Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Query 88


Seventeen-year-old Leyna feels trapped when two noblemen of Lusorya fight for her hand in marriage. So when the strange man from her dreams begs her to run away from her home, she flees, stumbling into the hidden realm of the elves and the arms of the Elvin prince- the man she had been dreaming about for so long.

Leyna quickly learns that the other races of the land have been held in oppression for centuries by the High King of Lusorya, with humans discarded by him as a dying breed. With an ancient prophecy revealing she is the long- anticipated Dreamer, a being who can see vital points of the future and ways to resolve conflict through her dreams, she is faced with a decision: Will she choose to fight against the King to liberate the races, or join him to solidify his reign?

Leyna’s decision is made when the King’s most vicious minion, the Eraser, confronts her in the woods and attempts to kill the Elvin prince for trying to protect her. Now at odds with a very powerful woman, Leyna’s only hope to protect her loved ones is to find the Crystal Vault- the Eraser’s own hidden treasury containing the magic she long ago severed from the humans- and reclaim the magic that belongs to her.

THE CRYSTAL VAULT (122,000 words), is a fantasy novel of magic, danger, and romance for young adults. The book is designed as the first in a series.

Overall Comments

The writing is this version is much cleaner and more direct than what we saw on Evil Editor's site, so big props there.

Sometimes it's helpful to concentrate on just one element at a time when we revise. We might go through our manuscript once looking for ways to improve character development then go through it again focusing on the plot arc. No reason why we can't use the same approach for queries too.

Here are three areas I think can be fleshed out a bit better. Breaking them down and concentrating on each one individually in its own revision may be a good strategy for rewriting this query.

Motivation - The High King and the Eraser seem to do things that defy good sense. Help the reader understand why they choose the actions they do. Leyna seems to be conflicted about a problem when that conflict doesn't seem to match the rest of her personality. Give the reader a reason for pointing out the decision she faces, or (imo, better yet) don't mention it if it's really a non-decision.

World-Building - Overall, I don't have a clear sense about this world and how the characters fit into it. From the clues here, this is what I assume:
  • The High King is an elf.
  • The elf prince is next in line for the title. Although he seems to want to play nice with everybody, unlike the High King.
  • All but the elves are being oppressed.
  • The elves live in a hidden realm -- from which the High King somehow still manages to exert power.
  • Humans are in sharp decline.
  • Leyna and the two nobles fighting for her hand are human and, therefore, part of an oppressed and declining race.
  • Humans once had magic that was stripped from them, but they don't seem to miss it.
  • Leyna either has or might have the power to dream future events and dream resolutions to conflict. Except it doesn't seem to be working for her right now.
Plot Arc - I'm really trying hard to understand how this story line plays out.
  • Despite the fact her race is oppressed and in decline, Leyna doesn't feel trapped until two nobles want to marry her.
  • Some dude from her dreams invites her to run away and she does.
  • She only now discovers her race is oppressed and in decline and there's a High King pulling the strings.
  • But she's the prophesied Dreamer who can see glimpses of the future and counsel on what course of action to take to bring about a desired result.
  • Should she side with the king oppressing her people or side with her family, friends, and people of her own race that she cares about?
  • For reasons unknown, the king's most vicious minion confronts her. Is the minion there to negotiate with her or to kill her? Apparently, elf prince doesn't wait to find out so moves to protect Leyna. Minion naturally tries to kill him to protect herself.
  • Based on that exchange (and not on any other motivating factor such as simply having family, friends and loved ones), Leyna decides to fight for her loved ones.
  • But first she needs a weapon. And the magic that the reader doesn't learn was stripped from the humans until just now seems like the natural choice. Only she has to find the magic. And figure out how to reintegrate it into either just herself or all the surviving humans (I can't tell which). And even though having this magic didn't help when the High King took over the world, restoring it will be the way to defeat him.
Now, I have a lot of questions below that I'm asking as a close reader. But asking those questions and explaining why I'm asking them often takes up much more room than the "fix" required. Sometimes, the fix to even a multi-part question is as simple as adding or deleting a single word. So don't be daunted!

 Line Comments

Seventeen-year-old Leyna feels trapped when two noblemen of Lusorya fight for her hand in marriage.

Having peeked ahead, I'm a bit confused by the noblemen being of Lusorya. When I saw she'd stumbled into a hidden realm, I thought it was like another, hidden world ruled by a bad-ass king. But the king of that realm seems to be the king of Lusorya, the same one who is discarding humans -- except apparently not discarding the nobility.

So when the strange man from her dreams begs her to run away from her home,

You seem to think the reader knows about the strange man appearing in her dreams. Perhaps tell us up front he's been guest-starring in her dreams for some time and he's always kind or whatever to her in her dreams so it doesn't seem so very weird that she obeys a dream character.

she flees, stumbling into the hidden realm of the elves and the arms of the Elvin prince- the man she had been dreaming about for so long.

I'll let others chime in, but calling the prince a "man" without any other qualifiers, such as "young man," makes me think older and with Leyna underage, I'm getting all sorts of mixed images in my head here.

That's an interesting way to spell "Elvin." Since "elves" isn't capitalized, I'm not sure why "Elvin" is. Generally it's spelled "elfin" or "elven."

Leyna quickly learns that the other races of the land have been held in oppression for centuries by the High King of Lusorya, with humans discarded by him as a dying breed.

The High King is an elf, then. Does her prince agree with the High King's politics? What does "discarded by him as a dying breed" mean? Do you mean he can "disregard humans as a dying breed" or "discard the dying breed of humans"? Either of those phrasings still seems a bit awkward. And if the humans are a dying breed, then that seems to make Leyna's decision to run away rather than choose a human suitor to help continue her race a lot more complicated. In fact, I could see that decision as a lot more suspenseful than if she'll choose to side against her own race later on.

But why is she just now learning that the king is keeping everyone oppressed? Isn't she from this land?

With an ancient prophecy revealing she is the long- anticipated Dreamer, a being who can see vital points of the future and ways to resolve conflict through her dreams, she is faced with a decision: Will she choose to fight against the King to liberate the races, or join him to solidify his reign?

I have to ask the obvious question here: Her decision seems like one of those vital points of the future -- Does she not see herself making the decision and how she's involved in solving the conflict between the king and the downtrodden?

Leyna’s decision is made when the King’s most vicious minion, the Eraser, confronts her in the woods and attempts to kill the Elvin prince for trying to protect her.

I don't understand what happens during this confrontation. Does the High King want to kill Leyna, who seems to be a tool he can use and who is apparently considering joining him, and so sends the Eraser to kill her? Or does he send his most vicious minion to do his delicate negotiating hoping to persuade Leyna to his side? Neither seems like the action of someone who can maintain power for long. The motivation here isn't working for me. I'm hoping it's just the way it's stated in the query. It's also interesting that the king's best can't kill the prince. Does the prince have some special magic or power of his own? Is the prince not in line for the throne, so wouldn't a minion try not to kill him?

Now at odds with a very powerful woman, Leyna’s only hope to protect her loved ones is to find the Crystal Vault- the Eraser’s own hidden treasury containing the magic she long ago severed from the humans- and reclaim the magic that belongs to her.

I'm assuming the "she" means the powerful woman who is the Eraser and the "her's" refer to Lenya. You'll want to be sure your pronouns are clear.

Again, I'm perplexed about motivation. What's driving Leyna? First, she was having to decide whether to join the king against her people but now she's motivated to protect her loved ones. If she never had doubts about whether she was going to betray her people, then she really didn't have a decision to make earlier and the query didn't need to address the question of which side she would choose.

Would finding the magic mean restoring magic to all the humans or just to her? She's apparently dreamed of the prince, and there's no hint earlier she'll have to recover magic to become the Dreamer, so I'm assuming the Dreaming and the magic are independent of one another. But other than her dream to run away, the dreaming doesn't seem to be much help.

And waiting this long to drop in the bit about humans having been stripped of magic that they seem neither to miss nor be concerned about, seems a bit of a cheat. More like a contrivance for plot sake rather than an integral part of the story.

THE CRYSTAL VAULT (122,000 words), is a fantasy novel of magic, danger, and romance for young adults. The book is designed as the first in a series.

You don't need to tell us here that it has magic and danger. "is designed as" is two words too many.

THE CRYSTAL VAULT, a completed 122,000-word YA fantasy with romantic elements, is a stand-alone novel with series potential.

7 comments:

batgirl said...

Just in case it's helpful, I'll repost the guess at a synopsis that I posted over at EE's. I note that I definitely got the realms wrong (thinking Lusorya was a separate place) and am more confused than before.

When the competition for her hand in marriage turns violent, Leyna, adopted daughter of a Duke, runs away. Her flight leads her into the forbidden realm of Lusorya, and only her unusual appearance (be specific) saves her from immediate execution by the elves who rule there.
In Lusorya she finds wonders and terrors (be specific) and more surprisingly a family and friends (be specific), where her future-foretelling dreams are welcomed / accepted. But even in Lusorya, Leyna discovers that she is a prize to be fought over. Her ability to dream true makes her a deadly weapon for the High King and his vicious minions (hey, is EE the High King?) or for the resistance movement.
Despite the threats / danger, Leyna chooses to stand beside (I'm guessing the valiant rebels). She learns that she can regain the magic (be specific) she didn't know she'd lost, and improve her side's chances of winning the war. All she has to do is survive a journey through a wilderness full of perils (be specific) and find the legendary (needs a better adjective in a world of elves & marvels) long-lost Crystal Vault (explain why).

Anonymous said...

Is there any other name besides "the Eraser" for this villain? This may be an odd quibble, but when I read "the King’s most vicious minion, the Eraser, confronts her in the woods" I could not help but picture a gigantic Pink Pearl approaching her in the forest. It distracted me from the query.

sarahhawthorne said...

I agree with Phoenix, this is much improved since your first version. You've done a great job of trimming down the plot.

The biggest blank for me though is Leyna's character. I don't know if this girl is adventurous, romantic, sensitive, or what. Consider the differences between these three versions of your opening:

A) High spirited and independent, Leyna dreads the day her parents will wed her off to some rich old man. So when the Elvin prince who haunts her dreams calls her to run away with him, Leyna seizes her chance for adventure and flees to the Elvin court.

B) Wealthy and beautiful, Leyna knows she should be grateful for a life where her only problem is deciding which of her two perfectly decent suitors she prefers. Yet her dreams are haunted by a handsome Elvin prince who fills her with a longing that nothing in the 'real world' can touch. When he begs her to run away with him, she goes without hesitation.

C) All her life, Leyna has felt that her sheltered world of parties and courtship is wrong, is somehow not as real as her dreams and the Elvin prince who haunts them. When he calls her to run away, she flees her home and finds herself in a strange world of magic.

They all fit the action of your query, but they each describe a different girl and a different reason for her to respond to her dream man's call.

Hope this helps!

batgirl said...

Consider making Leyna's choices a bit more ambiguous. As it stands her choice is between a Big Bad and a Handsome Prince. Not a lot of question what she's going to choose.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

I think I've figured out a part of the plot, though if I'm right, the query needs to be much clearer.

Leyna lives in the human section of the large kingdom of Lusorya. Her corner of the world is very isolated, so humans don't know about the other races that live beyond their borders. When Leyna runs away to meet the elf prince, she learns that the High King - a creature of unknown species - rules over all the races of Lusorya with an iron fist (assuming he has a fist), except for humans, a race which he sees as doomed to extinction and unworthy of his time and effort.

Am I right? If so, the query needs reworking so that everyone can understand that. For starters, I wouldn't refer to Leyna's suitors as "noblemen of Lusorya." If the entire story takes place in Lusorya, it's like identifying them as "two noblemen of Earth" in a story that takes place entirely on Earth.

Unless it's absolutely crucial, I'd drop the reference to other races living in Lusorya. The only ones mentioned in the query are humans and elves. If characters of other races are important to the story, they should be mentioned specifically. Just offhandedly mentioning that there are other races is confusing.

Readers can generally be counted on to assume that a character is human unless you tell them otherwise. But once you introduce the idea that there are human and non-human characters in the story, you have to start identifying who's who. What species is the High King? If none of the main characters no, put that in the query.

Move or drop the first sentence. We need to know about the man Leyna's been dreaming about first and it's more interesting anyway. You may not need to mention the suitors; Leyna being unhappy in her life and getting an offer for something different from her dream man might be motivation enough.

Any suggestion of why Leyna feels trapped by the two noblemen fighting for her hand - she doesn't love either of them, she hates the idea of becoming a nobleman's wife with little freedom, she thinks it's horrible that people might go to war over who gets to marry her - would help to define her character.

Why would Leyna choose to help the King solidify his reign? The only reason I can think of is that the King has no interest in humans and if she helps him crush the rebellion, he might continue to leave her people. But that could just as easily be accomplished by Leyna not siding with either party and going back home. If this is really a difficult choice for Leyna, we need to know why siding with the King is tempting.

I agree with the anonymous commenter that the name "the Eraser" conjures up more images of pencil erasers than fear. I strongly suggest that you change it.

In addition to feeling like a last minute revelation, the humans' magic is confusing me. Leyna has the ability to see the future in her dreams. She also has the possibly related though not quite the same ability to speak to the elf prince through her dreams. But then I'm told that these powers are not enough to allow Leyna to protect her loved ones (I'm guessing the prince and.....?) and that there's a kind of human magic other than Leyna's dreaming abilities that Leyna must find and reclaim. Maybe it would be best to be more vague about what's locked away in the Crystal Vault. Say that it's something powerful that will help in defeating the High King.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Sorry Ink & Pixel! Your comment got caught in Blogger's spam filter and I only found it this morning. Comments aren't moderated so should post immediately unless it's a Blogger issue.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

Phoenix> I was wondering where that went.