Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Guess the Plot
On After the Sunset
1. An insider's look at the Hollywood machine and what it does to those on the periphery of the industry, as told by NF14221, a streetlight outside the Chinese Theater.
2. When Maggie Farnsdahl goes to live in a sixties style commune, she finds that Earnie Parnecker is carrying on well after sunset. Can she handle this new life of pot, acid, mushrooms and booty calls?
3. Convinced she has a great title for her masterwork, Cheryl is heartbroken to learn that a crappy Pierce Brosnan movie shares the same name. Undaunted, she tacks on a preposition. Will two simple letters spell the difference between the slushpile and stardom? Also, a talking eraser.
4. When his friend Lazarus is killed, Noah is suspicious. His investigation takes him to Florida where he discovers the Fountain of Youth. Could getting younger bring back the hearing he lost, ending his career as a rock star?
5. Gigi, a devoted soap opera fan, gets more than she bargained for when one lonely Friday night she decides to flip on her TV and see what's . . . On After the Sunset.
6. Forced into a nursing home by his greedy daughter Marcia, Emile Lord isn't about to go gently. If he has to run his financial empire by cell phone from a wheelchair, so be it, and if he has to lose everything to ensure that Marcia doesn't get a dime, so be that, too.
Dear Malevolent Manuscript Mauler:
My name is ___________. I found your listing on the AgentQuery website. My novel, On After the Sunset, is an urban fantasy at about 115,000 words.
Rock star Noah McCabe lost his hearing, and along with it, his reason to exist. [Lazy slob. What if Beethoven had cashed in his chips after losing his hearing? There'd have been no Die Hard, no A Clockwork Orange, and none of those movies with the Saint Bernard.] Now, the aging ex-musician holes up in his London flat, the Internet his only connection to the world. Then he [discovers newspapers and magazines and that he can turn on closed captioning on his TV, and then he] finds a suicide note posted on his friend's, Lazarus Brown's, blog.
After several unanswered emails, Noah's concern turns to worry. [He was concerned, but not worried, after his friend left a suicide note?] How do you locate someone you know only over the Internet? [I'm hoping it's impossible, because there are a few guys in Nigeria looking for me.] What he knows about Laz is incidental: he lives in America, he became a recluse when his wife died, he collects old music. [Not bad, he's narrowed it down to six people already.]
Through EBay, Noah finds Echo Capris, an artist who sold a vinyl album to Laz. A former fan of Noah's, Echo agrees to help. The shipping address she has for Lazarus is in Kentucky.
When they arrive at the house, its decrepitation [I think you want decrepitness; decrepitation is something else.] indicates that they are too late. [Of course it's too late. The second the EBay woman came up with the address, he should have had her call the cops in Kentucky. Instead he books a flight from London? Or did he come by ocean liner?] That evening's news confirms it; Laz was killed attempting to rob a bank. The obvious conclusion: suicide by cop. [That's obvious? I would have concluded that he was planning to kill himself because he was broke, and then he realized that suicide wouldn't get him nearly as much money as robbing a bank.]
But Noah refuses to accept this, despite the video footage. Not just despite it, but because of it. It's Laz's eyes. They're too empty: empty of thought, empty of pain, empty of volition. [Don't beat around the bush; if he's a zombie, say so.] Moreover, the bullet wounds have too little blood. Against her better judgment, Echo stays with Noah and listens to his ravings on kidnapping and brainwashing. They rewatch the robbery footage, and she finds herself falling down the rabbit hole with Noah. [How much footage do they have?]
Their investigation leads them to a green-eyed man who is murdered before they can question him. A second murder takes them to Florida, and a third forces them into the Everglades to avoid the police. [A fourth has them jetting to Bermuda, and then it's off to Nigeria with the fifth murder.] [Rarely if ever has one of my query critiques mentioned Nigeria twice when the query itself didn't mention it at all.] [But can I work in a third?] There Echo falls under the thrall of a youth-obsessed harridan, [Have you been using your thesaurus?] LeGar. Tethered by his burgeoning love, Noah follows Echo and LeGar on their search for the Fountain of Youth. [You travel from Kentucky to the Everglades with a woman you met a few days ago, and then she and a woman you met a few minutes ago invite you to join them in searching for the Fountain of Youth . . . and you agree to go with them?]
LeGar defeats the guardians of the Fountain, and as they cower at her feet, [Wait a minute, they've found the Fountain of Youth? And it has guardians? This feels out of the blue. Five and a half paragraphs of what sounds like it could be a mystery or thriller or mainstream fiction, and suddenly LeGar the harridan is defeating the guardians of the Fountain?] Noah is astonished to discover that a seemingly unharmed Lazarus Brown is their leader. [Lazarus is no longer dead? Didn't see that coming.]
He has no time for wonder, however, for LeGar orders Echo to drink. [And she obeys because . . . ?] The pain of reverse aging rips screams from her throat, and even more terrible, the Fountain is mixed with the River Lethe so that each year of recaptured youth is bought with the memories of that lost year. [Even more terrible? Personally, I'll take a few lost memories over pain that rips screams from my throat.]
When Echo opens her eyes, she no longer remembers coming to the Everglades, no longer remembers searching for Laz, [They were searching for Laz? I thought they thought Laz was dead.] and no longer remembers Noah. [Mainly because she's now two years old.]
I have pasted the first two pages of On After the Sunset below my signature. I look forward to hearing from you.
I don't care how burgeoning my love for someone I recently met is; when she seriously suggests searching for the Fountain of Youth, the red flags go up.
It needs to be more clear what's going on with Laz. What is he? If he's your first supernatural element, get it into the query before we forget it's supposed to be urban fantasy (I'm not convinced it is in any case.) You might even want to mention the Fountain up front, so it doesn't come from nowhere: When Noah McCabe flies to Kentucky to prevent a friend's suicide, he has no idea he's embarking on an adventure that will lead him to the Fountain of Youth. Yes, the actual Fountain of Youth.
It's way too long for a query letter. Limit yourself to ten sentences, unless this is a synopsis. I can't tell whether the novel ends at the Fountain, or whether most of it takes place after they find it, but focus on what's most important and cut what you can do without.
Having a main character who can't hear would seem problematic. Do all the characters write everything down to communicate with him? It's hard enough to convince someone to go look for the Fountain of Youth if he can hear; trying to convince him by playing charades is nearly impossible.