Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Face-Lift 319

Guess the Plot

Cigarette Angel

1. Poverty and creativity went hand in hand for Pearl, until her homemade Christmas ornaments became big sellers in Winston-Salem. Success is a puff away, but can she find the right partner for her Cigarette Angel factory or will her plans go up in smoke?

2. Teacher said smoking would kill you, so Cindy hides her daddy's cigarettes everyday. When Daddy finally quits, Cindy realizes more people need to be saved. Now she's known village-wide as the cigarette angel--until big tobacco sends its top exec to correct a sales anomaly.

3. When George quits smoking, he begins to suffer from the biggest, baddest Nic Fit ever. But everyone in George's village believes he is now a portal through which the Prince of Darkness will soon release his fury. Can the Cigarette Angel save George from being burned at the stake?

4. The Angel of Smoke didn't mind being less important than the Angel of Alcohol. Heck, she was only slightly higher on the totem pole than the Angel of Paper Clips. But then they demoted her to just the Angel of Cigarettes. How much longer till she becomes Angel of Death?

5. Reno sponsors a "smoke-out" encouraging all their residents to quit smoking. In one of the events, cigarettes are dumped onto a high school field so students can make "cigarette angels." Everyone is too cool to do that, though--everyone except the new girl Tiffany. And now Jake can't get her off his mind.

6. Hitman Eric "Angel of Death" Murphy has always stayed one step ahead of the cops, but advances in CSI technology have him contemplating alternatives to guns and shivs. His bosses, however, aren't too happy with his plan to kill his victims by lung cancer.

Original Version

Dear [Name],

I read in Writer's Digest that [Insert Literary Agency's Name] was actively seeking young adult fiction, and Cigarette Angel is an urban fantasy aimed at young adults.

Everyone has heard of the Angel of Death, but in the Heaven that runs parallel to Earth, there's also the Angel of Paperclips and the Angel of Alcohol. There's one angel to personify every idea or substance on Earth, and just as the Angel of Death acts as a guide for the dead, the Angel of Alcohol allows humans to drink. ["Just as"? You can't compare guiding the dead to allowing drinking. It's like saying Just as a queen termite lays thousands of eggs, a toaster oven will warm a bagel.] The hierarchy in Heaven is based on how important an angel is to the humans. [Ah. So then, this would be the top ten angels:

10. The Angel of Sleep
9. The Angel of Bad Sex
8. The Angel of Blogs
7. The Angel of Cherry Garcia
6. The Angel of Pornography
5. The Angel of American Idol
4. The Angel of Good Sex
3. The Angel of Prozac
2. The Angel of Masturbation
1. The Angel of Chocolate]

The Angel of Birth is the most important; the Angel of Death is blacklisted. Alcohol is almost as important as Birth

Cigarette Angel follows the Angel of Smoke, who never minded her relative unimportance. She was happy with cooking the humans' food and smoking their pipes, until the humans started adding toxins to their tobacco. When they began to die from it, the angels rejected Smoke and renamed her, The Angel of Cigarettes. [So who cooks the humans' food now?] [Why didn't they rename her the Angel of Lung Cancer?] [If there's an angel to personify every substance on Earth, why wasn't there already an Angel of Cigarettes?]

Smoke felt completely alone until she met the Angel of Death and realized he wasn't as bad as the rumors had made him out to be. [That's it? That's the end? What's the plot? An angel gets demoted from pipes to cigarettes is all we get? We need some conflict, some cause and effect, a moral, some sharks, anything!]

Cigarette Angel is my first book, so I have no previous publishing credentials. It's approximately 20,000 words, which I understand is relatively short, [In a large font, it's maybe 100 pages. My God, it's even shorter than Novel Deviations, vol. 1.] but I hope that it's appropriate for its intended audience, and I can lengthen it if necessary. [For instance, I can add scenes with the Angel of Cocaine, Angel of Identity Theft, and Angel of Beating up Homeless Guys.]

The completed manuscript is available upon request. I can be reached by email at ___________, and an SASE is included for your convenience. Thank you very much for your time.



This sounds like it's for little kids. Well, except for the parts about alcohol and death and cigarettes and beating up homeless guys. My point being, if the book isn't trying to convince teenagers not to smoke, what's the point of bringing cigarettes in at all? If the book is supposed to convince teenagers not to smoke, the Angel of Cigarettes won't feel that mature to them. It's like trying to prevent teen pregnancy with a book starring Abstinent Bear and Promiscuous Rabbit.

I don't get the role of angels. The Angel of Alcohol allows humans to drink? What does that mean? Does he encourage drinking? Give out fake IDs? Tend bar? Does he take any responsibility, or is that left to the Angels of Hangovers, Drunk Driving and Puking on the Carpet? Does the Cigarette Angel let people smoke, the way the Angel of Alcohol lets them drink? Does she stop them from smoking? Does she cure lung cancer? Does she lecture people on the evils of smoking? Is the book trying to make a point?]

Are there any human characters? Is the Cigarette Angel Clarence to some human's George Bailey? Does this all take place in the heaven that runs parallel to Earth, or on Earth?

Inhaling concentrated smoke on a regular basis isn't exactly healthy, whether toxins have been added or not.


Anonymous said...

Christians generally seem to like the angel concept, but when you give angels powers like this, you stray from their cherished monotheistic theory of the cosmos to a clearly polytheistic cosmos reminiscent of the Roman tradition. So I don't think the fundamentalists will see this as good for their kids, as it might confuse their religion. That wouldn't bother secular types like me, but your "angel of alcohol" is lame and dull compared to Bacchus.

As a teenager with a brain on hormones, of course I would have been interested in any book starring Promiscous Rabbit. Especially if illustrated profusely with naughty cartoons. Better that than some preachy anti-smoking crap starring a bunch of twerpy angels in heaven. Abstinent Bear, no. Boring. Promiscuous Rabbit, yes.

blogless_troll said...

I think the Angel of Incomplete Queries has been busy lately.

Also, it's Prophylactic Fox who really drives the message home.

Rei said...

I could have sworn that the real plot was #2. It was the only one that sounded reasonable.

As for the adventures of Abstinent Bear and Promiscuous Rabbit, I'll skip until Naughty Narwhal makes his cameo. ;)

pjd said...

Does the Angel of Cigarettes include home-rolled?

Do you pray to an angel like many people pray to saints for certain things like making sure the groom doesn't leave the bride stranded at the altar, or making sure your car doesn't quit when you're driving up the Grapevine into LA?

This query, like one I forget that came up a few months ago, focuses too much on the clever concept of the world built by the author. Because there are holes in it, we all start focusing on the holes and how it all works (or doesn't). Instead, you've got to focus on the story to avoid all these frustrating questions about the angel of salami's relationship to the angel of hot dogs. This alternate heaven place must be damned crowded.

As an example: Harry Potter is about a courageous boy with magical powers who goes up against evil, head to head. It's NOT about how wizards live among us and can conjure food and fly on brooms and fight dragons and all this other stuff but never be noticed by regular people. If you really studied Rowling's alternate reality, you'd find more holes than you could shake a wand at.

By focusing so strongly on the angel angle, you ask for close scrutiny there. Instead, give the minimum we need to know and tell us the story so we aren't bothered by holes in the alternate reality.

pacatrue said...

The Angel of Teen Pregnancy can be pretty effective.

How do you handle categories of items? For instance, is there an Angel of Bears, and also an Angel of Mammals, an Angel of Animals, and an Angel of Living things? I assume each would report to the higher level up. But then you have things that are in multiple categories. Would the Angel of Cigarettes report to the Angel of Smoked Things, the Angel of Sucked-On Things, The Angel of Burning Things, or the Angel of Excuses to Hang Out With That Cute Guy Behind the Dorm That You Will Regret in 30 Years When You've Been Visited by the Angel of Emphezema?

I really don't think you need to work all this out for middle schoolers, but I can think them anyway.

Redfox said...

I always thought the Angel of Death was one of the big hitters, up there with Gabriel and Michael and all. Or has he been demoted as well, after killing the wrong first-born son?

Plus, you seem to be confusing "important to humans" with "liked by human and angels". Death not important? Tell that to the folks who've lost loved ones recently...

Now, if this were the story of the Cigarette Angel who suddenly popped into existence in 17th century Seville*, enjoyed three centuries of popularity before the US Surgeon General started causing trouble, and is now a social outcast with a hopeless crush on the ultra-cool black-clad Angel of Death, I might read it!

* http://www.forestonline.org/output/page34.asp

writtenwyrdd said...

Despite the fact that this sounds like it wants to be a kid's book, and that the story is missing from the query, I kinda wanted to know more.

What I really wanted, though, was to riff off anonymous 12:40's mention of Roman tradition and suggest that you have the old pantheon being reorganized and renamed into things like "Angel of Alcohol" and "Angel of Cigarettes" with corresponding reductions/ alterations in their allure, accoutrements and powers.

But regardless, that is still background. Now you have to come up with a storyline...

Robin S. said...

"6. The Angel of Pornography
5. The Angel of American Idol
4. The Angel of Good Sex
3. The Angel of Prozac
2. The Angel of Masturbation
1. The Angel of Chocolate"

I may regret this later, but I have to ask - if chocolate beats out masturbation, good sex and porn (and even THAT order is interesting in and of itself)in your rating system, are you absolutely certain, well, uh...Hmmm.

Well, anyway, this seems more like a woman's list to me.

Just checking.

blogless_troll said...

Paca's nailed it. Heaven is a giant bureaucracy, which is why they always need more money.

Bernita said...

And what about Puff the Magic Dragon?
Huh? Huh?

Evil Editor said...

Well, anyway, this seems more like a woman's list to me.

It's a genderless compromise list. A woman's list would replace the angels of pornography and bad sex with the angels of coffee and Hugh Grant. A man's list would replace the angels of blogs and American Idol with the angels of Family Guy and golf.

KT said...

Wait, pipe-smoking is ok, but cigarettes are right out? (Can I be the angel of nit-pickery?)

Dave said...

I guess that Battlestar Galactica and cheesy Sci Fi doesn't deserve an angel - a cherub, perhaps.

Me, I have my own Throne and several Dominations.

Kate Thornton said...

Whoa, Dave, Dominations! You know your angels, buddy!

I need to communicate with the Angel of Cherry Garcia - just to give thanks.

pjd said...

A man's list would replace the angels of blogs and American Idol with the angels of Family Guy and golf.

But there's no Angel of Nascar or Angel of Explosions in Movies or Angel of Football?


GutterBall said...

Darn, PJD beat me to the O Holy Angel of Football! But I did want to add the Angel of Bruce Lee Movies. What top ten list doesn't contain those??

Anonymous said...

Argh; the poor author! PJD is the only one who gave him/her good advice.

This is an imaginative idea, and those are rare. Good luck with it, author.

Word Veri: xboyyrao - sounds like my kind of kinky! (Whatever it is...)

Minion 828 said...

Argh; the poor author! PJD is the only one who gave him/her good advice.

Including you.

There's little point to repeating the points EE made, and in this case he covered the major problems. The question isn't whether it's a good idea; it's whether the query does its job.

pacatrue said...

I thought pjd said it better than I could, so I left it at that. Cheers for pjd.

writtenwyrdd said...

Sometimes, the idea is just odd enough that you have trouble commenting on it because you can't quite figure how it can work. (Or is it just me?)

Anonymous said...

What would be really neat is if this novel were printed on Rizla paper...

zkiqhe said...

The concept sounds as if it may not have been thought through thoroughly (did I seriously just use those three words in a row?) and it seems ill-advised to market something so short when it could be made longer, but hasn't been. My suggestion is to not shop this to agents. Put it aside and write some short stories in the same universe, and try selling those to magazines. Then you can either offer the full document to those magazines as a series or novella, or use the short stories to build up the full document to a length that's actually salable.

Kasey Mackenzie said...

I'm not saying this to be mean, but is this one a joke? It doesn't sound like a real plot to me...But maybe I just don't "get" it.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like the author has been paid off by the pipe tobacco industry. You do realize that smoking pipes causes mouth and throat cancer, don't you? Smoking things is bad for your body, m'kay?

Am I the only person who wants the Angel of Cigarettes to hook up with the Angel of Marijuana?

And, as someone else said, if you know it's too short, why are you sending it out? Fix it.