Friday, February 24, 2017

Face-Lift 1342

Guess the Plot


1. It's those guys who tell you how to get where you're going, only these ones don't, so you don't and there's a lot of finger pointing and a crossroads in plaid.

2. The newly appointed Secretary of Defense reveals the president's plans to have trained alligators fight side-by-side with Navy SEAL teams.

3. Jay spends all his free time on the cliffs of Dover, watching the sailing ships. One day his unknown Portuguese uncle lets Jay join his crew and sail the seas. Also, a tavern wench.

4. Bob's father vanished at sea before he was born. His sister ran away with a sailor. His mother walked out into the ocean one day and didn't come back. Bob reflects on the role of water in his life from a Peace Corps station in the Sahara.

5. Four teenagers embark on a perilous journey to free themselves and lead others to freedom from a dystopian hellhole.

6. A pair of bank tellers are mysteriously deposited in the middle of a Peruvian rain forest with nothing more to guide them than a celestial map and a dead iPhone. Can they find their way back to L.A. before their embezzlement scheme is discovered?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Ever since the death of his sister, Fifteen-year-old Jay Stevens spends all his free time high upon the cliffs of Dover, watching the sailing ships below. All he really wants is to go to the ever-moving sea, far away from the grief that ever lingers at home.

When his father introduces him to an unknown Portuguese uncle, Jay does not hesitate and becomes a sailor on Tome Vaz’s ship. 

As of then Jay roams the coasts of the known world. Whenever he returns to Lisboa, he shares his adventures with his cousin, Tristão Vaz. But even Tristão does not know what is going on in Jay’s mind. [What is going on in Jay's mind?] That he only discusses with a tavern wench who waits for him in Venice. [She waits for him? What does that mean? He's fifteen.] He does not owe her anything aside from the money he pays her and that makes it so much easier to talk to her. Soon he wonders if she is not becoming more to him than just a lady of the night. [How often is he in Venice?] But no tavern girl truly loves the sailor that pays her and he has not forgotten how much it hurts to lose someone you love. He never wants to feel that pain again, so he keeps her at a distance and returns to the sea. [He's a member of the crew. Of course he returns to the sea. Was he considering the option of settling down in Venice?] The ocean might not hold all the answers though, and when an expedition goes wrong, he finds himself wondering if he does not need anyone after all.

NAVIGATORS, is a historical novel set in the fifteenth century. It is complete at 98,000 words and available for your review.


You've convinced me you have a character, but not that you have a novel. You need to tell us something that happens. Something more specific than an expedition goes wrong.

After the death of his beloved sister, fifteen-year-old Jay Stevens joins the crew of his uncle's  ship, hoping to escape his grief. During frequent stopovers in Venice, Jay falls for a tavern wench, but keeps her at a distance, afraid of again feeling the pain of losing one he loves.

That's about all I got out of your plot summary, up until an expedition goes wrong. What exactly happens, and how does it change Jay's outlook? For instance, he almost dies, realizes life is short, and decides that the next time he's in Venice he'll marry his tavern wench and become a gondolier. Or female pirates sink the uncle's ship and take Jay prisoner as their sex slave and teach him techniques that will help him win his wench, but when they dock in Venice he discovers his wench has gone to sea searching for him. 

Gondolier is one of those occupations I never considered until right now, when I'm probably too old for it.

Usually when your father introduces you to your unknown uncle, he's your father's brother. But since they have different last names, I guess Tome Vaz is Jay's mother's brother? Not telling your child that you have a brother is okay if the guy's the black sheep of the family, but in that case I'm not sure I'd want my child going off to sea with him.


Anonymous said...

Proportionally, how much of this book is grieving, angsty teenager, and how much is something going wrong at sea and said teenager finding answers? The query sounds like 90K of grief and maybe a short story of answers at the end. I hope that's inaccurate since it's not something I'd want to read. Does he sign up with Columbus at the end?

khazar-khum said...

We have Jay, a cousin, an uncle and a whore. Jay is 15 at the start. How long does it take for this to unfold? 6 months? 6 years? Does the book chronicle the way 16th C sailors work? Why are they in Venice so often he can have a relationship with a whore, who are not known for exclusivity in their affairs? Does she have a heart of gold?

And these were just some things that came up while writing this.

"Jay goes to sea to escape his troubles" is a nice set-up, but what does the story deliver?

Inge said...

Dear Evil editor & Commenters,

thanks for your feedback! you did make me realise what is wrong with my query...
Let me answer some of your questions:

- This first part is spanning +- 6-7 years. The total novel tells Jay's tale from when he is 15 until he is +-55, so quite a bit happens after.

- The grieving/angsty teanager part is less than 10%, the rest tells about his attempts of getting closer to people again. It does not stop with the tavern wench, when she ditches him, he does move on and continuous his search for love, at one point he even gets married to a women who looks like her, then runs away to war, which eventually results in his (and her) downfall and eventually catharsis for both of them, though the consequences will stay with them for all their lives.

- Initially Jay is just a sailor, but through the years he becomes a merchant that owns several ships and is highly active on a few chosen trade lanes (i.e. Lisbon-Venice and Lisbon-Madeira)

- The story does explore the life of 15th c sailors. Some other 'background events' are the move from Cog to caravel, Henry the Navigator's obsession with discovering new lands, The intrigues at Portuguese court, etc...

- Jay's uncle is the his father's brother-in-law. His Aunt joined Queen Philippa as a lady-in-waiting when she moved to Portugal. (King Joao is married to an English lady - Philippa is the daughter of John of Gaunt, sister to King Henry IV)

- The story is indeed more than just the angsty stuff. Jay's decision that he wants to stay with Laura is triggered by two major events: War in Ceuta (a 2-week crusade organised by the Portuguese king) and getting lost at sea when he is on an expedition for prince Henry the Navigator - just before he stumbles across the islands of Porto Santo and Madeira (which is the 'expedition going wrong' above)

I realise now that I did not pay enough attention to adding details on the external story/drivers vs the internal journey of the character, however I find it extremely difficult to trim down a more or less epic adventure to a few lines :)

St0n3henge said...

A fifteen year old planning to marry a hooker he thinks he's in love with? He's an idiot.
If he's more like twenty by that time, it makes more sense.

Okay, yeah, the uncle is Mom's brother? She never talked about him? That's odd.

What is the point of Tristao in this query? He is mentioned, then dropped. Does he do anything in the story?
Why would he be in Venice so frequently?

"he finds himself wondering if he does not need anyone after all." I can't tell what this means. Either you're saying he wonders if he really does need somebody after all, or you're saying he learns he doesn't really need anyone. I think it's the way it's written.

Anyway, we need to know what happens. What goes wrong? How does he overcome this obstacle? Does he need the help of his Uncle or someone else? Is what happened his fault? The second part of the story is missing.

St0n3henge said...

Okay, looks like I was a couple of minutes late posting that. You were already answering.

Just make it clear this is a multi-year journey in which your MC grows in maturity and fortune until something happens to wreck his upward mobility. Explain what this tragedy/distraction/etc. is and how he determines to overcome this situation. You don't have to give away the resolution, but get the story to that point.

Yes, it's hard. Try to rewrite and you can get more feedback here.

khazar-khum said...

Whew! Inge, that's a lot of ground to cover in a book. Maybe it would be better to concentrate on one section of Jay's life, like going to sea and learning his trade.

Inge said...

@AA - Thank you! I think I can do that... I will try and re-try until it better conveys my intent, Rome wasn't built in a day :-)

@Khazar-khum - Yes, I agree that it would have been simpler to focus on one section of my sailor's life, but essentially I want to show how he grows, and I felt that I needed to tell his full 'life' for that. Now I did time-skip some 'calmer' periods, essentially the story can be split in two/three parts: 15-25 y & 32-43y + a short chapter at 50+ to provide some final closing to a number of events.
But yes, I guess I could call the thing an 'epic tale' in my closing sentence without blushing too much :)

Thanks all!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I wouldn't open the query where you did. It makes us expect a YA novel.

Mister Furkles said...

It’s a bit boring and I recommend a minor plot twist:

The tavern wench is a vampire. She sneaks aboard Jay’s ship. Then, one-by-one and at night, she sucks the sailors dry—of blood guys, it’s not porn—and tosses them overboard until it’s just Jay and the vampire. They must sail the ship back themselves, she can’t be on deck during daylight, and fifteen-year-old Jay must hide from her at night. Because neither knows anything about sailing, they wreck on an uncharted island inhabited by dinosaurs. The wench—who, by the way, has no name—discovers she likes dinosaur blood more than she wants to suck Jay’s blood. They build a raft and sail back to Lisboa with a load of dinosaur eggs. Unfortunately, they are all carnivorous dinosaurs’ eggs, they hatch, and proceed eat everybody in sight. Only Jay and his vampire wench can stop them before they devour all of Europe.

Okay, maybe it’s not so minor but might make a great C-grade movie for the SiFi channel.

St0n3henge said...

I've read plenty of books that tell a character's life story, or at least most of it. If you skip the parts where little happens, the book doesn't even have to be that long.

St0n3henge said...

Mister Furkles- sounds great. Only the tavern "wench" is a guy in drag.