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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Magic and Power Query and a Question

   
Author Topic: Magic and Power Query and a Question
Meredith
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First, the query:

Third Try:
quote:
Keep your head down. Don't draw attention. Be invisible as much as possible. Above all, don't make yourself a target. Those are the rules seventeen-year-old Ailsa lives by. It's just part of being the daughter of the disgraced ex-king and living too close to his more-than-slightly paranoid successor.

Ailsa is not the only one affected by the new king's insecurities. The mages backed her father. Now the new king's repressive policies are driving the mages out of the kingdom--and with them the magic that her desert country desperately needs to stay green. Certain that only a native mage will endure the new king's restrictions, Ailsa leaves her beloved Far Terra to study at the Institute of Magical Arts.

She expected opposition from the new king, though not the extent of his obsession. She never anticipated the complications introduced by the love of two young men. Choosing Sav--Crown Prince Sav, the new king's son and heir--would mean giving up her magic, but the chance of changing policies from the top down. Accepting Jathan might mean giving up Far Terra altogether. The third choice--to go on with without either of them--might be an impossible task.

DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING is a 97,000-word young adult fantasy romance and potentially the first of a series.

Second Version:
quote:
Keep your head down. Don't draw attention. Be invisible as much as possible. Above all, don't make yourself a target. Those are the rules seventeen-year-old Ailsa lives by. It's just part of being the daughter of the disgraced ex-king and living too close to his more-than-slightly paranoid replacement.

Ailsa is not the only one affected by the new king's insecurities. The mages backed her father. Now the new king's repressive policies are driving the mages out of the kingdom--and with them the magic that her desert country desperately needs to stay green.

Convinced that only a native mage who loves Far Terra as much as she does will endure the new king's restrictions, Ailsa focuses on going to study at the Institute of Magical Arts. But she finds her choice challenged in more ways than one.

It quickly becomes apparent that she's underestimated the king's obsession. She expected his opposition. What she never anticipated is the complications introduced by the love of two young men. Choosing Sav--Crown Prince Sav, son of the new king--would mean giving up her magic, but the chance of changing policies from the top down. Accepting Jathan might mean giving up Far Terra altogether. The third choice--to go on with without either of them--might be an impossible task.

DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING is a 97,000-word young adult fantasy romance and potentially the first of a series.

First version:
quote:
Keep your head down. Don't draw attention. Don't make waves. Be invisible as much as possible. Above all, don't make yourself a target. Those are the rules seventeen-year-old Ailsa has lived by for as long as she can remember. She's used to that. It just goes with being the daughter of the disgraced ex-king and living next to his more-than-slightly paranoid replacement.
With very few friends and no prospects of marriage, Ailsa focuses her energy on her chance to study at the Institute of Magical Arts. Her great hope is that she'll prove to have a kind of magic that will enable her to save her homeland from the new king's restrictive policies toward mages. But nothing is ever that simple for Ailsa. A completely unexpected proposal--from Crown Prince Savyon, no less--threatens to derail all her plans.
Political intrigue, powerful magic, and a handsome study partner with a maddening taste for placing them both at the center of attention force Ailsa to rethink her view of the world. Perhaps the answer isn't to shrink until she fits in somebody's pre-arranged slot after all. Maybe she can make her own place--and change the world for the better in the process.
The only question remaining is which of the young men who claim to love her is willing to help her in that battle.

GREEN MAGIC is a 97,000-word young adult fantasy romance and potentially the first of a series. I have included [whatever the agent wants].

Thank you for your time.

And now the question:

MAGIC AND POWER was only ever meant to be the working title. Moreover, I now have an idea for another story in this world and I've started to think of MAGIC AND POWER as the series title rather than the title of this book.

My ideas so far are:

DESERT ROSE (the main character comes from the desert, but this is probably too close to another, completely unrelated story of mine, DREAMER'S ROSE.)

GREEN MAGIC (which sort of gives away something revealed in chapter 6)

Or DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING (suggested by Sheena)

Any thoughts or other suggestion?

[ June 10, 2014, 08:47 PM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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extrinsic
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The query reads to me like backstory and epilogue. I think a pivotal event that sets Ailsa in motion and sets up the dramatic action is more apropos for a query. For example, her acceptance to magic college, the problematic marriage proposal and numerous suitors, or her de facto exiled princess status, and a circumstance that is more a personal desire, not only noble self-sacrfice for the common good, as well.

The language is on the trite side, prone to cliché idioms. "as long as she can remember," "used to that. It just goes with," "Her great hope," "But nothing is ever that simple," "completely unexpected," and more less-trite but otherwise ordinary language typical of casual social gatherings and small talk-like conversations.

"Keep your head down. Don't draw attention. Don't make waves. Be invisible as much as possible." "Don't make waves" is not parallel to the others nor is context set up for the nautical idiom. "Stay off the radar" would be as equally out of context for a sorcery fantasy.

"Above all, don't make yourself a target." is more of the same meaning repetition as the four items prior. The rhetorical principle on point for repetition is the repetition, substitution, amplfication scheme. When using repetition for prose, substitute ever escalating amplification items sequentially. This rhetorical figure is the opposite for formal and traditional journalism writing, where the first in a series or sequence is most signficant.

"With very few friends and no prospects of marriage, Ailsa focuses her energy on her chance to study at the Institute of Magical Arts." The prefatory subordination clause conjunction "with" implies Ailsa will have a very few friends and no marriage propects focusing her energy with her on her chance to study magic. "her energy on her chance to study" is wordy. //focuses on a chance to study// means the same with less cluttering and confusing words. "Institute of Magic Arts" for me is generic. A more secretive yet exctiting name for the institute's presented prestige and reputation is warranted I feel. In any event, arts in and of themselves are invariably scientific disciplines as well. "Institute" implies a research institution, in some contexts a mental hospital or a charitable foundation. Historically and presently, magic study is more an apprenticeship than an institutional organization. For me, a guild structure is more apropos to a magic milieu. The ancient academy system as practiced from the ancient Greek through early industrial age and scientific-method dawn suits the purpose as an apprentice-guild-college venue. For example, say Latin: Academia Arcanus Philosophia, or Academy of Arcane Philosophy. Philosophy being the ancient apprenticeship-style scientific research and study that included alchemy and magical sciences predating physical sciences, chemistry and such.

"disgraced ex-king" is wordy and I don't feel it. Deposed king, maybe. "living next to" is on the vague side, where a specific sense of distance I think is called for: in the next-door castle suite, in the next-door castle, in the next-door estate, in the next-door county or country or kingdom. "more-than-slightly paranoid" is an emphatic statement that blunts the impact and confuses the meaning. The king is paranoid or isn't or prone to wild paranoid delusions. "replacement" kings aren't replaced, so to speak, they succeed a predecessor: successor.

"Her great hope is that she'll prove to have a kind of magic that will enable her to save her homeland from the new king's restrictive policies toward mages." The idiom "prove" in that context derives from proofing the alcohol strength of a distilled spirit. The sentence is wordy, multiple subjects, conjunctions, and connective prepositions that confuse the main idea. I don't think I could diagram the sentence's many subject, predicate, object phrases, and subject, predicate, and object complement phrases.

"completely unexpected" tautology. "Unexpected" is the main word idea, "completely" is redundant and adds no meaning.

Grammar fault: "from Crown Prince Savyon, no less" no comma indicated for the interjection phrase, unless added amplifcation is used, and is otherwise indicated anyway, to lend context to the empahsis. //Savyon, the heir himself no less--// "threatens," again, confuses the meaning and impact, either does derail her plans or doesn't or theatens a specific, meaningful part of Ailsa's plans. "derail all her plans" in any event is illogical. Logically, she has plans which marriage to the heir might benefit.

"Political intrigue, powerful magic, and a handsome study partner with a maddening taste for placing them both at the center of attention force Ailsa to rethink her view of the world." "Political intrigue" is a modern idiom. An idiom of the monarch era is "courtly intrigues," re a royal court and its courtiers' favor rivalry machinations. "handsome study partner with a maddening taste for placing them both at the center of attention" disconnects the prior serial items from the main idea; that is, from "force Ailsa to rethink." "force" is a lackluster verb, from its overuse in queries and pitches generally, akin to "must." The main intent, meaning, and idea of the sentence is Ailsa rethinks her naive nonworldliness. "her view of the world" is another trite idiom, nonspecific, and lackluster. //Courtly intrigues, potent magics, a maddening prankster and handsome Arcanus apprentice--Ailsa rethinks her worldview.// is stronger and clearer. "Perhaps" and "maybe", again, blunt impact, deemphasize. "Perhaps the answer isn't to shrink until she fits in somebody's pre-arranged slot after all." The intent there is to pose a suspense question that portrays Ailsa's primary crisis, to be made to fit a square peg in a round hole, or . . . Though that idiom is also trite. "after all" adds no meaning. "Maybe she can make her own place--and change the world for the better in the process." The outcome of the main dramatic complication and crisis portrayed there gives away the plot.

"The only question remaining is which of the young men who claim to love her is willing to help her in that battle." "The only question" implies that's all the query doesn't answer, that that's all a reader will uncover from reading the novel. There's only one person mentioned in the query who fits the bill anyway, claims to love Ailsa, Savyon. A love interest aide doesn't strike me as initially a suitable ally for Ailsa's missions, later, yes, that the missions become her wisest filtering methods.

A king who opposes magic runs contrary to tradition and convention, for no less than self-preservation purposes, at least, and for advantage over nemeses. The old kings populated their courts with alchemists, astrologers, philosophers, scryers, weather mages, sorcerors, hedge witches, ad nauseam, and nobles and warriors and clergy and engineers and conniving courtiers. Kings did, however, favor one magic system over others, dark magic versus noble magics, animist magic versus celestial, paranormal magic versus spiritual, ancient magic versus contemporary, commoner magic versus intellectual, secret magic versus known, mystical magic versus earthly, and so on.

What does Ailsa personally, privately want that is problematic for her to achieve? I don't see her as dramatically appealing if she's only a civil servant to the people's common good, a bureaucrat more or less. That way lays loss of meaningful individual identity, servitude, isolation, madness. She might as well marry the prince and have done with her life.

Since Ailsa wants magic college, wise selection from the problematic marriage proposal and numerous suitors, and her de facto exiled princess status restored, she wants all she can be, skilled sorceress, married, children perhaps, monarch. What, though, does she most want?

Whatever, for both her personal want and her noble want for the common good, what ties them together? Theme-wise, "shrink until she fits in somebody's pre-arranged slot" stands out in the query strongest to me. Connecting that theme to a single antagonizing event for the query's appeal sake might portray Ailsa as a ragdoll tied into a tug-of-war rope. She wants to study at the guild academy, the prince and other suitors want her as the naive and unskilled, powerless mother of heirs-to-be she appears to be, and the people unwittingly want someone like her to serve them and save the kingdom from its self-involved overlord. Her undercover enrollment at the academy then is her personal way out of the tug-of-war, for now. Coming of age, in other words, a low-concept, intangible premise and event. Maturation crises as primary personal desires tend to be moral crises, and low-concept, abstract, immaterial, idealized, intangible, and insufficient for readers' satisfaction generally. Why does Ailsa privately want to study magic? Say because she wants powers to resist or defuse or control the many wicked patriarchal forces that would direct her destiny against what's best for her well-being and her choice.

A high-concept, tangible premise event is warranted, at least for reader appeal and satisfaction. Say the clock ticks toward an impending kingdom catastrophe, inevitably, only Ailsa can unequivocally, irrevocably uncover and prevent in the nick of time. Say Ailsa discovers Savyon--Hebrew meaning "plant," by the way--was substituted at birth by a dark magic sect for the genuine heir, and conspires with the sect's leadership to assassinate the king, framing the old king, and succeed the otherwise partly tolerable king. Ailsa might uncover old magics at the academy, not the library or old histories (Potter motifs), that clue her into Savyon's nefarious intents, say a misshaped frieze's bas relief from a spell that went arwy or intended to conceal the prince's dark origins.

For the novel's title, the pivotal antagonizing crisis event, thematically related, would be an ideal best pratice, setting up the action to come from the title onward. //Mistress Ailsa and the Dark Corbala Sect// or //Exile Ailsa and the Arcanus Philosophon Academy// for examples.

[ May 16, 2014, 04:29 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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jerich100
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For parallelism between the first four sentences, consider leaving off from the last one, “as much as possible”. I believe the reader understands that anyway.

Is the sentence, “She’s used to that”, already understood by the reader? If it must be there, then change “that” to “them,” given the subject is the plural “rules.” Change, “It just goes with...” to “They go with...” The “just” is extra.

Shorten, “...his more-than-slightly paranoid replacement”, to, “...his paranoid replacement”. Qualifiers and caveats make the intro less bold and confident. For example, if the dress is nearly red, just say it is red.

The same with “very” in “With very few friends...” The “very” is understood, too. Consider changing, “Her great hope is that she’ll...” to, “Her only hope is she’ll...” Isn’t “only” more dire than “great”? The “that” is extra.

Regarding the phrase, “the new king's restrictive policies toward mages”, are you aware of the TV series, “Merlin”, where for the entire series (all the way through even the last episode), Merlin had to hide is magical abilities from the King who hated magic? I’m certain your story is completely different, but the warning flashed into my head anyway.

Regarding, “and change the world for the better in the process,” is this something she’d have on her mind at the onset of her adventure? That idea should be an added surprise that would happen at the end of the story. In other words, including it here is an unnecessary spoiler. Also, in most stories doesn’t the hero make the world better? If so, then the notion flirts close to the cliché.

The title “Magic and Power” sounds kinda uncreative. It would be like naming a novel that included spaceships, “Fuel and Alloy Selection.” [Smile] Can you give your novel the name of your world?

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by jerich100:


The title “Magic and Power” sounds kinda uncreative. It would be like naming a novel that included spaceships, “Fuel and Alloy Selection.” [Smile] Can you give your novel the name of your world?

Far Terra? [Big Grin]

(The name of her country, not the whole world.)

ETA: I have a suggestion from elsewhere for MAGIC AND MACHINATIONS. [Smile] (reminds me a little of Gail Carriger's ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE and CURTSIES AND CONSPIRACIES.)

[ May 16, 2014, 02:14 PM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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Brooke18
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Just a complete random suggestion but, what about Plain Magic?

If Alisa is supposed to be 'hiding in plain sight' and studying magic at the Institute of Magical Arts it works right?

Probably not very creative but I enjoy coming up with names for stuff! It won't bother me a bit if you decide to discard it!

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Mark
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I'd stick with Green Magic. I think the other ideas you have are too general.

Mark

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shimiqua
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I still like Daughter of the Disgraced King. One, because the typography could be gorgeous. Two, because it sells princess story, with political intrigue, and add a picture of a princess with magic on the cover, and you've sold me without a blurb. Plus it gives pathos, in my opinion. What happens to the daughter of a disgraced king? Is she still royalty, or is she disgraced as well, for something she didn't do? I'm super hooked. And I didn't come up with it, I pulled it from the text of your blurb, so it's still your words.

I really like it personally.

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Meredith
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LOL. It's growing on me. [Big Grin]
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Meredith
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Newer version above.

Rip, tear, shred.

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shimiqua
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It's gorgeous. Seriously gorgeous.

The only sentence I stumbled over was this, "Convinced that only a native mage who loves Far Terra as much as she does will endure the new king's restrictions, Ailsa focuses on going to study at the Institute of Magical Arts"

It's a tad unclear and I had to read it twice. I suggest adding a quick mention that she will return and save the kingdom, or endure the new kings restrictions, and stay to save the kingdom, etc. if that makes sense. It might just be me, and I think it still works without the change, there's more clarification below.

I dig it though. I'd request a full from this query.

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extrinsic
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Stronger, clearer, only the degree of superlative hyperbole I think feels forced, unnatural.

Several sentences place emphasis, I think, in a clunky position:

"It's just part of being the daughter of the disgraced ex-king and living too close to his more-than-slightly paranoid replacement."

Expletive sentence subject "It's" places undue emphasis on the sentence's actual subjects "being the daughter" and "living too close." The action, or predicate, is "part of being" and "living to close." In all, the main idea or ideas are lost in the clutter of present participle verbs, maybe gerunds. Also, "replacement" is generic. Consider successor. //That's life for the daughter of a deposed king, and a life lived too close to his more-than-paranoid successor.//

"Ailsa is not the only one affected by the new king's insecurities. The mages backed her father. Now the new king's repressive policies are driving the mages out of the kingdom--and with them the magic that her desert country desperately needs to stay green."

I think the first sentence of this paragraph is unnecessary, implied by the remainder sentences. "Now" is an unnecessary interjection, its sentence too indefinite either way. //Mages backed her father. The new king's repressive policies drive them from the kingdom--//

"--and with them the magic that her desert country desperately needs to stay green."

The dash signals a setup for emphasis, blunted by the wordiness of the clause. Consider leaner for stronger emphasis: //--and magic her desert country needs to keep green.//

"Convinced that only a native mage who loves Far Terra as much as she does will endure the new king's restrictions, Ailsa focuses on going to study at the Institute of Magical Arts. But she finds her choice challenged in more ways than one."

A lot of clutter for a few main ideas.

Consider simpler, leaner, for stronger emphasis: //Certain a native mage can counter the king's restrictions, challenged by all and sundry, Ailsa chooses study at the Institute of Magic Arts.//

"It quickly becomes apparent that she's underestimated the king's obsession. She expected his opposition. What she never anticipated is the complications introduced by the love of two young men. Choosing Sav--Crown Prince Sav, son of the new king--would mean giving up her magic, but the chance of changing policies from the top down. Accepting Jathan might mean giving up Far Terra altogether. The third choice--to go on with without either of them--might be an impossible task."

Also a lot of clutter for a few main ideas.
For illustration:

"It [expletive, omit?]
quickly becomes apparent that [wordy, omit?]
//She underestimated King Oueters's obsession.//
//Opposition Ailsa expected,//
//complications from two young men she hadn't.//
//Crown Prince Sav--the new king's heir--means no more magic, maybe a chance for policy change from the top down.//
//Jathan may mean a cruel departure from Far Terra.//
//Or neither--could be the best for Far Terra's green."

//She underestimated King Oueters's obsession. Opposition Ailsa expected, complications from two young men she hadn't. Crown Prince Sav--the new king's heir--means no more magic, maybe a chance for policy change from the top down. Jathan may mean a cruel departure from Far Terra. Or neither--could be the best for Far Terra's green.//

Consider each -ing word, infinitive verb, wordiness, and superlative as an impediment to clarity and strength: unnatural, indefinite. Strive for clear, strong, firm, confident, and definite natural expression.

[ June 10, 2014, 07:38 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Meredith
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Thank you.

We're down to polishing already! Yay! [Big Grin]

Slightly revised version above.

I'm not in love with this line in particular:

quote:
never anticipated the complications introduced by the love of two young men.
But my brain refuses to supply anything better.

Rip, tear, shred.

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extrinsic
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"She never anticipated the complications introduced by the love of two young men."

The sentence is problematic for me too. Two verbs, "anticipated" and "introduced," two prepositions, "by" and "of," and two objects, "the complications introduced by the love of two young men," and nested object "by the love of two young men."

Simplified, leaner, stronger, clearer: //She never anticipated complications from two young men's [or suitors'] love [or affections or romance interests or attractions].

[ June 11, 2014, 10:54 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Just a random thought, Meredith:

And she wasn't prepared to have to deal with two young men vying for her attentions.

Phil.

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Mark
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Historically (and yes I know your book is fiction) ex-kings are dead kings -- as are all their descendants. As descendants are the apparent heirs to a throne, they're usually slaughtered to eliminate a new monarchy's enemies.

Considering that, your intro leaves a lot of hard questions unanswered.

Mark

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Meredith
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Historically speaking, the particular background of this story is modeled on the Duke of Windsor. [Big Grin]
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