Thursday, August 24, 2006

Face-Lift 166


Guess the Plot

The Disappearance of Abe Lincoln: And the Misadventures of a Guy With a Mustache and a Chick With an Eye Patch

1. Exhausted from writing out the title to his novel, a writer collapses on the keyboard.

2. Abe Lincoln is kidnapped by two oddball characters, taken to Manitoba, and held for ransom. Too much ransom, apparently, as no one is willing to pay, and negotiations drag on for years, until Abe grows so enamored of his captors he doesn't want to be rescued.

3. Pirates Ann Bonney and Captain Kidd sail through the Bermuda Triangle and into the present day Potomac Basin to hold the nation's most cherished public monuments for ransom.

4. As mustachioed Martin attempts to stuff a five-dollar bill into the g-string of a stripper with an eye patch, a gust of wind blows the bill away. To make a long story short, Martin and the stripper wed and have four children.

5. Before launching his career in politics, Abe Lincoln tries his hand at piracy. However, the ship's captain sends Abe back, after he shares his honest opinion on her wardrobe.

6. Wizardo the Magician and his assistant, Pirate Wench Sally, could make anyone disappear. Booked at a charity gig with a Senator from Illinois with an annoying habit of telling the truth, even to a magician's fans, it was time for this Lincoln guy to disappear - for good.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I am seeking publication for my novel, The Disappearance of Abe Lincoln: And the Misadventures of a Guy With a Mustache and a Chick With an Eye Patch, complete at 92,128 words and 460,569 characters. [And that's just the title.] (Yes, I counted them all by hand. My cat Flannery O’Connor helped, of course.)

I adore ninjas, bunnies, and zombies – So it really is too bad that none of those made it into my novel. It does, however, contain a kidnapping and a road trip. I guess those are cool too, especially if it is the kidnapping of former president Abe Lincoln. Unfortunately, former president Abraham Lincoln was murdered and is dead, so it’s the kidnapping of a different Abe Lincoln, which is not quite as awesome, though still mildly arresting.

Abe Lincoln is an experienced ninja for hire with a murky past and noble connections… oh wait, I forgot that there aren’t any ninjas in this novel. Sorry. Abe Lincoln is a 10th grade history teacher in a small midwestern town. [I'm pleased to see you're finally talking about what is in your book, rather than what isn't; unfortunately, you're doing so after the reader has moved on to the next query letter.] He has grown accustomed to his famous moniker, even if others haven’t. His parents, he realized at a young age, did not have a great sense of humor, and they were also acid tripping hippies, which certainly played a part in his naming. Abe is 24 years old and a magnificent, but eccentric educator, naturally, a student favorite. His students, then, are especially sad when a guy with a mustache and a chick with an eye patch and an undistinguishable accent kidnap Abe in the darkness of night. [How do the students know what happened?] They stuff Abe in the trunk of their white 2001 Ford Taurus and drive north, across the border, into the remote areas of southern Manitoba. [I've never crossed the border into Manitoba. I take it they don't check your trunk to make sure you aren't smuggling in heroin or a kidnaped guy? Even if they check only suspicious characters, a woman with an eye patch is likely to be at the top of the list.] Along the way they meet a bizarre cavalcade of strange characters, including a three-legged wolf, a mannequin fisherman, [Unclear whether that's a mannequin dressed in fisherman's garb, or a fisherman who tries to hook mannequins.] a Royal Canadian Mountie with a penchant for puns, [What was the name of the snake that went into law enforcement? Mountie Python.] [Describe Dudley Do-Right after he finishes his dinner: The Full Mounty.] palindromes, [Lincoln meets McEntire: Abe Reba] and candy necklaces, a family of traveling evangelicals, and many, many others. After relaying demands to Abe’s family via email, the kidnappers soon realize that his parents are not willing to pay a large ransom for Abe, thus the bargaining begins. It will go on for over two years, and Abe, meanwhile, becomes infatuated with his kidnappers and begins to hope he is never rescued.

I am 23 years old and started writing [this query letter] about seven months ago. I would have gotten started with my writing career sooner, but my obsessive nature constantly distracted me. It all started when; at about age six, I became obsessed with pancakes, flapjacks if you will. I ate at least 35 per day, and threw temper tantrums if my parents refuse to make them for me. Pancakes on the mind, day and night, do you know what that is like? [Not first-hand, but it sounds extremely boring.] Needless to say I could not function in school, and therefore did not go. Eventually, after years of therapy and hypnotists, I finally was able to let go of pancakes. I was thirteen. On my fourteenth birthday I read my first Flannery O’Connor short story. I was hooked immediately. I consumed as many of her stories as I could. Literally consumed, once I finished reading each story collection or novella, I wept for about an hour, and then ate the book, pages, cover and all. Luckily, Flannery passed at a young age, God rest her soul, so I eventually ran out of books to eat and the obsession slowly dwindled to a slightly unhealthy fixation. By this time I was seventeen and had just completed grade school. I was grossly behind. That is why I did not learn to written thingys gooder until I am 23 and having later starting on writing. [This is why it's best to let Evil Editor do the comedy, people.]

I have shown my novel to some respected authors and have received the following great reviews:

Brett Easton Ellis: “Get the hell away from me!”

John Updike: “Who are you, and why are you following me around?”

Stephen King: “I’m calling the cops.”

Dr. Seuss: “I do not like you sir. No, I do not like you now or then, I do not like you any when.”

If you are interested in reading my novel, and possibly publishing me, please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thank you kindly for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

Assuming this book exists, the title and plot are enough to demonstrate that it's humor. There's no point in driving home the point with fake reviews, a lengthy fake bio, and a list of what isn't in the book. Personally, I found the plot description more amusing than the other stuff anyway.

If you want a businessperson to spend thousands of dollars publishing your book, it's best to talk about your book, and to do so as if you are a businessperson. You can perform your comedy act later, when you meet your editor at IHOP. (Though I don't recommend it, not without better material.)

20 comments:

xiqay said...

I guessed fake plot 4. My second choice was fake plot 3 (which I loved, portal and all).

As for the query, must have been fun to write. But really, you didn't think it would be considered favorably by an agent or publisher, did you? (Didn't think so.) But a gutsy move, nice try. Obviously takes the advice of including the tone of your novel in your query a bit too far.

Good luck.

EE, you are too funny. Mounty Python and all.

Feisty said...

I really liked his query.

But, Writer, what were you thinking? If you don't leave room for EE to make comments, he'll get cranky and banish you.

Personally, I would have requested the novel. And that's why I am not an editor.

cyn said...

the author's first chapters are
over at elektra's crapometer.

Anonymous said...

Loved plot #1.

Author,

You're trying way, way too hard. I was getting antsy reading about all the stuff that wasn't in the novel; then you really shot yourself in the foot with the section starting, "I am 23 years old..."

Not only was it way too long, it wasn't funny. Which would make me suspect that the novel wasn't funny either. Sorry.

EHsquared said...

I think the author should eat his/her book out of compassion for ... everyone. Caused too much eye rolling.

Plot - good. Style - overly infatuated.

D-

pacatrue said...

I was really waiting for this query based upon the title alone. I say this to echo the venerable EE - we already know that this book is comic and crazy from just the title so you don't need to make the entire query so comic and crazy that you frighten us. Actually the query comes across mostly as crazy. When you started eating 30 flapjacks a day I wasn't sure if you were still joking or not.

I still want to know about this book though, and I want it to be good, because I like funny idiosyncratic stuff. So, try cutting everything else in the query except for the actual plot. That looked fun enough. That way you get to be both fun and professional.

However, I will say that I am not sure I can handle the Abe Lincoln idea. When I read that THE Abraham Lincoln really had no part whatsoever to play in this book, I wanted to toss it. Unless the name plays a really, really big role in the book, please rename the character so that you don't frustrate readers. It's kind of like picking up a book labeled "George Washington and the Cherry Tree" and discovering it is a tale of a guy from Iowa visiting Japan during the Cherry Blossom Festival. While I wouldn't mind reading a book about a guy going to Japan, I don't want to read that when I expected a crazy story of the first American president.

HawkOwl said...

Evil Editor is channeling the spirit of HawkOwl! I was gonna say the exact same thing about trying humour in a business letter, and why in the world you're talking about stuff that's not in the book.

But as to the plot, the first glaring flaw is that southern Manitoba is not remote, nor is it peopled with amusing, quirky characters. If you want to write about meeting lots of freaks on a crazy road trip, try making it about California. Or is the Manitoba thing part of the humour, as in "only a crazy dude like me could imagine having fun on a road trip through southern Manitoba"?

I wouldn't read this as I don't care for the topic, but judging by the query letter, you're able to maintain this tone for extended periods while making up scores of quirky moments. I'm sure something will work out for you.

writtenwyrdd said...

Hey, I thought the original was funny. But it was a lousy query letter.

Many years ago, I tried an experiment when I was sending out resumes. I was in personnel management at the time so I knew better; but I really wanted to know what would happen if I used humor in my cover letter.

For about half the jobs (not the gems, of course) I used my apparently feeble wit. On the others, my extremely professional business-speak.

It should be no surprise to anyone that I got no interviews from the comedy routines.

ss said...

Sorry Hawkowl, but to 90% of the population of the US and Canada, Manitoba is pretty remote. And trust me, there are all sorts of crazy, quirky people living there.

Also, re EE's comments about sneaking trunkfulls of people into Canada: there are scores of roads going from ND and MN into Canada that have NO customs checkpoint. Nothing. Not a single person will take offical note of you going into and out of the US.

Everyone feel super safe now?

Pete Tzinski said...

Unwatched roads leading into the US and out of Canada? Ye Gads, we're doomed! The Mounties are going to wipe us out now, and no mistake.

Fortunately, I have a well-equipped cave in the hills where I will live out my days, reading many many books and never this one.

Honest, Author, I think you're trying too hard. I adore a good funny story, and you seemed to really be reaching for your laughs. I kept waiting for "And airline food! What's up with that!" to appear somewhere in the query.

The basic plot idea, somewhere in there, sounds funny though. I might enjoy that.

Anonymous said...

I still like the story and the author's awesome sense of humor. But, even I wood no bedder than to rite a query letter like that.

I would read this book for sure (if it actually exists) because the author is creative, original, and not afraid to try off the wall shtuff. -JTC

braun said...

The query does go a little bit overboard, perhaps, but at least the prospective editor or agent knows exactly what their getting into.

I mean, you either think this is funny or you don't. And if you don't, you give the book a pass.

Snakes on a plane, you know?

Anyways, I think as a teenager I would have thought a book like this was awesome.

Andi said...

Is this actually a serious query? The more I read, the more convinced I was that it was a big joke someone decided to pull, but having read the comments, people apparently consider it a serious attempt? I certainly hope it's just a joke and not an actual query for a real book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. First I want to assure you all that the book does exist. I hope I don't seem defensive here becuase you all made logical and valid points, but I just want to address a few issue. (Mostly I am just bored here at work)

First the query was an experiment of sorts. I sent it to about 15 agents and have recieved 3 partial. (All highly respected agents with multiple bestsellers)--I have since toned down the query and may do so more after reading you comments.

As to the suggestion that I eat my book. I have. But it is stored on a hard drive, so all that happened when I ate my printed copy, was a tummy ache. It still exists, unfortunately for all of you. Not only is the book not funny, it is bizarre, illogical, poorly written, and offensive.

Southern Manitoba does have remote areas. Just leave Winnipeg and head Northeast, you'll find them.

The border patrol doesn't care who comes in. Canada is a freindly country and they welcome outsiders. Trunks are almost never checked on the way in. Getting back to the US is a different story.

I don't care if there are wierd people in Manitoba or not. (I know they drink strange shots, Amaretto and Southern Comfort anyone?) The book is bursting at the seams with allegory, so it's not supposed to be an accurate representation of the social and cultural climate of Manitoba.

Also, I'm doing this all for fun. I don't care if people like the book, I just want genuine reactions (positive or negative). Also I'm getting sick of going to the book store and seeing that almost all of the books look almost identical to 50 others on the same shelf. (How many more mainstream mystery, thrillers, romance, chick lit can be published before every book is retreading names/characters/events/themes etc etc. (There's nothing wrong with liking these books, I just didn;t want to go down that path)

THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR COMMENTS; I WILL CHERISH THEM UNTIL THE DAY I DIE.

HawkOwl said...

SS - Nice stat. I don't think 90% of Canadians think of southern Manitoba as remote. Winnipeg and Brandon are right on the Trans-Canada - how remote is that? For that matter even Flin Flon isn't very remote. They have lots of roads. Thompson and Churchill are remote, though.

On the other hand, 78% of Canadians think that Americans coming into Canada without a thorough search and background check is a damn scary thing for sure.

MaryKaye said...

Perhaps a strategy with the query would be to either start or end with a bit of humor, then be businesslike through the rest of it. This shows the tone of the book without such a large chance of making the reader's eyes roll--which I have to say mine were by the end. It's just too much of a possibly good thing.

Daisy said...

As far as the humor in the query goes: I liked the bit in the opening about ninjas and bunnies, but by the time I got to the paragraph with the pancakes I was skimming. I say go with the name, though. Anybody who picks up this book is going to figure out pretty quickly that it isn't serious historical fiction.

Anonymous said...

Oh christ, this was a real query letter and a real book?

Anonymous said...

If your book sounds anything like Robert Rankin's wacky humor, I'd read it.

Anonymous said...

I think that the use of Abe Linoln as the name implies that this is going to be a recurring gag. If so, you might want to say so in the query.