Thursday, November 19, 2009

Face-Lift 699

Guess the Plot

Along the Beach

1. The waves roll in bringing Gobby. The waves roll out saying, "No Returns". Gobby will become the Pied Piper of W(h)ales and lead crabs, beachcombers, and romantically inclined pets to take revenge on the Sky Reflected below. But first, a seaweed/squid-ink cooking festival.

2. The California coast is both rugged and beautiful. And when random body parts start washing ashore on beaches ranging from Ventura to Corona Del Mar, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: there's more than two victims, and he'll finally get a chance to see the tide pools.

3. Dave made his 843rd walk along the beach, collecting driftwood for his fire. Since being stranded he'd given up clothes, wearing only a layer of mud against the sun and insects. But today would be different. Yes, this was one wilderness camp the Girl Scouts would not soon forget.

4. Lee's mom told him he would one day meet his soul mate . . . along the beach. It was a prophecy he would never forget, that he would, in fact, become obsessed with. But after decades of searching, he begins to wonder if maybe he should have asked her which beach.

5. Karen gets up early every morning just so she can watch that hunky guy jog past her beach cottage. He hasn't even noticed her, and now her vacation's half over. Will she take up jogging and join him tomorrow morning? Or just assume he's a jerk and admire the view?

6. Four children have drowned since Chip Barker got hired as lifeguard at the community pool, all because Chip was too busy flirting with bikini babes to pay attention to the swimmers. He's promised to turn over a new leaf, but as he watches the kiddie pool on the hottest day of the year, Chelsea walks by in her gold bikini. Tragedy ensues.

Original Version

[I've gone through three iterations on my query, and wonder if the solution as this point is grabbing portions from each and merging into a fourth version that takes the prize. Or not.]


Dear Mr./Ms. (Agent),

Soulmates. Faith. Destiny. “Fanciful words,” many would say. But not Lee Merrick.

Those words are with him day and night. Intriguing him. Haunting him. And quite possibly driving him mad. [I'm not sure what "fanciful" means in this context. Why can't fanciful words be with a person day and night, intriguing and haunting him?] His only hope is to find the truth behind the enchanting visions of a woman he has fallen in love with but has never met. [His only hope of what?]

Along the Beach is a 107,000-word novel journeying from the outermost reaches of the globe [What are the outermost reaches of the globe?] to the inner depths of the soul.

Far away from his Los Angeles home photographing exotic shorelines, Lee is entranced by mystical visions of the “Lady in White.” Could she be the woman first revealed in a prophecy foretold in his youth—that he will someday meet his soulmate along the beach? [Maybe. Did the prophecy mention that his soul mate would be in white? Did it mention anything besides the beach? I ask only because when you go to the beach, you tend to see dozens of people who might be your soul mate. Once I was sitting on the beach and a group of nine women walked by, seven of them being my soul mates.] Yet a secret from long-ago [which I will not reveal to you, although you can find out by requesting my manuscript,] compels his own mother to stop at nothing to prevent his success. [If you just say "his mother," we'll figure out that you mean "his own mother."] On a path of self-discovery spanning a decade, Lee faces the unknown in faraway places, and will ultimately be confronted with his greatest challenge: to overcome the logic of his inner doubts holding back his certainty that beyond the vision of her spirit, breathes this mysterious woman somewhere in the world. [That one sentence is a deal killer.] [Now that he's narrowed down her location to "somewhere in the world," it's just a matter of time before he finds her.] For he knows that he will never be whole until he touches her hand, to unite with the one who already completes his most sacred thoughts [My most sacred thoughts involve Jessica Alba, and I don't need a soul mate to complete them.] and echoes his own heartbeat–his other half.

My metaphysically-themed piece ATLANTIS, ARISE appeared in the national magazine {magazine title listed here} Vol. 84, No. 2. For almost two decades, I have affiliated and sojourned with mystical societies to several continents showcased in the story. These personal experiences and background provide authenticity throughout the work. [On the other hand, the fact that you've spent decades sojourning with mystical societies brands you as a borderline lunatic.]

Thank you for considering Along the Beach.


[That one's not gonna cut it, let's see what we have in the second version.]


Dear {Mr./Ms. Agent’s Last Name}

A horde of killer bees in Borneo. An armed robbery in Los Angeles. A deadly riptide off the Pacific. Malaria in East Africa. [These are a few of my favorite things...] A vision of a lady in white guiding him to safety each time. [Those didn't sound like situations that would require a guide.] For travel photographer Lee Merrick, the extraordinary is the ordinary. [The items in that list were all dangerous, but they didn't seem extraordinary.]

As her ethereal hands guide his at the piano to play a Chopin prelude he never knew, Lee wonders about the prophecy from his youth that foretells he will someday meet “Her” along the beach. [The woman in white guides him out of all these dangerous situations and makes him a piano virtuoso, but he's still wondering if she's the woman in the prophecy?] But the dark secret of his mother’s own deadly prophecy compels her to sabotage his pursuit at all costs—even if it means having Lee institutionalized against his will. [How often does Mom announce her prophecies, and how often have they come true?]

Time is running out for Lee. Mounting clues beckon him toward finding this woman who pleads for him to believe that she and her love for him are real, but he may not uncover the truth before his obsession robs him of his family, friends, and freedom.

ALONG THE BEACH is a 107,000-word New Age novel.

My metaphysically-themed piece Atlantis, Arise appeared in the national magazine [magazine title listed here] vol. 84. The pyramids, temples, and mysterious places highlighted in Along The Beach are written with authenticity based on nearly two decades of sojourns exploring those locations across the world with metaphysical societies.

Thank you for considering Along The Beach.


{Full contact info listed here}

[Third time's the charm, they say.]


Dear Mr./Ms. {Agent’s Last Name}

Do you believe in soul mates? Do you believe that they are destined to meet, if they follow their truest life’s path? Lee Merrick cannot let go of these questions. He cannot let go of a woman whom he has loved but never met. [I loved a woman I never met. She was at an 866 number. I didn't love her so much when I got my VISA bill.]

Along the Beach is a 107,000-word visionary New Age novel which takes the reader around the world.

Traveling as a nature photographer to exotic shorelines far from home, Lee is entranced by mystical visions of the "Lady in White." On a journey of discovery spanning a decade, he faces the unknown in faraway places, while confronting his doubts that he will ever realize a prophesy given in his youth—that he will someday meet his soul mate along the beach.

My metaphysically-themed piece ATLANTIS, ARISE appeared in the national magazine {title} Vol. 84, No. 2. For almost two decades, I have affiliated and sojourned with mystical societies to several continents showcased in the story. These personal experiences lend an air of authenticity to the work.

Thank you for considering Along the Beach.


{Author name/full contact info}

[nb: Example 3's opening swas hot down due to some agents loathing rhetorical questions] [While it goes without saying that rejecting a query for no reason other than rhetorical questions is the height of anal, nitpicking buffoonery (I, personally, would have read past the questions and rejected you for calling your novel "visionary"), your rhetorical questions are irrelevant and meaningless.

[Strike 3.]


He's in love with the woman in white? Have the conversations he's had with her in her ethereal form amounted to more than her telling him she's real? While she's pleading with him to believe her love for him is real, why doesn't she mention which beach she's hanging out on?

I recommend just summarizing the main plot:

In his youth, Lee's mother, a Gypsy fortune teller with proven psychic abilities, prophesied that he would meet his soul mate on a beach. Ever since, Lee has had visions of a mysterious woman in white who saves him whenever rhinoceroses attack. But now, as Lee pursues his destiny on the beaches of the world, he finds his quest thwarted . . . by his mother, who will stop at nothing to prevent her prophecy from manifesting.

That seems to be the important stuff; expand on it with a few specifics, and leave out the new age mumbo jumbo.

If mom is trying to prevent the prophecy from being correct, I assume it's not guaranteed to be correct. Also, if she didn't want him to find his soul mate, why didn't she foretell that he would find her in Kansas?


Glue Man Dumer said...

Maybe if you lost the idea of it being a New Age novel and instead called it a romance with New Age elements things would come into focus for you. That's probably not what you're going for, but there doesn't seem to be much story here, just a lot of longing and searching. And while that be a profound metaphysical point, it doesn't carry a novel. Stuff has to happen. For example, another story that begins with a dude falling for an ethereal woman in white that he's never met ends with the Death Star exploding. I'm not saying you need explosions... but something.

Faceless Minion said...

A large group of bees is normally called a swarm.

I like the credits paragraph from option #2 best (but leave off 'across the world with metaphysical societies ')

There is enough character motivation without mentioning the (two conflicting?) prophec(y/ies) -- he's in love with the woman who saved his life, his family thinks he's crazy. If you want to leave them in you might want to be more specific about what they (both) say.

Feliza said...

Interesting. I like bits and pieces of each letter, but it took me a minute to understand what was going on here. I agree with EE--start with a quick description of the prophecy set-up, then on to info about Lee and his obsession with the Lady in White.

I like how Query #2 gives some specifics about Lee's "relationship" with the Lady in White. For me, Lee's situation (loving someone he's never met) is a hard sell, so I'd really like to see compelling reasons for his feelings. Maybe describing one event in which the Lady in White has saved Lee in greater detail (e.g. killer bees in Borneo) would give this more punch? The little sentence fragments are interesting, but I'd prefer info on one specific event over the current Query #2 set-up.

Right now, it feels as if the Lady in White could be a helper or guardian angel, but not necessarily a love interest. I wonder if more info about Lee's personal life and possible lack of substantial relationships might make his romantic feelings for the Lady in White more understandable.

I'm also not really feeling Lee's internal or external conflicts yet. While the author mentions Lee's mother trying to stop him from fulfilling the prophecy and Lee's obsession potentially undermining his connections to family and friends, I'd like to have a bit more information on his personal life first so I can care about what's at stake. I was under the impression that Lee is a bit of a nomad, so the lack of relationship-type information made me assume he was a loner. Thus, losing these relationships didn't seem like such a big deal.

And finally... These personal experiences lend an air of authenticity to the work. To me, that feels like TELLING versus SHOWING. Do mention the experiences, but maybe let the reader decide if the final product carries an air of authenticity.

Steve Wright said...

I'd suggest rewriting it with a view towards:

- describing the plot in simple declarative sentences.
- dropping any rhetorical questions.
- avoiding the words "visionary" or "mystical" (your readers might like to decide for themselves whether it's visionary or not).
- avoid phrases like "voyage of self-discovery" or "logic of his inner doubts".
- and please, while you're at it, stop misusing "sojourn"; it's not big and clever just because Stephen Donaldson makes the same mistake. (It's a synonym for "visit", not "journey".)

Describing your book as a "visionary New Age novel" is enough to make me flee screaming into the night, but that may just be me - possibly it's somebody else's cup of (holistic, herbal) tea....

BuffySquirrel said...

No, I don't believe in soulmates. Which pretty much kills query version #3 stone dead.

pacatrue said...

Yeah, you need specifics. I'm actually not clear where the prophecies come from, his mother or someone else? I think the plot is roughly: he was told as a child that he would meet his soul mate on a beach. Therefore, he's spent his entire professional life traveling on beaches hoping to meet her. Family thinks he's crazy -- but it's here that things again become confusing.

If they are a typical family who doesn't believe in prophecy, then it makes sense, but, is the mother the prophet? If so, why would he be strange for following what his own mother believes?

What obstacles does he encounter from his mother? Does he just wander on beaches until a climactic conversation with mom at the end, or does she start her work quite early in the book and it is these obstacles which he overcomes? It should be difficult for her to have him committed for being successful freelance photographer who travels the world.

Also, I think it would be okay to say what the mom's prophecy is that's so compelling. The main plot seems to revolve around this, so spill the beans to the agent.

"His mother was told that her soulmate would be found in a cave, but the soulmate turned out to be Satan who just wanted her soul. She is now determined that her son's soulmate is Ishtar, Babylonian Goddess of Pain and will do anything to prevent his meeting her."

_*Rachel*_ said...

That reference to The Sound of Music makes me glad I wasn’t drinking anything while reading. (Of course, I was knitting with long, sharp needles, but hey, blood stains aren’t too hard to get out if you catch them quickly… ok, ok, I’m fine.)

As for the queries, it had me reaching for the book. Only problem: reaching for my copy of This Present Darkness, not your book. Sorry. You could try emphasizing the romance over the weird stuff.

Adam Heine said...

EE's summarization actually sounds really cool. Provided we know why his mother is trying to thwart him.

150 said...

Dude, just say what happens. In order.

"Travel photographer Lee Merrick _______, but when he ______, _______."

batgirl said...

It sounds rather as if the conflict is between Lee and his mother, in which case it might help to have some idea of why she wants to stop him from achieving what she prophesied would happen. That's what holds me off from the story, that I don't get a clear idea of what the conflict is, and what's at stake for Lee (will he lose vision-girl? will he die in a swarm of killer bees?) and for his mother (vision-girl will bung her into a Home as soon as she marries Lee?)