Thursday, July 29, 2010
Guess the Plot
Book of the Baba Yaga
1. Dmitri's family died in the Holocaust. All he has is a battered copy of "The Book of the Baba Yaga" to guide him to his Russian roots. Can Svetlana from the library help him--or is she trying to thwart him?
2. Young Baba was sent by her parents to learn magic with the local witch. But when famine strikes, the witch declares her intent to eat Baba to survive. With the help of another captive, a handsome boy, Baba must use what little magic she's learned to trick the witch and escape before she's turned into brisket.
3. 13-year-old Samantha is invited to attend Dr. Xenon's Olympic archery training facility, which is also the tree-dwelling Baba Yaga's home. Xenon is responsible for making the Olympic medals, using gold he creates from souls in hell. When Sam discovers her friend Jonah, who's been missing two years, is in hell, she heads off to rescue him. Think Dante's Inferno for the middle school crowd.
4. Tessa wants to be Prom Queen but she's short, plump, and homely--until she finds a mysterious book of beauty secrets that really work. The first time she uses it, her complexion clears but her best friend is covered in zits. She tries the spells for glossy hair and a slimmer waist; other friends get bald and fat, confirming that not only do the beauty tips work, each comes with an unexpected bonus.
5. It wasn't enough that David's brother became Oxford's youngest ever linguistics professor, admired for his abstract ravings. Now the little toddler has a book contract. Will David expose his parents' intention to replace the English language with gibberish before publication?
6. To read the book of Baba Yaga is to have your eyes opened--quite literally--to every ghoul and spirit visiting our plane. But to survive the experience you must not only finish the book, you must pass it on to the next unsuspecting soul. When Father Gregory happens upon the book he must decide whether to die or damn another to his fate.
I am seeking representation for my middle reader fantasy, BOOK OF THE BABA YAGA. In this story of alchemy, wealth and mystery, thirteen-year-old Samantha Liffey must cross a forbidden Gate and journey through Hell – literally – to save a friend from losing his soul.
Thirteen-year-old uber-archer Sam [Are you going to tell us her age every time you mention her? She's 13. We got it.] is super excited when she qualifies for top-secret, exclusive Xenith Academy, where the world’s leading young athletes train for the Olympics. [How can a place remain top-secret, if the world’s leading young athletes regularly go there?] From the moment she arrives in the Baba Yaga’s treetop cabin with a talking doll as her guide, she's engulfed in a world like nothing she ever imagined. [I can't tell if you've jumped ahead three chapters or if it's the normal chain of events for someone going to Xenith Academy to be guided to the Baba Yaga's treetop cabin by a talking doll. Also, you might want to identify the Baba Yaga for those who never heard the name. You throw it in like you expect us to know who/what the Baba Yaga is and why Sam is in the Baba Yaga's cabin. What you need is to start that sentence with a transitional phrase that lets us know you haven't switched to a different novel. Something like: But instead of the Academy, her guide whisks her off to the treetop cabin of the evil witch known as . . . the Baba Yaga!] [Or: Arriving on the Academy campus, Sam is taken to her archery instructor, a strict disciplinarian who lives in a tree and is known only by the terror-inducing name . . . Baba Yaga!] [Note that in both cases I left out the part about her guide being a talking doll.] [Although now that I think about it, Baba Yaga does sound like something a talking doll would say.] [Baba Yaga being introduced to Lady Gaga by Lady Gaga's daughter: "Baba Yaga, Mama Gaga. Mama Gaga, Baba Yaga."]
Dr. Xenon, president of the Academy, has a remarkable skill: he makes gold using soul energy, or qi, in the land beyond a forbidden Gate. [If you don't want people going through your Gate, you probably shouldn't keep capitalizing the word "Gate." Human nature dictates that people who would totally ignore a gate will do anything in their power to pass through a Gate.] That’s where Olympic medals come from, [Does qi also make silver and bronze?] and there’s plenty left over to make the Academy extremely wealthy. But Sam’s dreams of Olympic gold begin to crumble when she’s sucked into the search for her childhood friend Jonah, who vanished after sneaking into Dr. Xenon’s laboratory two years ago. [Did Sam know about this all along?] With the help of her friends, she figures out how to get through the Gate, only to discover it leads to Hell. [How can she tell where it leads? Is there a sign? A road paved with good intentions?] Inside, soul eating monsters are on the prowl. They steal qi from anyone brave enough – or stupid enough – to enter. Sam’s journey grows more difficult when Hell turns out to be as psychological as it is physical. [Drop that sentence or give a specific example.] Even Sam’s own sister turns out to be a far different person than the girl Sam thought she knew. [Where did that come from? What's her sister doing in this top-secret place?] Sam must find a way to rescue Jonah [Did she happen to bring her bow and arrows when she went through the Gate?] without losing those she loves, all the while struggling to accept painful truths about herself and her family. [Sis and family haven't even been in the query, and now they're brought in like they're of vital importance. Get rid of them.]
Loosely based on Dante’s Inferno and Slavic mythology, BOOK OF THE BABA YAGA is complete at 63,000 words. I would be delighted to send you a partial or a full manuscript should you be interested.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
First of all, the opening paragraph is a waste of space. There's nothing in it that you don't repeat later on. Get rid of it.
The International Olympic Committee is extremely touchy about things like claiming their medals are forged in hell. Maybe Sam should be looking into the World Junior Archery Championships.
It sounds like the main plot is rescuing Jonah. If Sam accepted the invitation to the Academy knowing that Jonah vanished from it two years earlier, and hoping to solve the mystery, make that clear early on.
What was Jonah doing in Xenon's lab two years ago? The place is top-secret. Was he an aspiring Olympic athlete too? I don't see how a world-class athlete could vanish forever from Xenith Academy, and the place still be top-secret. It should have been in the news for weeks.
Is it called Book of the Baba Yaga because there's an important book involved, or just because it is a book?
Can anyone remember the last time we had a query that wasn't set partially in hell?