Monday, June 19, 2006
Guess the Plot
Of Gods and Men
1. After being irradiated by a mysterious nuclear power plant explosion that leaves the entire Southwest in darkness, the mice are back, and more powerful then ever before. Can George coax the day-dreaming Lennie into challenging the new order, or are they destined to be once again transformed into WB cartoon characters?
2. A story so epic in scope its plot cannot be revealed, with hundreds of characters, including a brutal eunuch and Erku the cynical mercenary.
3. In ancient Greece when deities and mortals share the earth, one woman must choose between love and a mortal life, or a loveless eternity with a god.
4. A woman's view of religion, politics, and housework from the fifth century through The DaVinci Code.
5. Men use the Golden Flagon to outwit the Gods in a successful battle for possession of the women. The Gods say they'll just make some more.
6. The goddess Fortuna Augusta, irritated that a misogynist golf club bears her name, causes a plague of journalists to appear on the eve of a national tournament.
[Evil Editor has shaded in red the parts of the query that give specific information about what happens in the book.]
Dear Agent/Publisher (obviously with their actual name);
I am writing to ask for consideration in being represented by your agency for my novel, Of Gods and Men, the length of which is about 210,000 words. I have plans for it to be the first in a series, [At 210,000 words, it's already a series.] and the second work is currently being written, planned, and outlined. [Hopefully not in that order.]
When I read fiction, what I am most interested in is complete immersion into character, culture, and story. This is what I have tried to reproduce in Of Gods and Men. My notes for the characters, societies, nations, and peoples have become quite extensive. It was my purpose to give the reader a complete vision of the cultures contained within the book, right down to what they eat and the difference in clothing pattern between regions. [Evil Editor suspects you'd be better off cutting 120,000 words, and letting the reader imagine what the characters are eating and wearing.] I wanted to be able to close my eyes and be transported directly to a world that is complete, and that's what I've reproduced. [This whole paragraph is so general, it could be stated in one sentence, and even that sentence would say almost nothing.]
One could call Of Gods and Men a fantasy novel, but it would be a somewhat misleading categorization. For one thing, there is no use of magic, dragons, nascent neo-paganism or overdone medieval pageantry. [So what does it have that makes it a fantasy?] Drawing from the rich tapestry that was the ancient world, the civilizations I’ve created seem almost like one could wake up and suddenly begin reading about them in a history book. [Assuming one was asleep to begin with, of course.] The vibrancy and contrast of and between religion, social values, and personality is what I’ve striven to highlight throughout the book. [I feel like I'm reading the answers to an essay test, written by someone who didn't know there was a test, didn't study, and is hoping to BS his way to a C-.]
The story is strongly character-driven, and the device used to tell the story is decidedly from the point of view of individual characters. [If you mean your story is told from the viewpoint of its characters, it has this in common with 99% of all fiction.] Attempting again to draw upon a realistic history, most of the main characters are decidedly adult (not in a smutty sense, but in a mature sense). They include Goran, a warrior and protector of his fighting faith, Mikal, a member of the royal line whose nature as a sybarite soon catches up with his status as one of his nation’s potential leaders, Domniall, a soldier and adventurer attaches himself to a bid to colonize a foreign and dangerous land, and Erku, a cruel mercenary whose cynicism and callowness eat away at the heart. The younger characters, such as Marcus, a young orphan raised by a brutal Eunuch, Kera and Lara, young women of the royal line whose pampered lifestyles are brought to a crushing end, and Mandos, who is struggling with his position as the son of a brutal chieftain, are not brought out in a slow ‘coming-of-age’ style, but rather thrust into situations of life and death in which they must act with maturity they have not yet earned by virtue of experience and reflection. [A giant paragraph to tell us your characters' names? Their names aren't important. What they do is. What happens in this book?] [Of course, the brutal eunuch is somehow intriguing. The era of the ruthless vigilante sorcerers is long past, and the age of the zombies is coming to a close; the brutal eunuch epoch is upon us.]
The backdrop of the story is warfare, in which the theocratic Kingdom of God fights both a civil war between rival claimants for the throne, and attempts to repel an invasion from the Vergall, a people based mostly on the Celts of our own history.
Adding to and enriching everything is a whole world at the disposal of the reader, complete with hundreds of characters, many distinct cultures, and stories of travel and complicating mystery of the world beyond what is known to the characters who are telling the story. [This says nothing.]
I confess that I have no published writing credits. Despite this, I believe the quality of my prose will outweigh this. I am currently a student at Purdue University, and have every intention of beginning my legal and graduate studies concurrently sometime next year. I have a love affair with history, and with Greek and Latin. My concern with ancient history and the stories therein was a large motivator in my writing. Thank you for your reflection and the time you have spent considering my submission.
Peace be with you and yours,
The query gives almost no information about the book. Why should I care about any of these characters? My advice: trash the whole thing, choose one or two characters, and tell us what happens to them, what motivates them, what difficulties they must overcome. Make us want to know what happens to the characters, so we'll want to read the book. It's a novel, not a history book.
Also, lay off the "I" stuff (I reproduced, I created, I strove to highlight). It sounds like you're talking about your child. We're all proud of our books, but the more you sound like you think you've written the greatest book in literary history, the less seriously you'll be taken.
Clearly I can't provide a revised version when there's no plot given. I couldn't even come up with a description for "Guess the Plot." Back to the drawing board, my friend. And consider cutting the book length substantially as well.