Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Face-Lift 734

Guess the Plot

Where the Doves Fly

1. In the sky.

2. Johann Nowitski is an airport ramp attendant, charged with cleaning the dove entrails out of the engines. When he finds a human finger amidst the carnage, it seems murder is afoot.

3. "Go where the doves fly," was the last thing Raymond said before leaving to liberate France from Hitler. Every day Sarah waits patiently by the fountain. Will he ever return? Will she recognize him? And what did he mean about the doves?

4. 1980. Anna Sokolowska's career creating anti-communist paintings (you know, like doves flying into the air) is going nowhere in communist-controlled Poland. So she escapes in search of an art gallery that will show her work. Unfortunately, she escapes to East Berlin. Apparently commies and artistic genius don't mix anywhere.

5. The Doves: a family of four who hang glide off of Mt. Riaze. When the volcano unexpectedly erupts, Mr. Dove watches his family fly from his hydroponic squash farm that had been built on the north face, which now lies in lava ashed ruins. Can he find the other three members of his family before the next bilateral moon triangulation?

6. 2098. United Nations President, Apartheid Vance, has a problem. Expecting the whole world to be at peace for the first time since stun guns were legalized, a massive celebration is planned for the upcoming millennium. However, Apartheid cannot keep a single dove alive in captivity. Is the problem zoological or an omen?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When 17-year-old artist Anna Sokolowska learns the Communist regime in Poland may implement martial law, she chooses to escape to East Berlin—unwilling to let the government stifle her artistic voice, eager to use her anti-Communist paintings as a tool for change. [Shouldn't she escape to somewhere that doesn't have a communist regime? Where's she heading next, Cuba?]

The one thing that she fails to consider before leaving is that her abused mother and young brother need her more than she thinks they do.

Over the following twelve months Anna struggles against governmental corruption that has spread beyond Polish borders as she searches for an art gallery in which to showcase her set of genius anti-Communist-themed paintings. [Genius in whose opinion?] In the end, Anna must decide how she wishes to balance the harsh reality of poverty in the 1980’s with a passion for art, the Polish Solidarity movement, and her family.

WHERE THE DOVES FLY is a literary YA at approximately 76,000 words.

My articles and short stories have been featured in New Moon, Teen Ink, Alive, multiple e-zines, and two Creative Communications anthologies. Last year I received a YoungArts 2010 Merit Award (top 5%) and interned with [editor; redacted], and now I intern with [agent; redacted]. [Have you taken advantage of your connections?] In addition to writing and interning, I am a full-time student.

Thank you for your consideration.



Is she in contact with her family? What's happening with them? If we know that, we'll have a better understanding of her dilemma.

Was she under the impression that only Poland's government would be bothered by her anti-communist art?

Instead of concluding by telling us what Anna must decide, tell us what she decides. Perhaps she realizes that while the communist machine is too powerful to take on, she can do her own small part by starting an underground art movement. Or whatever. Give us a sense of where the story goes.


wendy said...

You're throwing around a lot of emotional catalyst words like abused and communist repression etc, but I need to know exactly what the threat is against her. And simply being an artist is not enough to make her a person that readers should get behind.

I think you are assuming too much, and I'm willing to bet your story looks nothing like this letter- at least I hope so.

I probably sound a little harsh, but it's meant to be encouraging. Your story is interesting even though the Poland / East Germany thing is confusing.

Go back and work out a one sentence description of your story.
Something like:
In the early 1980's a gifted young painter struggles when she must leave her mother and sister behind in communist Poland to search for a place where she and her art career can thrive.

The "real plot" from guess the plot stuff is good too. Start there. It will help you avoid the mental chaos query letter writing inflicts on even the best of word smiths.

Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

I like wendy's one sentence description.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Spew alert:
"Where's she heading next, Cuba?"

The Poland to E. Germany did strike me as odd. I'm sure to escape potential martial law is a reasonable explanation, but the query might not be the best place to bring that up without a lengthy explanation. And I don't think *where* she goes is vital to the story as much as that she goes and still deals with conflict.

The author has a very impressive set of credentials...and I admit to being somewhat surprised by them based on the query. I have the hunch this story is deeper and more complex than the query lets on. Wording such as "The one thing that she fails to consider..." Really? Is she that shallow and self obsessed that she never considers an abused mother and younger brother? That doesn't seem true to an artist's heart. My hunch is that (at least at some point) she *does* consider the impact and that conflict might do well to be shown in the query?

I'm interested in the concept. It's different in a good way. If the author isn't using his/her connections to sell the book, maybe use them to help polish up elements of the pitch to make it most saleable?

150 said...

I'm not so sure about the creds, actually. I'd keep the internships and the markets that paid, and ditch the ones that didn't; the CC anthologies, for example, when Googled, come up with this: I've seen multiple agents mentioning on their blogs that they'll Google creds.

K said...

Your format is fine, but I think there's one thing missing; I have absolutely no sense of who your MC really is. You've described a solid situation, but at the same time, I know almost nothing about it.

Why do her mother and brother need her more than she thinks?

Why does she care so much about her art?

Why move to East Germany?

I understand that in a query there's not that much room for all of this, but you need to make me care more about your MC in this space.

Good start though!

Anonymous said...

I'm voting for the hydroponic squash farm.

Robin S. said...

I like that line of Wendy's, author, and I like the sound of your novel. Having two daughters who are fine arts students (and have each won multiple awards - they are quite serious about their respective areas of study) I agree with the comment that an artistic soul normally is very attuned to his or her surroundings and her 'people', so I'd say perhaps, inthe query, something about having to block that pain in order to move on initially. Something like that.

Either way, this sounds like a good read. Too bad the query has to be damn good to elicit interest in the novel (I still hate this fact), but since it's true, just have at it and get it shined up.

Good luck to you!

_*rachel*_ said...

I'm debating over whether or not those contests should be in your query. (Full disclosure: I entered NFAA and didn't win.) NFAA is a huge deal--at the high school level. I'm leaning towards cutting it unless they were for this novel.

As for CC, don't include it. It was a semi-big deal in middle school, but trust me, the poem I got in their anthology is not worth putting on any list of credits.

Maybe it's just me as a SFF person, but I'd like to see a clearer plot. Wendy's got a good starting place. Go from there and tell us who Anna is and what she's doing. Oh, and skip the "genius;" it makes her sound like a Mary Sue.

Good luck on this!

H. Grant said...


Ditch the apostrophe. It's 1980s, as in the eighties.

Keep working on your query. You've written a story with substance and that shines through.