Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Query Revision 67

Face-Lift 670: Whiz-Bang Fantastic

Dashiell Rather Colourful is a young man, living in a truly grand city. A pastiche of Victorian London, 1960s New York, and a dash of the fantastic, it’s a tremendous town, and Dashiell fits in superbly… but he’s bored sick of it. He craves an escape, but when you’re escaping a world full of zest and excitement, what can you do?

Things change for him when he finds a woman, lost in a nearby forest. She would be quite ordinary to us, a grey little woman living a grey little life, but Dashiell has never seen anyone like her. She is taken to the city, where she becomes the sensation of the age. This city is a place where everyone knows what makes him or her special, but when they’re confronted with someone so defiantly drab, she is a riddle that everyone wants to solve.

Her presence quickly becomes a problem, however. Their enthusiasm turns into zealotry, and Dashiell realizes that he has to get her home as soon as he can, before he himself falls for this same hysteria.

WHIZ-BANG FANTASTIC, at 83,000 words, is a light-hearted yet intense story, with contemporary fantasy much in the style of Jasper Fforde or Neil Gaiman, but with the optimistic, wide-eyed tone of Yann Martel and Paulo Coelho, a tone that believes there is more to life than it seems.

Chapters or the full manuscript are available at your request. Thank you for your consideration.

Comments

The most engaging queries are the ones that can capture us through voice, characters and plot. Successful queries can work with just 2 of these 3 elements, but I think that the 2 elements present must be strong enough the reader doesn't even notice the 3rd element is missing.

This query is quite light on plot, which means voice needs to be dead on and the characters especially interesting. The voice here has a lot of promise -- but it's uneven, falling victim, I think, to inattention when the author turns his focus on situation.

As to the characters, I think there are some missed opportunities here to ramp up their unique and interesting qualities.

Dashielle is bored by excitement and then finds someone who could make life less interesting. But instead of finding out how this turn of events actually changes things for him, we get that he's in danger of being caught back up in the interesting and so has to return her home before that happens. Which will put him right back at square one. But there's no discussion of this conundrum or how dealing with it possibly changes him.

The woman is objectified. Is her personality as grey as everything else about her? I don't get from the query that she's from "our" world. Perhaps the story has changed since the query appeared on Evil Editor's site? The hint that she would "be quite ordinary to us" seems to say it's the same story, else why bring "us" into the query? Why this makes a difference is that a displaced heroine would seem as interesting and out of place as the Connecticut Yankee did in King Arthur's Court, where the familiar day-to-day she's used to would seem like magic to Victorians. So whose POV are we in when she's described as "drab"? Leaving her the enigmatic, rootless "outsider" would work in the query if you left the POV firmly with the city.

The city here could well be considered a character. I think treating is as such in the query might give you greater opportunity to get across how organic and enthralling it is. How "it" has an agenda for making over everything that comes into it as something exciting.

So...

Dashiell Rather Colourful is a young man, living in a truly grand city. A pastiche of Victorian London, 1960s New York, and a dash of the fantastic, it’s a tremendous town, and Dashiell fits in superbly… but he’s bored sick of it. He craves an escape, but when you’re escaping a world full of zest and excitement, what can you do?

I'm not sure inserting "our" names for the pastiche is working here. That's part of the inconsistency in voice, I think. If the reader is given a reason for the voice breaks and intrusion of this kind of commentary, it could work well; as it is, it feels "wrong" and a little clunky. You could, for instance, call 1960s NY to mind with the word "bohemian."

The repetition is also a bit of a red flag: "truly grand," the city (or is it a town?) description and "tremendous town;" "craves an escape" and "escaping a world."

Things change for him when he finds a woman, lost in a nearby forest. She would be quite ordinary to us, a grey little woman living a grey little life, but Dashiell has never seen anyone like her. She is taken to the city, where she becomes the sensation of the age. This city is a place where everyone knows what makes him or her special, but when they’re confronted with someone so defiantly drab, she is a riddle that everyone wants to solve.

What things change? He doesn't want to escape any longer? His plans are simply delayed? He's found his escape in her?

As written, the logic is a little lost on me here: she's unique in that Dashielle has never seen her likes and she's "defiantly" drab, so it seems it's a choice not simply nature, so isn't THAT what's making her special? In fact, wouldn't that be the handle they'd stick her with: "Raleigh Defiantly Drab"?

Her presence quickly becomes a problem, however. Their enthusiasm turns into zealotry, and Dashiell realizes that he has to get her home as soon as he can, before he himself falls for this same hysteria.

I don't understand "zealotry." Have they taken to idolizing her? Have they taken to abandoning their own special Attributes in favor of donning drabness themselves? For someone looking for escape from the same old, same old, why is Dashiell not embracing this turn of events?

And why does he have to remove her rather than remove himself? For that matter, does SHE want to be removed? There doesn't seem any indication Dashiell is thinking about what's best for HER at all. Seems he's made some fairly proprietary decisions for a character I'm starting to consider not drab cloth but doormat material. And I'm not feeling kindly toward Dashiell any longer either. I could be the only one thinking this, so I'd like to know if other readers out there have lost the love at this point too.

WHIZ-BANG FANTASTIC, at 83,000 words, is a light-hearted yet intense story, with contemporary fantasy much in the style of Jasper Fforde or Neil Gaiman, but with the optimistic, wide-eyed tone of Yann Martel and Paulo Coelho, a tone that believes there is more to life than it seems.

Chapters or the full manuscript are available at your request. Thank you for your consideration.

Repetition and contradiction isn't really working in your favor here. Drop a hint, sure, but let the reader draw their own conclusions. I'd shorten:

WHIZ-BANG FANTASTIC is a Neil Gaiman-like contemporary fantasy as seen through the wide-eyed optimism of a Paul Coelho. I look forward to sending you the completed 83,000-word manuscript.

10 comments:

Matt said...

I came away from this query with only two images: Dashielle who, in my head, looks like Willy Wonka, and the faceless girl who I envision dressed in a grey robe like a monk.

Have you been to Seoul? It's tremendous and fantastic. Paris is also fantastic. And Bangkok is tremendous...

You see, none of the above descriptions give us any indication of what those differing cities are like. Unfortunately, you've described everything in your story using such language. Instead of remarking that something is fantastic, tell us why.

Walking through Seoul feels like stepping five years into the future. Paris has fine wines and mesmerizing lights. (I'll let Mac describe Bangkok)

Uberman said...

This may be a blunt question, but where do you get the impression that Dashiell looks like Willy Wonka? What, in the pitch, produced that image?

150 said...

Willy Wonka wears a top hat and cane (Victorian London), a purple suit (1960s New York), and a huge bowtie (a dash of the fantastic) and lives in a freakin' chocolate factory (tremendous town!) where he fits in superbly. Yeah, I can totally see it.

You're still using Rather Colorful words that are really Rather Vague. Try specifics.

For example, do you realize that "grey little woman" evokes old age? Your language use is backfiring on you.

Uberman said...

I don't know if you're just very perceptive or very lucky, but yes, my main character does resemble Willy Wonka in appearance, if not personality, ennui, disposition, or occupation.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Bangkok's underworld sleeps while layers of heat steam the daylights out of early risers buying bags of breakfast at impromptu sidewalk markets.

Thanks Matt, I feel better.

I'll be back with comments. I'm trying to wrap my head around the query, need another java.

Anonymous said...

Based on your description from EE's page and what you have here, it kind of sounds like you've got a sort of Edward Scissorhands, with the gender roles reversed. Obviously there are some unique aspects to your story, but I think non-perfect-character-goes-to-overly-perfect-world still stands as the basic plot.

If this is where you (vaguely) are, then it would help to focus on that as your main plot and add in your own specifics.

Dashiell is part of the City, a colorful suburbia where deeper problems are largely ignored. When he discovers Rashell, a woman from outside his protected paradise, he is intrigued-- but so are many others. But R doesn't know the taboos of this pastel wonderland. Now D will have to help R navigate tricky situations X, Y, and flibbertigibbet, or she will soon find the fantastically awful when she's shunned in Whiz-Bang.

Obviously, I've taken a lot of liberties with your plot, and names, and... everything, but hopefully that helps. It seems to me to be more or less where you're going with this, anyhow.
Rose

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Raleigh, not Rashell.

Rose

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Hi UB,
I didn’t read query on EE. I hope you don’t mind me being frank.
Short version:
POV needs alignment/regulating. MC needs work ( maybe reduce self absorption and I know what’s best syndrome). Cardboard female in gray of indeterminate age and iq needs to come out of suspended animation.
What is the plot? Bored man in a great city meets female with a drab life and takes her to a home somewhere as the woman in gray turns into a cult figure. Wasn’t sure his home/her home at first read.
My read is interrupted by author talking to me from the page. From what I know the stylized writing should be saved for the ms and doesn’t fit in a query. Not sure if it is suitable in the outline.
UB, I can’t make the above sound remotely pleasant and not like I'm a a smart ass.

83,000 words is a tremendous accomplishment and you had the courage to bring your query out in the open. Pure respect and I am trying to help.
Good luck.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Hi UG,
I went back on EE's site found your original and read it and all 38 comments. YOUR comments gave me insight and material to percolate/meditate on. When enlightnment descends I'll be back with something helpful I hope. Knowing your profession lifted the veil. Soon!

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I slept on this and wrangled with Raleigh. I gave her a skill. Origami. The talking fox was a huge hit so I worked him in the middle and the end.

I added a bad guy, the Mayor. The two problems that were brought out the most can be solved.

You may be ahead of your time with this ms. It may be the one to see the light of day after your break through ms.

You had a lot of feedback on this ms appealing to a young audience. It's another road to explore.

Good luck.