Friday, September 28, 2007

Face-Lift 428

Guess the Plot

Twenty Rules

1. Mr. Bishop runs the seventh-grade math labs like a drill sergeant: No talking, no late work, no excuses. When Ginny refuses to do math homework for super-popular Naomi, Naomi has her boyfriend trash Ginny's work for the Math Olympics. Can Ginny fix her project in time?

2. Heled Faust had been studying ten years for his sorcerers badge. But in his final exam he theorized, and proved, that the last of the '20 rules of magic', "Magic obeys only the command of the caster," is false. Heled fails the exam but his paper attracts the attention of Muburak. In his quest to influence the world outside of his magic-forged prison, Muburak sends his minions to kidnap Heled and obtain the knowledge he possesses.

3. Dean Miller and his buddies like to taunt Coach Magog by breaking all his silly rules. Sure, they understand why you don't slam someone's head into the floor, or why you don't set the basketball nets on fire. But what could possibly go wrong when you bust the lock off locker 43?

4. When their father dumps Ben and his sisters off at the home of a total stranger, he gives them 20 rules to follow in their new lives, rules like Don't make any friends, and Don't tell anyone I've dumped you off at the home of a complete stranger, and don't ask the host to let you watch Cinemax.

5. Twenty rules separated Gilligan Troy from a happy life. He had overcome the one about not murdering any more people, but could he come to terms with the nineteen rules about sex, mentioned explicitly in his parole papers, that always seemed to trip him up?

6. Nine people, lost at sea, starving to death, getting on each other's nerves as they drift for days in a small lifeboat. They finally make up 20 rules that none of them is allowed to break, rules like no whining, no farting, and no masturbating while ogling buxom Miss Lennox. The first to break a rule will be the first sacrificed for the greater good.

Original Version

Dear EE

For 15 year old Ben and his sisters life is one long procession of relatives’ homes while their father ‘looks’ for work. [‘Looks’ ? What does that mean? Doesn't look? I ‘think’ that's clever.]

They survive by following the rules. Rule 1: Never argue with the host family, even when you know you are right. Rule 2: Never upset the host family’s routine, even if it means going without. Rule 3: Always look neat and well groomed for school so that teachers don’t investigate your home life. Rule 4: Never make friends, because that means one day you’ll have to tell them about your home life, which you can’t. Rule 5: [Never butcher the host family because the cops will come and find out about your home life. Rule 6: No masturbating while ogling buxom Miss Lennox. Rule 7:] . . .

But this time Dad has dumped them on a total stranger. [How about that guy, kids? He looks pretty cool. You wanna live with him?]

All Ben wants to do is keep his family together and find out more about this mysterious Jason their father has foisted them off onto. [Jason? The Jason? It's a bad sign when your own father foists you off on a stranger, but it's a really bad sign when the stranger is wearing a hockey goalie mask.]

The last thing he needs is to run afoul of the bitchiest girl in the school. Particularly not when his best friend (who doesn’t seem to get the message that they can’t be friends) blurts out a secret the bitchiest girl uses to make Ben’s life, and that of his friend, absolute hell [Rule 12: Don't reveal the secret, not even in a query letter.]

Jason may just be the only one who can help them, [Wouldn't it have been great, back when we were in school, if we could have hired Jason to deal with the bitchiest girl in school?] but Ben has issues of his own with Jason right now, particularly about Jason’s relationship with their Dad. [I thought Jason was a total stranger.]

I am seeking representation for my 40,000 word young adult novel, Twenty Rules. A synopsis and sample chapters are enclosed. Would you be interested in reading more?

Yours sincerely


Where does dad go while the kids are living with relatives and total strangers?

Even if you weren't told not to make friends, it would be a while before you had a best friend or an enemy. How much time passes between the dump-off and the school troubles?

It feels like the school part comes out of nowhere, like we're in another story. You need to connect the Jason plot and the school plot, or give the less important one a smaller part in the query. Possibly the connection lies in why only Jason can help Ben and his friend.


writtenwyrdd said...

Man, I was hoping for GTP #2, that sounded brilliant. The letter's dry tone put me off, but that doesn't mean this story couldn't be sold. I think the list of do's and don'ts in the letter were the biggest problem: Too dry, no hook. And I am not interested in reading this topic, which is my personal preference, not your story.

Jon Pumpkin said...

I want to read GTP#1!

I thought this query worked well, especially the use of the rules to set out just how constrained these kids' lives must be.

Perhaps the stranger/relationship issue could be fixed with something like "their Dad's relationship with Jason, who may not be such a stranger after all...".

Jon Pumpkin said...

damn, I meant GTP#2.

I should probably wake up before posting.

BuffySquirrel said...

oh dear me

Those jon pumpkin comments were actually mine--I didn't notice other half was still signed in.

Oh, the shame....

Bernita said...

Think you need a comma for clarity after "sisters" in your first sentence.

GutterBall said...

I wanted GTP #3! It's killing me! What's in Locker 43??

This has the potential for being either a tense read or a fun one. I'm not sure which it's supposed to be. Being dumped off with potentially dangerous strangers suggests the first. Reluctantly having a friend and dealing with the bitchy chick suggest the latter.

I'm not saying you have to choose which aspect to portray, but you might want to connect them somehow. Even a simple "Things aren't so great at school, either. Though his little family is safely away from Jason there, he has to deal with a kid who won't take 'no friends' for an answer and the bitchiest girl in school, blah blah blah" would probably give you a segue.

Then again, Probably shouldn't listen to me. I was two steps away from showing a kid who is notorious for getting into fights how to throw a real punch so he'd quit breaking his hand after almost every fight. "Impaired judgment" much??

Ello said...

Hmmm, this query was disjointed and a bit dreary. I don't know if the rules work in the query. You need a fun way to put this altogether. I think it is conceptually interesting, but I don't hear the author's voice at all. This is such a dry recitation of facts and story points. Let me go back and say that the rules would probably work if we could hear the author's voice liven them up with some emotion. As they stand now, it reads dull.

Ali said...

It sounds like an interesting story that would appeal to the YA set.

I agree that the rules section needs to be livened up--they read like actual written rules, rather than something a group of kids have come up with. Also, can you give us a little more of a sense of Jason's character? You imply that he's the worst caretaker ever, and yet later he's helping them--there must be something intriguing there to explain the discrepancy, but we're not getting it in the query. You say "Ben has his own issues with Jason right now"--which doesn't give us any new information. How does their relationship evolve over the course of the book?

Also, you say "the bitchiest girl" twice in the query. Is she an important part of the story? If so, try giving us a sense of who she is besides a bitch. How does she have so much influence over their lives and why does she even care? And why would this have anything to do with Jason, a stranger Ben is staying with?

Anonymous said...

Author Face-Lift 469 here.

Apologies if this is posted twice under anon and me. Blogger doesn't seem to like the real me right now.

Thanks for the feedback. It's interesting how feedback like this really makes you think about what the story is about--even though you thought you knew because you spent so long mulling over it for the query in the first place.

This story deals with some heavy issues--abandonment/bad parenting, attempted teen suicide--all of which are designed to send any sensible agent run screaming for the nearest form rejection letter. I wonder if I was trying too hard to avoid saying what they were.

Thanks, Bernita. Yes, there is a comma missing.

I want to know what's in locker 43 too.

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Author 469 again, with a rewritten query based on your feedback.

Ben knows he is stupid to turn down the chance to be Samantha's boyfriend. After all, she's the most popular girl in class.

But Ben has other things to worry about--like the fact that Dad has left him and his sisters in the care of a stranger, "For a few days. Until I can find some work." Ben knows that Dad never looks for work and that a few days will stretch into months if Dad thinks he can get away with it.

Unfortunately, Samantha doesn't like being turned down. She wants revenge, and she's not the type to back off just because Ben has a few personal problems. Not only that, she has the perfect weapon in the secret inadvertently spilt by Ben's best friend.

I am seeking representation for my 40,000 word young adult novel, Twenty Rules. A synopsis and sample chapters are enclosed. Would you be interested in reading more?

Thanks again.