Thursday, April 12, 2007

Face-Lift 315

Guess the Plot

Hit Reply

1. Janice was trying to send a sexy picture of herself to flirtatious Dean on the listserv, but she accidentally hit REPLY ALL. Now she's got a porn site devoted to her.

2. Joyce has a rough day at the firm when her boyfriend, the VP of Marketing, tells her to "hit reply" but she hits "reply all" and sends photos of herself in sexy lingerie to everyone in the office . . . including the aggressive, witchy CEO who everyone thinks is a lesbian. Will the mistake get her fired? Or will it set her career on fire?

3. High school teacher Jaime Knight was devastated enough when her boyfriend broke up with her in an email. Then she found out the email had inadvertently been sent to all of her co-workers. How will she ever reclaim her dignity?

4. Bored and not a little delirious after spending an entire workday in his cubicle playing computer solitaire, wage slave Ed Burton recklessly replies to an email from Nigeria. Encouraged by the unexpected success of this initial foray, the now fabulously wealthy Burton begins replying to other offers promising physical enhancements. Soon it's not just his wallet that's bulging. A fantasy.

5. It's 1970 and Chelsea Conners is trying to start a new magazine, Hit Reply, covering the regional music scene. But every time she tries to interview major stars, she's either shoved aside as "just a girl" or grabbed by the roadies who think she's a groupie. What's a girl gotta do to get some respect?

6. Corinne has had it. She's divorced her 4th husband, bought a Harley, and started a new career. But she has no idea Hit Reply, the company that hired her, isn't a music service; it's a suburban hitman operation.

Original Version

My manuscript, Hit Reply, is an 85,000-word single title contemporary romantic comedy. I invite you to review the manuscript for my novel and consider representing me.

What could be more devastating than having your boyfriend break up with you unexpectedly? [Only three things:

1. Discovering he installed a webcam in your shower six months ago.
2. Discovering he has a conjoined Siamese twin you hadn't previously noticed.
3. Discovering the bones of his previous four girlfriends are stored in his cellar.]

Breaking up with you via an email… which is inadvertently sent to all of your co-workers! [Sent by her? So she should have hit reply, but instead accidentally addressed her reply to all of her co-workers? Not too easy.] That’s where we find independent and outspoken Jaime Knight. A high school teacher beginning the summer break, Jaime finds herself doing the one thing she swore she’d never do. She’s returning to Elm Creek to lick her wounds and reclaim her dignity.

From bailing her impetuous grandmother out of compromising situations at the local retirement center, to meeting old friends and lovers, and receiving threats from someone who wants her out of town fast, life in Elm Creek keeps Jaime on her toes. Things really heat up when Officer Cole Gammon is charged with keeping an eye on Jaime, who is hell-bent on proving she doesn’t need a man to take care of her.

[Officer Gammon, I want you to keep an eye on the Knight woman.

Yes sir. What's she done?

Nothing, yet. But if she tries to send an email, it won't be pretty.]

Growing up the son of a social-climbing mother, Cole knew he wouldn’t be happy with a woman who found that life exciting. Watching his mother sacrifice what was right for what was accepted among her shallow friends left Cole with two requirements for the woman he would marry.
She had to honorable and she had to love small-town life. [And so, he married Aunt Bee, from The Andy Griffith Show.]

Jamie grew up a small-town girl living in her older brother’s shadow. Living in that shadow for eighteen years created in Jamie a need [for daily vitamin D injections and] to live on her own, far removed from her mother’s expectations. She left Elm Creek two days after high school graduation and hasn’t looked back since. Until now. [She doesn't sound like the kind of girl who had several lovers while in high school, yet she left two days after graduation, and now, on her return, is meeting old lovers?]

Cole and Jamie want the same thing. They want that bring-you-to-your-knees kind of love that will last a lifetime. But can they bridge the impasse they have reached? [Is this the I don't need a man impasse, or the I refuse to live in Elm Creek impasse?] Can they sacrifice the lives they have made for themselves to be with the one they love? [They're in love? When did that happen?]

Hit Reply is a romantic comedy about two people who find love in what they believe is the wrong place and at the wrong time only to learn that, anytime you find true love, it’s right.


The first three times it appears, her name is spelled Jaime. The next three it's spelled Jamie.

If you drop the paragraph about the brother's shadow you can squeeze in something about what they see in each other, or what brings them together romantically.


Dave said...

Back in some ancient time (1995 which is ancient times in e-mail), I sent a meeting notice with the wrong date to all 500 employees on the email list. At least it was business related!!!

We had the Computer Geeks neuter the "reply all" and "send all" buttons after that.

sylvia said...

"A high school teacher beginning the summer break, Jaime finds herself doing the one thing she swore she’d never do. She’s returning to Elm Creek to lick her wounds and reclaim her dignity."

I would start here.

December Quinn said...

Oh, dear. The "heroine returns to her small town after the devastating break-up" really, really needs to be done well to work, because it's such a cliche.

Also, heroines who "are hell-bent on proving they don't need a man to take care of them" bug me, especially when we don't see any men insisting on taking care of them in the vicinity; and B) their idea of "taking care of themselves" almost always seems to be "acting like a complete moron".

How much of an indpendent, outspoke lady is Jamie, when she's so humiliated by having a jerk break up with her that she has to run away? Why is she running, anyway? It's summer vacation, isnt it, so she's not going to be seeing her coworkers on a regular basis for at least two months whether she stays in the city or not, right? Seriously. If one of my co-workers got a break-up email and I was cc'd with it, I'd do what any normal decent human would do and pretend I never read it. What kind of monsters does she work with that she can't even be in the same city as them? Are they going to tp her house or put up flyers with her picture on them and a printout of the email? Who cares how she got broken up with, really? I could understand her humiliation if she worked at some Ugly Betty-esque office, but I just don't get the problem here.

Oh, and ho ho ho, there's an old lady with a sex drive, too! How funny!

I'm sure there's an audience for all of this--but really, be careful with the heroine's motivation for the small town return, and the return itself, because I can think of a dozen books and movies with this plot without even having to stop typing--but I'm not that audience. Sorry.

And you should answer some of these questions.

Bernita said...

December pretty well covers it.
And I can think of a LOT of things more "devastating" than having a boyfriend break-up with one by email,cced or not.

Anonymous said...

The same old-same old works if it's got some twist or hook that makes it interesting. I was wondering what happened to the email conceit: it's clever enough to add freshness (although some here question its plausibility). What about continuing the email conceit, letting it perform some plot turns now and then? Perhaps you do but haven't mentioned it in the query.

The plot seemed to veer off the romantic comedy road onto a standard romance highway.

The fact that about half the books from at least one huge publisher use this exact plot--return to hometown, independent woman resists love, etc.--means it's a cliche, but a publishable one.


Robin S. said...

These are some of the best yet -

"1. Discovering he installed a webcam in your shower six months ago.
2. Discovering he has a conjoined Siamese twin you hadn't previously noticed.
3. Discovering the bones of his previous four girlfriends are stored in his cellar.]"

Especially the conjoined twin.

pacatrue said...

Here's a link to a recent discussion about issues in romance novels of heroines returning home. Food for thought for the author, anyway. It's at Romancing the Blog.

batgirl said...

Hey, maybe the title should be Hit Return?


Inquiring Minds said...

Er, why is the heading Reply All if the book is called Hit Reply?

Dave said...

May I say that at the point of breaking up with a girl, most guys are as concerned with her feelings as they are with their foot fungus becoming sentient.

E-mail is the perfect vehicle -
Dear ex-girl friend,
Sorry to break the news.
It was great while it lasted.
Ur Boi-Toi-no-more

And it's done. No face-to-face with tears or water glass in the face at a restaurant.

I think that you need to think out of the box on this. I do wonder what her coworkers did. Most coworkers who finds out secrets about the women they work with, never repeated the stories.

The latest HOT show on TV is Ugly Betty that has a workplace filled with wild and crazy characters who become more human under the influence of Betty. It is all about the workplace - a fashion magazine. Where does Jamie work? Do her coworkers sympathize and form a lynch squad to, uh, take revenge on the former boyfriend's orbs. OR, do the men line up to catch her on the rebound? Or are the women catty and bitchy and giggle as Jamie passes?

Evil Editor said...

Sorry, fixed.

sylvia said...

Back in ancient times (1996 actually) I managed to get confused and my subject line for a mail bitching about my co-workers ("Its all gone horribly pear-shaped") ended up as a cc: line.

I posted the mail and the errors started descending on my inbox. doesn't exist. doesn't exist. doesn't exist. doesn't exist.

It took about 30 seconds for me to realise the missing word...

Robin S. said...

..."most guys are as concerned with her feelings as they are with their foot fungus becoming sentient"

OK, Dave - the visuals, or, for that matter, the-olfactory overload-from-hell smell of fungal feet are not big turn ons.

Any man who agrees with you on this one deserves the next evil woman he goes out with, the one who lies to him, uses him up, and spits him out like the broccoli leftover she just caught in her floss. Nothing personal, sweetie.

But this is a great and disgusting sentence. No joke.

Dave said...

I thought that was despicable too. It is colorful, though. Any guy who would e-mail his "Dear Joan" letter deserves all the scorn he gets. I wonder if Jamie put that in the e-mail she cc'd to everyone in her company.

It is a romantic comedy.

Dave said...

ooops, Robin, not Sylvia.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry!

pacatrue said...

I thought I was the only one who worried about my foot fungus becoming sentient. I'm glad I'm not alone.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

My biggest complaint is the exclamation point. It brings me back to fourth grade. I hate them. No, sorry, hate them!!!!!!!! I think a period would do anything an exclamation point ever could. So there.

Also, I want to know, like others, what happened to the email plot. If it's so important that the book is named after it, why is it only at the beginning? It would be like calling The Wizard of Oz "The Tornado."

Anonymous said...

A. I think it's good to have a romantic subplot going in the mystery novel, but I never browse the Romance shelves so I'm not part of the main fanbase for this story.

B. Whenever the heroine falls for the deputy, I would prefer that it not be because everything in the universe is all about Miss Heroine so he was sent to "look after her" even though she had no problems and was in no danger -- but because they overcame their differences while in pursuit of an exciting mission / mystery. Even if that was only rescuing Fifi the cat from a scary apple tree.

Anonymous said...

Sylvia, I'm glad I wasn't reading this thread at work - your story had me laughing out loud!

Re the query:

I'm not a romance reader, so I can't comment on whether this is a story that would hook readers or agents. Personally I'd include more plot and less back-story - this is meant to be a micro-synopsis, not a back cover blurb - but that may not be the right thing in this genre. However I have some thoughts to share on the email issue.

I have to admit to having dumped a boyfriend by email, but since we lived in different cities and mostly communicated online between dates, it seemed the best method at the time. Telling someone they're toast after they've just come a long way to see you is way too hard - and who writes snail-mail "Dear John" letters any more?

Also, I can imagine how humiliated your heroine might feel, knowing her coworkers have read her reply - when you're on the receiving end of rejection and still in the denial phase, you can write some pretty lame stuff, believe me (and I'm talking from the dumpee perspective this time).

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Would an agent who represents romance novels be concerned about all the cliches in your query letter?

Or do romance publishers and agents seek the conformity of cliches?