Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Query 38

Kindar's Cure

The author tells me she's in the process of writing this book and is pre-writing the query to help keep the plot focused (an excellent strategy! - PS). And she specifically asks: Does the plot seem strong enough as given here?

One of three royal sisters, Kindar is forced to the periphery of court life as she battles a fatal weakness. From childhood, the gods have seen fit to mark her as flawed by sending her a devastating disease. Kindar’s choke lung has everyone, including her mother, the Empress, weighing whether she has worth or whether her likelihood of dying erases her value. Fighting for every scrap of dignity, Kindar struggles to defy their predictions.

Then her older sister, and the heir, is murdered and the killer leaves behind a clue that implicates Kindar. Suddenly, she goes from insignificance to complete pariah in the space of a night. Robbed of credibility by her choke lung, she knows any efforts to clear herself will be disregarded.

With imprisonment hanging over her, a wizard approaches her with a vision of a cure. Maladonis Bin will lead her to a barren land where volcanic fumes just might heal the choke lung and leave her free to find the true murderer. The problem— the cure is through land controlled by rebels and the young wizard is a bumbling novice in his profession, his reliability unverified. Kindar must rally all her strength for a fight, not just for life, but for respect.

Kindar’s Cure is an epic fantasy with elements of romance, complete at xxxxxx words. Sample pages and synopsis are pasted below as per your request.

Thanks for your consideration.


Since the author specifically asks about plot, I have to admit I struggled with this one. I love the idea of an MC in a fantasy with an affliction that shadows her entire life. I immediately think Thomas Covenant. But from the fantasy perspective, I really don't get a sense of this world or why this story is told as a fantasy, other than the presence of a wizard. And from this description, the story certainly isn't big enough to be epic fantasy. It just doesn't go far enough beyond personal stakes for that.

In Stephen R. Donaldson's series, Covenant has to save a world not his own. Twice. And he has to do it despite his leprosy, a disease that colors the way others thinks about him and how he thinks about himself. It's high stakes and the reason the story is played out in a fantasy setting is clear.

So, going only from what the reader has been given in the query, here are the impressions I have as to what the actual story is about. If this isn't what you intend to set up in the reader's head, then maybe seeing how at least one reader is interpreting it will give you some ideas as to how to refocus the query for the greatest impact.

Kindar is trying to prove her worth. First, I'm not sure how old she is. I'm thinking she's still a teen. Second, a mention of how she's struggling to prove her worth will go a long way here. Does she feel she has to prove her worth to the court or just to herself?

There's a murder, so this sets up to be a potential mystery with Kindar having to clear herself. Intriguing. Yet, that mystery doesn't seem to be resolved. And to be frank, I'm not buying that Kindar has the wherewithall to travel an apparently very long distance through dangerous country, but isn't well enough to try to track down the killer or to figure out another way to clear herself.

Why would a young wizard who should probably be cultivating the favor of the court help out a pariah and possible murderer? What's his motivation, other than having a vision of a cure? At this point, I'm still wondering why this is playing out in a fantasy world. A wizard's vision here seems little different than a doctor's theory in "our" world.

As set up, the climax seems to be whether she's cured or not. Again, a nice personal story of triumph, but we're still at a loose end concerning the true murderer and, in the long run, why her being cured or not matters to anyone but her.

I'm also a little concerned that the whole "someone who isn't a perfectly healthy specimen can also be a vital contributor to society theme" may be undermined if she has to be cured before she can find the killer and be redeemed. This seems to be setting up that she can only prove her worth once she's well. A catch-22 that supports the idea that people with handicaps really aren't as valuable as people without. I'm sure that isn't what you're going for, but you'll need to be very careful not to leave that impression in the query reader's mind.

All-in-all, I think this story will be tricky to pull off.

So, in brief, I think what your query rewrite needs to show is:

  • a clear character arc that supports the underlying theme of the story
  • a hint at least that the murder mystery will be resolved
  • a more grounded reason as to why this story is written as fantasy
I hope that's helpful. Others' thoughts?


Matt said...

Out of curiosity, what is choke lung and how does it effect her?

vkw said...

Your MC reminds me a little of the MC from Warbreaker by Sanderson. His MC is the youngest princess of three and is, therefore, "redundant", "unnecessary", and "ignored". She enjoys this because she gets to do whatever she wants and, of course, she is forced into the limelight.

I do get the part about the mother wondering if her daughter has any value - diseased or even permanently injured people, (even today), are looked at as having little value, as are the old.

So, in conclusion, my two major concerns are this - in order to have value your MC has to be cured, which is sad and if she is so sick to look for her sister's killer then she can't possibly go to the volcano. Third problem, those suspected of killing royalty are seldom allowed to roam whereever they want to go. They have towers for people like your princess. Towers and guards and keys and doors and dungeons.

This would be a better story if the MC solves the murder mystery with the help of a novice wizard while she continues to be disabled. It would be even a better story, if she wasn't actually suspected of being a murderer and continues to be considered "unimportant" as she solves teh mystery, thus demonstrating that disabled people are important and also demonstrating that its easier to get things done when you are flying under the radar. (no one suspects the cripple is dangerous nor having the ability to find the real killer)

Book Two: she can go the volcano and bring world peace to the rebels.


Michelle4Laughs said...

Hmm, I see I’ve fallen prey to making the query too narrow. Maybe some more details will help expand it. The murder will be solved in the ending of this book, unlike what everyone picked up from the query. I also didn’t mention magic was used to kill the oldest princess.

There is an omen, in suitably vague wording, that an Empress will have three daughters and one will prove a savior for the people during dark times. Naturally, the Empress is none too happy with her reign possibly becoming a failure, especially with one dead daughter and another diseased.

Her mother pretty much cuts her from the succession by not arranging a betrothal. Kindar is 18 and she’s not so concerned with solving the murder as she is getting back into the line for the throne. Thus the search for a cure.

The choke lung is like TB. She is weak, has fevers, and coughs a lot, like Val Kilmer in Tombstone. So still able to travel and manage short activity. Pretty much, it’s assumed she will decline and eventually die.

The wealth of the country comes from anos, a mineral that when added to iron and carbon, makes a particularly strong, unbreakable steel. This is mostly used for making weapons. But, on her journey, Kindar discovers the mines are played out.

As far as the wizard’s motivation, he wants to prove his visions are true by finding the cure. More prestige for him if he has this added power of foreseeing.

Naturally, she doesn't just leave the castle telling everyone where she's going. Kindar pulls off a deception for her escape with help from her chief attendants, who have their own side story.

I hope some of this helps puff out the plot, but I'll really have to rethink how to work the rest into the query.

Matt said...

Why not make her have TB then? It would be a good premise:

Princess with tuberculosis searches for her sister's killer.

I would be wary about opening a query with an omen.

vkw said...

Dear author,

If the story is about solving the murder, then the query needs to focus on the murder. The lung thing is just a subplot and maybe should get one line.

I think you may have a plot problem with the betrothal. You can set up your monarchy anyway you want, but traditionally third daughters are seldom in line for sucession. They get married off to french kings to secure peace treaties. Sons usually inheirt the throne.

Sometimes second and third daughters get sent to the convent, for safe keeping and purity, just in case something happens to the oldest daughter, like she loses her virginity before she gets married. Eighteen is old for a princess bride, usually. But you can set up your world anyway you want to. It's only important to know your "breaking the rules," and make sure you note this in your book somehow by giving it emphasis.

But regardless how you set up your kingdom, one nagging question comes to mind . . . wouldn't it be an insult to a nobleman to be betrothed to a "sick" princess. The purpose of marriage is to produce offspring, royal offspring. If your princess is sick, she is damaged goods, probably can't carry a pregnancy to term. So, I wouldn't put the blame on the mom. It is, what it is. Who would agree to marry her?

I understand more clearly why she risks going to the volcano - she wants to get married but she probably is not hoping for the throne at this point. She still has the middle sister to deal with.

I still think if she is still too sick to solve a murder, she's still too sick to travel to the volcano. But I do get how getting cured is more important than finding the murderer. Then, comes the question, why does she return to the castle? Why not just keep going? I'm sure when she gets back, they will be watching her more closely.

Phoenix said...

From your comment, another thought comes to mind: It seems that Kindar wanting a cure and wanting to stay in succession for the throne are sort of selfish goals. Not that they aren't perfectly real goals and "you bet" goals if it were you or me. But in fantasy that aspires to be epic, they feel small and selfish. Not that you can't make someone like that sympathetic, but once her sister is murdered, it's going to be a proverbial uphill battle to keep the reader focused on her problems.