Saturday, December 01, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Lullaby of Allat

1. Legend speaks of the demon-child Allat, who will bring ruin to the world should he awake. The Sacred Order of Choristers are sworn to prevent this from happening, but every year their numbers grow fewer. Can a cocky young inventor with wax cylinder technology save the day?

2. Young Sir Allat is heir to the family secret: a melody that puts its hearers to sleep for 100 years. Everyone in the kingdom is at pains to amuse him, because he has a wicked sense of ironic humor and god only knows what he'd do if somebody bored him.

3. When Dr. Alison Grayden finds a copy of the legendary Medieval poem "Lullaby of Allat" in her late aunt's safe deposit box, she's thrilled. Only--how did the manuscript, lost for 600 years, end up in a safe deposit box in Burbank? Also, a djinn.

4. For years Thea has been tormented by music in her head. But when the demon Acreosate invades, she realizes her destiny: to sing him to sleep! Right after she convinces the king to put a 13 year old girl in charge of the army.

5. When a zombie shows up on her doorstep seeking an explanation for his reanimation, Louisa is thrust into an adventure that takes her to Bulgaria and the tomb of an ancient bandit who worshiped Allat, the Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld. Does Allat's lullaby have the power to wake the dead?

6. When permanent insomnia strikes the king and queen of Khobistan, their health is at risk. Then a troubadour named Allat arrives, claiming his songs can bring sleep--but for a price: their first-born. Is that price worth the nightmares that will accompany the . . . Lullaby of Allat?

Original Version

Dear EE:

Louisa Dove is the practical, hardworking assistant of a prominent archaeologist in Victorian era London. Things [What things?] take a turn for the strange, however, [That transitional phrase makes no sense here, as you haven't described or declared a situation in which "things" weren't strange. Quite the opposite, in fact: a female archaeologist in Victorian-era London is pretty strange to begin with. To clarify, in which of the following does the transition work:

Bob's life is so boring, the most exciting part of his day is when a telemarketer phones to suggest he switch long-distance carriers. However, his life takes a turn for the bizarre when . . .

Bob makes his living modifying unicycles so they can be ridden by people with peglegs. However, his life becomes strange when . . .]
when formerly deceased pickpocket Pete Daggney [Never use terms like "formerly deceased" or "undead" when you can instead use "zombie." In fact, even if Daggney isn't a zombie, I recommend calling him "zombie-like pickpocket Pete Daggney."] turns up on her doorstep, seeking an explanation for his sudden reanimation. [He doesn't need her for an explanation. If he craves blood, he's a vampire. If he craves brains he's a zombie. And if neither of those is the case, he's the son of God.] [By the way, what makes him think she has an explanation?] An occult artifact of unknown origin is to blame, [According to him or to her?] but to undo Daggney's unfortunate state, Louisa and her mentor must track the object back to its source. [There's an artifact, and I have no idea where it came from, but I know it is responsible for turning you into a zombie and that we must track it back to its source. How does she know they must do this?]

Along the way, their journey is riddled with complications, thanks to the meddling of the charming Mr. Villiers, amature [amateur] treasure hunter and future English Earl, unexpected Bulgarian railway bandits, [No need to call Bulgarian railway bandits "unexpected." No one expects Bulgarian railway bandits.] [For that matter, no one expects Bulgarians.] and not one, but two secret societies [If one secret society is a drawing card, two is a major attraction. Of course, the more secret societies you have in one place, the harder it is for them to stay secret.] seeking the same prize. [If you mean the same prize that Louisa is seeking, I didn't know she was seeking a prize. What is the prize?] Now, Louisa is caught up in a race to locate the tomb of an ancient [Bulgarian] bandit king, before what is contained within can be used to raise an army of the dead [zombies], and threaten the sanctity of the British Empire. [Is "sanctity" the word you want? I was thinking "stability" or "security." Or "braaaaaiiiiins."]

LULLABY OF ALLAT is an updated version of the Victorian pulp serial, with elements taken from turn of the century [Turn of which century?] gothic novels and traditional scientific romance.
[Traditional scientific romance:

It is action-packed, fast-paced and complete at 90,000 words.

[Not part of query: Allat is a Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld, whom the aforementioned bandit king worshipped.]


Was the bandit king the king of some bandits or a king who was also a bandit? I don't see why a king would want to be a bandit or why bandits would want a king, but then I'm not Bulgarian.

Louisa goes to an awful lot of trouble to make Pete the pickpocket dead again. Assuming Pete wants to be dead again, can't they just burn him at the stake?

The first paragraph is a useful setup, but I think I'd prefer that the second paragraph focus on what's in the tomb and who wants to use it to destroy Britain than on secret societies and bandits and an annoying earl.

For those who like to keep track of such things, this is the first appearance of Bulgarians in a query since Face-Lift 280.

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...I assume Louisa is your main character, but she seems to be an also-ran in her own story. What does she want? What is stopping her? How is that resolved?

If she's an assistant, and her mentor comes with them, then we have Pete the Pickpocket who wants to be dead again, the unnamed mentor who presumably runs the expedition, handles the traveling and the investigating ... oh, and his assistant Louisa. Right now this seems to be Pete's story.

Stephen Prosapio said...First problem that needs to be solved is we need to know what Louisa wants. The query gives us no clue. Is it to become a full archeologist herself? To return Pete to the grave so he stops bugging her? Why does she have a connection with a pickpocket anyway?
Next, no need to introduce all the elements/characters into your plot. (ie the charming Mr. Whoever) unless it’s to give the query flavor.

Louisa Dove works for a prominent archaeologist in Victorian era London, but she can’t seem to make a grand discovery of her own. When a zombie pickpocket turns up on her doorstep claiming an occult artifact is to blame, she hardly sees it as her chance to be taken seriously, but determined to make a name for herself, Louisa sets out to track the object back to its source—where legend has it, contains a wellspring of infinite power, the tomb of an ancient bandit king—Evil Emperor.

The journey is riddled with complications: amateur treasure hunters, Bulgarian railway bandits, and secret societies seek the fabled power that comes from Evil Emperor’s Tomb. Louisa races to locate power source, before the not-so-charming Mr. Villiers can use it to raise an army of the dead and threaten the security of the British Empire—not to mention Louisa’s career.

LULLABY OF ALLAT is action adventure novel complete at 90,000 words.

I obviously don’t know if that’s your story, but by changing many of the sentences from the passive to the active tense and giving Louisa some purpose and direction, it should help point you in the right direction. Good luck!

alaskaravenclaw said...I think it could be Louisa's story if, in the second sentence, we got a firm sense of exactly what Louisa has done that resulted in Pete being turned into a zombie. That would make it a Louisa-driven story.
As it is it sounds painfully like that interminable chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, probably labeled in the script as "we have to run through the jungle for half an hour now, because the director says so".

IOW don't make it sound like your plot is dragging your character around. And be specific. Who wants what for what, why?

Btw, writer, do follow the link to Face-Lift 280. I think your query shares some of the same issues, and the third to last comment, the retelling of LOTR without specfics, is also instructive.

Wilkins MacQueen said...Showing it is an action packed fast paced tale is the key, telling doesn't help.

M. G. E. said...Okay, this seems like a fun story, you just need to polish your prose to a professional level. That's actually difficult to do, lord knows I'm still working on it :

This reminded me of like a femme-Indiana Jones almost, but then enough twists showed up to differentiate itself.

EE pointed out the plot holes you need to fix, but that shouldn't be impossible in this case.

The biggest problem is how all these groups at the same time end up racing for the same object.

BuffySquirrel said...

If he's a future Earl, he'll have a title of his own--he won't be 'Mr' anything.

1 comment:

150 said...

Would read!