Thursday, February 13, 2014

Face-Lift 1185

Guess the Plot

Evil Vs. Good

1. Good Editor has four brains. He reads through all daily slush in 2 hours, makes notes, and responds to writers in 24 hours. Evil Editor has demanded satisfaction because Good Editor took the last cheese danish. Get ready for the fight of the century.

2. Nothing fun ever happens at St. Hubert's Catholic School for boys--until trash-talking, jerk jock Norman Good comes to fifth grade. Can quiet, brainy Johnny Evil use his wits to handle the nasty newcomer, or will his tae kwan do come into play?

3. Good takes a holiday when her archnemesis/hubby declares war. Evil's been ragging ever since his Low-T medication ran out. And Good's trip flies in the face of his ED. How dare she trifle with his rifle! Now there's only one thing left for the master of evil to do--sell the house and buy a sports car. Hilarity ensues.

4. Demons are supposed to possess humans. It's the natural order. So when a young demon named Shax is possessed by an insufferably good human named Emma, he's pissed. And when he starts doing actual good deeds he wonders: Has the world gone to hell?

5. When rival lawyers Rick Good and Jerry Evil face off in court over a missing poodle, it becomes increasingly difficult for the lovesick judge to tell who is good... and who is evil.

6. One little nudge, and Earth's climate trouble would be a thing of yore. Sam knew he had the stones, but really, how many twelve year old computer hackers take down coal-promoting super villains in real life? Just this one.

7. It's EE's newest experiment, a new blog called Good Editor, where he only makes saccharine-sweet comments about openings and queries. Will it attract more submissions than his evil persona's blog?

Original version

Dear (Agent),

Shax is a young fire demon used to being stabbed by his tutor, hit by fire waves from his father, sprayed with antiseptic sulphur by his mother and bullied by the Renegade angels. [Three items is enough for a list. I'd probably get rid of the mother, as she appears in the next list. Also, do we need to capitalize "renegade"? ] What he is not [he's not] used to is to be [being] possessed by a human.

A moment of distraction, a curse from his mother, a thunderbolt thrown by the archangel Mikael, and Shax’s demonic possession test takes an unexpected turn; Emma, the woman he is [was] possessing, is suddenly inside his [his] body. But luck seems to be finally on Shax’s side when he discovers that Emma is the keeper of an ancient book of shadows. What looks like an [The] old, tattered tome happens to be the most powerful grimoire in Hell. [Is the grimoire in Hell? Or is it in Emma's bookcase? Calling her the keeper of the book suggests that she knows what she has. Has she been entrusted with protecting the book, or does she just happen to own it?] A grimoire that every demon wants.

Great new powers are great, [By definition. Dump the first "great."] but Shax could do without being chased by infernal scientists, who want to experiment on the first human-possessed demon in history, [and] the archdemon Ruax, who want [needs] the grimoire to enslave all demons and become the sole ruler of Hell, and kamikaze dragons, who couldn’t care less about Shax and the grimoire but fall from the sky anyway.

The worst part is that, due to the constant, unavoidable presence of Emma, whose kindness keeps intruding into Shax’s evil thoughts, unwillingly, Shax [he] discovers an almost decent side of him[self]. In no time at all, he [even] catches himself doing good deeds [running a philanthropic organization!] Is he becoming – yuck! – good?

EVIL VS. GOOD, complete at 89.000 words, is a young adult fantasy and my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The story sounds like fun. The query is listy and mostly setup. Setup: the tables are turned when an evil demon is possessed by Emma, a human who exudes goodness. Perhaps GTP #4 would take care of the setup:

Demons are supposed to possess humans. It's the natural order. So when a young fire demon named Shax is possessed by an insufferably good human named Emma, and starts doing actual good deeds, he's annoyed--until he discovers that Emma possesses a grimoire that can give its owner great powers.

Unfortunately, the archdemon Ruax wants the grimoire, for with it he can enslave all demons and become the sole ruler of Hell!

Now there's plenty of room to tell us what Shax/Emma plans to do, what's stopping him, and what will happen to the world if Ruax rules Hell. This assumes Shax is the main character, which seems odd if Emma possesses Shax. Apparently she doesn't have control, just influence?


150 said...

I suspect "Great new powers are great" is a deliberate invocation of the meme, to show voice. Maybe a cliche, but probably not an error.

Evil Editor said...

Not everything I mention is an error. Sometimes I'm just trying to make it read better. The voice is there without the first great. Better than removing the great would be telling us what the powers are, of course.

Unknown said...

Hi author!
So, aside from the extreme listy-ness of your query, I'm having a serious disconnect with the voice. See, I read this and thought "what a great Middle Grade premise!" Then I got to the end and saw it was YA.
And, you totally lost me.

Don't know boo about your story, but it the voice is this cutesy-playful, you may want to tone it up.

Also, the inkling of plot I have sounds a tad youngish for YA. So, if the book is darker, make the query voice reflect that. And I agree, that I thought Emma would have a significant level of control, as she is the "possessor" if you will.

My thoughts...

Best of luck!

BR said...

Dear Evil Editor,
Thank you very much for your help.
The double “great” was a mistake, I’m not so subtle. How can I improve my self-editing, and why is it so difficult to edit my own work?

BR said...

Hi Veronica, thanks for your comment. No, the book is not darker, so you’re probably right, it should be a MG.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

If it's MG, it's too long. There are MGs that long, but when I say that, my editor tells me to shut up and cut 10k words.

Some cutting is in order. Aim for 75k at the very, very most.

It sounds like an interesting story, though. Different, and different is good.

Unknown said...

My thought is, I hope Emma being extremely "good" is just how the demon MC perceives her in comparison to his fiery companions. This sounds like a really fun twist of a story--I would hate to see that ruined with a boring, goody-two-shoes Emma.

If you can hint in the query somehow that Emma is both "good" as in kind, compassionate AND funny (or daring, or something else that will make her fun to read) that would help a lot.

Best of luck!

CavalierdeNuit said...

This story sounds fun. Two books that really help with editing are:

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
On Writing by Stephen King

As Stephen King would say, if the book on editing or writing is really long, it's probably BS.

I would take a break from your book, read the two above books, and return to your work with fresh eyes. Keep these books around so you can reference whatever you need: dog-ear pages and highlight stuff.

BR said...

Thank you guys! It was really helpful

SB said...

I agree that the kamikaze dragons line didn't fit right there (threw the flow of the sentence off), but I think it should go somewhere because I kind of love it.

Also, I'm a little disappointed at your definition of possession. Typically, possession means that the possessing being is in control at least some of the time, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Which is kind of a bummer to me because it seems like a nice human girl (who is presumably not used to possessing anyone) in control of a demon boy's body could lead to some funny and interesting stuff.

Also, I think the title is too generic to be very attention-grabbing.

And, reading the comments, I'm dismayed that K Hutton thinks a 'good' character means a boring character. Just because a character is good doesn't mean they have to be boring, and their non-boringness doesn't have to come *despite* their goodness. Sure, it's tricky, but it can be done. 'Bad' characters are not inherently interesting either.

Unknown said...

I used 'AND' when I was using my adjectives to describe Emma -- not 'despite' or 'but still'-- because I was trying to say I DO believe MCs can be both. But it's tricky. I've just seen far too many "nice" female characters (usually the MMC's love interest) who smile prettily and work as kindergarten teachers and who, because this is fiction not real life, seem to have no personality at all.

Believe me, I'm not a fan of jerk MCs just for the sake of being 'badass' either. Probably more useful, in terms of writing, is to strive for 'rounded' characters anyway.

Also, SB, I agree with your comments re: possession.

Author, I hope we continue to be somewhat helpful ; )


BR said...

Hi everyone,
To SB: thanks for supporting kamikaze dragons! Anyway, I think that EE is right, they are a gimmick and their place is not the query.
To K Hutton: yes, every comment is useful; I understand that the lack of information in the query raises lot of questions, which means I need to revise it following your suggestions. But, no. Emma isn’t extremely good or wicked and her control of the demon’s body is not perfect; it’s more like a battle between the two of them.
Thanks again!

Author said...

Dear Agent,

Demons are supposed to possess humans. That’s the natural order. So, when Shax, a young fire demon, is possessed by Emma, an insufferably good human, he’s annoyed. Despite still having control of his body, he can hear her voice inside his head…constantly. Annoyance turns into surprise when he discovers that Emma is hiding a grimoire. She was entrusted with it by a witch and doesn’t know that the old, tattered tome happens to be the most powerful grimoire in history.

New demonic powers are great. Indeed, Shax’s fire waves have never been so strong. What’s not so great is the grimoire showing a mind of its own; unleashing its power is easy, but controlling it is beyond Shax’s skills, and even getting rid of it proves to be impossible.

Unfortunately, the archdemon Ruax, banned from Hell for high treason, needs the grimoire to enslave all demons and become the sole ruler of Hell. It’s time to overthrown the balance between good and evil and submit Heaven and Earth to the forces of darkness forever!

Now, Shax can learn to master the grimoire to stop Ruax, and probably being destroyed in the process, or yield to Ruax and seeing the entire Hell destroyed.

And the worst part? Due to the unavoidable presence of Emma, who keeps intruding into his evil thoughts, he discovers an almost decent side of himself.
Is he becoming – yuck! – good?

Evil vs. Good, complete at 78.000 words (the words count is a work in progress, but I’m aiming at 78K), is a Middle Grade fantasy and my first novel.

Thank you EE for your time and consideration.

Best regards

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Hi Barbara. I write mg for a living, so please take what I say with a container-load of salt.

The first two sentences are a delight. In fact, the whole first paragraph is great.

First sentence of the 2nd graf comes out of nowhere and confuses me. And the rest of the graf doesn't help much. You had us hooked with the Shax/Emma thing, so stick with it, while still talking about the grimoire and why it's a problem. Or just cut that graf altogether.

Lose the exclamation point. In fact, lose that whole sentence, because it appears to be in Ruax's point of view (?)and you've got to stay in Shax's POV the whole way as he is the protagonist.

Well, I'll stop going through this point by point and instead say: Keep graf 1. Rework the rest so that you

- stay in Shax's POV
- don't ignore the Emma thing, unless it's really not a major plot point
- focus on Shax's choice and the obstacle he must overcome; that's the story

If you can do all that, then the only reason this thing might not garner tons of requests is that the genre's a little crowded at the moment. Or because you didn't listen to me about the 75k words. It seems very appealing otherwise.

Oh, and don't say it's your first novel.

Evil Editor said...

P1: I would go with "a powerful grimoire" rather than "the most powerful grimoire in history." I'm not sure we can trust whoever is in charge of rating grimoire power levels to get it right.

P2: I agree with AKRC that this can go. If you must keep it, you need to transition into it with something about Shax finding and using the grimoire to gain new powers. You go directly from learning that Emma is hiding a grimoire to having new powers.

P3: 2nd sentence says pretty much what the 1st sentence did. Dump it.

P4: I would either remove the
ing" from "being" and "seeing" or remove the two "and"s. Also, get rid of "the entire."

Also, Hell would be destroyed? Is Ruax planning to destroy Hell? Are we supposed to root against this?

BR said...

Hi everyone,
thank you so much!
@AKRC: the first two sentences of P1 are actually EE’s work. My contribution was to copy and paste. I’ll revise again (both the query and the ms) following your suggestion.
Thanks for the encouragement and sorry! I meant 75K! Among other things, I’m dyslexic; it’s not an excuse but makes thing harder.
@EE: as for your last question, I agree, it came out wrong; I’ll re-write that. Thanks again. You rock!

PLaF said...

We have no idea what Shax’s goals or ambitions are prior to being possessed by Emma. Therefore, there is only a generic sense of ‘the world has been turned upside down’, when it’s the specifics that would be the most funny and interesting.
How his possession interferes with his goals is where the action and tension will occur.
That he finds the grimoire is a bonus, at least in this query, and not something he sets out to do.
His initial goals have to be clear, otherwise the tale of what happens next falls flat.

SB said...

From this one, I don't really get a sense of why the human girl and possession angle are even in the story. If it's a story about a boy demon who finds a powerful grimoire, gains new powers, then has to stop the bad guy, I don't really see how the girl comes into play. It just seems like she's a method for him to find out about the book. There's a vague mention of him becoming a better person because of her. If that's a major plot thread, I'd like to see it more in the query. Personally, that aspect would interest me more than the story about yet another boy who finds yet another powerful object and must defeat yet another powerful bad guy.