Monday, April 06, 2009

Face-Lift 619


Guess the Plot

Probation

1. He missed 9 years of his son Timmy's life, so when Jack Wiggins gets out of prison he vows to go straight, taking a job working for Bud's Tree-N-Grass. But a deadly secret lurks below that turf!! Now Jack will need all his gangster skills to save Timmy from . . . Mole Man!!!

2. When she gets released, career shoplifter Sally Mayfield decides to put her skills to a new use -- retail security consultant. But can she resist the urge to pocket a few loose lipsticks?

3. A gang of talking rats that live in the sewers of old London befriend a young pickpocket and bring him baubles in exchange for stories about the wide world. When he gets hauled away to the orphanage the rats embark on a dangerous journey across town to rescue him.

4. Guy Stall should be facing the death penalty, but thanks to an incompetent prosecutor, his murder charges are dropped and he is released on probation. Now it’s up to Assistant DA Caroline Simmons to uncover new evidence that can reopen the case and ensure justice is served . . . before Guy strikes again.

5. Stacey's on probation for drunk driving and Takara's on probation for talking to a demon. Their worlds collide when Stacey reads a book about Takara in this anime series told backwards.

6. College has ups and downs. Last semester, she was the party queen. Now Chrissy-Ann must get an A in every class, or be expelled.


Original Version

Dear EE,

Can true goodness exist outside fantasy? Can it even exist there? [You're a day late if this is your all-questions query exercise.]

Stacey Chambers wishes her life could resemble the lives of the heroes in her favorite stories. Unfortunately the path to goodness always seems to elude her. When this introspective under-grad is shamed with legal troubles, she escapes in Probation: The First Saga of OniRue, [She escapes? Clarify.] a new anime series shown in reverse-chronological order. [The entire series is in reverse chronological order? So technically, this is the last Saga of OniRue.] [Is the first line of the book "The End"?] [What do you mean, "shown" in reverse order? Is this a book or a film?] [I think you should completely reverse the order of the sentences in the query.] [This is gonna annoy those people who always read the end of the book first, when they find out you've given away the beginning.]

In Probation, Takara is probated from her demon-hunting clan for showing gratitude towards Nanashi, a half demon who saves her life. [Could you define "probated"?] Niceties to demons [and half-demons, apparently] are punished by probation and exile, regardless of circumstance.

But no punishment can dissuade Takara from using her training to rescue the land of OniRue from the evil demon king. She travels to his castle with Nanashi and the monk Makoto, [Change their names to ShaNaNa and Tomato, and you have a winner.] both of whom fall in love with Takara and work to convince her that the other is unworthy of her love. [When your only suitors are a half-demon and a monk, it's time to consider lesbianism.] When Takara learns Makoto is right and that Nanashi has been working for the demon king all along, she knows the penalty for Nanashi’s deception must be death. [She knows this because it already happened back in chapter 1, thanks to everything being in reverse chronological order.]

Instead of being the real-world equivalent of a monk [which is . . . a monk,] or a demon huntress, Stacey is a convicted drunk driver, and on top of that, a liar. Her dad was killed by a drunk driver, and her mom would disown Stacey if she knew about the arrest, so Stacey hides it from her. She also keeps it from her boyfriend Mike, who expects perfection from her despite his own disregard for rules and laws.

When Stacey fails and both Mike and her mom find out about her arrest, she hides from their anger in new episodes of Probation. [Hey! What happened to Tomato and ShaNaNa?] [What do all these people have to do with the land of ObiWan?] But when she learns her cousin has been having an affair with Mike, she knows hiding is no longer an option and that comfort will only come after imposing the ultimate penalty. [Which is killing them all?]

Probation: The First Saga of OniRue is my first novel and is complete at 99,000 words. It’s half commercial fiction and half fantasy, with the chapters alternating between Stacey’s story and the reverse-flowing episodes of Probation. Though it stands alone it is the first in a planned series, the second of which is in development.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

So the only connection between Stacey and Takara is that Stacey read about Takara in a book? That's not good enough. This is two books.

I think you need to make it clear why the fantasy book is backwards. Backwards is confusing enough, but mixed in with a frontwards book . . . I enjoyed Memento, but it took some effort to follow it, and if after every scene they'd edited in a scene from The Dark Knight, my head would have exploded.

I was going to suggest focusing on one story line or the other, but I suppose it'll go badly if an agent is expecting a story of redemption and every other chapter is about demons and castles, told in reverse chronological order. Why not make it two books? They'd both be short, but as you're planning sequels, you should have enough material to expand each of them.

Terms like "in development," "new episodes," "shown" and "new anime series" make me think TV show. And since anime is Japanese animation, that's what most will think. But I don't get the impression this is illustrated or in screenplay format. Is this supposed to be made into an animated series? The part about Stacey doesn't strike me as anime. Not that I know anything about anime.

What do those questions at the beginning have to do with anything?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

EE is correct, the transition isn't working. Sooo often if one stretches out into new structures never before known to mankind, the readers get lost.

MeganRebekah said...

Most of these crazy query letters actually make me want to read their books - just to see what in the world the authors are talking about!

150 said...

I get the impression that the anime is in there to illuminate Stacey's story, in which case Stacey's story could stand on its own--so the exact contents of the anime aren't important to the query letter, just its presence. My vote is to focus on Stacey.

I also sort of question just how much of Probation is necessary to get your point across; you might look at other cases of "play within a play" to get some idea of relative time allotted. I'm not sure how many readers of commercial fiction would appreciate the fantasy interruption, and vice versa.

Take out those rhetorical questions; they add nothing.

Consider making Probation a novel or presenting it in script format; otherwise there might be a serious gap between how the reader perceives it and how a viewer might.

My recommendation is to make the query exclusively about Stacey, play up her conflicts, and only mention Probation in the last sentence when you explain the format.

(What percentage of the book is Stacey and what is Probation? Can you crunch some numbers for me?)

I gotta ask. Are the next installments of Probation going to be sequels or prequels?

I guess, in short, I'm leery about this, and the query needs to make it sound awesome enough to overcome my trepidation.

Eric P. said...

Yet another plot that would be handily improved by the addition of a Mole Man. Only in the real-world bits, of course.

Dave F. said...

What ever happened to "Tomato and ShaNaNa" instead of Fay Wray? Now that's classic EE.

I can't even envision an answer to the rhetorical question: "Can true goodness exist outside fantasy?" That's the danger of opening with a rhetorical. If the reader doesn't understand the question...

I also don't quite understand the relationship between the real and the fantasy worlds. One has to take precedence over the other. And by that I mean that one story is the prime story while the other is merely its reflection for dramatic purposes.

What is "The Ultimate Penalty" for infidelity when your boyfriend is sleeping with your cousin? (Indonesian women specialize in not-so-delicate removal of a body part. Indonesian doctors are the best at reconstructions.) (Last girlfriend that I cheated on slapped me, threw a drink in my face and called me naughty names.)

Neelloc said...

You've misused the word 'niceties.'
From www.thefreedictionary.com:

1. The quality of showing or requiring careful, precise treatment: the nicety of a diplomatic exchange.
2. Delicacy of character or feeling; fastidiousness; scrupulousness.
3. A fine point, small detail, or subtle distinction: the niceties of etiquette.
4. An elegant or refined feature; an amenity: the niceties of civilized life.
[Middle English nicete, silliness, exactitude, from Old French, silliness, from nice, silly; see nice.]

_*Rachel*_ said...

This is pretty confusing; neither story really seems connected. Now, if you had one character go into the other world, or both were actually the same person, I'd understand a bit better.

Oh, and I move you just call it fantasy, because the people who will be most interested are those who like swords and magic, not stupid boyfriends and car crashes.

Also, explain the backwardsness/illustrations/weird format clearly.

Dominique said...

When you said she escapes in the series, I thought you meant something along the lines of vegging out in front of the TV screen. You're saying she morphs into the episode? If that's the case, then you've got to tell me how that happened. There were a few other things going on that we're exactly clear, but I think EE hit them rather well.

talpianna said...

It SEEMS that this is supposed to be something like THE NEVERENDING STORY, in which the character escapes from life into a fictional world; but it's not working for me--or, apparently, for anyone else.

About telling stories backwards: It works brilliantly in THE SCOLD'S BRIDLE by Minette Walters. It opens with an old woman being found dead. From then on, chapters about events proceeding forward in a normal manner are alternated with excerpts, starting from right before her death, from the victim's diary. The last page of the book is the first entry in her diary--and it explains everything.

Adam Heine said...

Point one: If it's animated, it's called anime. If it's in comic book form, it's called manga.

Point two: If the anime/manga story is just a reflection or mirror of what's going on in reality, then this is a dangerous story to tell in that I think a lot of people will be put off by it (unless it's done extremely well).

People who want to read about Stacey and her problems will be jarred by the interspersing of fantasy and demons (esp. of a Japanese flavor).

Fans of anime will be jarred by the fact that nothing weird happens. They'll be expecting (as a lot of us were) that Takara will suddenly jump out of the pages, or Stacey will be sucked into Takara's world, or something.

This goes for The Never-Ending Story too. The story wasn't just a reflection of real-world events, but the boy became part of the story. The world's collided in a very real way.

If worlds collide in your story, make that clear in the query. If they don't... well, all I can say is it doesn't sound like something I'd want to read.

batgirl said...

Is Stacey a minor? If so, how does she conceal her arrest (and probation?) from her mother?