Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Face-Lift 578


Guess the Plot

The Last Changeling

1. Elora is the last of her kind. Fearing for her life after leading the revolution against the royal court, she leaves the Faerie kingdom in search of peace and healing. But she ends up in the world of humans, and enrolled in high school. This is an improvement?.

2. Lucy has no idea Faerie is suffering from a catastrophic fall in its birthrate until a small, pixie-faced nursling is shoved into her arms with a whispered, "Look after him, for all our sakes--he's the last one!". But does a nine-year-old have what it takes to raise . . . The Last Changeling?

3. Alanka is thrilled to be working at Twilight, the preeminent nursery in the Faerie Kingdom. But the boy they've just stolen from his parents is definitely not human. Dogs are talking, food's coming to life . . . What's a naive sorceress-turned-nanny to do?

4. The epidemic is terrorizing the nation ... sort of. Kids go online and become responsible, respectful, even pious. Mitch, a dedicated hacker and slacker, stumbles on the source of this mind-altering virus. But can he fix it before the FBI, not to mention the nation's parents, stop him for good?

5. 6000 hopefuls left to colonize distant planets and disappeared without a trace. Adam Walker, a war hero, widower, and secret drunk, agrees to become a Changeling, his body modified to survive interstellar travel. He sets out on a lonely, dangerous search for the colonists. He finds them--and something else that changes everything.

6. The elves are nearly gone from the world now, but Ethelbert believes he's a changeling, the child of elvish blood swapped for a dying human. No one else believes him--not even his friends, Naff and Jellwyn--until a mysterious tinker kidnaps the boys, taking them into the faerie mound, and only Ethelbert's newfound abilities can see them home again.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Elora lives in a world where iron sickness has rendered the faerie folk infertile. She is the last faerie ever to be born, the youngest daughter of the Unseelie King and Queen, and she has just led the common fey in a revolution that disbanded the royal faerie courts. Fearing for her life, she embarks on a journey across the Faerie lands, in search of magic that can heal her people and unite her world. [Which people is she trying to unite? The common fey and the royals? The Seelie and Unseelie? What was the point of the revolution? If it succeeded, she should be hailed as the leader, not run out of town.]

In The Last Changeling, an 85,000-word YA urban fantasy, Elora travels to the edge of the human world and beyond, enrolling in a high school [You can't get much farther beyond the human world than a high school.] and attempting to pass as a teenage girl. But mimicking human behavior is complicated, [Tell me about it. I've never managed to pull it off.] and Elora quickly becomes entangled in sordid school politics, ["Sordid" is a pretty strong adjective for school politics. It should be reserved for serial killers who eat their victims and national politics.] unexpected allegiances and forbidden love. When the time comes to return to Faerie, she finds herself torn between two worlds, dedicated to finding resolution in each. Then she realizes the answer lies in the connection between them.

I have a degree in English Literature and the magazines Illumen (October 2006) and Sounds of the Night (August 2007) have published my writing. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


Notes

I was willing to buy into the common fey choosing to follow the daughter of the Unseelie King and Queen rather than one of their own, and I was willing to buy into a teenager being the leader of this revolution, but a new kid who has trouble acting human gaining even a small amount of acceptance at a high school? I don't think so.

I've always wondered why the Unseelie couldn't come up with a better name. I mean, when the British started colonizing America they didn't call themselves the Unenglish.

Is most of the book set in the high school? If so, you might want to open with a brief mention of the Faerie part: Fleeing assassins in the kingdoms of Faerie, Elora, the last Changeling, takes refuge in the world of humans, and enrolls in Springfield High School. Then work in a couple key characters (including the villain), and the conflict and the stakes. If the book is half Faerie, half high school, it feels like two books, as there'll be a different set of characters in each part. In which case maybe Elora should have a sidekick, someone to talk about Faerie with.

44 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

This is confusing without knowing more specific details. (Basically, what EE said.) What really threw me was "She is the last faerie ever to be born" which means no other fairies will ever be born, so she's the last of them. I don't think that's what you meant, though.

My assumption is that her real quest is seeking a way to heal her people by reversing the iron sickness. But I don't see how hiding with humans is relevant. Seems like the story would likely begin as she comes out of hiding to reunite her people.

I'd love to see another version of this letter with the plot and motivation clarified.

I also liked plot #5 a lot.

BuffySquirrel said...

She's not a changeling, though, which confuses me muchly.

batgirl said...

I want to read #5. I bet Baen Books would publish it, too.

The Fae at high school conceit could be a lot of fun. But as writtenwyrd said, the plot needs to be clarified. I know space is limited in a query summary, but I'd like to know something about the other characters.
-Barbara

Jeb said...

If she is sufficiently politically savvy to lead a successful revolution against immortal beings with thousands of years of practice at political savagery, high school will be no challenge.

Better to start with her struggles in high school, and then show her using the knowledge gained to overthrow the established order in Faerie.

Jeb said...

Also, Ellora (2 l's) is half the title of a well-known erotic fiction site (Ellora's Cave). Are you sure you want to associate your sweet, well-intentioned Fae heroine with a bunch of women getting sweaty over everything from hot human guys to chill vampires?

Adam Heine said...

Dang, I liked plot #5 a lot too. I was really hoping that'd be the real one.

Can somebody write that novel please? I'll pre-order a copy right now.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping it was #6.

The magical-teen-in-school theme doesn't seem especially "fresh and original". Blame it on Harry Potter. Magical teen students who must save their kind from evil have become as much a genre item as the hard-boiled detectives of yesteryear were. So yeah, you might want to say more to distinguish your story from the 600 other magical-teen-in-school pitches the agent will read this year.

Julie Weathers said...

EE's comments were spot on as usual, but I had another problem. If she is the last faerie born and born to the royal family to boot, why is she trying to overthrow her parents? For some reason, I got images of Anastasia plotting the Russian Revolution.

Why does she have to hide out in a human high school? What is connecting the two cultures going to accomplish?

Phoenix said...

I'm afraid I'm with the crowd who thinks this feels disjointed, both in story plot and in query structure. For instance, I was thrown by Fearing for her life, she embarks on a journey across the Faerie lands, in search of magic that can heal her people and unite her world. In the first half of that sentence, she's fleeing across Faerie lands because she fears for her life -- which I take to mean she's off to find sanctuary elsewhere because her personal safety is threatened beause of her part in the revolution. In the second half, though, she's not fleeing, but seeking a magical cure. And so, going into that second paragraph with that thought, it sounds to me like she EXPECTS to find the cure in the high school.

Another sentence that adds to the disjointed feel is But mimicking human behavior is complicated, and Elora quickly becomes entangled in sordid school politics, unexpected allegiances and forbidden love. Her entanglement in the sordid, unexpected, and forbidden isn't predicated on her inability to mimic human behavior. In fact, it rather seems she's gotten human behavior down cold.

EE has a decent suggestion for beginning the query. Don't be so surprised. Occasionally he gets it right. Even if he does have that little problem with mimicking human behavior.

Post your rewrite, please!

Whirlochre said...

I was OK with this until the faerie enrolled in high school — but this is my own personal taste holding sway over 'what might actually work'.

I like the opening couple of lines, but agree that 'sordid' needs to go.

BuffySquirrel said...

These feels like two books jammed together--one about being a Fae in a high school, and one about the revolution/iron-sickness and so on.

To me, the whole high school thing feels like pandering to a YA readership who are presumed to be unwilling to read anything that isn't directly related to their lives...that may be true, of course.

writtenwyrdd said...

Anon 11:22, I wrote #6, and it's in the ideas hopper.

magolla said...

This whole thing screams Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely influence. I probably wouldn't pick it up because it sounds too much like a copy cat. Make it really different. I like Jeb's idea of starting in high school and then have her discovering her parentage and the iron sickness she must cure.

benwah said...

Junior high and high school were certainly filled with their difficulties. But those rather pale in comparison to, say, the real world or overthrowing one's royal parents or being the last of a species or trying to find a cure for hemochromatosis. If the stakes in the Faeire kingdom are so high -- a population dying out -- it seems a bit strange to couple that with the Elora's angst over wondering if she's gonna get asked to the homecoming dance.

Marissa Doyle said...

I was wondering about the tone here...it seems a tad schizophrenic as the Faerie bits sound serious while the high school bit sounds like a grab for humor. The query makes it sound like there's not much lightness here--is that your intention?

Ellie said...

#5 was mine. I'm glad people liked it. I want to read it, too ...

Anonymous said...

writtenwyrdd--

regarding # 6 -- you could try it as a short story and if that flies, develop it into something longer.

chelsea said...
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chelsea said...
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BuffySquirrel said...

Accusatory? ME?

:D

You definitely don't want to go with Last Scion: think "Dogma".

150 said...

I have a little trouble believing that high school is the best place to blend in. I remember high school as a place of being on constant display, where everyone knows everyone else's business. If she's centuries old, she should be able to carry herself like a young adult and pass as a high-school graduate, get an apartment somewhere quietly, and only go out to get her groceries.

December/Stacia said...

I can't really add anything new, but I'm highly disappointed we didn't get a guess-the-plot involving Bruce Leroy and Sho'Nuff.

chelsea said...
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BuffySquirrel said...

Don't mind me. I'm just sick of books/films/tv series set in US high schools :).

chelsea said...

Not at all, your comments are very helpful. And actually, I'm sick of books set in high schools for no reason! And am annoyed at how many have come out since I started writing this thing. But such is life.

Half of it is still in Faerie, though :)

benwah said...

chelsea,

i guess i'm confused. if Elora is really trying to fit into HS life, then she WOULD be angsting over homecoming or zits or finishing her english paper. if she weren't, she would instead be masquerading. your comment that she's actually much, much older also threw me a bit.

then again, fantasy (urban, YA or otherwise) isn't a genre i read much, so take it for what it's worth.

chelsea said...

All right my darlings . . . here is another version I've come up with. For those of you still posting, thank you kindly! And EE, if there is another place you'd prefer I post this rewrite, feel free to let me know or else move it wherever you like :)

The Last Changeling Query 2.0

Elora has led a revolution against the High Courts of Faerie, dethroned the tyrannical Unseelie King and Queen, and walked in the iron-laced world of humans, but now she’s faced with a different kind of problem: she’s fallen in love with a human.

In The Last Changeling, an 85,000-word YA urban fantasy, Elora has always known that faeries were meant to live as equals. But when she rebels against her own family, freeing the common fey from centuries of bondage, the fallen royals are hungry for revenge. Fleeing to the human world, where the greediness of humanity and the excessive use of iron have kept the Unseelie fey at bay, Elora finds an unexpected ally in Darren Darling, a high school senior whose mere presence sets her soul aflame.

Elora knows she cannot stay in the human world forever; she must return to Faerie, defeat her enemies, and work to unite her people. But the more time she spends with Darren, the clearer it becomes that she can’t leave without him. Can she convince him to embark on a dangerous journey across the Faerie lands, forsaking his family and his friends, to engage in a battle that could lead to sudden death . . . or eternal love?

Phoenix said...

Chelsea: BINGO! Excellent revision. You ought to get plenty of agent bites from it!

(Not a query comment, but Darren Darling? Dunno. Alliterative names are usually pretty off-putting to begin with, but that one just grates with its cuteness. IMO. That name was the only thing I stumbled over in this query version.)

Array said...

I'd drop Darren as a name, too, for several reasons:

1. Darren is still being used, certainly (there were two in my grade at school, and I've only been out four years now), but it's a name on a definite downswing. So it savours much more of older men than teenage boys. You're looking at born-in-91-or-92-ish at this point, right? There are names that would much better fit the trends characteristic of his generation, that would also get rid of the cutesiness of the alliteration. Start here and see if you find anything near the top of the list that you like? I'm inclined toward Nathan, Travis, Kyle, Cody, Zachary, Ethan, Ian, Seth. Not only do those meet my namenerd approval, they sound like they'd be boys my little sister (who is herself just starting high school) would know.

2. Thanks to Bewitched, the world has already had a Darren-involved-with-a-magical-chick. We don't need another.

Otherwise, I do think the query is definitely showing improvement!

Jeb said...

Definitely better. Shorter, sharper, more focused on what's really at stake for Our Heroine.

talpianna said...

Much better query, but teenaged boy with centuries-old supernatural heroine gives me the queazes. I can't imagine how a long-lived fairy could fall in love with a teenaged boy. Hell, I can't imagine how a TEENAGED GIRL could fall in love with a teenaged boy!

mb said...

For what it's worth, Chelsea, I think this sounds like an appealing book. Your second query is good -- my only concern is that it comes across as if the romance is the main focus. Is that true? If it is, great. If not, maybe you can tweak it just a little bit. I also think you should add that line about how it's a matter of life and death that she fit in at high school -- THAT is intriguing to me. Go you.

chelsea said...

Thank you everyone for the help and encouragement :)

A few people took issue with Darren's name and I shall certainly consider your thoughts. I honestly had the hardest time coming up with a guy's name I liked in the first place, but I don't know that I'll be using something like Cody, Ian or Seth. I just don't want the character reminding people of someone on The O.C.

;)

As for the Darren on Bewitched, THAT I didn't think of . . . it was a bit before my time. So I'll take that into consideration.

Pheonix, your comments about the disjointed nature of my original query were invaluable. Thank you so much.

I am taking out my longer comments (explaining why Elora goes to a high school) because I want people to be able to get to the new query without having to read miles and miles of explanation about something that no longer applies.

EE, do you have any comments on the new query?

Evil Editor said...

It's much better. I was thinking you might not want to use the word human twice in one sentence, when the second one could be man or boy or high school student. But that's no big deal.

If Bewitched is before your time, you might consider that most of the characters on Dirty Sexy Money have the last name Darling. And on Pushing Daisies Lily and Vivian are (were) a synchronized swimming pair known as the Darling Mermaid Darlings.

chelsea said...

Good point about the "human" thing. I'll try out some possible options and see how they sound.

As for the name thing:

Just bought Pushing Daisies on DVD but haven't watched any episodes yet. As for the other name connections, good to know. I think it's funny no one mentioned Peter Pan. I thought that would be the most obvious one.

Thanks much :)

talpianna said...

EE, you forgot the most famous Darlings: Wendy, Michael, and John in PETER PAN.

And Michael, John, James, and such are perfectly good names for a hero, Author.

chelsea said...

Revision:

Elora, the daughter of the Unseelie Queen, is a faerie with a plan. She’s going to mobilize the servants of the Dark Court, strike a deal with the Seelie Queen, and dethrone her tyrannical mother. All she has to do is gain the Seelie Queen’s trust. Well, easier said than done.

In Child of the Dark Court, an 85,000-word YA urban fantasy, the Seelie Queen devises the perfect plan to test Elora’s loyalty. Elora must travel to the mortal world, the place the Dark Faeries abhor, and gain the trust of a human. Elora agrees to the quest, though it seems impossible. Then she meets Daren, the boy who breathes new life into the phrase forbidden fruit, and things get really complicated.

The high-born daughter of a Faerie Queen should have no problem keeping her distance from a human. So why does Elora gravitate toward him as if he were a force of nature? In her short time in the mortal world, the unthinkable has happened. She’s fallen in love. And now she has a choice to make. Does she return to Faerie alone, leaving behind the boy who sets her soul aflame? Or does she risk everything by bringing him back with her?

Evil Editor said...

Excellent. There's a slight possibility someone will think "her tyrannical mother" means the Seelie Queen's tyrannical mother. You can avoid this with something like:


Elora, the daughter of the Unseelie Queen, is a faerie with a plan: she’s going to dethrone her tyrannical mother. All she has to do is mobilize the servants of the Dark Court and gain the trust of the Seelie Queen. Well, easier said than done.

Or you can leave it as is, and assume no one will misinterpret.

_*rachel*_ said...

This is just plain excellent. Here's to you!

KID LIT WRITERS said...

This third version is much better, and makes it sounds like I book I would like to read. Your final query really brings the plot and the motivation to life, without bringing up sticky questions raised in earlier versions. (Like why she is seemingly immune to iron whereas it prevents the other Unseelie fey from following her to high school. I assume you've addressed that in the novel, but it jumped at me in the query.)

Consider removing the "sets her soul aflame" line though. It screams Romance, and your novel sounds like there is a lot more going on. Love the forbidden fruit reference -- very nice play on the biblical reference and the fruit traditions of faerie lore, including Goblin Market.

Matthew said...

With this, your synopsis, and your opening, I think you're good to go.

Kayanna Kirby said...

That is really good and much better an organised than the first entry. It sounds very interesting. I would read it.

Dominique said...

Fabulous. All the info I'd need is present, it's brief, and there's voice.I would definitely read this book.

chelsea said...

Thank you all so much. Your comments have truly been invaluable.