Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Face-Lift 1389

Guess the Plot

Shadow Blade

1. Half-human, half demon Jake finds himself in the unenviable position of keeping common folk from stepping through the gate of Pandemonium. Armed with the demon sword Nightforcer, he leaves his human self behind and becomes--Shadow Blade. At least, when his mother lets him.

2. Mara finds a dull dagger in her family's shed. While the physical blade can't cut anything, its shadow is the sharpest she's seen. Now with war on the horizon, can she save the family homestead or will she always remain in shadow?

3. Jen enrolls in a culinary school where the pastry chef is invisible, the pixies steal her bread homework, and the chickens tell her what she's doing wrong while she dismembers them for stew. When a relationship with the hottest guy in school wreaks havoc on her ability to control cooking temperature, does she still have a chance to win the coveted Shadow Blade awarded at the year-end cooking competition? Includes recipes adapted to the mundane world.

4. Some preternatural beings have the ability to heal. Kit has the opposite power: The ability to kill with her mind (also known as "shadow blade"). It would make her a valuable weapon if war breaks out, but not wanting to be used by Parliament as a weapon, she goes into hiding. But can she hide for an entire novel? Also, a vampire.

5. Sir Donald decides to attack the black knight's shadow with the shadow of his sword. But his blade unexpectedly ends up stuck in the ground, leaving him defenseless as a volley of blows rains upon him. Hey, it was worth a try.

6. When assassin-in-training Liffelio loses his shadow blade in the darkest part of Night City, he'll need to find another way to take out his training target--the iffy comedienne Carla-Arla--without actually killing her, but proving he easily could have, while getting involved but not letting it get personal; and keep his instructor thinking he still has the shadow blade while simultaneously looking for it and trying to buy a new one. 

7. Half devil, half angel Tonner walks the earth in search of entrances to Hell or Heaven. He kills their keepers with his holy Shadow Blade, then sucks their vitality with the sword. Yep, Jim Harris is convinced that this superhero he's created will sell to Marvel, DC, or Dark Horse. Then maybe he can pay his Mom rent for living in the basement.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When the psychic Parliament orders her keeper to remove the bind that's kept her abilities locked inside her head the past few years, Kit Chase is thrilled. [I'm not crazy about three pronouns appearing before their antecedent is mentioned. It would be easy for a reader to assume the "her"s refer to the psychic Parliament. Or that the first "her" refers to the psychic Parliament and the next two refer to the psychic Parliament's keeper. Admittedly we don't think of a Parliament as female, but we also don't think of one as psychic, and in a fantasy novel some author might decide to call the ruler of a kingdom its Parliament rather than its queen. Perhaps: Kit Chase is thrilled when her keeper removes the bind that has kept Kit's abilities locked inside her head for years.] She would be more thrilled if she didn't suspect ulterior motives behind the order. After all, the Parliament's not exactly known for its charity and, having been raised around the machinations of vampires and Fae, Kit recognizes a hidden agenda when she sees it.

Her suspicions are borne out when she finds their interest [Presumably "their" refers to the psychic Parliament, not to her suspicions or to vampires and Fae? If so, I note that in the previous sentence you used singular "its" as the pronoun referring to the Parliament, and now you're using plural "their." Assuming the Parliament consists of more than one being, I'd go with "their" consistently.] stems from her ability to kill with kinesis, the rarely seen counterpart to the healing ability. [It sounds like you want "antithesis" rather than "counterpart."] So rarely [seen], in fact, she's unaware she has the ability until she's made to execute a prisoner. [I don't think the fact that a power is rarely seen has anything to do with whether a person knows she has it. For instance, most of the members of the Justice League and the X-men and the Avengers have rarely-seen powers, but they all know they have them. I would change "stems from her ability to kill with kinesis, the rarely seen counterpart to the healing ability. So rarely, in fact, she's unaware she has the ability until she's made to execute a prisoner" to "stems from her ability to kill with kinesis, a power she's unaware she has until she's made to execute a prisoner." Or you could change she's unaware to she doesn't suspect, which makes sense if it's extremely rare.] Mutterings of war with the rest of the preternatural community follow swiftly amongst the Parliament members. [You're saying the members of Parliament mutter about going to war with the other preternatural beings because having Kit on their side would assure victory? Aren't the members of Parliament part of the preternatural community? If the British Parliament had a super-powerful weapon, they wouldn't declare war on the British people. They'd declare war on America.] 

Kit's not the type to take orders well, especially when they include the words 'preternatural war' and 'weapon'. Disappearing into the human world sounds like a fine way to avoid those words. She doesn't realize it's going to set the entire preternatural community after her, including the vampire that raised her mother and refused to take her in after the death of her parents.

Hiding from the Parliament is easy. Hiding from the vampire that taught you to track, not so much. Preventing a war that would destroy a millennia of peace and spill over into the human world? Impossible. But then, people say the same thing about kinesis.

My debut novel, SHADOW BLADE, is urban fantasy complete at 93K words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

A lot of blue words, but mostly for minor stuff.

There's been peace for a thousand years, but as soon as Kit shows she can kill one person with kinesis, Parliament is ready to go to war? Why?

"Kinesis" means movement, right? I don't think it's clear what Kit does to kill someone. Does she just think, Die!? Or is there some movement involved? The word "kinesis" isn't self-explanatory.

Not sure how they knew Kit had this power when they made her kill a prisoner, or how they explained to her how it works, but I'd have been afraid she'd turn the power on me after I made her kill a stranger.

I wouldn't bring up the psychic Parliament in sentence 1. No one will know what that means. I'm still not sure what it means. They're all psychic? I'm guessing they rule over all preternaturals? I'd give them a better name.

A woman who can kill with some rare power and goes into hiding to avoid becoming a weapon of war is intriguing. Even if everyone else including the one tracking her is human. That she's being tracked by a vampire seems to detract from the main conflict. Did you make him a vampire because she could easily kill anyone who isn't already dead? 

Possibly you could tell us what Kit's goal is, and how she plans to achieve it. Right now all she does is run and hide. Does she do anything that could help prevent a war? Does it work, or does something go wrong? Does she have a difficult decision to make?

6 comments:

St0n3henge said...

“Her suspicions are borne out when she finds their interest stems from her ability to kill with kinesis, the rarely seen counterpart to the healing ability.  So rarely [seen], in fact, she's unaware she has the ability until she's made to execute a prisoner.”
The second sentence should be in past tense. She can't be suspicious in their interest in her ability before she finds out she has the ability.

“Mutterings of war with the rest of the preternatural community follow swiftly amongst the Parliament members.” This is one of the most boring sentences you could have come up with. Mutterings amongst the parliament members? This is your story. Focus on what makes it unique, exciting, interesting.

“Disappearing into the human world sounds like a fine way to avoid those words." She isn't trying to avoid words, though. She's trying to avoid being forced to use her ability to cause death. It sounds like you're afraid of the subject matter of your own book.
You wrote this story, own it. Make it clear what the book is about.

As EE pointed out, your protagonist can't just hide. She has to DO something. I'm guessing this is just the first part of the story and then you ran out of room.
If you condense it, you get something more like this:

Kit Chase is thrilled when the psychic Parliament orders Kit's keeper to remove the bind that's kept her abilities locked inside her head the past few years. She would be more thrilled if she didn't suspect ulterior motives behind the order.
According to rumor, war between the Fae and (?) is imminent, and Kit is the ultimate weapon. Her psychic abilities allow her to kill someone with her mind. Kit's not the type to take orders well, especially when they require her to participate in a war which will destroy a millennium of peace. Disappearing into the human world sounds like the ideal solution. Then she learns that someone has been hired to find her- a vampire with legendary tracking abilities.

Then you tell the rest of it- how Kit fights back, or what she discovers that she can use, or whatever.

Dawn Martinez-Byrne said...

I kept reading 'kinesis' as 'kindness'.

How many can she kill at once? One? She's an assassin. A dozen? A hundred? Does killing bother her? Does she have other psychic abilities that are affected if she kills someone?
If vampires abandoned her, why are they after her now? Do they want her for their own agenda?

It's a lot to cram in a query, I know, but these have to be answered to keep your chance alive.

Anonymous said...

'kinesis' (definition: movement/motion) is an odd choice to call the ability to kill someone with your mind. I hope there's a better reason for it than you thought people would be unfamiliar with the word.

It seems to me that she could just kill anyone they sent after her. You might want to mention why she can't or doesn't, why they're not worried about her turning on them, and how they could force her to use the ability against her will if she weren't in hiding.

You don't necessarily need to answer the all questions if you rewrite the query so they don't come up.

Kayl said...

Thank you so much! I expected that to get ripped to shreds. Definitely some things to think about.

St0n3henge, not scared of my writing so much as a really failed attempt at humor lol. As for running out of room-- I've read advice ranging from 'tell me what happens in the first chapter and why I should keep reading' to 'what happens in the first 50 pages and what decision needs to be made' to Miss Snark's x/y formula to 'who's the protagonist, antagonist, and what are the choices they face, oh but don't forget some world building'. Obviously the first two options aren't going to work well, so time to find a new tact.

Thanks for the feedback, folks. It's really appreciated.

St0n3henge said...

Oh, sorry. Yeah, that was my mistake.
Unless the story is humorous you're better off leaving humor out of the query.

The way you write your query partly depends on the type of story. Since part of your story depends on the protagonist hiding, you can't just stop there. Otherwise you don't have a story.

First- explain what's at stake. A millenium of peace between whom amd whom? You don't say here, so it's hard to empathize.
And you give too much information about the vampire. All I can think of is "Why didn't he take her in after her mother died?" That gets me off track. If you leave that out the question never comes up.

Keep working on it and you're sure to get it eventually.

Kayl said...

Right then. Get the right questions being asked. Not the I'm so confused questions. That probably means coming at it from a different angle. I can do that.