Thursday, July 22, 2010

Face-Lift 799


Guess the Plot

The Rain Legacy

1. Wet ground. Dirty cars. Floods. Weeds. And that unmistakable scent of ozone. But on the other hand: Fertile crops. Cool temperatures. A luscious array of flowers. And the billion-dollar umbrella industry. Want to read the book?

2. Lynette is only thirteen, and her father's been murdered and she doesn't know how to swing a sword, while the villain she faces has an army and 600 years of experience killing people and plundering kingdoms, but it's up to Lynette to save the world, and . . . Hey, it could be worse. Could be raining.

3. Emily watched her father, super villain Thundero, fail at a hundred different schemes to take over Sioux City with his rain-controlling powers. Now she's inherited his powers and his loser reputation. But she's setting her sights on a bigger prize: the Gobi desert.

4. What good is it, being the one true descendant of the last real rain dancer when you promised your mother you would never use your powers under any circumstances? Especially when every farmer in the Midwest pledges money, and their daughters, to break the twenty-year drought over their fields? Harry Red-Wolf is finding out.

5. The constant rain in the Lake District is supposedly orographic precipitation...but Henry knows it's really an ancient legacy from a misguided desert tribesman. As he races to destroy the legacy and save his sun-dried tomato business, can he outsmart the meteorologists, who don't want to return to work?

6. May Jean Whistler longs to leave her tiny Wyoming town, but ancient law says her family's presence is the only thing that guarantees the ranchers rainfall each year. Then a stranger rolls into town on a thunderstorm and says he can free her--for a price.



Original Version

Overlord of Evil Editing,

Nothing good has ever come of Lynette always breaking her continent’s rules-- until she eavesdrops on a conversation regarding a plot to murder her family. [Eavesdropping on a conversation about your family being murdered is against the rules of the continent?] [It seems to me that if there were rules that applied to entire continents they would have to be really general. I mean, if the French tried to make a rule that everyone in Europe had to speak French, the Italians would have a fit. So Europe's only rule would be No Americans allowed, unless you're here to spend lots of money or to save our asses.] [Actually, that would be the only rule of every continent. Except that Australia has some rule about not stealing kangaroos.] It may be too late for her dead father, [If you're gonna murder a family, it's easier if you choose one in which the father's already dead.] but it’s not too late for Lynette. She takes her sister and a sword, and steals away to escape the same fate.

But Lynette can’t run forever. Due to her ancestry, Lynette must take up the hero’s mantle and defend the Goddess Arydne’s land. Never mind she’s thirteen. Never mind she doesn’t know how to swing a sword. Never mind the murderer is a high-standing nobleman, or he’s got the royal army backing him. And never mind he has six hundred years of experience, because Lynette's going to bring a higher power into play- and get revenge while she’s at it.

[Lynette vs. army: Army wins.
Lynette + goddess vs. army: Army loses.
Goddess vs. army while Lynette goes to the mall: ????
In short, what does Lynette bring to the table?]

If the Goddess expects miracles from Lynette, the expectation goes both ways.

THE RAIN LEGACY is a 40,000-word middle grade fantasy novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

You've set up the situation. I want more about the plot than Lynette calls on the goddess for aid. Does the army have a chance of defeating the goddess? If so, does Lynette have any skills that could turn the tide? What's the plan Lynette + goddess hatch to defeat megalomaniac + army? What could cause them to lose? How do they plan to overcome this stumbling block?

10 comments:

Mother (Re)produces. said...

I'm just trying to think- are there a lot of middle grade novels that deal with murder? Might be an issue for some. As I read the query, I was kind of surprised after at the end to read that the ms was middle grade.

Anyway, sounds intriguing, but why her? Why her family in particular that's to be wiped out?

Ellie said...

This is another data point for my half-baked theory that much query trouble comes from starting the query at the start of the novel and just kind of summarizing until you hit three paragraphs.

Imagine that someone's already read the first half of the book and they call you up. "I left the book on the bus!" they wail. "I have to know! Does A overcome B in order to get C?" THAT should be the meat of your query. What comes before it should be just enough setup so the agent can parse the character's dilemma sensibly.

John said...

This is totally arbitrary, but to me Lynette sounds strange as character name in high fantasy. Makes me think of country music, i.e., somewhere between Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.

Dave F. said...

I don't buy books for kids anymore. The kids all grew up. However, why is it that so many of the MG and YA novels have children with dead parents who must lead armies (or do something adults would fear) to save the world, country, planet, etc... ?

I suspect that the answer is that kids want that type of hero because like the kids in Narnia, they want to be kings and queens and heroes. And that teaches them some of life's lessons. All well and good.

BUT, BUT, BUT, that lesson then becomes the principle reason for reading the story. What we remember from Narnia is the lessons the kids learn. That's how you describe a book for a query.
"In the middle of WW2, four children learn the meaning of courage and honor in a fantasy world of witches, centaurs and talking lions."

What can you say about Lynette's journey from silly 12 y/o girl to national hero?

Stephen Prosapio said...

"...regarding a plot to murder her family. It may be too late for her dead father."

May be? Is he dead or not? Or is this like the Princess Bride where he's just "mostly dead"?

I'll take credit for GTP #1 but EE added the funniest part about the billion-dollar umbrella industry.

The query does need more detail as to what the actual plot is. She obviously needs to learn to fight. How is that accomplished? I do like the final line... although that is likely too complex of a thought for middle grade... Do twelve year olds comprehend statements like "the expectation goes both ways"?

I think you'd do well to make it mean exactly what it says.

vkw said...

I can not add much, I think Ellie is right on about why so many initial queries are not up to par.

Tell me about your story, someone says and the writer starts giving a chapter by chapter account but they only have 30 seconds, so they start the first chapter and then rush to the end.

When what they need to say is, "It's a story for middle grade children in a fantasy setting where the heroine must conquer her fears, overcome obstacles and revenge the death of her parents by defeating the master villian."

It's different from other stories because the heroine is special in this way. She conquers her fears by doing this. Her obstacles are unique because of this. She uses or deveops this skill to succeed and the really bad guy is special because of this.

Now replace the word "this" with the right answers and rewrite your query.

Dave's point is awesome. I've often wondered why so many children's novel involved orphans or children in conflict with their parents. Even fairy tales do this so it does not seem to be a new idea or even cultural specific. Now I get the conflict part, right what you know but not the orphan part.

I imagine it must have something to the development of self, that unconsciously tween and teenagers begin to work out their identities by imagining themselves orphans and by overcoming obstacles even there powerful parents could not and self development involves determining how they will do that. Will they have friends? Will they save family members first? Is their enemy only their enemy or the world's? Is there a spirtual reliance and, if so, how does that manifest itself in the plot. How do they experience God? what skills will they need to develop to do succeed?

Well nevermind. . .we need more from the query than we got.

arhooley said...

That's a jarring shrinkage of scope in the first sentence -- from a continent to a mouth-to-ear communication. I'd adjust it or make some kind of clarification. What kind of continent makes it illegal to eavesdrop? Or what kind of eavesdropping is illegal? Mere listening at the keyhole, or a more aggressive security breach?

batgirl said...

Off-topic, but lately I've been wanting to write a fantasy novel where the Usurper turns out to be a reforming good guy, and the long-lost heir has to confront the truth that his/her family were corrupt, decadent, and inept rulers.

Amy said...

This sounds like another of those fantasy novels where the most important thing the query needs to do is tell us how it's different from existing fantasy novels. The query's got a bit of voice, but that's not enough. What makes the story special? I read and write fantasy, and I commonly critique other people's fantasy novels in exchange for critiques of my own. I see this plotline constantly, so it's got to be spiced up. Give us some intriguing details about Lynette and about the world.

pacatrue said...

I like batgirl's idea in the comments.

As for why all the orphans, it's part of the general idea that children want to read about children doing stuff, not about their parents doing stuff. Why in the world would an 11-year-old be in charge of an army if their parent is standing next to them? Kids spend most of their life being told what to do by grownups (we think we are teaching them) and preparing for the future. In fiction, they get to skip right past the preparing and start the doing. Making a kid an orphan is a simple way to get the parents out of the way so that the kids can do stuff.

I also assume that for a kid, the relationship with the parents is the primary relationship in their lives. Rip that out and it's suddenly a whole new world. Same reason so many adult contemporary fics begin with the end of a marriage, loss of a job, or ideally both. The two fundamental adult activities are suddenly gone and it's time to act anew. Seriously, if I cross out the time that I spend with my family or work, my life reduces to sleep, browsing the internet, and looking for excuses to eat potato chips.