Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Face-Lift 1438

Guess the Plot

The Invader's Snare

1. A home invader kills a woman and hides the body in this intense and suspenseful story, told from the perspective of a spider.

2. Having conducted extensive research of Earth through its various transmissions, invaders inoculate themselves, disguise themselves, train themselves until they're indistinguishable from other oddballs in minimum wage jobs trolling the internet . . . Wait, what was it they were here to do again?

3. Jim Beurel wants to be a professional drummer so badly he's even willing to join The Invaders, despite the unexplained disappearances of their previous four drummers. His new bandmates turn out to be living-impaired, and on the witchy geek-a-tron, but hey, offering blood on the moon's cycles still beats living in mom's basement and serving fries at the diner.

4. Amalia has just concluded her med school studies, and is preparing to take a position as the king's royal healer, when her country is invaded and conquered by a brutal empire. Luckily (or not), the new emperor is also in the market for a good healer.

5. Diana is a bit naive, so her mom has drilled into her the mantra "It's a trap!", which she is to repeat aloud anytime anyone says anything to her. This leads to some comical situations, like when someone asks her if she wants paper or plastic bags. But it's also saved her life three times.

6. As a ruthless invading army builds a 40-foot-tall wall around their village, planning to starve them, the residents of Melford lose all hope . . . until one stalwart carpenter comes up with a plan . . . And sets to work building 45-foot-tall ladders.

7. The Marching Bandits have been very successful robbing banks, playing it cool with a steady beat on the way in and getting out before the rising tempo signals the arrival of police. But when their M.O. suddenly changes to home invasion and murder, homicide detective Zach Martinez knows two things: going undercover may be his only chance to change the music, and three humiliating years as a high school band geek are about to pay off.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

Set in a world inspired by the Age of Enlightenment, THE INVADER’S SNARE (107,000 words) is an adult fantasy novel written in the style of a wartime memoir. It will resonate with readers who crave slow burn romantic subplots like Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree and the gritty Machiavellian overtones found in Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant. [Technically, you're calling The Priory of the Orange Tree a romantic subplot. You could add "those found in" after "subplots like". If you don't like using "found in" twice in the same sentence, one of them could be "featured in" or "present in." Or just "of" would work with the overtones .] Given your interest in strong female voices and unique settings, I believe this story will [might] be a good fit for your list. [I think this paragraph would work better after the plot summary.]

Amalia makes no apologies for preferring the company of books over people. [I'm the same way. I also prefer dogs and Cherry Garcia over people.] Her self-study alone earns her a spot at the Academy of Healing. [where,] At twenty-seven, she masters a technique that plucks the mortally wounded from the clutches of death.  [But] Before she can assume her position as Calderon’s royal healer, the notoriously brutal Malant Empire conquers her country.  [It feels like this conquering happened awfully fast. One minute you're walking across the stage to get your diploma, and when you reach the other side of the stage your new evil overlord is waiting for you with shackles. How long have these countries been at war?] [Presumably, every time a brutal empire conquers a country, there are a lot of people in that country who recently submitted job applications or sent manuscripts to a literary agent. How do you know whether it's too soon to nudge a prospective employer or agent for a response when, for all you know, they've been enslaved by the Malants?] [Although, it's hard to imagine the Malants enslaving literary agents, who have no skills that would be useful to the Malants. Or to anyone else, for that matter.] [But enough about all the agents who don't want to read my novel.]

Now a prisoner inside the Academy, Amalia must conceal her coveted ability or risk being shipped off to serve the tyrannical emperor. A guardian arrives in the form of an enigmatic Malant warden, Captain Valens. [Once you've declared this a fantasy novel, that sentence is likely to convince some readers that the guardian is a shapeshifter. Maybe: An enigmatic warden, Captain Valens, arrives, ostensibly to . . . guard the Academy? Guard Amalia? What does he claim  he's here for?] Valens renounces torture, quotes poetry, and shares a love of philosophy.  The pair forms [form] an unlikely bond as Valens challenges Amalia’s cynical nature while edging closer to discovering her secret. 

[Amalia: Your evil empire is going to enslave us all. Just a matter of time.

Valens: Don't be so cynical. Let's continue our discussion of Kierkegaard and his view that keeping secrets is sinister, if not evil.]

A Malant viceroy shatters the momentary peace and challenges Valens’[s] unconventional methods. [His methods of uncovering her secret? I still don't know if that's his mission.] Amalia knows better than to cross the ruthless viceroy, who offers her a choice: betray her budding feelings and kill the warden or languish in eternal captivity. [Hmm. Kill one officer of the brutal empire that just conquered my country, denying me the future I worked so hard for, or spend eternity in captivity. I'll need time to reach a decision. Okay, got it.] As Amalia grapples with her principles as a healer, she unearths a dark past that plunges her into uncertainty over who she can consider ally or foe.

Thanks for your consideration. May I share my full manuscript with you?


Despite all the blue words, this was a decent query. It might be worth answering any serious questions I had, or getting rid of whatever inspired me to ask them. 

No way could this Valens guy rise to the rank of warden in the notoriously brutal Malant empire. I assume he's putting on an act in order to discover Amalia's secret. How does he know she has a secret? Does he suspect she's a healer? Didn't the Academy of Healing keep records of which students mastered the art of plucking the mortally wounded from the clutches of death?

Speaking of which, some editors might read "a technique that plucks the mortally wounded from the clutches of death," and think, Nice word choice, colorful, and other agents might think, No wonder the novel is 107,000 words, why not just say a technique for healing the mortally wounded? It's your agent's job to know which editors are which.

It sounds like Valens is the invader in the title. And the snare is the trickery being used to get Amalia to reveal her secret? And the viceroy is in on it? (Surely if the ruthless viceroy wanted Valens dead, he'd just kill him.) Whether or not any of that is true, it's hard to believe that soon after conquering a country, an evil empire would devote time and personnel to trying to learn a nebulous secret they think a 27-year-old recent graduate might be keeping. Are they trying to find out what secrets other people have? Don't they have better things to do, like dealing with the inevitable Rebel Underground?