Sunday, June 25, 2006

Face-Lift 84


Guess the Plot

Sugar Bowl

1. When Gnflzot, the commander-in-chief of the army ants, learns from his scouts that an immense sugar bowl is going to materialize at the turn of the new year, in a far-off land called Atlanta, he springs into action.

2. Corporate CEO Vanda Harjoni from the nation of Jepalasia arrives in New York and hosts an open house at his office, where his basket of betelnut and sugar bowl of lime sit on his desk. When FBI Agent Harold Newson wanders by, he mistakes the sugar bowl contents for cocaine and arrests Vanda, who must find his way through the twisted maze of American justice.

3. With the town’s only bowling alley brothel threatened with foreclosure, the girls take matters into their own hands and raise the money – the hard way.

4. After winning their 10th straight national title, the Texas Longhorns could be at the end of their dynasty. But, the world will never find out if Max Ridgecliff can’t save Nokia from bankruptcy in time to sign the endorsement check.

5. With the season winding down, and a Sugar Bowl bid on the line, star quarterback Jake Zarephath is accused of rape. If it was lacrosse, the season would be called off. But this is big-time football.

6. White granules and shards of porcelain on the kitchen floor. An innocent-looking cream pitcher standing on the table. It was shaping up as Detective Coffee's toughest case.


Original Version

Dear Evil,

When walk-on tailback Jake Zarephath helps the West Virginia Mountaineers upset seventh-ranked Pitt in October, he thinks life couldn't get any better. The euphoria doesn't last, however, and Jake's fall from grace stems from an incident that occurs that very night. A week later the local police visit Jake to question him about a rape accusation made by an acquaintance, Robin Dunellen. Unable to remember what happened and unsure what to do anyway, Jake initially leaves his case in the hands of the football program without asking any questions. [He gets accused of rape, and tells the football coach to handle it?]

Unfortunately for Robin, the team is weeks away from an invitation to play in the prestigious Sugar Bowl game. In Autumn nothing is more important to the university and the city of Morgantown than Mountaineer football, and this is shaping up to be the season that is talked about for years to come. Trying to avoid the loss of a key player, [He's a walk-on tailback; how "key" can he be?] assistant athletic director Phil Berg slams Robin using the resources of a well-funded athletic department.

In her first year away from her small hometown Robin becomes the target of an orchestrated campaign of public humiliation and character assassination. Life is difficult for her until Jake begins to have qualms about hiding behind his corrupt protectors as Robin is bullied. Finally, when the bludgeoning continues after the Sugar Bowl bid is in hand, Jake has had enough. [Stop attacking this sweet girl who's accusing me of a rape I didn't commit. I'm sure she has a logical explanation.] He and a local sportswriter, Ham Newton, learn that Robin's friend and self-appointed guardian, Michelle Brigantine, was herself the victim of a violent rape at another university. It doesn't take much for Newton, Jake and even Robin herself to realize that Michelle goaded Robin into making the accusation as a way to retaliate for the crime that was committed against her. [Maybe you should call her Michelle Destroyer instead of Michelle Brigantine.] [In fact, it would be cool to give all your characters ship names: Ham Sub, Robin Dinghy, Jake Junk, and Phil Frigate.]

Jake's anger at this revelation is tempered by the heartbreaking story Michelle finally tells about how she was drugged and assaulted by perpetrators who were never punished. [Okay, let's make sure we've got this straight. Michelle, on a weekend trip to Villanova, gets brutally assaulted. Rather than tell the authorities, she goes to her friend Robin:

Michelle: I was raped while I was in Philadelphia.
Robin: Oh my God! Are you okay? Did they catch who did it?
Michelle: No. I didn't tell anyone.
Robin: You have to go to the police!
Michelle: I know. But now that I'm back here at WVU, I think it would be more convenient to accuse someone here. Saves me the trouble of traveling back and forth to Villanova all the time.
Robin: You're going to accuse someone who didn't do it?
Michelle: No, you are. I've been through enough.
Robin: Well . . . okay. Who should I accuse?
Michelle: The quarterback of the football team.
Robin: But what about our Sugar Bowl bid?
Michelle: Oh yeah. Okay, make it the walk-on tailback. We have to teach someone a lesson.

And after the athletic department throws all their resources into destroying Robin's character, she continues to stand by her story?] [And you thought the fantasy and romance novels had unbelievable plots.]
Even after Robin recants her accusation and the charges are dropped, Jake vows not to play in the Sugar Bowl so long as Berg remains in the employ of the athletic department. [A "key" player threatens not to play in the big game? Who's gonna buy that?] A nasty struggle in the press and in the back rooms of Mountaineer Field. After the university president fires Berg just before Christmas Jake is free to return to his team. Surprisingly the unbeaten Mountaineers find that a national championship is within their reach on New Years Day, [West Virginia? Playing for the national championship? That's the most unbelievable part of all.] [Besides, the national championship is decided after New Year's day, in the BCS National Championship game.] and Jake will be there with no strings attached. My novel, "Sugar Bowl", consists of approximately 100,000 words. Besides some realistic football action, the very real issue of sexual assault in the world of college athletics is touched upon. The subject matter is somewhat timely, given the recent debate in the news about alleged sexual assault by members of the Duke University lacrosse team. [Though by the time the book comes out, that will be ancient history.] Please let me know if you're interested in taking a look at the manuscript.

Thanks!


Revised Version

Dear Evil,

With seven scholarship tailbacks out with season-ending injuries, walk-on Jake Zarephath finds himself a starter for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Life couldn't get any better--until an acquaintance, Robin Dunellen, accuses him of rape. Unfortunately for Robin, the team is in the running for an invitation to play in the prestigious Sugar Bowl game, and she becomes the target of an orchestrated campaign of public humiliation and character assassination, led by assistant athletic director Phil Berg, who will do anything to avoid the loss of a key player.

Eventually Robin admits she wasn't raped, but was goaded into making the accusation. The athletic department doesn't let up on her, and when the bludgeoning continues even after the Sugar Bowl bid is in hand, Jake has had enough. He vows not to play in the Sugar Bowl so long as Berg remains in the employ of the athletic department. A nasty struggle in the press and in the back rooms of Mountaineer Field result in the university president firing Berg just before Christmas. Jake is free to return to his team, and the unbeaten Mountaineers find that a national championship is within their reach.

My novel, "Sugar Bowl", consists of approximately 100,000 words. Besides some realistic football action, the very real issue of sexual assault in the world of college athletics is touched upon. Please let me know if you're interested in taking a look at the manuscript.

Thanks!


Notes

Although the query sounds cleaner now, it still leaves the reader wondering why Jake is sympathetic to Robin, when she falsely accused him. And while the Michelle-Robin relationship is out of the query, it's still in the book, and not easily explained.

If you think West Virginia U. came down hard on Robin, wait till you see what they do to you, if you publish a book that makes them look like jerks.

15 comments:

michaelgav said...

I'm not sure how to say this.

False accusations of rape being used to ratchet up the tension in a novel that culminates in the Big Game..? You may want to rethink this one.

Rape is kind of a sensitive issue to be used as a plot device in a football story. Matt Christopher used to write sports books for boys and girls in which the main character had a personal issue that was dogging him (or sometimes her), but things somehow worked out in time for the Big Game. These issues usually involved braces, or a stuttering problem. Not rape.

If the rape charges (and Michelle's actual assault) are more than just plot devices, perhaps the novel should build toward the resolution of those charges, not the Mountaineer's shot at the title.

There's a difference between political correctness (of which I've never been accused) and the inability to empathize with the victims of a monstrous crime. I don't see Michelle's actions as remotely believable given what she's been through. (I don't see Robin or Jake behaving believably here either, but that's a story issue, which is not what I'm talking about.)

I think this has the potential to grossly offend about 85 percent of the people who might read your query.

Maybe this should be a book about rape, or about being falsely accused of rape, set in the world of college football.

But a football novel with a little rape thrown in, well, I think that's a serious non-starter.

garden minion said...

Why not try plot #3 instead? I'm intrigued....

And how can you talk about West Virginia football without mentioning some kind of riot? ;)

This query probably just needs a little more clarity (both of the characters' motivations and the real climax of the book).

A Reader said...

The title, "Sugar Bowl", is, to put it bluntly, kind of sick when you consider that the story is about a rape. (Yeah, I get the football reference.)

It implies, at least to me, that there was something pleasurable about it, since "sugar" is usually what you call a lover.

msjones said...

FIS. (Frowning In Silence, the opposite of LOL, what one experiences after reading E2's masterly commentary.)

I'm with Michaelgav on this one. The willing suspension of disbelief ain't happening for me.

It would be more credible if Robin was also too plastered to remember what happened, and was persuaded to bring rape accusations by her mother Michelle, who experienced a horrible assault back in the days when women were generally disbelieved about such stuff.

As it is, both women are monsters of passive-agression, manipulative and unsympathetic, and Jake is comically saintly in not just forgiving but fighting for someone who's trying to do him out of his chance at football glory.

(Of course, this is coming from someone who's going to be circulating petitions at Burning Man to get the name changed to Burning Person, so I may not be a representative Gentle Minion.)

Alternative scenario: Robin is in the grip of Mafiosi who have bets on the game outcome - they've kidnapped her little dog and are threatening to cut off his tail unless she does their bidding.

foxtbmex said...

Ham Newton = The worst cookie ever.

I wouldn't mention the Duke lax team in the query--charged news items like that tend to polarize people, and you don't want the reader polarizing opposite of you.

("But don't opposite poles attract?")
("Shut up. I'm making a point.")

-A

Feemus said...

Regarding what "a reader" said--worse than sounding inappropriately affectionate, "sugar bowl" sounds rather like a euphemism for a person's lady parts.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

"Ham Newton = worst cookie ever." Hah!

Mazement said...

A Ham Newton isn't a cookie. It's meat and cake!

Anonymous said...

From the query, I didn't think this sounded like a misuse of a rape plot...sounded at the end like the author was trying to bring sexual assualt to light as an issue of possible concern in college athletics (or in general).

Also - the two girls ganging up to accuse someone of rape?? Why not? Has anyone else seen the movie Wild Things? One girl was not actually assaulted but went in with the other girl to help get him convicted. It had some more twists to it, but that was a big part of the plot.

Not sure from this query why they picked this football player to gang up on rather than the guy who ACTUALLY assaulted Michelle...

Luna said...

Plus, the "psycho woman getting revenge for rape/abuse/men in general" has been done to death and always struck me as creepily sexist (towards the women.) Turn it more in a thriller-ish direction and I might read it, but as it is I would be icked.

Anonymous said...

"Besides some realistic football action . . ." This has been tried to death and has NEVER been accomplished. If you've ever played football, you know it simply cannot be done. However, most people have never played football so some may buy it.

To me, it sounds as if the author knows nothing about football -expecially college football and the way the national championship works (as EE pointed out). When you write, write what you know or get to know what you write through extensive research.

As far as the "main" plot goes, there are way too many holes. If you are going to write about rape and rape accusations you are going to have to write a very tight story. Just my humble opinion.
-JTC

born_liar said...

Here's one way this could be believable:


- Robin WAS raped, at a party, by someone other than Jake. But she was very drunk or drugged and the events are a little hazy. Jake is the only one at the party whose name she remembers.
- Michelle, still seething over her own rapist's getting away with it, pushes Robin into accusing Jake even though Robin's not sure he was involved.
- Jake sympathizes with Robin because she was in fact raped, maybe even in the next room, and he didn't do anything about it.

Alison S said...

I would prefer to read plot number 3, too.

Anonymous said...

EE and minions missed this gem??????

Jake's anger at this revelation is tempered by the heartbreaking story Michelle finally tells about how she was drugged and assaulted by perpetrators who were never punished.


HUH???? You're wrongly accusing me of rape, ruining my life and then you want your friend to tell me some sob story about how she was raped and didn't report it. Oh, OK, now I understand and I'm not angry anymore.

HUH?????????????

The thing that this plot needs is a CONTROL ALT DELETE

Urnamma said...

Yeah, I caught that too.

Jake: My life is ruined. I can never play the game I love again, I am in danger of being expelled, etc... But, I feel SOOOOO bad for you. (this is, of course, assuming jake hasn't been to prison and had his name changed to jackie for a bit... then he might have some empathy)

But this plot seems really... far fetched in many aspects. Why has poor jake been accused in the first place, and what kind of cold bitch is robin to do so, if the -actual- rape took place in a different area of the country, and the victim was another person? Even if he felt bad for michelle, why would jake not be angrier than a bag of pissed off cobras at robin?

Anonymous said...

Thanks everybody. It hurts when it's your turn but I appreciate all the thoughtful tips from EE and the Minions...