Sunday, November 23, 2014

Evil Editor Classics



Guess the Plot

Soul Birds

1. Dulled by midlife failures, Homer and Bernice Byrd change their name and become a singing duo. They achieve unexpected fame and fortune, but in the end realize that they were happier when they were nobodies.

2. Each of us is accompanied, from birth to death, by a soul bird that sits on our shoulder, makes sarcastic cracks about us to all the other soul birds, and occasionally takes a crap on our Sunday best. That's about it, really.

3. Often seen as a bad racist joke, the crows from Dumbo have decided to make a comeback, and this time they're out for revenge. Known as the dreaded Soul Birds, this band of buddies will live up to their name as a murder of crows to regain their honor.

4. Okay, they aren't really birds, they're more like butterflies. People use them to send prayers to the gods. It's a pretty cool idea, but lately the system isn't working like it's supposed to, so as usual it's up to one unqualified female to step in and prevent an apocalyptic war.

5. When the dismembered body of former Laker Jeremiah Smitts is discovered in the speakers of his jazz club Soul Birds, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, cutting up a body that big had to leave a mess somewhere, and two, he'd better wear his Dwight Howard jersey if he wants them to beat the Trailblazers tomorrow night.

6. When people die, their souls enter the bodies of birds, where they can soar to the heavens. Except for people who've been bad; their souls enter flightless birds, like ostriches and penguins. That's the belief system that has evolved on Earth by the twenty-fourth century. The plot is basically the war between flightless birds and the humans who want to eradicate them.



Original Version

Dear EE,

When Adwen attempts to permeate the home of a waiting girl she is forced away and lands on the sidewalk, momentarily powerless. [For starters, it's not clear whether "she" is Adwen or the waiting girl. By which I mean it's clear you mean Adwen, but "she" should refer to the most recently mentioned female singular entity.] [Also, "waiting girl"? Is that a waitress? Or a lady-in-waiting? Or just a girl who's waiting for something? If the latter, is she waiting for Adwen? If not, what is she waiting for, and if that's irrelevant, why call her a waiting girl?]

Adwen is the Corpreal of physical love and fertility. [The what? I, like Google, assume you misspelled "corporeal." If you made up the word, I recommend not using it in the query. Even if it's inaccurate, use "embodiment" or "goddess" or capitalize a known word like Minister, Custodian, Big Enchilada.] It is her duty to enter the rooms and fantasies of Thea's youth to awaken their sexual desires. [Ah, to have lived in a land where, as a teenage boy, I could look forward to the night Adwen permeated my house and awakened my sexual desires. One question: is she more like Betty or Veronica?] The God of All Things made it so when first man looked at first woman with lust in his eyes and first woman responded with a blush and a smile [and a can of mace].

Confused and scared she rushes to the home of her keeper, Brula, a woman whose magical knowledge is centuries old. [Her keeper? Wait, is this place a zoo?]

Brula discovered a force that can compete with the God of All Things and someone is selling it to the humans. Brula thinks this new power is coming from The Fringe and Adwen should investigate. [Since when do Corpreals investigate anything? That's like if a powerful force were disrupting life as we know it on Earth, and we assigned the investigation to Kim Kardashian. Why doesn't the God of All Things send in a diplomat or a SEAL team or just make The Fringe evaporate? ]

The Fringe is a desolate place, devoid of magic. [Think Manitoba.] The people live there to escape the rule of the God of All Things and they don't welcome intruders, especially divine ones. Adwen's magic won't work and she won't be able to protect herself from their wrath. [So she has magical powers besides that of awakening sexual desires in youth?]

If Adwen chooses to go, she will be stripped of her powers but if she chooses not to, a war between humans and gods could erupt. [Are you declaring that if she chooses to go, the war won't erupt? Why is war any less likely to erupt if a powerless, unwelcome Corpreal enters The Fringe?] The God of All Things won't turn a blind eye to other forms of magic for long.

SOUL BIRDS is 80,000 words and is my first novel to see more then just the hard drive on my old laptop. [This one has seen the hard drive on my new laptop.] Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


[Note from author to EE: The title comes from butterfly like creatures the gods and goddesses of Thea use to send messages to one another. When they land on someone the person is filled with a vision of the messenger. The soul birds are also used by humans to send prayers to the gods.]


Notes

Is this Fringe the same place as on the TV show, The Fringe?

Why would anyone suspect that the power great enough to compete with the God of All Things is coming from Manitoba?

What is Thea? A planet? Heaven? A place on Earth? These humans buying the powerful force: are they from Earth?

You spend so much time explaining what stuff like Corpreals and The Fringe are, there's not enough room to tell the story.

Your setup seems to be: When humans acquire power that can compete with the God of All Things, war seems inevitable. It's up to Adwen, the goddess of fertility, to find out how the humans are getting their power, and to prevent the war. But to do so, she'll have to enter the bleakest place on the planet, Manitoba, where no fertility goddess has ever been welcome. That leaves plenty of room to tell us what she discovers in Manitoba and what she plans to do about it, and who wants to stop her.


Selected Comments

BuffySquirrel said...So both girls and boys have their sexual desires awoken by a female embodiment of desire? And that seems reasonable to you?


Evil Editor said... It seems both reasonable and preferable to me.


TwiggyBUMPkins said...It almost seems to me like you are trying to write an excerpt (or several) from your book and cram as much information about the world as you can into it in the process. A query is not an excerpt, it is a description of the basics of the plot. The world itself is not necessarily important, though it does need to be clear whether this takes place in a fantasy land, on earth, or in the past/future. What a query needs to have is the plot laid out simply and in a way that makes the reader want to read more.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...In the penultimate sentence you want "than", not "then", but really you don't want that detail at all. Leave out anything not to your advantage.

The first sentence seems detached from the rest of the story and just adds to the confusion. And I'm feeling quite a bit of confusion. It wasn't till the third read-through that I realized Thea was a place, not a person. And is the God of All Things just plain God?

You're spending most of your time in this query trying to explain the rules of your world to us. I'd give that a sentence at most --if it can't be explained in a sentence leave it out-- and focus instead on your protagonist, what she wants to accomplish, and what obstacle prevents her from accomplishing it.


Kelsey said...As someone from Manitoba, touche! Just remember, we claim Neil Young.


khazar-khum said...Your author's note to EE sounds fascinating, a story I'd like to read. The confusing series of actions presented as a query are nowhere near as intriguing as that little blurb.


Jo Antareau said...The embodiment of desire sounds like she would have a pretty full diary, and possibly grateful for stumbling across one person whom she could not permeate. And I'm not quite sure what permeate means..

Start over. Read the query aloud. A few times.

BTW, all the GTPs featuring Zack Martinez make me smile. Does anybody have plans to give this guy his own book or series?


Evil Editor said...Some of the better Zack Martinez GTPs were collected in a post here: http://evileditor.blogspot.com/2009/08/zack-martinez-chronicles.html.

For longer Zack Martinez material, find your way in the archives to August 23, 2009 for 11 ZM stories, the result of a writing exercise.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Feedback Request


The author of Kingdom of Fire (Face-Lift 1237) has sent a new revision, and requests our input.

New Beginning 1033


They say bad news rides a fast horse.

No one said anything about it riding a dead one, and the black destrier Kaelyn's uncle rode toward her had died two years ago.

Her uncle crossed the pasture as if he knew exactly where she was even though the copse of cedar shielded her from the road. She continued to watch him steadily approaching while her mind ticked down a list of things she had eaten that might cause hallucinations. Surely it had to be a horse that only looked like Cherline, but it traveled in that same rare and easy gait her uncle loved.

The ewe beside her flicked her ears nervously and followed Kaelyn's gaze towards the nearing hallucination, then anxiously nudged Kaelyn's leg, reminding her of the lamb tangled in the witchberry vines at her feet. Kaelyn knelt back down and finished cutting him loose. The lamb started nursing immediately; seeking comfort in his mother's painfully distended udder, but the ewe remained fixated on the approaching rider.         

Uncle Kael reined his horse to a stop in front of her and stepped down. The ewe backed up, stamped in apprehension and then bleated, leapt and bounded away with her youngster. 

"I thought I'd find you out here!" Uncle Kael bellowed, and Kaelyn's eyes widened even more as a grin spread across his face. "Surprised?"

"Th-- That looks just like--"

"Yes!" Uncle Kael slapped his hand against the horse's rump and Cherline turned and nuzzled against him. "Essentially, it is! My cloning experiment worked! It's as if she never died!"

"Oh my God," Kaelyn exclaimed. "Can you clone anything?" Kaelyn thought about her Irish Setter, gray about the muzzle and unable to stand. "Will you clone Kallie?"

Uncle Kael's grin faded, and he looked at his niece with a serious face. "I don't know about that, Kaelyn. You better ask your mothers."

Opening: Julie Weathers.....Continuation: Anonymous

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dear Literary Agent...


At last. One book that collects the funniest Face-Lifts from this blog. You get the werewolf popes, the pay phone occlusions, the ruthless vigilante sorcerers... 50 in all. The book is 100 pages long, and while most of the included query critiques were not illustrated when they originally appeared on the blog, all 50 now have at least one illustration.


It's expensive because it's 8 by 10 instead of 5.5 by 8.5, because it's color instead of black & white, because it's printed on thick glossy photo paper instead of cheap bond paper and because only a few copies are being printed instead of hundreds.

Whether you've been here for the whole 8+ years and want the book as a memento, or you got here recently and don't have time to slog through 1200+ query letters on your computer screen, you want this book. You gotta have it.

I'm charging the same amount the printer charges me: $39.99 for soft cover, and $51.99 for hard cover (image wrap). I'm eating the shipping costs (to US) and the 2.75% that Square charges to sell in their market. I expect to recoup those costs when enough of you order a copy that I get a volume discount. To sweeten the deal, if you order now you also get the pdf version of Evil Editor's History of the World in Tweets, readable on your Kindle, tablet, or computer monitor. It'll give you something to read while you wait for the book to be printed. Click the blue "BOOKSTORE" link in the sidebar to order. If you live outside the US email me, we'll arrange a Paypal money transfer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Face-Lift 1239


Guess the Plot

Far Rider

1. With war approaching, Kaelyn wants to join her aunt's elite guerrilla cavalry, but she has to learn how to fight demons first, so she sneaks into the women's unit of the military school. Can she finish her training--and win the heart of a charming pirate--in time to turn the tide in the war? Also, a senile sorcerer.

2. Robbers shooting, cops yelling, people running, nowhere to hide. Jason starts out as an adventurer on his horse named Max, but in an unexpected twist causes the zombie apocalypse.

3. Jacob's dream was to travel across America on his motorcycle, collecting souvenirs from each state. He didn't count on the souvenirs being speeding tickets and outstanding warrants. Now he's on the run from the law, and no state is a safe haven.

4. Derrel’s sighting of the rider on the far horizon caused great rejoicing in the castle, for their salvation had finally come from the neighbouring kingdom of Darkthorn. But hopes were dashed with the realization that the figure was merely one of the shambling undead, and the quest to invent corrective lenses began.

5. Every day for years, Evelyn has looked to the horizon, watching for the return of Gustavo. Every day, she sees no sign of him, and she aches. She knew Gustavo had far to ride. He had told her so. Still, she thought he'd be back by now. Especially since he had taken her younger, prettier sister along for the ride.

6. He rides. On steam-powered motorcycles, atop clockwork horses, in the luxurious coaches of the ruling elite, Calvin Hordewinder rides from one continent to another, delivering messages for a secret worldwide network of spies. Also, an assasination attempt and smuggling, but mostly -- he rides.

7. When 18 year old Shaheene learns her late father was really a Far Rider, a dragon tamer, she quits cosmetology school, takes her Dad's old Indian motorcycle, and tries to leave Nebraska forever. But Far Riders don't die; they come back as other steeds--or motorcycles. And there's a nasty-tempered silver drake near Omaha Dad wants to train.


Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

They say bad news rides a fast horse. Kaelyn Diarmand’s bad news came on [Secretariat.] a dead horse ridden by her equally dead uncle. [But were they going fast?]

He makes her promise not to avenge his death, but in her father's culture entire clans had been sacrificed on the altar of vengeance. Of course, the M'Eiryn are "barbarians" invited to settle here after they helped King Cauland defeat the demon armies. [You say "of course" as if it should be obvious to us that the M'Eiryn are barbarians, when in fact we've never even heard of the M'Eiryn. Who are they?] [Also, I don't care what they did for me in the past, I'm not inviting barbarians to settle in my neighborhood.] Her mother's people are "civilized" and settled, building great cities and learning centers.

Kaelyn is neither barbarian nor civilized, caught somewhere in between and belonging nowhere. [She's the Arnold Schwarzenegger of her clan.] 

She should have been a Far Rider, [Why isn't she?] a courier in her aunt's elite guerrilla cavalry, like her father. [You'd think a woman who runs an elite guerrilla cavalry would come up with a better job for her brother than courier.] With King Cauland missing and her dead uncle blamed for it, [It's always easier to blame stuff on someone who's not alive to defend himself.] a bloody civil war that will destroy the M'Eiryn looms and Far Riders are [were] never more needed. [I admit that if a bloody civil war were looming, I would be the first to enlist in an organization called Far Riders.] However, her mother concocts a wild scheme to keep Kaelyn safe that almost gets her killed and exposes her to a returned demon lord. The demon lord needs to destroy her before she discovers the truth. [What truth?] A handsome pirate plots to use her to disgrace his father and she's not at all immune to his charms. [Is that the truth the demon lord doesn't want her to discover?] [This pirate feels like he belongs in a different book.] A senile sorcerer wants to...well, who knows for sure? He's senile.

Kaelyn just wants to survive long enough to find out who killed her uncle and kidnapped the king. To ensure that, she sneaks into the fledgling, and unpopular, women's unit of the military school to learn how to fight. [Why does she have to sneak in? An unpopular unit would welcome a new volunteer.] Then, perhaps, she can become a Far Rider and help save the M'Eiryn, [Yes, I'm sure this one woman can turn the tide in the bloody civil war if she just learns to fight.] even if it means going to war against her mother's people.  [She's willing to go to war with her mother's people to save the barbarians? Who are the barbarians to her? Are they her father's people? If so, make that clear when you introduce them.]

Far Rider is an epic fantasy, complete at 145,000 words.

I was a lead writer for Speedhorse Racing Report, a weekly horse racing magazine, for twenty-three years. I'm now with Raincrow Studios, an indie game developer specializing in location based games with a strong, fantasy narrative. I also raised Quarter Horses for years and I'm from a ranching background, so the horse details are completely authentic. [Completely? Even the scene where her uncle rides in on a dead horse?]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes

For some reason, even though the query mentions a pirate, demon armies, the living dead and a king, I kept thinking it was set in the old west and Kaelyn wanted to ride for the Pony Express.

With a civil war looming, I wouldn't expect a shortage of couriers to be such a prominent concern.

I think the aunt should have an elite gorilla cavalry.

This feels disorganized. I would start something like:

Kaelyn should have been a Far Rider, a courier in her aunt's elite guerrilla cavalry, but she was always too busy chronicling the battles between the barbarian M'eiryn and the demon armies of Lorka Tau.  Now, with King Cauland missing and a bloody civil war looming, Far Riders will be needed more than ever, so Kaelyn enlists in the women's unit of the military school and learns to fight.

I probably got some of the details wrong, but you get the idea. Follow that with whatever happens after she graduates.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Face-Lift 1238


Guess the Plot

The Eighth Day

1. Oh… MAN… the eighth day… will this week never end?


2. God created the heavens and the earth… and on the seventh day, he rested. But after you’ve materialized all of creation, what do you do for an encore? You thought you’d seen it all… but you ain’t seen nothing like . . . The Eighth Day.

3. On the Seventh Day, God became bored. He needed someone to bring him a beer while he watched football. So he made woman. During half time he was given a list of things to accomplish by dinnertime. He never saw the late afternoon game. On the Eighth Day he left the cosmos. Hopefully, his cell phone will have service to watch Monday Night Football. 

4.When Shawn gets hired as an investment broker, he's thrilled. But within seven days of arriving in NYC everything he believes about himself and his past is called into question. Can he discover the truth about who he really is before . . . the eighth day?

5. It had been mostly birds up to that point, with the exception of the five golden rings. Those, at least, I could pawn for some cash. I had no idea what to do with all the birds. Eat them? Then, on the eighth day, my true love shows up with a bunch of milk-maids. Couple of them were a little chubby, but I ain't complaining. Anything's better than birds. Then she whispers in my ear: tomorrow's gift ... strippers!

6. And on the eighth day, God said--"Oh, Hell, I screwed up on this one too. Oh well. Time to make 4,928,652,756 more. Maybe I'll get one right one of these days."

7. …And on the Eighth Day, God looked at all that He had made and said to Himself, “Unicorns? Dragons? Talking snakes? What in My name was I thinking?” And He caused the ill-conceived beasts to be swallowed up by the earth. “Well, maybe I’ll leave the talking snakes. I think they’re pretty neat.” 

8. And on the eighth day, Lucifer planted fossils in the earth's crust to make it look like evolution had been in action, then made the newly minted cosmos look like it was several billion years old. Oh, and he tranformed those scrawny brown apples to look ripe and tempting. Then sat back and watched the fun. 




Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Shawn Jaffe is a recent college graduate who moved to New York City after landing a job as an investment broker for Lark Morton. When he receives a cryptic warning from a stranger, Shawn dismisses it as the ravings of a madman. However, as events unfold, the threads separating reality from fiction begin to unravel around him. Everything he knows, everything he believes about himself and his past, is called into question. [This is all vague. What was the warning? What are the events that unfold?]

Aided by veteran New York City detective Sam Harrington, Shawn sets out on a quest for answers that will threaten to destroy the foundation of everything he thought to be true. [Why would he even want these answers? Why would this detective spend time aiding Shawn in this quest? You don't just walk into a police station and . . . 


You: I need to consult a detective.

Bored officer at front desk: About what?

You: About the threads separating fiction from reality and a threat to the foundations of everything I thought to be true.

Officer: Let me make a quick call and then we'll get you situated where you belong.

It would be hard enough to convince an unethical private detective to take your case based on the information you've provided so far.] [Although an unethical literary agent might be all over this.] Before it’s over, the two will find themselves caught in an elaborate conspiracy that will separate them by death, rebirth, and a lifetime of memories. [Who is conspiring against whom, and why?] [These vague philosophical ideas may be fascinating in the book but in the query we need some concrete details about what your characters do.]

Pursued by mysterious adversaries who are both merciless and relentless and seem to know his every move before he makes it, [yet inexplicably haven't been able to use this knowledge to find him,] Shawn must sew the shreds of his frayed reality back together before they stop him from discovering the truth about who he really is. [Is "they" the shreds of his frayed reality or the mysterious adversaries?]

The Eighth Day is an 80,000 word thriller/suspense novel that explores the boundaries of the human condition and asks what would happen if one day those boundaries ceased to exit.



Notes

You have to tell us what's going on. Phrases like "everything he believes about himself and his past," "the foundation of everything he thought to be true," and "the truth about who he really is" don't tell us anything. You could swap them for each other and I wouldn't notice.

Start over. Paragraph 1: Soon after Shawn arrives in NYC to take his new job, a stranger tells him _________. He writes it off as ravings of a madman until ___________ happens. Now he's worried about _______.

Paragraph 2: When _________ happens to Shawn, Sam Harrington, a New York City detective, investigates. Shawn tells him there's an elaborate conspiracy underfoot to ___________.  Sam writes it off as the ravings of a madman until _________ happens.

Paragraph 3: As the villains close in, Sam must __________. Otherwise ________.


Fill in the blanks with specific information. Then enhance it with little touches that convince us to care about Shawn and that you are the person to tell us his story.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1237 would like feedback on a revision. It's in the comments there.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Face-Lift 1237


Guess the Plot

Kingdom of Fire

1. Charcoal for dinner. Bromide to drink. Asbestos unitards. It’s hard living in a . . . Kingdom of Fire.

2. Fire demon, Aryna, falls for an ice demon, Terp, from the rival kingdom on a spy mission. When Aryna learns that Terp's neighborhood is the target of the next fire-bombing offensive, she has to decide whether to warn him, and risk being executed for treason, or let him die.
 

3. Preppy H, along with his trusted medicated sidekick Tuck, wandered into the kingdom of fire by mistake – and it looked like their goose was cooked. But that was before the mutant robot Hemor Drhoid moseyed into town. Now it was the Kingdom’s turn to squirm in discomfort. There’d be no sitting down on the job as long as Hemor was around.


4. The lottery winning Edgemont family can finally buy the boat of their dreams, 80 foot maxi yacht Kingdom of Fire, and set off on their dream round-the-world voyage. But the engines and communications mysteriously fail when becalmed in the middle of the Pacific, and one by one their crew start dying unexplained deaths.

5. Prince Ahaz of Azaria would make a good king, but can he outdo his two older brothers in the bickering contest that traditionally decides who gets the throne? And does it matter, since their father the king isn't dead anyway?

6. Some days, it is good to be the king. To have subjects kneel at your feet, to vanquish your enemies, to have an army ready for your every command. Other days, not so much. To have your butt blistered by the red-hot throne, your hair singed by the crown, and not a single person in the land who knows how to fix the damned air conditioning.

7. King Fred rules a kingdom at the base of a volcano. The people are proud of their "fire mountain" because it protects them from invasion. But one year, the people fail to offer the volcano god a human sacrifice, and . . . let's just say the volcano god is not happy.

8. Savage dragons, screaming harpies, devastating wars, horror in the cities. Well, that's how progressive-feminist ideologue Teeny sees the new congress, anyway. She's got her father's old rifle, some ammo, and a map of DC. In a couple of days, her vote will be the only one that counts.


Original Version

Dear Mr ******,

I read your interview on writer's digest [in Writer's Digest] and am impressed. [Thanks.] You also said you were searching fr [for] a story that introduces you to new worlds[,] so you might like my book KINGDOM OF FIRE. My name is **** and I have written a fiction book before about the war on terror in the past. It has found a weak publisher. My aim is to reach traditional publishers with my new book and to attain that goal I am well-aware that I need a literary agent. [This is already the longest paragraph in the query, and all you've told us is the title.] You are looking for fantasy too so allow me to introduce my novel. KINGDOM OF FIRE is an epic fantasy novel of around eighty eight thousand words. It is set in a fictional world called Emelion and is the first in a series of novels. It is for a target market over 16 years of age. [Condense this paragraph into one sentence (KINGDOM OF FIRE is an 88,000-word epic fantasy and the first in a series) and put it at the end.] 

Prince Ahaz wants one thing. To be allowed to serve the Azarian nation unhindered and to support the King, [That's two things.] whoever is rightfully ruling whether it be his father or his elder brother. [Which is it?] He is noble, he is chivalrous, he is merciful and has every quality which epitomizes a good Prince. But he has two elder brothers both of them not only bickering for power and influence but also the throne.

The world of Emelion [That name makes me think of Emilio Estevez.] is full of higher Avatars (not Gods) each leading at least a nation and each having power over some element or aspect of human life. It is usually their traditions, whims and desires that influence Kingdoms. The Kingdom of Azaria's avatar is named Azar who has mastery over fire and is eager for conquest. The Kingdom of Azaria is run [ruled] by a King named Ballus, father of Ahaz. [Ahaz and Azar are too similar. Get rid of one of them preferably Azar, as the kingdom of Azaria just makes me think of actor Hank Azaria, best-known for doing the voices of more than 15 recurring Simpsons characters, including Apu, Chief Wiggum and Moe.]

Fanatics of Azar, eager to persecute the unorthodox and in their eyes heretical, besiege King Ballus in the capital punishing him for his closeness to another Avatar, Erdinari, lord of the sun. [Anyone can claim to be an avatar with mastery over the sun if that just entails declaring that you make the sun rise and set.]

Ahaz finds himself in a tenuous position. He must save the King [Why is it Ahaz who must save the king? Doesn't Ballus have an army at his disposal?] but will help arrive from the most unlikely of places? A territory conquered by Azaria a hundred years ago but which follows a separate avatar rather than Azar? Will Ahaz [Suddenly I can't  get the song "Ahab the Arab" out of my head.] manage to save his father, the King? Will he be able to deal with his brothers [brothers'] jealousy and quest for power? Subsequently will he be able to forge Azaria into an empire?

Read KINGDOM OF FIRE to find out.

KINGDOM OF FIRE is unique in that it has a secondary hierarchy after the God or Gods which are avatars. Each nation can have one or many avatars. Their culture hinges upon the type of avatar they follow. For example Azarians as followers of a fire avatar have the custom of lighting candles, dancing around fires and cremating their dead. [In other words, they're like most cultures on the world of Earth.]


Notes

This could use some additional commas, but even with them, the sentence composition and word choice aren't up to snuff. The reader will assume the book has the same problems.

Much of the query is focused on avatars even though you don't show the avatars having any effect on anything. Get rid of the avatars and tell us what Ahaz's goal is, what his plan is, what his problem is, what happens if he fails. Make us care whether he succeeds.

In other words, we're looking for a summary of the story. What we have is a paragraph about Ahaz, a paragraph about Emelion's avatar system, a couple sentences setting up Ahaz's situation, five questions that can be answered only by reading 88,000 words because you're not talking, and another paragraph  about Emelion's avatar system.

Ballus is the king. Unless he's dying, I don't see the point of his eldest sons bickering over the throne. Surely there's a system for determining who gets the throne after Ballus?

World, nation, kingdom, territory, empire. Can you write this query using no more than three of those terms?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Feedback Request



The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1232 requests your feedback on his recent comment there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Face-Lift 1236



Guess the Plot

Innocence by Guilt

1.  During a murder trial, Dylan Sneed realizes that he committed the murder during a drug-induced blackout. Which is a bit awkward, since he's one of the jurors. He reveals this situation to his therapist, not realizing that she is married to the trial's defense attorney.

2. We all knew Blak committed the murders. But we could also see how bad he felt about it. He had those sad, puppy-dog eyes, and clearly he was crying on the inside. A lethal injection would only make him feel better. We couldn't allow that. We had to let his torment continue, to punish him the way only his conscience could. We, the jury, had to decree his ... Innocence by Guilt.

3. Rafael's face is on a surveillance video showing him committing multiple murders. He proves his innocence by pleading guilty to a robbery which occurred at the same time as the murders, where his face appeared on the liquor store's surveillance video. Both videos can't be right . . . or can they?

4. Horse trainer Kelly Brockton has a grand total of $50,000 to spend at the Keenland yearling sales. When a pot-bellied bay colt by distance runner Guilt comes into the ring, she knows she's found her Seabiscuit in the scrubby little horse she calls Innocence.

5. When a swine flu scandal forces Hannah McKinney to resign from her job as lobbyist for the pork industry, she decides to return to her hometown of Innocence, Alabama. It's a long drive down a narrow highway, through the notorious speed trap town of Guilt, Missouri. Will she escape with just a ticket . . . or lose her heart to a hunky, pork chop-chomping, motorcycle officer?

6. When he learns that his grandfather was a WWII Nazi concentration camp Kommandant who signed off on the liquidation of hundreds of thousands of people, Stefan seeks atonement for his relative's guilt by joining the Israeli army.



Original Version

I was honored to pitch my 64,000-word mainstream novel, Innocence By Guilt, to you at the 2013 DFW Writer’s Conference, and was thrilled when you requested the first fifty pages, which are are pasted below.

While serving on the jury for a capital murder trial, Dylan Sneed, an alcoholic also addicted to drugs and Hooters girls, realizes something about himself: he is a murderer. But not just any run-of-the-mill murderer. Dylan discovers he is responsible for the death of the victim in this case. A death that occurred during a night of one of his many drug induced blackouts. As an attempt to assuage his guilt, [without actually confessing to a crime that might land him in prison instead of the poor schmuck who's on trial,] Dylan begins therapy under the direction of Dr. Abigail Graham, who is on her own journey. Abby quickly realizes that her attorney husband, from whom she is nearly estranged, is defending the man accused of Dylan’s crime. Dylan and Abby must both navigate their past and present relationships to figure out a way through the trial, and accept whatever consequences those actions might bring.

[Dylan's Dilemma 
If he votes for a guilty verdict, an innocent man might be put to death, and it would be months before Dylan stopped suffering feelings of guilt. If he refuses to vote for a guilty verdict, either: 1. The accused will be found not guilty, in which case the cops might reopen the investigation and find evidence Dylan is guilty. Or: 2. There'll be a hung jury (possibly an embarrassing 11 -1), in which case the innocent man might be retried and given the death sentence, which would be almost as bad as #1.


Abby's Dilemma
If she doesn't reveal what she knows to the authorities, an innocent man might be punished while her guilty patient is free to kill again. Although . . . if he continued as her patient there might be a book deal with film rights in her future. If she reveals what she knows to the authorities: 1. None of her patients will trust her to keep their secrets, and at least one of them will decide she needs to be silenced before she blabs about his affair or crime or sexual deviance. And: 2. Her asshole soon-to-be-ex-husband will win his case, and she'll be damned if she's gonna miss this opportunity to throw a big obstacle into his rising career path.]

This dual-perspective narrative explores the notions of guilt, innocence, and the decisions that determine them. I have published three articles in Clean Run magazine, the world’s leading publication on the sport of canine agility.

Thank you for your time and consideration...


Notes

Anyone subject to drug-induced blackouts would surely reveal this during the voir dire process in hopes that it would get him out of jury duty. Which I assume it would.  Thus I suggest making the judge the murderer. Sure, the judge could recuse himself on the grounds that he/she committed the murder, but I suspect he/she would be smarter than that, and would simply steer the jury into finding the defendant either guilty or innocent, depending on his ethics.

The idea of a juror suddenly realizing he's the guilty party is cool. However, as a juror being the killer is such a huge, hard-to-swallow coincidence by itself, it's going to be hard for anyone to accept the additional coincidence of the killer's therapist being the attorney's wife. Maybe these should be two separate books.

Drop the Hooters girls.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Face-Lift 1235


Guess the Plot

All Her Worldly Possessions

1.  ...smell horrible, take up too much space in Daddy's mansion, and are annoying the staff. Will Isabella ever move out on her own, or will the new pool boy entice her to stay her forty-second summer?

2. Karina's house goes up in flames one night leaving her with just the clothes on her back, a few coins and a letter from the father she never knew. Join her on a trip of discovery as she sets out to meet the old deadbeat and insinuate her way into his life.

3. Regan leaves everything behind and flies to Europe to have an adventure like the characters in her favorite fantasy novels. Turns out there aren't really any fairies or elves there, but at least she gets to ride a horse and take a beer-chugging lesson.

4. Ariel wakes up from a deep slumber to discover she has died and been buried. Zombie or not, she has to now navigate the world of the living to retrieve her belongings to furnish her new life as a mortician's assistant in a funeral home.

5. When Susie, a single mom of triplet boys working three jobs to pay rent, finds an envelope full of money left at her table, her first thought is hardly returning it. It must be a tip, she reasons. Little does she know, the mobster who lost his money wants it back, and he's willing to send muscle. Desperate to protect her family, Susie and a concerned detective bring the fight to the mobster.

6. Marge finds a lottery ticket and almost faints when she discovers all 6 numbers match! She gives away all her worldly possessions. When the lottery official informs Marge the ticket is for the PREVIOUS drawing, she discovers she has one last worldly possession and aims it at the official's head. Hilarity ensues.

7. Shibvah wants to escape her life as the youngest princess by marrying the dashing Lieutenant Movayr. Enlisting the help of a witch, she soon learns what "all your worldly possessions" really means.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Nineteen-year-old Regan Bennett is halfway through deliberately flunking her SAT for the fifth time [You can flunk the SAT? Not if you can pull down 12 rebounds a game.] when she decides to run away from home [Is it really called running away from home when you're nineteen? Isn't that the age at which your parents start encouraging you to run away? Surely she would inform her parents that she's "running away" so they don't have the police and FBI searching for her kidnapper?] and have an adventure like the characters in her favorite fantasy novels. Her mother has her on a 1,200 calorie diet, her boyfriend doesn’t seem to understand the word no, and her stepbrother’s eyes have wandered south far too long. It’s past time for Regan to explode her makeup in the microwave and cash out her birthday checks for a one-way ticket to Amsterdam. [Because when guys treat you like a sex object, the obvious fix is moving to the sex capital of the universe.]

Armed with 12th grade French and a backpack filled with more paperbacks than clothes, Regan begins a voyage of Europe’s youth hostels and vagabond haunts. She joins forces with a troop of rowdy backpackers with their own stories, including Margot who considers herself a Master Seductress; Belinda, a transgendered British girl who wants to enjoy the world as a female for the first time; and the dreadlocked but romantic-hearted Axel who is recovering from a stint in the army that left him with more than bullet scars.

Regan has a list of tasks that heroines tend to finish. The tasks include [Another list? I prefer a maximum of one list per query.] learning to ride a horse (but a motorcycle might do), picking a fight (the French club scene is full of targets), engaging in a near death experience, and maybe even finding someone worth falling in love with. [She doesn't need to go to Europe to do any of this stuff. She can probably do all of it within twenty miles of her home. By which I mean this list is a bit of a letdown after you said she was going to have an adventure like the characters in her favorite fantasy novels.

Regan’s “Old World Adventure” leads her to the Scottish Highlands where she learns how to down a pint in one go, to the noisy ruin bars of Budapest where she learns to dance for the first time in her life, and to the soft hills of western France where she helps an old woman die and figures out what real honor looks like. [List #3.] 

By living the life of a wanderer, Regan learns how to reclaim her body and her self, as her own. [She does a lot of learning, but does she have a heroine's fantasy adventure?]

All Her Worldly Possessions is a New Adult fiction novel of 75,000 words.

Thanks you very much for you consideration. [Fortunately, most readers will gloss over that sentence without noticing it contains two typos.]


Notes

The query is well-written, which at least gives hope that the book is as well. But if all you do is list stuff, it sounds more like a short story collection or, even worse, a travelogue. String some ideas together that show us how wandering teaches Regan to reclaim her body. I don't see how learning to ride horses, dance, and chug pints would teach this. And if those are the highlights of her adventure, you might want to come up with some more exciting ones.

Whether Regan's goal is to reclaim her body and her self or to have an adventure like the heroines in fantasy novels, I don't see how purposely getting a low SAT score furthers the cause.

Do these characters with whom Regan "joins forces" wander with her? Or does she merely encounter them and wander away from them?

Is there a gradual growth toward her goals as Regan wanders aimlessly? Is there one defining event that changes everything? Are there any obstacles to reaching her goals that she must overcome on her journey? While a road trip type story in which the stops along the way can be put in any order can be entertaining, if there's a clear story arc here, we want to know about it.

Apparently my idea of "an adventure like the characters in her favorite fantasy novels" isn't the same as Regan's. I take it she doesn't want to battle orcs?

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

Pensive

1. Evelyn has always felt secure within her own borders. But when she opens a door into a world where dreams are no more reality than her own faith, she finds herself thinking about thoughts and dreaming dreams of reality. And faith.

2. Some superheroes are strong. Some are fast. Some can fly. Gus Rodin, aka "The Thinker" is smart. Thrill as he fights evil by sitting down to contemplate.

3. He used to call her his Lucky Penny, but now that they're divorced, (due to her affair, mind you) he just calls her Ex-Pensive. Why can't he just forget about her? She's all he can think about. It's like witchcraft or something. Hang on! There was that dead goat and pentagram in the garage...

4. To think, or not to think . . . I think. When you have a 10 minute memory it's all a little fuzzy.

5. Anne has just graduated NYU with a degree in Sociology and $100,000 in student loans. There are no jobs to be had in her field of choice: social justice at a top non-profit in NYC. A gin and sex filled weekend will determine her fate: give up and go work at her uncle's accounting firm, or say screw it and be a stripper.

6. Unable to think of a good title, an author goes to a random word generator site, specifies "adjective," and is given . . . Pensive.



Original Version

Sister Evelyn of the C.G. Priori lived her life sheltered and absorbed in the understanding that the Influence would always be a dream away, protecting and securing her future. All of that changes one day and shakes up Evelyn’s fifty years of devotion with the single opening of a rusted and once sealed door, leading her past her own borders, and into a world where dreams are no more reality than her own faith. [I was about to suggest that we drop paragraph 1 and start the query with paragraph 2. Then I looked ahead and discovered that paragraph 1 is the entire plot.]

PENSIVE, a debut novel of 50,100 words, thrusts the reader into a world where thoughts are controlled by the rules of a close-minded society, and consequences are extreme for those that dare to ask what lies outside their own borders. [You keep referring to people's own borders. I'm not clear on what it means.] A notable work it can be compared to would be The End of Mr. Y, by Scarlett Thomas. [I Googled The End of Mr. Y, and I agree that it's a good comparison, in that it sounds just as wacko as your book. However, compare the first paragraph of that book's plot description (on Wikipedia):

The book tells the story of Ariel Manto, a PhD student who has been researching the 19th-century writer Thomas Lumas. She finds an extremely rare copy of Lumas's novel The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand bookshop. The book is rumoured to be cursed - everyone who has read it has died not long afterwards.

. . . with your first paragraph. My point being that no matter how incomprehensible your book may be, your query needs to be clear, straightforward, and easily understood so that someone can easily be conned into reading it.]

I have a degree in psychology from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas [AKA UMHBBT] with an emphasis on personality theory and how it affects the individual mind as well as a collection of people. [A theory should attempt to explain, not affect.] My credentials come from me taking specific courses such as: human genetics, positive psychology, developmental psychology, history and systems, statistics, experimental psychology, as well as vertebrate and invertebrate biology. [Is vertebrate and invertebrate biology one course or two? If it's one course, I imagine the course work involves dividing the blackboard into two halves and then the professor calls out the names of animals and the students discuss which column each animal goes in. Basically, real animals on the left; bugs and sponges on the right. If it's two courses, that would be good for those students who have no interest in animals that have backbones but much interest in animals without backbones. Or vice versa.] [Maybe you can enlighten me. First they decided living creatures should be divided into exactly two categories: plants and animals. Makes sense. Then someone decides animals should be divided into exactly two categories: animals that X and animals that don't X. But what should X be? Someone says, How about animals you might see in a cage, and animals you wouldn't? Someone else says animals that are scary and animals that aren't. Or animals that taste better with barbecue sauce and animals that don't. Eventually someone, possibly as a joke, suggests Animals that have a backbone and animals that don't. And no one in the room has the backbone to say the idea is ridiculous? It sells?] [Actual quote from Wikipedia's article on invertebrates: The word invertebrate comes from the word vertebrate with the prefix in- attached to it.] [Okay, now that that's out of my system, Why are you listing all these courses you took in college instead of telling us what happens in your book? Is there a connection between Sister Evelyn and invertebrates?]
Italic
I read on your bio that you have an interest in psychology and stories that deal with unusual views of the world. [Hey, all I meant was that I loved Good Will Hunting and The Matrix.] Despite being a debut author, I feel that even without endorsements I can surprise and intrigue you [If you really want to intrigue me, get an endorsement deal from an athletic shoe company.] with a story that not only educates, but causes the reader’s heart to race, break, and look for repair in a world driven by old science and fearsome thought.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes

Start over. With a blank page, not with a page on which you've saved your favorite parts of the query. Burn any paper on which this was printed and delete it from your computer files. I'll wait.

Done? Now . . .

Set up the situation and tell us what Evelyn wants. Sister Evelyn has always felt secure thanks to the Influence (which is what?). But when X happens (preferably something better than she opens a rusty door--if there's an actual rusty door, tell us where it is.) she realizes whatever.

Now tell us what happens. Does she get to the new world outside her borders? Do the mind police come after her? Is there a villain or some obstacle to getting what she is looking for? What's her plan?

If you summarize your plot in eight or ten sentences, you might get lucky and have no room left for a paragraph about your credentials followed by a paragraph about your lack of credentials. You have a product to sell. Make it sound irresistible. Be sure to send us the revised version before sending it anywhere else, as we don't trust you.


Selected Comments


Rashad Pharaon said...The fake plots are hilarious. Still laughing. I agree, there is far too much centered on the author's personal courses in college. My questions are this:

a. The work is 50,000 words? Is this normal for this type of fiction? Sounds kind of low to me, I mean unless I missed the YA tag somewhere.

b. Why don't you expand and clarify the source of antagonism? Why is this society so close-minded? I'm also assuming this is happening in the present.

I think this could turn out beautifully if reworked properly. I know it's hard cramming a book in a paragraph description.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...As a child, I wondered what lay outside my own borders. Then my mom thumbtacked a map to the kitchen wall, and I knew.

Your query should be 100% about your manuscript and 0% about you. Unless you have previously published work or have won prestigious contests. Then your query can be 99% about your manuscript and 1% about you.

Get thee to QueryShark and read every. Damn. Entry. on that blog. Yeah, I know that's a lot of work. Like I said-- welcome to the business.


Evil Editor said...If they found Evil Editor, chances are they Googled Awesome Query Assistance and found lots of helpful sites. No need to send them elsewhere.


150 said...I found this place by Googling "free porn laser eyes muttonchops".


Evil Editor said...I think it's time we quit complaining about the length of books. Ebooks have established that they're here to stay, and plenty of novella-length books are selling in ebook format.

Even if your goal is to be published only in ebook format, you still need to start with a query.


BuffySquirrel said...Listen to the EE. I never do, but someone should.


150 said...That's an interesting point. I usually assume these queries are meant for agents unless the querier comes in and says otherwise, and as I understand it, there's not enough advance money in short ebooks for most agents to consider them. I've stood up for short romance novels here in the past because it was clear (from prior credits or whatever) that the author planned to send it to ebook publishers, but I still suspect the people submitting queries here are more likely to be publishing noobs aiming for an agent and/or print publication with the Big Six--in which case it's worth letting them know how stuff this short is usually received in those venues. I wonder if that's an outdated assumption.


Mister Furkles said...Well, EE says “Now tell us what happens.” But EE, it’s literary fiction. Maybe nothing happens. Here is an example of literary fiction:

An old woman dies. Just to annoy her family, she insisted on burial in county far away. They are poor. It’s a pain in the rear to get her corpse there. It’s a dozen people whining about how much they dislike one another.

It is a great literary masterpiece.

Hope you don't write your novel like your query. We readers are too lazy to decode forty-word sentences. That's so nineteenth century.


Evil Editor said...An old woman dies. Just to annoy her family, she insisted on burial in a county far away.

That alone is more clear information than we got in this query.


Khazar-khum said...It sounds like she's in a cult. Is she? Is it something like Sea Org from Scientology, where they put you on a boat and you can't leave? Or those ones where they have an old schoolhouse somewhere, and shoot people who leave?

Is the door real or metaphorical?

Why is she called Sister? Is she a nun--or a wife?


Rashad Pharaon said...I don't know. I don't think there are enough classes listed at the bottom of the query. I think you should post your whole college curriculum, along with GPA, and favorite coffee shop ;)


Thursday, November 06, 2014

Face-Lift 1234


Guess the Plot

True Balance: The Genesis



1. Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, Ray Loomis has tried, in his way, to stay upright.

2. In a world where most creatures walk on all fours, man insists on standing on two appendages. It takes him six days to get it right, and on the seventh day he takes the day off because his feet are killing him.

3. 14-year-old Katie's dream is to walk the high wire. But (not being a Wallenda) she needs to start somewhere, to prove she can do it. She joins the local gymnastics club, becomes a balance beam specialist, and makes the Olympic team.



4. In the beginning was a system in which the Upper World, Middle World and Under World were perfectly balanced, allowing for a functioning society. Enter Yukata Tousinin, a ruthless teenager. Will he screw everything up for everyone, or spark a revolution? Doesn't matter to him, as long as he gets the girl.

5. The true story of how the shoe brand, New Balance, began. The highly-anticipated sequel to Forbidden Fruit-of-the-Loom.

6. Drew Godfrey loves Fanny, his tiny Shih-Tzu. But not a single dog food available on the open market contains all the vitamins, minerals, essential oils, herbs and meats needed to keep a progressive, responbily raised dog on her organic diet. With Fanny in his hands, he begins the quest for the perfect hipster dog food.



Original Version

I’m writing this letter seeking representation for my novel, True Balance: The Genesis.

Set in a system, whereby Aregon, the Upper World; Diagon, the Middle World; and Necron, the Under World, function alongside each other like gears in a machine- and all inter-dimensional governance is in accordance with a document euphemized as The Treaty. [Was that a sentence? It seemed to end before reaching the subject and verb, which are conveniently located at the beginning of the next sentence. Of course, combining the two sentences will make for a very long sentence, and it was already too long. You could remove "Set in a system whereby," which will make the original clause a sentence, but a better idea is to open with the part where you introduce your main character.] [Also, I can't tell if the three Worlds are different dimensions or if they're all in one dimension that has a treaty with other dimensions.] The story focuses on Yukata Tousinin, a funny, yet ruthless and unapologetic teenager, who has to journey through these worlds in search of his love interest, Amara Prescott- who was sold into slavery. Yukata risks defying The Treaty, ruining friendships, becoming a fugitive, and overcoming doubts; when a new love interest enters his life, to retrieve her. [I don't think "overcoming doubts" is something he risks. Experiencing doubts maybe. In fact, if he actually defies the Treaty, ruins friendships, and becomes a fugitive, just say he does so, not that he risks doing so.]


Notes

We need to know how long the book is and who the audience is. But mostly we need to know what happens. You've provided the names of some worlds and mentioned a Treaty with no information about what's in it. Your plot summary is a teenager tries to rescue his love interest from whoever bought her as a slave. We need more than that. What's his plan? What obstacles does he face? What's the penalty for defying the Treaty? Who's after him? Why should we even care about a ruthless and unapologetic teenager? Maybe I'd rather read about how Amara Prescott escapes and exacts revenge on slavers than about how she gets rescued by this Yukata jerk.




Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Face-Lift 1233


Guess the Plot

The Stage

1. "The curtains tickle." "The lights are blinding." "The lead actress's stilettos stab like hypodermic needles." For the first time, the world of the theater is presented from the perspective of the one who has seen it all... The Stage.

2. The story behind the story of one theatre producer's ambition to do the impossible: Schindler's List- The Musical.

3. Kaylen was assigned months ago to write, produce and direct the senior play. It's almost time for tryouts now, and she hasn't done jack. Maybe if she can convince everyone that the stage is haunted the show won't have to go on.

4. The only thing Joan wants in life is to be an actress on Broadway – she loves the exhilaration of performing live. Then Nancy gets the role Joan lives for, and Joan learns that the exhilaration of watching a rival die before her eyes is much more satisfying.

5. Five years ago, the stage in the Shnooblethwatz Theater was cursed by some stereotypically angry ghosts after the building was constructed on their graves. Now anyone who performs in the theater can only speak the words the ghosts recited on the stage. Can Taniqalla Boom-Boom, most recent addition to the company, break the curse? Or is everyone doomed to say nothing but scripted lines for the rest of their lives?

6. Rocket scientist Jeff Hutchens suspects that the solid fuel in the first stage of the new Mars rocket has problems. But his boss is under pressure to launch this week, not waste time with a burnout. His lover Sam can't wait to fly the bird, the press is screaming for action, and even the President wants the launch. Should Jeff do everything he can to have the mission scrubbed, or should he sit at Mission Control with fingers crossed?


Original Version

Seventeen-year-old Kaylen has the opportunity to do what no one else at Alderpoint High School has done before - write, produce and direct the senior play in their new state of the art theater. [Of course no one's ever done this stuff in the new theater. The theater wasn't there before. It's like bragging that you're the first person in the history of the world to eat a slice of the cake you just baked.] [Also, I find it hard to believe the drama department wouldn't divide these three tasks among three people to give them all valuable experience.] Nailing it will get her out of her small town and into the theater program of her dreams. [Not to mention a possible Tony nomination.] Unfortunately, a summer of writer's block has left her without a script. [Then she has an epiphany: a play about a high school girl with writer's block.


Act I, Scene 1
Kaylen's bedroom

Kaylen (Turning off television)
Damn, I thought sure watching a Big Brother marathon would give me some ideas for the play I have to write. Maybe I shoulda gone with MTV. Let's see, I need a setting. The mall? Yeah, that's it. I bet no one's done a play set in a mall, with a character shopping for clothes with her BFF. Actually, if I want this to feel real I should go to the mall and immerse myself in the world. I'll call Nicole and see if see wants to help me with research.]

Act I, Scene 2
The Gap

Nicole
That top looks great on you.


Kaylen 
Buying clothes is way more fun than writing a play.


Nicole
You could be writing down everything we say for your play.


Kaylen
Borrrrring. I'll write the play tomorrow. Let's go to Mrs. Fields.]


With tryouts fast approaching, she looks for inspiration in the prop storage area. Instead she finds an old, fire-singed script of a play she's never heard of. Too proud to admit failure, she passes the script off as her own.

Things start falling apart at the first full-cast read-through. As soon as the actors finish, the stage curtains catch fire. Later that week Kaylen's assistant producer is found unconscious backstage, his face and hands covered with burns. She writes it off as bad luck [for the assistant producer,] until she catches her five main actors rehearsing on stage without her - in the middle of the night, standing in the shape of an inverted pentagram. [Seems like whether a pentagram is inverted or not depends on where you're looking at it from. And if it's just five people standing up at the points of the pentagram, it wouldn't look any different than five people standing in a circle. Now if they were lying down they could form an obvious pentagram.]

Convinced the script holds clues about the strange events, Kaylen examines it more closely and finds ties to Obadiah Baker, the town's founder. As she dives [delves?] deeper into Alderpoint's history she discovers multiple horrific tragedies involving fire - and the dates coincide with her show's opening night. If she hopes to save her friends, Kaylen must learn what happened below her school's stage over two hundred years ago and figure out how to stop it. [How can she stop something that happened over 200 years ago?]

THE STAGE is a ##,###-word YA Horror and a 2014 NaNoWriMo project (I know not to mention the NaNo part in the real query!) Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

How does Kaylen know that whatever happened over 200 years ago happened below her stage? Did all the fire-related horrific tragedies that happened in Alderpoint's history happen on the same location as the stage? Is it the stage or the script that ties all these tragedies together?

How come when she delves into Alderpoint's history and finds out about all these other tragedies, she doesn't find out about whatever happened under the stage 200 years ago?

It would be pretty unusual for the senior play to be written by a student. And for that student to be so unmonitored that the teachers involved have no idea she has no script started with tryouts rapidly approaching.

Are the burning curtains etc. related to the fact that Kaylen claims the script as her own? Or would they be happening even if she'd admitted it wasn't hers? If the latter, we don't need to know in the query that she does something dishonest. If the former, does that mean all the other tragedies that occurred on that date involved someone being dishonest?