Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Face-Lift 824

Guess the Plot


1. Josh examines the foibles and challenges of life via the metaphor of surfing, analogizing the ebb and flow of the waves to the internal struggles we all experience within, like totally.

2. "Romantic walks on moonlit beaches," says his personal ad. But who -- or what -- is he? Night after night, he magically melts into the sand and drags his date into the surf! He's the evil super villain known as . . . Undertow.

3. When you've been sent to an island reform school, and you wake up to discover everyone's been kidnapped except you and Logan, it's a bit disconcerting, until you realize Logan is hot hot hot. But then you realize you're the daughter of the American president, so the kidnappers will probably come back for you, but if you try to swim away, you're sure to get caught in the undertow and drown. Maybe if you lock yourself in the janitor's closet with Logan you'll be safe.

4. 17-year-old ocean lifeguard Kortney has Red Cross WSI certification, a stellar employment record, and a terrible secret. She's a vampire. And when a group of foster children on an outing gets caught in a rip tide, she has to make a difficult choice.

5. Newlyweds Spencer and Emily Harris embark on their honeymoon-- a trek across the US in their RV. When they get a flat in the New Mexico desert, a mysterious tow truck driver comes to their rescue, pulling them into a seemingly inescapable horror. Maybe they should have taken that left at Albuquerque.

6. In a flooded dystopian future, the roughnecks of Undertow Inc. eke out a living salvaging the wreckage of Earth's industrial past. But when a routine job uncovers a terrifying secret, the blue-collar submariners find themselves in the middle of a conflict between ruthless pirates and mysterious government agents, over a prize that defies imagination.

Original Version

Dear EE,

Seventeen-year-old Kat has all the attention in the world, except her father's. Maybe that's why she pushed someone through a window, why she's shipped off to some elite island reform school. It hardly seems fair, but then a slap on the wrist just won't do for the President's daughter. [It won't do because the people will assume she's getting preferential treatment. But it sounds like the people aren't being told what her punishment is. In which case they probably assume she's getting preferential treatment.]

With a new identity and no Secret Service stiffs glued to her side she might finally get a whiff of normality. [I don't see being sent to a school full of delinquents normality.] But nothing's normal when you wake to find everyone's gone, everyone except Logan--the school's hottest property. [The word "property" may not be conveying the idea you want. Try "beefstud."]

Unable to contact the mainland, Kat's drowning in questions over the disappearance as feelings develop for the boy by her side. He's not buying her kick-your-ass exterior, senses she's freaking out. But it might be for good reason.

Kidnappers, responsible for the disappearance, have just worked out who Kat really is. [I don't see how they could work this out.

Kidnapper 1: We've loaded forty kids and teachers in the boat, but I don't think we can squeeze these last two in.

Kidnapper 2: Okay, leave 'em behind. The ransom we get for these forty should set us up for life.


Kidnapper 1: It occurs to me that that girl we left behind was the daughter of the president.

Kidnapper 2: Let's go back and get her. If we're gonna have the FBI after us, we might as well invite the Secret Service and the military to join the party.]
They're coming back for her, and anyone nearby's bound to cop a bullet. [I've heard of copping a plea and copping a feel. I'm not sure how cop works with bullet. Perhaps use "take." Interestingly, "cop" and "take" can each mean "steal," but Logan won't be stealing a bullet.]

If freedom means throwing every scumbag from the highest window, she'll damn well do it. [If the kidnappers have the numbers and/or weapons needed to abduct everyone in the school, how is a seventeen-year-old girl going to handle them?] If she doesn't, Logan's dead, she'll be caught, and Daddy Dearest might just have to release every terrorist in US custody. [What makes her think the kidnappers are interested in getting terrorists released? If I discovered everyone in my school had vanished, I'd be thinking X-Files or practical joke. Not mass kidnapping with the kidnappers planning to return for me.] And that's the problem. If the choice is country or child, Kat's not sure she'll survive.

UNDERTOW is a young-adult mystery complete at 70,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.



If the kidnappers actually want to release terrorists, you'd think their goal would be to get the president's daughter, not everyone except her. You'd think they would be targeting this school because they know the president's daughter is there, and that they would know what she looks like.

I would pluralize both uses of "disappearance."

If everyone disappeared except me, and I decided they were kidnapped, I would assume I wasn't wanted. I wouldn't assume I was left behind as an oversight and they were coming back for me.

Hard to believe there aren't any cell phones available. As everyone was probably asleep when the abductions occurred, making sure no one leaves behind a phone would have been next to impossible. I can't believe the president's daughter would be sent to a place where she couldn't phone home.


150 said...

As your characters must have noticed, the President's daughter should probably be under close security whether she's in the White House or in jail. Unfortunately, in the real world, several dozen people would have told the President this before he sent her to an unarmed reform school. You're going to have to include a better reason why the greatest bargaining chip of the world's greatest superpower is left unattended. And "so there's a story" isn't going to help suspend my disbelief.

This may not be a problem in the book, but it's a problem in the query.

_*rachel*_ said...

I've got some problems with suspension of disbelief. There's no way the secret service is going to leave her alone, though they may be more subtle about hanging around. And how in the world do the kidnappers manage to get every person and communication device but the president's daughter and one guy? That sort of stuff.

Cut down on the sentences that are independent or dependent clauses joined only with a comma. You've got enough of those it's worrying.

I do like the pushed somebody out the window thing. It's a good way to explain her new school, and characterize her.

Anonymous said...

Logic issues are killing this query. Which is not to be confused with realism issues. If your logic was working, the unrealistic elements would not be troublesome. But your plot is rather fantastic, making the logic ever so critical.

Fantastic world + dubious logic = a query that's not working.

This description gives us the impression the novel still needs work. Making your protagonist the President's daughter adds to the challenges your logic has to meet. Maybe you can leave that out.

John said...

I agree with EE's comments, except that "no cell phones" is probably the first rule at any reform school. Otherwise the kids would constantly be calling their dealers, fellow gang members, much-older boyfriends, etc., to come bust them out.

batgirl said...

You've got a strong voice and a very cinematic setup - but this feels like mostly setup. Where does the story start? When she arrives at the reform school, or when everyone disappears, or when the kidnappers come back?

I can kind of buy that the Secret Service is standing off a ways if the school itself has massive security to keep the kids inside. But surely they'd be somewhere nearby, ready to leap into action? Unfortunately I can't think how you can fill in the holes here without overbalancing your query with yet more setup - sorry!

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Unless there's a really good reason why the kidnappers overlooked Kat and Logan (i.e., they fell asleep in the janitorial closet after making out) I would find it a lot more believable if the irrepressible Kat somehow managed to hide from the kidnappers rather than simply sleep through the kidnapping attempt. It would be a stronger character moment for her.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I'm in compliance. I love the opening hook, but agree that the logic issues get in the way here. They may be non issues in the actual story but you need to have them make sense in the query. Unless your writing/voice in the opening 5 pages is spectactular, agents are unlikely to read beyond that if the story is a logic/suspension of disbelief nightmare.

Great high concept. Maybe just a refining is in order...

Dave F. said...

This reminded me of the movie TOY SOLDIERS. I will also admit that as I was reading the GTP's that #3 was my least favorite.

The first thing that struck me as wrong was that you buried the lede about her being the president's daughter.

That sets up the reason for an isolated, island reform school - security.

The second thing I had tons of trouble with was why Kat (Katherine? Kate? Kitty, Katanga, Kaboodle), why Kat and Logan are not swept up in the kidnapper's initial raid. She might be off on a picnic making out with Logan or cleaning the stables with Logan, or catching lizards on the far side of the island with Logan.

Or perhaps Logan is in on the kidnapping? That would make an interesting plot twist. That also gets me to #3 concern.

My third concern was the one voiced in other comments. How do the kidnappers not know Kat is the president's daughter? Are the kidnappers Larry, Curly and Moe? Did they hire incompetent boobs to round up all the other school members? Or are they playing a game and paying the hire help too little for the stakes involved?

Let me say this: criminals can be really stupid about many things but not about kidnapping the president's daughter and terrorists looking to get other terrorists freed will certainly know who they are kidnapping and what she looks like. The might have overthought and over detailed their plot, but they will be looking for the biggest prize in the bunch.

Perhaps the kidnappers are bloodthirsty and ruthless and have killed all the rest and dumped their bodies in the sea.

Yanno, that might make a great zombie novel.

vkw said...

The minions are stuck on the logic part of the query, because it's blaring.

I can buy a "no cell phone" rule at a reform school. But, I don't buy that the president's daughter was sent to reform school for pushing another kid out of the window nor do I believe the secret service wouldn't be there.

I would believe one or two secret service men could be taken out by a terrorist group and that communication was cut off from the mainland due to a storm or a tower being sabotaged. In other words, these problems can be fixed easily.

What I do not buy is that 40 students are kidnapped, leaving only two behind and that the terrorists actually believe they are going to get away with this. The entire military might of the United States is just about ready to open a can of woop ass on the terrorist.

what would be a cook twist if hunky love interest was really a terrorist now that would start making sense.

I didn't like the voice. There were a few sentences I had to re-read a few times in order to grasp the meaning.

For example,

"Unable to contact the mainland, Kat's drowning in questions over the disappearance as feelings develop for the boy by her side. He's not buying her kick-your-ass exterior, senses she's freaking out. But it might be for good reason."

As the two try to discover what happened to their teachers and fellow students, Kat develops feelings for Logan. He's not buying her tough exterior, sensing she is really freaking out, like he is.

And, furthermore, the terrorists around these days don't negotate for the release of their buddies. Terrorists these days kill themselves for a harem of virgins.

Now, they will take hostages for money.

Anonymous said...

The prose here is not always clear.

The story is set a fantasy world, much like we saw in the Golden Compass. But you tossed in some real world features that create unmet expectations & believability problems because your fantasy world doesn't work like our reality.

alaskaravenclaw said...

I agree with what everyone else has said and would add that I've never heard of a coed reform school. I believe one is expected to reform strictly in the company of one's own gender.

Red said...

"Kidnapper 1: We've loaded forty kids and teachers in the boat, but I don't think we can squeeze these last two in.

Kidnapper 2: Okay, leave 'em behind. The ransom we get for these forty should set us up for life.


Kidnapper 1: It occurs to me that that girl we left behind was the daughter of the president.

Kidnapper 2: Let's go back and get her. If we're gonna have the FBI after us, we might as well invite the Secret Service and the military to join the party."

Cracked me up.

AA said...

This makes no sense. The President's daughter gets a new identity? Every tabloid in the country would know it within a week. The island would be crawling with security, too. I can't believe this plot. You can't excuse it by saying it's YA, since a six-year-old wouldn't believe it. I don't like it when authors assume readers are idiots.

If this was a total fantasy and it was the Emperor Chandor's daughter from Frazzleland, I still wouldn't believe the lack of security or that NO ONE knows who she is.

M. G. E. said...

Am I the 500th person to say the plot made little rational sense?

My impression was that if I'd read this plot on the back of a book in the bookstore, I'd roll my eyes and walk away :P

Needs a lot of work, author.

Anonymous said...

This is not a mystery. At least not in the genre sense of the word.

Sure, at first she's going to wonder where everyone went, but the majority of the story sounds like an action-adventure.

Angela Robbins said...

totally agree with everyone, so can't add anything they haven't said.
ee cracked me up with the blue comments, as usual--especially the little dialouge between the kidnappers.

batgirl said...

alaska, for what it's worth, Fallen, the YA paranormal romance by Lauren Kate, is described thusly: "Suspected in the death of her boyfriend, seventeen-year-old Luce is sent to a Savannah, Georgia, reform school where she meets two intriguing boys and learns ..."

So reform schools in YA novels about fallen angels can be co-ed, anyways.

Evil Editor said...

If the president wants his daughter in a reform school, and you want the honor of having her in your reform school, and he wants her to have a cell phone and he prefers a coed student body, chances are you're changing the rules to accommodate his wishes.

Kim Z said...

The parts that make no sense--no security for the president's daughter, no one knowing she's there--are completely unnecessary. Drop them.

There's tons of security--your terrorists are just good enough to overcome it. That's the place to show how ruthless and well-armed they are.

They take everyone because they can't find the president's daughter. They think she's one of the girls they've got, maybe with her hair dyed or somesuch so they're not recognizing her. They're willing to torture the students--who must be lying to protect the girl--until one of them crumbles and points her out.

Thing is, the president's daughter isn't there. She'd given her team the slip and snuck off to the broom closet with Logan to play post office, french letter edition.

That's why nobody's there when they get out. Naturally, the terrorists didn't leave a working phone line behind. Also, naturally, they've left at least a couple agents behind to keep an eye on things. There'll be a betrayal, of course--a teacher or someone, who 'escaped' but is really working for the other side.
There'll also be some exciting scenes as they island hop to safety.

Sounds good--just cut the stuff that's tripping people up and go with the rest!

BuffySquirrel said...

Going by recent events, the US military is more likely to open their can on a country with no connections to the terrorists whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

I agree, too confusing.

I don't know the book, but perhaps focussing on the actual disappearance and cutting the kidnapper thing completely would aid the query, especially as this is a 'mystery'?

Eileen said...

Just another comment- you have your protag push someone out a window to start the book. That doesn't make her very likeable. She doesn't have to save kittens and help nuns cross the street, but is there a reason as a reader I would like her versus thinking she is a snot?