Friday, August 28, 2015

Face-Lift 1274

Guess the Plot

Keeper of the Woods

1. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, so someone else can take over my job as . . . keeper of the woods.

2. In a woodsy world where all the people are half-animals, a half-dog and his half-coyote sister must rescue their father from the half-weasel's soldiers. It seems hopeless until someone who is 100% human arrives and saves the day, thus demonstrating the universal truth that humans are better than animals.

3. Margot asks too many discomfiting questions, so she's expelled from her coven of teen witches-in-training. As she wanders deep in the woods, she meets a hoary old character who has some answers for her. His dark, brooding grandson with pointy ears and a wicked aim with a cross-bow is also kinda cute.

4. Alexis Hightop has had her fill of random men and sloppy sex. Now she's determined to find a worthy substitute in the local sex shop. After months of research, she's got a box full of "toys" and she's ready to share her knowledge with other women.

5. As man continues expanding his domain at the expense of other creatures, soon there is only one who stands between nature and humanity's encroachment: the superhero known as  . . . Keeper of the Woods.

6. Priapica is flushed down the Schwongo. But who killed the curator of the Boner Museum? And what species of testosterone-devouring gnat inspired the murder weapon?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My name is X. I was born and raised in New Jersey [I am completely objective when reading queries; no need to try to win my sympathy.] and am currently working as a middle school Special Education teacher. I would like to send you my novel, Keeper of the Woods, for your consideration. It is a 56,000 word middle grade fantasy novel. The story takes place in a world where by the age of eight everyone takes on physical characteristics of an animal which mirrors their personality, all except for one person. [Just for my own enlightenment, would someone whose personality mirrors that of an elephant simply become larger than most people, or would he grow a trunk? Or maybe I should ask if he would have an elephant's head on a man's body or a man's head on an elephant's body.] [Also, do animals take on the physical characteristics of people who mirror their personalities? Like you could have one bear that looks like Russell Crowe and another that looks like Stephen Colbert.] [Wait, I have an even better idea. People who take on the physical characteristics of whichever vegetable mirrors their personalities. Boring people would look like iceberg lettuce and sexy people would look like jalapeƱos. Ideally you would want to look like an ear of corn.]

Rae the half-dog and his sister Arella the half-coyote [She's very coy.] break every law [Is that an exaggeration? Are there laws against murder, rape, kidnapping, child abuse?] trying to survive while their father leads the rebellion against the weasel King Nalvero. [I assume he's the king, and half weasel, rather than the king of the weasels, right?] When word comes that their father has been captured the two quickly devise a plan to get him out [Out of what? Is he in a cage, a prison, a POW camp?] with the help of the strangest creature ever found-a human girl named Ana. Ana rescues the two from Nalvero’s soldiers, [Wait, last I heard "the two" were devising a plan to rescue Dad. Suddenly it's the two who are being rescued?] the Red Guards, [so named because they have taken on the physical characteristics of cardinals,] and joins them under the impression they can make her part animal like the rest of the world. [Making her part animal would be dangerous if her personality is shark-like.] Red Guards, a panther bounty hunter, curses, [a polar bear dentist,] prophecies, and Rae and Ana’s constant arguing [Sounds like Rae should be half cobra and Ana should be half mongoose. Consider making the change.] complicate the journey further. [What journey? Where are they going?] In the end Ana must choose who to trust in order to fulfill a destiny far beyond her choice. [Is it truly her destiny if she has to make the right choice to fulfill it?]

Keeper of the Woods will fit in well with audiences who enjoyed the spirit of friendship in the Percy Jackson series or the unusual world of the popular TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The main character will also appeal to those who related to Frozen's Queen Elsa and her fear of being a monster and subsequent isolation. [In addition, those who admire Wile E. Coyote's persistence will identify with Arella, Rae will appeal to fans of Scooby Doo and Mr. Peabody, and the weasel King Nalvero should remind those who enjoyed Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz of those works' villains.] Your website indicates you are seeking projects with animal stories and a multicultural aspect. I believe my series contains these by demonstrating universal truths in unusual circumstances [If we knew more about your plot we might have an idea what universal truths are demonstrated.] and the amusement of animal behavior [Are you saying the book has cat videos? If so, count me on board.] combined with average people. Per your website's instructions I have attached the synopsis below. This is my first novel for submission and it is the first in a series of three books, which have all been written [completed]. If you do become interested my contact information is as follows: cell phone X and e-mail: X [Having an email address that's the same as your phone number could be confusing. Like the phone rings and you answer, but there's no one on the line because it was an email.]



It may seem reasonable to devote much of the query to yourself and movies and TV shows instead of your story when you're also attaching a synopsis, but that's only because you have somehow convinced yourself that the recipient will read the synopsis. Once the recipient reads the query there are three possibilities:

1. This plot doesn't appeal to me, so I'm sure as hell not gonna plod through the synopsis.

2. This plot sounds exciting, original and brilliant, but I'd better plod through the synopsis to make sure it doesn't turn into another Harry Potter ripoff.

3. I'm on the fence with this plot; should I plod through the synopsis or . . . Hmm, that next query on the pile has an intriguing font.

As you can see, the best you can hope for is #2. So you need to tell us a good story that will leave us reluctantly resigned to having to plod through your synopsis.

Is their main goal to rescue Dad? To overthrow the weasel king? To complete their journey to wherever? To turn Ana into an animal? What happens if they fail? 

Why are weasels always the bad guy? Just once I'd like to see a book where weasels are enslaved by evil kittens.


Anonymous said...

Cover art: You need to clarify whether these characters are satyr-like beings or whether they still look 100% human but take on the powers and behaviors of animals (e.g. being able to breathe underwater like fish, having ESP like cats, hunting and eating small animals at night like coyotes).

Hero: Whose story is this? Rae and Arella's, the two kids who want to get their father back and who fortuitously fall in with some future queen of the planet? Ana's, who is minding her own miserable business as a 100% human until chance takes her to her surprising destiny?

Plot: Ana rescues Rae and Arella from the Red Guards. (Presumably, she risks much to do this, because the other side is bad enough and powerful enough to have provoked a rebellion, and yet you don't state her reasons). Then she joins Rae and Arella because she thinks that they can turn her into a half-animal. (Why would she think they can do this? Why does she want this? Just to be like everyone else?) Then they're all off on a journey and at some point Ana must figure out whom to trust and make a big decision in order to fulfill her destiny. (Where are they going, for what purpose? The father dropped out of sight ages ago.)

InkAndPixelClub said...

Dump most of paragraphs one and three. The main purposes of the query are to show that you have a good story and demonstrate your abilities as a writer. Where you grew up, your day job, what elements are similar to popular books, TV shows, and movies, and why you're contacting this specific editor aren't necessary. Your last paragraph should be the title, genre, word count, and possibly one or two comparable published books. If you have any previous publishing credits, this would be a good place to mention them.

The comparison to Avatar also has me noticing the similarities between that story and yours beyond the unusual world: two kids, on their own because their dad is off fighting an evil ruler, team up with a person who is unique in the world, the dad ends up being captured. It's not too close for comfort, but if you bring up the TV show in the query, an editor who's familiar with Avatar might wonder if she's got repurposed fanfiction on her hands. Better to talk about your own story in a way that lets the query reader see how you handle friendship, fear and isolation, and the unusual world than saying it's like this, that, and the other.

Queries usually start with the main character. Even if your book starts with Rae and Arella, you want to make it clear from the start of the query that Ana is the protagonist. So start with her and her situation. What's so bad about being the world's only human? Why does she think Rae and Arella can make her part human? Why do Rae and Arella need Ana's help after she rescues them from whatever unspecified trouble they were in? What is there specific goal and their plan to accomplish that goal?

The remainder of the query gets very vague. Some of the items on the list of things that "complicate the journey further" are very general (curses, prophecies) and I don't know how the rest figure into the story. Pick three or fewer and describe more fully how they hinder Ana and her companions and what they do about it. I have no idea why Ana has to figure out who she can trust and what this destiny she has might be, so I'm not really hooked to the point where I'd want to dive into a synopsis right away. If you can get more specifics of your story into the query instead of the boring vague stuff, you'll increase the chances of editors actually wanting to read the synopsis and find out what happens.

IMHO said...

If everyone is fully human until the age of eight, would Ana really be 'the strangest creature' ever found, or would she be more like the the last kid in high school to go through puberty? Now if Rae and Arella were confronted with a fully-human adult, maybe a plastic-surgery enhanced exotic dancer, or a professional wrestler, then I'd understand calling her 'the strangest.'

InkAndPixelClub said...

Addendum: So this is going to be a series and you've written the other two books. If your first book leaves room for more stories, but is a complete story arc on its own (think the first Matrix movie of Star Wars: A New Hope), then I'd say it's a standalone novel with two completed sequels. If the first book doesn't tell a complete and satisfying story without the other two (kind of like the first series of the aforementioned Avatar: The Last Airbender), you might want to consider querying the series as a whole. If agreeing to represent or publish your first book effectively means agreeing to represent or publish all three, you want to be upfront about that.

St0n3henge said...

Okay, this is pretty good. You are apparently familiar with both writing and the English language. (I'm not being sarcastic. You should see some of the stuff we get.)

I do think you need to clear up what the animal/humans look like and exactly what you mean when you say they take on animal characteristics.

Also, figure out who your MC is and focus on that person. The query needs to be written from one point of view.

I agree you should leave out most of "this should appeal to." It will be obvious who it will appeal to if you describe the story well, so use your space to do that.

I suggest you rewrite the query and repost it here.