Monday, November 30, 2009

Face-Lift 701

Guess the Plot

Mysterious Gift

1. Ludlow strives to perfect the anti-gravity device despite Pruddy's lack of business sense and the constant hyper-criticisms of his mother. And that is why Charlotte loves him, though, of course, only from afar. Until she receives the . . . Mysterious Gift.

2. The elf left a brightly wrapped package under the sofa just as Edna despaired ever finding true love and happiness. But she never looks under there. After three days the greenie decides to be proactive and tries lots of clever tricks and silly antics -- and gets vacuumed up. Will Edna ever find t. l. & h.???

3. The moment she touches her birthday present, college student Jen is thrust into an ancient war between extraterrestrials and gods. Is she the key to peace after 8000 years of conflict? Can she defeat Seth, the god of evil? Wouldn't perfume have been a better gift?

4. Delbert Toomey answers a knock on his door to find someone has left something on his doorstep. Wrapped in an anonymous brown paper bag, it appears to be on fire. Can Delbert figure out what the mysterious gift is in time to save face . . . and his slippers?

5. Secret Santa is all fun and games, until Hayley opens her package and finds a human hand. Should she report it to the cops or investigate herself? How hard can it be to spot someone who's missing a hand?

6. Partridge, fine. Doves, Ok. But three hens, four collie birds and a squawk-induced headache later, Becca sets a trap for this mysterious admirer. Can Henry get her to accept the remaining gifts and release him from the curse, without telling her about it? Five gold rings might help.


Original Version

Dear (agent name) (Date)

JEN dreams of tomorrow when she graduates as an archeologist and flies to Egypt to begin her fieldwork. [Tomorrow's gonna be a busy day.] Nothing stands in the way of attaining her goals until she touches her 21st birthday gift, an ancient talisman. Jen’s hand jerks up and her mind’s eye opens: as visions of ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses along with alien beings fighting a deadly war fuse together, leading her to question her moral, religious beliefs and her courage. [Who gave her this gift, where'd they buy it, and what's the returns policy there?] With her new extraterrestrial allies, [It's a big step from visions to extraterrestrial allies. Is Jen at war?] family and friends she battles her demons, embraces her newfound inner strengths of courage and sacred beliefs, and undergoes training with the deities, emerging as a warrior queen possessing god-like powers, which she uses against an evil adversary. [I got a better idea. Have her fly to Egypt, meet a hunky archaeologist, fall in love, and live happily ever after.]

When Jen’s 21st birthday gift illuminates a dark room, her dreams begin. She learns to levitate, read and speak any language, see through the eyes of a god, teleport [These aren't her dreams. Her dream is to be an archaeologist.] and kill her enemies. [She has enemies? She's 21. Okay, I had a couple enemies when I was 21, but I didn't kill them.] Her new powers forces Jen to battle her own fears: the horror of killing and the pain of defeat. To lose she knows brings fatality and she knows that death is a coldness lasting an eternity. Also at stake are her religious beliefs. She questions if she is a pawn in a power struggle between gods, or will her actions lead to the resolution of a conflict between good and evil that has raged for 8000 years? [8000 years? Listen, if you can't resolve a conflict within a few millenia, it's time to call in an impartial mediator.] With her family and closest friends, she resolves her personal obstacles, gathers her companions, travels to an alien universe, [How many of the companions she gathers agree to go with her to an alien universe? I mean while keeping a straight face.] and enters a war that is threatening to spill out into the Milky Way Galaxy. Aided by ancient and alien races, early gods, BAST, a protective cat and MICHAEL an intelligent Cyborg [Intelligent cyborgs are such a cliche. Try making your cyborg an idiot.] with a sense of humor—she and her friend’s battle SETH, the god of chaos and evil. Seth’s goals include [but are not limited to] destroying any who oppose him, enslaving all habitable planets and oh yes, taking over as the supreme deity.

My stand alone novel, MYSTERIOUS GIFT, complete at 119,000 words, is a New Adult Science Fiction / Fantasy that takes readers along an avenue of escape and adventure, offering two worlds to explore, one ancient and the other alien and futuristic. The sequel, titled QUEST, is near completion, and the final standalone book is in outline form. Along with my passion for Egyptian, Grecian and Italian archeology, my credentials include a BA in History, participation in archeological field digs and twenty years as a Naval Flight Officer. The above knowledge, sprinkled throughout this adventure, makes MYSTERIOUS GIFT a page-turner. [All books are page-turners; the key statistic is the number of page-turns made before the book is tossed in the trash.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

Scrap the whole thing; it's horrible. Just stick to the plot:

On her 21st birthday, aspiring archaeologist Jen Smith-Barney receives a mysterious package from Bubba Ho-tep. It's an ancient talisman, and it plunges Jen into an adventure involving Egyptian gods, alien beings, demons and a protective cat.

That's enough backstory. Now tell us what happens in the book. Make it sound like an adventure. That means leave out the inner strengths of courage and the moral, religious beliefs and the fears and personal obstacles. Focus on Jen and what she does and the stakes.

12 comments:

Ulysses said...

"All books are page-turners; the key statistic is the number of page-turns made before the book is tossed in the trash."

--Ah, sir, you've hit the nail on the head. If you've got a formula for figuring that one out, share.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, too much. In three attempts I had the "oh, please!" reaction each time and couldn't get through it.

David Ferretti III said...

Thank you EE for your helpful incites on my query letter. I will write a stronger correspondence.
Sincerely
David

batgirl said...

What is 'New Adult'? Is that like 'Young Adult'?
A minor point - you might want to skip the mention of Jen receiving godlike powers. Once someone has godlike powers, there doesn't seem to be a lot of uncertainty about whether they will survive and/or succeed.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I'm having visions of kitchen sinks--but maybe it's just an effect of this head cold.

pacatrue said...

Since I'm working on application letters today, I loved: "Seth’s goals include [but are not limited to] destroying any who oppose him, enslaving all habitable planets and oh yes, taking over as the supreme deity."

Anyway, as EE says, there's no real sense of plot to the query letter. It's a collection of cool things that occur. What does the heroine actually do?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to nit-pick, but if she's just turning 21, she's probably just finishing up a BA in archaeology. They *might* let her loose with a trowel in an area that they don't think she'll screw up too badly, but she's certainly not an "archaeologist" yet.

Adam Heine said...

Batgirl (and others): New Adult is something St. Martin's Press is trying out. See here for some references. That said, I'm not sure if it's something we should be mentioning in queries yet.

Though if we can, I'd like to know. My WIP is New Adult sci-fi/fantasy too.

Whirlochre said...

In your rewrite, take care not to get lost off on small details such as dark rooms, hands jerking up and let's hear more about the cat and the cyborg.

blogless troll said...

So... New Adult = Adults Who'd Rather Avoid The Realities and Responsibilities of Adulthood For a Few More Years? That's actually probably a huge market.

But they should call it something else, because, chronologically, New would come before Young. How about Immature Adult? Or, Mollycoddled Adult? Or, If You Choose To Live Your Life As An Overgrown Child It's Extremely Easy For The Rest Of Us To Take Advantage Of You Adult?

Anonymous said...

This is another in the "The Author Sounds Far More Interesting Than the Book Does" series...

Anonymous said...

I would knock off Christmas shoppers off the escalator for the chance to buy this one:

Partridge, fine. Doves, Ok. But three hens, four collie birds and a squawk-induced headache later, Becca sets a trap for this mysterious admirer. Can Henry get her to accept the remaining gifts and release him from the curse, without telling her about it? Five gold rings might help