Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Face-Lift 694


Guess the Plot

Writer's Block

1. 101 excuses to use when your family, friends, and complete strangers ask why you're not published. Also, ways to get words on a page without saying anything important, constructive, or plot-based.

2. After Joe breaks his writer's block by writing himself into his book, things get strange and soon he finds he can't do anything that he hasn't already done in the book. He tries writing that he won the lottery and got lucky with Madge, but all that stuff happens to his cousin Reggie, while Joe becomes the deranged elevator killer.

3. With his deadline rapidly approaching, panic-stricken Dan Harris goes on a crime spree, intending to end up in the state penitentiary. Can he come up with another best seller from behind bars in . . . Writer's Block?

4. To escape a loveless marriage, two characters give their author writer’s block. They enter a realm called “Writer’s Block” where characters live while their authors are unable to write. Turns out their lives in Writer's Block are far more interesting than in the book they left, but can they find a way to give their author permanent writer's block?

5. Charles Wallers thinks he has a clear case of discrimination when he complains to the Equal Housing Office. Then he notices the fine print in the neighborhood zoning regulations. If he wants to put in a bid for that charming split-level on the corner, Wallers is going to have to come up with a manuscript or at least a query letter.

6. When gossipmonger Gale Strong is found dead in her home on Elysian Fields Avenue, the truth behind the lives of her suburban thirtysomething neighbors surfaces. Unwittingly, writer Charity Midland uncovers several tawdry secrets, which provide ample material for her next novel.



Original Version


Dear Evil Editor,

To escape a loveless marriage, Nicholas and Aaryanna [, two characters in an unfinished romance novel,] give their author writer’s block. They enter a realm of Fiction, coincidentally nicknamed “Writer’s Block” where the characters live while their authors are unable to write. Aaryanna pursues an inter-book relationship with Prince Donovan, a Rambo like warrior prince from another novel. Nicholas learns from his roommate that it is possible to enter Reality and either give his author permanent writer’s block, or become Real, like the great King Arthur.

In Reality, whatever an author says about her character instantly becomes true. In order to become Real, Nicholas has to act against her. If she says he loves apples, he must hate them. This is easier said than done. Nicholas is incapable of recognizing when his author, Anne, is controlling him. She makes him love washing dishes so much that he sings. He takes a moment to remember how incredibly handsome he is. When she plays ‘he loves me, he loves me not’, he falls in love with her. [You're losing us with all this trivia about the world. Only the last six words are important in that paragraph.]

Nicholas’ time to achieve Reality is limited. At any moment Anne could begin writing again, which would instantly send him back to the book. Also, he is not the only fictional character in Reality. Fictional characters have roamed Reality for centuries, seeking their authors in order to become Real. Real people call them “supernatural”, and they are drawn to Nicholas. Anne’s small town of Greenriver gains a lake monster, the Mothman, and leprechauns. If he stays in Greenriver too long, it could be overrun by fictional characters. This could cause it to be claimed by Fiction itself, like the continent Atlantis. [Another paragraph filled with random facts. Only the first two sentences are focused on Nicholas's problem.]

Nicholas’ disappearance causes problems for Writer’s Block. Anne is a beginner author. She chose not to give the Baron Farent, Nicholas’ villain, any redeeming qualities. Because of this, the Baron is unfit for proper Block society, and must be imprisoned to protect the characters. When Nicholas leaves fiction, the Baron is able to escape imprisonment. He cannot focus on anything other than revenge against Nicholas. [You need to acquire the baron's admirable ability to focus on one thing.] He starts kidnapping characters in order to draw Nicholas to his fortress in the Beastlands, where the monsters of Fiction live. Because of a prophecy in the book, Nicholas is the only character capable of capturing the Baron, and he resides in Reality.

The Baron kidnaps Aaryanna, and Prince Donovan enters Reality to talk Nicholas into returning to Fiction to rescue her. The Baron also learns that Nicholas is in Reality, and follows him there. He discovers Anne and Nicholas’ relationship, and kidnaps Anne as well. Nicholas must return to Fiction to rescue both Anne, and Aaryanna, before the Baron realizes that he has kidnapped his author and can control the rest of the book. Unfortunately, Nicholas has become Real and is no longer a fictional match for the Baron.

Writer’s Block is complete at 60,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes

It's too long and too detailed. Your main selling point here is the idea. For once we can do without all the plot specifics. Drop paragraph 2. Follow paragraph 1 with something like:

Nicholas’ time to achieve Reality is limited. At any moment his author, Anne, could begin writing again, which would instantly send him back to the book. Also, he is not the only fictional character in Writer's Block; the place is overrun with villains and monsters.

Shortly after becoming real, Nicholas learns that Aaryanna has been kidnapped by the fictional villain Baron Farent. Only Nicholas can save her, by returning to Fiction. But there's one problem: he doesn't want to leave Reality; he's fallen in love with his creator, Anne.


I'd leave the part about Anne being kidnapped for the book. The query has enough conflict for Nicholas without it. This is the kind of book in which an author can easily go overboard, making it more complicated than it needs to be. If you keep the query--and the plot--reasonably clear and simple, it could work very well.

Wouldn't it be better if the characters simply found themselves in Writer's Block, rather than sending their author there? If they have the power to give Anne writer's block, it's less worrisome that she might start writing again; they can just give her writer's block again.

9 comments:

Faceless Minion said...

I like this (and GTP#2&#5. Good job).

In addition to leaving out some of the world-building detail, you could tighten this up by not repeating descriptions. Example with cutting items in the first paragraph:

To escape a loveless marriage, Nicholas and Aaryanna give their author writer’s block. They enter a realm of Fiction [snip] where [snip] characters live while their authors are unable to write. Aaryanna pursues a[snip] relationship with Prince Donovan, a [snip] warrior prince from another novel. Nicholas learns[snip] that it is possible to enter Reality[snip].

This could probably be tightened more. The part about Nicholas would work better combined with him actually entering reality and what happens there, e.g. Nicholas learns how to enter Reality where his author (unintentionally) makes him fall in love with her. Or something like that.

I would recommend mentioning up front that Nicholas and Aaryanna are characters.

Hope this helps.

Eric said...

1. Take out your sharpest pruning shears.

2. Recite Strunk & White's rule #17.

3. Go!

I think you have a good query under all the excess foliage. Your plot is also the one on the GTP list that made me think, "Man, wouldn't it be great if it was that one?" And then it was. Keep it that simple and you'll hook us. Fill it with irrelevant detail and you'll lose us.

If the characters have autonomous actions and independent will, is it really "Fiction"? Seems more like a parallel meta-world.

What happens when a novel is finally published? Do the characters vanish from Writer's Block and die, or do they continue their independent meta-existence?

What would happen to my book if a character from somebody else's book killed one of my characters while I had writer's block? Should I be worried?

What happens when an author creates a "Mary Sue"-type self insertion character? Do they develop dual consciousness?

(Note, answers to the preceding shouldn't necessarily be in the query; I'm just curious.)

Ever seen the movie Stranger than Fiction? Tangentially similar concept, quite well done.

Xiexie said...

I like this premise a lot and I agree with EE's recommendations.

A minor nit: In paragraph 4, fiction wasn't capitalized.

Oh and GTP 2 is great.

Anonymous said...

Author here:

Thank you so much for the critique, EE! I was scared out of my mind to submit because I had no idea how to query it, and I haven't attempted a query letter before.

Faceless Minion: Thank you for the suggestions! I can definitely see how to tighten it from your example. I don't have too much of a head for query letters, but I have to learn!

Eric: I'm glad you like the concept! The query definitely needs some pruning. To answer your questions:

"If the characters have autonomous actions and independent will, is it really "Fiction"? Seems more like a parallel meta-world." I'm really not sure...I didn't get that technical! They consider their world to be Fiction, and their free will depends a lot on how well their author developed them. (As evidenced by the Baron's inabilty to do anything but seek revenge.)

"What happens when a novel is finally published? Do the characters vanish from Writer's Block and die, or do they continue their independent meta-existence?"

If a book is finished, the characters disappear from the Block. They live on in the stories, and every time someone reads the book. This is why Nicholas is determed to become Real. He can't stand the idea of living happily ever after with Aaryanna. They really, really don't like each other. Nicholas also has a roommate, Scott, who is determined to become Real that enters Reality with him. His determination stems from the fact that his author is going to make him die alone and unloved.

Incidentally, if an author dies, the characters are stuck in the Block forever. (Which can be a problem if you're a character who is pregnant...)

"What would happen to my book if a character from somebody else's book killed one of my characters while I had writer's block? Should I be worried?" Love this question! Only an author can kill a character. They can be beat up to the point of death, but they'll recover.

"What happens when an author creates a "Mary Sue"-type self insertion character? Do they develop dual consciousness?" LOL! No...that character hangs out in the Block. However, there IS an Autobiographical Characters section. These are people who have exaggerated their own life story so much that they've actually managed to fictionalize themselves. They're essentially trapped in Fiction, and are missing people in Reality. This is the portal to Reality in Writer's Block.

I loved Stranger than Fiction!

Thank you Xiexie!

Eric said...

Author: Looks like you've done a great job working out your concept and its implications. Very entertaining. I think I'd likely enjoy this book quite a bit; be sure to keep us informed on its progress!

Robin S. said...

Fictional characters have roamed Reality for centuries, seeking their authors in order to become Real. Real people call them “supernatural”, and they are drawn to Nicholas.

Author, This is good stuff, and I like it.

I'd try to use this in the first para or so - because it seems like a helluva hook. (I'm as jaded as a person can get, and it hooked me.)

Anonymous said...

It's sort of like Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo.

Marissa Doyle said...

Reminds me a bit of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I'd read it.

You know, authors are always saying that their characters are taking their stories into their own hands, and it's true. (For instance, I just recently found out that Sammi and Julea are half-sisters....) Authors may control a lot about their characters, but not everything.