Thursday, August 25, 2016

Face-Lift 1325

Guess the Plot

The Gift of Malachi

1. Turns out the holy book has one last chapter. However, due to spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, the messenger did not feel it worthy of inclusion. Now the fate of the world rests within its faulty text, as long as nothing is misinterpreted.

2. Annie has been set up on so many blind dates she's considering learning braille. The latest installment arrives on her doorstep on Christmas Eve wearing a large red bow. Only a large red bow.

3. To reward the doctor from Karachi who cured his splotchy skin, Malachi hires a Mariachi band to perform while the doctor's grilling on a hibachi. The doctor's wife is not amused . . . until he buys her a Versace bag.

4. In post-Civil War Nevada, thirteen-year-old Malachi helps a grizzled old miner to protect an ancient Mesopotamian object from the immortal necromancer who'll stop at nothing to get it. Normally, a kid wouldn't be much help, but I haven't told you about Malachi's "gift."

5. When Chinese psychic Chin Tong declares that the energy of the universe is being sucked dry, he coins the term "malachi." But newscasters mispronounce the term, and people think he's predicted a bad year for chai tea. A run on tea stores leads to a shortage, until Chai tea becomes the world's most valuable commodity and the world economy implodes.

6. The definition of a gifted child is the top 0.5% of that age your own kid. Malachi's parents are overbearing and pushy, bullying Malachi to study an extra 5 hours per day and harassing his teachers to recognize his gifts. But Malachi's gift lies in an entirely unexpected area: summoning poltergeists and directing them at those to whom he owes pain and terror... 

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

A thirteen-year-old son of a former slave finds himself entangled, first in the dream world, then in the real world, in an impossible battle to the death in the American Old West with an evil necromancer who seemingly cannot die. [Battling to the death with someone who's immortal is like trying to eat oatmeal with an ice pick. Or, to misquote Vizzini, "Never go in against someone who can't die when death is on the line!"] [We don't need a "hook" at the beginning, especially if most of it is going to be repeated in the next sentence.]

Malachi Moses Washington is a thirteen-year-old son of a former slave who had moved with his mother to the mining town of Virginia City, Nevada [Gol dang it, now ah'm gonna have the Bonanza theme running through mah head all day.] soon after the U. S. Civil War. [Not that I would expect anyone to misinterpret that, but "who had moved with his mother to the mining town of Virginia City" could refer to the former slave rather than to Malachi. Perhaps: Malachi Moses Washington, the thirteen-year-old son of a former slave, moves with his mother...] In the turbulent Old West, Malachi and his mother struggle to eke out a living for themselves and escape the residual racism of 19th century America.

Malachi finds himself part of a small group of characters including a war veteran gunslinger, an elderly Scottish professor, and a young Scottish doctor [Apparently you couldn't swing a dead cat in 1875 Nevada without hitting a Scottish guy.] [Aha! According to the Online Nevada Encyclopedia, "Although Scots were one of the larger groups to settle North America, the Irish and Cornish eclipsed them in Nevada." Consider making your doctor Cornish. It's funnier.] [For those who aren't familiar with the Cornish, they're people from Cornwall in England, famous mainly for the delicious game hens they introduced to Nevada in the 1860s.] [Also, those don't sound like the sort of people Malachi would just "find himself" hanging out with. What brought them together?] when an old miner appears with an ancient Mesopotamian object

[Scottish professor: Whit ur ye holdin' in yer hain, auld timer?

Grizzled old miner: This? Oh, just . . . an ancient Mesopotamian object.]

and tales of a man of pure evil determined to do him harm.

Soon after this, Malachi has disturbing dreams of each of the men that include a strange “man in grey.” This man seems to hold knowledge of each of them and maliciously accuses them of past wrongdoings. The man in grey is relentlessly pursuing the old miner, and now this new group, in an effort to retrieve the ancient object, but the old miner insists it is necessary to “hold his devils at bay.” [If you mean the miner's devils, shouldn't that be, since it's in quotes, "to hold my devils at bay"?] The group realizes that Malachi is somehow the key to uniting them and staving off the man in grey’s assault. [Is this all in Malachi's dreams, or did we come back to the real world at some point in the paragraph? If the latter, starting a new paragraph when we're back in reality would help.] [Does Malachi do something that causes everyone to realize he's the key?]

Malachi learns what the old miner means by "his devils" [Was "his devils" a phrase Malachi dreamed the miner used, or did he actually say it?] as numerous recently dead corpses rise from the local graveyard and threatened him and his friends in a chase through the silver mines of 1875 Nevada. [You've waited this long to mention that you have zombies in your book? Those should be worked into the first sentence: A thirteen-year-old son of a former slave finds himself entangled, first in the dream world, with a man whose wardrobe consists of fifty shades of grey, then in the real world, with the walking dead.] [Note that by subtly mentioning a very popular book and TV show, you can subliminally suggest that your book, once published, will be equally popular.]

Miraculously [After] surviving the attack through perilous, and often ingenious, means, Malachi then returns to the surface to find out that the man in grey has physically arrived in Virginia City himself. Malachi was able to fend off his evil plot in the dream world, [but] can he now face him in the real world? [Facing him is the easy part. Can he vanquish him?]

THE GIFT OF MALACHI is a 62,000 word Middle-Grade Fantasy novel. Thank you for your valuable time and advice.

Best regards,


Does the miner mention what will happen if the man in grey gets hold of the ancient Mesopotamian object? Because that would help us know what's at stake. Does he want it because it will grant him three wishes or because it will complete his collection or because it will make him the supreme ruler of the universe?

Doesn't this object resemble anything enough that you can give it a more specific name than "object"? Like knife or amulet or falcon statuette? Even artifact would be better.

Unless it's not important to the plot, it might be a good idea to spell out what Malachi's gift is.

Is racism a theme of the book? They moved to Nevada to escape racism, but if the Nevada part of the story doesn't involve racism, maybe the query shouldn't mention it. If it does involve racism, you might say how.

Is the man in grey called that because he's not a flashy dresser? Because if I had a dream about a strange man of pure evil, I doubt I would wake up remembering that his clothes were grey. It would be like remembering that when he bit off your nose, Hannibal Lecter was wearing brown socks. Also, note that Hannibal's nickname was the Cannibal, not the man in drab.


Anonymous said...

A logline as the first sentence is one of those things that you only tack on when a specific agent/editor asks for it in their own personal guidelines. Leave it off for everyone else.

I agree with EE that details about the Mesopotamian object would help. I also wonder why you didn't go for a Mesoamerican object.

By friends, do you mean the adults you've mentioned or does Malachi have anyone his own age that he hangs out with?

Also, how much of the book takes place in dreamland? Do the events in dreamland significantly impact the real world? If so, this may need to be explained better. If not, you have a problem.

I'm not sure why you feel compelled to mention 1875 Nevada again part way down when the setting hasn't changed from what you've already introduced. Agents/editors tend to expect the query to be streamlined because you're trying to cram a lot into ~10 sentences. Repeating information raises red flags.

This seems to have too much plot summary and not enough of why it matters to the main character, who doesn't seem to have any personal reasons to be involved.

MC: Malachi
What MC wants: ???? <- I'm not even sure why the MC is involved in the plot other than authorial directive, let alone what he wants
Obstacles: necromancer and zombies <- thumbs up :)
Stakes: ???? <- Again, no real idea what's at stake other than vague object from half way around the world.

good luck on a rewrite

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Here's what's important:

In 19th century Nevada, 13-year-old Malachi Washington must fight zombies in order to...[worthwhile goal/stakes go here].

Everything else is unnecessary detail, at least for the purposes of a query.

davefragments said...

with a man whose wardrobe consists of fifty shades of grey,
I think they are called "leatherman" in San Francisco...

I nearly lost dinner to the giggles when I read that.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other suggestions above, but wanted to add on to what E.E. said. The phrase "finds himself" makes the MC sound lazy. How did he meet these men? Or you could say something along the lines of aligned with a gunslinger, Scottish doctor etc, etc...

Make sure the MC sounds proactive, so that his necessity to the story is unquestionable.

Good luck!