Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Face-Lift 1364

Guess the Plot

The Broken Veil

1. When Irene tears her sister's veil, she doesn't realize she's also torn a hole in the fabric of reality! Join her in a race to the seamstress before her sister's wedding alongside a cast of talking dogs, rainbow spiders, and the number 5. (Assuming the wedding is still on.)

2. Much to Herod's displeasure, Salome cancels her famous dance act, due to a wardrobe malfunction. Kingly wrath ensues.

3. Rowan would like to be king, but first he would have to get on the ballot and win the election. Which won't happen if the stranger  wrapped in veils--and secrets-- gets him killed.

4. Due to National Parks being sold out to mega-corporations, the once famous Flaming Falls has ceased to have water covering the inter-dimensional portal to a land of vampiric gigolos who would rather lie around watching soap operas than conquer the world. That is, until Fabio makes an appearance. 

5. Salome "Sally" Montgomery is a successful corporate headhunter, keeping her secret life moonlighting as a neo-burlesque dancer under wraps. Rushing from her big break at the Miss Exotic World pageant to a key meeting with recruitment prospect John Baptiste, she throws a camel trench coat over her sequins and feathers and heads for a swanky downtown restaurant. But when her coat gets caught in the revolving door, she has to give the performance of her life in order to serve up Baptiste's head . . . on a platter. 

6. The unconscious bride. The missing groom. The trail of blood out the back. The same signs are appearing that ended in Milfred Meldon's sister's wedding being cancelled 50 years ago. She vows to discover what happened in time for her granddaughter to make it to the altar . . . if she must enlist the help of Death himself when he comes for her.

7. Sixteen-year old Lorenzo Vicenti is an apprentice to the great sculptor Gian Bernini. When he accidentally breaks one of his master's works, will he try to mend it, or run off to the New World with his lover, Lorenzo?

Original Version

After years of wandering in a self-imposed exile, born [borne] from the grief and guilt at his failed attempt to save a loved one’s life, [Which loved one?] Rowan returns home to find his realm is at last seeking a king. [Why haven't they wanted a king up till now?] If he can pass the trials and win the election, he may earn the reputation he already has but doesn’t deserve. [Is his current reputation good or bad?] 

Journeying with his companions - allies and kin - Rowan vows to his father he will do whatever it takes to win the crown, attempting to leave his past behind, for though his feats against man and beast have earned him a reputation for bravery and skill, his acts stemmed from a reckless disregard for his own life. [Feats of bravery often involve risking one's life. It's when they're so reckless they risk other people's lives that they can give one a bad reputation.] When a stranger joins their company Rowan is wary, for the stranger may see through his facade of confidence and find the doubt and guilt lurking within. [And it would be a disaster if a complete stranger knew Rowan felt doubt and guilt?] During a skirmish, the stranger is revealed to be a woman wrapped in secrets - secrets that may kill them all. [What secrets? No need to keep secrets secret from your correspondent.]

The Broken Veil is complete at 123,500 words. Set in a fantasy world based loosely in 17th century Europe, it is third person POV. This story is a blend of adventure, friendship, humor, and a dash of romance for those who enjoy the works of Kirstin Cashore [I'm sure Kristin will forgive you for spelling her name wrong. The person reading your query, might as well.] and Melina Marchetta. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Who is Rowan? Just some commoner? Someone with royal blood? Were there 17th-century countries whose kings were chosen in elections? Are the countries in your book real European countries or made-up countries? If they're real countries, which one does Rowan want to be king of?

Is this journey with allies and kin after the self-imposed exile, or is it the same wandering? If you're wandering in exile, you usually aren't with your kin and allies. But if his wandering is over, how has he hooked up with his kin and allies? Aren't they back in the homeland?

Some guy who hasn't been around for years shows up and wants to be king. We need to know what obstacles he must overcome. That a stranger might see through his facade is pretty lame as an obstacle unless you explain how this would prevent him from attaining his goal and why his becoming king would be good. I'm not confident he wouldn't suck as king.

The most intriguing part is the woman whose secrets could kill them all. But if you don't elaborate on that, with specific information, we don't know what to make of it.


Anonymous said...

It's nice that your character has an internal journey, but telling me the book is about someone who is compensating for guilt by trying to be elected king isn't enough to entice me to read it. And I'm a big fan of fantasy novels.

Part of the problem is it's all so vague. Try more specifics such as what exactly does he feel guilty about? Did he fail to shoot the apple off his darling's head type of failed to stop or is this more the evil wizard sacrificed them while he was fighting his way into the castle? How does being elected king make up for anything? Being a good king afterwards I might be able to see, but that would probably be boring to read about. Is the book mostly about these trial before the election? If so, what do the trials entail? etc.

'Whatever it takes' is a dangerous phrase to use. Is he willing to drink the blood of infants to be elected king? Wear red hot shoes? Kill everyone who won't vote for him, and all the other candidates? Maybe tell us what some of the extremes he contemplates going specifically are.

Secrets capable of killing people are usually much more enticement to read on, if I know enough about them to know both why they're a threat and what makes them lethal.

If you rewrite and resubmit, we'll take another look.
Good Luck

khazarkhum said...

In the 17th C, the Holy Roman Emperor was elected. This sounds like the story of England's Charles II, who was recalled from exile in France by Parliament. It's a good template for a fantasy.

KareBaer said...

Uh, yeah. My biggest issue is explaining the backstory and world building without explaining too much backstory.

The realm didn't have a king because 80 years ago the capital was encased by a magical barrier. No one knew where it came from and none could break through it. So for 80 years the realm remained divided and governance fell upon local magistrates. When the Veil finally breaks, the realm looks for a king again.

There are six clans based on their magical ability. Only Elite, or pure-blood (those who marry within the same clan, but not incest, thank you) can stand for the election. They must go through a trial to prove their ability. Those who satisfy the conditions are submitted to be king, but only one can be chosen. A Prophetess "speaks" to a divine power to determine which clan will rule for the next 25 years until the next trial and election.

How on earth can I explain all this in a snappy one-liner?

Rowan went into exile from his home with allies and gathered more on the journey. I don't know if this quote from two of his closest friends Arryk and Nikolai helps or not:

"Rowan is already split in his decision to take the Trials and attempt the throne, though he tries not to show it. He promised (his father) he would do it, but that may be the only reason he is. Having to fight with himself... would take its toll and the men would notice and question his leadership.”

“Having the depth of feeling Rowan has for people is not wrong, Arryk, even if it makes life more difficult,” Nikolai said. “And you’re wrong about the men. They would follow him anyway, even if he showed doubt. I always did, and so do you, even though you know what he wrestles with every day.”

“That’s because he is a good man and a strong leader-” Arryk began.

Nikolai held up his hands. “This I know, Arryk, and they know it too. Rowan is not infallible, no leader is. Let him do whatever he needs to mourn her so he can return with a brave face like we did when he left home.”

Rowan exiled himself because after his sister's death (he arrived too late to save her from a Fellfae demon) he went down a very dark path to bury his pain - fighting, drink, opiates, and women that came with a price. His father sent him away from home for a chance to heal and he left in disgrace.

He has a good reputation but knows he doesn't deserve it, as his 'feats' are because he doesn't care if he lives or dies. He doesn't want anyone to know of his doubt because he fears it will make him fail. He's set himself up to believe that winning the crown will earn him redemption for his mistakes and failures. The thing is, most of his friends already know and they still follow him (see above).

I had more on the woman involved but was advised to stick with the main character. She is a main character as well but doesn't arrive until later.

Oh crap, I spelled Kristin's name wrong. Blessings for pointing that out.

And I am setting Rowan up for a massive failure once he gains the crown. The story is the journey to the capital. The trials and election are a book later.

I've been advised that my entire query should be no more than 300 words. How do I include all this stuff and keep it interesting?

Appreciate all the advice.

Anonymous said...

You mention the journey home in the first paragraph like it's already happened which made me think it was either backstory or something that's completed in the prologue or first chapter. Then, there's some other journey to win him the crown as the focus of the book. If this book is the journey home, the query needs to focus on that journey.

If Rowan doesn't find out his realm is seeking a king until he gets home, why does he finally decide to go home? What happens at the beginning of the book that spurs Rowan to set out on his journey or make a change to his circumstances?

I think you want something like:
When [impetus] happens, disgraced nobleman Rowan sets out with [plot-important companions] to return home [at stake if he doesn't].

Maybe mention a specific event or two that may cause his journey to fail and what resources he has that may bring him success, or what choices are going to play an important role in his development as a character and the circumstances behind them.

Evil Editor said...

Where was the king when the magical barrier encased the kingdom? Did Rowan et al go into exile before the barrier formed? Did any of these people try to get back into the kingdom?

I'm not sure what the purpose of the barrier is in the book since it's gone when your main story begins, but I don't see the need for it in the query. Every 25 years, each of the six clans of Borgovia nominates an Elite member; one of those six is then chosen by a divine power to be the next king.

Something like that seems to set the stage.

St0n3henge said...

Okay, so....There's a magical barrier a la Under The Dome that appears for no reason but then goes away again for no reason. There are six clans. One is elite because it is.
A Prophetess speaks to a divine power. Why not just have a prophetess, then, and never mind a King or Queen? Ask the Israelites, I guess.

Rowan exiles himself because he completely fell apart. (Or his dad exiled him in disgrace because of his bad behavior? You sort of make a case for both.) He blames himself because he was too late to save his sister from a demon.

What's to say he would have been able to save her if he'd been on time? And he has a total breakdown. Fighting, drink, opiates and women. What, exactly, makes him a good leader? Why is everybody so willing to follow him? You mention "feats", but people aren't generally so willing to follow the crazy guy. Watch "Jackass, The Movie" and see if it makes you think "That's the guy who should be running this country! He's fearless!"

Lovely that you're setting him up for a massive failure. That seems to be his life so far. Is there a Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Characters?

"The story is the journey to the capital." Then why is the entire journey covered in the first sentence of your query? If this book is about the journey, tell us what happens on the journey. So far you've told us everything BUT.

KareBaer said...

You're touching on all my issues with understanding what a query is. From what I've gathered, a query is to get the agent interested enough to read more, then if they are intrigued they will continue to the synopsis. But from the reactions I'm getting, the query should be more of a mini-synopsis where everything is explained up front. Is that right?

Responses to questions.

Anonymous: The story opens with Rowan in his home realm but still in exile from his village. At the opening the Veil still blocks the capital. Then it falls, though no one knows how or why at that point. Rowan doesn't go to his home village until he hears it fell and then he only goes because his father finally calls him back. His father entreats him to go to the capital and stand trial for the crown. Rowan doesn't think he's worthy, but thinks that if he gains the crown he can earn the reputation he's been given by others. Nobody but his closest friends and family know the things he’s done. So yes the journey to his home realm happens before the opening chapters. The journey to his home village occurs within the first few chapters. The bulk of the novel is his gathering comrades and taking a treacherous land route to the capital.

His journey to the capital doesn’t fail but he runs into obstacles along the way, including the environment, his self-doubt, and the stranger who joins them.

Evil Editor: There was no king when the barrier was formed, as they were in the middle of elections for the next ruler. The barrier was formed nearly 80 years ago so Rowan wasn’t even born yet. And yes many have tried to get through the barrier and discover what happened to those trapped within the capital (they are all dead), but no one knew why it fell in the first place nor how to break through it (the actual reason is discovered later).

The Veil is important to the overall arc of the series. I suppose it doesn’t need to be in the query except for the same questions I’ve been asked: why is he choosing now to stand for the election? The reason is that no one could before.

St0n3h3ng3: The answer involves more world-building. There was a cause to the barrier and a reason for its ending but it isn’t discovered yet. All they know is that it’s finally gone and the realm needs a king.

Oh gasp, the Prophetess can’t be a king because she’s a woman! As one of the female-headed clans, they aren’t allowed to stand trial for the throne. Don’t blame me - blame the divine power when He created the realm and clans and divided power (or so everyone thinks).

You hit it spot on - his father sends him away to heal from the grief and Rowan goes, knowing it is for the best. So yes, it is both.

As to saving his sister, that’s more world-building. Basically he couldn't call his power to save her. That's as short as I can make it, but I'll be happy to explain further if you're interested.

Rowan is a good leader, despite his failures. I wouldn’t call him crazy, just reckless in a way that some would see as brave but his friends knew was his disregard for his own life. The men who went with him in exile were his oldest friends and they knew who he could be when he didn’t let his demons win. And he was careful enough to hide this self-doubt from the others who joined them. They joined because they saw the kind of leader Rowan was: a skilled fighter, concerned for the well-being of his men, even-tempered (mostly), light-hearted enough to joke and laugh with his men.

So my overall problem is this: how much do I need to reveal in the query to keep it a query? What can be kept for the synopsis?

Evil Editor said...

A query should include a plot summary, but not that covers everything. A common format is three short paragraphs, one introducing the main character, what she wants, and what her situation is. Then what obstacles does she face, what's her plan to overcome them, what goes wrong, what's plan b? Finally, what's the situation at which she must make a crucial decision. What will happen if she chooses one path versus the other. No need to tell us what she decides or how it ends.

Whether you use this format or a different one, it should fit on one page (including the paragraph in which you give title, genre, word count, and any biographical info that might be important.

Many agents don't request a synopsis. I recommend trying them. If you need a synopsis, use the length they request, and do take it to the end.

There are over 1300 queries on this site, many of them epic fantasies. I used to label each query's genre. If you click on epic fantasy in the labels section of the sidebar, you can see numerous epic fantasy queries from long ago. Not saying they're all good, but perhaps it'll be instructive to look through them.

KareBaer said...

Thank you, I plan on revising and resubmitting if you are willing to post it again.

Anonymous said...

I think you're getting lost in your world building. Most of it doesn't need to be in the query.

mc -> Rowan. You may want to include a brief line about him considering himself a disgrace. Including the dissipated lifestyle is also fine. Only include the root cause if you can do so succinctly without raising question you don't have room to answer.

wants -> to fulfill his father's wishes by undertaking a dangerous journey to the capital of the realm in order to participate in the elections for the next ruler. If you phrase it something like that you can avoid explaining the veil, a king being elected, etc. Use shorter sentences though.

obstacles -> you may want to include a few of the *specific* obstacles he runs into on his journey, preferably ones that sound difficult to overcome

resources -> interesting allies are resources as are any special abilities he (or his allies) have that are important to overcoming some of the obstacles.

stakes -> What difference does it make to him if his journey fails? Are there consequences for anyone else? Is there a character defining decision he must make at the end of the book? If so talk about the decision. If it's an enemy of some kind he must defeat at the end in order to succeed, talk more about the price and consequences for doing so

The realm has apparently done fine without a king for 80+ years. Where's the *need* in the situation?