Friday, January 23, 2015

Face-Lift 1246

Guess the Plot


1. When a string of mythical creatures invade their hometown, teen twins Charlie and Rylen must send them back to their own dimension. The catch: they must do so secretly, because like most teens, they don't want to draw attention to themselves.

2. When the body of film 'producer' Roger Frankel is found dangling from the mast of his sail boat Gauntlet, homicide detective Zach Martinez knows two things. One, Frankel was no longer on fire when he was tied up there; and two, Zack's daughter is gonna need a new outfit for the school's Winter Ball.

3. Gauntlet is bummed when the king de-knights him and he's a Sir no more. He can only regain his status by competing in a three-day jousting event, slaying a kraken, and winning the heart of the hunchbacked princess. Hmm . . . going for his MBA is starting to sound pretty good after all.

4. When celebrity buzzard rehabilitator Leroy Kwang cures an Arabian movie mogul's stricken avian of its agoraphobia he becomes embroiled in a covert plot to brand falconry "evil as bullfighting". But twixt every man and bird a bond of glove exists — and this one is MAILED.

5. Frat house pledge (and total dweeb) Elston can't be kept out of phi omega because he's a legacy pledge. So when it's time for the "gauntlet," a hazing ceremony, the brothers trade in their paddles for baseball bats when it's Elston's turn, and he ends up brain dead. Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Original Version

Dear [Name],

I am seeking representation for my YA urban fantasy novel, GAUNTLET. [Random personalization nonsense that means nothing to me or the agent.]

As Rylen matured, so did his inexplicable sense of time. As a soon-to-be seventeen year old, however, his mother [If his mother is a soon-to-be seventeen-year-old, how old is Rylen?] tells him he needs to stop spouting the exact time by instinct in public; because it’s odd. [So knowing what time it is is his super power? Actually, while that isn't necessarily useful in defeating Brainiac or Dr. Octopus, I can see how he'd be good to have around as a member of a team of superheroes. I don't think any member of the Justice League wears a watch, so they'd probably like having a new guy who can tell them when it's time for their coffee break. Of course, getting through the job interview could be troublesome:

Timekeeper (That's his superhero name. Rylen is his secret identity): You guys hiring?

Batman: Depends. What's your power?

Timekeeper: I know what time it is. Go ahead, ask me what time it is.

Batman: What time is it?

Timekeeper: 4:15.

Batman: Damn, I was supposed to pick Robin up at 3:30. Gotta run.

Also, Superman can use his X-Ray and telescopic vision to look at clocks no one else can see, and the Flash can run to London, look at Big Ben, and calculate the local time on his way back, all in less than a second. And they all carry i-phones in their capes. So what do they need Timekeeper for? Unless . . .  figuring out the time when you've crossed the International Dateline can be tricky. Like one minute it's noon on Wednesday and the next minute it's 10 PM on Thursday. So if Timekeeper is good at that, I say they should hire him.]

Turning seventeen causes Rylen and his twin sister Charlie to understand that they have far greater problems than just being “odd”. Anxiety becomes their personal parasite as random explosions of unknown power from their bodies turn the simple task of crossing the parking lot into a headache. [I don't see the Justice League hiring someone who can't cross a parking lot to handle their crossing-the-International-Dateline data.] [Is it turning seventeen that releases their power? Because it seems kind of arbitrary. You can cross a parking lot one day, and the next day it's a major challenge? Was it something in the birthday cake?] [Also, there's nothing odd about random explosions of unknown power from people's bodies. My own have been known to clear a room in mere seconds.] Only when Charlie accidentally uses that power to call a beautiful creature named Mirra into this world, do the twins learn of their biological connection to Eden—the dimension below ours that is home to all manner of mythical beings and monstrous creatures called eidolons. An organization called the Sentries sealed the bridge between Eden and Earth three thousand years ago to prevent a war, but Rylen’s sister just broke the seal.[Having revealed Charlie's name, you can use it now.] [Also, that was the first sentence that clued us in to what the book is about.]

A different beast of Eden threatens to expose them almost every day, [What is so bad about being exposed?] and the FBI trying to figure out what is causing so much destruction in the suburbs of Colorado isn’t making it any easier for the twins to remain anonymous. [This is not a job for the FBI (unless we're talking about Scully and Muldur). It's a job for the Avengers.] Teenage life was already dramatic enough, but now the twins have to go to school and secretly repel the steady stream of weird creatures from another world [That sounds like a decent place to start the query:

Teenage life was dramatic enough before Rylen's twin sister Charlie accidentally opened the long-sealed bridge between Earth and Eden. No, not that Eden; a dimension filled with demonic creatures that are now crossing into the twins' hometown and causing massive destruction. The good news: Rylen and Charlie have new powers like force fields and super strength that help them repel the monsters. The bad news: they have to do so secretly because they don't want to be the next TMZ celebrities.]

—if Mirra can teach them to control their powers in time, that is. Charlie’s daydreams for her crush Ben—Rylen’s best friend—slip further out of reach with every demonic encounter, and Rylen can hardly think straight with the dazzling Mirra taking up an extra seat at the dinner table.

Gauntlet is a 106k word YA urban fantasy with elements of traditional fantasy and paranormal romance.

My name is ____________ (writing as C. James), and I am a self-employed 28 year-old in Lakewood, Colorado. The manuscript for GAUNTLET is complete and sample pages or the full ms are available on request. Thank you for your time.



Rylen's time-spouting ability is as useless in the query as it would be against the Joker.

3000 years ago Colorado would have lost a war to demonic monsters. In modern times Colorado would win . . . unless they pin all their hopes on two seventeen-year-olds.

Not clear why the twins must remain anonymous as they save Colorado from destruction. You don't see The Thing and The Hulk being discreet about pummeling monsters.

What are the powers they need to learn to control? The only powers mentioned are clockless time telling and bodily explosions.

I've given you a sample setup paragraph. Follow it (or something similar) with details about the twins' plan, what happens if they fail, what's stopping them from succeeding. One obstacle being their inability to control their powers—until the dazzling Mirra crosses the bridge and takes them under her wing (literally, assuming she has wings.)


khazarkhum said...

Average teens with an unknown power make things blow up and enter a fantasy world. Helen Mirren comes to teach them how to behave, control their powers, and make bad monsters go away.

Actually, if it was Helen Mirren, the story would be much, much better. Rylen would have his hands full, and she'd be amused.

#4--you brought back memories. My Dad had his falconer's license when I was a kid.

InkAndPixelClub said...

If someone asked you what your book is about, you probably wouldn't say that it was about a kid with an inate sense of the exact time and a compulsion to shout it out in public. You'd probably say it's about a brother and sister with strange powers who fight monsters from another dimension. So you want to get to that as soon as possible. If the time telling is going to stay in the query, it needs to be part of a brief list of minor quirky abillities that the two kids have, abilities that only start to make sense when Mirra shows up. And Mirra shouldn't show up any later than sentence two.

Some of your sentence structure is a bit off. Sentence one in particular feels like it should be coming after another sentence. I feel like I should have some sense of who Rylen is before he starts maturing and it leaves me uncertain about when the book starts. Do we see Rylen mature and his sense of exactly what time it is develop? Or is he seventeen at the start?

You might also want to consider toning down prose like "anxiety becomes their personal parasite."

Shorten the "Rylen and Charlie were always kind of weird" setup and you'll have more time to explain some elements that you've glossed over here. How are the kids connected to Eden? What are the monsters doing when they arrive in our world? Do they pose a threat beyond potentialy exposing Charlie and Rylen? How do they threaten to expose the twins? Is Mirra invisible to other people? Are the monsters invisible? What powers do the kids have that will help them fight the monsters aside from precise time knowledge and parking lot related flatulence? Is there an end game? Are the threats against Charlie and Rylen - either from the monsters or the FBI - building to some ultimate confrontation? What do the kids stand to achieve beyond perpetually battling monsters?

Anonymous said...

I'd find this more interesting if either the MC was responsible for the seal being broken, or if both he and his sister were.

The first (plot) paragraph may add useful information to the book. It can be removed from the query.

It may just be me, but but now the twins have to go to school sounds like they weren't going to school before.

Unknown said...

Hmm. I can see the author here is having trouble attracting comments--maybe because it's easier to point out all the errors in a red-hot mess, which I don't think this is.

My problem (other than echoing what others and EE have said about better defining their powers and starting in the right place) is that it doesn't quite stand out enough as is. I love reading speculative fiction, but there's not enough here IN THE QUERY that makes me feel this is a whole new take on tried-and-true middle-America teens discover they have superpowers and must save the world trope.

But that's not to say the right angle isn't in your story, just that you need to focus your query more on what makes your story unique: from my perspective, the twin relationship possibly, their specific powers and how those make thier lives difficult, and the aspect of battling demons etc who are coming through a gateway already (rather than racing time to prevent the Gates of Hell from being opened in the first place.)

I would also suggest thinking about how to make your demons/mythical creatures sound unique. Right now Eden is described so vaguely that I feel like it could be any number of "magical other realms" I've read about over the years.

Good luck on the rewrite! Looking forward to reading it.

Intercostal Clavicle said...

This sounds like a nifty story, but at present it's kinda scattered.

There's nothing that really points out Rylen or Charlie as "odd", and just stating that they are is a bit too teen-angsty. Every teenager feels odd, so when you say that they ARE odd, it asks the question of why exactly are these two so special that they actually are odd, rather than just feeling odd like everybody else?

Why are the beasts coming out of Eden? It's not entirely clear whether these beasts are sentient and harmful, or if they're just blundering out of Eden and coming up to the surface because they don't know to stay down below.

How does Rylen's timekeeping tie into the plot at all? You open with it, and it's cool, but it doesn't seem very relevant, and it's not mentioned afterwards.

Also, as Kelsey Hutton said, I'm not really intrigued by this. It comes across as a bit blah because you're not making enough of what makes it unique and different. You need to throw in more sparkle and shazam, show us what makes your story worth telling. :)

St0n3henge said...

Okay... There are lots and lots of queries that start out "teen suddenly realizes he/she has superpowers, but has difficulty controlling them." It's a subcategory unto itself. Usually there are also complications with a potential love interest.

In other words, it's been done. That isn't necessarily bad, it just means you'll have to try harder to show what's unique about your version of this scenario.

The main problem you seem to have here is that everything seems to be happening pretty much randomly.

You say that turning seventeen "causes" these explosions of power. "Is it turning seventeen that releases their power? Because it seems kind of arbitrary." I agree, but of course that isn't what you meant to say. That is not an example of cause and effect. You could say that getting old caused balding, but really it was something in your DNA. Otherwise every aging person would be bald. So, is DNA the case here? Or what?

"Rylen’s sister just broke the seal." Of course she did. Because if she hadn't you wouldn't have anything to write about.

"Only when Charlie accidentally uses that power to call a beautiful creature named Mirra into this world..." Of course he did. Because if he hadn't accidentally somehow done this, we wouldn't know the plot, and they wouldn't learn how to control their powers.

How does Charlie's unusual exactness with time come into the plot? You mention it, then drop it. Chekhov's gun was stolen.

I'm pretty sure your story makes sense. Try to rewrite the query so:

1. It follows a logical order,

2. Things seem to have reasons for happening, or at least precipitating events.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Actually, Kelsey, I'm afraid I think it's a mess. The sentences, while grammatically correct, are long, floppy, and too often have something other than a person as the subject.

I'd rewrite with short, snappy sentences. Try to make the protagonist the subject of as many of them as possible. Avoid any sentences in which the subject is an abstract concept. There are a lot of these right now, and they're all followed by weak verbs.

Examples of what I'm talking about: "Turning seventeen causes Rylen and his twin sister Charlie to understand that they have far greater problems than just being “odd”. Anxiety becomes their personal parasite as random explosions of unknown power from their bodies turn the simple task of crossing the parking lot into a headache."

All of these weaken the query. We want to read about a character. Tell us what the character does

Unknown said...

Well... yes, when Alaska lays it out, I agree there's lots that needs work. Author, take heart that there was something in your story that made me remember the query through a fuzzy lens ; )

C. James said...

Finally, feedback on flawed delivery and HONESTY about how things made the reader feel! And EE your gassy interpretation gave me a hoot.

You guys rock. I needed people with precise and informed critiques and I found a place to get it. Thank you. I'm glad I did this before i get on the craplist with any other agents.

Rylen's time-thing is just about as relevant as it sounds, it's just the precursor to his time-related dimensional magic, but I didn't think I should lead with Rylen ripping holes in time space. Or should I? I clearly have no idea what I'm about here.

If there is a forum on here to ask follow up questions I'd love to use it. I'm not really sure how to execute some of the suggested fixes, because the causes of the "random" things are so involved that it would take even more space to explain why a random event is actually not random.

Many of those explanations would essentially divulge the entire plot, and I was told that's not what the query is for, that's a synopsis.

How much is too much when it comes to telling all the secrets? Or is that another thing that's agent preference? So much of this feels like swinging in the dark to a green bean like me, so any information you have time to give or direct me to is helpful.

Thanks everyone!