Friday, March 12, 2010
Guess the Plot
The Milky Way, China Poison
1. Gillian wants to start a new life, so she takes a job with a Chinese dairy, only to discover that her company's milk contains poison. She could speak up, but in China, whistleblowers tend to die young. Maybe Gillian should have started her new life in North Korea.
2. Ten years ago, Jade fled her abusive marriage. Now she's China Poison, semiprofessional wrestler, desperate to win the big cash prize at the Milky Way rumble. But she'll have to wrestle with more than her opponents when she's reunited with the daughter she was forced to leave behind.
3. In 2065, “undesirables” have two choices: life in a brutal institution, or euthanasia, known as “China Poison.” Autistic Anne Miller and her best friend, paraplegic Jake Wilhelm, are determined to find a third option. And they do—at the end of an astonishing, history-making trip to the stars.
4. Journalist Krissa knows something is wrong with the candy bars she's been getting at the dollar store. When she uncovers the Chinese plot to dump plastics and toxins in the flavoring, she knows she's got the story of a lifetime. But will she live to tell it?
5. The broad they called China Poison was bumped off behind the Milky Way Drive-in. I figured the husband for it. Big brute with a face like a wet ham. Then somebody shoots him and the coppers find the gat—with my prints on it. I'm Nick Lugman. And I'm in a whole lotta trouble.
6. With a dead soup-kitchen chef and a trail of candy bars leading to an independent bookstore, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: astrology should be shelved after alchemy, and the mutton-chopped homeless man hiding in the stacks isn't interested in memoirs.
Re: The Milky Way, China Poison - 38,000 word novella
The rear ender launched the large coffee over Gillian Heath and now she’s going to be late for her job interview. A position in Asia, Shenzhen, PRC. She’s trying for a new life. She couldn’t look at her son’s bedroom door, shut on the empty room anymore. Gillian received the proceeds from the sale of her house an hour ago.
The guy who smacked into her jumps out of his car to see if she’s hurt. She’s not but her silk dress and shoes are covered with coffee drops and streaks.
The man responsible for the wreck blurts out she smells wonderful. His small talk is not going well. He learned he has cancer an hour ago.
“Quit smelling me!” she spits at the moron. Gillian drives to her interview after the terse exchange of information.
Parked, she changes into her wrinkled gym clothes in the car and schlumps to Reception where she convinces the receptionist she has an appointment and isn’t delivering sandwiches.
“Nice to see you again,” Tom Wells, GM, extends his hand and grins at her. She fights off the urge to swing at him but takes the hand. It’s the moron. He’s interviewing her. [You're telling us the entire book. We don't need so much detail. Basically, Gillian is having a bad day. Tom is having a worse day.]
Gillian is running mach five into a new life trying the geographical cure. That never works for anyone and this one won’t work for her. She doesn’t know that. She jumped at the job wondering if rear end remorse had anything to do with Tom’s offer. It didn’t but she doesn’t know that either.
Gillian is running from her son’s death. Accident, call it whatever, she should have kept him safe. Her new job and China don’t work out too well as a cure.
She’s detached, dead inside until she finds out her “I don’t give a frig, Newton” veneer has the depth of cling wrap when samples from her company’s milk show high levels of melamine. Melamine poisons kids with amazing efficiency. Rage, white hot, rips her alive. First time she’s felt anything in a long time. [Finally we've reached what I assume is the main plot.]
Maybe she can honor her son’s short life somehow if she plugs the dam. If she can stop one child from dying of renal failure, she might be able to look at herself in a mirror again. She hates her life. She hates her choices more.
People disappear over internet articles in China. She can ignore the poison milk or try to stop it. Publishing photos of the Party member who poisons for profit is not a good idea. She snaps him out whoring and she’s the whore. [It's not easy to snap photos of yourself while you're whoring. Or so I hear.]
She does stuff she didn’t know she had the stomach for. She frames the major player, she ruins her company and finishes Tom’s career in one hit of the send button. Time to run. The consequences of getting her hands dirty turning off poison milk flowing down little baby throats are severe.
Tom wages a silent and secret battle. He won’t know if his cancer is gone for five lonely years. He married his career a long time ago. Boy, did he get it wrong. He can’t think about that now. He’s got to find Gillian and get her out. She’s in trouble. 1.5 billion people, he better get started
Gillian wanted to change her life not the world. The woman lost in grief and the man who has put his struggles aside to help her, find new meaning in their world, themselves and each other clawing their way out of the mess Gillian made. The Party doesn’t like foreigners causing trouble on the eve of the Olympic Games.
[Gillian: The company I work for is selling poison and calling it milk.
Party member: You're not even Chinese. Check with me after the closing ceremonies.]
Gillian succeeds in stopping the contaminated milk. Tom knew his career and company were wrecked the day he learned about the melamine. He doesn’t care, cancer has a way of straightening out priorities. He wants to live out his life – long or short with this woman but can’t ask her to share her life with him. He may not be able to make a long term commitment. He says goodbye.
Gillian doesn’t care what Tom wants. She needs him to live a complete life. [Spoiler alert.] They work it out.
I’ve been published in China (short stories for an English newspaper and an English school internet site used my stories for language learning) where I worked teaching English. In Canada I worked copywriting for radio, tv and print. I worked as the Promotion Director then Manager of two shopping centers. I wrote at an ad agency. I was hired as a writer for an American trading company in China, hence my move to the PRC. I was a member of the Alberta Romance Writers Assoc. and I now teach in Thailand.
Thank you for the time you spent reading my query, I appreciate it.
Your query should fit on one page. This is more like three pages worth of material. It might pass as a synopsis of sorts, but what it feels like is a complete story. A piece of flash fiction. Actually, as a piece of flash fiction, it's not bad. For a query letter, however, try reducing the plot portion to ten or fewer sentences.
You might open with an intro that includes your title, word count etc., and states that the book is set in China on the eve of the Beijing Olympics. We don't need six or seven paragraphs about going to her job interview. The main plot seems to be:
Gillian Heath is running from her son’s death. She’s detached, dead inside--until she finds out her new employer, Shenzhen Baby Products, is poisoning kids with contaminated milk. Rage, white hot, rips her alive.
Tom Wells hired Gillian and sent her to China. When she blows the whistle on Shenzhen, he knows he has to get her out. Whistleblowers have a bad habit of disappearing in China.
One woman lost in grief and one man who has put his own struggle with cancer aside to help her, now seek new meaning in their world and each other.
Throw in a couple sentences that cover vital plot points I left out, and you have enough.
The query doesn't need flowery writing (...until she finds out her “I don’t give a frig, Newton” veneer has the depth of cling wrap...). Save that for the book. Keep the query simple and clear.
The title feels like two titles.