Friday, October 30, 2015

Face-Lift 1283

Guess the Plot

The Graveyard Festival

1. All the dead 70s rock stars try to recreate The Woodstock Festival. Simon Cowell, Britney Spears and Aretha appear.

2. Thana sleeps in graveyards. Why not, there's plenty of peace and quiet there. Or at least there was until this damn traveling carnival set up shop. Oh well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. 

3. Vampires, demons, and witches join forces to change their image. They collect Christmas toys for poor children, take kids on trips to Disneyland, and raise funds to fight childhood diseases. And every month on the thirteenth, they hold a graveyard marshmallow and weenie roast. But everybody is not pleased. The League of Paranormal Publishers hires slayers to brutalize the undead until they return to their scary ways. 

4. Dancing under the full moon was so romantic. It was fun to see everyone in their antique clothes and old-time hairstyles. Not everyone held it together until the break of dawn, but some were so fresh and vibrant ... and sex under the stars was exquisite. Too bad I have to spend the whole next day re-burying everyone.

5. Elijah was a real bastard! Cheap, arrogant, and petty. Everyone in town had a grievance. When he finally died, the town decided it was time to celebrate and decided to dance on his grave. They weren't ready for what would follow.

6. It's time for Halloween! All the kids in the cemetery will gather for a festive, fun night of scaring teenagers, making a racket, and screwing up paranormal investigators' equipment.

Original Version

Sixteen-year-old Thana sleeps in graveyards [In different graveyards? Does she have parents? Because if she were my daughter, I'd want her sleeping in the closest graveyard, not some randomly chosen graveyard across town.] and crafts surreal dreams for those who want them. [Does she craft them in the graveyard? While sleeping? That's kind of what it sounds like you're saying. If that's not it, maybe we don't need to know where she sleeps in sentence one.] The dreams she creates are so vivid and detailed that they may as well be real. [When I'm having that dream where I'm being tortured by Borgo the Disemboweler, no matter how vivid it is, I never wake and think it may as well have been real.] For the inhabitants of the town nearby, Thana’s dreams are drugs. [I have lots of questions, and you don't have room to answer them, but here goes: Does she sell the dreams? Does she have to be present while the recipient is sleeping? If I go to her at noon and say I want to have a surreal dream tonight,  does she cast a spell? Give me a potion? Does she put together the entire "plot" of the dream while I wait, or just cause me to have a dream whose plot she knows nothing about? Can I tell her what I want to dream about? How long does it take her to create a dream for me?]

When the Graveyard Festival arrives in her cemetery [By "her cemetery" do you mean the one she always sleeps in or the one she happens to be sleeping in that night?] in the middle of the night, Thana meets Jonathan, a mysterious boy with tattoos he can bring to life. [Is that like in The Illustrated Man, which would be similar to Thana's dream creation, or is it more like the snake tattoo will bite you if you get too close?] By sunrise, Thana is a member of the traveling carnival that moves from cemetery to cemetery. [How's the attendance at these middle-of-the-night carnivals in cemeteries? Do they put up posters so the locals know the festival's in town?] Her dream-crafting abilities do what the Festival does best: catering to every whimsical fancy one may have. [My whimsical fantasy in the middle of the night is getting some sleep, which is why I bought a house next to the quietest place in town, the cemetery. And now there's a frigging carnival going on?]

But the Graveyard Festival isn’t just a carnival—its members guard the gates to the land of the dead, and something has gotten past them. Jonathan believes Thana is the key to returning the demon back to where it belongs, but as her dreams turn to nightmares that come to life, Thana can’t control her devilish creations. 

Something ruthless is within her, and is dying to get out.

THE GRAVEYARD FESTIVAL is a young adult fantasy novel complete at 69,000 words. I believe it will appeal to lovers of Erin Morgenstern’s THE NIGHT CIRCUS and the dark magic of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES[i].[/i] [An odd failed attempt to italicize a period?] {You forgot to include The Graveyard Book.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


If your book is similar to The Night Circus, which is pretty low on plot, this isn't bad. But it sounds like it's mostly setup for the escaped demon story, which is barely (and vaguely) mentioned. If you condense the setup to something like:

16-year-old Thana has the power to create vivid dreams for those who want them. When the Graveyard Festival--a traveling carnival that caters to every whimsical fancy one may have--comes to town and sets up in the local cemetery, it's a perfect match. They want her talent, and she wants to get out of her podunk little town.'ll have extra room to tell us about Jonathan and what the demon is doing and how they plan to send the demon back and what goes wrong and what will happen if they fail. In other words, your story.


InkAndPixelClub said...

The problem with spending as much of the query as you do on elements other than the main plot is that your up risk editors or agents thinking your story is about something else. A story about a young woman who sells lucid dreams to a town that has become addicted to them could be very interesting. But your story is about a young woman who creates lucid dreams trying to send a demon back to the land of the dead. So as interesting as the dream addiction idea may be, it's a subplot or a side detail. You don't need it here.

Anonymous said...

When I saw that something had crashed the gates to the land of the dead, I assumed it was something living. I had to go back and reread to figure out that Thana's dream-spawned demon was a problem. A demon seems like something that would fit right in.

It's a pretty complex setup, and I hope you spend as much time developing your characters as you do developing your world. The Night Circus was unsatisfying as hell in terms of characters and emotional payoffs. Please tell us why we should care whether the land of the dead is infested with demons or not, and why we should care about Thana and Strange Boy. As you've presented them, they're both so weird that I'm not sure I want to spend time with them.

I think you've done a good job of conveying a mood, but I'd like to have something more to invest in.

Anonymous said...

When they talk setup paragraph, they don't mean "put all your character setup here," they mean "put enough here for us to understand the character(s) predicament and the main plot." For you that looks like Thana crafting dreams, joining the circus, and the escaped demon. You can spill over a bit into the plot progress bits, but make sure everything not only actually connects, but also looks like it connects. If you mention dream addiction and other interesting bits, you need to show how they tie to the larger plot.

When you say "by sunrise, she's a member of the circus", I don't know if she's there completely willingly or not (You don't say she joined, you say she's now a member). My view of where your story is going is going to be different depending on which I assume it is, so you might want to be more clear.

If Johnathon & co have tracked the demon to Thana and think she's responsible in some way or are in some other way hunting for someone like her to handle this particular demon, you might want to make that more clear. Otherwise, it looks like a very large coincidence that they run across the one person who can help just when they need the help.

Dreamland tends to be one of those hard-sell subjects, which may make agents a bit skittish, so you'll need to work extra hard to reassure them that this something they'll like. The heart of what your story is about is usually also the heart of what your query needs to be about. Dig deep, revise, resubmit.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, author here!

Thank you all so much for your comments and opinions, I really appreciate them! Just some clarifications on my part:

Mr Evil Editor (or Miss, but I think it's Mr. I'm sorry if I'm wrong!), your questions on Thana's dream-crafting abilities are impossible to include in the query, or it's going to be very long. I do address all of them in the book, but in the query, I hoped to keep it all concise. Thank you nonetheless for those questions, because it made me realize that some of your questions are unanswered, so I've got to go back and make edits. Likewise, I chose to summarize Jonathan's ability because putting in the minute details doesn't fit in with the query, so there really is no point.

InkAndPixelClub, thank you for pointing it out! For me, I have to tell the agent that Thana crafts dreams, because it's essential to the plot (I wouldn't include it if it wasn't). However, I do see your point, and I'll try to revise it to make it seem more important.

Anon, yes, I'm aware of the faults of The Night Circus and I really hope I didn't make the same mistakes! And Thana and Jonathan are not that different from us in terms of personality, but they just have special abilities.

Thank you all for your comments!

SB said...

I might be good to include some of Thana and Jon's personalities, something that would make them relatable and help us understand them as people, rather than only telling us what's strange about them.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Author> Certainly include Thana's dream crafting abilities in the query. I'd just dump the part where she sells them to the townspeople and the townspeople are addicted to them. It suggests that your story is about that and it doesn't seem to be. I'd also strengthen the connection between Thana's dream abilities and sending the demon back. Something like "Jonathan believes Thana can do (X) to send the demon back to the land of the dead." (I'm assuming the demon came from the land of the dead into the land of the living, the Anon #1 seems understandably confused since you specifically called it a gate *to* the land of the dead, which implies a demon going in the other direction.) Then explain why what Jonathan and Thana try doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

It's too much backstory, not enough meat. Why is selling dreams to the townspeople important? If its not part of the MAIN plot, cut it.

I THINK the main plot is about the demon situation... right? If it is, why do you not touch on it at all except for a few measly sentences at the end?

I think you need to condense backstory to one paragraph (aka pretty much this whole query)

The rest of the query should be about the demon, why its important, why she is the one who brought it or can send it back, how her friend jonny is involved, etc. Why should we care about Thana and her demons?

By the way, Im pretty sure EE didnt mean you actually have to answers all those questions in your query. I think he was just making a point that the way this is written, is too confusing and leaves too much unanswered.

Review his notes again (at the end) to make sure you understand what needs to be fixed here...

Evil Editor said...

I believe I did preface my list of questions with the statement that there wasn't room to answer them in the query.