Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Face-Lift 711


Guess the Plot

How to Kiss a Ghost

1. Step 1: Tilt your head to keep the scruff from tickling your chin. Step 2: No tongue unless you want to get kicked. Step 3: Lots and lots of breath mints. What? Oh, I thought you said "Goat".

2. First you have to die, no faking. Next you have to make sure you're on the same wavelength as your non-corporeal other. Ignore all the spectators. Are you sure you wouldn't rather just go for someone normal?

3. Find a really, really hot guy, and accidentally run over him. Then get a Ouija board and pucker up.

4. Elsie falls in love with a guy who exists in her mirror. Is he a ghost? Was he trapped there by a witch's spell? Would it look weird if someone saw her kissing the mirror?

5. Jack and Bertha run a B & B in Wyoming which is on the brink of collapse until they start running seminars on the secrets of 'love beyond the grave'. Hilarity ensues when spoil-sport Tammy Hillburg attends undercover as a 'widow' to make a documentary film exposing the fakery.

6. Being dead has its advantages for Greg, but sex with your lover isn't one--especially when she's still alive. So to help others overcome this obstacle, Greg and Sally sit down together to write their first self-help book.

7. When Claire Wincefield's husband died in a freak yachting accident on their honeymoon, her friends told her to put it behind her. But Claire is made of sterner stuff; now, with the help of unconventional psychic Cassiopeia Milestone, she's planning to put the romance back into necromancy.

8. Film star Ellen Lauder must appear to carry on an entire 'romance' with her CGI co-star, who will be supplied in post-production. Meanwhile no one is there. She finds this impossible until the ghost of Sidney Jackson appears. And then she gets fired for being 'too X-rated' -- but now the ghost won't leave!


Original Version

Dear Agent,

In my 60,000-word YA Paranormal romance, HOW TO KISS A GHOST, seventeen-year-old Elsie can see him, she can hear him, but she can't touch him or can she? [One thing's for sure: she can smell him. How long's he been dead?] [Put a dash or an ellipsis after "touch him."]

Elsie doesn’t remember being pushed into oncoming traffic by a drunk driver, getting broadsided by Aiden Prescott’s BMW, [Could you diagram that accident for me?] or even dying and returning to life with a gift for seeing ghosts. All she knows is her sister is dead and she should be dead too. [What makes her think she should be dead too, if she doesn't even remember the accident?] To escape the pain, Elsie attempts to overdose, [Elsie had nothing to do with her sister's death, right?] but a ghostly boy appears in the mirror as the bottle touches her lips, freaking her out at first, [When you look in a mirror and see someone else's face looking back, first confirm that the mirror isn't actually a window; then freak out . . . Especially if it is a window.] then giving her a reason to want to live again.

Aiden's the only person (or ghost) Elsie feels comfortable talking to – the only one who doesn’t force her to talk about that night. [What about her sister? Is she a ghost?] [Why do all other people and ghosts force her to talk about that night?] As their friendship starts to heat up, so does the mystery surrounding him. [Can she see Aiden anywhere except in the mirror? Because if I had a friend who existed in a mirror, I would feel pretty weird if the friendship started heating up. You definitely don't want anyone to see you making out with a mirror.] [Although it is pretty erotic.] [I'm told.] If his secret of who he really is, his sudden disappearance, and the absence of touch doesn’t disrupt their relationship, Mimi Jenkins will. [Who? Ah, the other woman. Are good men so hard to find these days that women will fight over a guy who exists only in a mirror?]

In her search to find out why Mimi is so bent on hurting her, Elsie stumbles across an article about the accident. Not only does she discover Mimi's dad caused the wreck, but she also finds out Aiden may be alive. [Did he claim to be dead?] She now knows why he kept his identity a secret. His car was the last one to hit her; killing her sister. In order to find him she must first face off with a deranged Mimi – who doesn't care who hit who, or that her dad was a drunk, fact is, Elsie caused him not to come home – if she fails, Elsie will lose more than Aiden, she could potentially lose her life. [Could you diagram that sentence for me?]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

So Mimi's dad plows into Elsie's stopped car, knocking it into the path of Aiden's car. I'm thinking most of the force of the first accident would be absorbed by the cars, so that Elsie's car would not be moving very fast or very far into the intersection, and Aiden would have had time to swerve and brake . . . unless . . . Aiden had his eyes closed because he was in the middle of an allergy-related sneeze. Note how with a little applied logic I was able to explain the seemingly inexplicable.

It doesn't seem that someone who was about to commit suicide over the loss of her sister would so quickly get involved in a hot and heavy romance with a guy in her mirror.

How many of these cars had airbags?

It's not easy to buy Mimi blaming Elsie.

No one's named their kid Elsie since it became the name of a famous cow half a century ago. Change it to Elise.

20 comments:

Steve Wright said...

It's not awfully clear. By dint of much puzzling and innate cleverness, I think I've got the sequence of events straight in my mind - but it could usefully be laid out more straightforwardly in the query.

It's nice to have an antagonist, but how does this Mimi Jenkins person pose a threat to Elsie? Is she following her around with a chainsaw, or just trying to get her locked up as "that crazy girl who's always snogging mirrors"?.... Like EE says, it's a bit hard to swallow her blaming Elsie for her father's death, unless there are things you've not told us about the accident. (Come to think of it, is her father dead, or just in jail or something? All we know is he "didn't come home".)

Is Aiden dead or alive? If the latter, how is he haunting Elsie's mirrors?

I bet this whole novel could have been avoided if they'd all just worn their seat belts.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Seems to me that the catalyst (the accident) is pretty well described, but everything after that gets a little vagues. I like the mirror thing, find it intriguing, but what *happens*?

I'd keep reading.

Joseph Lewis said...

Definitely change to "Elise"

And there had better be a very good explanation for the supernatural elements if the "ghost" guy isn't really dead.

Phoenix said...

I love the title!

As for the query, I think it needs a bit more dot connecting. I know you want to keep the mystery around Aiden, but you're doing it to the detriment of the story line.

Aiden is the boy in the mirror, so presumably dead. Yet the query says he may be alive still, and that Elsie could lose him. He's also disappeared, but you kind of throw that in quite casually. Again presumably, Mimi is behind the disappearance, but the reader (me) isn't sure if it's a ghost or real person who's disappeared. Is his image in the mirror some sort of astral projection?

Maybe try the query once more and lay things out a bit more concretely. For instance, what is Mimi doing that leads Elsie to know the girl is bent on hurting her? Since Elsie doesn't know that the guy in the mirror is Aiden -- the guy who hit her -- then explain what Elsie thinks about Aiden maybe being alive in that last paragraph. Does she want to kill him, forgive him, or does she suspect he and the guy in the mirror are the same guy?

Matthew said...

Hey Phoenix! It's good to see you again. I've been away myself, finishing my rewrite.

Author, it looks like you've over pared the query, sacrificing clarity. Remember: each line in the query should lead to the next, making it exciting and easy to follow.

Try not to raise too many questions. Each time you make the reader think, "Huh?" you have to explain it or leave it out (like saying the ghost in the mirror might not be a ghost).

Anonymous said...

I think you need to commit to the mirror guy being dead or not, at least for the purposes of the query.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

This starts off good but gets muddled towards the middle. First you say Elsie has a new gift for seeing ghosts, which made me think this was going to be about her dealing with the paranormal. Then actually it turns out she just sees one ghost in her bedroom mirror and he's more of a therapist than anything scary or threatening. Then it turns out Aiden isn't a ghost at all and the plot turns into a thriller about a missing guy and a psycho stalker.

So many changes in direction make it hard to get a sense of the story. But I do hope you post a revision because I really like the title and the concept.

150 said...

Just yesterday I was wondering if ghosts were next on the "superpowered, immortal, unattainable" list of trendy romantic interests.

I have some trouble believing Elsie hadn't already seen all the coverage of the accident, and it's rarely best for a character to "stumble onto" anything--it just lays the author's machinations bare.

I'd like to see some voice and liveliness in the next version.

Good luck!

Khazar-khum said...

Why do I suspect Elsie's the real ghost & not Aiden?

Oh, and 150--the ghost romances are already in print.

150 said...

Khazar-khum -- Yeah, but they've yet to join the vampires-fey-angels level of notorious trendiness. Or maybe they peaked in the eighties....

vkw said...

[Who? Ah, the other woman. Are good men so hard to find these days that women will fight over a guy who exists only in a mirror?]

Yes.

I have nothing useful to add, as usual.

_*Rachel*_ said...

On the plus side, you won't have readers getting your MC confused with Elsie Dinsmore.

I like the name Elsie.

EE's right about that dash/ellipsis, and the punctuation in the last sentence.

I think Mimi's motivation is decent, especially if there are other, preexisting, problems with her.

If somebody started appearing in my mirror, I wouldn't like it at all, especially if it's a guy and he's romantic. Ditto on the bathroom mirror. Frankly, I like to get dressed in private.

batgirl said...

Hey! Elsie was my mother's name. Okay, she was born in 1924, in England, and I've never met anyone else with that first name, but still--

Okay, my guess is that Aiden's in a coma and astral-projecting.
I can sort of buy Mimi hating Elsie just for being alive when others are dead - hatred isn't the most rational emotion - but that maybe needs to be brought out more. Mimi seems like an afterthought here, 'oh yeah, I need an antagonist, don't I?' especially since her actions are undefined.

Sarah makes an excellent point. Is the book about Elsie dealing with her ability to see ghosts, or her relationship with one ghost?

Anonymous said...

Hi, everyone. This is the author. First, I want to thank everyone for your comments. I really appreciate your feedback. Batgirl actually figured out what Aiden was. I have a new version of this query, but decided to leave out the entire accident scene and Mimi since they were confusing everyone. I decided to focus primarily on Aiden and Elsie since that's really what the story is about. Okay, enough with the rambling. Here's my new version of the query for HOW TO KISS A GHOST.

Dear Evil Editor:

In my 60,000-word YA Paranormal romance, HOW TO KISS A GHOST seventeen-year-old Elsie's dream of a perfect life is shattered when she survives an accident which kills her sister. The constant pressure from her counselor, her foster parents, and the alienation from her peers in school cause Elsie to resort to suicide in order to escape the pain. All she wants is to be left alone to die. The last thing she expects is the spirit of the boy who killed her sister to interrupt her plans, but, unknowingly to her, that's exactly what she needs.

Aiden is in a coma – his spirit is stuck in a metaphysical limbo in between life and death – after his BMW broadsides Elsie's car, killing her sister on impact. Unable to cross over or to return to his body, his essence is drawn to Elsie's tortured heart. Aiden's only intention is to help her, but he unexpectedly falls in love with her. Knowing that the truth of who he really is could potentially destroy their relationship, he keeps his involvement in the accident a secret.

Immersed by the warmth burning in their souls, Elsie and Aiden refuse to let the lack of touch come between the love they have for one another. But as the secrets surrounding the accident start to unfold, Aiden's spirit mysteriously disappears, and Elsie is left with more questions than answers. The only thing she knows to be true is that Aiden is alive, and neither of them are at fault for what happened to her sister. Destined to be together – divided by a force beyond their control – Elsie must find him, no matter what it takes.

I chose to submit my manuscript for your consideration after I read in your bio you have an interest in YA novels. So, I thought my novel, HOW TO KISS A GHOST might interest you. I am prepared to send the entire manuscript upon your request.


Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Anonymous said...

This is the author again. On a quick note, everyone is probably wondering why I called my novel HOW TO KISS A GHOST when Aiden's not really a ghost. Well, that's because Elsie thinks Aiden is a ghost at first -- until she finds out otherwise further in the story -- and, well, she's wondering how she could possibly kiss a ghost.

Phoenix said...

Much better. Taking Mimi out of the query and replacing her with a mystery instead works quite well.

It's still a little wordy with redundancies and trite phrases, I think. And there are a couple of things I think you can still clarify:
* How/where Elsie can see Aiden.
* What "Elsie must find him" really means. Is it his spirit or his body she must find? If his body, then lots of other people will be involved with that disappearance, but if it's his spirit, that -- and the stakes -- needs to be made clearer.

Also, I know the last paragraph is a placeholder, but you don't need to take up space saying "I'm sending you a YA story because you indicate an interest in YA." That you've done your homework should be evident in your sending the agent stuff she's interested in.

I think the title is perfectly fine even though Aiden isn't technically a ghost. I think people were having issues because the first query wasn't clear on whether Aiden was really alive or dead.

Here's how I would tweak the query:

In my 60,000-word YA paranormal romance, HOW TO KISS A GHOST, seventeen-year-old Elsie's life is shattered when she survives an accident that kills her sister. Pressure from her counselor, parents, and peers wears at her, until survivor guilt pushes her into a suicide attempt. All she wants is to be left alone to die. What she doesn't expect is the spirit of the boy who killed her sister to interrupt her plans.

Aiden is in a coma -– his spirit stuck in a metaphysical limbo between life and death -– after a drunk driver forces his BMW to broadside Elsie's car. Unable to cross over or return to his body, his essence is drawn to Elsie's tortured heart. He appears to her in her mirror, offering words of solace and hope. At first, his only intention is to help her -- unexpectedly, he falls in love with her.

Elsie and Aiden refuse to let so simple a thing as lack of touch interfere with their growing passion. But as secrets surrounding the accident start to unfold, Aiden's spirit mysteriously disappears, and Elsie is left with more questions than answers. Destined to be together but divided by a force beyond their control, Elsie must find Aiden's spirit before the lovely boy with impish eyes and tousled hair lying in a cold hospital room slips from her grasp forever.

I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.

Sincerely,

Anonymous said...

This is the author.

Phoenix,

Thank you for your comment. I thought taking Mimi out of the equation would be less confusion. I know everyone wants to know how Elsie can see Aiden, but I'm afraid if I say she died and returned with the gift for seeing ghosts it would confuse everyone again. Because in the story she only sees him, and the reason is because he pushes himself towards her. She doesn't only see him in the mirror, that's just where she first saw him. He actually follows her everywhere after that incident forming a bond of friendship that turns into something more. I mean, some psychics can see ghosts, and sometimes there is no explanation why they do.
The second part of your question is she has to find his body since she finds out he's alive somewhere and his spirit disappears. Now here's where it gets tricky, she races to the hospital and the receptionist says " I'm sorry he left us last week." And she takes it as he died last week. But he is very much alive and is recooperating from the months of being in a comma. I mean, he very well can't return to his body and all of a sudden jump up and run out of the hospital. It wouldn't really be logical. So, she returns home brokenhearted, thinking he's dead and she'll never see him again when Mimi ( who I don't want to name in the story because of confusion) shows up, almost kills Elsie foster mom and Elsie, until Elsie rises up and defeats Mimi. At the end Elsie is standing in her place of refuge when Aiden pulls up and well, I'm sure you can figure out the very end. It's where there is plenty of crying and smootching and everything is laid out on the table so to speak.
I definitely like the way you tweaked the query, but I'm a little worried about mentioning eyes and hair because agents get turned off on any physical description. Thank you again.

batgirl said...

I would just like to point out that phoenix rocks.

Matthew said...

Try not to over think it, author. The general rule about description is that it wastes space, but Phoenix' revision still clocks in around 250 (I'm eyeballing it).

I think the description gives the query more of a story like feel, but it's not make or break. Remove it if it makes you uncomfortable...or replace it with something you, as the author, know would be more suitable.

But whatever you do, don't stray too far from what Phoenix wrote; it's good, and she's the best.

Anonymous said...

Matthew, I don't plan to stray to far at all from Phoenix's version. I thought it was great! Here is the new version. I only changed a couple of words, not much at all. Let me know what you guys/girls think.

In my 60,000-word YA paranormal romance, HOW TO KISS A GHOST, seventeen-year-old Elsie's life is shattered when she survives an accident that kills her sister. Pressure from her counselor, parents, and peers wears at her, until survivor guilt pushes her into a suicide attempt. All she wants is to be left alone to die. What she doesn't expect is the spirit of the boy who killed her sister to interrupt her plans.

Aiden is in a coma – his spirit stuck in a metaphysical limbo in between life and death – after a drunk driver forces his BMW to broadside Elsie's car. Unable to cross over or return to his body, his essence is drawn to Elsie's tortured heart. He appears to her, offering words of solace and hope. At first, his only intention is to help her – unexpectedly, he falls in love with her.

Aiden and Elsie refuse to let so simple a thing as lack of touch to interfere with their growing passion. But as secrets surrounding the accident start to unfold, Aiden's spirit mysteriously disappears, and Elsie is left with more questions than answers. Destined to be together but divided by a force beyond their control, Elsie must find Aiden's spirit before he slips from her grasp forever.

I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.

Sincerely,

Thank you everyone,

Shannon