Thursday, August 12, 2010

Face-Lift 807

Guess the Plot

Random Halos

1. Saint Peter trips and scatters a box of newly minted halos, which promptly fall to earth. Now he must retrieve them before the media re-writes modern morality based on "obvious" heavenly approval.

2. After being exposed to uranium, six seniors develop supernatural powers and form a team of angelic heroes. But one of them decides that it's boring being a superhero when there aren't any supervillains around, and goes over to the dark side.

3. Working at Random House has always been Bone Martin's dream, and when he gets a job as a fact checker, he's in heaven. However, he quickly comes down to Earth when he uncovers the unscrupulous shenanigans of a beloved editor—and the editor targets him for elimination.

4. A series of bizarre "accidents" during the opening season of Heaven's Got Talent has detective Zack Martinez investigating the sordid world of blackmail, bribery and murder among beings who have the nerve to call themselves "Angels."

5. Forget wizards and vampires; angels are the next big thing, and Gary's musical can't miss. Unless his parents get divorced and his mom moves in and starts “helping” him with it. And she just did.

6. Zelda is a young gypsy girl moving to the big city to go to college. Her family had always assumed the "gift" had passed her over. But along with her first period comes the ability to see auras. That's when she notices the evil halos around those suit and sunglasses-wearing men who always seem to be following her around.

Original Version

WOrking Title: Random Halos

Plot - Query:

Random (or Radium) Halos, a Fantasy Young Adult MS, complete at 54,000. [Random or Radium? You don't care what the first word of your title is but it must have six letters and begin with "R"?]

The small town of Elliot Lake will never be the same again. An unexpected thunderstorm brings a group of friends closer than they could ever imagine [as they all take shelter in a phone booth]. Hiding in an old abandoned uranium mine to avoid the storm, [And I thought I was being overly cautious, locking myself in my panic room during thunderstorms.] six [high school] seniors spend the night together. [This paragraph can be condensed into one sentence: Caught in a sudden thunderstorm, six high school seniors from Elliot Lake take shelter in an abandoned uranium mine.]

Over the next few days, each experiences radical changes to one of their senses. At first, they believe only five of them have changed. All but one never considers the possibility of a sixth sense. Their senses develop into stronger supernatural powers. These powers become a necessity when dangerous events begin occurring in Elliot Lake. [This is too general. What are their powers? Strengthened senses or something beyond that? What are the dangerous events? Give examples.] [This could also be condensed to one sentence: Over the next few days, five of them gain supernatural powers, while the sixth morphs into . . . the Kraken!!]

For Zoe, learning to deal with her new superhuman sense is harder than she expected. [I don't see how she could have had any expectations for how hard it is to deal with a new superhuman sense.] At the same time, her heart is fluttering over Kraigan, the new Scottish boy in town. [Change his name to Kraken. Also, make him a Kraken.] The loyalties of friendship are tested [Explain.] and high school’s senior year never seemed so challenging. [That would be believable if one of their classmates were the Kraken.]

Alone each has a raw talent, but together Zoe and her friends can become something powerful. [A team of people with raw talents.] A group of unexpected heroes with a villain among them. [Presumably the villain is the one with the sixth sense? You might want to make more of this in the query rather than toss it in at the end as if it's an afterthought. For instance, if your villain is the Kraken, and you wait this long to mention that the Kraken is in your book, it doesn't feel like you have your priorities straight. Who's the villain, what's his/her power, and what's his/her goal?]


If you have an ensemble cast with all characters having fairly equal parts, then Zoe doesn't deserve to be singled out in the query while the other five seniors get nothing. If Zoe is the main character, focus on her earlier. Zoe and five of her friends take shelter in the mine. Zoe notices she has super taste buds, and tells her friends, only to learn that they all have super senses as well.

It seems odd that a uranium mine would have been abandoned if it still contained enough uranium to have this effect.

I don't like either form of the title.


arhooley said...

All but one never considerS the possibility of a sixth sense.

The subject of that sentence, is "all." Hence, "All but one never consider the possibility" etc. But it's still awkward. "None but one ever consider" -- nope. "Only one of them ever considers" etc. How about that?

I just submitted a Guess the Plot that included a phone booth. I think the phone booth could become a fixture here, like Alfred Hitchcock's cameo in all his films.

150 said...

A READING from the book of Strunk & White, Section III, Rule 12:

Put statements in positive form.

Therefore: "All but one never considers" --> "Only one considers."

And a benediction lovingly penned by 150:


BuffySquirrel said...

Another point to make about Strunk & White: it was never intended to refer to fiction.

Eric said...

"Omit Needless Words" applies to everything, and oh, does it ever apply to this....

Ellie said...

GTP #5 would make a really great movie.

batgirl said...

Not a huge fan of Strunk & White myself, but 'All but one never considers...' left me entirely confused. Means what?

This feels more middle-grade than YA (actually, it reminds me of the Power Rangers, only with the rainforest kid as the possible villain). It could be good fun, but I'd like a clearer idea of the tone. Angsty? Snarky? Giggly? Dark?

Stephen Prosapio said...

"Change his name to Kraken. Also, make him a Kraken"


just an fyi: a book just came out titled Radium Halos. You could still use it, but might be confusing.

Phoenix said...

Another point to make about Strunk & White: it was never intended to refer to fiction.

I think I love you, Buffy.

Author: Details, please, as 150 says. Also, what makes your MCs heroes? Ripley introduced us to several hundred people with extraordinary abilities in the Believe It or Not series. I don't think any of us think of those people as heroes (or villains). Superpowers alone do not a superhero make.

BuffySquirrel said...

Got a few needless words of your own, there!

(word ver: kerfl = how careful will be spelt in 100 years)

M. G. E. said...

I think the concept of six people is that there has to be six people because there are five sense and then the sixth sense, and each of them gets a boosted sense except for the sixth girl, our protagonist, whom gets the super-sixth sense.

Why uranium radiation would boost a sense I have no idea. I consider this trope one of most tired, overused, and anti-scientific of explanations for "powers" in fiction.

However, we already know what the actual sixth sense is: balance :P

So, Zoe sets out to battle super-evil with her preternatural sense of balance. "You can't trip me! Come on, just try to trip me!"

Oh no, the doomsday machine is on that other rooftop, we went to the wrong building! How will we make it there in time?!

Zoe: "Wait, see that powerline between here and there? I am about to save the day. Superbalance, on!"
*Cartwheels across the powerline*

:P Seriously though, this was another super-funny query, EE ;)

Author: The query itself is a mess. The prose is laborious. I don't think it would matter what your actual book is about, the prose is so chunky that you'd have trouble publishing any book at all no matter how exciting the plot.

Words are your tools, you must master them, you have to learn to polish for flow. Maybe read some William Gass.

And yes, your query is taken as a representation of the sophistication of your novel's language usage. It wouldn't be a bad use of anyone's time to spend literally weeks polishing a query before sending it out.

As for Strunk & White, it's bad enough that Elements of Style is on such a pedestal when they got so much stuff just plain wrong. It's good in general. Just don't use S&W as a Bible, that's all I'm saying.

Still, S&W is valuable for the average person who hasn't yet assimilated even the most basic style points :P

(word verification: tureab
Anagram for "Tea Rub" or "Tub Era" :P )

_*rachel*_ said...

Condense the first paragraph as EE suggested, then give us the rest of the plot clearly, specifically, and concisely. And it wouldn't hurt to be specific about what the superpowers (or Zoe's, at least) really are and do.

Thanks, Buffy--that's good to know about Strunk & White. Even without that, though, I kept breaking their rules. My recommended alternatives are the Turkey City Lexicon and How Not to Write a Novel.

writtenwyrdd said...

You should check out Toxic Avenger. I think the vat of toxic ooze option for gaining super powers sounds much more entertaining than "Hiding in an old abandoned uranium mine to avoid the storm." But the general idea of gaining super powers, if done well, certainly is sellable.

I would suggest that you tighten up that first paragraph as per EE's suggestion. If Zoe is the main character, introduce her in the first paragraph, something like, "Zoe and her friends shelter from a storm in an old mine, with life-changing consequences. Turns out their shelter is an abandoned uranium mine, and several days later they are developign super powers!" Then you can state the gist of the plot.

What you've written here is suffering from disorganization. If you have to, write an outline of the important points in order of importance and base your paragraphs on that. And then look at what you are saying and remove extraneous phrases, clauses and mentions of things not on the outline. That should help you get the basic information down. Then you can pretty it up.

And I'd totally like to see #5. Reminds me of that Stallone movie "Stop or my mother will shoot you" or something like that, when his mother was visiting and insisted on "helping" him solve crime.

M. G. E. said...

If taking shelter in an abandoned uranium mine for a few hours gives you super powers imagine what powers the miners must have!

BuffySquirrel said...

Ah, no, MGE, it's the unique combination of young people, uranium, and lightning, you see. Couldn't happen any other way....

Seriously, that kind of handwavium was ok in 1950s comics, but it won't really cut it in a novel today.

Cliff said...

Why uranium radiation would boost a sense I have no idea. I consider this trope one of most tired, overused, and anti-scientific of explanations for "powers" in fiction.

An isotrope presumably?

An unexpected thunderstorm brings a group of friends closer than they could ever imagine [as they all take shelter in a phone booth].

Isn't that dangerous, knowing how payphones are only after one thing?