Sunday, August 26, 2007

Face-Lift 408


Guess the Plot

Grizelda

1. It's not easy having a mother who's such an obsessive Monkees fan she names her children after Monkees song titles, especially when your older sisters, Valleri and Mary Mary, used up the only normal names in the catalog. Still, Grizelda doesn't envy her brother, Randy Scouse Git.

2. Suspected of having political ties to the deposed king, Grizelda is hauled away by the police, but when pixies riding on rats rescue her and take her to their underground world she wonders if she wasn't better off in the hands of the police, since the underground is inhabited by communist goblins.

3. Half bear, half video game princess, Grizelda is torn between her loyalty to pixilated fantasy worlds and her love of scaring campers in national parks.

4. Sick to death of all the "wicked witch" jokes, sixteen-year-old Grizelda Smitts decides she might as well take up witchcraft--and finds that she's surprisingly good at it.

5. When Grizelda sets off to make her fortune in the bawdy-houses of London's East side, she gets kidnapped by a mad alchemist. Can she escape before he gilds her?

6. Grizelda is a 'pillow angel'--a child who cannot move, speak, or hear and must be fed via tube. However, she does think, and in her mind she's a pole dancer married to NASCAR hunk Ellis Whitney--who one day appears at her house to free her from her family.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation for Grizelda, a young adult fantasy novel.

Deposing the king was supposed to make things better for the people of Corvain. But eleven years later the republican government is becoming more and more like the old monarchy. [Great, yet another Bush administration allegory.] When the police drag Grizelda, a seamstress, away in the middle of the night on suspicion of royalist ties, she expects a death sentence.

Instead she is rescued by a group of rat-riding pixies who help her seek asylum in the world beneath the capitol city. It is a complex world of sewers, abandoned mines that show signs of an ancient catastrophe, and a city inhabited by goblins that are … decidedly Communist. [The Rat-riding pixies are your hook. Can you move them closer to the top? Say, I am seeking representation for Rat-riding Pixies and the Commie Goblins . . . ] They very reluctantly allow her to live with them, but almost immediately she becomes a political tool in their next election. [I see this as a series. This one would be Rat-riding Pixies and the Republican Sewer Dwellers, to be followed by Rat-riding Pixies and the Eco-anarchists, Rat-riding Pixies and the Spotted Hyena Gynecocracy, and Rat-riding Pixies and the Thalassocratic Groupuscule.] [ It's a series designed to teach teens about politics without them realizing it.]

As her relationship with the goblins deteriorates, she becomes involved with a revolutionary group whose alleged goal is to return Corvain to the original ideals of the republic. The missions she goes on become increasingly dangerous and morally ambiguous. [She goes on missions? She just got there. And she's a seamstress. Did they send Betsy Ross to infiltrate the British army?] When one of the revolutionaries discovers that the charges against her of royalist ties are true, she is in even more danger than she was in the hands of the police. [She expected a death sentence from the police. Can you be in more danger than that?]

Grizelda is complete at 70,000 words. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Notes

The police were going to kill Grizelda for having royalist ties, and when the revolutionaries find she has royalist ties she's in even more danger. Which leads me to ask whom the revolutionaries are revolting against. They seem to have the same ideology as the authorities when it comes to royalists.

Things were bad under the monarchy, they're bad under the republic, the communists don't seem so hot, the revolutionaries do worse than kill you if you have royalist ties . . . who are the good guys?

Can you make it more clear what Grizelda wants to accomplish? Is she a leaf being blown in the wind, or does she lead the good guys to victory?

The opening (or at least what was once the opening) may be read here.

21 comments:

Pete said...

The first thing that comes to mind when you mention "rat-riding pixies" are Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men.

How BIG are the Pixies and Goblins? Are the Goblins people sized? Because if a foot tall Goblin threatens you with death, I don't think I would be deeply scared. I would probably get kicking.

writtenwyrdd said...

If this were going to be a romp, I'd say to name it "Rat-Riding Pixies to the Rescue!" But then, that would also remind me of Pratchett's "Wee Free Men."

I would positively love to see #4. I think it would sell.

"As her relationship with the goblins deteriorates, she becomes involved with a revolutionary group whose alleged goal is to return Corvain to the original ideals of the republic."

That seems to be the crux of the story. Grizelda, unfairly imprisoned, is rescued (for some unknown reason) by the forces of the underground. She (somehow) becomes the focus of internal strife with the revolutionaries and then joins the party who wants (for some unknown reason) to restore her above-ground world to the proper republic it was intended to be (because - moral alert - we should all want a republic...or is that democracy?).

I do not intend to be snarky with my comments in the above paragraph, but I am trying to point out what the implications are to me. You might consider that these points are implied, and should probably be spelled out in this query (except the last one, which is a theme and maybe should be understated, as it might be a handicap, being political in nature.)

I cannot help but feel that this sounds, based on the elements you present, like parody or some form of humor. The details are different from the usual, and that's a usually good thing with fantasy.

Robin S. said...

I really like the rat-riding pixies.

And I like your pretend proposed series, EE. You're really on a roll today - although somehow the titles reminded me of the New Riders of the Purple Sage. I don’t know why. Must be the rider part.

‘Rat-riding Pixies and the Thalassocratic Groupuscule.’ Wow. Esoteric stuff.
For some reason I (barely) remembered ‘thalassocratic’ from one of the many college courses I took which seemingly existed only to give me a wider and, for all practical purposes, immediately archived vocabulary.

But it took some Googling to find out that: “There is a tendency on the far left and right for a proliferation of tiny groups, often known by the French term groupuscules.” There’s a new one for me. I’ll add it to those archives. Thanks for that.

Hi author,

Sounds fun, but I don't understand how some of it works - is there something special about Grizelda that we find out about in the novel- why a seamstress is getting so much attention? Is there more to her than meets the eye? Why is she a political tool, for instance?

And I honestly do love the idea of rat-riding pixies - no kidding.

Dave said...

Political satires are dangerous properties. Some, like 1984 and Animal Farm have a life. Others like Maureen Dowd's Bushworld and what's his name's Lies, and the lying liars (etc), are almost immediately dated. And those are adult books. (oh be nice, people, they aren't all that adult, but they are not YA).

That's where I really get puzzled. A young adult novel with political satire.

The story seems to have its portion of funny and odd characters. But YA stuff usually has a lesson. What is the lesson here? Is that the place perhaps to sell and position the novel?

Remember that for 20 years after Karl Marx, communism was thought of as a viable alternative to the ravages of capitalism. It's only after seeing 50 or 60 years of failure that we know communism doesn't work. And I really don't know what that means to this discussion. That's the problem with the query. Since you introduce politics, what role does it play in the novel?

It's fun to consider commie pixies, totalitarian trolls, oligarchic ogres, and robber baron goblins fighting the big, bad monarchy. (Big? Bad? oh wait, consider Camilla!)
However, it's an odd way to teach political science. It doesn't seem to fit together. Perhaps politics should not be emphasized in the query. Perhaps that's not the emphasis of the story. Perhaps those are only forces working on Grizelda. After all is said and done, does Grizelda establish a republic, a democracy or a Kingdom?
That's what I have to say about the query.

And now for something completely different:
1) Alberto Gonzales was to resign last Friday but he forgot to schedule the press room.
2) Gonzales would have resigned last April but he forgot which suit he put his pen in the pocket of.
3) Gonzales forgot his plane ticket and it took him from Friday until Monday to get back to WAshington DC.
4) He forgot his coffee this morning and didn't want to answer questions without caffeine.
5) Gonzales forgot his resignation letter at home.
6) He forgot to answer reporters questions at the press conference. He forgot the reporters were there.

Anonymous said...

"YA stuff usually has a lesson." Erg. I hope not.

mb

pacatrue said...

I just wanted to say that as a recovering Monkees fan (I was on the mailing list in 1995) and Nezhead (look, I can prove it!) I really, really appreciated Guess The Plot 1.

OK, now I will go read the actual query.

"Why don't you hate who I hate, kill who I kill to be free?" - the randy scouse git

greencat said...

Grizelda isn't really much of a political satire, it's more of a French Revolution with magical creatures added. The situation is really complicated:

There once was a big, bad monarchy. The royals employed local sorcerers and sorceresses to help keep the people down. Eventually things reached a critical mass, people revolted, and set up a republic. A lot of the sorcerers were killed or sent into exile.

Now, ten years later, the new republic is going bad. They're rounding up and shooting anybody who might challenge them, especially anybody with a hint of magical power. Grizelda has magical power. That's the real reason she was arrested.

The revolutionaries are prejudiced against anybody with magical power because of what the sorcerers and sorceresses did historically. Grizelda never had anything to do with the monarchy, but she falls victim to guilt by association. One of her fellow revolutionaries finds out she has magical powers and is tempted to turn her in.

(By the way, they work it out - it's a happy ending.)

As for her being in even more danger, that is badly phrased. She's in danger of getting captured again and executed for real. What I meant is she's in just as much danger.

Okay, so the commie goblins are sort of a satire. I find Communism hilarious, so I added it as a comic relief. There are exchanges such as:

"Excuse me, Mister goblin–"
"That's Comrade to you, pig!"

greencat said...

Oh, and the goblins are only about four feet tall, but there are about a thousand of them and they have pickaxes.

Robin S. said...

Hi greencat-

Your comments make a great query.
Your voice sure comes shining through, and I think I have a better understanding of what the story is.

(Please don't take this "to the bank" - I have yet to write a compelling - or even competent - query of my own. I just like this "version" better.)

writtenwyrdd said...

If the commies are satire, why not add in excessive PC-ness? Thus, Grizelda is "paranormally enhanced" or "mundanely challenged." (Hmmm... I'm going to have to use that line someplace...)

I think you clarified the turning points in your post and they weren't in the query. You might want to use these pivotal details in it.

Dave said...

Greencat,
Your comment really does work as the start of a query. It's fun, breezy and (to my eyes) YA. think on emphasisng the funny parts.

Ten years after the revolution, the new republic is going bad. They're rounding up and shooting anybody who might challenge them. In order to survive, Grizelda has to make alliances with rat-riding pixies, communist goblins, frantic faeries, and her fellow refugees.

Grizelda, my 70,000 word Young Adult novel tells the story of a teenage seamstress in the political battles of her life as she tries to restore the true republic


That's a little short. Put it in your words My writing style isn't as fun as yours is.

Kings Falcon said...

greencat, your summary was much better than the actual query. You lose your voice on the query. Since part of the appeal of your story, it seems to me, is the funny quirky tone, your query needs to convey that.

Something between your synopsis and Dave's short version would be perfect.

Ex:

Everyone expect the Republic to be paradise. But the Republic's leaders are no better than the monarch they displaced. They round up and execute anyone who might challenge them - meaning people with magic - including a 15 year old seamstress named, (Aunty)Grizelda.

In order to survive, Grizelda has to make alliances with rat riding pixies, communist goblins, frantic faeries, and her fellow refugees.

(Tell me the ending here)


Let your style shine through.

phoenix said...

Isn't this fun? This is how this blog should work all the time! Author gets query posted. EE ridicules it. Minions massacre it. Author rebuts, putting into their comment what they meant to say in the query in the first place. Minions applaud and offer refinements. Author goes away and produces a terrific second draft. Oh, that's right -- Greencat, please post it when ya got it.

Good start, good voice in your comment. Throw in mention of the rat-riding pixies and commie goblins -- I think you can even say they're there for comic relief so long as you keep a breezy, tongue-in-cheek tone. Add in a complication or two, and give us the ending. Maybe even use some (not all!) of the "by the way, they work it out - it's a happy ending" language.

I really hoped it was GTP 2. I like the premise!

Ello said...

I didn't like the query because it was confusing but found author's comments much more intriguing. Author, why don't you take a stab at rewriting so we can see it again?

greencat said...

Gak! Pressure! Now my second draft has to be fantastic!

Here is what I have come up with:




Dear Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation for Grizelda, a young adult fantasy novel.

The monarchs of Corvain had long employed local sorcerers and sorceresses to help keep their people down. When the people finally revolted and set up a republic, they thought their country’s problems were over. But now, eleven years later, the leaders of the Republic of Corvain are proving to be just as bad as the old monarchs. They’re rounding up anybody who might challenge them – including anybody with a hint of magical power – and shooting them. When Grizelda, a young seamstress, finds herself their target, she fears she is done for.

In prison she chances to meet a group of rat-riding pixies and earns their undying friendship by mending their clothes for them. In exchange, they help her to escape and seek refuge in the world below the capitol city. Living underground means Grizelda has to adapt to the strange customs of the goblins and the pixies who live there. The goblins are a cheerless bunch who storm around muttering about the dictatorship of the proletariat. The pixies prove to be irresponsible and delight in making destruction.

Not content to remain in exile, Grizelda defies the goblins’ wishes and becomes involved with a group of human revolutionaries. Their goal is to return the Republic to its original ideals, before it decayed. To that end they hatch a daring plan: to free all the government’s political prisoners. Grizelda enlists both goblins and pixies to help them. But when one of her fellow revolutionaries discovers Grizelda has magical powers of her own, he suspects her of having ties to the old monarchy. He will have to put aside his old prejudices if their plan is going to work.

Grizelda is complete at 70,000 words. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Greencat

Robin S. said...

Hi greencat,

I was hoping someone who actually knew what they were doing would come here and give you feedback.

Maybe you could ask EE to post a note saying you'd posted a revised query?

Anyway, my two cents is the new query is much better than the original, but I miss the voice you had in your response earlier, such as this:

"There once was a big, bad monarchy. The royals employed local sorcerers and sorceresses to help keep the people down. Eventually things reached a critical mass, people revolted, and set up a republic. A lot of the sorcerers were killed or sent into exile."

This kind of off-the-cuff description, is, I think, a hook of sorts, in itself, but it would depend on the sense of humor and attitude of your intended reader - which is a worry, I'm guessing.

Evil Editor said...

This is better, but it feels a bit long, so I've copied it below and then deleted a few words here and there.


The monarchs of Corvain had long employed local sorcerers to keep their subjects down. When the people revolted and set up a republic, they thought their troubles were over. But now, eleven years later, the leaders of the Republic are proving just as bad as the old monarchs. They’re rounding up anybody who might challenge them – including anybody with a hint of magical power. When Grizelda, a young seamstress, finds herself their target, she fears she is done for.

In prison she meets a group of rat-riding pixies and earns their undying friendship by mending their clothes. In exchange, they help her to escape and seek refuge in a world inhabited by goblins, a cheerless bunch who storm about muttering about the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Not content to remain in exile, Grizelda becomes involved with a group of human revolutionaries. Their goal is to return the Republic to its original ideals, before it decayed. To that end they hatch a daring plan: to free all the government’s political prisoners. But they can't do it alone, and it falls upon Grizelda to enlist both goblins and pixies to save Corvain.

Grizelda is a young adult fantasy novel, complete at 70,000 words. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience. Thank you.

Sincerely,

phoenix said...

I'm with Robin. The revision (and EE's excellent cut-down of it) is a better query, but it's missing the hook-y voice.

Now, a query doesn't HAVE to have voice, BUT in my (quite limited) experience, I've found it can give your work the edge out of the slush. I once had an agency reader comment in their agency newsletter about a query of mine that had some "voice" in it. The reader said the query's voice seemed perfect for a middle-grade work and it was refreshing to find that kind of a query in the slush and she was looking forward to reading the requested pages. Alas, those pages apparently didn't live up to the query's promise and they were ultimately rejected, BUT if the reader thought the query stood out on voice alone, then that must mean not many queries have voice and those that do are memorable. That's my take-away, at least.

So maybe one more time with voice! My gut says if you capture it just right, you'll have many requests for pages once this query goes out!

greencat said...

The story isn't exactly a comedy, so I don't want the query to be too breezy. How's this?

Dear Evil Editor:

The monarchs of Corvain had long employed local sorcerers and sorceresses to help keep their people down. When the people revolted and set up a republic, they thought their problems were over. But now, eleven years later, the leaders of the Republic of Corvain are proving just as bad as the old monarchs. They’re rounding up anybody who might challenge them – including anybody with a hint of magical power. When Grizelda, a young seamstress, finds herself their target, she fears she is done for.

In prison she meets a group of rat-riding pixies and earns their undying friendship by mending their clothes. In exchange, they help her to escape and seek refuge in the world below the capitol city. Living underground means Grizelda has to adapt to the strange customs of the goblins, a cheerless bunch who storm around muttering about the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Not content to remain in exile, Grizelda becomes involved with a group of human revolutionaries. Their goal is to return the Republic to its original ideals, before it decayed. To that end they hatch a daring plan: to free all the government’s political prisoners. If their plan is going to work, Grizelda will have to get Communist goblins, irresponsible pixies, and revolutionaries still deeply mistrustful of magic to work together.

Grizelda is a young adult fantasy novel, complete at 70,000 words. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Greencat

Anonymous said...

This is not what you intended to say: their target, she fears she is done for.

Done to a crisp like a turkey? Or like my golf game when I ask the foursome ahead "Are you don' fore?" so we can play through.

How about saying "thrown in prison and fearing for her life."

Anonymous said...

I like the last 2 paragraphs (in the last version).

The first paragraph puts me more in mind of a book report. How about something like this?

Elevator pitch: The French Revolution with magic, rat riding pixies, communist goblins and a seamstress heroine.

The monarchy of Corvain, and a lot of sorcerers’ lives, ended in a bloody revolution. Ten years later, the new Republic hasn’t faired any better. They're rounding up and shooting anybody who might challenge them, especially those with a hint of magical power. Grizelda, a young seamstress, finds herself their target.

Sarah