Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Face-Lift 419


Guess the Plot

Q

1. In a world of living letters, Q crosses time and space to find his one true love and eternal companion . . . U.

2. New Yorker Jessica Floop moves to London, hoping for a new life and a glimpse of Hugh Grant, but instead finds herself thrust into an unintelligible world of spotted dick, bangers and lorries. And never mind trying to figure out where the line is for the Ladies' Room.

3. Tommy's parents always thought it was cute that his favorite letter was Q. But as Tommy approaches puberty, his alphabetic preference becomes an obsession that will take over his life and threaten the entire planet.

4. Quinn embarques on a Quixotic quest to res-q an acquaintance from iniquitous delinquents, but quickly finds himself in a quandary, questioning whether he's quite qooqoo.

5. Roger Swenson, mute since birth, is interrogated by the police in this short story written entirely in questions.

6. The letter Q has been kidnapped by Evil Editor, and writers can no longer send him query letters. It's a welcome respite, but all too brief, as EE's ingenious minions soon inundate him with kwery letters.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

In the spirit of Cervantes’s Don Quixote and Lennox’s The Female Quixote, my young adult novel [has the letter "Q" in its title.] entitled Q follows a troubled young man on a modern-day heroic quest to rescue a fair maiden from perceived threats of bloodthirsty vampires, futuristic assassins, and hedonistic frat boys.

A latch-key kid raised on a steady diet of 1980s movies, [mainly Porky's and Porky's 2, each of which he's seen dozens of times,] 15-year-old Quinn sees danger everywhere. Growing up in Philadelphia, he has long known not to open the front door for anyone, not to take candy from strangers, [When you're fifteen, it's not candy that strangers offer you.] and not to interact with the bums on the subway.

When he witnesses a figure in black climbing into the window of his neighbor and classmate Claire, he begins to suspect that sinister forces have descended upon the city to wage a concentrated assault. His suspicions strengthen when, a few days later, Claire is arrested by the police, or so they appear. [Awkward. ...so it appears or --or were they the police? would be better.] [Also, has Quinn bothered to ask Claire about the figure in black? As she hasn't been killed or kidnaped, he might suspect he was wrong about sinister forces descending.] He must save her from annihilation, eternal damnation, or a fate worse than death. His journey to find and rescue Claire [Has he determined that those weren't the police?] takes him through the mean streets of West Philadelphia, the dank yet heavily populated subway city, the riverfront undergoing mysterious revival, [Why mysterious?] and finally to the massive glass towers that crown the city’s skyline and economy. [Those glass towers are empty. The economy of Philadelphia is based entirely on cheesesteak sandwiches, Tastycakes, and soft pretzels.]

Along the way, Quinn must face core-shaking questions about Claire’s identity and integrity and about his perceptions of the world. The lines between reality and imagination blur, both for Quinn and for the reader. [End that sentence after "blur."] Are those police officers genuinely out to “serve and protect”? Is the innocuous South Street goth club really just for fun? [Ditch that question.] Could the man living in a box along the Parkway really be a master of self-defense, a sage mentor to guide him? Are the dangers really all in Quinn’s mind or could he actually be the city’s savior? [Delete "really."]

Q is complete at 60,000 words.

I have a PhD in English literature with a minor specialization in 18th century British literature. I was also born and raised in Philadelphia. I would be pleased to send a detailed synopsis, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript.

I appreciate your attention and consideration, and an SASE enclosed.


Notes

I like the story and I like the query. I'm not crazy about every paragraph ending with a list; at least hold your lists to three items (the riverfront revival can go). I'd get rid of the list at the end of the first paragraph, and replace "danger" in the second paragraph with "vampires and assassins." Better to mention vampires after mentioning his movie addiction.

Even with a broken leg Jimmy Stewart tried to do something when he thought someone was in danger in the next building. Does Quinn do anything when the black figure goes in Claire's window?

20 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

Sounds like the core of your story is that your protag finds redemption in focusing outside himself, on Claire and her rescue.

The story sounds very good, but the query letter has a lot of extraneous detail that takes away from the salient points. And you also give info in a recursive fasion. I'd organize the information so that it's more linear.

I would begin with the mention of the kid's fears and then his distraction from them-- the beginning of his journey. Maybe the second paragraph or "15-year-old Quinn sees danger everywhere" (and then mention he's a shut in or scared of everything.) You might be able to use the Quixote reference at the end of the letter instead of at the start, too. But this is a complex idea, so I think you'll be tweaking this for a while.

Anonymous said...

I love the sound of this one. The story seems like it could be great fun. The danger could be real or all in Quinn's over-active imagination.

He must save her from annihilation, eternal damnation, or a fate worse than death.

'or'? He has a choice? Is she threatened by all three? But he can only save her from one? This line is confusing me. But, then again, it's morning and I'm easily confused in the morning.

Good job.

Sarah

Anonymous said...

I think this sounds like an intriguing book. You might want to emphasize Quinn's paranoid view of the world up front, because I missed it and then couldn't figure out why seeing someone break into a house amounted to a sinister conspiracy. I guess I just read "Quinn sees danger everywhere" more as "there IS danger everywhere."
Maybe, like Sarah, I just need some more coffee.
-mb

Bernita said...

I do hope the dangers are not all imaginary and that the story isn't a daytime version of "It was all a dream."
That would be disappointing.

Shannon said...

"When he witnesses a figure in black climbing into the window of his neighbor and classmate Claire"

Could it be read the stranger was climbing into the window and climbing into Claire? or was I alone in that?

It makes for disturbing imagery.

Precie said...

Author here.

LOL at each paragraph ending with lists! That's what I get for writing the darn thing in 2 hrs. Thanks for the excellent suggestions on tightening up the query.

EE--When he sees the black figure breaking in to Claire's house, he calls the police. After the dispatcher gives him a hard time, a police car does come to investigate but finds nothing amiss. Quinn doesn't get to talk with Claire before she gets arrested.

writtenwyrdd and anonymous(mb) - Here's the thing about the Quixote reference. That's at the beginning because that's the clue to Quinn's (presumed) paranoia, akin to Don Quixote's skewed "knight-errant" view of the world.

Anon(Sarah)--Thanks. I just now revised the "He must save her..." line to "He’s determined to save her from annihilation, eternal damnation, or possibly even a fate worse than death." But even that is subject to revision. :)

bernita--I'll lay my cards on the table. There's no manuscript for this yet. When EE posted "Everything Needed," I couldn't resist whipping up a practice query. But...I agree with you that there must be a real danger, even if it's not what Quinn imagined...because part of my intent in retelling Quixote is to vindicate his world view. So rest assured. :)

And thank you all for such encouraging comments. I suppose I should actually take a stab at writing the darn thing. Perhaps you'll see the opening for Q here sometime in the coming months.

writtenwyrdd said...

I still maintain that the Quixote reference is better off NOT in the first paragraph. I hope you do write this, though; it sounds interesting.

Robin S. said...

Damn. Good idea.

I'm gonna write the query first next time - maybe it will be easier to write that way.

Really good set of GTPs, by the way. Spotted dicks and qooqoos and kweries, oh my!

pacatrue said...

EE, I wonder if there is a way to make story ideas a thing. I very frequently have an idea I'd like to run past people, but I don't know if the pre-query is the best form for doing this. I guess there could be story pitch blog entries or some such thing.... I don't know how to make it funny. Just thinking out loud. You'd want something more than a GTP, though.

Precie said...

writtenwyrdd--I'm certainly considering moving the Quixote ref. If I actually do complete a manuscript for this, the query may change drastically anyway.

Thanks for the feedback!

Anonymous said...

I think the reason the Quixote reference up front doesn't quite work for me is that Don Quixote doesn't exactly see danger everywhere -- he sees villains he has to fight, and he has a clear (to him, anyway), noble purpose. Whereas Quinn, as I understand it from this description, seems to start from a more frightened, "They're out to get me" point of view. It's...not quite Don Quixote, even if that's where Quinn and the book are ultimately going. Plus, "Man of La Mancha" has convinced most people that Don Quixote wasn't really mad, he was just idealistic. I don't know, obviously if you haven't even written the book it's silly to nitpick. I'm just saying.

-mb

Ello said...

I really liked this query. The problems I had with it were explained when author said it was written so quickly. I loved the whole "latch key kid" paragraph. it hooked me completely. There is definitely extraneous detail that drags down the query but the story sounds great. Good luck.

PicardyRose said...

What's the fate worse than death?

Precie said...

PicardyRose--Historically, "a fate worse than death" meant a woman's rape...her loss of virginity basically made her unmarriable.

Explanation from Phrase Finder

I use it here kinda tongue-in-cheek.

And thanks again to everyone for all the encouraging feedback...definitely lots to think about and work on!

Shannon said...

Just me then, sorry, never mind.

Anonymous said...

No, Shannon, I choked on that sentence as well, but forgot to comment on it!

-mb

spooge26 said...

shannon, i got stuck on that as well and almost didn't continue (expecting more phrases like that).

Precie said...

Yup, "neighbor and classmate Claire" ends up as a stumbling block.

Hey...hypothetically, if I envisioned this as a series (YA retellings of classic lit), should that be mentioned near the end of the query?

Bonnie said...

Sounds quite a lot grittier and more interesting than your average vampire novel, that's for sure. Go ahead and write it!

Precie said...

Frankly, from here and Nathan Bransford's blog, I'm starting to suspect that the market is getting flooded by vampires. Now I'm thinking of writing the story without them...focusing more on the "police" and other potentially sinister forces. (More "Terminator" than "Lost Boys." :) )

Gritty is definitely one of my intention.

You all are great! It's like I'm getting a personalized writing seminar for free! Thanks, EE! :)