Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Face-Lift 343

Guess the Plot

Wherever You Are

1. A simple game of hide-and-seek turns deadly, and it's every player for himself. When a trail of blood leads to a playmate's hiding place, the kids realize that this isn't a game any more. Come out, come out . . .

2. Octopus McGee searches paintings in the Louvre for clues that will help him unravel the hidden meaning of the last message from Mae Wong: Wherever you are, there goes an idiot. What can it mean?

3. The literary agent left and took her yappy poodle with her, but Minnie refuses to let go. She's headed for New York, to wander Eighth Avenue and West 35th. She'll find you, Miss Snark . . . Wherever You Are.

4. The elusive Mrs. Calabash, after a lifetime spent avoiding the limelight, finally turns up running a diner in Scranton.

5. Actress Laura James begins to fear for her safety when she receives a series of notes that say, "I will find you, wherever you are." Refusing to be alone, she hires two bodyguards . . . both of whom fall in love with her.

6. Pirates of the Caribbean meets Somewhere in Time, as Juliana, who's been searching for her boyfriend Zach ever since he vanished fifteen years earlier, time-travels back to the 18th century . . . and onto the burning pirate ship Zach is now captaining.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

When his love from another century reenters Morgan's life, the ex-slave and ex-pirate must learn to overcome his past, and fight a deadly enemy, to have a second chance at love.

Wherever You Are is a 100,000 word time-travel romance that encapsulates all the swash-buckling adventure people have come to love in the popular Pirates of the Caribbean movies, with the added benefit of a deeply emotional love story between two people scarred and hardened by life's choices. [I'm guessing "encapsulates" isn't the word you were looking for. I'd lose "benefit" as well.]

When Juliana MacKenzie’s boyfriend disappeared, the police ruled him a runaway. Never convinced Zach would willingly leave her, part of Juliana waits for his return [while the other part of Juliana has a torrid affair with Zach's hunky younger brother, Ziggy]. But fifteen years later she realizes she has to put some closure on that part of her life in order to move on. [Fifteen years?! Waiting for a boyfriend? If he's been gone fifteen days, you can close the book on this guy.] When she visits Zach’s childhood home, she mysteriously travels through time and finds herself on a burning ship in the eighteenth century.

[Juliana's thought processes, as she awaited Zach's return:

After two days: Where could he be? Zach would never leave me. He must be lying in the bottom of a gorge in his wrecked car. I'll never forgive myself for sending him out to get my tampons.

After two weeks: Maybe he's been kidnapped. And sold into slavery. He'll escape and come back to me. True love conquers all.

After two months: That bastard. He left me for another woman, I just know it. Probably that Marjorie bitch. Or he's dead.

After four months: He fucking well better be dead after what he's put me through.

After ten years: I suppose I should start dating again. But what if Zach's lying in a coma in some third-world hospital? He'd never forgive me. I'll give him another five years, but not a day longer.

After fifteen years: Okay, Zach's probably dead. But there's one other slim possibility: there may be a time portal in the house he grew up in. If there is, and I go through it, maybe he'll still be waiting at the exact spot the time portal goes to, even though fifteen years have passed since he got to that spot.]

When Morgan discovers the stowaway aboard his burning ship, he believes she was sent by his enemy. [Why would his enemy send Juliana to stow away on the ship? Wouldn't he send a man, so the stowaway wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb? And if he did send a woman, wouldn't he send one dressed in 18th-century clothes instead of 21st-century clothes? Does Morgan think his enemy is an idiot? Why are we calling this person "his enemy"? Who is it?] Soon he will realize that Juliana is the woman he left in the twenty-first century. When his enemy captures Juliana, Morgan must confront his past in order fight for the greatest prize of all. [He has to rescue her. Simple as that. Why does he have to confront his past?]

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


You claim Morgan left Juliana in the 21st century. So when Juliana goes to Zach's childhood home fifteen years later, it's actually the future, sometime in the 2016-2022 period, right? Just checking.

Who owns Zach's childhood home? What does Juliana say when she shows up at the door? "Hi, my boyfriend left me fifteen years ago, and he lived here thirty years ago, when he was a kid, so would you mind if I looked around the place in order to help me forget about him?"

Why haven't the people who now live in Zach's childhood home mysteriously traveled to the 18th century?

You call him an ex-pirate. His name's Morgan, he's on a ship, and you compared the book to Pirates of the Caribbean. If he isn't a pirate, tell us what he is.

Why doesn't Morgan recognize Juliana? Sure, she's fifteen years older, but if she just says, "It's me, Juliana . . . from the 21st century," the light bulb should go on immediately.


150 said...

People have enjoyed swashbuckling since at least Dumas. It's not a modern trend and definitely didn't get its start in the movies.

Beth said...

I agree with all of EE's comments. As presented in this query, the synopsis has some plausibility issues (aside from the actual time travel), and the conflicts are nebulous to non-existent. I have no idea what this book is about. Having Juliana travel back in time and get rescued by her true love is a series of events, not a story. What, precisely, is at stake for these characters? Beyond the obvious.

-the other rick said...

I'm not a lover of the current pirate movies/stories, but this looks like it could be fun once you iron out your query and perhaps some aspects of your story per EE's comments.

The writing in the query was well done, but I have some thoughts on the plot in addition to what EE has given you.

* Fifteen years IS a long time to wait (The woman in CASTAWAY had a child and husband after 5 years.) Wouldn't the conflict be hightened if she were a successful woman in the 21st century engaged to, oh I don't know, a prince or a billionaire, who happens to also be a nice guy? Whom does she chose and she has to chose because she finds the portal to go home.

* Wouldn't it be neat if she finds an old note while researching treasure of the pirates in the 18th century from a pirate Morgan who tells of a magic place near a garden wall and an oak tree that sounds so familiar to her that she goes there thinking she's going to find treasure and goes back in time instead of return to his old musty home.

* Wouldn't it be neat that her knowledged of treasure from studying pirates somehow helps rescue them from the "enemy" pirate.

Just some random thoughs on this fine morning. I'm not understanding what is scarring them at the moment. The length seems rather long for the romantic story promised, and as written, it seems relatively straight forward. How long does her PAD work on battery in the 18th century?

I sure hope the set-up (he loves her, she loses him, she mourns, she grows, has a career, meets mister right) is only two chapters. The real story is in the 18th century, and how they resolve their sticky-wicket problem of deciding whether or not to go back through the portal.

Best of luck.

December/Stacia said...

I agree. If this is a romance, your query needs to focus on that. "Juliana travels back in time to find her lost love, but not only does he not remember her, he thinks she's been sent to kill him. Hilarity ensures." Or whatever. (Obviously, don't put "hilarity ensues", but the actual conflict. Having him not remember her is all well and good, but it doesn't sound like enough of a problem to carry a whole book. There has to be a lot more than that to keep them apart.)

Romance is about the conflict between your H/h and how they overcome it. You have to put that right up front, or it won't interest agents, editors, or readers.

Dave said...

As a landlubber, my interest in Pirates extends to Heinz Field where they play baseball.

Pirates of the Carribean only works because of the characters. As 150 said, there are lots of pirate movies (Errol Flynn and Gene Kelly come to mind). Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann and the rest of the nuts and oddballs make the movie fun.

All pirate stories are character driven. All swashbuckling heroes tales are character studies. Even the comic books (like Marvel) push character ahead of plot. And yes, Spiderman and Hellboy are adventure characters just like Pirates.

So that's where you concentrate your query - on the characters - why they do what they do and how they grow in the experience. To borow a cliche form the orient - it's the journey, grasshopper, it's the journey.

takoda said...

I have a problem with EE's new category "Time-Travel Romance." It's obviously "Swashbuckling Romance."

Also, Dave keeps referring to himself as a landlubber. Not sure what that is. Is it like those whales in the news recently?

Also, GTP 1:
A simple game of hide-and-seek turns deadly, and it's every player for himself. When a trail of blood leads to a playmate's hiding place, the kids realize that this isn't a game any more. Come out, come out . . .

+ Trolls

+ Paper and Pen

+ Bernita Harris

= NY Times Bestseller. That's just my opinion.

Sorry I have nothing much to say about the query. I think it could be a fun book. Author received lots of good advice.


Rei said...

#1 sounds neat :)

Dave said...

Sigh! From WordNet
landlubber, noun
1. a person who lives and works on land
2. an inexperienced sailor; a sailor on the first voyage.

blogless_troll said...

I agree with Landlubber Dave, except for his misinformed notion that pirates play baseball at Heinz Field. On the rare occasion that what they play can be called baseball, they do it at PNC Park.

Aside from that, the logic problems of time travel stories usually grate on me to the point of distraction. This sounds like fun, but I'd rather see a generic portal to another world/universe/dimension than time travel. It's my problem, not yours. But I think when writers use time travel as a plot device they're just asking for trouble.

JS said...

A great spinoff based on EE's commentary would be what could have happened if the new occupants of Morgan's house made regular trips through the portal. Imagine how funny it would be for Morgan to keep finding twentieth century people popping up in the hold or on the poop deck. The obnoxious six year old. The husband's gay lover. [by the way, did we determine that Morgan is a dude?] The guy who came by to read the meter... I think there's a series in this one!

phoenix said...

Takoda: Time-travel romance is a subgenre of paranormal romance, which is a subgenre of the romance genre. It was a hot sub-subgenre a few years ago but is now, unfortunately for the author, on the wane.

I have a problem with this novel being compared to the Pirates movie. Not just that they are two different mediums, but for a couple of reasons.

1)Pirates is hot today and the release schedules for films 2 and 3 have been known for a couple of years, which means authors capitalizing on the Pirates craze were submitting work two years ago. Do a Google search. Time-travel pirate stories have been done. That does not mean pirate stories won't be pub'd in the future, but yours probably needs to show how it's different than the ones on the market now.

2)Aside from the likable characters, the Pirates movies are fun. They have a healthy dose of humor. If you're making a comparison, I would expect your story to have some offbeat characters and/or lots of humor, too. Not just pirates. Your query doesn't indicate much humor.

The query says this is "a deeply emotional love story between two people scarred and hardened by life's choices." How so? The only choice Juliana seems to make is to visit Zach's childhood home. Sad maybe, but after 15 years, not so scarring. If you're going to say it, you need to demonstrate it, especially in a character-driven romance.

I also had a problem with Zach having to confront his past, which I take is Juliana. Zach doesn't appear so much delighted to see her. If he has to confront her, he's pretty much a reluctant lover here and not the alpha male your readers will want to sigh over. In fact, if there WAS a way to get back to the 21st century, Zach seems to have made his choice already. The pirate life over Juliana.

Dig deeper. Cut most of your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs (who cares about what the police rule?) and give us some emotion, some heat, and something that makes your story stand out from the many time-travel pirate romances already on the market.

JS said...

I just outlined the first in the series. It's tentatively titled "A Twenty-First Century Basement Waterproofer on Captain Morgan's Clipper"....

pacatrue said...

Can you re-write the whole query in pirate speak?

Arg, ye agent lassie,

I do here have a manuscript which do be thrilling and romantic. A young scaliwag do disappear into a dark and forbidden hole in his cabin and fall right upon this here deck of this here pirate ship. We pirates do give the young one a great pirate welcome with his very own eye patch and parrot.

With our new Captain Morgan, we do board a galley, kill the sailors, and rape all the lassies. Aye, hilarity do ensue.

And now with a wink and a nod and a saying of the magic word "irragua", I do let this comment ensue too.

ME said...

First, let me say that my query sucks worse than yours. I too, have been to the website where they suggest the use of "When".
But 3 out of 4 of your paras start that way and me thinks that might be too much for even the most anal agent. (The best kind, I'm told)And, combined, they still don't give me a clear and complete picture of your story, or sadly, a clear insight(beyond that she is patient to the tune of 15 years) into even one character. I think I could like both Juliana and Zack if I knew more about them. I enjoy a swashbuckler (the unbuckled kind) every now and then.

Pacatrue, I've come late to the septum-spew party, but your pirate-speak version provided the invitation and the present I brought was Coca-Cola. It hurts coming back out. Way Funny!!

Dave said...

Oh, you caught me. . . The Pirates lose at PNC Park. They may as well play at Heinz Field. ;)
Don't get me wrong, I'm a lifelong fan and love baseball.

Pacatrue - that is brilliant. It might actually work.

JS said...

I've got an image in my head, like something from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. It'll be a great visual in the movie. Julia is standing at the time portal which is next to the water heater in Zack's basement. She sticks her hand in and we see a shot of her hand swathed in flames from the burning ship. Pulls it back -- it's in the smelly basement again. Back and forth. back and forth. But the last time, a parrot jumps on her hand and is transported from the 18th century ship to the 21st century Morgan basement, where it squawks that it has become 'the nexus of time travel itself.'

takoda said...

Oh God, this is all funny! Pacatrue, that was hIlarious!

Arrrg, Scalliwag Phoenix has a problem with me genre naming.

All scalliwags to the planks! To the planks! And just for good measure, throw in the landlubber.

EE, can you have a writing exercise that incorporates pirates? Please oh please!

(But seriously Phoenix, thanks for the info--it's fun learning about genres other than my own.)

December/Stacia said...

Paca, you are awesome.

Bernita said...

Takoda, you're daft...
~if only~

GutterBall said...

Oh, my God, Pac-man. You KILLED me. Arg!

All I could think about -- which Pacatrue so thoughtfully outlined -- in that last paragraph was that you shouldn't name the captain Morgan or you're entering rum-joke territory. Pirates and rum. Oi.

Author, this plot seems pretty standard to the time-travel romance genre. That's not always a bad thing, but you'll need to spice it up to get attention. Following the rules is one thing; not standing out with something different and refreshing is quite another.

Time travel stories are always tricky to do "right" because of the paradox inherent in time travel. Ie., it's not possible to travel through time without altering the timeline and perhaps never being born in the first place. Thus, your modality of travel -- in your case, Zach's childhood home -- has to make logical sense or the whole plot falls down and no one wants to read.

Good luck with Mr. Evil's suggestions (they're good ones, as usual), and godspeed!

Anonymous said...

My only question is what is the hero's name. You start off calling him Morgan, and then switch to Zach and then go back to Morgan without any explination. Is Morgan his last name? I spent a good portion of the query wondering if Julia was mistaking some other guy for Zach (after all it has been 15 years and he's probably gone through some changes, what with the time travel and all.)

jo said...

In addition to Zach more than likely still remembering what the girl looks like, she'll be showing up in jeans and a t-shirt (or some other modern garb). So, he would in no way think she was an enemy spy; he would know she's from the future.

Anonymous said...

I would immediately toss aside any so-called adventure story in which the character must confront his/her past. Get a better antagonist.

Let's say the girlfriend was a hot 25 in the beginning. 15 years later she's middle aged. Well preserved, perhaps, but definitely starting to crinkle at the edges. And a middle aged guy who doesn't remember you is no prize. Is it early dementia, or does he not care? What literary purpose does your 15 years serve? Is that a number you got from some real life situation?? I can't see how 15 years makes for a better story than a brief period would.

Beware the fallacy that pirate movies are routinely greeted with enthusiasm. See this list:


Take note of the fact that for decades pirate movies routinely bombed. Jack Sparrow is an abberation. If you want to sound like you really researched the pirate story market via film you better mention some of the more despised pirate shows and tell how your story escapes the pitfalls that sank those ones.

My guess is agents are now buried up to their eyeballs in queries claiming to offer the next PoC, but the actual manuscripts read more like Cutthroat Island. Which was dreck.

writtenwyrdd said...

The comments on this one are wonderful!

Author, I also found the fifteen years to be problemmatic, as well as the portal being there in Morgan's old house with no one else falling through until your protag does. Too convenient to be plausible.

However, what if it's a brief time for her and fifteen years for him? Or the other way around?

Standing out will be the key, I think. Because, like gutterball says, you have what sounds like a good time-travel romance set up, but it is a bit bland.

Anonymous said...

Imagine this scene:

Elizabeth: Will? My God, you're bald! But no matter, darling, at last, I've found you!

Will: Stout thing, stand back! Let go!

Elizabeth: But sweeteart, it's me, Elizabeth Swann, your beloved!

Will: Oh, really? I swear, we've never met. The only woman I ever loved was thin as a rail and you, old witch, are big as a frigate. You must be here to kill me! Die, vixen bitch!!

Elizabeth: Boo hoo hoo. How can you treat me so badly? Just wait till your past arrives to confront you, then you'll be sorry!

Will: Let's walk her off the plank, boys!!