The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

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lyndoncr
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The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

Post by lyndoncr » December 5th, 2010, 12:47 am

I realise I've only recently joined up here but I've been lurking for a while and intend to critique wherever I can be remotely useful.
This is a few drafts in and has been sent to a number of agents with no success. I'd like to keep telling myself it's because the subject matter is maybe too silly for most but there's no question this query needs some work.
So here goes:

Dear Agent,

Wyman Baker is an old man just looking for a better life. What he finds is the still living voice box and ear of Gilbert in his soup. Gilbert is understandably grumpy and promises Wyman a great deal of coin if the rest of his pieces are found.

Now making deals with severed limbs is a strange prospect even in a place as weird as Rah-Rah-Rah, but Wyman’s little magic tricks do little to bring in the big numbers. So Wyman sets off to put Gilbert together again. Trouble is Gilbert’s pieces are being used by a very dangerous man from Gilbert’s past, a Puppeteer who controls the government with the help of severed limbs, machinery, and a healthy dose of magic.

Pretty soon Wyman is spotting top hats left and right (the attire of the Puppeteer’s lackeys) and the quest for Gilbert’s pieces uncovers a plan to cleanse the world of all its “undeserving” citizens.

For an old man that just wanted a few extra coins in his pocket Wyman is quickly out of his depth in all the necessary heroics. He must decide whether a life full of coin and safety is worth losing a friend and his choice may just end the world all together.

THE BAKER, THE PUPPETEER, AND THE MAN IN PIECES is the first in a possible series of fantasy novels and is complete at 58,000 words. It is structured in a somewhat unusual way. Between each chapter sits an interlude; a glimpse in to The World of Filth and Riches and the people that live there. People that Wyman passes on his way to finding Gilbert’s pieces, from sideways children to magic tents and a half man-half tiger searching for the thumb sized man that kidnapped his wife. All of them on their own little quest to change themselves or the world at large.


Thank you for your time in reading this and I look forward to hearing from you,

Lyndon Cullen-Reid
www.lyndoncr.com


I've posted the preceding versions of this with a few comments on my blog (it's the website at the bottom of the query). I think one of the major issues I have with this is that there's no real indication of what Wyman is up against and what he has to do. "Cleansing the world of undeserving citizens" is too vague perhaps?
Be grateful to hear what others might think it needs.

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Re: The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

Post by alienbogey » December 5th, 2010, 1:20 pm

Lyndon,

Like you I've been lurking for a while; now I'm trying to build some karma by offering opinions on other people's queries before I submit mine for review.
lyndoncr wrote:
Dear Agent,

Wyman Baker is an old man just looking for a better life. What he finds is the still living voice box and ear of Gilbert in his soup. Gilbert is understandably grumpy and promises Wyman a great deal of coin if the rest of his pieces are found. There's an 'ICK' factor here to be overcome. 'still living voice box '? My first mental image was of a section of bone-white trachea in the soup. Yuck. Besides, doesn't a voice box also need a mouth, tongue and lips, etc to be able to speak? It's fantasy, so I think 'mouth' would work just fine, and with the ear Gilbert can then speak and hear like Mr. Potatohead in Toy Story. Leave the parts out of the soup, though, too gross.

Now making deals with severed limbs [ I'm being picky, but neither a voice box nor an ear is a limb. ]is a strange prospect even in a place as weird as Rah-Rah-Rah, but Wyman’s little magic tricks do little to bring in the big numbers.[ Big numbers of what? People? Money? Severed limbs? I was confused what this meant ] So Wyman sets off to put Gilbert together again. Trouble is Gilbert’s pieces are being used by a very dangerous man from Gilbert’s past, a Puppeteer who controls the government with the help of severed limbs, machinery, and a healthy dose of magic.

Pretty soon Wyman is spotting top hats left and right (the attire of the Puppeteer’s lackeys) [ A parenthetical explanation strikes me as being awkward. How about simply 'spotting the Puppeteer's lackeys'? ]and the quest for Gilbert’s pieces uncovers a plan to cleanse the world of all its “undeserving” citizens. Is the plan by the Puppeteer or another bigger, badder bad guy? Yes, I agree with you that 'cleanse the world of undeserving citizens' needs to be stronger, but without knowing more I'm at a loss for suggestions.

For an old man that just wanted a few extra coins in his pocket Wyman is quickly out of his depth in all the necessary heroics. [ This sentence doesn't work for me. '...out of his depth in all the necessary heroics.' So the necessary heroics form a kind of metaphysical body of water that Wyman is out of his depth in? I like the 'necessary heroics' phrase, it kind of cheekily acknowledges the genre, but for me the sentence doesn't quite work. ]He must decide whether a life full of coin and safety is worth losing a friend and his choice may just end the world all together.

THE BAKER, THE PUPPETEER, AND THE MAN IN PIECES [ Love the title. ] is the first in a possible series of fantasy novels and is complete at 58,000 words. It is structured in a somewhat unusual way.[ I see an agent, who may well have been interested up to this point, going "Uh-oh". ] Between each chapter sits an interlude; a glimpse in to The World of Filth and Riches and the people that live there. People that Wyman passes on his way to finding Gilbert’s pieces, from sideways children to magic tents and a half man-half tiger searching for the thumb sized man that kidnapped his wife. All of them on their own little quest to change themselves or the world at large. Suggest leaving out everything about the unusual structure and letting the agent discover it and, hopefully, like it.


Thank you for your time in reading this and I look forward to hearing from you,

Lyndon Cullen-Reid
http://www.lyndoncr.com

I'm very intrigued by your story and the title alone would make me pull the book off the bookstore shelf even though this genre isn't normally my thing. With a great blurb on the back cover I'd buy it.

Respectfully submitted.

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Re: The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

Post by lyndoncr » December 5th, 2010, 5:45 pm

Thanks a ton Alienbogey.

There are a couple things there you picked up on that I hadn't even noticed, such as "big numbers" being confusing, it's referring to coin, and the limb thing ... that was just stupid on my part, of course they aren't limbs, gah!

I probably will take out the unusual structure part as you say, as much as that's one of the things beta readers have liked about it I'm not sure it's suitable for a query.

Thank you for your other notes as well, will certainly take them on board.

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Re: The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

Post by Fenris » December 5th, 2010, 6:02 pm

I open my mouth...and alienbogey takes the words. :)

There are a few other points I'd like to make, though:
-As to the unusual structure--why? Does each little 'in-between' section add or introduce something that will play a part in the next chapter? It seems odd that you'd break up your story with what sounds like short stories. If the in-betweens don't have anything to do with the main plotline, I'd save them and perhaps publish a compilation or anthology once your series gets truly underway. Even if they're people Wyman just met, there's no real need to give their short story right then (unless they're killed off later, of course).
-Does this have a kind of horror sub-theme? The picture I got after this kind of suggests that:
lyndoncr wrote:...a Puppeteer who controls the government with the help of severed limbs, machinery, and a healthy dose of magic.
Basically, I pictured a kind of cyborg Frankenstein, except much less humanoid and with WAY too many limbs. But then that's probably just my overactive imagination at work.
-I'm assuming Rah-Rah-Rah is the name of the magical land in which this story is set, but the name sounds like, well...a cheer. Is it a satire, perhaps on some aspect of the story or on the nonsensical names many fantasy novels employ?

As for everything else...see alienbogey.
Hi, my name's Fenris. I'm a thousand-year-old monster who's broken free to destroy the world. Your kids will love me!

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Re: The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

Post by lyndoncr » December 6th, 2010, 4:01 am

-As to the unusual structure--why? Does each little 'in-between' section add or introduce something that will play a part in the next chapter?
That's exactly what they are. That you asked the question means I didn't make this clear, so thank you. It sort of plays out like a mystery, with a bunch of threads running through various stories all leading up to the Puppeteer. The idea being that it shows just how far reaching his control of the small world has become. All of the interludes tie directly to parts of the main arc either before or after it. Such as Wyman meeting a little man in a magic tent that actually seems quite friendly. The subsequent interlude is about the little man, how he became little, and how he tore a marriage apart and destroyed a family.
Most of the interludes offer this sort of alternate perspective on what's happening. It's an underlying theme of the novel, that everyone has their own opinion on how the world should be.
Basically, I pictured a kind of cyborg Frankenstein, except much less humanoid and with WAY too many limbs. But then that's probably just my over-active imagination at work.
You're pretty damn close. He's now just a head floating in a glass container that's stuck in the belly of a giant marionette. There's an interlude that's set further back in the past that shows The Puppeteer before he got like that too.

-I'm assuming Rah-Rah-Rah is the name of the magical land in which this story is set, but the name sounds like, well...a cheer
Spot on, well almost ... it's a town within the world. There's mention of the strange name in the first chapter. The town has been renamed in an effort to uplift the spirit of it's citizens.

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Re: The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

Post by Fenris » December 6th, 2010, 4:56 pm

lyndoncr wrote:The subsequent interlude is about the little man, how he became little, and how he tore a marriage apart and destroyed a family.
Wow. I guess a first impression isn't everything.
lyndoncr wrote:He's now just a head floating in a glass container that's stuck in the belly of a giant marionette.
Niice. That's taking a definite horror tilt to the novel. I enjoy "freakish" horror (like Frankenstein-ish creatures, though I'm not sure I'd call Frankenstein itself a horror novel) more than "psychological" horror (like serial-killer stuff), so I might just read this book once it gets published! What age group is it for?
lyndoncr wrote:The town has been renamed in an effort to uplift the spirit of it's citizens.
Huh, that's neat. I'm sensing a more whimsical nature than is normally present in modern fantasy, but that's certainly NOT a bad thing. To be frank I've missed it, though you may find adult crowds generally less tolerant of it than younger audiences.
Hi, my name's Fenris. I'm a thousand-year-old monster who's broken free to destroy the world. Your kids will love me!

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Re: The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

Post by lyndoncr » December 6th, 2010, 9:26 pm

I guess it does have some elements of horror to it, the first interlude is about an inn that gets eaten by a swarm of insects (including the two owners, one of whom had just accidentally killed a prostitute by sleeping on top of her). I guess that gives an indication of why it's kind of tough to pin down audience wise. I've called it YA as all the weirdness is handled in a very whimsical way... Think Discworld.

I hadn't really thought of it as horror, despite some of the more gross things that happen. It's certainly not for the high elves and wizards crowd. It's weird and -I hope- just a bit of silly fun with themes and characters that take it a step further.

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Re: The Baker, The Puppeteer, and The Man In Pieces

Post by Fenris » December 6th, 2010, 10:00 pm

lyndoncr wrote:I hadn't really thought of it as horror, despite some of the more gross things that happen. It's certainly not for the high elves and wizards crowd. It's weird and -I hope- just a bit of silly fun with themes and characters that take it a step further.
Well, just because it has horror elements doesn't necessarily make it horror. I think it depends on how gruesomely you portray the weird stuff, and if you're just going for fun then I'm not sure gruesomeness is on your agenda--so maybe it's not horror. Or maybe it's one of those books where it depends on the reader.
lyndoncr wrote:Think Discworld.
:D
Hi, my name's Fenris. I'm a thousand-year-old monster who's broken free to destroy the world. Your kids will love me!

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