Monday, August 16, 2010

Face-Lift 808


Guess the Plot

Nine Worlds to Midnight

1. Take nine girls, each a princess in her world. Add nine boys, each a homicidal maniac in those same worlds. Throw in some werewolves, ninjas, talking cats, and a bloodthirsty ancient pharaoh. Mix it all together at midnight and you get Norse mythology.

2. Grover Holden is on a scavenger hunt for his life. If he doesn't collect nine items from nine churches across the city before midnight, a sadistic televangelist will consign him to hell.

3. When Doctor What shows up with his time-traveling (and sweet smelling) port-o-potty and accidentally spills Janie's drink all over her, he offers to make it up to her with a trip to another planet or nine. But, can she make it back home before her midnight curfew?

4. Jason wants to go to Six Flags ("More flags, more fun!") but his dad insists on Nine Worlds. Little do they know a ride-operating vampire will take control of the Vampire Bat Hellcoaster and roll them into the Tenth World at midnight.

5. When the stars around Earth blink out one by one, astronomer and lapsed Catholic priest Ken Layton sets out to discover why. He finds himself faced with a galactic case of insomnia: God is sick of trying to sleep with all the lights on. Can Ken find a big-enough sleep mask before God snuffs out the sun?

6. Young Dolores, tired of being mocked at school for having a name that rhymes with a female body-part, decides to switch to the school by her dad's house. But mom will only let her move out if, tonight, she babysits step-brother Troy, the kid from hell. Can Dolores bamboozle him with stories until he falls asleep, to keep him from wrecking the house and ruining her moving plans?


Original Version

Dear Evil Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA fantasy trilogy, Nine Worlds to Midnight. The first volume is complete at 80,000 words, and I have complete drafts of the next two novels. Together they tell a story about love, friendship, ninjas, clockwork, werewolves, causality, talking cats, parallel worlds, [Zzzzzzzzz.] Ragnarok, and the past-life stalker from hell. [I recommend three items per list in a query letter. In this case, I'd go with friendship, parallel worlds and talking cats. If you call it a story about clockwork, causality and Ragnarok, you may as well make this the last sentence.]

Princess Ankhet is afraid of only two things: that she's too scatterbrained to be a good princess, and that she won't have the courage to tell her childhood friend Finn that she likes him. [You forgot snakes. Surely she's afraid of snakes.] [Also, ancient pharaohs who want to cut out her heart.] Then she accidentally wakes an ancient pharaoh who enslaves her kingdom, [This guy works fast.] brainwashes Finn, and wants to cut out her heart. Ankhet escapes, but with Finn on her heels, she has nowhere to hide--until a mysterious white cat makes her an offer: "Come with me across worlds. Find the eight other princesses, and you can save your friend."

Irena Sigynsdottir [Translation: Daughter of the Sidhe gynocologist.] has always known exactly what she's going to do with her life: she'll [change her last name to Smith and] join the Order that protects her world from incursions, and she'll prove to Kjaran--the aloof older boy who's been her guardian since her parents died--that she's grown up and he should marry her. Nothing can stop her--[Anytime an author says "Nothing can stop her," it's a sure bet something will stop her, often before the end of the sentence.] until the night Kjaran slaughters their entire village [That always puts a damper on a relationship.] and uses the blood in a spell to make her a human weapon. He says he'll let her run a little while: "And if you eat the hearts of the eight other princesses, you might be strong enough to survive my return." Irena can't bear to use such abominable magic, but she's determined to get revenge. Then a black cat makes her an offer: "Come with me across worlds. I know another way for you to grow strong [and for once it doesn't involve removal and consumption of anyone's heart]."

As the two girls journey [Together?] between worlds, they learn there is more at stake than their own personal quests. Aeons ago, the most powerful of all worlds--Asgard--was destroyed. [Turned out, it was the second most powerful of all worlds.] On the night it fell, the prince and princess of Asgard had their hearts shattered. [I'm starting to think it's the author who's obsessed with hearts and not the characters.] In every world, a boy and a girl have been born with fragments of those hearts inside them. In every world, [that girl has become a princess and had her heart removed and eaten, and that boy has become a mass murderer.] tragedy has followed them. And from somewhere beyond the worlds, the one who destroyed Asgard is manipulating them all for his own ends. [What are his own ends? You claim there's more at stake than the girls' personal quests, and then you don't tell us what it is.]

In 2007 I attended [reputable writing workshop.] [On the last day of the workshop we all drew straws to see whose heart we would remove and eat. I got lucky; that's the last time I go to a horror writing workshop.] This is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Luckily I didn't suggest including ninjas and werewolves on your list, as they aren't mentioned at all. Meanwhile, the bloodthirsty pharaoh and the evil magician/mass murderer didn't even make the list?

Are Irena and Ankhet the main characters, or do the other seven princesses get equal screen time? If the latter, these two are getting too much query time.

I suggest dropping the first paragraph entirely. You can put your word count and genre at the end.

The plot is what happens after the cats make their appearances. The rest is the setup, and we want less setup and more plot. The Irena paragraph could be shortened to something like:

Irena Sigynsdottir longs to prove to Kjaran--the aloof older boy who's been her guardian since her parents died--that she's grown up and he should marry her. But she begins to have second thoughts when Kjaran slaughters their entire village and uses the blood in a spell to make her a human weapon. As she plots her revenge, a black cat makes her an offer: "Come with me across worlds. I know a way for you to grow strong.

The Ankhet paragraph can do without "childhood" and "with Finn on her heels."

It would be an interesting experiment to start the query:

Aeons ago, the most powerful of all worlds--Asgard--was destroyed. On the night it fell, the prince and princess of Asgard had their hearts shattered. In every world, a boy and a girl have been born with fragments of those hearts inside them. And from somewhere beyond the worlds, the one who destroyed Asgard is manipulating them all for his own ends.

That's your setup, and you can jump to the part where the nine princesses are doing whatever they must do to save their worlds and get their men.

16 comments:

Dave F. said...

DR WHAT and his Tardis port-a-potty!
Too funny and I'm a big fan of the Doctor. I saw the original Davros Dalek in the Dr Who tour bus that traveled the USA in 1989.

150 said...

I'm intrigued despite myself. I think I'd be more intrigued if I knew what was going on. Can you try again and make it less kitchen-sinky?

BuffySquirrel said...

Ankhet and Irina's situations seem too similar to me, but then that's a perceived problem with the novel, not the query. I think EE has given great advice on how to start.

I'm a bit uneasy with the mixture of sources. Pharaohs and Ragnarok? Again, me. ignore me! :)

Also, you might want to give the impression there's more to the trilogy than two young women following two talking cats across eight worlds looking for eight princesses. Unless of course there isn't. No, hang on, *especially* if there isn't.

Kings Falcon said...

The query's a bit of a mess since you are trying to wrap 18 or more stories together. I actually like EE's approach to it.

Something like:

Aeons ago, the most powerful of all worlds--Asgard--was destroyed. On the night it fell, the hearts of Asgard's prince and princess shattered. Now in each of the nine worlds, a boy and a girl, born with shards of those hearts, approach the age of majority. And from somewhere beyond the worlds, (name), the one who destroyed Asgard, manipulates them all.

So now - what do the girls (all princesses?) have to do to stop the big baddie? Are the boys any help or just hinderances? What does the baddie want and how does he get it? And umm, how do you reunite the hearts?

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

One heart-chopping episode / threat would be enough.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm sort of in 150's camp--intrigued despite myself. But the plot needs an org chart, a score card,and possibly crib notes as well.

As it stands now, your description of the plot is really confusing. I think that you'd be best served to pick the main thrust of the plot, e.g. escaping evil so the MC can grow strong enough to fight the evil.

That's assuming that only one princess is a main character. If this is not the case, you need to come up with something that reflects what's going on with them all.

I'd love to see your revision of this query.

writtenwyrdd said...

PS, I'm assuming (and we all know what a bad idea that is) that this first volume of your series is about the powers of good (your princess/heroine or collective gaggle of girls) coming together and beginning stage 1 of the Battle Against Evil.

My suggestion is that you tell us what the overall goal of this first volume is. What battle against evil or what specific problem threatens to doom the fight against evil before it starts? That's what I think you need to sell in the query.

arhooley said...

An epic journey between worlds with talking cats as guides sounds ossum. I hope you've pulled it off.

There are a few muddled moments in your query:

1 - We can assume Finn was "brainwashed" into hunting Ankhet?

2 - I could use some specifics on a) being turned into a human weapon and b) being allowed to "run a while."

3 - The Bureau of Literary Statistics states that 99.9% of the time, hearts are shattered figuratively. You might better establish that in Asgard it's literal.

M. G. E. said...

I think the problem here is that the author seems to be pitching a series rather than just the first book of that series.

Seems like each book deals with two princesses?

Apart from that, I'm not excited about the potpourri of themes. Which makes me wonder if this is actually a comedic novel? If so, the thematic jumble works :P

Stephen Prosapio said...

i don't <3 this query, but i don't h8 it either.

Sorry. I just remembered that I'm not still 14.

Ahhhhh. The query for a series might explain the cunjumbledness of this. But I'm with 150, I'm somewhat intrigued. At least it's not the same old same ole. I just wish somewhere in this thing I could find a payphone.

Phoenix said...

EE's notes make tremendous sense of this mashup of a story.

What I'm not getting from this query is that THIS book wraps up a storyline on its own and can stand by itself.

I assumed each princess will get her shot as MC, but only A&I are featured in Vol 1. I'm hoping there's a clear stop at the end of Vol 1 and that A&I's immediate stories are wrapped up in it. But from the way this is written, it sounds like all 3 books are needed to finish off their stories as well as wrap up the overarching story line.

I'm also confused by how the boys fit in. The girls have some parallel structure, but the boys don't seem to be following a pattern. One is apparently born good and doesn't know about Asgaard and the heart thing, but is brainwashed into being evil by an outside force. The other seems to be born evil and all-knowing.

I'm also left scratching my head a bit about there being NINE girls. If it follows the mythology, Asgaard was one of the Nine Worlds and if Asgaard's been destroyed, shouldn't that leave just EIGHT worlds and EIGHT boy/girl pairs?

Dave F. said...

Wikipedia provides a few hints from Norse Mythology. You can look them up almost without suffering a headache.
The Norse Poetic Edda "Grímnismál" gives a list of 11 Valkyrie.
The Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar refers to 27 Valkyrie.
The Helgakviða Hundingsbana II refers to nine Valkyrie.
Richard Wagner's opera DIE WALKYRIE has nine of them on horseback. It's a helluva staging problem when the horses are live.

However, if you use any of that stuff in a query, you might give the agent a headache trying to figure it out. You are going to have to be careful in 250 words to not introduce chaos with the pieces of mythology that you use in the story. If there are nine different worlds, then saying that when the HEART split, the pieces flew to worlds representing different mythologies might be all you can say with any clarity.

Think of how you would describe Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone without the other six books. Basically, Harry discovers he's a wizard and has to defeat an evil being that wants immortality. That's the reduction in scope that you need to accomplish a more exciting version of that for your first book. You have to sell it first.

_*rachel*_ said...

Hm, this is a hard one. I'd suggest trying what EE said, especially the idea about putting the Asgard explanation first. This definitely sounds interesting--I'd be interested enough to go on to some pages--but make sure you don't use your lists to make this a kitchen sink a la Turkey City Lexicon.

I think this is a case where separate explanations of Ankhet and Irena's stories before they meet is a good thing. There've been many times it's just confusing, but the parallels here draw it together and help explain the plot.

As far as the series goes, I'd put my money on saying it's a stand-alone novel with the potential to be a series. And we'd better hope it's true--you'll have better luck finding an agent that way.

Angela Robbins said...

I was hoping for the Dr. What. Now THAT was a story!
I think this would sound more appealing if there wasn't so much info dumping. It seems that perhaps the query is covering more than one of the series?
Pare it down. Agree with EE, as usual.

BuffySquirrel said...

My understanding from the agent blogs I've read is that agents don't want writers to pitch a series. It's okay to mention that this is the first book in a projected series, but they want to know about *this* book, and it should stand alone.

Beth said...

A different sort of premise... but this is WAY too long. You need to get it down to one or two paragraphs. It's supposed to capture the essence of the story, not give us the whole formula.