Friday, April 27, 2007

Face-Lift 325


Guess the Plot

A Faerie Dream

1. Having mint-green sparkly wings, curly pink hair, and a snub nose just isn't doing it for little Maybelle. Can she convince her godmother to make her dearest dream come true--to look just like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark?

2. Last night, I dreamed we were all on a boat, crossing the river -- you, me, Joe, my car. . . wait, a faerie dream? Sorry, can't help you.

3. After 100 years, Aileen escapes the land of Faerie and realizes her dream to live as a mortal on the Orkney Islands. Also, intolerant Christians.

4. Being promoted to faerie 1st class, Brock makes a few demands: a bigger garden to live in, a spare set of wings, and a year's supply of Pixy Stix. Hey, a faerie can dream, can’t he?

5. Jack, a faerie, dreams of becoming a man. Daniel, a man, dreams of becoming a faerie. A wizard agrees to switch them, but there's a catch. Jack and Daniel now must duel to the death.

6. Enter the mortal world, steal the baby, replace it with a changeling, collect the crown. Simple. Ysevre Bloodfeather's success will ensure his marriage to the Princess, and his dream of ruling Faerie. But when he realizes the baby he's stolen is in fact another cunning changeling, Ysevre is plunged into a Faerie nightmare. Also, an enchanted iron mine.


Original Version

Lhiannan has discovered a dark secret: if mortals can't see her, she might stop existing. When a group of human children fail to spot her napping in the bracken, she realises the whole Sithein is at risk. [If she's asleep, how does she know they didn't spot her?] [Here's a picture of bracken. Do you really expect people to spot a fairy napping in that? I doubt I'd notice a rhinoceros napping in it.] Understanding why her Queen wants to flee still doesn't change her mind; [That clause would make more sense if you'd already established that the Queen wants to flee, and whatever it is Lhiannan doesn't change her mind about.] Lhiannan would rather fade away than forsake the Highlands. [If they leave the highlands, will mortals suddenly be able to see them?] Why won't Lhiannan leave and what does she have in common with a renegade scout and an evil island prince? Unravel the past to find out the future - or lack of it. [This sounds like back-of-the-book copy. Tell us why she won't leave, so we understand her conflict.]

Life in a small Scottish village can be confining for a young girl but Aileen soon learns that going away with the faeries is even worse. She's the only human within living memory to join them of her own free will but it takes her one hundred years to escape the Sithein - with a firm resolution to stick to the mortal realm. [If she's been gone 100 years, whose "living memory" are we talking about?] However, when she moves to the Orkney islands, it becomes clear she can't simply pretend that faeries don't exist. Aileen discovers the evil side of the "Good Folk" and learns the value of iron. But when a newborn is abandoned in the wild, she can't resist getting involved, especially as she suspects the dying fae is of royal heritage. Can she convince the prince to save his daughter? And if he does, will it mean the end of an already fading race? [We need a better connection between the last few sentences. They seem almost random. Who's this prince? Is the dying fae the newborn? What's she dying of? Is the prince mortal or fae? Why would saving his daughter mean the end of a race?]

A Faerie Dream is a historical fantasy set in the Scottish Highlands in the 17th and 18th century. The converging stories of different lives chronicles the legend of the fae leaving Scotland to escape the increasing intolerance of the Christian church.


Notes

What's the connection between Aileen and Lhiannan? The book won't feel unified without that information. This reads like queries for the first two books in a series (same setting, different main characters) complete with intriguing questions at the end of each query.

It also feels like a list of the highlights of the book. It might be more compelling if you concentrated on the main problem of each main character (or just one of them), and how their stories converge.

Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I found mention of intolerance of the Christian church a bit jarring. Presumably it's why the Queen wants to leave, but it feels like a heavier issue than I expect to deal with when I pick up a book called A Faerie Dream. It's like reading a Harry Potter book in which Muslim suicide bombers destroy Hogwarts. Just because it's in the book doesn't mean it has to be in the query.

Similarly, while I'm sure learning the value of iron is a crucial plot point, it sounds trivial unless you elaborate on it. I'd leave it out.

23 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

Maybe it's a low level of caffeine, but I cannot tell which GTP goes with this letter!

Author, in addition to EE's comments, the line "she's the only human within living memory to join them of her own free will" is ludicrous. I bet if you polled every girl under sixteen, you'd have a greater than 90% rate of those who'd go to Faerie of their own free will. That line really ruined the description for me because it ruined your credibility.

I dont' know exactly what it going on, but I think that if the query began with what appears to be the issue: She's escaped Faerie but cannot turn her back on an abandoned Changeling. The problems begin when it turns out this is a royal baby, and she has to do something to save it.

Evil Editor said...

I bet if you polled every girl under sixteen, you'd have a greater than 90% rate of those who'd go to Faerie of their own free will.

I don't know the answer, but possibly the distinction is that all girls would join, but only one did. Evil Editor would join, but has no idea how to go about it. Do I have to search the bracken for a Faerie? Is there a recruiting center?

whitemouse said...

I doubt I'd notice a rhinoceros napping in [bracken].

But you would be able to smell a rhinoceros napping in it, I assure you. Holy Hugo Weaving, but those beasties are stinky.

Author, the query simply didn't make sense to me. EE zapped you for not having one sentence logically connected to the next, and that was the issue for me also. Your query needs to tell a self-contained, coherent story on its own. I know it's difficult, when you're too close to your work, to skip the details and work out an overview for the plot, but this is what you need to do here.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it reads like you wrote a long query, then compressed by keeping the best sentence from each paragraph. Concepts & events are not stuck together in a coherent way. Better to say more about less.

phoenix said...

Writtenwyrd, just pretend it's a wordmatch game. "Aileen" (2 and 16), "Orkney" (9 and 12), "Christians (15 and 23)" ... I suspect you weren't very good at playing Concentration, were you? :o) Pass the double espresso!

Author: Oh my, where to begin? Playing Concetration is much easier than trying to unravel this query. I very nearly stopped reading during the first sentence when you say the dark secret is that she might stop existing. Too big of a loophole. Either the Sithein WILL cease to exist or they won't. Otherwise, it's like saying you won't live in California because if there's an earthquake, it MIGHT destroy your city.

So, next sentence, the kids don't notice her - or the rhinocerous - in the bracken and that's not the end of her, the Sithein, or the book. Dark secret doesn't pan out and there goes any suspense or credibility. I wouldn't have read any further in the query except I wanted to see EE's comments.

If it's historical fantasy, then the Christians do belong in the story. I would think as a major plot point that needs to be interwoven into the query. Your last paragraph sets a completely different tone for the book than some of the writing in the rest of the query. If the core of the story is dark, then ditch the questions throughout, as well as mediocre sentences such as:

"Life in a small Scottish village can be confining for a young girl but Aileen soon learns that going away with the faeries is even worse."

Then concentrate on not only giving us a logical story in the query but on giving us a taste of the fears and consequences of those involved. There's tragedy and inevitability in the best historical fantasies dealing with ffolk forced into the West. If it's in your book, let some of that feeling come through in your query, too.

CSInman said...

Author, I think you just need to identify the main conflict in the story, and see if you can write it in about eighty to one hundred words. After you've done that, add another ~150 words of interesting details about Aileen and Lhiannan, making them likable characters, and how they interact with that plot. It sounds like you wrote something cool, we just can't tell exactly what it is.

And I wrote #6, but I can't take credit for "enchanted iron mine," an addition by EE that was so good I think I'm going to go write the story now.

Bernita said...

Curious.
Did you intend a connection by her name to the Leannan Sidhe, the legend of the Fairy Sweetheart, or not?

sylvia said...

Oh ouch! OK, so that clearly didn't work. :(

I've really struggled with how to do this "hook" -- the story is split into four sections, with four different narrators, which makes it difficult to zoom in on. I did try for a back of book jacket approach, which seems to be a bit of a turn off. Reading other Face-Lifts, I did find myself wincing at someone else using a ton of questions to outline the plot and realised that I'd done the same. But it was too late by then.

If you know the story, the description makes sense (I did have my proof readers proof it!) but it clearly is completely confusing unless you have already read it.

I love GTP #6, I might start over with that as a plot!

sylvia said...

Bracken -- I knew that was going to cause issues! I hoped I might get away with it (she's on the edge of it, having been too tired to hide herself properly, and awoke to voices over her head, a single child was able to see her and the others are derisory.

I can't believe I used "living memory" in respect to immortal beings. EE got it right -- no one in the Fairie Lair has seen a human captured (at that lair), so it's been hundreds (thousands) of years. Really bad phrasing. Lots of girls may wish to go (although within my world, they wouldn't -- going away with the fairies was rarely seen as a good thing) but they are usually too frightened of rhinoceri to search the bracken thoroughly.

As Phoenix said, the religion aspect is pretty critical to the story. The light and fluffy life of a fae degenerates (within the story) pretty quickly into chaos so I guess the entire query needs to be dark. But that doesn't feel quite right either. I need to think about this.

I started from a very short description and expanded on that but clearly rather organically (is the value of iron a tumour?) so that it is not coherent at all.

And well spotted, Bernita. The Leannan Sidhe was the original inspiration for her name although I was sort of hoping no one would notice.

Right. Enough licking my wounds. Back to the drawing board.

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, perhaps for the purposes of the query you should ignore the pov characters and focus on the main character. Then describe the events from that perspective. At the very least, it should make the plot simpler to describe to someone who has not read it.

GutterBall said...

It's like reading a Harry Potter book in which Muslim suicide bombers destroy Hogwarts.

I'd read that.

I get the "value of iron" comment because the fae are notoriously (or legendarily, heh) vulnerable to Earth's metals. Silver, occasionally gold, but especially iron and lead. That's a folklore thing, so it didn't throw me.

But almost everything else did. I know it probably makes perfect sense if you've read the story, Sylvia, but even having a passing knowledge of Germanic folklore to pull on, I had a hard time figuring out how any of this fit together.

It sounds like most of the action hinges on this abandoned infant and its relationship to the evil prince. Perhaps you could start there and build through Aileen finding and protecting it, despite her past with the fae, and Lhiannan's desperate need to save her home/race/lifestyle/whatever and how the babe fits into that.

Otherwise, you have too many separate plots, which makes us wonder if you ought not just write four separate books. Does that make sense? Or have I leapt right at a trivial fact and fallen upon it like a terrier with a chew toy?

sylvia said...

"Perhaps you could start there and build through Aileen finding and protecting it, despite her past with the fae, and Lhiannan's desperate need to save her home/race/lifestyle"

That's intriguing -- because it's backwards (i.e. reverse order of the book), it hadn't occurred to me. But the book is backwards, so explaining it would be a lot easier if I turned it the right way round.

*ponder*

I wish I could turn it into four books. It would make more sense, I think. But I have too much plot for a simple query and not enough plot for a series. Actually, I think I'm just complicating things -- I just have to focus down better.

I really appreciate everyone's comments. It's very very helpful to see the synopsis as viewed through the eyes of a stranger.

sylvia said...

Obviously this needs rethinking from scratch: is it OK to resubmit in a few weeks (or more) having ripped it to shreds and started over? I'd even wait until the next lull when you are short of queries. :)

Or is that bad because it would still be recognisable based on the names and the reference to fairies and religion (not a common theme)?

Evil Editor said...

I prefer that revisions be sent as comments. If several days have passed, I'll alert readers that the new version is there. This saves having to come up with new Guess the Plots and hilarious asides for the same book. There have been a couple exceptions from authors who changed their titles and reworked everything.

sylvia said...

I'm still not sure how to deal with this - what if I focus the plot down to Aileen alone? Comments welcome!

***

Aileen knows that going away with the fairies isn't fun and games. As a teenager, she ignored the warnings and joined them of her own free will. It took a hundred years of servitude for her to escape, using a rare bit of trickery of her own. She's never told a mortal soul about her lost century and she's sworn never to have contact with the Good Folk again. But after a life-time of hiding her secret, she's forced to confront it in wilds of the the Orkney islands when she finds she can't turn her back on a sobbing fae child abandoned to the elements. Aileen knows from personal experience that immortality isn't quite so simple and the child needs help to survive, fast. She can't turn her back on the beautiful young waif but neither she can't save her alone. Her only choice is to contact the evil Seelie prince and beg him to save the child ... who is almost certainly his daughter. Aileen risks everything to save the royal reject, never knowing that her intervention will seal the fate of the fae of all of Scotland.

Gail Dayton said...

Ha. No blue words to confuse me. (Posting at work can be dangerous)

I liked the new query. It was much easier to follow.

This part here: But after a life-time of hiding her secret, she's forced to confront it in wilds of the the Orkney islands when she finds she can't turn her back on a sobbing fae child abandoned to the elements. Aileen knows from personal experience that immortality isn't quite so simple and the child needs help to survive, fast. She can't turn her back on the beautiful young waif but neither she can't save her alone.
It's a little repetitive. That middle sentence--How does the "immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be" relate to the rest? Why not just leave that sentence out? You've already said the child is abandoned--you could add in a phrase about her likely death there, and then just move on to the part about meeting up with the evil prince. Unless the immortality bit really IS important...

I like the way you slipped in that the child is the guy's daughter...

This sounds like an intriguing story. It might work better if you make this your whole story, and feed all that other stuff in as backstory...? Just a suggestion.

Gail (still thinking about manticores)

Sarah Laurenson said...

A few typos here to look for.

If she went away for 100 years, no one she knew would still be alive. If time passes differently in the fairy world, how is it different?

How old is Aileen if this is after a lifetime of hiding?

Here’s my suggestion which gives you room to add more to the story.

As a teenager, Aileen ignored the warnings and joined the fairies of her own free will. It took a hundred years of servitude and a rare bit of trickery for her to escape. She's sworn never to have contact with the Good Folk again. But she finds she can't turn her back on a sobbing fae child abandoned to the elements. Aileen knows the child needs help to survive, fast, and she can’t save her alone. Her only choice is to contact the evil Seelie prince and beg him to save the child ... who is almost certainly his daughter. Aileen risks everything to save the royal reject, never knowing that her intervention will seal the fate of the fae of all of Scotland.

sylvia said...

This is interesting because I think it's the first time I've really distilled the story to it's core. It's a bit odd in that so much of the action is not relevant to this description. In the past I've always tried to incorporate all of them them: Lhi, who is the narrator for the fae leaving the land. Domnall, who convinced Aileen to join them, Micol, who let her escape. Onagh, who went to marry the island prince and finally Tyrae, our evil lord whom Aileen finally approached. It never really occurred to me to portray it as Aileen's story. In fact it still annoys me not to be able to include them!

Gail:

I mentioned the immortality because I was afraid of the reaction "she's an immortal, so she's not at risk". The existence of changelings belies that logic but I didn't want to confuse things.

Effectively, the story is in multiple parts where Aileen's story ends up being every other section. Going back to the original query, Lhiannan is only part one, but important as she draws you in and tells you what is happening to the fae (and at the end you understand why it comes down to Aileen). A total pain to make short.

Sarah:

Time went slowly for Aileen, it seemed a short time. Then she found out that no one she knew was still alive and rejoined her village anyway. She moved north (to the Orkneys) and is very old by the time she finds the girl. (In my head, she is late 80s but I know I worked out a logical age for a "crone" for that time and it came out a lot younger.

talpianna said...

Usually, when one returns to mortal realms from a Faerie land, all one's years descend upon one at once. See the story of Oisín:

After what seems to him to be three years Oisín decides to return to Ireland, but 300 years have passed there. Niamh gives him her white horse, Embarr, and warns him not to dismount, because if his feet touch the ground those 300 years will catch up with him and he will become old and withered. Oisín returns home and finds the hill of Almu, Fionn's home, abandoned and in disrepair. Later, while trying to help some men lift a stone onto a wagon, his girth breaks and he falls to the ground, becoming an old man just as Niamh had predicted. The horse returns to Tir na nÓg

Also, to the others: Christian intolerance was a danger to the Fae because they considered them demons in fancy dress and used to exorcise them.

Phoenix said...

Don't hit me, but I'm going to suggest that you had the structure of the query right the first time. Your new version is clearer, yes, but it leaves me with the dreaded "so how is this different" question. What's the hook? There is a good element of intrigue with the implied mystery as to why the evil prince would abandon his child to death. But is it enough, and does it come soon enough in the query?

The original query demonstrates you'll be showing the fate of the fae from their perspective as well as from a human one. And that, coupled with the abandoned child mystery, might be enough to hook.

But the first two 'graphs of the original need to be tighter and more compelling. And the third paragraph should tie them together more effectively than it does. Which, as I've just read EE's original notes, he also mentions in his 2nd paragraph.

I was going to attempt a rewrite, but realized I just don't know enough about Lhiannan's plight, which also means I don't know how her and Aileen's stories come together in the end.

Gail mentioned redundancies in the rewrite, and Sarah shortened it nicely, but I still think that paragraph can be tightened much further and give you the opportunity to show us something more about the obstacles and challenges Aileen faces, such as what "risks everything" really means. For instance, in Sarah's version, we still don't need "she finds," "of her own free will" or "and she can't save her alone."

Is "never knowing" really accurate? Does Aileen never know that she's the catalyst for what happens to the fae? If she's the viewpoint character, then that sort of takes the punch out of the story.

For the query, I would also stick with one descriptor for the fae: fae, fairy, Good [f]Folk, or Seelie. And aren't the Seelie fae the good ones? "Evil Seelie" seems like an oxymoron.

sylvia said...

Phoenix:
Can I hit you a little bit? Just to cheer me up?

In the story, there's no human perspective - it's always from the view of the fae. Aileen is the common thread but we never see her viewpoint.

Dammit, back to the drawing board.

The Seelie and the Unseelie figure in the story. The humans don't name them but instead use terms like "the Good Folk". Fae/Fairy/etc shouldn't be used at all but in the query it seemed problematic if I didn't use them and there was a comment (not on EE's blog) about not being able to differentiate between good and bad fae.

I really don't have a clue how to describe this story.

Sarah Laurenson said...

OK. So who is your MC? Since we're never in Aileen's POV, then she's not it. And this version of your query makes it seem like this is Aileen's story.

Start with your MC and build from there. I believe you may have multiple ones from what you said earlier.

It's hard to describe it? Perhaps if you sat down and wrote out the long version of a summary, that might help. Take the long version and start cutting it down a little at a time.

Queries are a bitch, but a necessary one.

Sylvia said...

Thanks Sarah - I think the obvious answer has got to be to step back and start again. I'll update/re-write the synopsis (any more plans for synopsis submissions, EE?) and then see.