Thursday, May 18, 2006

Face-Lift 24

Guess the Plot

Light and Dark in the Desert

1. A dying man is lured into the desert snows by a female golf hustler, and devoured by the mountain lion he killed fifteen years ago.

2. A raging love affair between a Norwegian archeologist and his Ethiopian student at a site in the Sahara. By day they dig, by night they lust over each other’s sweaty, sexy bodies next to the Oasis of the Lowing Camels.

3. Companion volume to "Light and Dark in the Wasteland" and "Light and Dark in the Bug-Infested Humidity of the Southeast" this slim volume is a critical review of theater in Los Angeles.

4. A Gila monster, tired of her young ones arguing over who gets the white meat and who gets the dark, decides to make turkey burgers.

5. In the tradition of Raptor Red comes this tale of warfare between harvester ants and the pallid night-ants who sabotage their nests.

6. A tale of homerotic love between an Arabian prince and a jaded British landscape photographer. Can they throw off the shackles of convention in their desert hideaway?



It has been suggested that commenters, rather than choose "anonymous" as their identity, click on "other." This requires you to think of a name for yourself, which could be a time-consuming process, but not if you simply call yourself Evil Minion #234 or Evil Minion #666. This will help avoid comment exchanges like:

Hey, Anonymous, you're a total buffoon.

Shove it, you egotistical hack.

Not you, Anonymous. The other Anonymous.


Original Version

Dear Literary Agent,

Thank you for considering my suspense novel, Light and Dark in the Desert (83,000 words) for representation.

What would you do if your spouse wanted out of the marriage and you were diagnosed with a fatal illness? [The same thing any clear-thinking person would do--kill myself while making it look like my spouse did it.]

A female golf hustler [Whenever an occupation is preceded by the phrase "a female . . .", it might as well be preceded by the phrase, "the world's only female . . ."] takes Charles MacDougall for a ride, in more ways than two. Within twenty-four hours of traveling from New England to Arizona to play the desert golf courses he's always wanted to play, Charles finds himself with this mysterious woman, on foot in the harsh Navajo landscape, in a snow storm-- [Fortunately he manages to take cover in a Navajo igloo.] being chased by a strange killer (for reasons unknown), a mountain lion, and the ghost of a man he killed fifteen years ago. [Who has been reincarnated as another mountain lion.] Light and Dark in the Desert is a story of the twin curses of violence and guilt, and the power of an altered perspective. [This isn't a comedy? With a female golf hustler, a reincarnated mountain lion, and desert igloos, you're playing it straight?] [Wait a minute, that's it? What about my fatal illness and my traitorous spouse? You draw me in by telling me I'm dying and my wife wants out, and you never mention it again?]

Elevator pitch: A man with a death wish meets a woman with a past and gets more than he bargained for. [Evil Editor is imagining himself alone in an elevator. As the doors close, you leap inside, and immediately get off on the wrong foot by pressing a button for a floor lower than Evil Editor's. Then the conversation goes:

You: "Say, aren't you Evil Editor?"
EE: "No, you must have me confused with--"
You: "Love your column. Listen to this: A man with a death wish meets a woman with a past and gets more than he bargained for."
EE: "I'll have a six-figure, three-book contract in the mail to you tomorrow. And I think I can get Spielberg on board for the film rights."]

[Elevator pitch: A dying man is lured into the desert snows by a female golf hustler, and devoured by the mountain lion he killed fifteen years ago.]

Log line: Think North by Northwest, The Missing, and No Country for Old Men. [Actually, Evil Editor was thinking, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.]

Bio omitted. [Thank you.]

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Dear Literary Agent,

Thank you for considering my suspense novel, Light and Dark in the Desert (83,000 words) for representation.

What would you do if your spouse wanted out of the marriage, and you were diagnosed with a fatal illness? Charles MacDougall's answer is to travel from New England to Arizona to play the desert golf courses he's always wanted to play. But within twenty-four hours of his arrival, Charles finds himself on foot in a freak desert snowstorm with golf hustler Stephanie "Birdie Machine" Jackson, being chased by a killer, a mountain lion, and the ghost of a man he killed fifteen years ago. Not exactly the vacation Charles had in mind.

Light and Dark in the Desert is a story of the twin curses of violence and guilt, and the power of an altered perspective.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

There's certainly room for more information. Whom did he kill fifteen years ago? Is that a real ghost? What do you mean, he "finds himself" with this mysterious woman, on foot in the harsh Navajo landscape, in a snow storm? Did he get knocked out by one of Stephanie's golf shots, and when he regains consciousness, he's running for his life from mountain lions and ghosts? What kind of wife dumps her husband when she finds out he's got six weeks to live? Fill in a few of the holes.

Instead of a female golf hustler, consider making it Michelle Wie.

Being chased across Arizona by a killer and a mountain lion may be a drag, but it's a hell of a lot more pleasant than staying in New England and spending your last months dealing with your wife's divorce lawyer.

18 comments:

Benja Fallenstein said...

Damn. Evil Editor does it again.

A dying man is lured into the desert snows by a female golf hustler, and devoured by the mountain lion he killed fifteen years ago? EE was joking, but I would actually want to read more. *shakes head*

But not from the query, not even in revised form. It just sounds like it doesn't hold together. In the elevator pitch, I don't mind that it isn't explained, because there is just obviously no room for it. But in the query...

Being in a desert snowstorm chased by a mountain lion and a ghost -- that sounds really fun, actually[*]. But methinks that EE is spot on with "fill in the holes," medoes.

[*] (An adventure being something bad happening to someone else in a far-away place, and all that.)

skylark said...

Not fair, EE, you should have given a beverage warning before posting this. Hilarious!

Rei said...

It doesn't sound to me like the plot doesn't necessarily hold together; it sounds like the query letter is so short that it leaves a dozen big unanswered questions that are probably answered in the book. I'd be curious to see if the author does it, because if they do, it could be an interesting story.

Elevator pitches are easy, even if the plot is complicated ("Serial Experiments Lain: A girl gets an email from a dead friend, meets a synthetic god, and ends up discovering that she is the physical incarnation of the collective subconscious of humanity."). Synopses are relatively painless because you have space to cover your major plot threads. It's the in-between, query letter size summaries that are troublesome.

Val Tear said...

Well, if you're going to play this game you gotta be willing to take the hit. I do wonder how the "ghost of a man he killed fifteen years ago" turned into the reincarnation of a mountain lion, but hey, it's funny, and I get the point--say what you mean. Yes, it's a metaphorical ghost (as in haunted by regret), not a supernatural one. The main thing I learned here is that in trying so hard to keep it short I left out too much. Thanks for pointing that out so very very well. Worth the price of admission.
By the way, in northern Arizona (Navajo country)it definitely snows.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Okay, unlike Val, I thought it was a ghost-ghost, not a guilt-ghost.

Anonymous said...

You're funnier than Miss Snark.

(Don't tell her I said that.)

tlh said...

Gee, thanks, rei, now I don't have to see it. :D

As revenge, I must tell you it's a sled!

I thought it was a real ghost at first, but then discarded that as silly... so it must be metaphorical, but from the context (paired with concrete things) it's not clear.

Val Tear said...

I'm not guessing about the ghost thing, folks. I wrote the damn query.
Looks like my previous post wasn't clear enough either. Geez.

Jessica said...

Wait, the mountain lion and the ghost are the same thing? I thought the mountain lion was trying to kill him while some ghost from his mind was haunting him too. So, it's a ghost mountain lion? I'm confussed . . .

Desert Minion said...

Not to interfere with a good skewing, but, actually, snowstorms in Navajo country are not at all unusual--the Res is far enough north and at high enough altitude for it. :-)

(Whether this matters if the reader doesn't know it is another question.)

Evil Editor said...

There seems to be a consensus that EE scoffed at the notion of snow in Arizona. EE was in Tucson at Christmas one year when it snowed. While he made jokes about it, he did, you'll note, leave the snowstorm in the revised version.

Anonymous said...

I've been in this business a few years and have never heard of an elevator pitch. Is that the same as high concept?

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Elevator pitch: You find yourself on the elevator with an agent/editor who says, "So, what's your book about?" You have like 30 seconds to pitch. Yes, it's the high concept/premise/hook. I've never heard it CALLED that, but knew what they meant.

Val, good for you to post and say it's your query without using the anon-feature! Takes major guts.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

LOL - Val, I clicked on your link to go and check out your blog to read more about you just to find there is none. You should have one! (hint hint)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brenda. Learn something new every day. (g)

One Girl's Opinion said...

I though your first comment was quite clear Val. From it I gleaned that you wrote the query and took the hits with grace.

Good luck to you.

:)

Kirsten said...

What would you do if your spouse wanted out of the marriage and you were diagnosed with a fatal illness? [The same thing any clear-thinking person would do--kill myself while making it look like my spouse did it.]

LOL

Evil Editor's blog: the Mystery Science Theater 3000 of query letters!

Minion #42 said...

I've been in this business a few years and have never heard of an elevator pitch. Is that the same as high concept?

Depends on which floor you're on.