Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Guess the Plot
1. 30,000 people will come out for the Mayor's annual parade on what's predicted to be a sunny and cloudless Tuesday, but only rogue meterologist Tim Durble expects - Sudden Rain!
2. A chance encounter in MacArthur Park leaves pastry chef Margella Bootny with love, loss, and sweet green icing.
3. Norma Coob has been reading up on witchcraft. But her only successful spell so far is not appreciated in the Ninth Ward.
4. The residents of Sugarville, Colorado think they have finally found a way to put their tiny town on the map: by making the world's biggest ball of cotton candy. Now the big day is here, but someone forgot to check the weather forecast.
5. Sven Johannsson, professor of meteorology, discovers that his isobars and charts are of no use to him against acid rain when he's caught in a storm and his clothes start dissolving.
6. When it rains, it pours, but who's to blame for that? Mother nature? Or manipulative totem spirits?
Dear Mr. Such and Such,
I love fiction. Especially those novels that pull me away - the farther the better - from today’s depressing headlines. Fortunately, success in business enabled me to retire early so that I could focus full time on creating my own. [Now you've done it. Now we all hate you.] [Let's hope you don't hit an agent on a bad day, or she may be thinking, Listen, hon, I'm fighting the rat race, reading mounds of slush, trying to make ends meet, and you've already had a successful career and retired at thirty-four, and now you want me to hawk your book? Fat chance of that! This baby'll make good kindling for my barbecue tonight. I'll be grilling hot dogs, by the way, while you're eating prime rib, but at least my wieners will be smoked in the aroma of burning paper and ink.] So here I am after six drafts, with the kind of novel that I love to read, all 125,000-words, completed and seeking representation. It’s an historical/adventure tale entitled SUDDEN RAIN, part of a trilogy actually. [Actually?] But here, let me share with you the setting and premise. [Most accomodating of you.]
There was a time when North America’s bestiary made pre-colonial East Africa look like a petting zoo. When miles-thick glaciers, legacy of an atmosphere perpetually at war, prowled the northlands. When the far-flung descendants of the boldest mariners of all time, the First Americans, faced each new day with justified trepidation. Then came the fair-skinned ones from the Sunrise with their terrible fluted-stone weapons, and the world changed forever. [Is this a query letter or a documentary?]
This story is set in a harsh but mystical world where dreams, visions and reality often overlap. Motivated by a shameful secret, an unarmed healer/mystic must make the leap from outcast to rescuer when unknown foes annihilate his clan, abduct his half-sister and subsequently vanish into the depths of a trackless wilderness. But his troubles have only begun, for the few clues he’s able to turn up point belatedly to the very people to whom he’s turned for help. Moreover, as he gradually realizes, the manipulative Ani--the totem spirits of earth and sky--are behind all that’s happened to him. For while he’s ignorant of their agenda, his actions will govern the fate of the great herds upon which human life depends, drastically altering the future of an entire continent. [There are nine pronouns in that paragraph referring to one guy. You could get rid of a few by giving the guy a name.] [Not that there's anything wrong with pronouns, but if you don't tell us the characters' names, how can the minions complain about what lousy names you've chosen? Which is, as you may know, what they live for.]
My extensive research for this unusual story, covering a handful of scientific disciplines, was indeed a labor of love for I’ve long been fascinated by the intrepid souls who first peopled the Americas. Moreover, lots of on-the-ground wilderness experience, along with my insights into human nature gleaned from many years of leading others, helped me to breathe fresh life into the dry bones of a world long since vanished. A world that will prove as fascinating to a wide range of readers as it has to me.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration. May I send you a synopsis together with my completed manuscript?
The first paragraph is too homey and casual, and the rest is a bit too . . . far in the opposite direction. Although the vocabulary is used correctly, the phrasing makes it sound more like the actual work of fiction than a business letter. I've no idea if the book sounds like this, but if it does, it may scare off as many readers as it attracts. It almost sounds like a parody of stylish writing. Vivid phrases don't carry as much weight when they're coming at the reader in rapid succession. Ease off and write like you talk.
Can you find a happy medium between paragraph one and the rest? A good start would be to eliminate the second paragraph, which is the biggest offender. And there's not much of value in the first paragraph either. If you want to keep what's there, I'd move it to the end.
I don't have much of a sense of what happens, other than a guy's half-sister is abducted, and he goes after her. Despite the mention of the first Americans, I don't know exactly where or when this takes place. If the fair-skinned ones are the Europeans, that would set it much later than your talk of glaciers might indicate.