Friday, May 25, 2007
Guess the Plot
1. This biography of the first man to be married to his partner on the steps of the Capitol building chronicles his rise from a humble small-town life to the sex, drug and techno-fueled lifestyle of New York City . . . followed by his plunge into the impoverished, Spartan lifestyle of the Bowery.
2. Buster Mordwell turned over. The sun was peeking through the curtainless windows. No alarm clock, no telephone, no coffee. No sheets, damn it. And he itched. Never mind the price, this was the last time he would stay in a Budget Inn.
3. When King Laonidas mixes his signature cocktail for King Xerxes, Xerxes just has to have the recipe. But when Laonidas refuses to give up the secret ingredient, Xerxes gives him a drunken shove. Laonidas shoves back and knocks over Xerxes’ drink. Several thousand dead soldiers later, both men agree: things got out of hand.
4. After watching his pirated copy of 300 for the 164th time, 35-year-old Joe Boxman glances out the window of his mother's basement and sees he's watched the movie until dawn again. Realizing he's an obsessive-compulsive loser, he degenerates into a very literary mental breakdown. Then he watches 300 again.
5. After a whirlwind romance, accountant Todd Abernathy-Flynn is happily married to glamorous superspy Mae Wong. All he wants is to settle into a honeymoon of subconscious bliss with the little woman. But Mae cracks her whip and puts him on a strenuous regimen. She knows her ex, Octopus McGee, the notorious fiend from Dublin, is on his way to pulverize Todd. Will her darling be ready?
6. Lucinda will sign over her yuppie pub to anyone who can name a mixed drink she’s never heard of—and biz at the bar is booming! Until a Greek from 631 BC arrives with the name of a cocktail that’s certain to stump her, made from the blood of massacred Visigoths.
John Hayward is the first man to be married to his partner on the steps of the Capitol Building. [The last place you want to get married is on a flight of stairs. Do you know how many people (mostly men) faint during a wedding ceremony? Check out this compilation video.] Spartan Sunrise is a novel about the series of small moments that make up his life. [Uh oh. Small moments? How small?
One morning in 2005, William cooked breakfast for John. It was unusual, in that John was the better cook, but John had been up late the night before, working on their scrapbook. There was a tulip in a vase on John's tray, which touched John so much he didn't even make an issue of the slightly overcooked eggs. But that was the kind of man this fictional character was, the kind who would gladly choke down burnt eggs for his partner.]
Told from his perspective and the varied stories of people he's encountered along the way, traversing the many layers of society that make up New York, from impoverished to wealthy, from isolation to having many friends. [That sentence needs a predicate . . . Come to think of it, it also needs a subject.] Unified vignettes from many points of view, as people seamlessly enter and leave John's life – tell the story of his journey. [That says what the previous sentence said, but even more vaguely. If you keep it, change the comma to a dash or the dash to a comma.] The fictional biography spans his life from his humble, cliché small town beginnings to the sex, drug and techno fueled lifestyle of New York. When John 'comes out' to his socialite girlfriend he's evicted from his Fifth Avenue apartment and needs to live in a SRO on the Bowery to finally realize his ability to accept himself. [Finally, a sentence that tells us something specific that happens in the book.] The story encompasses his quest for normal: career path, partner, children, divorce, then surreal death. [Are divorce and surreal death included as part of a "normal" quest?]
I'm greatly inspired by writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison and Jeanette Winterson (to name just a few). [If you're saying you admire them, the reader doesn't care; if you're saying you're in their league, the reader will be highly skeptical.] The novel is 58,000 words and about 230 pages in a word document.
I'm a contributing writer for Huffingtion Post; once penned the blog One Gay Date at a Time. [You'd have to be awfully sure the person you're writing to is familiar with it and impressed by it, before bragging that you once penned a blog.] My first play Three Tables was successfully produced this fall and listed in New York Magazine as an Off-Off Broadway pick. A short story was published in the online journal Fluent Ascension. I freelance, when possible as a slightly snarky blog writer for hire. [Wait a minute; you're Miss Snark?] [Wait a minute, people pay you to pen their blogs?] You can find out more about me and current work at _____________.
Thank you for taking the time to read this query, attached is an SASE; I look forward to hearing from you.
On the one hand, if the book consists of small moments in John's life, I can see how you would find it hard to come up with specifics worthy of the query letter. On the other hand, you have to come up with specifics worthy of the query letter. You have to make the query reader care about the character. Who wants to read about the small moments in a fictional character's life? I want to read about the defining moments. Which means I want the query to tell me what those moments are, and how John deals with them. What makes his life more interesting than the lives of the people you expect to buy the book?
That his girlfriend knows he's gay means he has to move out of his home and start living on Skid Row? Aren't 80% of the apartments on Fifth Avenue occupied by gay guys? Aren't there laws protecting people from being evicted for such reasons? Was he leeching off his girlfriend?
It's a biography (sort of). No need to drive it home with phrases like "moments that make up his life," "the story of his journey," "spans his life," "encompasses his quest." Instead of defining what a biography (sort of) is, tell us what happens in this biography (sort of).