Thursday, April 19, 2007

Face-Lift 320

Guess the Plot


1. Bobby Jensen has been flying under the radar for a long time, but his luck may finally be running out. With just minutes to go before the end of recess, will he be...TAGGED?

2. Homicide detective Joe Friendly was in charge of tagging and bagging the murder victims. When he wakes up on a cold steel gurney, with his own big toe tagged, he vows to never get that drunk again--and to get even with the clown who thought it was funny to lock him in cold storage at the morgue.

3. When Bertha Snodgrass is accidentally tagged by an elephant migration researcher, she realizes it's time to lay off the Dove bars. Richard Simmons can help her shed the pounds . . . but how can she get that orange tag out of her ear?

4. Someone's been "tagging" all the buildings--covering them with graffiti. But is it a petty crime wave, or is it art? Kate Morgan's on the fence, until circumstances force her to make a choice--or forever be tagged as wishy-washy.

5. When a Massachusetts elementary school bans the game of "tag", Eddie Snivers is suddenly faced with the prospect of going through the rest of his life being "it." Later, as a depressed, twenty-six year old loser, Eddie gets a choice from his therapist: Hunt down and kill the kid who tagged him last, or get over it. Eddie opts for the first option.

6. Detective Ng looked at the freaky symbols on the dead man's face and read the John Doe tag on his toe. The Knave of Diamonds was clearly back in business, and only one woman could stop him--Twinky Thompkins, glamorous superspy. Too bad she was frolicking on some beach in Bali with that brainless dunce, Jack Tornado.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil,

Sixteen-year-old Kate Morgan is as baffled as the rest of the Cleary High School student body when gorillas invade their town. Okay, they’re not real gorillas, just life-like renderings painted on the buildings, [When your gorilla paintings on buildings are so life-like people think their town's actually been invaded by gorillas, you're either the world's greatest artist or you live in a town full of idiots.] but still. Why would anyone go to so much trouble? What does it mean? [Clearly it's an advertising promotion for Planet of the Apes: the Next Generation.]

Although Kate would like to solve the mystery of the graffiti, she’s got other problems that require her attention; namely, how to get herself and her best friend, Lan, invited to the party of the century. The school’s resident rich girl is throwing a sweet sixteen bash complete with an MTV camera crew, a live band, and an ultra exclusive guest list which, to Kate’s horror, includes both her dad (working security) and her mom (baking the cake). [According to Miss Manners, the bouncers are never considered part of the guest list.]

She’s also trying to conceal her crush on Eli, a guy she works with at the local coffee shop. Eli’s girlfriend has made it clear that he’s taken, and with her fiery temper and razor-sharp nails, she’s the last person in the world Kate wants to anger. [Eli's girlfriend, apparently, is X-23, clone of Wolverine.]

Both the graffiti and the party spark debate among the students at Cleary. Some think that the graffiti is a crime while others classify it as art. Some want more than anything to be invited to the party while others plan to protest it. [On what grounds?] Kate falls somewhere in the middle of both issues, until she is forced [by X-23] to take a side [or die]. [Based on the earlier claim that she was trying to get herself and Lan invited to the party, I don't see how she's in the middle of that issue.]

Tagged is a completed 45,000-word young adult novel. I would be happy to send a synopsis and sample chapters. Thank you very much for your time.



If the gorilla paintings eventually come to life, that should be mentioned in the query. And if they don't come to life, why the hell not?

The risk you run with the trick opening--okay, they’re not real gorillas--is that if the person reading the query would rather read about gorillas invading a high school than graffiti artists and sweet 16 parties (and who wouldn't?), the rest of the query is a letdown, at least until X-23 shows up.

The query is well-written. The big question is, have you created enough interest in the plot? Do we care who painted the gorillas or whether Kate gets her invitation or whether she snags Eli? I think we need to know more about Kate. Has she ever had a boyfriend? Is she an outcast? An amateur detective? Is she in any danger? Is there a villain?


Anonymous said...

I'm not seeing the connection between the gorilla art and the party. There is one, right? You should mention it, otherwise it looks like you have a problem with random subplots that never meet.

You forgot to mention why Kate is so yearning to go to this particular party and why she hasn't been invited and what she's doing to charm the hostess into including her and her friend. Why does she have to take Lan? Does she not know anyone else who will be there as a guest?

Why can't Kate just accept the fact the catering's been ordered, the invitations were issued, and it's a done deal that didn't happen to include her? Has she been going to this chick's birthday parties her whole life, or are they not actually that kind of friends? Why doesn't she just get a real life and throw her own party at the same time so she can hang with people who actually enjoy her company?

Is the best friend male or female? With a name like Lan, I can't guess.

Anonymous said...

Love the GTPs.

I have an alternate sentence if the "trick opening" just doesn't work:

Sixteen-year-old Kate Morgan is as baffled as the rest of the Cleary High School student body when a mysterious graffiti artist begins spray painting life-like renderings of gorillas across town.

Better? Or is it too long?

Thanks in advance for your comments and criticism. I want this to be tight, so let me know what's not working. I want to include more info about the MC as EE suggested, but I'm not sure where to place it.

There are two villians: X-23 and the girl hosting the big party. Should I include more info about the party girl?

Anonymous said...

The party hostess is the villian? Huh? So Kate is actually determined to attend the party of her worst enemy? Doesn't that seem kind of messed up and twisted? No wonder she wasn't invited.

Evil Editor said...

I'm less interested in information about the party girl than in what makes her a villain. Does either villain do anything to Kate? Is either threatening to do anything to her?

One place to add info about Kate is the first sentence. Instead of calling her 16-year-old Kate Morgan (we know she's in high school and her classmate is having a sweet 16 party, so our guess at her age won't be far off) call her amateur sleuth Kate Morgan, or social outcast Kate Morgan, or whatever. Perhaps a bit of her romantic history could be inserted into the Eli paragraph.

I'd drop What does it mean? from the end of paragraph 1.

Evil Editor said...

I'm not actually bothered by the trick opening.

Sylvia said...

"You forgot to mention why Kate is so yearning to go to this particular party and why she hasn't been invited "

It's not often I argue with anonymous, but to me it seems obvious why Kate would yearn to go to the party and hobnob with the stars. I would not worry about that but the other questions are good ones.

Yes, I would highlight the fact that the partygirl is a villain. X-23 also seems pretty sideline... I would choose two subplots (graffiti and party) and drop the others (boyfriend with scary girlfriend and her friend Lan) so that you can give us a bit more meat.

Robin S. said...

Author, you've gotten an amazing compliment from EE. "The query is well-written." I haven't seen that sentence much around here. Looks like you simply need to address a few issues. All I can say is, congratulations!

And I don't know who's putting in these Twinky Thompkins GTP deals, but thanks. Jack and Twinky - what a combo plan.

Anonymous said...

Lan, the best friend in the book, is a Vietnamese girl, but I wasn't sure if I should include that info in the query. Her heritage is important to the plot for several reasons, one being that the hostess of the big party does not invite Lan to the bash because she doesn't "fit in" with everyone else (this is not revealed until later).

Should a secondary character's ethnicity be mentioned in the query or does that sound odd?

Anonymous said...

"...the person reading the query would rather read about gorillas invading a high school than graffiti artists and sweet 16 parties (and who wouldn't?)...)

Funny, and true. This illustrates my biggest stumbling block (except for query letters) with writing popular fiction. How you write doesn't seem to matter much. We all complain about the super-selling authors whose prose reads like dried dung. But they write about stuff people like to read about, and nobody notices or cares that they write like crap.

This has been a hard lesson to learn. Sometimes I feel that creative writing with the hope of a sale is merely cranking out product to order.

But, as the elephant poop scooper exclaimed, "Quit?! What, and give up show business?"

(hmm...three allusions to dung in one vent. I need a new metaphor.)


Anonymous said...

So you're saying really this isn't about gorillas or going to a fun party at all, it's about the angst of finding out that some people aren't actually nice, and don't want to be your friends. That's a reality people hide from children during the years they lie about things like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. So do Kate & Lan just learn the lesson and go on with their lives, or do they go on a mad shooting binge?

Anonymous said...

Ooh, that X-23 is Hot. Would you excuse me for a minute?

... ... ...

... ... ...

... ... ...

... ... ...

Ahh, that's better.

Alice Indigo said...

Glad you like my Twinky Thompkins plots. I also did the Miss Snark / Ernie Patterson plot, several Mae Wongs and assorted other characters.

Anonymous said...

While I do agree that the query is well written in that it flows well, is clear and understandable, and is efficient, I see it structured this way:

First paragraph: Setup of Situation A (gorilla graffiti).

Second paragraph: Setup of Situation B (exclusive party).

Third paragraph: Debate is sparked, Kate is ambivalent, Kate is forced to take a side.

I really, really want more from that third paragraph. I like the two situations you've presented, but I don't see how they tie together. And I'd love to know what it is that forces Kate to take sides.

I am intrigued by the fact that race issues have a role in the story, according to your comments. ("Lan" as a name didn't strike me as Vietnamese... I thought it was the child of two IT professionals.) Is Kate forced to choose between her social standing and her friend? Is Lan the one doing the graffiti?

PS: Try saying "gorilla graffiti" ten times fast.
PPS: "gorilla graffiti" can be rearranged to spell "I log a girl tariff". Also "airlift a golf rig". Also "I, frail girl, go fat". I just thought you should know.

Jonah said...

#3 is hilarious, while #5 totally appeals to me as the kind of ridiculous neurotic comi-tragic thing I myself tend to write (even the name Eddie Snivers is perfect).

To the proper author: I have a YA novel I once tried do do a query for. It ended up looking somewhat like yours, an episodic list of events that didn't seem to fully hang together. I think this can sometimes be a problem trying to write queries for these types of novels which are more about rites of passage to maturity than the clear, cause-effect plots of other genres.

In your story, it seems the party is the element of plot that contains the most potential conflict, and perhaps that is where your query could focus. Who is the girl hosting the party? How does Kate feel about her? Why does Kate want to go so much, even though she seems to suspect she might be totally embarrassed by her mum and dad being there? What's in it for Kate? Social status? What is Kate's social status currently? Is Eli going to be there? Why do people want to protest the girl's party? How did MTV get invited? Etc.

Basically, I think you need to focus more on Kate, and less on paintings of gorillas. Unless the gorillas are a huge plot element, in which case, you need to explain a heck of a lot more about the gorillas, too.

Chris Eldin said...

I was kind of with anon 1 about the subplots. And I also didn't get the bit about the gorillas. If it's in your opening sentence in a query, it should be pretty important, right? But just a debate about art versus grafitti? Unless something important has been 'defaced,' I don't get the relevance.

I am intrigued by the Vietnamese girl. That was the only part that seemed different enough to continue reading.

Good luck with all of these suggestions!

Anonymous said...

I'm seeing a lot of comments about things not linking together. I'm sure that these plot lines do all tie together, that's why they're mentioned. Focus on making that connection in the query. If there's one key scene/point where they all come together - that's what you need to add.

I have to agree with Sylvia here - it's obvious to me why Kate would yearn to be invited to the party and might have conflict about going. Just b/c you're part of the crowd doesn't mean you like how things work. If possible - you might want to tie in the issue with Lan to explain why Kate has more conflict about attending.

With the party you've hit on the modern day b-day fairy tale: extremely expensive, nationally televised parties that end with a bratty teen in a brand new car (which most of us will only dream of owning). Gag!

This is something that would have interested me when I was in h.s.