Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Face-Lift 1426

Guess the Plot

The Two Kinds of Magic

1. "Magic Carpet Ride," by Steppenwolf, and "Magic Man," by Heart. They're different.

2. Crazed sorcerers battle over the relevance of the definitive article before blasting themselves to shit with the exotic pyromantic devilry only the 17,276,187 have the expertise to muster.

3. There's the magic that's all unicorns and rainbows and pixie dust. Then there's the magic that's blood, bones, and dead-flesh-eating maggots--much more useful for a surgeon. Unfortunately for Nevern, the Inquisition doesn't see it that way, but fortunately, the neighboring warlord is a more understanding sort, even if he does indulge in necromancy and keep malicious dragons as pets.

4. Magician Antonio Sciarra can only attain the unlimited power he covets by killing Delany Riordan. And her only hope of thwarting him is to become a magician herself, before he succeeds. Will bad guy magic triumph over good girl magic?

5. There's the kind Samantha did on Bewitched. And there's the kind Lord Voldemort did in Harry Potter. Personally, I'd rather watch Bewitched, but only the ones with the original Darren.

6. Miles Estamini is an up-and-coming cynical stage magician who knows all the tricks. Martha Smith believes in true love. When these two non-compatible belief systems are thrust into a fantasy world where words, gestures, and beliefs have very tangible physical results, will they end up allies or squabble over who's the real evil overlord?

Original Version

After years of believing that magic is mere delusion, Delany Riordan finds out that magic is real—and dangerous [when she reads about Roy of Siegfried and Roy getting mauled by his tiger]. [I have seen magic shows on stage and TV, and in most cases I have no idea how they do that stuff. It has to be real magic. People like David Copperfield and Shin Lim would've been burned at the stake if they did their acts centuries ago. And rightly so. So, did Delany witness real magic, and assume it was all done with mirrors and sleight of hand? Or does she assume magic isn't real because she's never witnessed real or fake magic?] 

When Delany’s mother turns up drowned in a hotel swimming pool, Delany assumes that’s the last she’ll hear about magicians and secret societies. [Why? Was her mother the only one who ever talked about magicians?] Then Sebastian James arrives to protect her from Antonio Sciarra, the magician who killed her mother. [No way would Antonio Sciarra have drowned Delany's mom in a pool. He'd have drowned her in one of those tanks that magicians get lowered into upside down while wearing a straitjacket.] 

There’s no more room for doubt after Sebastian performs the impossible right in front of her. [He saws a woman in half, and restores her, then pulls a rabbit out of a hat.] Delany agrees to become his apprentice and learn all she never knew about the hidden world of magic, [No magician would reveal how they do it. Except . . . is Sebastian the Masked Magician?] where a mirror can become a passageway and a piece of paper can become a weapon. [Seriously, is anything worse than a paper cut?] 

She’ll need to learn quickly.  Sciarra needs Delany’s death in order to gain unlimited power, and is prepared to muster all his forces to obtain it. [What's so special about Delany that it's her death Sciarra needs? And what are these forces he's prepared to muster?] And with each strike, he’s getting closer... [How many times has he struck already, and why didn't he muster his forces those times?]

THE TWO KINDS OF MAGIC is a 70,000 word urban fantasy with romantic elements. [Sciarra casts a spell that makes Delany fall in love with him.]  I have a Creative Writing degree from Emory University and my short story, “Home”, will be in the upcoming anthology The Forever Inn.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


So are the two kinds of magic real magic like Penn & Teller do vs. fictional magic like Doctor Strange does? Or good magic that saves lives vs. evil magic that brings unlimited power?

We need to know who Delany is. Obviously she isn't some random person who inexplicably happens to be the key to Sciarra taking over the world. Is she the daughter of Glenda, the good witch of the north? How old is she?

It seems like a magician who's on the verge of becoming all-powerful wouldn't keep failing when he attempts to kill this girl or woman before she has developed her powers. He didn't have any trouble killing her mother. Does Sebastian keep saving her, or does she use her wits? You don't want your main character, a female, to depend on a man to keep rescuing her. 

Is it a coincidence that Delany Riordan is an anagram of "ornery Aladdin"? Consider calling the villain Aladdin instead of Sciarra, which is the name of a Bond villain, though not as well-known a Bond villain as Blofeld or Goldfinger (and his first name was Marco instead of Antonio). Anyway, you wouldn't do a superhero comic book and name the main villain Rex Luthor.

Tell us what happens in the book, not just who's in it and what the situation is. What's the Delany/Sebastian plan to defeat Sciarra? What goes wrong? What will happen if they fail (besides Delany dying). Like what is Sciarra's goal after he has unlimited power? 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Feedback Request

 The author of the opening featured in New Beginning 1072 and 1074 would like feedback on the following alternative opening.

The salt that gave the Blood Flats their color made them near-impossible to farm. They also flooded with seawater on occasion, and the small collective of which I was a part would need to migrate to the forest. However, the Blood Flats did have their uses; the barrenness of the land provided excellent visibility, the priests had to walk for several days to bring us supplies, [Why is that an advantage?] and there were a few caves and unpolluted springs. Best of all, some of the rock could be poisonous. [Almost everything on that list could be seen as disadvantages of the Blood Flats.] Unfortunately, we were having difficulty getting small enough pieces to make into weapons.

We had rope, woven from the few tough grasses that grew in the less toxic parts of the Blood Flats. It was great for mundane use, but would not stand up long to the Dragon Warlord. Wood had a similar problem. Our only hope of defeating the Dragon Warlord lay in stone, and our combined talents. [Basically, straw didn't work, sticks didn't work, so they went with stone. This is the plot of The Three Little Pigs.] [Which, I now discover, I pointed out in my notes about New Beginning 1074.]

Soon, the Dragon Warlord would need to eat. We were running out of time. [Wait, the Dragon Warlord is an actual dragon? That would be clearer if you referred to it as "the dragon."] [Also, I now have less respect for their intelligence if they thought rope could defeat a fire-breathing dragon.] Han, trying to pick up a boulder, collapsed. [If I can't tell by looking at it that I won't be able to lift a boulder, I know within one second of trying. I don't grunt and sweat and throw out my back.] He had been using Hope to work harder than anyone else, not quite believing that the glowing blue leaves could be deadly. [He was told Hope was deadly, but didn't believe it? So he decided to test the theory by lifting boulders? They're all morons, but Han is the king of the morons.]

Vole, the half-priest, took over the watch at the end of the day. [Vole? Wait, are these talking animals? And the Dragon Warlord is a Komodo Dragon? Suddenly I love this. If they're people, change them to animals.] Many people didn’t quite trust him, but he was the only one who could tell when the priests were sending out the Dragon Warlord. [So the priests are villains? And the half-priest might not be?] He would be on night watch until the Dragon Warlord had eaten. I fell into an uneasy sleep wondering who would be next. We would not be ready in time to save them. 

I woke up suddenly, lying completely still and straining my senses for any hint of what had woken me. Another tap came at the entrance. Jumping up, I sprinted over to yank at the spot in the pulley system that would quickly pull the entrance-stone away. [
If they all get into the cave that has an entrance stone that can only be moved by the pulley system, they should be safe.] Vole was standing outside, looking guilty. His strange eye mirrored that of the Dragon Warlord and the scar that went through it twisted half his face into a permanent grin.


I'm afraid I don't see that significant changes have been made since you submitted the version in New Beginning 1074. You added part of what was in 1072, but didn't address the biggest problems.

One vole would not be a meal for a Komodo Dragon. It would be like an amuse bouche. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Face-Lift 1425

Guess the Plot

Two Truths and a Lie

1. I love you. I love you. I love you.

2. Against all odds, you have managed to submit your query to Evil Editor. Your work will receive the same treatment that would be afforded an author like John Grisham. Evil Editor and his minions truly value your work and care about you personally.

3. My father is a homophobe. He would disown me and disinherit me if he thought I was gay. Luckily, I'm not.

4. You completed your novel. Your family and all your friends tell you it's brilliant. It's sure to be published.

5. The weather report calls for possible tornadoes. Douglas wants to watch the big game on his new TV. That noise he hears is probably just a train going by.

6. Conman John "Dough" Montgomery needs to repay loan shark "No-miss" Natasha before she puts a bullet in his heart. Or did he already lose his heart to her and that's why he signed to begin with? And is her real interest in the loan interest or in him? It's cutthroat three card monty crossed with swoony Russian roulette, gangster style.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

People say the truth will set you free, but how free will your truth get you if it’s half a lie? [The truth only sets you free if you're innocent and can prove it. If you're guilty, and admit it, you're done for.] [Also, I don't like opening with a vague question.]

Sixteen-year-old Ashton Sinclair-Yang is caught in a crossfire of two truths and a lie. Despite knowing his parents’ rocky relationship will end in someone leaving, he’s still heartbroken over the fact that it’s his dad. It leaves him defenseless against his overbearing mom, making things especially hard since his home support system—twin sister Mallory—seems to never be around anymore. [If his dad's absence leaves him defenseless, it sounds like his dad was his support system. Also, as Yoda would say, Mallory around is or is not. There is no 'seems'.] [Also, twins in fiction are always the same gender, allowing you to write scenes where they trade places with each other. It's an unwritten rule, just like whenever a body is burned in a fire, it's never the body of who they think it is.] But at least, with his dad gone, he doesn’t have to lie about being straight anymore, right? [Did he frequently have to say, Dad, I'm straight? or did the subject never come up?]

Turns out, it’s not that easy. It gets harder [It's not that easy, it gets harder . . . what exactly is "it." Not lying about being straight?] when Ashton falls head over heels for Mason Castillo, a boy just like himself, having one foot in his true self and another one living a lie. He figured [figures] that if they stick together, their lying karmas will balance out. [Wrong. k + k = 2k, not 0] The more time he spends with Mason, the more he’s able to pull himself out of his lies, enabling him to smoothen the relationship with his mother and rebuild the bridge to reach Mallory. [Just because a 16-year-old girl stops hanging out with her brother doesn't mean a bridge has collapsed. Did something happen?] Everything is set and ready for him to let go of the half-lies he’s been holding on to [He pulled himself out of his lies, but held onto his half-lies. I'm getting confused. The title says there are two truths and one lie.] . . . until his dad comes back.

Just like that, Ashton falls back into the pit he’s been trying so hard to dig himself out of. His father’s return shines a light on many other holes the people around him have dug, filled to the brim with lies of their own. He realizes he isn’t the only one in the family playing an unwinnable game of two truths and a lie against the universe, and now all the lies are catching up to them. [I'm starting to think the title should be One Truth and Hundreds of Lies. You could throw in a couple specific examples of what you're talking about.] If he doesn’t find a way to end the lies, especially his own, he’ll have to watch his family crumble and lose a truthful love he desperately wants to have. [Good to tell us what's at stake, but the rest of the paragraph is vague.]

Complete at 89,400 words, TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE is a standalone coming-of-age YA novel. It’s an honest and provoking tale of sexuality, family, and finding legitimacy in one’s own identity through living as their own true self that would appeal to fans of FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN by Johnny Garza Villa, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera, and LOVEBOAT TAIPEI by Abigail Hing Wen.


I could assume the book's theme has to do with truth and lies from the title. By my count, forms of the words "truth" and "lies" appear at least 16 times in the body of the query. That's where I'm expecting to find the plot summary. 

Fewer metaphors, please. (caught in a crossfire of two truths and a lie, another foot living a lie, rebuilding the bridge, digging holes filled to the brim with lies, playing an unwinnable game of two truths and a lie against the universe)

Unless Mallory is more crucial than you've let on, we don't need her in the query.

You've basically provided us with your main character's situation. Which can be done in one paragraph:

Sixteen-year-old Ashton knew his parents were going to split up, but he didn't want his dad to be the one who left. Although with his dad gone, at least he doesn't have to pretend to be straight anymore. When he falls for Mason, another kid who's been hiding his sexual orientation, Ashton finds that even his crappy home life is reinvigorated. Then his dad comes back. 

Now that we know his situation, what's his goal? How does he plan to achieve this goal? What obstacles could stop him? Does he have allies? Does he have a plan B?
What will happen if he fails? Is there a point at which he must make a difficult decision that will make or break his plan? What are the pros and cons of his possible actions?

If you can answer most of these questions with specific information, especially information about what happens (the plot), your query will be much more compelling.