn't make sense.

Get rid of "next to the relic stone, they don’t care about the dead children." Say "they won't help unless she gives up the relic stone."

I would say "It" can end the master khan's rule, not "she." Or "With it, she..."

Unknown said...

The writing is better, and I have a more clear picture of the plot, but this is mostly set-up that can be shortened to allow yet more plot.

How does she 'turn to' the relic? What does she DO with it? Can she harness it's power? If so, what does she DO?

In P1 sentence 3 and 5 are missing words, I think. And the punctuation isn't helping.

I agree that mass killing of kids who MAY have overheard the location of the LWOR is pretty flimsy. There must be a darker truth that Sangar discovers. Please don't let the evil Khan's voice infect the query.

She's Batgirl? Why didn't you say that the FIRST time!

How long ago was the war? Do bat people have a human-like life span? Just wondering if the time frames match.

Why are human children slaves?

Instead of killing the slaves all the time, wouldn't it be easier to cut their tongues out to prevent them from blabbing to the sorcerers? I mean, from an Econ 101 standpoint this seems to be diminishing returns. Just as soon as you get a slave trained right you're slitting their throats because they heard a rumor...

I still think it's short...

Tk said...

Bat people is cool; it’s a good thing you mentioned that.

Is khan a synonym for bat? ( a race of bat people, the khans) In this version, a first-time reader won’t know what a khan is.

This now sounds like a much darker story (torturing children?), and your protag less likeable – it sounds like she’s planning a murder of her own.

Or does she not intend murder, only to leave her uncle with nothing to guard? And then, why would she unleash its power? Just hand it over to the sorcerers, post it to Timbuktu or bury it in a new spot.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

It's much easier to tell what's going on in this version, and you've got a slightly more believable reaction to human sacrifice here.

But the rationale for the sacrifices sounds flimsy (granted, it would be hard to come up with a good rationale) and I can't picture the uncle bothering to explain himself to the kid. Seems more likely he'd just add her to the mass grave.

Awkward phrasing:

when she finds a mass grave of human children, her uncle – the master khan – has gone too far

(Sounds like he went too far before she found it.)

next to the relic stone, they don’t care about the dead children

unleashing its power betrays her father

Also, "disgusted" seems like an inadequate reaction to the discovery that one's uncle is into human sacrifice. Though I suppose it depends on the uncle.

David B Goode said...

I'm hooked by the opening paragraph. I know there are bat-people, sorcerers, and there was a war.
There are structure issues here. --> [If torture led to a few deaths, humans won’t miss slave children, anyway.]
The khan is her uncle, but then we mention her dad, and the story is called the Khan's daughter. I'm guessing her dad was khan in the past. You might clarify this, or you might leave the title of khan off of her uncle. Either way, I think, would clear up the confusion.