Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Face-Lift 563


Guess the Plot

Flowers of Peshavar

1. Peshavar has always dreamed of opening his own telemarketing business in New Delhi, and is thrilled when his first customer, a flower shop in Sheboygan, gives him business. However, flowers aren't the only thing blooming, and he finds himself falling deeper and deeper in love with Miss Kristen, the flower shop's owner.

2. It's said that Peshavar grows flowers with a scent so potent it drives all who smell it insane with lust. Can Bay "Farting" Fargas get some of those petals for himself, or will he spread only his own 'perfume'?

3. Abducted as a child and drafted into the KGB, Peshavar’s only memory from her early life is wandering a field of daisies with her mother. Now a reluctant assassin for the government that kidnapped her, she escapes to return to her hometown and the field of flowers where her innocence died.

4. A rose, a violet and a marigold, the last of the Sentient Flowers, embark on a quest. Together they must overcome their differences, discover their magical powers, and fulfill an ancient prophecy by ridding Peshavar of its evil human invaders.

5. Sent east, the flowers of Peshavar impassion hearts. Sent west, hearts are turned stony. Sent north, the flowers bring love to mind, and to the south, power. Will Morthane Bora use his inherited flower shop, the only one of it kind, to win Aleshia? Or the throne?

6. Lea is sent to the planet Peshavar, where all the women have flower names, to find out who's selling secrets to to the rival Casseopeans. Can she prevent the Cold War from erupting into interplanetary disaster?


Original Verson

Dear Evil Editor,

Flowers of Peshavar is a 120,000 word science fiction novel.

Failing to play well with others isn't a big problem for an Imperial Agent. Bodyguards work with one person at a time, spies can manage alone, and assassins don't need good people skills. Lea's latest assignment comes with a warning: learn to keep her temper or all her missions will be solo ones. As a test, Lea's boss sends her to Peshavar, a mining planet run by two people and hundreds of robots. Two people shouldn't be a problem. [One person shouldn't be a problem. Two people are always a problem.] [Are they running the planet, or the mining facilities? I mean, even if Earth were nothing but a mining planet, it's hard to envision two people running the whole planet. And while hundreds of robots is a lot in one factory, let's see what it amounts to on a planet:

While the robots mining Liechtenstein are sitting pretty, how long do you think the Russian robots are going to put up with this? And that's just for a planet the size of Earth. Imagine what it's like on Peshavar, which is the size of Uranus!] [By the way, word is, it's impossible to find any species in the galaxy willing to explore Uranus.]

She just has to find out who's selling military secrets to the Empire's enemies without losing her temper -- secrets that originated on Peshavar. [It doesn't matter where they originated, now that Peshavar has the Internet. By now everyone in the universe knows.] The engineer who runs the planet is either victim or conspirator; Lea needs to find out which without killing his bodyguard. [Or, more likely, getting killed by his bodyguard. It's a pretty lousy bodyguard who lets the new person on the planet anywhere near the central offices.] Then there's the handsome Cassiopean ambassador whose rival government suspiciously got their hands on Imperial supplies. If he weren't on the wrong side of a cold war, he'd be one of the good guys.

Thank you for your time in considering my submission,

[Author's note: The women on the planet Peshavar have floral names. The bodyguard is Chrysanthemum, the late wife is Lily, daughter is Rosa.]


Notes

I don't get the point of the first two sentences. Is Lea an Imperial Agent? A spy, assassin or bodyguard? If so, she doesn't need people skills, and now she's being sent on a solo mission, so why is she being warned to keep her temper? And why is she being theatened with working solo, if she has a job that normally works solo anyway? I would just open with:

Imperial Agent Lea Lastname'a latest assignment has her on Peshavar, a mining planet run by two people and hundreds of robots. Her mission: find out--without losing her notorious temper --who's selling military secrets to the Empire's enemies.

Now there's plenty of room to tell us about the suspects, motives, Cold War issues, etc. That's what we really wanted to know all along.

39 comments:

ChrisEldin said...

I'm a big fan of a small cast of characters, but I found myself wanting to go through EE's Shorts for a few characters you could use.

Anonymous said...

The title, for me, was highly misleading. Peshavar? One letter off from Peshawar? The remote region of Pakistan??? Once you add flowers to the title, I thought we were dealing with a Kite Runner kind of thing.

December/Stacia said...

[By the way, word is, it's impossible to find any species in the galaxy willing to explore Uranus.]


Actually, EE, in my experience men seem really, really interested in this. It's kind of a Big Deal for them. *shrug*

Ditto your questions. I really liked the line about assassins not needing people skills, but as soon as Lea is told she has to control her temper or she'll have to work alone, the line stopped making sense and started to feel like something in there because the author thought it was clever and not because it actually had anything to do with the story.

And I'd like to know what the actual story is. Lea goes to Peshavar to find out if the engineer is stealing/selling secrets. And then what? Does she discover the conspiracy stretches much further than she'd thought? Is her life in danger? What happens? Something has to deepen the story; this is a set-up but where's the real conflict?

Anonymous said...

I also wondered about the similarity between Peshavr and Peshawar, and I am also a bit wary of the apparent device of the women having flower names. Are they pollinated by some strange space creature? I actually thought the first two lines sounded like a decent hook, but when I read that Evil didn't like, I too began to dislike them. I don't mean to be harsh,(if I have)and this type of book isn't really my type of book, and there seems to be a lot (120,000!)of it.

Loved the chart EE! and your many blue words!!!

Meri

BuffySquirrel said...

Why is it important that she doesn't kill the bodyguard?

pacatrue said...

EE and December dealt with the substantive stuff. Along with EE's point about hundreds of robots for an entire planet, I also wondered how long the flower name thing could be maintained. I'm probably good for naming about 10 flowers myself, then I'm out. Sounds a bit gimmicky UNLESS you make it part of a coherent linguistic culture. A couple ways to do so: 1) There are a set number of first names on the planet which are inherited by children in some manner. This would be similar to the Chinese tradition where, my numbers are not going to be exact here, but something like 98% of people share about 100 surnames. Or 2) in some other way, the first flower name means something, or has a reason. In both situations, there will be some other cultural or social support system allowing for a small number of names to work.

Dave F. said...

An Imperial Agent is what the French call, an agent provocateur. I would think that a bad temper would result in high body counts and bosses that didn't like cleaning up THAT mess of wreckage and dead bodies she left behind.

I was puzzled wen you said that Peshavar had two people and the rest robots. Then you went on to describe more than two people. That's a confusing factor in the query. If the other people are diplomatic missions, then this isn't a "one man mission"...

Have you created a character such as "R. Daneel Oliva"? ? ? ? That would be interesting and if the robot was a significant part of the plot, then it might deserve mention.

Another oddity that makes me afraid to ask for clarification is the "leader/bodyguard" duo. There's only two humans on the planet (Is that right or wrong?) and one is the leader the other the bodyguard - they aren't man and wife? Romance comes to mind and maybe I just want to say, I'm confused.

Evil Editor said...

Two people and the robots run the planet. The women with flower names are there to service the . . . robots.

BuffySquirrel said...

Rose, Begonia, Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, Daffodil, Tulip, Forget-Me-Not, Daisy, Dandelion, Buttercup, Cowslip, Oxlip, Primula, Primrose, Violet, Vetch, Bugle, Mallow, Crocus, Snowdrop, Lily-of-the-Valley, Bluebell, Harebell....

*drivels on and on*

How to Party with an Infant said...

Wow. I don't envy your slush pile

Dave F. said...

Do duh name Ruby Begonia mean anything to ya?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the bad guys could have weed names: Rush Flox, Touch-me-not Bloodroot, Thistle Trumpetcreeper. Nah, they'd kick the flowers' stalks by intimidation alone.

Please start with EE's beginning. The bodyguard sticks out like a buttercup in a field a weeds. If s/he has a role worth mentioning early in the query, there should be some explanation.

--Bill H.

Adam Heine said...

The whole thing about Lea's temper makes an otherwise cool and serious plot seem a little silly. Like the difference between the Bourne Identity and Miss Congeniality.

The girl's-names-as-flowers makes for a cool title, but seems lame when interjected in a straightforward manner. If you can't think of a subtle way to throw it into the query, then don't mention it.

EE's (and other's) comments about an entire planet that is (a) entirely devoted to mining and (b) populated entirely by 2 people needs some scientific backup in order to be credible. Does it need that backup in the query? Maybe a little, but not too much. Better if you can avoid mentioning those questionable facts at all.

talpianna said...

All mining planets should be run entirely by moles.

---Venus S. Flytrap

blogless troll said...

My favorite plant name is Bastard Toadflax. That'd make a cool bad guy. If we're naming them plant names, I mean.

Also, no matter how many times it gets used, Uranus is always funny.

writtenwyrdd said...

The query beginning was annoying to me, and not because EE didn't care for it; it was because you took an arresting if not great first sentence and then sabotaged it by bringing in bodyguards and what not.

Ditto on the letter needing the story and not set up. And although the situation might be really great, the 120K makes me wonder if the story can carry that volume of prose.

The thought that occurred to me strongest as I read this was if it had to be a science fiction story to tell the tale. Seems like Grisham or LeCarre might use the same plot, different settings. So make sure the letter makes it clear that this is science fiction in the elements you share.

Good luck in the rewrite of the letter.

Megoblocks said...

Ok, so there's 2 people on the mining planet, right? One of them is either a victim or a conspirator... doesn't that automatically make #2 guilty? That is, its either bloke #2, or blokes #1&2. Somehow, if real secrets were being leaked, I think any gov't (especially The Empire(TM)) would just snatch both up. And why does she have to play nice cop?

Just a few Qs I had that really would have helped me when reading.

Evil Editor said...

The girl's-names-as-flowers makes for a cool title, but seems lame when interjected in a straightforward manner. If you can't think of a subtle way to throw it into the query, then don't mention it.

Actually, she didn't mention it. It was mentioned in a note to me, which I put after the query to show where I got the information in my Guess the Plot.

jill said...

Author here -

Thank you EE and minions! Knowing how much world building to put into a query has been a struggle. Imperial Agents are spies/assassins/bodyguards/investigators that work for the Emperor. Lea's in a cadre of twelve agents and within the cadre she has a reputation for a quick temper that gets her into trouble with her teammates. They've trained together since late childhood and live together in a family-like setting so being away from them indefinitely is a punishment of sorts. The story opens with her presenting herself as a gift to the engineer from the Emperor.

The planet Peshavar (and thanks, anonymous, I hadn't found the similarity with the region in Pakistan on my internet searches - I'll come up with another name for the planet that won't create the wrong connotation!) is nearly uninhabitable. It has barely any atmosphere and toxic solar radiation. The 'secret' is an ore the Empire uses to make shielding for their spaceship engines that protects them from ship-crippling electro-magnetic pulse weapon. People on the planet live in one double-domed mansion and they send the robots out to mine the ore. Moles wouldn't survive out there either.

jill said...

December/Stacia, you may be right - I was trying to come up with something clever with that first sentence and it may be backfiring. On my last edit pass, I did try to strengthen those elements.

Less cleverness on the next version of the query!

jill said...

The characters don't stay on Peshavar, lots more characters make appearances - other agents, the ambassador, a thuggish raider, relatives of the engineer, and a host of minor characters. The flower names are a whim of the engineer - his first wife was named Lillian so he gave his daughters floral names.

Buffy, thanks for the additional flower names. I used Lillian, Rosarra, Azalea, and Soralla (that wife didn't like the flower motif, so he based it on the herb wood sorrel) but resorted to tweaking the latin name of a poisonous plant for Lea's alias. The bodyguard's name was lengthened from Chrys to Chrysanthemum.

Dave, the leader and bodyguard aren't romantically involved; he's older and has had three wives. Lea poses as his lover when they travel to the Empire's main planet.

Usman said...

Yep, another Peshaver victime here.
I thought of Peshawar too, which in my case is 200 miles, from where I live.

pacatrue said...

I think there's two people who run the planet, not two people on the planet. After all, at least three women are mentioned in the little title note. Obviously, an ambiguity to fix.

BuffySquirrel said...

Either there are more than two people on Peshavar or the engineer and "his" bodyguard are actually women. Also, one of them is doubling as the ambassador.

Dave F. said...

Dave, the leader and bodyguard aren't romantically involved; he's older and has had three wives. Lea poses as his lover when they travel to the Empire's main planet.

Jill, That would mean that there is some diplomatic meeting or convention or investigation on the planet and that the human population is more than two people.

You said: Lea's boss sends her to Peshavar, a mining planet run by two people and hundreds of robots. Two people shouldn't be a problem.
which is misleading. The planet has a small population of humans -- of whom are two engineers (I picked a name for their job) who run thousands of mining robots, and their families stay elsewhere? OR there are boydguards. Maybe a 2-person planet isn't what you want to say in the query. Maybe you want to say there are only two suspects on the planet. Or are there three suspects because one of the robots is defecting for more oil and enhanced computer ships?

Anonymous said...

Is the use of flower names supposed to be symbolic? Like if there is a Lily is she virginal? Because that might get a little cutesy.

Whirlochre said...

Late in, and most things seem to have been covered.

I'm wondering about the italicised footnote. Most queries seem to pan out to 800 or so words before being deemed too lengthy and I'm not sure so short a piece of text can withstand a footnote. If it's important, stick it in the main body of the text.

Nice opening lines.

Evil Editor said...

Once again, the footnote is from EE, explaining where the title came from, so readers don't think I made up the flower part in the correct GTP.

jill said...

No, there really were only two people on the planet before Lea arrived, the mining engineer and his bodyguard/assistant. They travel to the Empire's main planet a couple of times in the course of the book.

The ex-wives and adult children no longer live on the planet (too lonely) but visit from time to time.

I'll get to work on a revised query and post it here if I may.

thanks again everyone!

jill said...

revision: I'm still working on a new name for the planet. I tried to eliminate the misleading bits and add more information. Hopefully, I didn't make it worse!

Imperial Agent Lea's latest assignment has her on Peshavar, a mining planet run by two people and hundreds of robots. Her mission: find out how the mined ore, critical to the military, are getting to the United Worlds of Cassiopeia, fueling already strained relations between the two superpowers. The Arrillian Emperor sent her as a gift to the engineer who runs operations on Pershavar; she still has contact with her handler, but worries about ever getting home.

The Cassiopeans claim they've found another source of the rare ore; experts in the empire are skeptical. The refinery records show matching quantities incoming and shipped to the Fleet shipyards and the Fleet accounts for all they received. Lea doesn't want to believe the engineer is behind the missing ore; he's always had the Emperor's trust before. They travel to Arrillus where Lea investigates the refineries records and finds suspects in the refinery, in the Cassiopean embassy, on a mining station outside Imperial space, and within the engineer's own family.

talpianna said...

Hint to Jill: Look up names of minerals, especially rare ones, and you'll probably find one you can tweak a bit to use as the name of your planet.

Phoenix said...

Hi Jill:

Regarding your revise...
I think you're still a bit close to the story. YOU know who your characters are and what motivates them, but the reader is clueless going into your query, right? So:

...between the two superpowers - I have no idea who these superpowers are and, having strained relations right after talking about United Worlds, makes that description even more oblique. I'm thinking Peshavar, with just two humans, can't be a superpower but it and the UWC are the only political bodies you've clearly discussed.

The Arrillian Emperor - sorry, don't know who s/he is either or what they're emperor of and who they're not emperor over. Is the emperor also Lea's handler?

I'm assuming the sending her as a gift is a ruse, but I had to think too hard to come up with that. And why does she worry about ever getting home? She's an agent on a mission - isn't this assignment the kind of thing she signed up for? And since no obstacles or threats have been hinted at, I'm thinking twice about the character of Lea. Wussy agents are a bit of a turnoff - unless you can sell the character big time on personality and uniqueness (like wussy Detective Monk).

So I'm working really hard again at the beginning of P2 to understand that maybe the the superpowers are UWC and the, um, empire? No name for the empire? Kind of like the Star Wars empire?

shipped to the Fleet shipyards - whose Fleet? UWC's? The empires? I'm lost again.

missing ore - Now I'm really lost. Missing from Peshavar? If the refinery records match and UWC has ore, then it seems the problem is an unexplained net gain. Maybe "allegedly missing ore"?

Lea doesn't want to believe the engineer is behind the missing ore; he's always had the Emperor's trust before. - motivation here is really not clear; I'm assuming the emperor sent Lea to Peshavar to investigate, so with only two people on the planet, I'm making the leap that the emperor was already not trusting the engineer. Or did the robots do it? (Tell me it's not the robots. Please.)

They travel - Lea and the engineer?

Lea investigates the refineries records - stretching credibility here. An agent examines records and finds suspects everywhere when apparently the experts examining the records didn't find anything?

Also, I can't tell what the main thrust of the story is. Is it techno-political? A kick-butt adventure? A mystery?

What's really missing here is tension. I'm afraid I'm left with the feeling, "So what?" You haven't made me care about the UWC or the empire or whether one of the two political bodies gains power. Lea is a wussy agent whose biggest contribution to the cold war appears to be looking at refinery records. Yawn. And the engineer is nothing more than a cardboard title in the query. No personalities + no obstacles + no consequences = no interest on the reader's part.

How about something more like:

Failing to play well with others usually isn't a big problem for an Imperial Agent. For Agent Lea, however, stuck on an inhospitable mining planet with only two other people and a few hundred robots, not playing by the rules just might get her killed.

In "Beetelgeuse Ore Bust," my politico science fiction novel, two superpowers are on the verge of galactic war when a reserve of rare ore critical to the Arrillian Empire's pulse weaponry program turns up on one of the United Worlds of Cassiopeia. Suspicion immediately centers on a tiny, politically neutral planet where the ore is mined, and the Arrillian emperor dispatches Agent Lea to investigate, presenting her as a "goodwill gift" to the engineer running the planet.

Short-tempered and a loner, Lea meets her match in the older, headstrong engineer, and their politic dance as she attempts to uncover the truth leaves her not only reinvigorated about humanity, but questioning whether he's indeed a Cass sympathizer.

After a series of "accidents" nearly cuts her investigation short, Lea discovers discrepancies in the refinery records - and her list of supects grows. Can she stop the smuggling before both sides turn up the heat on their cold war?

I look forward to sending you the completed 120K-word manuscript.

BuffySquirrel said...

Now it reads more like a synopsis than a query.

How did Snarky put it?

X is the main guy; he wants to do:
Y is the bad guy; he wants to do:
they meet at Z and all L breaks loose.
If they don't solve Q, then R starts and if they do it's L squared.

jill said...

Thanks, Talpiana for the suggestion. In the story, the planet and the mineral are named by the 'wildcat' miner who discovered them - he names the planet after his ship (which in turn is named after his mother) and the mineral after himself. Since I'm going for a multicultural mix of names in the distant future, I have a lot of choices to pick from.

jill said...

thanks, Buffy. I really need to write my queries first, to Miss Snark's formula, then write the novel. Sigh. Either my plots are weak or too convoluted to fit to a formula.

jill said...

thanks, Phoenix. I am too close to it. Even after working on three other novels.

I like to think it's a 'kick-butt adventure' but I probably go overboard on 'shades of grey' instead of having a clear-cut evil villain. Relations between the 'superpowers' are strained, raiders along the borders are a more immediate threat.

jill said...

any better?

Imperial agent Lea is sent to an uninhabitable planet with an unexplained mission. Her handler, Bosk, sent her as a gift from the Emperor to Eduardo, the mining engineer and senator who runs operations from a domed mansion on the airless planet Peshavar. Having Bosk still speaking to her from her aural implant keeps her hopeful that she'll return to her teammates in the cadre someday, but her recent behavior there worries her that this assignment might be permanent. Proving she could keep her temper might work in her favor. Eduardo's bodyguard, Chrysanthemum won't make it easy; she doesn't want Lea there and baits her at every turn.

Bosk did say she could investigate rumors that the mineral mallusium, mined only on Peshavar and an essential component in Imperial spaceships, had been sold to the Arrillian Empire's neighbor in space, the United Worlds of Cassiopeia. Relations between the two have been tense since the colonists of the planet Dar seceded from the UWC and joined the empire. Lea travels from Peshavar to Arrillus to far-flung mining space stations in her search and works with Chrys, Eduardo's various adult children, a handsome Cassiopean ambassador, and a raider running a mining consortium.

masha said...

I think use of the word temper may be throwing off your query. That word sets us up for a screwball sort of woman, which isn't what your character seems to be.

Also the last sentence of the query feels a bit off.

I suggest something more like:

After a falling out with her teammates, Imperial agent Lea is sent to an uninhabitable planet with an unexplained mission. Her handler, Bosk, sent her as a gift from the Emperor to Eduardo, the mining engineer and senator who runs operations from a domed mansion on the airless planet Peshavar. Having Bosk still speaking to her from her aural implant keeps her hopeful that she'll return to her teammates in the cadre someday, but not knowing what her goal is has her worried this assignment might be permanent.

Bosk did say she could investigate rumors that the mineral mallusium, mined only on Peshavar and an essential component in Imperial spaceships, had been sold to the Arrillian Empire's neighbor in space, the United Worlds of Cassiopeia. Relations between the two have been tense since the colonists of the planet Dar seceded from the UWC and joined the empire. As Lea travels from Peshavar to Arrillus to far-flung mining space stations in her search, she finds that nothing is simple in interplanetary relations.

The second part of the last sentence is really vague because I don't know your book. But I think that the list of characters she'll meet was unnecessary and looked clunky. I think it might be more helpful to get a sense of the politics of the situation, rather than the people, since it seems likely that this is what she's going to be investigating and the people are there to help her through it.

Hope this helps.

jill said...

thanks Masha! That does help.