Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Face-Lift 811

Guess the Plot

Walk the Broken Road

1. It's not easy to get to Ambercross. Mostly because it's a fictional world created by author Casey Winter. But Casey's ex-husband, a well-known pastor, has gotten there, and he's planning to destroy the place with C4 and Napalm. Which will pretty much ruin Casey's writing career. Can she find her way to Ambercross in time to save her novel ? Also, a cannibal.

2. Isolated since 1917, when floods washed the road out, everyone in Ridgeville is paranoid of the Outside. But 14-year-old hillbilly genius Buddy Boone is determined to take his banjo to Nashville and embrace modernity. First he must invent an inflatable raft using pigskin glued with tree sap. Or maybe he'll just . . . walk the broken road.

3. Hunter Jones is on the verge of country music stardom with an album about growing up on a farm in Kentucky. Only one problem: Hunter is actually part of the British peerage. How long can he keep up the charade before that cute reporter digs up the truth?

4. Road worker Melanie is having a bad day. Her civil engineering degree hangs useless on the caravan wall as the sun blazes down on her. A bunch of drunk and disorderly giants have stolen all the road signs on route 43. And as Melanie fills another foot-shaped pothole, she fails to notice the spaceship descending toward her.

5. One day Josh oversleeps and wakes up to find zombies attacking the city. What's worse, his brain has already been eaten, yet somehow he's still walking around. Being dead feels great! He decides to help others find the same undead bliss he's discovered--while at the same time satisfying his craving for grey matter.

6. With Dorothy gone you'd think Oz had been set straight. But with her sisters out of the way, the good witch Glinda has become the wicked bitch of the South, and she's ruling Oz with an iron wand. Can the once-cowardly Lion convince the Scarecrow to stop waxing philosophic as he wanders the poppy-fields, and to drag Tinman away from crying over his tv-soaps and rusting himself, so they can finally free Oz from the last despotic witch-sister?

Original Version

Dear Evil Ed.,

Fantasy novelist Casey Winter isn’t a hero. She just writes about them. Jack, her violent ex-husband, is the famous pastor of a powerful mega-church and wants her to defend his abusive history on national television. [My husband abused me throughout our miserable marriage, Oprah, but I defend to the death his right to do so.] [He wants her to defend his abusive history? What does that mean? I can only guess that instead of "defend" you mean "disavow." Or maybe "forgive." Either way, if she does this on national television, won't that just call more attention to his abusive history? Is that what he wants? You wouldn't think a guy with a widely known abusive history would have enough parishioners to fill a mega-church.] [Which is bigger, a mega-church or a humongo-mosque?] He attempts legal blackmail, threatening to seize her house if she doesn’t co-operate. [If they're divorced, surely the ownership of the house has been settled. If it's her house, how can he seize it?] [Also, if I were Jack, I would be seriously worried that Casey would go on national television and say, "Jack has threatened to seize my house if I don't disavow his abuse, but I can't lie, he brutalized me like Mike Tyson brutalizes his cellmate," and then pastor Jack loses whatever reputation he had. I'd feel safer buying her a new house in New Zealand than putting her on television.] When she contacts his former lawyer, [Why not contact his current lawyer? What's in it (whatever "it" is) for his former lawyer?] she receives a letter from a younger, saner Jack. He left Casey a set of magical paintings in the event of his death, and his artwork and letters lead to a startling discovery: her fictional world, Ambercross, is real and in need of her help. [You've lost me. If the paintings go to Casey when Jack dies, and he's still alive, how has his artwork led anywhere? Presumably she hasn't inherited it yet.] [Also, it's a little late in the query for such a radical turn of events. If your main character is a mermaid, reveal it up front.]

Her novel’s protagonist is framed for an attack on the King of the Faeries and can’t defend himself, as he’s currently stuck in the villain’s body. The King is MIA. His temporary regent is in her ex’s employ and will gladly trade the treasury for a chance to turn humans into slaves (and the occasional snack). When the King’s attacker appears in Casey’s living room, she realizes fairy-tale bad-guys don’t wear Nikes or carry .45s. [That makes no logical sense. Well, it makes sense if what you mean is that Casey used to think fairy tale bad guys wore Nikes and carried .45s, but now that a fairy tale bad guy who's not wearing Nikes and carrying a .45 has appeared before her, she realizes she's been wrong all these years; but what I think you mean is that someone claiming to be the fairy tale bad guy has appeared before her, except he's wearing Nikes and carrying a .45, so he can't possibly be the fairy tale bad guy, in which case you might tweak the sentence to read, When the King’s attacker appears in Casey’s living room, she quickly realizes he's an impostor--fairy-tale bad-guys don’t wear Nikes or carry .45s.] Pastor Jack’s on the prowl, and she’s the only one who can warn Ambercross before he introduces it to C4 and Napalm. And when Jack reveals that he’s actually the disembodied villain, Casey realizes she must fight for more than just her fiction. The fate of two worlds hangs on her choices, and whatever happens, it had better make one hell of a book.

WALK THE BROKEN ROAD is complete at just under 85,000 words. It is intended as the first of a trilogy. This is my first novel. I am a commercial baker in the trenches of a large grocery chain. I also do digital, fantasy themed artwork and have done several covers for a small press. Thank you for your time.


Not part of query: (The title comes from the main theme of faith, and the MC's realization that no matter how nasty things get, she has to keep going.) [The title and its origin sound like literary fiction. The plot summary sounds more like Who Framed Roger Rabbit.]


The first paragraph sounds like a bunch of random backstory plot threads about a woman whose violent ex-husband is making her life miserable. Then suddenly she's tasked with saving the king of the Faeries from her ex while saving humanity from cannibals. That may work in the book, but in the query it's a bit much. I'd base the query mainly in one world, starting:

Fantasy novelist Casey Winter isn’t a hero; she just writes about them. But that all changes when she discovers that her "fictional" world of Ambercross suddenly exists, and her despicable ex-husband Jack is plotting to blow it up.

The second paragraph is a list of the absurd things that are happening in Toon Town, but I think you can work some of that in without losing the main thread. Perhaps by finishing up something like:

This is not the Ambercross Casey created. Her protagonist is stuck in her villain’s body. The King of the faeries is MIA. And his temporary replacement is a cannibal working for Jack! She can't write her way out of this one; she's going to have to go to Ambercross if she wants to save her world . . . and her book.

In between those paragraphs you can have the character show up in Casey's living room to tell her what's happening in Ambercross (I assume that's how she finds out?).


Anonymous said...

One of the difficulties of writing query letters is the figuring how to best describe the story for clueless readers. You took on some major logic challenges and the real/false/real world thing is complicated.

With the query structured like this we fear the first 300 pages are all about coping with this domestic violence guy, then you make an abrupt excursion to Oz to solve things. It might all be brilliant in the book, but after reading this query we FEAR your plot was hijacked mid-story. We're afraid the manuscript reads like two half books of different genres.

Dorothy had domestic issues before she went to Oz, too, but they didn't take half the book. So maybe the query will work better if you barely mention the X and mostly tell about the rest of the story.

Anonymous said...

What Evil said. I mean WHAT Evil said. Please review what Evil SAID. I wish you clarity. You touched one of Evil's nerves. Not a bad thing, rooting through nerves, but when it grates like a root canal, do what the Evil says. I would like to see exactly how schizo this goes. Please send me a recipe. Very best, and I think you can fix the problems. Congrats, you got our mighty Evil going big time. Phoenix Sullivan Dare to Dream waits for the revision as I do. Best,

angela robbins said...

i was thrown for a loop with this one. i agree, why would he want to drudge up a past that will only harm him, unless it's already come into light and he's wanting her to deny it.

ee's brought up some valid points that i think need taken into consideration not only with the query but the storyline as well.

Anonymous said...

Anon put it beautifully. Best again, Bibi

Anonymous said...

What happened to the "younger, saner Jack"? Was he killed and his body possessed by the abusive pastor? Please un-dangle that thread.


The fate of two worlds hangs on her choices, and whatever happens, it had better make one hell of a book.

I get that Ambercross might end, but is the fate of our world hanging on her choices? If so, how? All Jack has is C4 and napalm. And why had it "better" make one hell of a book? Has her publisher told her one more midlist snoozefest and she's out?

M. G. E. said...

What they said, and I'll add this:

Your bad-guy reads like "super-bad-guy." He has no redeeming qualities, he's one-dimensional:

He's an ex-husband, a hypocrite, a liar, a blackmailer, extortionist, a wife-beater(!), and now getting ready to commit mass literary murder by introducing explosives, etc.

In short, he's a cartoon. So, it's pretty good that you make him one by saying he basically came out of her mind.

But, my question is, how far are you taking this? Is the book actually about how Casey is quite literally insane and the final shot of the book is a pan away from her tied down, drooling, to a hospital bed? >_>

This plot just isn't appealing to me -unless- it's actually about her struggle to regain her sanity and end the hallucinations. But if that's the real plot you can't leave that out of the query.

vkw said...

Again, I think it's the query monster.

"So what's your story about?" the man asked in the elevator.

"Well it's about this woman who is a victim of domestic violence and her ex is still making her life miserable by trying to exploit her into making a national television appearance saying it didn't happen and he's. . . . wait, er the door's opening, don't you want to hear the plot?" the query monster says.

"Well I wanted to hear about the plot that's why I asked. But I'm sorry I don't have time to hear about the character." The man walks out of the elevator.

In the query we want to know the PLOT not the details of the characters.

Start with the plot, then tell us about the characters.

It's a story about an evil villian taking over a fairy tale world that was developed by an author in this world.

The villain does this in the fairy world by . . for the purpose of.

The author has to save the world by doing this.

Failure to solve the plot will result in . . . .

Adam Heine said...

When you start with an abusive pastor blackmailing his wife, it makes it really hard for me to care about what happens to Fairyland. It doesn't help that I know nothing about the characters there.

St0n3henge said...

Whoever wrote #2 was no doubt thinking of Walk Hard. Yeah, it was a stupid movie, but I laughed all the way through it.

Author: What M.G.E. said. I had a hard time believing Casey's books sell if she creates such unrealistic characters. Then again, I'm assuming Jack started out as a good guy or she wouldn't have married him. Unless she was abused as a child and this is part of the vicious cycle.

I, also, was confused about the former lawyer, and why a lawyer would betray his client's confidence, etc. Basically, none of this makes sense the way it's written.

You seem to have forgotten how to plot a story in writing this letter. The plot of this story would go something like this:
First, MC. Who she is and why we should care. Second, Villain introduction. Important choice MC must make, or goal she must achieve. Villian gets in the way of her achieving her goals how? MC then- what? Confronts and fights, hides and makes a plan, recieves help from a magical source, another character intervenes, or what? Some instances described, leading to the final confrontation, and the ending.

Definitely leave out the part about this being your first novel, you being a baker, etc. All the agent wants is the word count and generic thank you.

EE- A mega-church is bigger, until the congregation finds out the pastor is gay, and then it isn't.

Stephen Prosapio said...

What they all said AND my normal rant about titles. Go to the bookstore. Read the titles there. Go to netflix. Read the titles there in your genre. Then dump "Walk the Broken Road" into the bin with "Wear the Smelly Shoes" "Sing the Discordant Song" and "Meet the Disgruntled Postal Worker"

Unrepentant Escapist said...

I like ee's version. I'd definitely be interested.

Verification: spaslym. Greatest fake word ever.

St0n3henge said...

"Meet the Disgruntled Postal Worker" would be the bestest children's book EVAR.

_*rachel*_ said...

I might try starting with the novel itself: Roger's the protagonist of an unfinished fantasy novel. He's been framed for murder, had his soul stuck in the villain's body, and been fed popcorn-flavored jelly beans. All this and he's got to beat a "humans make great snacks" sort of guy, the faery king.

Then the author's ex-husband shows up in the novel with C4 and napalm, planning to destroy the one thing Casey, the author, still loves. Things have gone from bad to worse--but if Casey and Roger team up, they might just win.

Joe G said...

Um, for the record, I am actually intrigued by this book. There's a lot of imagination on display and I'm fond of outside of the box fantasy stories. I agree that it's a scatterbrained query but there's a story there. It sounds like a bizarre Murakami Haruki novel. I think E.E.'s got it right... you don't need to throw all the crazy at us at once.

"So and so is a popular fiction writer, the creator of Ambercross, who is being harrassed by her evil ex husband. But when she finds herself in the magical world she created..." etc.

But I like the combination of domestic issues with fantasy.

Megachurches don't care if you're gay, they only care if you get caught more than two or three times ;P

M. G. E. said...

Well, at the least, the fantasy aspects should be frontloaded much more. They really take the reader by surprise in this query.

batgirl said...

The GTP makes this sound like a fascinating book. Maybe use that as the basis for your query?