Thursday, November 08, 2018

Face-Lift 1385

Guess the Plot

Crowns Shall Wail

1. The bastards should wail while I beat and torture the giant shoes, white makeup and big damned fake red noses right off their creepy faces and--what? Crowns? OK, nevermind. My bad.

2. In a world where song is immoral, Kings and Queens compete not with armies but by emitting prolonged, mournful laments while rending their garments. But twelve-year-old princess Tallionia has a beautiful voice and can only sing like an angel. Besides, she likes her only summer dress. What’s a girl to do? 

3. The Wailing Crown will cry out unless it is on the head of the proper king. It hasn't stopped wailing since Friday, when the king died. None of his heirs could make it stop, and Alicia is going to murder someone if she has to listen to its wails one more time. 

4. The old knight stared at the ancient inscription on the castle wall. No one knew who put it there or why. It read:
"Crowns shall wail
Empires fall.
Kings shall weep
Beggars, all.
Swords shall break
Reapers win.
Get those whiskers
Off your chin.
Burma Shave"

What could it possibly mean? 

5. Briar Rose has been wishing for another hundred years of sleep ever since giving birth to identical princelings, Howlin, Waylon and Yelp, whose interminable caterwauling is keeping her awake all night. In desperation, she decides to place three spinning wheels in their nursery. Will this solve her problem or bury the castle under a mountain of tea cozies? 

6. Orphan Fiona wants to know why her parents abandoned her, so when she meets a boy who claims he can take her back in time to see for herself, she jumps at the chance. But will she learn that he parents were actually the king and queen? Also, bad hypnotism.

7. When expert thief Silvi finds a hoard of coins from dozens of countries throughout history, she's divided as to whether to find collectors to sell them to or melt them down for their base value in gold. The problem: the coins start screaming when she removes them from their erstwhile home. Next up, DRAGONS!!!!!! 

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am writing to seek representation for my manuscript. [This goes without saying.]

Fiona has spent her whole life [In the interest of accuracy, I'd change that to: For as long as she can remember, Fiona has been] brooding over the identity of her parents and why she was abandoned to be an orphan. After an encounter with a witch, she finally has the answer to her question, but it is not what she wants to hear. [What was the answer?] [More informative would be "After a witch's spell shows Fiona the past..."]  To top it off, she also finds out her ability to hypnotize via [by] playing her vielle is not a gift but a curse. [For example, when she tells a guy under hypnosis that when he wakes up he'll think he's a bear, he wakes up and mauls her.] Determined that what she currently knows is a lie, Fiona seeks the aid of a refugee boy to travel back in time and see the truth for herself. [Wait, an actual witch was unable to show her the past, but some random refugee boy can take her there?] Alas, not everything is as simple as it seems, [Nothing seemed that simple to me.] and trust must be wisely placed. [Would it be wiser to trust a witch to be able to see the past and tell me the truth, or to trust a refugee boy to be able to take me into the past?]

When everything falls, [Fails?] Fiona has to decide what’s more important- the wilted past or the possibly blooming future. But time is running out; maybe it’s all too late and sacrifices must be made. [This is all vague. Why is time running out? What must be sacrificed?] 

CROWNS SHALL WAIL is an MG historical fantasy complete at 37,00 [37,000?] words. The full manuscript is immediately available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,


How old is Fiona? Is the whole story Fiona's search for knowledge about her parents? If so, tell us about that. All we know is she encountered a witch and a refugee boy, each of whom claimed they could satisfy her curiosity. Your format could be:

Fifteen-year-old hypnotist Fiona has long wondered why her parents abandoned her. She consults a witch, who says her parents couldn't stand her whining, but Fiona doesn't buy it. Then she meets a refugee boy who claims he can take her back in time to see for herself.

That's all I know, but you know the rest, so add two more paragraphs telling us what happens in the past, what obstacles Fiona must overcome, what she learns, what decision she must make now that she knows what happened. You might mention where crowns come in. Be specific.


St0n3henge said...

This is suuuuuper vague. We only know a few things: Fiona is an orphan hypnotist, a witch exists, and a refugee may or may not be able to travel through time. That's it.

Focus on your story. What does Fiona want? How does she go about getting it? What is standing in her way?

Mister Furkles said...

Author: Be specific and show the choice Fiona faces. Also, what are the risks? A book about “I wonder who Mom and Pop were?” has no conflict. Stories are about conflict. The main conflict must be in the query.

“...seeks the aid of a refugee boy to travel back in time …” Ah ha! Now we know why Merkel has flooded Germany with refugee boys.

“...or to trust a refugee boy to be able to take me into the past?” Angela knows.

“...historical fantasy complete at 37,00 [37,000?] words.” Yes, small in number, perhaps, but they’re big words.

Love the Burma Shave signs, and the clown torture.

Anonymous said...

Considering the word count, I'm assuming this is lower middle grade. Is it a chapter book? What age range are you aiming for?

Satisfying curiosity about her birth parents seems like pretty low stakes (even for MG). If that's all she wants, you might want to say why this information is important to her and what impact it will have.

It might also help to show more of a cause-effect relationship between events so the agent/editor knows there's a story.

J.M. said...

I was in no doubt that this was YA until the big reveal: it's MG. I took Fiona's choice between "the wilted past or the possibly blooming future" as her blasted claim to the crown -- which she could take the trouble to reclaim -- versus the more tangible and immediate promise of a romance with the boy.

And that's why you should follow the advice from other readers here to clarify the conflict and the plot.

Oh gawd, the Briar Rose!

Unknown said...

Author, please take a look at the GTP. every one of them gives more insight into character and plot than your query manages, even the Burma-Shave and clown ones. You've given me an orphan, a refugee, maybe a witch, and not much else. I know you don't want to give everything away, but you have to reveal at least some of the story to get an agent's interest.