Monday, March 03, 2014

Face-Lift 1189

Guess the Plot

On Fire Built

1. Icarun controls fire with his mind, and his girlfriend is a water spirit, but water spirits aren't supposed to be into fire people. Will they overcome their awkward social hang-ups and defeat the evil earth king who has suppressed their people with bad air for five hundred years?

2. The villagers honestly thought the volcano was inactive. How were they to know their new meeting hall was . . . On Fire Built?

3. Want to go somewhere unique for the holidays, spring break, or even your honeymoon? Of course you do. Hotelier Johnathan Krepps, Esq, has just opened his latest and greatest property: The Hellhole, located atop the area's finest Hellmouth.

4. When you build your home on an island that's also a volcano, you expect an occasional disaster that wipes your people out. What you don't expect is a bunch of travelers showing up with their diseases and their fancy ideas about how you should live your life. Maybe you should toss them in the lava.

5. Saphira toiled for years to become Head Fire Keeper, but her dreams are dashed when a teenaged neophyte is anointed Chosen One. Will Saphira cow to the bumbler's direction, or torch him in his sleep? Also, random torching.

6. When Alice walks into school one day, she realizes that her terrifying debate teacher has turned into a dragon and taken over the school. The students are forced to build the dragon's lair or be roasted. Alice must decide whether it's more important to liberate her classmates through Chosen One powers or learn debate.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Iolani, princess of Kaiahi, [If IOLANI OF KAIAHI  were the puzzle on Wheel of Fortune it would take them fifteen minutes to get it to  _ _ L _ N _    _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _.] has spent all her life between the Sea and the Fire. Only legends tell how her people came to inhabit their small cluster of islands, and no-one knows what lies beyond the endless waters which surround them. From the moment white sails appear on the horizon, Iolani dreads the great changes that must be coming.

The foreign travellers bring with them new knowledge and a new way of life but also a corrosive scepticism [Blogger is telling me you've spelled "skepticism" and "travelers" wrong, but I'm arguing that you're from the UK, not the US. Yet it refuses to listen.] which causes division and threatens to undermine the basis of the islanders' society. [This is all vague. What knowledge do they bring? What new way of life? They bring corrosive skepticism? Not clear if the travelers are skeptics or arouse skepticism in the islanders. In any case, who is skeptical about what? What is the basis of the islanders' society? Here's a more specific version of the sentence: The travelers bring new knowledge of computers and a life spent sitting in front of screens watching videos of kittens and people having sex, but they also lead the islanders to wonder whether the volcano god exists and whether they should continue tossing virgins into his mouth to appease him.] [Feel free to use that if I've correctly guessed the details of your story.] Even Iolani begins to doubt all that she once knew through her developing friendship with Will [Bligh], the son of the expedition leader.

When the virulent spread of disease brings relations to breaking point, the spectre of war looms. [Because when something is wiping your people out, you want nothing more than to take some other people with you.] Desperate to preserve her people and her heritage, Iolani must rally her faith and venture into the unknown to recover the deep power of her lineage - which she no longer believes exists. [Another sentence so vague I don't know what it means.]

ON FIRE BUILT is a 104,000 word fantasy novel which explores how we maintain our identity when everything around us changes.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

(The title refers to the fact that the island is volcanic.)


Here are the things your main character does: dreads coming changes; doubts all she once knew; develops a friendship with a guy named Will; rallies her faith; ventures into the unknown; recovers the power of her lineage. The friendship is the only one that isn't totally vague. Is that a big enough part of the story that you could focus the query on it?

If not, how about this. Focus on Iolani, but tell us who the travelers are, what they want, what factions the islanders align themselves in, what the danger is, and what Iolani plans to do about it.

Is the war looming between the travelers and the islanders or between the two camps that have formed among the islanders?

I don't think the disease is needed in the query. With everyone taking sides on the modern vs traditional issue, there's bound to be conflict. Besides, the travelers are already playing the role of the disease, infecting the island civilization.

If there are signs that the volcano is going to erupt, that might be worth mentioning. You could also, in paragraph 1, call this archipelago a small cluster of volcanic islands.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

What EE said re specificity. And also this:

Everything you've mentioned sounds like it could be historical fiction about Any Indigenous Population meeting The Europeans. From the Caribbean in the 15th century to the South Pacific in the 19th, this is what happened: A bunch of people with names that would sound odd to us saw white sails on the horizon, then found themselves surrounded by demanding "explorers" who gave them smallpox. (Or, in the case of the Pacific islands, measles.)

About the only thing that sounds different in your story is the spectre of war looming. It's very hard to summon a spectre of war when you're busy dying of smallpox.

If there's a fantasy element in your story, be sure to mention it.

I'd also avoid the description of what the story explores, in your penultimate sentence. Leave that sort of thing to the reviewers.

khazar-khum said...

All volcanoes in books erupt. It's true. My sister the volcanologist said so.

It sounds like a story of the innocent, noble savages meeting the horrible moderns, who might as well be blue-eyed devils. The island people are never anything but pure, while the visitors bring corruption. Island natives are never anything but peaceful, good and wise. Not a backstabber or venal bastard among them. Nope. It's always the evil visitors.

Do we really need that story again?

Dave Fragments said...

I apologize in advance but this:

"From the moment white sails appear on the horizon, Iolani dreads the great changes"

reminds me of the
"Creator of the universe as claimed by adherents of the faith on planet Viltvodle VI. Their legend has it that the universe was sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure, and they thus "live in perpetual fear of the time they call 'The Coming of the Great White Handkerchief.'""

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

By the way, these names look Hawaiian. And Hawaii has volcanoes. So if this is a fantasy set in Hawaii or quasi-Hawaii, once again: we need the fantasy element. Front and center.

Evil Editor said...

Also, Kaiahi is an anagram of Hawaii if you change the K to a W.

K Hutton said...

I fully agree with Alaska's comments about this sounding like any generic indigenous population. (The Sioux are not the same as the Anishnaabe who NOT the same as indigenous Polynesians, etc.) Even in an alternate fantasy world, I hope your indigenous population is unique.

Also, to have your MC be desperate to "preserve her heritage" needs to be taken out. When you are part of a dominant culture, you don't even think of it as a "culture", it's just how people are. When you're in a minority and the way your culture is presented on TV and in books seems very different from how you know your family looks at home, that's when people refer to your culture as "your heritage."

Overall, this query would benefit from being much more deeply situated in your MC's point of view. We need that to care about thsi character, to see the specifics that make her dilemma different from anyone else's and why she's the only one who can (at least try to) save the day.

Good luck!

CavalierdeNuit said...

This sounds like a Pocahontas story to me, and she was a real person, not just a Disney character. You can use that to your advantage.

A fantasy version of Pocahontas would be a cool story: Iolani and Will venture into a cave and find magical things from Iolani's people. They fall in love while fighting for something together. And what if the volcano never erupts? *gasp*

I would work on making this less vague and showing us the fantasy elements.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Btw, the title keeps making me think of that Simpson's episode where the realtor points to the house in flames and says "motivated seller!"

khazar-khum said...


having a volcano in a book not erupt is simply not done. It's like having a gun in the first act never, ever go off. It's a violation of the rules of storytelling. Besides, volcanoes are hella cool.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Well of course it has to erupt like an orgasm everyone has been waiting for.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize that Pocahontas was from Hawaii... silly me.