Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Face-Lift 768

Guess the Plot

Spirit Hill

1. Jed Martenson has always denied being a problem drinker, but when his pile of empty Jack Daniels bottles gets included on a map of Tennessee as a geographical feature, his family have to stage an intervention.

2. Spirit Hill's father told her she was named for the area where he proposed to her mother. He failed to tell her he promised the spirits his first born child if her mother said yes.

3. After her first child dies, Rebecca faces an uphill spiritual battle. And so does her husband Gus after Rebecca decides she'll have no more children, and ensures it by cutting Gus off for good.

4. For all of Billie's eighteen years, her mum has been trading "spiritual consolation" to Reverend Willie for gallon jugs of communion wine. Now Reverend Willie has his eye on Billie. Can she string him along long enough to get her Spirit Hill Wine business on its feet?

5. In the town of Spirit Hill, a teenage girl is unwittingly involved in a series of bank robberies and a dog grooming scam. When her parents discover she’s not been to school for three months, they file a lawsuit . . . against the school! Hilarity ensues.

6. Spirit Hill got her name from her granola-munching parents, and her necromantic ability from a two-timing gypsy. When zombies come looking for organic brains, can she save her beloved commune?

Original Version

Your Evilness:

In the spring of 1938 a baby boy dies on a remote farm in the drought-stricken province of Saskatchewan. His father, Gus, immerses himself in his daily chores, avoiding thoughts of his son's death and the part he played in it. [Namely, he caused it.] [But then, in 1938 Saskatchewan, what are you supposed to do for entertainment besides juggling babies and chainsaws.] The mother, Rebecca, loses the will to leave her bed. [I, too, have lost the will to leave my bed. That's why I've completely surrounded it with vending machines.] She wonders how Gus could walk away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She can't bear to be touched, not emotionally, not physically. [If his wife never leaves her bed and can't stand to be touched, it doesn't sound like Gus has walked back into a life that continues as usual.] She swears an unspoken vow: no more babies. .As their marriage begins to crumble, and it seems the farm will fail, Gus devises a plan that might be their salvation if his wife and Fate will cooperate. [Apparently we're supposed to guess what the plan is. Let's see, it must be one of the following:

1. Drive the tractor to Saskatoon, sell it for $1000, and spend the money stocking up on Molson Golden.
2. Win the Canadian lottery (That's the part where this Fate character needs to cooperate.) and join a co-ed curling league.
3. Switch from wheat, barley and canola to poppies, coca, and hockey pucks.]

My literary novel, SPIRIT HILL, is complete at 65,000 words. I've published three short stories. Recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I once told a writing class, "If your story is unbearably depressing, one way to lighten it up is to set it in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan." Is this set in Moose Jaw?

Crumbling marriages, gut-wrenching deaths, unendurable depression, and farming in deserts are standard fare in litfic. It's Gus's wacky plan to escape it all that sets this apart, at least until the plan fails miserably, the barn burns down and Becky commits suicide. What's the plan?


_*rachel*_ said...

You've given us a good setup; now tell us what happens. Don't be afraid to give spoilers here. The point in a query is to show you've got a working story, not to make us wonder what it is.

It'd be good to tell us who published those stories, but I'm not sure I'd include the certificate.

PS: I just finished reading Son of Hamas, and highly recommend it.

150 said...

Is the plan to get a replacement baby?

Word ver is "ungsti", hand to God.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing that shows me the strength of a prairie couple trying to recover from the death of a baby, save their marrige and the farm. A woman in bed, a man doing chores and it SEEMS the farm will fail? Silent vow - no more children. She'd better let the husband in on that one.

Unless you're the Atwood, I'd like to see some some energy and attitude in this. Not saying your work isn't worthy, but I need something more than a woman in bed and a man doing chores trying to forget his dead son. Is it set in Saskatoon? This happened to many families in the dirty 30's. Can you make the mc's interesting? Where's the prozac?

Joanna Hoyt said...

I like the title and set-up, but like all the others I'd like to hear more of what actually happens.

John said...

I was intrigued but then left hanging by "...his son's death and the part he played in it." Murder? Neglect? Inherited illness? Careless with the combine? Knowing that might shed some light on the characters' motivations and conflicts.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Rachel, how many times have you written "don't be afraid to give spoilers"? LOL

I agree with her and EE and others. Not a bad premise, but we need the main course.

The only nit I have is "She swears an unspoken vow" -- awkward. Reminds me of Ben Stiller's line in Dodgeball "Nobody makes me bleed my own blood." Swearing is typically verbal, you can't have an unspoken verbal statement. "Silently vows" or "promises herself" should suffice.

If this is Lit Fic, the writing had better be amazingly polished. It's typically suggested to market most "Lit Fic" as just "Commercial/General Fiction" until someone else tells you that you qualify for Lit Fic. I could be wrong on that. Just something I picked up at a conference.

Jeb said...

Having lived in Moose Jaw, I can conclusively say that this plot is too depressing for that locale. Moose Javians like to think they're a good-time city, a mindset left over from having had the largest red-light district and most corrupt police force in the province for it's first 2.5 decades.

As for the query, I'm with the majority here: it's all set-up. Give us some forward motion beyond him walking across a farmyard.

And don't call it lit-fic. It's just a novel. Let the editor at the small prairie publishing house realize he has a literary novel on his hands that's the breathtaking equivalent of Stegner or Kinsella.

Anonymous said...

"After her first child dies, Rebecca faces an uphill spiritual battle. And so does her husband Gus after Rebecca decides she'll have no more children, and ensures it by cutting Gus off for good."

Could she cut off 'little Gus' instead? That should solve the whole no more babies problem.

_*rachel*_ said...

Stephen--my catch phrases seem to be, "tell us more," "be more clear," and "go check the Turkey City Lexicon."

This setup is one of the few litfic setups that interests me a bit. The point of view of a mother who's lost her child is, thank God, one I've never had; but it's the only situation I've ever written literary fiction about. So, author, good luck!

M. G. E. said...

This one seems to have been modeled after the inside-flap teasers, but that's not a good model for a query.

A query is supposed to give enough to make me want to read further. There's not enough plot here to make me want to read further, there's only setup and premise. I can't even tell who your main-character is.

What choice is being faced and by who? That's the usual dilemma you want to portray in a query, because making a choice means all the elements of a story are in place: character, motivation, opposition, and conclusion. Just leave out the conclusion.

Then if the agent finds that situation intriguing you've got traction.