Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fave-Lift 1181

Guess the Plot


1. When Alicia discovers that her sister is being held by The Tinker, who plans to assimilate her into the Borg collective, there's no time to lose. But it's worse than that, because even if Alicia rescues sis, there's a curse that will pit sister against sister in a Thunderdome death match.

2. At 12, Lisa foolishly told her witch of a grandmother that she wanted to be a writer. Grandmother laughed and said, "All you'll ever do is eat words." Now she's 23, starting her first day at a literary agency, and they've given her the slush pile to filter. Was grandmother, after all, right?

3. The day after he was cursed by a witch, Jack lost both legs in a mysterious accident. She cursed him again, and this time he was attacked by a vampire. But in bat form, he didn't need legs and lived happily ever after.

4. The medical examiners could find no cause of death, but paranormal investigator Maxwell Maxwell could easily see the hallmarks of a deadly curse. All the clues lead to his ex, Helen, a witch with a quick temper. Can he gather enough evidence against her before she carries out her earlier threat to curse him with an affliction beyond the reach of Viagra?

Original Version

Dear [Agent]

Alicia of Capeford returns home after being lost at sea [Alicia of Capeford? Is that the name she goes by? Does everyone in Capeford have "of Capeford" as part of their name? Of course I'm aware of Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves and Tarzan of the Apes, but I never knew whether they were called that while alive or later by historians, and if while alive, I never knew if everyone had a place as part of their name or if "of Cleves" was tacked on to distinguish her from Anne of the Thousand Days and Anne of Green Gables or if it was just royalty who got place names added to their names. Clue me in, history buffs.] and discovers that her sister, Keelty, [Wait, shouldn't that be Keelty of Capeford?] has been arrested for witchcraft and sold to a man called Tinker [of Turkey]. He’s infamous for injecting drugs and implanting clockwork into the people he’s bought. Those who are lucky die on the operating table, and those who aren’t become [cyborgs] his mindless slaves. [Question for discussion: Is it better to be dead or a cyborg?] Upon hearing this, Alicia immediately sets out to find and rescue her sister before [she becomes Keelty of the Borg Collective.] it’s too late.

Unfortunately, Tinker isn’t the only monster she must contend with. The Night has fallen on the world of Eisheim [I before e, except after c.], and the sun won’t return for two seasons. During this period, the Duhan roams. It’s a creature that relentlessly stalks and feeds on all who enter its forest, and Alicia’s trek forces her through the heart of its domain. [I'm guessing this wasn't named after Johnny Duhan, whose song "The Voyage" has been sung at millions of weddings, funerals, anniversaries, etc.]

However, both Tinker and the Duhan turn out to be the least of her worries. [I'm glad. You want her biggest worry to have a more terrifying name than Tinker and the Duhan, which reminds me of the cartoon Pinky and the Brain.] [Also, you want your query to focus on the main character's biggest worry, not the least of her worries, and you've devoted two thirds of it to Tinker and the Duhan.] Alicia learns that Keelty had accidentally cursed the family while she was away. [So Keelty is a witch?] Unless Alicia can understand how both Tinker and the Duhan are integral to the spell’s design before the week is up, it will pit her against her sister until one of them kills the other. [It seems to me that by the time she figures out how both Tinker and the Duhan are integral to the spell’s design, Keelty will be a Borg. Shouldn't she rescue Keelty first and then worry about the spell?] [Also, "integral to the spell's design" makes it sound like the spell is one of Tinker's clockwork contraptions.]

Cursed is complete at 72,000 words and is my first novel. The first five pages are included below.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


This is mostly the setup. If you condense it to one paragraph:

Alicia returns to her home in Capeford to find that her sister Keelty has been arrested as a witch and sold to The Tinker, a mad scientist who plans to turn her into a mindless slave. What's worse, Keelty has accidentally put a curse on the family, which will pit the two sisters against each other in a caged death match--unless Alicia can reverse the curse.

. . . you'll have room to tell us about Alicia's plan, and what obstacles she must overcome. For instance:

But first things first. Alicia must make her way through a dark forest roamed by basketball player Chris Duhon and rescue Keelty from The Tinker's workshop before he can install his clockwork mechanism where her heart should be.

That still leaves plenty of room to tell us what goes wrong and to take us to the moment of truth when the sisters are about to enter the Thunderdome.

With two people contributing to the Oscar GTP post, and one person contributing a fake plot for this query, perhaps the handwriting is on the wall, and the GTP feature has run its course?


Anonymous said...

'i' before 'e' except after 'c' or sounds like an 'a' as in neighbor and weigh is how I learned it watching the Charlie Brown spelling bee. Then there are words like reiver (as in the scottish borders reivers) which I believe is pronounced 'reever' which I'm guessing is just an exception but maybe there's another rule I'm missing?

Anyway, about the query:
What EE said about mostly setup

Also, it seems like you're just giving a brief plot summary which tells what happens but doesn't seem very cohesive. Though it may just be that I like to have everything (at least seeming to) flow from the inciting incident. Maybe something more along the lines of: Alicia returns home (does it matter where she was) to find her sister has cursed the town and been arrested for witchcraft (or vice-versa, you know how rumors get). A mad-scientist known as Tinker broke her out of jail intending to turn her into his very own witchy puppet and hold the countryside hostage for bacon. Alicia-to-the-rescue makes it through a deadly forest only to find out the curse is real, sis has turned the tables on her captor and plans on using him as the frontman so she can get chocolate, and she has 24 hours before she turns into a slug. She rents the thunderdome and hosts a smack-down to raise funds for a de-curse but....
Or something.

As an aside:
Sold into slavery for witchcraft seems an odd punishment--do they expect Tinker to do something to stop her from being a witch?

Mutegi said...

Hello, thanks for the initial feedback. I'm struggling with getting it to not sound like set up, as the book kicks off page 1 and doesn't let up until the end. Throughout the text, Alicia is trying to save her sister, but the "from what" keeps changing as the stakes grow. I'll try to keep the basic plot short.

Initially, she's trying to save her from Tinker. The journey takes her through The Duhan's forest (which appears throughout the book, from about pg 5 on). Alicia meets Eila along the way (the real witch of the story) and gets help from her to get to Tinker's. All Eila wants is a simple spell cast on Tinker, who is her nemesis.

(The way the magic system works in general is the caster has to pay some price for every spell that's worse than the desired effect, hence they are all really curses. So, clever magic users prepare spells and get others to cast for them).

So Alicia finds Keelty and uses Eila's spell to free her, in the process, she mortally wounds her sister. Alicia runs back to the witch to save Keelty (about the 40% mark in the text), but her sister dies anyway. Eila (who is elated that her spell worked and brought down Tinker's home) offers to raise Keelty. Alicia, desperate, casts the spell and brings her back. This curses Keelty into a monster just like The Duhan.

From here to the end, Alicia unravels the following:
1) What the curse is that's affecting her sister
2) How it is the same that Keelty cast on her (Alicia was actually lost at sea, Keelty used a spell to "bring her home.")
3) How the spell will destroy at least one of them (this plays to the very end)
4) How long the rivalry between Eila and Tinker has been going on
5) How Eila and The Duhan are sisters and she and Keelty are going down the exact same path.

All the while, Eila and The Duhan, Tinker and his clockwork guards, and Keelty are all trying to stop/kill her along the way.

Hope that makes sense.

Mutegi said...

Oh, P.S. Someone asked about slavery being suitable for a punishment witchcraft. Convicts that are sold to Tinker usually don't live past surgery (he's always experimenting). Those that do, are mindless slaves. The people find it a much more gruesome and painful death than a simple hanging, burning, quartering, etc.

Anonymous said...

Don't take away our GTP, EE! I promise I'll be better at contributing!

SB said...

I'll be honest, I always skip over GTP and get straight to the query.

As for this query, I found it a little hard to get a handle on the plot. I think it might help to say something about how Tinker and the monster are tied to the spell. The spell's the biggest issue, apparently, so it seems like a good idea to give us an idea how the other two dangers are related to it. Or else what's the point of mentioning that Tinker makes cyborgs or that this is the monster's special hunting time.

Evil Editor said...

Seems like Keelty is the one always paying the price when Alicia casts a spell. In any case, this additional information hasn't made the story much clearer, though it has shown that Eila is a more important character than the Duhan, even if she wasn't even mentioned in the query. Here's the info that focuses on Alicia and the spells; maybe you can work with it:

Alicia returns to her home in Capeford to find her sister Keelty has been arrested as a witch and sold to Tinker, a mad scientist who plans to turn Keelty into a mindless slave. The only way to rescue her is through a magic spell, so Alicia turns to Eila, a witch.

Eila is no dummy. She'd love to bring down Tinker, her nemesis, but she knows that casting a magic spell always brings unwanted consequences upon the caster. So she prepares a spell, but for Alicia to cast. The spell turns Tinker into a toad, but in the process, Keelty dies, and now Alicia needs another spell to bring her back.

Eila obliges; the spell's consequences won't be her problem. So Keelty is resurrected--but as a horrible monster! Rats! Now Alicia must figure out how to end this cycle of horrors, and without magic--before she's killed by her own sister.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Oh no EE please don't end the GTP. People have jobs and kids or pets or whatever and sometimes may not get around to posting.

Mutegi said...

The main problem I think I've been having (and its come more to light with feedback) is that if the curse was a triangle, Tinker, The Duhan, and Eila would be the sides, and Alicia and Keelty would be in the middle. Previously, I was focusing on getting the sides in the query instead of the overall shape, which was hard to do clearly and succinctly. So I played around for a few hours over the last couple days with more emphasis on the curse itself. I know the below cuts out details, but I hope the bigger picture is better formed, stakes, etc. I'm not sure if the summary line after "I am seeking..." is necessary, but if I had to say what the book was about in 10 words or less, that's what it is.

Dear [Agent],

I am seeking representation for my dark fantasy novel, CURSED, which is complete at approximately 73k words.

In short, slaying monsters is easy. Saving one is not.

Alicia returns home to find that her sister, Keelty, has been arrested for witchcraft and will die in three days. But in order to reach Keelty in time, Alicia must travel through woods that are inhabited by The Duhan -- a deadly creature that few have seen and lived to tell the tale.

But The Duhan isn’t the only danger in the wilds. Alicia runs across an eccentric woman who tricks her into turning Keelty into a horror whose only desire is to send people to their graves. From then on, Alicia struggles with the living, the dead, and her own guilt as she tries to unravel the spell’s mysteries and find a way to reverse it. Slowly, Alicia comes to realize that she and her sister are part of a tangled web from a century-old curse that began with the witch and The Duhan. Worst of all, the more she learns of the spell’s history and the countless lives it’s claimed, the more she fears that her nightmare will only end when either she or Keelty is dead.



Hopefully that's better. I think I'll shelve this for a bit and let my brain rest. Thanks again for all the help.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The phrase "in short" usually follows an explanation. I've never heard it begin one.

It's not clear why Keely will die. It may be crystal clear to you, but it's it's not clear to the reader.

Try to write this less dramatically and more matter-of-factly.

CavalierdeNuit said...

I think I'll just agree with Alaska on this one.