Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Face-Lift 576


Guess the Plot

The Paper Gods

1. The slaves known as the Paper Gods will be freed only when the evil Prince of the underground world of Submundi is dead. Prophesies describe the Prince's demise as death by Poetry. That's where high school student Poetry Wu comes in.

2. The Rock Gods and the Scissors Gods are engaged in a battle that threatens to destroy the Earth -- unless Mitch Mickley can summon the fabled Paper Gods and even up the game.

3. The Golden Gods, pagan idols from ancient times, had been melted down and the wealth redistributed. The Iron Gods were long gone – only the rusted-out carcasses remained, strewn about the confines of junk yards around the country. Now Paper Gods rule the Earth, befuddling the masses with their origami disguises. But Casey, a new-age orphan who recently discovered her druidic heritage, has a plan . . . and a book of matches.

4. When Trudy and Bud sit down to make Halloween monsters at Uncle Reginald's castle, they have no idea the crayons are charmed--until the monsters start demanding "candy," and breaking furniture. Can Trudy's paper Medusa save the sofa and vanquish these diabolical green vampire-dinosaur-kitten things before Uncle Reggie gets home?

5. Zack Runciman publishes the Daily News. Across town, his twin brother and rival Jack publishes the Daily Herald. When a drop in subscriptions makes it clear that there is market enough for only one paper, a circulation war erupts. How far is Zack willing to go to win?

6. Huff'n'Puff the dragon didn't find the Paper Gods much of a challenge, and the Stick Gods barely held out any longer. But he's a little concerned about the Brick Gods--how's he going to burn their house down?


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When a knife-wielding stalker reveals that Poetry Wu is prophecized [--cied] to free his people from magical slavery, Poetry has doubts. [That "his" sounds like it refers to Poetry, as we don't know yet whether Poetry is male or female (we assume from the name that it's a gay guy).] But her knack for weaseling her way out of problems is no match for her supernatural stalker. Though the last thing she wants to do is set him free, she winds up agreeing to murder the ruler of a shadowy land to help his cause. [That "his" sounds like it refers to the ruler of the shadowy land rather than the stalker.]

Poetry searches for a way to convince him she's no destined one. Instead, she stumbles into the world of Submundi, where she draws the attention of the Prince she is to kill.

[Prince: Well, hello there. Who are you?

Poetry: I'm Poetry.


Prince: I can see that, but what's your name?]


The forces of this eerie underland creep into her ordinary life. Soon she has to contend with missing memories and friends under mind control just to hand in her homework. [Apparently she has stumbled back out of Submundi. Why hasn't she ever stumbled into Submundi before?]

All Poetry wants to do is impress her artsy new classmates, get home for dinner on time, and make her stalker leave her alone. [Consider putting this sentence up front. As it is, we can't tell this is set in modern times on Earth until you mention homework. I thought we were in Isengard; turns out it's Schenectady.] But Poetry's involvement in Submundi goes back further than she realizes. When she discovers the terrible sacrifice she made to escape Submundi long ago, [Years ago? Or eons ago?] she must take on the Prince to make it right. [To make it right is vague. What are the stakes?]

The Paper Gods is a YA fantasy novel of 100,000 words. It is the first book in a planned trilogy, but can stand alone. [So the numerous fake plot writers who submitted rock, paper scissors plots were on to something, and The Rock Gods and The Scissors Gods are the next two books?]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

[Author's note, not part of query: The stalker and his fellow supernatural slaves are beings known as Paper Gods, hence the title The Paper Gods.]


Notes

Once we realize this is set in the modern world we are forced to question Poetry's agreeing to commit a murder. Why does she agree to this? Is she threatened? If the slaves believe she will free them, any threat to harm her would seem empty.

What constitutes being a slave? Usually slaves aren't permitted to roam into distant lands wielding knives and stalking girls. What are the Prionce's powers that allow him to enslave supernatural beings?

Who names their kid Poetry? I suppose it's better than Nonfiction. Does she have a twin brother named Prose?

27 comments:

Moth said...

I don't really like the name Poetry. 100K seems a trifle long for a debut YA. Usually more in the 75K range.

This reminds me of the Bluebird plot we had awhile ago. Girl gets sucked into magical world that she was actually from all along. Leads revolt/assassination whatever. Turns homework in on time. *yawn* Can we get some more about what makes this Kid getting sucked into another world different? Maybe play up the assasination and her reaction to it more?

Ulysses said...

Er... a debut YA novel of 100K words?

A tough sell, I would think.

Anonymous said...

Your name's poetry? Hey, that's great, 'cause I was just thinking how I'd really like to haiku.

writtenwyrdd said...

There's some good stuff here, but the letter isn't giving a good impression yet.

I would suggest that you have Poetry's name mean poetry in some other language. Even better, have her strange name Zplyxatti mean poetry in submundi. Or give her a chinese name meaning poetry, such as Jiushi. (see wikipedia) You'd even have a built-in annoying nickname "Juicy" for her! How cool is that?

At any rate, I totally agree with EE's suggestion that you begin with "All Poetry wants to do is impress her artsy new classmates, get home for dinner on time, and make her stalker leave her alone."

And I don't think "magical slavery" works. Is their magic enslaved or are they enslaved by magic? It could be either because this is a query for a fantasy.

I'd also clarify the conflict and what's at stake. You mention "supernatural stalker" and "knife-weilding stalker" but you don't give us any conflict involving this stalker except to say he IS one.

I like the idea of a magical stalker and a destiny to save another land (it's a story that will definitely appeal in a YA novel when done well) but the implication of the Rock, Paper, Scissors game that I can't help but get makes me skeptical. So you might want to be very careful to be clear about this aspect of the story.

Best of luck on it. I hope you post a revision to this for us to look at.

pulp said...

I had trouble following the plot, in part because of the pronouns in several sentences. Also, I thought "homework" was a humorous metaphor, but it turns out it's meant literally; this didn't look like a contemporary high school setting.

To make it clearer, simply write a detailed plot and character analysis in 150 words, and prove that your novel is unique and compelling without saying so, all while avoiding every possible instance of misapprehension and vagueness. No biggie.

Good luck and thanks for sharing your query.

BuffySquirrel said...

I have no idea what's going on here.

Dave F. said...

Your opening line that ends with "Poetry has doubts" is hardly a catchy zinger. IT promises much and then delivers a big yawn. "Doubts" are such amorphous, fuzzy things. Not exciting.

I agree with EE when he says that the line that opens one of the subsequent paragraphs is better:
All Poetry wants to do is impress her artsy new classmates, get home for dinner on time, and make her stalker leave her alone. This puts Poetry in high school, introduces her world of artys classmates and establishes a problem - a stalker.

Then you might continue with the thought that "to save herself," Poetry has to enter a magical realm and do something (I can't figure out what). While Poetry does battle with the dark forces of the magical realm, she discovers who she is and how she came to the real world. (please don't write that last sentence or anything like it. Explain what all the ambiguity I put in it means.)

If she really is the reincarnated ruler of the magical realm, then you need to say that and explain why she was sent to earth to grow up as a human. (in one or two sentences BTW) SUMTHIN like:
"Peter discovered his past life as Saturn's Jack the Ripper and his banishment to the Earth to gain enough Karma to rejoin the angels."

Let me make one more comment, Tolkein posited that Frodo could not live a normal life after having been ring bearer. Does Poetry return to teeny-bopper childhood, boy bands, Hanna Montana and high school romances? If so, why?

Anonymous said...

Her name is Poetry and she wants to impress her artsy new friends. How convenient.

Anonymous said...

Prose was cumbersome, plot line wasn't very clear.

pacatrue said...

Yeah, too much taken for granted for the non-initiate to follow. Poetry is such an odd name that I decided this must be some sort of Chinese-inspired (because of the sirname Wu) fantasy world where "shi" (Chinese for 'poem') is a fine female name, but then it got translated to "Poetry" like people used to translate Chinese novels using names like "Lotus Blossom" talking to "Shining Jade", which is kind of like George talking to Leticia being translated as "Farmer" talking to "Happiness".

Of course, that's all completely wrong as I realized by paragraph 2 or so. But I only ended up coming up with stupid guesses like this in the first paragraph because the world wasn't set by the query writer at the beginning.

As others have said, rewrite starting with the protagonist in her world and then move into what happens to her. This will anchor us for the query.

Phoenix said...

I certainly agree with others that the premise here needs better setup and more specifics.

All we know as readers is that the guy wielding the knife is asking a teenage girl to commit murder. You've hinted there may be something more about her than her being a normal teen, but without that who, what and why answered, it's all kind of meaningless.

And, unless the Paper Gods are somehow derivative of the Roman Gods, using the Latin submundi for the name of their underworld world just makes my head ache. Sorry.

Also, as you write, keep in mind cause and result -- i.e., the logic of your sentences. Soon she has to contend with missing memories and friends under mind control just to hand in her homework. On reading that, I picture Poetry having to remember where she put her textbook and then dodging friends who are trying to trip her as, clutching her finished homework tight, she makes her way from her chair to the teacher's desk. I hope that isn't what this sentence really means.

Take some time, then post your rewrite. It takes most of us a few tries to get it right.

talpianna said...

I'm afraid it didn't grab me, either. And it's impossible, with what you've given us, to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Dave, a quibble: Isn't the real reason Frodo can't lead a normal life because of the magical wounds he's received from the Nazgul, Shelob, etc., which never do stop hurting? Sam, who also bore the Ring for a while, has no problem leading a normal life in the Shire.

benwah said...

I agree with the squirrel.

The bit about this girl (teenager?) wanting to impress her artsy new classmates is completely at odds with her blithe decision to murder someone she doesn't even know.

Anonymous said...

"Isn't the real reason Frodo can't lead a normal life because of the magical wounds he's received from the Nazgul, Shelob, etc., which never do stop hurting? Sam, who also bore the Ring for a while, has no problem leading a normal life in the Shire."

I always kind of thought it was a combo of both. By the end Frodo was physically and emotionally damaged beyond his ability to cope.

Jeb said...

"To make it clearer, simply write a detailed plot and character analysis in 150 words, and prove that your novel is unique and compelling without saying so, all while avoiding every possible instance of misapprehension and vagueness. No biggie."

Brilliant!!!!!

BuffySquirrel said...

Sam is impervious to the ring, though.

benwah said...

Anonymous 3.45 - Are you referring to other characters? Perhaps those are Poetry's artsy friends.

BuffySquirrel said...

How about Poesy? It means the same as Poetry, but sounds more like a woman's name--not far from Posy, in fact.

batgirl said...

I dunno, I like the name Poetry. But I know a girl from Taiwan whose English name is Fantasy.
-Barbara

Lianne said...

Thanks, Evil Editor and minions, for all your comments. They're not fun to get, but they are extremely helpful.

On the other hand, the plots are hilarious - I'd pay to read #3!

Like all people with characters named Poetry or Sunspire or Melliflua Effervescence, I'm convinced that the name is justified and not too annoying in context, so I hope you'll be willing to look past it to comment on my revised query, coming soon.

Again, thanks!

150 said...

Melliflua Effervescence

You're going to fit in here just fine. :)

Lianne said...

And here's the revision. I'd appreciate any comments. Thanks very much!

Apart from her name, Poetry Wu is an ordinary teenage girl; a class clown and a coward. All she wants is to impress her artsy new classmates, keep them away from her embarrassing childhood friends, and evade her knife-wielding stalker.

Her stalker, Aulus, drags Poetry through the cracks of the ordinary world to the land of Submundi. In this dreamlike ancient China, a promise is an unbreakable binding and Latin rituals are imbued with great power. Still greater is the magic of Aulus and others like him, beings called the Paper Gods that have been enslaved by Submundi's rulers for centuries. The Paper Gods are certain that Poetry is the one prophesied to lead them to freedom. Their reasoning is dubious, and the justice of their cause even more so; to the Paper Gods, slaughtering innocents is half the fun of freedom. Is it any wonder Poetry just wants to escape back to the real world?

Yet the forces of Submundi keep creeping into Poetry's life. The Prince of Submundi has no scruples about magically controlling her friends’ minds. Worse still, Poetry discovers that her own brother is a prisoner in Submundi, and his very existence had been erased from her memories. To save her brother and her friends, Poetry must summon her limited courage, take up the cause of the Paper Gods, and take on the Prince. Poetry is sure she's not the Paper Gods' hero - but if she's wrong, her final confrontation with the Prince could fulfill the prophecy and destroy both worlds.

chelsea said...

First off, nice work!

Your second and third paragraphs are more concise in this version, and give a clearer picture of the plot and the stakes. The difference between Poetry's normal high school world and the other world are made much clearer as well. The only issue I have with them is HOW Poetry gets back to the real world - you just tell us that she WANTS to. Maybe the third paragraph could say, But even when Poetry manages to evade her stalker and slip back into the real world, the forces of Submundi keep creeping into her life.

But those two paragraphs are good, and I think with a little tweaking, you will have success. The only thing I would really change is the first paragraph. I know people took issue with Poetry's name, but if you want to keep it, you don't have to draw attention to it. Also, she ISN'T a normal teenage girl. She has a stalker, and an affiliation with another world. She's far from normal. Maybe you could start with something like:

Aside from her stalker, Poetry Wu is a normal teenage girl. All she wants is to impress her artsy new classmates, keep them away from her embarrassing childhood friends, and stay alive.

Cut to paragraph two.

Or something like that. Another option would be to say:

Poetry Wu believes she is a normal teenage girl, but when she learns she has a knife wielding stalker from the otherworld Submundi, her chance at normal slips through the cracks.

Just some ideas. Of course, what I didn't like, someone else will, so keep that in mind.

writtenwyrdd said...

Overall much more clear and cohesive.

Three things stuck out like sore thumbs to me:

childhood friends: You have a character in high school who is a child. Perhaps say 'grade school friends' instead.

her stalker: You apparently love this term, but the describtion belies that word choice. He might stalk her at the beginning, but he's a major character who isn't faceless and nameless like a stalker would be.

limited courage: omit limited, sounds like you are promising a feeble heroine.

Jeb said...

I agree with Chelsea's praise of the second and third paragraphs. The weakness, which is minimal, is in the first, which is a bit wordy for the amount of information it conveys. The childhood friends aren't important to the plot, so lose them.

Apart from her name, Poetry Wu is an ordinary teenage girl, worried about impressing her artsy new classmates. Until a knife-wielding stalker appears.


Otherwise, very nice work. I followed the plot easily and would read pages.

Lianne said...

Again, thank you all for your comments. It's heartening to know the query's improving, and I'll continue to work on it. This blog and all the people on it are really an amazing resource. Cheers!

batgirl said...

Just a thought - Poetry wants to make herself over, right? To impress her new classmates and become popular. So that sort of proceeds into it being more of a makeover and more popularity than she wants, right into another world where she's popular among psychopathic demigods.
Maybe you could tie her two worlds together in that way, in the query.
Minor point - you may not need to say the justice of their cause is dubious. If the cause is dubious, it means pretty much the same.
-Barbara