Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Face-Lift 636


Guess the Plot

Eternal Knight

1. It's another freakin' vampire novel where he's all tortured and broody because he can't tell if he loves her or if he's just kinda hungry and she's into him because he's so mysterious but protective and he's like "We can never be together" and she's all "But I love you!" and we all know where this is going but let's face it: people never seem to get tired of this one so shall we just cut to the chase and talk price?

2. 13th C knight Geoffroi du St. Cloud is cursed by the vampire Doudrou to never be permitted the peace of death. And so Geoffroi fights on, only to be resurrected when slain. Is he doomed--or can the glorious Princess du Conti save him and his soul?

3. Weeding the garden, Timmy finds a jewel in the dirt. At midnight a man in armor sneaks in through the open window. He says he needs the jewel and a 12-year-old sidekick to rescue the kingdom of a beautiful kidnapped princess. Timmy accepts the sidekick gig, unaware their dangerous mission will require numerous sequels and he, too, is doomed to become an . . . Eternal Knight.

4. Pharaoh was being a jerk again, so God tried to put an eternal night curse over Egypt. He screwed up, and now there's a 16th century unkillable knight wandering around Egypt generating chaos. Can Floyd and Bob, God's clean-up crew, set things right?

5. Hadde of Landomere is supposed to be protecting her village from invaders, but instead heads off to the next kingdom to pawn a necklace she found. Now the king won't let her go back home, but why would she want to go home and face invaders when the king's brother is such a hunk?

6. Sir Frank of Carthyreid haunts the same old battlefield, century after century--until the city builds a high school on it and then Sir Frank's life gets a lot more interesting. As bloodied corpses turn up in lockers and dismembered limbs in desks, dimwitted school janitor Pete Pritchett arms himself with a bin lid and a wooden spoon and rides into battle.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Hadde of Landomere is a huntress who has sworn to protect and provide for her people. The Wasting makes her task impossible: crops are failing, game has disappeared, and strange raiders are invading her forest homeland.

While hunting, Hadde finds a golden necklace. Taking it as a sign that she must do more for her people, [Interesting. I would have taken it as a sign that someone lost her necklace.] she leaves the forest of Landomere for the kingdom of Salador. She plans to sell the necklace for food and other necessities, but she hopes for much more--to gain the aid of the elementar-king of Salador. [Who's fighting off the raiders while she's in Salador pawning someone else's property?] [Amazing: all the letters of the word "property" are on one row of the keyboard.]

Unlike her egalitarian homeland, Salador is a highly stratified, male-dominated world of politics, war, and deceit, teeming with its own problems. Hadde finds herself trapped there when the king, who believes her to be part of a prophecy, ["As it was foretold, a hot woman has shown up on the eve of my annual 'Forty Guys and a Wench' party."] refuses to let her go home. Her unlikely romance with the king's brother, Morin, entangles Hadde in a web of Saladoran scheming. [There are raiders invading her village and she has time for a romance?]

When Morin learns of the discovery of an ancient magical artifact, he takes Hadde with him to recover it. [What a moron.] [Why doesn't he who discovered it bring it to the castle? In this highly stratified world, I assume you don't just tell your superiors, I'm busy; if you want it come and get it.] Their journey leads not only to the salvation of Hadde's small village, but to [of?] the world itself. [Define "the world."] It also leads to the loss of her faith in humanity, and the loss of Morin's soul. [Huh? That sounds like the old, The operation was a success but the patient died line. If you must screw up your happy ending in the book, fine, but putting that in the query just leads to questions you aren't answering. Explain or delete.]

I currently teach military history and economics and previously served in the United States Army as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot. I am also a Revolutionary War reenactor and historical wargamer. In Eternal Knight I used my knowledge of medieval history, [helicopter flying,] economics, religion [(I'm also a part-time monk)], and military strategy to create a rich, believable world.

Eternal Knight is a 105,000 word fantasy novel. The manuscript is complete and ready for submission. Thank you for considering my work.

Sincerely,


Notes


Who is the knight in the title? And what's eternal about the knight?

How far is the trip to Saladar?

The king won't let Hadde go home seems to indicate she's under lock and key, yet she goes off with Morin? As a skilled huntress, she could easily escape while Morin's not looking.

I'd leave the invaders raiding the village out of the query. In the book there's surely an explanation for the village surviving the raids while their protector is off romancing Morin, but in the query we're better off not knowing about them, especially as they weren't worth mentioning again anyway.

Actually, it didn't sound that bad until I started picking at it. Explain as much as you can and get rid of what you don't have room to explain, so we don't think it's full of logic problems.

27 comments:

Matthew said...

I would read this.

Though the images of a fantasy world and military reality made a nice visual contrast, I thought the paragraph detailing the author's history was needless--or at least, longer than it had to be. The author could use the wordspace created from removing it to add further detail to the plot.

Anonymous said...

Plot #4 totally needs to be made into a Monte Python movie.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm not really the right audience for this as I tend not to read Epic Fantasy but I think that I might enjoy this book for the female hero and her struggles against a male-dominated regime.

I was a bit unclear about why Hadde was trapped and how she could go off with the king's brother if she was under guard. I didn't like the idea of an unhappy ending and I wondered if the idea was to set things up for a sequel. I prefer books that end cleanly but I know a lot of fantasy takes place over a number of books.

By the way, GTP #1 is brilliant. Somehow my psychic powers told me it wasn't the real one but I wondered if #3 was.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm thinking the lost magic thingy that saves the world plot is often a big hit among middle graders, but is something adults tend to be skeptical of. I've also heard that one of the dangers gamer-novelists need to evade is the tendency to write a plot that relies too much on making progress by acquiring miscellaneous items, as one does in so many video games. I'm assuming this book is for adults, since the romance seems big. Maybe more explanation would make the uniqueness and grown-up importance of your magic thingy more compelling.

Meanwhile you seem to have several plots swirling around, so maybe the magic thingy isn't all that important and you could perhaps focus the query on something else. The biggest plot in the book is the only one you need mention in the query. The numerous subplots may work well in the book, but for the query giving us an exciting description of the crux of it all is more important than covering everything that happens. It seems to have potential to be really good but it worries me that I can't sort out plot and subplot.

150 said...

This'll probably be the least useful comment you get, but it's not immediately obvious to me how to pronounce "Hadde" and I fear I'd spend the novel wondering whether it rhymed with "made" or "Maddie". Could you consider a different spelling?

BuffySquirrel said...

That this powerful-in-her-own-right woman from an egalitarian society should find the misogynist aristocrat Morin attractive immediately makes me suspicious.

Maybe you need to throw in some details to make it clear that this isn't a "what women really want is a man to dominate them" story. Unless, of course, it IS that kind of story.

Chris Eldin said...

I so totally didn't know about the word property until you said this.

LOL @ GTP 1!!

I don't read epic fantasy, but I thought this sounded really good until the end---the part about recovering the artifact from someone else who discovered it. Something fell apart right there.

Good luck.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I would read this.

The query does seem a little top heavy - too much set up and not enough main plot. Maybe you can condense the first two paragraphs into one:

Hadde of Landomere is a huntress who has sworn to protect and provide for her people. But when the Wasting brings famine and destruction upon the peaceful forest, she must leave Landomere to seek aid in the kingdom of Salador. Then you'll have more room to tell us about all the conspiracies and prophecies and sexy younger brothers.

_*Rachel*_ said...

You need to work the helicopters into the story. Trust me.

The ending is too depressing. I mean, come on--it's a literary ending to epic fantasy!

Is the magic artifact they're looking for the necklace? It must be quite a necklace, anyway; worth enough to feed a village.

Knowing where the knight comes in would be nice.

Seeing your bio, I rather expect you to be writing historical, military, or time-travel thrillers. I bet you'd do a better job that I would. (One of the many reasons I go for SFF is because I don't know enough about helicopters to write about it. Not enough money to rent, either.)

Dominique said...

I like your plot, though I too am wondering if there's going to be a happy ending for the couple. I'd read on to find out, but I would be sad if Hadde ends up alone at the end.

Also, the first line of your bio paragraph seems unrelated to the story you wrote, so it should be deleted. Then you can use that space for nice details about your plot. I'm not sure if the Revolutionary War reenacting part is relevant either, but I'd give you the benefit of the doubt.

BuffySquirrel said...

Well, let's see. For $75 you can buy a noon meal for 50 students in Burkina Faso for a week. If we give them two meals a day for a week, that's $150. For a year, that would be $7,800.

A single blue diamond recently sold for $7.98 million dollars.

Phoenix said...

I was really trying to connect the dots in this query, looking for logical cause-and-effect structure, but I came away a bit confused instead.

Naming a blight in a fantasy usually means it's pretty widespread. Is The Wasting confined just to Hadde's forest homeland if she expects to find enough food in Salador to trade for? Wouldn't the supply-demand thing negate the value of the necklace? Or do I need another course in economics ;o)?

Is the forest blighted? I ask because you generally don't raise crops in a forest (unless the crop is something of the trees, such as nuts). Most forest-dwelling herbivores (game) sustain themselves on leaves and bark and nuts and such. As a natural consequence, game will disappear when its food source does, but I don't get the crops/forest connection. Or is the Wasting something more potent and therefore a symptom of the larger big bad in the story? (Dot connection.)

In the query, it sounds as though Hadde decides to go trading with the necklace, and oh, by the way, while she's in town she might as well stop by the king's place and see if he might want to help a lady out. Has she not thought to approach him before? Does she think there's a chance he'll really help out a neighboring land that doesn't seem to be either much of a threat or offer much benefit either, except as maybe a good cushion (read "battleground") between Salador and any enemies? There doesn't seem to be a good reason for her to approach him given the reasoning that's come before (see what I'm meaning by cause and effect issues?).

And, as EE eludes, if you're gonna mention the prophecy bit as the cause for not letting her go home, maybe spill what the prophecy is. Is she the savior? the antichrist? the naive necklace-bearer needed to be the pawn in a great war?

Is the king your main antagonist in the story? What's Hadde's real role and goal in all of this? What are your obstacles if Hadde is running around looking for artifacts with Morin? It sounds like pure luck that she stumbles upon the thing that will save her village.

As I'm reading it, your plot as described in the query boils down to: Hadde finds a necklace and takes it to the next kingdom to barter it. Bad king for some reason delays her by distracting her with his hottie brother. Hottie and her sneak off to find a pretty bauble that, upon discovery, brings world peace. The end.

Oh, and something about loss of faith and soul that don't seem to be the effects of any discernible causes in the query.

Matt Heppe said...

Thanks for all the great comments. Guess the plots were excellent--I figured I'd get about four vampire plots with a title like Eternal Knight.

@Matthew: I'll definitely cut down the bio.
@fairyhedgehog: I'll change it to read "Morin and Hadde escape" or something like that. And there is a grim element to the end of the novel. However, the central question of "will Hadde save her people?" is positively resolved. Book two will resolve the Morin issue.
@Anonymous: This is definitely not a "lost magic thingy saves the day book." I'll try to make that more clear in the query.
@150: Hadde rhymes with Maddie. And I'm keepin' it :)
@BuffySquirrel: Morin's not like all those other Saladoran men, at least not until he dumps her at the end. I don't know how to get that across in the query.
@Chris: I think my next version will fix it. And everyone needs to read your blog. That raccoon story was great.
@Sara: Your suggestion is great.
I'm taking it.
@Rachel: I'm dumping the necklace from the query. It was causing too many issues. Who is the eternal knight will be dealt with in the new query. I did write a SciFi that included helicopters, but it was total @#%^ and needs a complete rewrite.
@Dominique: Bittersweet ending to this one. She saves the day but loses the guy.
@Buffy: You got it. A big gold necklace (think Mr. T)could easily feed a small village.

Again, thanks to all (Including you EE). I'll post the new version soon.

Matt Heppe said...

@Phoenix: I think my new query will help answer some of the issues you pointed out. Just to answer some of your questions:

Hadde finds mystical necklace and takes it to Salador to sell.

Paranoid King Boradin thinks Hadde and necklace are important and tells her she can't leave.

Jealous Prince Morin hooks up with Hadde because his brother thinks she might be important and Morin wants her on his side.

Morin's friend tells him of the location of an ancient artifact that can save them all. Morin and Hadde escape to go find artifact. It's a trap!

Evil Akinos uses artifact to turn Morin into an Eternal Knight (one of many). Prince Morin learns that creating Eternal Knights is what is creating the Wasting in the first place.

Evil Akinos (with Morin on his side) fights Paranoid Boradin. Hadde kills Akinos. Wasting is over. Eternal Morin leaves Hadde to chase artifact.

Writing queries is brutal.

Kings Falcon said...

Matt, your last summary was pretty close to what you need for a clean query. Cut the players down to the main protagonist and main antagonist.

Something like:

Hadde is has sworn to protect and provide for her people. But when the Wasting brings famine and destruction, she leaves her home to seek aid from the patriarchal kingdom of Salador.Hadde finds mystical necklace and takes it to Salador to sell. She learns of an artifact which might end the Wasting.

Akinos (give me a description of how he fits into this world - i.e. the King's advisor, the high priest, whatever) uses the artifact to create the Eternal Knights, (tell me what they are). The magical fall out creates the Wasting.

Hadde confronts Akinos, kills him and ends the Wasting.


Anyway, I hope this helps.

BuffySquirrel said...

Phoenix, you should go read 1491 to learn how to crop forests.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, the author sounds a lot more interesting than the plot of the book does...

Author said...

Dear Evil Editor,

Hadde of Landomere is a huntress who has sworn to protect and provide for her people. But when the Wasting brings famine and destruction upon the peaceful forest, she must leave Landomere to seek aid from Boradin, the elementar-king of Salador.

Unlike her egalitarian homeland, Salador is a highly stratified, male-dominated world of politics, war, and deceit, teeming with its own problems. Hadde finds herself trapped there when the king, who believes her to be part of a prophecy, refuses to let her go home. Her unlikely romance with the king's brother and political rival, Morin, entangles Hadde in a web of Saladoran scheming.

When a spy tells Morin the location of an ancient magical artifact, the Orb of Creation, he and Hadde escape the king's keep in hopes of recovering it. Unfortunately, they have been led into a trap and Akinos, wielder of the Orb, uses its power to transform Morin into an eternal knight--a nearly immortal slave soldier. Upon his transformation, Morin discovers that the creation of eternals causes the Wasting.

A climactic battle between King Boradin and Akinos ends when Hadde slays Akinos. Morin leaves Hadde to pursue the Orb of Creation, the only thing he ever truly desired. Hadde returns to Landomere to find that Akinos' death has ended the Wasting and saved her people.

I currently teach European history and previously served in the United States Army as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot. In Eternal Knight I used my knowledge of medieval history and military strategy to create a rich, believable world.

Eternal Knight is a 105,000 word fantasy novel. The manuscript is complete and ready for submission. Thank you for considering my work.


Sincerely,

Matthew said...

I think you should end the query around the time you start mentioning the eternal knight. And don't reveal that Morin actually becomes the knight but make it into a question--something along the lines of "Can Hadde save Morin from becoming a slave to the darkness?"

I was hooked until the part after the eternal knight because the query turned into a synopsis from then on. Why would I feel compelled to read more if I already know what happens?

The first query did not reveal enough about the main plot and the second one went too far and revealed everything. You need to find that sweet spot right in the middle.

Also, what is the Wasting? A plague? A drought? I like how you revealed that creating eternal knights causes it but I wish to know more about it, especially since it is the main character's motivation.

This is definately the kind of story I could see myself enjoying. Keep at it.

Evil Editor said...

Why would I feel compelled to read more if I already know what happens?
Keep in mind that the readers don't get to see the query letter. If what happens isn't revealed on the back cover, this isn't an issue.

Faceless Minion said...

Overall I would suggest being more specific about motivations and reducing the number of names.

If I might try:

When the Wasting brings famine and destruction to her country, Hadde of Landomere seeks aid from the king of Salador.

(Note: the type of king he is doesn't seem to add much for me.)

Unlike her egalitarian homeland, Salador is a highly stratified, male-dominated world of politics, war, and deceit. Hadde finds herself trapped there by the king, who believes her to be part of a prophecy. The king's brother, Morrin, appears to sympathize with her plight while scheming to use her to further his own ambitions.

(Note: Hadde's country has its own problems, that's why she came. 'refuses to let her go home' is repeating 'trapped there' - I would suggest one or the other. Something more specific about her relationship with the prince would help.)

A spy tells Morin the location of an ancient magical artifact. He and Hadde escape the king's keep in hopes of recovering it. Unfortunately, the wizard who possesses the artifact is using its power to build an army of immortal slaves -- eternal knights. He captures Morin who then discovers that the creation of eternals causes the Wasting. Hadde must convince the king that the threat is real before the wizard destroys the world.

(Note: Why is Morrin after the artifact/what does he think it will do? Is Akinos a wizard? rival king? exiled vizier? - jobs are easier for me to keep track of than names since it says something about what the person does in the story. Who is leading them into a trap? who sets the trap? Might want to correct details here (had to speculate). What is Akinos trying to do with his knights?)

The last paragraph isn't necessary if you've established why we should care about the characters, what they want, and what the consequences are.

Good luck.

Ruth said...

Nearly immortal?

...Nearly?

That's like saying "almost perfect" or "nearly finished". If it's not all perfect, it's not perfect. If it's not completely finished, it's not finished. If he's not ACTUALLY immortal....

Unless what you mean is that he's immortal but can still be killed, as I know a lot of fantasy novels do have characters/species like that. In which case, I'd just put "immortal" - you don't need the nearly.

Sorry to pick on just two words, but that phrasing really bugs me.

Ruth said...

Re-reading the new query properly now, and it does seem a lot better than the original. I'd cut out the "A climactic battle" paragraph entirely, though; to me, it completely detracts from the interest of the query. And "Unfortunately" seems a clumsy word to use - especially as, for the characters, this goes way beyond just unfortunate. Maybe:

"When a spy tells Morin the location of an ancient magical artifact, the Orb of Creation, he and Hadde escape the king's keep to recover it. As time closes in, Hadde and Morin must fight to save Hadde's homeland. But all their efforts may be for nothing when Morin is turned into one of the damned: an Eternal Knight.

I currently teach..." etc.

Just a rough idea, but hopefully it helps!

Matt Heppe said...

@Ruth

I don't think I can win on that phrasing one way or another. The original version I showed my critique group said "immortal" and they jumped all over me. "They're not immortal! They can be killed." Either way I get beaten up.

Thanks for the advice. I'm stuck on that part.

Ruth said...

@Matt: Heh, fair enough. I still reckon I'm right and they're wrong ;) But I'm sure it won't really matter too much either way.

A thought, though - your critique group presumably knows your story, and knows the knights can be killed. BUT in the query letter, you don't mention that the knights can be killed, so for all we know they are actually immortal.

It may not be 100% accurate, but it gives the right idea to someone who hasn't read your story before: and what you want in a great query is a letter that gives a good idea of your story, not a letter which gets all the terminology absolutely accurate.

That's my take on it, but as I say - probably doesn't matter anyway. :)

BuffySquirrel said...

Eh, in Highlander they talked about immortals, even though they could be killed--"if your head comes off, it's over".

Pause for a Sean Connery moment.

So I wouldn't worry.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hm. I thought immortal meant you wouldn't die of old age or a disease, but you could still be killed or even off yourself.