Friday, July 29, 2016

Face-Lift 1323

Guess the Plot


1. In a land that draws magic from childbirth, a sorceress uses her own pregnancies to become powerful enough to destroy entire nations. But she wants even more power, the kind of power she can get only if she gives birth to quintuplets.

2. Stuttering Sirius is the name the school kids call him. This poor janitor has kept the halls clean for years. One day, an evil portal appears and unleashes all manner of evil and filth. Can Sirius overcome his stuttering to properly speak the incantation to close the portal?

3. Siri is seriously silly. She's a fan of Dr. Suess and speaks in a sing-song manner. In fact, singing is her passion, but the glee kids as well as the rockers at her posh private school mock her sunny, childish, lyrics. When Siri finds a magic portal in the music room she's transported to Susurrus, a saccharine-sweet land straight out of a Disney musical. Siri's now the star of an all-singing, all-dancing life. But the inhabitants of Susurrus have an evil goal -- reduce Siri to a one-dimensional caricature and steal her emotions. Will Siri succumb to the siren song of Susurrus?

4. The Pharaoh Susurrus lived his life quietly and unobtrusively and intended to spend his death the same way. But when a nosy archaeologist opens his crypt and starts taking selfies with Susurrus's mummified remains, well, what's a decent mummy to do other than go on a murderous rampage?

5. The Susurrus is the geeky dinosaur down the block that all the other kids avoid. He doesn't care since he's heard whispers from space. Madness? Aliens? Or the end of life on the planet?

6. Lassys the water nymph in the stream behind Wendy's bedroom hates people. At night she whispers to Wendy, instructing her to take people off into the woods and leave them in the deep sinkholes created by the stream. Wendy thinks she's going crazy. The city wants to dam the stream and fill those sinkholes in. Does Lassys have to do all the dirty work herself? Or will the satyr Susurrus lend a hand?

7. "Kill, kill, kill," whispers the wind near Joy's office. "Kill, kill, kill," whispers the wind outside her bedroom. And if Rafe leaves the toilet seat up one more time, she's going to do like the wind says.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking agency representation. Due to your interest in [theme or genre], I hope that you'll be interested in my adult literary fantasy, Susurrus. It is a standalone novel complete at 83,000 words, and could be described as combining the lyrical voice of Patricia McKillip with the unrelenting intensity of Stephen Donaldson. [In short, my writing combines what's best about Patricia and Stephen, while eliminating what, quite frankly, they suck at.] [It's probably best, if opening with something other than the plot, to keep it brief, something like:  My standalone novel Susurrus is an adult literary fantasy complete at 83,000 words. Anything important I left out may be placed in the next-to-last paragraph with your credits, after which you may delete the last paragraph. And the next-to-last paragraph.] 

In its hot, harsh voice, the wind whispers soft, cool lies. In a desert of mirage and misdirection, [Did you hire Patricia McKillip to write your plot summary in her lyrical voice?] a sorceress searches for lost magic, and finds only sand. Once, she had dark power; once, she led a brutal empire; once, she was the Blood Queen. [Then Stephen Donaldson took the reins, and it all went kablooey.] [Don't mind me; I jest. The truth is, I'm embarrassed to admit I've never even heard of McKillip or Donaldson.] And yet — no evil sorceress is born evil.

Orphaned young, teenaged Iskra wants to learn magic and she wants a home. In a desert land that draws magic from childbirth, she tries to use her own pregnancy to heal her foster father’s illness. Untrained, she fails, and both the child and her foster father die. She’s left with a unique talent for magic, but with each new power she learns comes personal disaster. [This sounds like the plot of Superman, issue #1, wherein Superman kills his foster father, Mr. Kent, by throwing a baseball right through him while they're playing catch, and then burns Smallville to the ground with his new heat vision.] [I won't mention what happened when he woke from his first erotic dream, except to say that Mrs. Kent was not happy with the roof repair bill.] When a new tragedy leaves her half-drowned on foreign shores, [Too late, she discovered that having Aquaman's ability to talk to fish didn't necessarily mean she could also breathe underwater.] she finds a human lover soul-bound animal companion that at last make her happy. [A human lover soul-bound animal companion? Is that one thing or two?]

The next time magic brings tragedy, it’s not her fault; the thralls of a tyrannous wizard kill her family. Iskra embraces the destructive potential of her power to take a bloody revenge, destroying the wizard's entire nation. Now the feared Blood Queen of an empty land, she searches out more and more magic and territory, becoming colder and more isolated in the process. [Does she have to give birth to get more magic?] When she arrives to conquer her late foster-father’s small, weak country, its leaders trap her in an endless mirage. To escape, she will have to face her own illusions.

I've had short fiction published at [venues], and in anthologies such [anthology]. A full publication history is available at [website].

I look forward to hearing from you.



I'm not sure I want Iskra to escape the mirage if she's now a feared Blood Queen capable of destroying entire nations and gleefully conquering small weak countries. Are we supposed to cheer her on?

Wait, is the book called Suserrus instead of Sorceress because the people all mumble?

In the first plot paragraph Iskra is trapped in a mirage. Then we find out what led to this situation. At the end of the query, she has yet to progress beyond being trapped in the mirage. Maybe if you start with the backstory you'll have room at the end to add something about Iskra's plan to escape the mirage and what will happen if she succeeds and what will happen if she fails. So that we care which one happens.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The writing's not bad. Here are the things that I don't think are working:

could be described as combining the lyrical voice of Patricia McKillip with the unrelenting intensity of Stephen Donaldson

... And with any luck will be, some day, by a critic. But this is the sort of thing we let others say about our books; we don't say them ourselves.

I had to check back to see whether the character in paragraph 3 was the unidentified sorceress of paragraph 2, and even now, I'm not sure.

You have too many adjectives. Cut half of them and this will read a lot more smoothly.

St0n3henge said...

What tragedy leaves her half-drowned on foreign shores? What human lover, and what animal companion? What tyrannous wizard? How does she "face her own illusions"?

If you cut out some of the adjectives, that will leave a little more room to be more specific about what's happening.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of gaining power through pregnancy--seems like an obvious bonus to reality, where the woman only gets stretch marks and exhaustion in addition to the little bundle.

However, I agree with the comments above that there are a lot of unanswered questions. I'd cut the human-soul-animal. I'm not sure what it is, but without further explanation, it's just a place that trips the reader up.

It's hard to tell where the story really begins. I think if you start with the part about accidentally killing her father and baby, that would be good. End with her in the mirage and what will happen if she can't escape.

Good luck!

Chicory said...

I couldn't help wondering how your main character went from wondering through a windblown desert to almost drowning? Is the desert on the edge of the ocean?

I can see you're trying to show the editor your story's style, but all the descriptions are making it hard to figure out what's going on (at least for me). Maybe you should skip paragraph two. The writing is lovely, but it causes confusion and keeps you from getting to the story quickly. (I'm assuming your story begins with Iskara as an orphaned teen, desperate to save her foster father. If not, what is the beginning?)

Anonymous said...

This is supposed to be a business letter. Your first goal is to prove you have a story people will pay money for. Worry about adding the lyrical touches if you have room after you've accomplished that.

Group the non-story bits (title, word count, a few (2-3)pub credits) either at the beginning or at the end, not both. Most places I've seen recommend the end, but ymmv.

You rarely want to mention other authors except as comps (i.e. readers who like author X (or author X's book Y) might like my book (preferably for reasons that are obvious from what you've explained of the plot)). Phrasing this correctly is important. Don't tell the agent/editor what to think of your story or writing style.

fwiw I like McKillip and despise Donaldson so I'd pass after the first sentence. (Phrased differently I might keep reading)

Your main character is the sorceress?
Her plot worthy goal is what? Taking over the world? Why does she want this?
The obstacles to this are? What's her plan to deal with them? Where is the story going?

Write the query so the reader isn't distracted by side questions like whether the desert is next to an ocean, the various sorceresses mentioned are the same person, or if the father she fails to save and the late foster father who was ruling a small kingdom are the same people.

Good luck

davefragments said...

[I won't mention what happened when he woke from his first erotic dream, except to say that Mrs. Kent was not happy with the roof repair bill.]

I suggest Larry Niven's 1969 essay titled: Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex