Sunday, April 26, 2020

Face-Lift 1397

Guess the Plot

Masquerade of Princes

1. Sworn enemies, the princes of East Verde and West Rouge meet at a gathering of world leaders. With pandemic protocols in place, they fail to recognize one another as they talk the night away and build something quite a bit more than friendship. Will love survive when the masks come off and they see one another for who they are? Or will they defy social distancing and a century of territorial enmity to come together as one? . . .  Too soon?

2. After Castor Castlevere saves teenager Kaya from being abducted by thugs, she "rewards" him by magically bringing him to a dungeon in which the crown prince of the kingdom of Jandan is being held. The three escape, and Castor saves the day again, and this is the part where Kara is supposed to fall for Castor, but no, she falls in love with the crown prince! Girls. Also, a wicked stepmother.

3. Lydia dresses as a foreign prince at a ball in order to strategize with the princess of a neighboring kingdom on how to heal diplomatic relations. Unfortunately, half the women in that kingdom and three others are now jockeying for his (her) hand and planning to go to war over him (her).

4. Prince Don Yuan masquerades as Prince Xi Zhun at the hunting tournament hoping to discredit his rival, only to discover an imposter masquerading as himself. Before the end of the hunt he will change identities twice, be kidnapped, and uncover/take over a plot to win the hand of fair Lie Shua by eliminating every rival for her hand.

5. Between midnight and dawn, the costumes in the Masquerade of Princes costume shop come to life, acting out their personas and whispering the secrets of those who've worn them. When proprietor Molly Mills's blackmail scheme goes awry, the costumes must save her or face the loss of their home. Hijinks ensue.

6. It goes without saying that a masquerade is full of the most fun outfits. Yet how is Prince Aethelred to choose a dance partner when he can't even tell which people are princesses? Much less which ones are female?

Original Version

Dear (Agent’s Name),

Since you represent fantasy and you say you are interested in seeing #OwnVoices and diverse projects, I'd like to submit to you my humorous multi-cultural fantasy, MASQUERADE OF PRINCES.

I was about to put a bullet into my brain when I met three men who deserved it more.

I'm Castor. I'm nineteen and I have neurofibromatosis, which means I have incurable, non-fatal tumors all over my face and body.

But just when I was about to end it all on the streets of India, I ran into the beautiful Kaya as she was being abducted by three thugs.

 I saved her, and how did she repay me? By transporting me to her land, Jandan, a small kingdom with big secrets.

Sure, travel broadens the mind, but did she have to teleport me to a dungeon in another universe?

Said dungeon held the imprisoned Nikhil, Crown Prince of Jandan. The three of us broke out of prison, only to find life was one damn thing after another, and all before I'd even had my coffee.

The crown pimple got us mired in ever-deepening palace intrigue as we tried to figure out who was trying to kill him, and why. Was it Mira, his wicked stepmother, who wanted to put her own son on the throne? Was it a courtier opposed to Nikhil’s promise to protect and uplift the minorities?

When the King was poisoned, and Nikhil framed for it, I had to come up with a way to prove his innocence. All while battling his mother, who wanted to kill me for my wisecracking ways and my encouraging Nikhil to defy unjust authority.

You'd think Kaya would be impressed by all I was doing to help her and her country, but who does she fall in love with? The crown pest.

Are the teen years really supposed to be this complicated?

MASQUERADE OF PRINCES is the first book of a series that speaks to themes of inclusiveness and diversity. It’s set in an alternate universe India that is struggling for freedom from colonial rule. The minorities being persecuted in Jandan are based on Indian Muslims. The political intrigue in my story echoes the past and current political situation in India.

I have pasted the first ten pages below.

I’m an Indian woman living in India. I grew up in Bahrain, an island in the Middle East, and returned to India to do my BA and MA in English Literature. Having experienced India from both afar and within gives me a certain unique perspective on its culture and politics.

I was raised Catholic and am now an agnostic. I have firsthand experience of being a minority in a country where Christians and Muslims have been attacked and killed for their religion.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I would move the 1st paragraph down below the plot summary.

1st person is also unusual for the plot summary. Not that there's anything wrong with unusual, but I think this opening would be more effective for the novel than for the query, with a few tweaks. Something like:.

I was about to put a bullet into my brain when I saw three men who deserved it more.

They were trying to abduct the beautiful Kaya on L. J. Street in Mumbai. I ran to her rescue, and the thugs ran off, and how did she repay me? By transporting me to her home kingdom, Jandan. Sure, travel broadens the mind, but couldn't we have teleported to a beach or an amusement park? Instead of a dungeon in another universe? Girls.


I'm Castor Castlevere. I'm nineteen and I have neurofibromatosis, which means I have incurable, non-fatal tumors all over my face and body. [At this point you can tell more about yourself, including what has driven you to considering suicide. Then pick up the story in Jandan.]

If you prefer to use this as your query opening, I think it works better in 3rd person, and present tense. Castor Castlevere is about to put a bullet into his brain when he sees three men who deserve it more.

They're trying to abduct the beautiful Kaya on L. J. Street in Mumbai. Castor runs to her rescue, etc. etc.

The plot summary is a bit long. See if you can get it down to ten sentences tops.

You call the book humorous, and the humor is obvious in your voice and several of the plot details. But your description after the summary, stressing the themes of struggle against colonialism and religious persecution leave me wondering if the book is too heavy-handed in its treatment of these issues. You're telling a story, not preaching. If you want to convey that religion and politics are important, show it in the plot rather than telling us after the fact. You say in the plot summary "Was it a courtier opposed to Nikhil’s promise to protect and uplift the minorities?" That may be enough.

The agent will want to know your word count. And since your main characters are teens, she will want to know if the book is YA, intended mainly for teens.

If English isn't your first language, or even if it is, your command of it is impressive. And plenty of US agents are looking for #OwnVoices and diversity.


Anonymous said...

I thought we had moved past having to describe all female leads as being "beautiful". Why is she the only character whose looks get mentioned? I mean, I guess you get more of a pass since it's first person and your character is a teenage boy. Still, it's such a cliche description it's cringe worthy.

The rest of your voice seems unique.

Anonymous said...

Query letters are business letters. From what I've seen on agents' web sites, I'll echo EE's suggestion that you change to third person present for it.

It might be a good idea to hint at why there is a portal in your story. There are a lot of portal stories in the slush piles that never make it to the shelves because there is no reason. If the story can take place entirely in your alternate universe, it probably should do so.

The way the plot summary part ends, I'm left wondering why Castor stays involved if the only reason he was involved was for the girl and it turns out she wants someone else. Is he still trying to win her? Is he so involved with the politics he can't extricate himself? Does he have any interest in returning to his world? What is his ultimate goal?

I'm also wondering why (implied) he thought he deserved to put a bullet in his brain and if that continues to have relevance to the plot.

We'll look at a rewrite if you want
Best of Luck

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, Evil Editor and Anonymous. Initially I did indicate Nikhil was handsome too, but someone told me it sounded odd that a straight guy would comment like that on how another guy looks.

I could include it after all. What do you think of these rewritten lines that take a couple of Evil Editor’s suggestions:

Sure, travel broadens the mind, but couldn't she have teleported me to the balmy Bahamas instead of a dingy dungeon in another universe? Girls.

Said dungeon held the right royal haughty hottie, Crown Prince Nikhil of Jandan.


Said dungeon held the haughty hottie, Crown Prince Nikhil of Jandan.


Re the suggestion to change to third person present, the novel is written in first person, and my beta readers have loved Castor’s snarky voice. I wanted to give that voice in the query.

But i’ll study Evil Editor’s comments again and consider them. And i’ll post again soon with a question I have. Thanks!

Evil Editor said...

Your rewritten lines are all fine.

I don't see how changing the query to 3rd person prevents you from displaying a snarky voice. The agent will probably want you to include some number of pages from the book, anyway.

If Castor knows Kaya, he can describe her as his crush or his classmate or whoever she is to him. If he knows nothing about her, then her looks are obviously all he has to go on, cliche or not.

I assume it wasn't your query that your beta readers were advising you on. Surely you wouldn't show your query to your beta readers and to Evil Editor, and choose their advice over EE's?

Anonymous said...

FWIW, barring actual flames and a tendency towards puns, I would think a person was more attracted to someone they called "a hottie" than someone they described as "beautiful," regardless of gender. "Hottie" is a more approachable word.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, Evil Editor and commenters. Yes, I could keep Castor’s voice snarky even in third person. I could rewrite the query in third person and see how it sounds.

I’m also trying for a short pitch or Book Hook. What do you think of this:

An intrigue-ridden palace. A strife-torn kingdom. A noble prince. Treacherous courtiers. Mystery and mayhem. Death and danger. Love and laughter.

Or do you prefer this:

Castor wise-cracks his way through palace politics, intrigue, and danger to save the life of a prince who has won the heart of the girl Castor loves.

Evil Editor said...

The 2nd pitch is clearly about your book. I'd include his last name.

Anonymous said...

I will second EE’s comment about the second pitch! Good job, author.