Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Face-Lift 669

Guess the Plot

Love Ya Mouse

1. Improve your computer's performance through romance! This handy manual will show you how to smooch your monitor, seduce your motherboard, and of course . . . love ya mouse.

2. In a Disney World restaurant Dave witnesses a customer's complaint that the chicken hasn't appeared, by which he means Donald Duck isn't on the scene. Realizing something should be done about ignorant and obnoxious theme park patrons, Dave complains to Mickey Mouse. But Mickey just calls him a butthead.

3. In Cleveland, a single mom is raising twin daughters. One night a mouse dressed up as a king demands one of the daughters as a bride, claiming both girls will die if he is refused. So the mom gives him the "bad" sister. After a week he brings her back and demands the other. So the mom gives him the "good" sister. After a week he brings her back and demands the mom. So the mom goes with him and turns into a mouse, and they live happily ever after in an amazingly well-furnished little burrow in the backyard — until a cat in a cape takes over the 'hood.

4. Fuzz, a pacifist cat, protects a group of mice from other felines. Along the way his heart is stolen by the gorgeous mouse Clarissa Cheese. But when Clarissa betrays him to the cat mafia for three pounds of cheddar, can Fuzz shed his pacifist beliefs and get his revenge?

5. Brenda is skeptical when her new dating service sends pictures of a rodent, but desperate people must do desperate things, so she meets the mouse, and is delighted to discover he writes screenplays and has his own tiny penthouse with deluxe exercise wheel and a lifetime supply of nourishing seeds.

6. Somebody dropped a safe on Jerry's tiny little head and Tom wants to know who. Can Kojak crack the case in time to save Wile E. Coyote from the same fate? Who Loves Ya Mouse?

Original Version

Dear Evil,

Mild-mannered Dave Jevik had taken his family to Disney once before but it hadn’t been like this. He hated run-ins with pushy Disneyphiles like Nancy and Vinnie Zandanel, who eat the meek for lunch in Orlando. It isn’t long, however, before Dave sees how different life is on the other side of the decorum tracks. He watches and learns as Nancy works the system and plans military-style incursions designed to maximize efficiency in the parks. He cringes yet celebrates as she skillfully punishes line cutters and obnoxious children while overcoming obstacles like stroller people, oversized support teams for wheel chair guests, scooter maniacs and worst of all, helicopter parents. [If Dave is here with his family, why aren't they complaining about him following Nancy around? Even if he's alone, at the prices of tickets, would he really just watch another customer for tips on efficiently seeing the attractions?]

Dave learns that there is a right way and a wrong way to make it work, as evidenced by a customer tantrum he watches in a Disney restaurant:

“So where is he? Where’s the goddamned chicken?”

“What chicken, sir?”

“You know damn well what chicken! White feathers, big yellow beak, talks funny. My five-year old is screaming for his ass. When’s he coming out?”

“Do you mean Donald?”

“How the hell should I know his name? I’m a grown man!”

“Donald doesn’t appear in this restaurant, sir.”

“What? A hundred bucks for dinner and we don’t get to see the goddamn chicken?”

“Sir, Donald is a duck, not a chicken.” [Amusing dialogue, but it doesn't effectively make the point you claimed it does, and an excerpt isn't needed in a query letter.]

The story isn’t without intrigue, even if it is a flimsy, transparent plot device that’s clearly there only to give the protagonists a chance to shine. Dave and Vinnie bumble behind the scenes as they work to expose the seamy truth about a fraudulent lawsuit based back home in Indiana. Along the way they literally go underground where they encounter Mickey (who calls Dave “Butthead”), and Cinderella (who is cussing out a coworker while puffing on a cigarette) before witnessing an arm-wrestling match between Pinocchio and Aladdin. [It may be a flimsy, transparent plot device, but if exposing the fraudulent lawsuit is Dave's reason for being here, it's the only plot you've got. So fill us in on the lawsuit.]

If you don’t mind some political incorrectness and some good-natured bashing of Disney and its devotees (I’m one), you might enjoy this story for the laughs even if a satire about the most powerful entertainment force in America is a horrible and unmarketable idea. Parents who have visited Disney World will devour the accuracy and detail and will relish the discussions on the rule breakers that they’ve all come across.

The last time I visited Disney I knew I had to write this. “Love Ya Mouse” is a 60,000 word satire for the Disney fanatics who didn’t drink the Kool-aid. Please let me know if you’d like to take a look.



It's good that you recognize that the Mouse will have you killed if you publish this, just as I will be killed for posting the photograph to the right (They didn't mind selling me the overpriced ears, as long as I lock them in a safe and never let anyone see them.), but the key to satirizing an entity that will sue your pants off is to change all the names. The Simpsons don't visit Disney World, they go to Itchy and Scratchy Land or Krusty World or whatever. National Lampoon's Vacation was in Walley World. Make up your own theme park and characters. It's not like obnoxious people don't visit theme parks other than Disney. For maximum comic effect, exaggerate the obnoxiousness of the guests at your park.


~Aimee States said...

This was a joke, right? RIGHT?

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming this is real although the part about the flimsy plot makes me wonder.

I think this is a great idea. I'd read it and so would most people who have visited Disney.

But is it really possible to spoof the Evil Empire? The author must know that he or she would have to change all the names, etc.. Even so, can you do stuff like this?

More importantly, will an agent run away from it as fast as possible?

Still, I love the idea. I've been there a few times and it's always fun to see how people act.

~Aimee States said...

Even if it's a great idea, to try and sell it with dialogue, slap dash humor, and novel deprecation is just ridiculous. What, insult your work into a contract? I don't see it happening.

Anonymous said...

First thing I thought was, "if you're sued by Disney do you lose EVERYTHING, including your children or do you lose everything and go to jail." The later would not be worth it but the first maybe okay depending on how much you like your children.

I've been to Disneyland and I admit it was an experience I have no desire to repeat. I'm not sure I would read a novel about it, however.

If it was hilarious and written in a series of essays in a Erma Bombeck style, I would probably read it.

But it better be hilarious (otherwise remembering the nightmare is not worth it) and it should be short. Pictures would help.


_*Rachel*_ said...

Did you actually start call something in your story a transparent and flimsy plot device? Really?

This need more of a plot arc. You've got some people going somewhere, seeing interesting things, seeing nasty things, and that's it. What are they going to do about it?

Anonymous said...

I skimmed after paragraph 2. Spoofing etc theme park worlds has been done so creatively and effectively in the past, this seems under-developed. Definitely get your own theme park and find a plot, for creative reasons.

Anonymous said...

I hope it is more "amusing" than that bit of dialogue would suggest.

Anonymous said...

The query letter is, uh, unconventional and needs a lot of work. But if there's an actual story in there I would like it.

I guess putting dialogue or snippets in the query letter is a no-no but in this case it made me understand what this is all about.

At least it's not another teenage vampire in love book.

blogless troll said...

For maximum comic effect, exaggerate the obnoxiousness of the guests at your park.

You'd have to make them serial killers to top their actual behavior. Hey, there you go author. Have your Disney commandos serial be killers and now you've got the start of a plot. But you do need a plot, because without one it's just Carl Hiaasen wannabe stuff, and he does Disney loathing way better.

Eric P. said...

It's a rare and refreshing moment when the author describes their work as "a flimsy, transparent plot device...". Saves us editors and reviewers a lot of effort.

You say "accuracy" but you portray Disney cast members doing things that would get them immediately fired--customer service standards are (at least reportedly) very high at the Disney theme parks. I don't buy it.

Now, obnoxious customers on the other hand--I think this is the perfect opportunity for a link to http://stupidguesttricks.com/.

Maybe if you don't write it as a novel but as a collection of absurd customer relations stories, you'd have something.

However, your choices appear to be ditch the name "Disney" now, or fight a long and expensive legal battle, lose, and ditch the name "Disney" later. Your call.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I could have a skewed perspective here since I know half a dozen friends and family who've worked for the Mouse (including my husband), but it seems to me this doesn't go far enough to be satire. Everything in this query letter - except for non-cast members sneaking behind the scenes - is something that happens every day in the Happiest Place on Earth. Though Mickey would probably call you something far worse than "butthead" if you snuck behind the scenes and interrupted his precious, precious break.

Dave F. said...

There's so much to skewer in Disney but DON'T use Disney or any of their characters. Invent your own.

The first time, I took my Mom, Aunt, brother's four kids to Disney Orlando and we had fun. Dinner with the Disney characters was always scheduled in advance. Chip and Dale were naughty. I got pinched and hugged too tight. Dinner with Minnie and Goofy was strange. Goofy was drunk and I could see him groping Minnie in the waiting room. And grope is the word for where he stuck his hands. This was back in '87 or '88 and the employees just did everything possible to make life easy and fun. Accessibility was excellent. No waiting in lines.

They only let the actors be in character for 20 or so minutes and then they haul them out to rest. I Can't imagine being one of those characters for hours at a time.

About ten years later, I went for five years in a row. I went with a group of high school kids that built robots and competed in contests. Most of the time we were in big tents with robots and HS kids in the EPCOT parking lot. WE had handicapped advisers and handicapped kids in the group. Think like 20 teens, two more in wheelchairs, three advisers in chairs or canes, and a dozen adults. Our group was a challenge.

I did notice that Disney no longer pushed wheelchairs to the front of the line. There were bunches of scooters for the overweight. And you waited in lines. Did I say that before? It was a big change. I was stranded more than once waiting for a bus with a lift and when you are hungry (like starving) that's bad. Too many people faked disability so they could get special treatment. I will say that the special characters never treated any kid poorly. And if they saw a kid with any sort of disability, they went out of their way to make them happy with a special little fuss.

But adults -- This isn't going to sound too nice but it is true -- I've had people who can barely waddle ten feet because they eat everything they see, push my chair back and demand their turn first. I've seen adults step in front of a girl with CP and block her view because they want to be at the front of a line. I've had to wait for my family and friends because adults with sore feet demanded to be seated in the handicapped seats. I never believed people could be so rude.

Those people are so ripe for satire. I'm on the author's side with this one. Just don't do Disney. They are litigious.

The query can be non-traditional. However, you have to make it as funny as the book -- laugh out loud funny. And I would write it as an expose' of the law suit. Let the reader taste some of the satire. Make it Planet Rodentia that has drunken and lewd workers, rude and pushy patrons -- stuff like that.

I can see the query beginning something like:
Dear Editor,
When a cigar-smoking Cinderella cusses out Tiger and Pooh for stealing her tips from the autograph seekers, Dave Jevik knows he's hit paydirt. Dave's on a mission to prove (the lawsuit wrong).

You can go that way in a query and get away with it.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like it might be more about the visitors than the park (just another thing to clarify). That seems like it would make it safer than a frontal attack on disney.

Dave F. said...

I remember a news story that some of the college kids working in the fancy parades at Disney were complaining that the costumes weren't being dry-cleaned often enough and they didn't like dressing in stinky, sweaty, ripe costumes for the big parades.

Ruth said...

Awwwwww, I totally wanted it to be GTP #3.


Mother (Re)produces. said...

Duff Gardens is where the Simpsons always wind up.

This needs more insight to be funny. All the examples are pretty predictable; tell me something I don't know about theme parks and working there. And something about the "plot."

Anonymous said...

Hey Everybody,

Author here.

Yeah, that was a bad query letter. I adapted it from a letter I sent to somebody "in the business" (who ignored it) because what I really want to know is, can you write a story like this and if you can, how do you pitch it?

I think Dave F. and Blogless understand what I'm getting at. It's more about the awful things people do in these parks "because I paid a lot of money to be here."

I happen to think the character scene is funny, and it reflects the attitude of a lot of park visitors. Then again, I think the guy riding around on a scooter with a colostomy bag hanging on the back because he doesn't want to take time to visit a bathroom is funny. That scene isn't typical of what's in the story. A more typical incident in the story is what happens when a worker has to choose who goes first between people with three different handicaps or how the Exxon Energy Pavilion sneers at all energy that isn't fossil fuel, or what Nancy does about the kid who's been taking skin off the back of her legs for forty minutes in the Space Mountain Line. Etc. The stuff you deal with when you go to a place like this.

The query also had that age-old problem of presenting situations that are reasonable in the story but look impossible in the query (like the butthead thing).

I've written a lot of query letters and if I go ahead with this (unlikely) I'll take all of your suggestions and fix it up.

Thanks EE and Minions. I finally understand what to do, or not do, with this. I think this is the fifth time I've had a query or opening posted here over the past few years and I learned the most this time.

Kings Falcon said...

What's the lawsuit about? If it's not important don't throw in a line about it.

Other than stalking the Zandanels, what does Dave DO?

What are the stakes? What's he have to overcome?

Dave F. said...

Exxon Energy Pavilion sneers at all energy that isn't fossil fuel

That made me laugh out loud. It's been that way from day one of the Exxon Pavilion.

Even funnier is that the presentation is skewed to assets in the energy field that only Exxon owns. They are why I didn't finish my research career in heterogeneous catalysis. The bought the technology, lock stock and barrel.

Anonymous said...

Dear Fred,

Dave Jevik wasn’t too happy to hear that his wife had scheduled a family vacation to Snodgrass World Resort with the Zandanels. Loudmouth Vinnie is hard to put up with for an hour, let alone a week. But when Vinnie spots wheelchair-bound George Van Morrison in first class on the flight to Florida, the dreaded trip takes on a sense of purpose. Van Morrison claims he was injured at a restaurant owned by Dave’s friend back home and the lawsuit has already been filed.

Dave and Vinnie just know he’s faking it and they have a week at Snodgrass World to save the restaurant by proving it. They’ll have to dodge fleets of wheel chairs and scooters long enough to expose him while taking in park attractions like ‘Brutal Yet Fun and Lovable Buccaneers’ and ‘Showcase of Random Allied Countries.’

Vinnie’s sharp-elbowed wife is indispensable as she leads the way past line-cutters, other people’s obnoxious children and the maniac driving the scooter with the on-board colostomy bag. When they befriend a crotchety bartender back at the hotel Dave and Vinnie unexpectedly tap an inside source that just might help them get their man.

Anybody who’s ever taken a trip to Orlando will recognize most of what they read about in Snodgrass Vacation, a 65,000 politically incorrect satire of theme park life.

Please let me know if you would like to take a look at this.



_*Rachel*_ said...

Change the first sentence to:

Dave Jevik wasn’t too happy to hear that his wife had scheduled a family vacation to Snodgrass World Resort with the Loudmouth Vinnie Zandanel.

...back at the hotel[,] Dave and Vinnie...

That done, I think the query's perfect. It's concise, zippy, humorous, and sarcastic, and has a clear plot. If your novel is like this, I rather expect to see it on the bookshelves. It's not my usual genre, but if you give me a heads-up, I'll read it.

Matthew said...

I thought it was okay. Shades of Wally World?

Steve Wright said...

Much improved, but -

"... a 65,000 politically incorrect satire of theme park life."

Make sure you proofread!

Anonymous said...

much better

Anonymous said...

Snodgrass makes me think of someone blowing their nose. Any other names for the Disney-esque place?

Anonymous said...

Thanks folks. Rachel, I made both the fixes you suggested. Thanks for the careful inspection and the kind words.

Steve W., I never miss anything you post. Thanks for noticing the 65,000 dollar error.

I wrote this for fun and I'm pretty sick of the agent submission thing but I might go ahead with it...

Thanks again,

...dave c.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Go for it!

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Holy crap. Rock the hell on, author, this is 1000% better!

Two small quibbles: with the opening paragraph you throw three sets of first and last names in quick succession at us, including two that start with V. On the first read through I thought it was Vinnie suing a different friend of Dave's. Maybe if you just used one name per character and called them Dave, Vinnie, and Van Morrison?

And I have to say I didn't understand why a man about to lose his restaurant would take his family on a Snodgrass vacation. It would make more sense to me if Vinnie was going to the park specifically to follow Van Morrison, but his wife got wind of it and insisted on dragging the family along.

But the voice is there and this looks hilarious. Well done!

Evil Editor said...

Van Morrison being a famous name, I assume there's a reason it's being used?

Anonymous said...

Actually, it is a friend of Dave's that's being sued, not Dave. I better clear that up.

The Van Morrison name was just a throwaway. Once in a while there's a completely meaningless case of mistaken identity.

Thanks Evil. I really think I'm just going to sit on this one. Somebody said something nice about my query letter, I think that's as good as it gets!

_*Rachel*_ said...

But what's the point of the perfect query letter if you don't USE it? If you mean you'll just let it ferment for a while to get a little more perspective, awesome. If you never send it off, you got some practice--but practice is no good if you don't use what you learned.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I know it's a defeatist attitude. I just don't feel like investing myself in the query-rejection cycle anymore.

The first query letter was horrible because I was really just trying to find out if I could get away with writing this story in the first place. Then, I guess I got my hackles up when everybody rightfully expressed their disgust over it.

As far as the literary world goes my high water mark is going to be my appearance in Novel Deviations. I'm good with that...

_*Rachel*_ said...

Hey, you did really well. I see how well you can write and revise, and I think it's a shame you're thinking of just stopping here. Have you sent in your opening? It's not my genre, but this is a book I really want to read.

Anonymous said...

You're way too kind. This can be had for .99 as an Amazon kindle book. Or just send me an email, I'll give you a copy. But I warn you -- maybe you won't want to read it once you read it.