Thursday, June 09, 2011

Face-Lift 916


Guess the Plot

Finding the Path

1. After a night of drunken forest debauchery, Todd wakes up at noon in a blackberry thicket, naked. Who were those chicks and why did they lead him here? Which way is home? And what happened to his frigging glasses? He can't see a thing without them.

2. 1941 Scotland. Sent to live in the country for safety, fifteen-year-old Mary and her brother Philip are bored and lonely. When the old gardener tells them about a secret pathway near the bridge, they decide to have a look. But will they find a trail--or something more sinister? Also, a ghostly fox.

3. A tribe of rabbits must find a new home when bulldozers arrive to turn their meadow into a parking lot.

4. Hansel and Gretel, aka 'House' and 'Grit,' have been abandoned halfway between Texas and Washington, DC by their crack-head mother. Can they find their way home to dad? Will he even realize they're missing, unless he runs out of beer?

5. Englebert lives in a bewitched forest. He eats roots, berries, and slow-moving varmints, sleeps in the hollow of a tree and dreams about a path that leads to the castle where the evil wizard who turned beautiful Naomi to glass now keeps her locked in a tower. Englebert wants to save the damsel, but he can't actually find that path without the help of a certain uncooperative elf.

6. Flip Miller develops telepathic powers after a nuclear blast and uses them to start a horse training business that doesn't require any whispering. Then the sheriff rides into town and asks Flip to use her powers to find some missing persons--including her grandmother. Can Flip ascertain "Which way did they go?" or do her powers just work on the equine crowd?


Original Version

Dear Prospective Agent,

Life isn’t easy in the aftermath of a psionic nuke, [My Googling of "psionic nuke" turns up pages of video game-related responses. This leads me to wonder if you learned the term from your obsession with Starcraft II.] and a tiny fraction of the survivors have discovered new mental abilities within themselves even as they band together into small communities to ward off predators. ["Even as" implies that one wouldn't expect the development of new mental abilities from people banding together to ward off predators. I don't see that one has anything to do with the other.] ["Developed" is a tighter way of saying "discovered within themselves."]

Horse trainer Philippa Miller doesn’t whisper to horses; with her telepathic connection, she doesn’t have to. [Is it a telepathic connection just with horses?] But when the sheriff of the territory comes to find out if her gift can help him discover what is happening to the growing number of missing persons [discovering their whereabouts would take priority over discovering what's happening to them.] and her own grandmother vanishes, Flip finds herself up against the challenge of her life. [I would call surviving in the aftermath of a psionic nuke a bigger challenge. Either her gift can help the sheriff or it can't.] And she finds her abilities tested by an evil beyond her worst nightmares [An evil even worse than the aftermath of a psionic nuke?] even as she awakens to the possibility of a love beyond her wildest dreams. [With the sheriff?] [That's the second time you've used "even as" as a connector. It seems to work better here, although we have no idea what you mean by "an evil beyond her worst nightmares."]

FINDING THE PATH is an 81,000 word urban fantasy. I believe it will appeal to readers of Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine and Faith Hunter. Following the old adage of 'write what you know', I raised and trained horses for many years and my husband [is an evil beyond my worst nightmares.] and children believe I'm telepathic. [Let's find out if you're telepathic. What am I going to say about your query?]

Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Notes

An evil beyond her worst nightmares/a love beyond her wildest dreams may seem like a clever contrast, but to me it's where the query comes splashing down in a pool of vagueness, even as it reaches its conclusion.

Is there a war going on, or did just one psionic nuke go off, thanks to terrorists or an accident? If it's the latter, can't the survivors go somewhere else instead of banding together to ward off predators? It sounds like the nuke incident occurred in the middle of nowhere. Was this territory an urban setting before the psionic nuke?

As no one else's mental powers are mentioned, and nothing is made of the predators, you might want to open with the focus on Flip:

In the aftermath of a psionic nuke, horse trainer Philippa Miller has developed a telepathic connection with her animals. When Sheriff Chad Massive drops by "Flip's" ranch to ask if her abilities might be useful in finding a string of missing persons, she hesitates--until she learns that her grandmother is the latest to go missing.

Start with something like that, and take us through the search and the evil and the romance even as you bombard us with specific fascinating details.

23 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Games aside, what is a psionic nuke? What are its effects? Could it even exist?

BuffySquirrel said...

Also, given that horse language, or communication if you prefer, is on the whole non-verbal, what benefits would there be to a telepathic link?

Evil Editor said...

horse language, or communication if you prefer, is on the whole non-verbal...

Apparently you've never seen Mr. Ed.

Also, I know of no non-verbal way to tell a horse to bring you a beer.

Halcyon N. said...

Thanks for your comments! I'm going to chew over everything you've said and rework some stuff and see if I can tighten it up and make it more specific.

I can see several things I need to clarify, so you've given me a great jumping off point.

(I laughed out loud at the video game comment - I've never even heard of that game.)

Also, horses can't bring you beer. Duh. That's what dogs are for. Horses have a helluva time opening the fridge.

BuffySquirrel said...

Mr. Ed? nah, I'm too young! XD

Halcyon N. said...

BuffySquirrel, in the story, the psionic nuke was a weapon the Chinese had been developing in secret for a widespread strike against Western civilization. The book is set 26 years after the nuke was accidentally triggered, and I can see that I didn't make that nearly clear enough. That's one of the things I'll fix.

Also, I work with horses every day, and even though I do "speak" their language, I can't tell you how many times I've wished I could just talk to them mind-to-mind. Horses are prey creatures. Their lives are dominated by the constant worry that a predator will appear and devour them. Being able to reassure them that they're NOT about to get eaten by imaginary beasts would be a huge help.

Anonymous said...

There goes your Chinese-American readership.

Anonymous said...

Getting the vagueness out will make this much better.

batgirl said...

Does it need to be called a 'nuke'? Is there anything nuclear about it, or is that being used to mean 'bomb'?
I'm kind of intrigued by a post-disaster urban fantasy. I get the idea that your plot needs a short, sharp disaster to get the world where you want it?

Ink and Pixel Club said...

Halcyon N> You've now explained the origins of the psionic nuke and when it was detonated, but I still have no clue what a psionic nuke is. What does it do that makes it different from a regular nuclear bomb? Did it trigger the mental abilities that some of the survivors have?

I concluded that Flip is able to communicate with horses and only horses telepathically, so I'm not sure why the sheriff thinks she would be particularly helpful in finding these missing people.

Do you believe that you're telepathic? Saying that your husband and children think you are without stating your own thoughts on the matter kind of makes it seem like you don't share there views. I'm also a little wary of bringing the opinions of family on any subject into a query. It's not quite "My mom says I'm the next J.K. Rowling" or "My five year old daughter think that this is the best story ever," but it's still something you might want to consider dropping.

I agree with the calls for more detail. Right now, the main problem laid out in the story is the missing people and Flip's only connection to that problem is the fact that her equine telepathy might somehow aid in finding them. I know so little about Flip that even though she has this interesting power, I'm not yet sure whether I would enjoy reading about her.

Khazar-khum said...

I knew a Flip who worked with horses.

Anyway, if this is the future, is this a world where horses are the best means of transportation, or beloved pets as they are now?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I agree w/I&P that you should probably leave out your telepathic talents. They could cause agently eye-rolling, never a good thing.

Can you think of a disaster that doesn't involve dissing the world's most populous nation? If making China the bad guy were necessary to the plot it'd be one thing, but it sounds like it isn't.

It seems to me those psionic nukes* are so dangerous they could easily go off by accident if you need the world destabilized.

*/also haven't the foggiest what they are

Dave Fragments said...

I don't mind the Psionic Nuke. I'll let that work as a premise. Nick Harkaway used the "gone away" bombs in a post-apocalyptic world.

The rest of the plot I can't figure out enough to make suggestions for the query.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

AlaskaRavenclaw> Halcyon N does say the nuke was triggered by accident. It was just built by China. Not sure if the implication that China was planning to drop it on all of Western civilization though. It would be just as easy to say they were building it as a weapon of last resort for a potential future war against a yet undetermined enemy.

EmilyS said...

I like the idea of them developing the weapon against an enemy we don't know about yet. It could mean there are future enemies for them to worry about. Although they certainly made it easy for such an unknown (alien?) nation to take over.

vkw said...

Horses are prey animals, they spend all their time looking for the predator. They are paranoid and unpredictable and sometimes mean spirited and sometimes really clever. They're like mean Border Collies - only much bigger and dangerous. That's why they need whisperers/therapists.

One way to handle this entire China thing would be . . .we don't know what happened. A big bomb went off resulting in an apocalypse. Who did it? We don't know. Why? We don't know. How? we don't know. What happened? Some people developed gifts and the world was largely destroyed because . . . . .

Is 26 years long enough, however, to re-establish civilization?

And we really need to know about this great evil.

vkw

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I&PC-- Ah, my bad. I guess I just went all crosseyed and "WTF?" when China declared war on western civilization.

arhooley said...

a tiny fraction of the survivors have discovered new mental abilities

That's about the same ratio of telepaths to gen-pop that we have now. Maybe the fraction should be a big larger.

Are this challenge, love, and evil -- each described in superlatives -- knit together in the plot, or do they pile on her in a superlative coincidence? This is one of the things I'd want to know in order to judge whether you're good at crafting story, but it's all vague in the query.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, yeah, it would be great to tell a horse, telepathically or otherwise, that a paper bag really isn't going to eat it any time soon, but I'm still not convinced of how it works.

Anonymous said...

I would have LOVED to be able to tell my horse that he could easily out-AMBLE-VERY-SLOWLY that appallingly dangerous turtle on the other side of the road...

BuffySquirrel said...

lol Anon

Halcyon N. said...

Thanks to everyone. I'm sorry I haven't been back in a couple of days. You all gave excellent feedback and I've been working on a few things while I chew on some ideas.

I like the idea of China building the bomb as a last-resort thing. I don't actually want to piss off my Chinese demographic, after all.

Arhooley, no they don't all dogpile her at once. I've woven together everything that happens so that it flows from one step of her character growth to the next.

Well, it's what I HOPE I've done, anyway.

Thanks again for everyone's feedback. You've helped me realize that the query is way too vague and needs to be much more precise and hooking. It may take awhile, but I'll be back. (One of you others will have to be Beethoven.)

Sylvia said...

This is just a nitpick but while you are tightening, "new mental abilities" seem to me to be by definition internal. I don't think you have to state "within themselves".