[personal profile] rj_anderson
Okay, okay, so I got distracted and am... well, not exactly behind schedule, as I still have until the 15th to complete Day 1-6, but not exactly on schedule either.

Mind you, I don't have enough information in my head yet about the secondary characters for Indigo to write down more than a line or two for each of them, and I already wrote down all the thoughts I had on Thea and Leith on Days One and Two. Today I'm supposed to be making notes of the various settings in the book, and compiling a research list -- but I don't know yet what specific settings I'm going to need, and since the majority of the book's action takes place in a town where I lived for ten years, I'm not too worried about getting the details wrong.

On a tangential note, though -- I'm trying to decide whether to set Indigo in the actual Sudbury, or a fictional northern Ontario town just like it. The advantage of a fictionalized city is that I can rearrange landmarks and make up new ones without local readers saying, "Hey, there's no such place as Trufflehunter's on Lasalle Boulevard!" It also prevents any potential English readers being confused (since there's a Sudbury in the south of England which is manifestly different from the Canadian one).

On the other hand, it's just possible that nobody actually cares about that stuff so long as the general feel of the place and the major geographic and historical details are right. [livejournal.com profile] james_bow, care to weigh in on why you chose to invent Clarksbury rather than work with an actual town? It might help me to decide what I want to do. And, of course, anyone else with experience of reading or writing about contemporary places is heartily invited to comment.

***

BUT I DIGRESS AS USUAL. The actual point of this entry is to present the fruit of my distractableness, in the form of my revised hook for Knife:

As the Faery Queen's appointed Hunter, Knife has the skill and the courage to fight the crows and other predators who threaten her people's survival. Yet neither she nor the Queen can do anything to stop a mysterious disease from claiming the faeries of the Oak one by one.

But there are humans at the bottom of the garden, and a glimpse inside their House convinces Knife that they have skills and knowledge that could help her people -- even as her mind is troubled by questions she cannot answer. If the human world has so much to offer, why is the Queen determined to keep the Oakenfolk away from it? Is there a connection between the humans and the faeries' loss of magic? And why is Knife drawn to the young Paul McCormick -- that strangest of creatures, a human male?

Driven by the awareness that her people are headed for extinction, Knife determines to learn the truth about the Oakenfolk's past -- a quest which puts her hard-won independence in jeopardy, earns her some unexpected allies, and challenges everything she has ever believed about humans, faeries, and her own heart's desire. And when at last Knife confronts the Faery Queen with what she knows, she is forced to make an agonizing choice between love and freedom that will change her life, and the lives of her people, forever.

Knife is a contemporary YA fantasy of 104,000 words, written in tight third person from the heroine's point of view. It was inspired by my desire to see a fresh take on faeries that was neither cynical nor saccharine, and reflects my love of mystery, adventure and romance.


I've tried to include the added plot and conflict details that Miss Snark and the Snarklings requested, and I think the result is an improvement over the original, but I'm still not sure if it covers all the necessary bases. Thoughts? Suggestions? Squashy tomatoes?

ETA a totally different version of the hook, just to confuse the issue for everyone and MAKE YOU ALL SHARE MY PAIN.

Date: 2007-01-03 09:12 pm (UTC)
ext_6531: (DW: President Romana)
From: [identity profile] lizbee.livejournal.com
*puts down squashy tomato to clap*

My only criticism is the "her restless heart" bit, mostly because I'm pretty sure there are a dozen bad romance novels with that title.

Date: 2007-01-03 09:24 pm (UTC)
kerravonsen: cover of "The Blue Sword": Fantasy (Fantasy)
From: [personal profile] kerravonsen
Agreed about the "restless heart", especially since Knife's heart didn't really strike me as particularly restless.

Date: 2007-01-03 09:14 pm (UTC)
ext_7845: (books)
From: [identity profile] yunitsa.livejournal.com
No squashy tomatoes, but I would get rid of the phrase "her own restless heart" (it caught my eye in the original hook, too) and maybe reduce the use of "so" in the second paragraph.

The first two lines are probably what Miss Snark would condemn as needless world-building, but I don't see what's wrong with a bit of that myself.

Date: 2007-01-03 09:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rj-anderson.livejournal.com
*facedesks over the "so" repetition*

Amazing how I can look at something for hours on end and STILL make a mistake like that. Thanks.

Date: 2007-01-03 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yahtzee63.livejournal.com
I like the hook much better -- it adds suspense and specific challenges and communicates the story overall much better. A couple of minor notes:

1) I would simply call her Knife; the information about her having two names looks here as though it could be confusing in the text. It isn't, of course, but the person reading this hook won't know that at the time.

2) I would reword the sentence about Paul to omit the information that he's in a wheelchair or add another sentence about him and his specific struggles beforehand. As stated now, it sounds like you're saying it would be strange for Knife to be attracted to a man in a wheelchair, which is the opposite of what you mean in the story. I think you could probably create one tight sentence that would introduce Paul's journey for the book, but if not, I'd simply take out "wheelchair-bound."

3) I agree with the others above about "restless heart."

As for a Canadian town, I'm inclined to tell you to invent one. Not only does that give you freedom from worries about difficult-to-verify period detail, but it also allows you to create what you need, whether that's a university, a hospital, a picturesque fountain, the famous Squirrel Village in the city square, or whatever. You could use Sudbury as your guide but still have creative freedom.

And hey, is "Touching Indigo" archived online anywhere? I went looking and could not find it.

Date: 2007-01-03 10:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] izhilzha.livejournal.com
Regarding 2) my take was that you should perhaps specify that Paul is human, regardless of how you word his disability. Because that surely is the strangest thing, isn't it? (Have not read the book, of course.)

Date: 2007-01-04 12:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rj-anderson.livejournal.com
Thanks for the input -- will definitely take it into consideration. Gosh, this hook stuff is hard work! *wipes brow*

Re the fate of "Indigo" -- see this post (http://synaesthete7.livejournal.com/236437.html). Had you read it before or were you just curious?

Date: 2007-01-04 04:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heatherbird.livejournal.com
The hook makes me want to read the book- except that line, "strangely drawn to the wheelchair-bound Paul McCormick?" The "strangely drawn to" sounds like a Nicholas Sparks hook, and in my teacher education courses they've stressed to us the importance of NOT using terms like "wheelchair-bound" because they can be offensive to people for whom wheelchairs are a useful tool, not a trap that holds them down. Since you have a character who uses a wheelchair, you may want to read up on what disability experts call "People-First Language;" I could probably dig up some links for you if you'd like.

Again, think the hook is great and I really want to read Knife, just make sure the hook is as sucinct as possible :)


Date: 2007-01-04 04:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rj-anderson.livejournal.com
Well, in Paul's case he does feel himself to be bound by the wheelchair, and he actually complains in the novel about the kind of positive-spin language you're describing (not that I'm saying he's right to complain, but it's how he as a recently injured person feels). For the purpose of the hook, though, I agree it's the wrong phrase, and I've taken it out. Thanks for the input and encouragement!

Date: 2007-01-04 04:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yahtzee63.livejournal.com
Just curious. Am I indeed too late?

And I am glad the hook hints are useful, at least hopefully. :D

Date: 2007-01-04 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rj-anderson.livejournal.com
I can e-mail you the story, if you'd like. Let me know.

Date: 2007-01-04 07:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rj-anderson.livejournal.com
I have sent it to the gmail address listed in your LJ profile. Is that the most current/correct one? I still had your old Yahoo address with all the 5's, but I feared to use it lest it prove defunct.

Date: 2007-01-03 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com
There's a Sudbury in Massachusetts, too.

I don't like the hook, so you are probably on the right track. Seriously.

P.

Date: 2007-01-04 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rj-anderson.livejournal.com
I don't like the hook, so you are probably on the right track. Seriously.

Yet I hate the thought of writing a hook to the specifications of a non-fantasy-reading agent, and losing the interest of someone who knows and loves fantasy as well as you do. Surely there's a balance somewhere... would you be willing to explain more specifically about what you don't like about the hook, so I can figure out whether I want to err in that particular direction or not? Thanks.

Date: 2007-01-04 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com
I'm in a rush right now, but I just wanted to remind you that I'm not an agent and have lousy marketing skills.

It seemed to me that the new hook turned your book into a series of cliches, when it's nothing of the sort. I'll try to take another look at it later this evening.

P.

Date: 2007-01-03 11:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rose-in-shadow.livejournal.com
Nothing much useful to add except I do like this one better than the old one. Feels tighter and more to the point.

On the constructive criticism front, I agree with whoever mentioned earlier about "wheelchair bound" it sounds stuck in somehow, and really, the point is that he's human, not paralyzed.
From: [identity profile] tybalt-quin.livejournal.com
I think you're heading on the right track, but there's still something missing and it's partly to do with the fact that it's not quite tight enough and partly because to me, there's a certain lack of conenction between some of the ideas you're putting across. For example - how does a glimpse inside the House convince Knife that the humans can help her? What is Paul's role in all this - is he helping Knife at all? Your third paragraph refers to hard-won independence, but there's no hint of this in the opening. I've put some suggestions below in terms of a rewrite in the full knowledge that you are justified in telling me to squick off (and knowing also that I may have the wrong end of the stick about your plot).

Appointed by the Faery Queen to help protect the Oakenfolk, Knife has the skill and the courage to fight the crows and other predators who threaten her people's survival. Yet for all her [weaponry prowess?] neither Knife nor the Queen can do anything against a mysterious disease that is claiming the faeries of the Oak one by one.

When Knife witnesses [X], she becomes convinced that humans have the knowledge to help the Oakenfolk. Unfortunately the Queen, [blaming humans for the weakening of faery magic?] is determined to keep the Oakenfolk away from them [and forbids Knife from having any contact with them?] Aware that her people are headed for extinction [Knife disregards the Queen's command and forms a friendship with Paul McCormick, a [age] human fed up with the assumptions people make because he uses a wheelchair]*. Together they work towards [finding a cure for the disease], a quest that sees [them/Knife] form unexpected alliances and challenge[s] everything [they/she] every believed about [faeries and humans/the history of the Oakenfolk/the nature of magic?] until ultimately, Knife is forced to [confront?] the Queen [for the right to the crown] if [the Oakenfolk are to have any chance of survival].

A contemporary young adult fantasy of 104,000 words, 'Knife' offers a fresh perspective on faeries that is neither cynical nor saccharine.


*Sorry - extrapolated this from the comments about version 1 so am probably missing something.
From: [identity profile] rj-anderson.livejournal.com
Thanks for the suggestions. They're useful, in that they show me how the hook is misleading the reader.

Alas, I don't seem able to communicate the story's crucial elements in a way that makes sense to anyone who hasn't read the book. I think I'd better just put it aside for a few more weeks and work on something else, because right now I still can't see the forest for the trees. Time and distance should help. I hope.

Date: 2007-01-04 04:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] p-sunshine.livejournal.com
You can make the town as close to the town you remember as you like, but change the name. Otherwise you get nitpickers and "Hey, that sounds just like Harriet down the lane. Wait, she doesn't do _____."

Suggestions, take or leave:
"Tight" in "tight third person" jumped out at me as a useless adjective.
"Her people" (and this is used a lot here) would be sharper if it just named what her people were.
"But there are humans at the bottom of the garden, and a glimpse inside their House convinces Knife that they have skills and knowledge that could help her people -- even as her mind is troubled by questions she cannot answer." This is passive, and rewording would create a better sense of urgency.
"Inspired by my desire..." It doesn't really matter how it came about. It's here, you wrote it, and now it needs to stand on its own.

The third paragraph is what sold me. It's urgent and connects the reader to Knife. More of this!

Date: 2007-01-04 06:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kizmet-42.livejournal.com
Driven by the awareness that her people are headed for extinction, Knife determines to learn the truth about the Oakenfolk's past -- a quest which puts her hard-won independence in jeopardy, earns her some unexpected allies, and challenges everything she has ever believed about humans, faeries, and her own heart's desire.

You don't make very clear who the enemy is - Miss Snark likes that to be put out there, she didn't like nameless enemies at all. I think that last bit that starts with "challenges" is a bit weak. Any quest will produce those allies, jeopardy, etc. What's unique about Knife's quest?

And when at last Knife confronts the Faery Queen with what she knows, she is forced to make an agonizing choice between love and freedom that will change her life, and the lives of her people, forever.

I don't like this sentence. How about

"Knife confronts the Faery Queen..."

I like the new, new, improved hook the best so far.

Date: 2007-01-04 08:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] speak-candidly.livejournal.com
I still feel like I lack a strong conflict. The disease is the situation -- it sounds like the thing with the faery queen's the real interest.

Date: 2007-01-05 12:46 pm (UTC)
ancarett: (Canadian Maple Leaf)
From: [personal profile] ancarett
Here via James' blog. The setting is a big question, but if you're going to trade on specifics, you might as well use the real town. If you can fudge it to a generic northern mining town (could be Sudbury, could be Timmins, say), invent a place and revel in that freedom.

Here to offer my local scouting skills if you do need to check any details after years away, however.

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