Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Face-Lift 1372

Guess the Plot 


1. When King Lortar learns that his subjects want to remedy the famine with a pagan ritual--an obvious affront to mighty Vulfrum, creator of all things--he decides to kill them all. Better to rule over no one than to serve under Vulfrum, aka the Lord of Wrath

2. It was bad enough that Mary's husband accepted the bet in the first place, but now she'll have to raise their unborn child on her own, all because he lost a stupid fiddling competition and ended up in Hell.

3. A tour of various cultures' afterlives throughout the ages, and what principles to follow (or break) to get there. After all, one society's paradise is another's nightmare. And everyone's going to somebody's hell.

4. Reverend Franklin has an African ministry and a great idea to feed the poor, generate cheap power, and promote a vibrant economy. He borrows billions from Chinese banks and builds dams all over Botswana. One niggling problem: It never rains. Now the bankers want their investment back and because they are the Hong Kong Tong, they’ll take it in blood.

5. When charismatic minister Bobby Follet is shot dead at a BBQ for Jesus, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, the Hells Angels didn't do it, and two, those ribs are heavenly.

6. The Beavers have built an enormous dam surrounding their entire nation, to separate themselves from el Castor. They believe this will give them peace, prosperity, and safety. But now their lawns are out of control, their fruits unharvested, and no one can come up with any fresh new ideas for how to combine corn, beans, tomatoes, and ground beef. Have these silly rodents made a terrible mistake?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Within the marble citadel of the Eternal City, whence [where] the last Stolthelmite emperor took his dying breath, the Clan of Sodlur stands against foes on all sides. King Lortar the Just, High Priest of the Temple Imperial and head of the Sodlur family, governs the crown lands of the deceased emperor. As famine, poverty, and intrigue suffocate his nascent realm, he fights to keep it from falling to dust. [This is all pretty dry. A lot of words, but not telling us what happens. There's a realm, and within this realm are some crown lands, and inside them is the Eternal City, and inside the Eternal City is a marble citadel, and inside the citadel is the Temple Imperial. That's more geography than I want in the first three sentences. I want story. King Lortar is enough; we don't need High Priest of the Temple Imperial and head of the Sodlur family. We don't know what the Temple Imperial is, and kings do tend to be the head of their family.]

His heir, Crown Prince Asuf, courts the mad daughter of his most hated adversary. His bastard son, Vinrik, sequesters himself bitterly in the royal library’s darkest corners in search of forbidden knowledge. [I can't tell if Vinrik is the bastard son of Asuf or of Asuf's most hated adversary or of Lortar.] Both have their own ideas of what is best for the kingdom. [I can't tell if "both" refers to Asuf and Vinrik or Vinrik and the mad daughter.] They could not be more opposed—not to each other, nor to their sovereign. [Pronouns are great, but only if it's obvious which noun(s) they refer to.] [Also, if two people couldn't be more opposed to each other, at least one of them could be more opposed to their sovereign.]

Whilst [While] his sons pursue their separate goals, Lortar learns that his subjects seek to remedy the famine with a medicine most foul: pagan ritual. This affront to mighty Vulfrum cannot stand. The heathens must be purged, [The heathens, meaning Lortar's subjects? I suppose killing all your subjects is one way to reduce the effects of a famine, but perhaps it's not his subjects who favor the pagan ritual, but a small yet vocal faction who call themselves the Starving Skeptics?] for Vulfrum is the Lord of Wrath; the one true god and creator of all things. To permit the worship of eldritch idols is to invite the fires of hell, and the bloody ambitions of rival clans. 

The Warring States era is upon the Clan of Sodlur. They will either endure beneath the pressure, or be crushed, and swept away with their names and legacies buried and forgotten.

Damnation is a 151,000-word high fantasy with elements of political thriller and Lovecraftian horror. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.


This is mostly setup. If the pagan ritual is the key plot point, open with that:

When famine strikes the Stolthelmite realm, King Lortar's subjects decide to remedy the situation with a pagan ritual. But Lortar knows this affront to mighty Vulfrum, the Lord of Wrath, invites the fires of hell--and the bloody ambitions of rival clans. The heathens must be purged.

Lortar's sons both have their own ideas on how to keep the realm from falling to dust. Vinrik searches the darkest corners of the royal library for magic spells that could end the drought, while Asuf seeks an alliance through marriage with his clan's most hated adversary.

Of course it's possible the pagan ritual is a minor subplot. Choose a main character to star in the query, and tell us what he wants, what's stopping him from getting it, how he plans to get around that, and what will happen if he fails. 

I'm not crazy about the names Sodlur, Lortar, and Vulfrum. 


InkAndPixelClub said...

It seems like your story gives the protagonist several problems that are relatively easy to solve - stop his son from courting his enemy's mad daughter, destroy the books with forbidden knowledge or bar his bastard son from the library, send troops to kill the people who want to perform the pagan ritual - and one that's very difficult to solve - kingdom-wide famine. There's no clear connection between his sons' problematic behavior and the famine or the king's ability to deal with it. The fate of the kingdom and its ruling family is at stake, but I don’t see how the king can possibly succeed. Even if he kills all the pagan worshippers and gets his sons back on his side, his people will still be starving.

Anonymous said...

I don't recommend using archaic adverbs in your query, and I'd suggest limiting their use to special, appropriate, occasions in your book.

"Whence" means "from what place/from where," slightly different from just "where," which is what you seem to be using it for here.

I like archaic if you can pull it off, but with the admittedly small sample here, I worry that your book is full of words/forms/grammar used incorrectly enough for me to get that nails-on-chalkboard feeling reading it. Not a recommendation even if you are going for a Lovecraftian vibe.

St0n3henge said...

First: All the names are awful. By that I mean they are a loose collection of letters. If you have to remind yourself how a name is pronounced every few minutes you won't get into the story.
Now you're going to argue that all fantasy names are odd sounding, which is true. But, there is a difference. I'll give you two lists. One is more readable, and memorable, than the other.
List one: Grimely, Blythe, Donan, Laski, Shanara, Delf, Abbon.

List two: Trinje, Velprig, Neveds, Xepta, Lathred, Azno.

The first sound normal. The second are difficult and not really likeable.
An overabundance of consonants, especially v, z, x and j make names difficult to English speaking people.
Also, don't make words difficult to figure out how to pronounce, like Stolthelmite. You could just as easily use "Stolthemite" or "Stothelmite," but you had to do it the hard way.

You mention Lovecraftian horror, but I don't really see it. So far it's rival clans, family drama and such. You hint someone wants to use pagan rituals, but there is no way of knowing at this point whether magic is real in your world or if this is just an excuse for the King to purge those who oppose him. Is there an eldritch abomination they can contact? Or does the King just believe in the traditional religion of his people and time? I assume there really is something ungodly they can unleash, but then you have not specifically said so.

Anonymous said...

151K words is a bit high for a first novel, even for fantasy.

I don't have problems with the name Vulfrum (close to the German name Wolfram, is that intentional?), and I don't find the names difficult to pronounce. However, it is a problem that the names don't seem to belong together. In particular, "Asuf" sounds like it comes from a completely different culture from Lortar, which is extremely strange for a crown prince from an intolerant society. (If the society isn't intolerant, you've given the wrong impression here.) Also, there are too many names/people introduced for a query.

We need to know what types of things are going to happen in the book. "Political intrigue" can mean anything from clever-sniping-dialogue masquerades, to cloak-and-dagger skulking assassins, to boring boardroom-style meetings horrifically deciding the fates of millions. Which ones can we look forward to in this book? Do armies clash with frenzied tribesman? Run down starving peasants? Do we get magic rituals and elder gods that drive men mad? What?

We'll take another look if you revise.
Good Luck