Sunday, December 02, 2012

Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

The Forest's Paw

1. Trees spring up in the middle of the interstate, rabbit warrens pop up mid-game on the football field. Humans are toast. After centuries of being burnt, made into furniture and eaten, Flora and Fauna have banded together for revenge.

2. When the great redwood forest is threatened by a greedy developer, Alya the fairy must convince her people to stop their eternal war with the elves and join together to keep their forest free. Also, the Wolf King.

3. Drake comes from a long line of smugglers, conmen, lumberjacks and polluting industrialists. When he decides to run for governor on an eco-platform, (un)natural disasters ensue.

4. A giant bear has been sleeping for centuries, and now, there's a whole forest growing on his back. When meddlesome hikers awaken him, can they escape... The Forest's Paw?

5. Bess is trying to protect the last earth spirit from assassins with the help of a goat-boy, but what hope do they have against the vicious vegetation, hideous harpies and murderous mermaids they encounter?

6. More people have disappeared there than in the Bermuda Triangle, so many that the area's been declared off-limits to hikers. Naturally that only inspires Brad and Chelsea to explore . . . The Forest's Paw.


Original Version


Dear Evil Editor,

When Bess finds a tiny, half-drowned wolf cub, it seems harmless. [If she finds it in the water, I'd call it a drowning wolf cub. It's really hard to tell whether something is halfway to drowning. Depends on how long it can tread water, how long it can hold its breath, whether the clock starts as soon as it gets thrown overboard or when it goes below the surface for the last time. Now, if the cub isn't in the water, if it's lying on the shore, it's no longer on its way to drowning, and thus it's probably more accurate to say it's half-recovered from its ordeal than half drowned. We usually talk about being halfway to where we're going, not halfway from where we've left.] And it is, more or less. Unfortunately, those pursuing it are quite the opposite. Soon Bess is running from the Givers, beautiful assassins [If you're recruiting members for your organization of assassins, can you afford to be so picky that you insist they be beautiful? In other words, are there so many assassins seeking employment that you can fill your organization's ranks with just beautiful ones?] who want to kill her and capture the wolf, [They sound more like Takers than Givers.] [All Bess did was find the cub. Why do the Givers want to kill her?] who is really the last free earth spirit. They act for the Black Angels, self-appointed dictators, in an attempt to regain their magic. [Is that the Givers' magic or the Black Angels' magic?] It will mean the death of all the earth spirits, and the plants they protect, if they succeed. [If you're the last free earth spirit, and thus the only thing preventing the death of the plants, and you don't know how to swim, you have an obligation to stay away from the water.]

Bess is in too deep to turn back when she realises they’re chasing her wolf. [I'd say, Sorry wolfie, but it's you they're after. Sayonara.] Leaving her uncomfortable but once safe home, [It's already been established that she's running from assassins and that it's too late to turn back, yet now you declare that she's leaving her home?] she makes her way to the Black Angels’ lair to free the other spirits. [The other earth spirits? The water, fire and air spirits?] Along the way, she teams up with an immature goat-boy, a cheerful child, an obnoxious woman and a glowing cluster of moths. Her courage is tested as they face vicious vegetation, hideous harpies and murderous mermaids. [One list is plenty for a query; I recommend dumping the alliterative one. Mostly because the alliteration is annoying, but also because it leads me to wonder what mermaids are doing in a forest.] [You can drop the cheerful child from the other list as well, not only because of the alliteration, but because once you've mentioned the immature goat-boy, we won't care about any allies or enemies except the immature goat-boy.] [If you'd mentioned the immature goat-boy earlier, I wouldn't have been so hard on you. In fact, if the query began, When an immature goat-boy finds a tiny half-drowned wolf cub, it seems harmless, or When Bess finds a tiny, half-drowned immature goat-boy... I would have stopped reading and immediately requested your full manuscript.] That she never knew so many of the dangers even existed, that her ‘cub’ keeps growing in size, and that everyone seems to have their own secrets only further complicates matters, not to mention the love triangle Bess is unknowingly a part of. [Is the immature goat-boy part of the love triangle? Please say Yes.] [This list of complications is vague and most of the items on it don't seem like big complications anyway, and what about the immature goat-boy?]

At least she can see the ghosts of animals. That’s always useful. [This is not how to end. End with the stakes, the dilemma, the insurmountable obstacle, anything that makes us want to know more.]

THE FOREST’S PAW is a completed 67,000 young adult, fantasy novel. It is a stand-alone with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,


Notes

I would mention either the Givers or the Black Angels as the bad guys. We don't need both in the query.

Focus on Bess's goal and her plan. I'd scrap everything after she makes her way to the Black Angels' lair, and tell us what happens after she gets there instead of what characters she met along the way.

They may not use any title you come up with, but try to come up with something that sounds like it makes sense. For instance, The Immature Goat-Boy.

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...Character development is very important and when done well the plot and the characters are inseparable. I read this query and have no idea what's going on in your story or why you chose this cast.

It would be helpful to give a bit more info about the most important characters so we know how each character contributes to the plot. Like with the Wizard of Oz -- if all we know is Dorothy is pursued by a Wicked Witch so she goes hiking with a scarecrow, a tin woodman, and a lion we have no idea why this seemingly random assortment of companions join her, what unites them, or how their presence adds to the plot. A few words about what each of them hopes to get from the Wizard helps us envision the story.


arhooley said...I'd really work on the writing.

"And it is, more or less." -- I find that uninformative and annoyingly coy.

"who is really the last free earth spirit" -- until you name the wolf cub, it should be a which, not a who.

"Self-appointed dicators" -- It doesn't matter how the dictators gained power, whether they are "self-appointed," hereditary monarchs, or voted in.

"all the earth spirits, and the plants they protect, if they succeed" -- lose the commas.

". . . a completed 67,000 young adult, fantasy novel." 67,000 young adults in your novel is a lot of characters. (But this looks like kiddie lit to me.)

You also haven't shown me the importance of these earth spirits. They guard plants? Including corn fields in Iowa? Does removing the guards mean all plants and animals on the earth will die?

As to the story itself, I'm getting kitchen sink syndrome. Mermaids, satyrs, Audreys, fighting moths, and harpies? Oh, and a love triangle plus some secret agendas. Too much.


Khazar-khum said...I'm guessing "Forest's Paw" refers to the wolf. The list of critters like fauns and mermaids makes this sound like Narnia.


Joe G said...I'm actually sort of in love with the title. It's almost as insane as everything else in this query. I want some of whatever it is you're on, author.

But seriously, folks, I'm mildly intrigued by this story. I don't know what you did to bring me on board but I could sort of see it. I'm a little worried that maybe you were throwing every cliche you could think of into the trough, but it worked for C.S. Lewis (as someone else pointed out).

You have a classic plot here that you can never go wrong with. There is something that must be protected and brought to a place of safety or destruction, and terrible forces seek to stop a fragile hero/heroine and take it from him/her. Unfortunately you never explained why the heroine cares about the wolf cub so much. You have to make us care about the wolf cub's safety or else it's all so much sturm and drang.

Can someone unknowingly be caught up in a love triangle? What? Does the wolf cub have a human form? Is it a child or her age? Please explain these things.

I'm on EE's team. The utterly evocative "immature goat-boy" puts cheerful child and obnoxious woman to shame. Come up with descriptions that summon something to our minds the way the first one does. Don't get lazy after one good phrase. I do like "a growing cluster of moths".

Just tell the plot of the story. You're in such a hurry to illustrate the level of invention on display that you forgot to tell us what happens, and it's a bit overwhelming. Also, it seems an awful lot of plot for a 67,000 word book. Does the book have time to breathe with so many characters and incidents? The first Harry Potter book is longer than yours.


Anonymous said...I liked the immature goat-boy and the cluster of moths, and that seeing ghosts is useful - all this shows imagination and voice. I like the growing wolf because that's an escalating trouble that she'll have to deal with.

I was confused by the genre. The name Bess sounds old-fashioned to me; I went in thinking she was an adult. Assassins and dictators seemed to fit this. Then the motley crew of friends and alliterative dangers showed up and I started thinking this was kid lit. Then a love triangle, and oops maybe she's adult after all? Then you tell it's young adult. Please give her age up front.

I would also like to know what an earth spirit is and what is the difference between a free one and one that is not free. And does Bess switch worlds or start off in the world where they're used to earth spirits?


Sarah from Hawthorne said...I thought this could be really interesting, but it's hard to tell from the query. My random grab bag of comments:

Why exactly does Bess decide she needs to free the other earth spirits? What makes her think she is capable of this?

This sentence: That she never knew so many of the dangers even existed, that her ‘cub’ keeps growing in size, and that everyone seems to have their own secrets only further complicates matters, not to mention the love triangle Bess is unknowingly a part of. is rather unwieldy and ends in a preposition.

I'm confused where this takes place. Your voice seems to indicate a contemporary setting (you use modern phrasing such as "not to mention" and sarcastic asides) but at the same time Bess seems to be traveling through a wilderness, not through the modern world.

Hope this helps!


no-bull-steve said...something about this interests me...not my normal type of story, but there's certainly a market for it. I agree with most suggestions so far. Keep honing it with the focus on the MC, what the perils are and what happens if she doesn't succeed.

Love immature goat boy.


chelsea said...I'm with EE - I'm definitely hoping the goat boy is less of a Mr. Tumnus type character and more of a sexy satyr love interest.

I liked this premise a lot. The wolf, the goat-boy, the scary vegetation - all of these sparked my interest. I just think the query needs to be streamlined a little bit.

I think you could get most of the query's key points into the first paragraph (combine Givers and Black Angels, combine running from the bad guys and leaving her uncomfortable home). That frees up the second paragraph to tell more about the progression of the book. Oh, who am I kidding, I'm just hoping to hear about this love triangle.

I did get a bit of a middle grade feel from this, so I think adding in Bess' age and talking a bit more about the love triangle would give it that YA feel. Also, you can just say "YA fantasy".

Just my opinion, of course. Looking forward to the rewrite :)


Author said...to archooley
I said they were self-appointed dictators because I thought it said something about their character, but do you think that is not really important?

Thanks for the helpful comments everyone. Reading through them I can see how the query is completely confusing. This will get a complete reworking (but the immature goat-boy will stay in don't worry!) I'll post it up when I'm done


Author said...Hello people. Not sure if anyone will still be lurking here but I thought I'd post my revision here before going to phoenix :)

I tried to keep in the bits people liked and get rid of the kitchen sink, but now I'm worried it spends too much time on the set up.

Fifteen year old Bess is collecting water when she finds a half-dead wolf cub. She names it Shamrock and takes him home to recover; unaware he was being followed.

The ones chasing Shamrock are assassins named the Givers. They can control mortals through their beauty, and soon Bess’s entire village is eager to help them find her. By aiding Shamrock, Bess has unintentionally become his accomplice. She is forced to flee for her life.

She finds an ally in Grack, an immature goat-boy, when he saves her from a deranged field. He wants revenge after the Givers destroyed his village. Shamrock reveals himself as an earth spirit, a being that enables plants to grow, trapped as a wolf by the Givers. They plan to capture earth spirits to harness the magic for themselves, despite knowing this would destroy the world’s plant life.

The group decides to free the captured earth spirits, hopefully destroying the Givers in the process. The further Bess travels from her human village, the weirder the people and monsters become and the bigger Shamrock grows. Bess realises she can see the ghosts of animals, not that she can think of any use for this ability.

Grack thinks Bess gives Shamrock a bit too much attention. Shamrock feels the same way about him. Bess just wants to know why there’s a cluster of moths following her around.

Thanks for all your help, evil or otherwise.


Evil Editor said...A few minor problems to fix before going to Phoenix:

Get rid of "when he saves her from a deranged field." It will bother readers without an explanation.

Now that it's just Bess and goat-boy, change "The group decides..."

The query should build toward rescuing the spirits, the plan, the obstacle. Finishing with the ghosts and the love triangle and the moths feels like it's petering out.


Author said...Thanks for your comments Evil. I have left the rest pretty much the same except the last paragraph, I agree with it seeming to peter out. I'm worried now it seems to introduce a romantic element out of nowhere.
Fifteen year old Bess is collecting water when she finds a half-dead wolf cub. She names it Shamrock and takes him home to recover; unaware he was being followed.

The ones chasing Shamrock are assassins named the Givers. They can control mortals through their beauty, and soon Bess’s entire village is eager to help them find her. By aiding Shamrock, Bess has unintentionally become his accomplice. She is forced to flee for her life.

She finds an ally in Grack, an immature goat-boy who wants revenge after the Givers destroyed his village. Shamrock reveals himself as an earth spirit, a being that enables plants to grow, trapped as a wolf by the Givers. They plan to capture earth spirits to harness the magic for themselves, despite knowing this would destroy the world’s plant life.

They decide to free the captured earth spirits, hopefully destroying the Givers in the process. The further Bess travels from her human village, the weirder the people and monsters become and the bigger Shamrock grows. Bess realises she can see the ghosts of animals, not that she can think of any use for this ability.

Grack thinks Bess gives Shamrock a bit too much attention. Shamrock feels the same way about him. There is little time for jealousy, however, as they approach their destination. Forced to split up, Grack lies unconscious as Shamrock spars with the enemy. Alone with the spirits they were sent to rescue, Bess is torn between completing their mission or saving the one she loves.


Evil Editor said...While I'm sure romance is a selling point with YA, I don't think it's essential to mention the love triangle in the query, especially when it's a girl/wolf/goat love triangle.

You have two consecutive sentences starting with the word "they" and it's two different theys.

The seeing ghosts of animals bit can go if you aren't going to tell us what good it is.

I'd combine a few of the ideas in the last two paragraphs and add a little something else and then send to Phoenix who will suggest changing it all back.


Author said...Will do, thanks for the tips. Although it was all suspiciously helpful and not very evil.

1 comment:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Who *hasn't* unknowingly been part of a love triangle?