Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Face-Lift 827

Guess the Plot


1. After forty-nine years of beak-nosed mayhem in the pages of Mad Magazine, the "Spy Vs. Spy" rivalry ends in a bloody total victory... but for which Spy?

2. Hillbilly boy genius Buddy Boone and his sidekick Howie find a pigeon behind the shed. The bird has a computer chip tied to its leg. Buddy hacks the chip using a decoder app on his iPhone and discovers a plot to wipe out mankind and turn the world over to a dog and some monkeys! What faceless fiend is behind this scheme? The boys must go undercover and snoop around until they find out!

3. He's got the gadgets, the black leather bag full of unmarked hundreds, the fake passports--and no memory of whose side he's on . . . except for a faint recollection of a woman wearing jasmine perfume.

4. Ferris Samson runs a counter-intelligence unit in Southern California. After his best operative turns up dead, a parcel arrives containing a children's picture book. Can he find the clues in the images before something BAD happens?

5. The newest member of the spy ring known as Spies Serving Society is also the only adult in the ring. Not only that, he's Black Dragon: the world's greatest spy. But before he even has time to settle in, Black Dragon is captured. Should the SSS try to rescue him? Do they really want to hang out with a big person?

6. When Finnegan is assigned the dangerous task of infiltrating the mob, he knows that one wrong move means he'll be sleeping with the fishes. So when the Don drops in unexpectedly and Finnegan is dining on Fettuccini Alfredo, he must think fast. Luckily he has a jar of Emeril's Kicked-up Tomato sauce in the pantry.

Original Version

Dear Editor,

When the spy ring known as Spies Serving Society gain a new member, they are surprised to find that he is not only the first adult in their small group, but also the infamous Black Dragon, the best stealth master in the business. At first delighted, they soon become worried when their base comes under attack. [Their base? Oh, you mean their clubhouse. Is their clubhouse in a tree?] [When you're under attack, you usually have a stronger reaction than becoming worried. You usually have to fight off the attackers.] Dragon explains that his former leader, General Ursa, did not want him to leave her ring, and the SSS agree to help him, despite their misgivings. [The world's greatest spy becomes a free agent and decides to join a spy ring that's all kids? Would James Bond leave MI-6 to join the Baker Street Irregulars? Hypothetically; I realize he couldn't, because the Baker Street Irregulars are fictional.]

But when Dragon is captured by the nefarious General Ursa, [He's the best stealth master in the business and he's captured five minutes after he gets there?] the SSS's loyalty is put to the test. [Loyalty to a guy who just got there and who immediately brought their base under attack?] [Side note: Black Dragon sounds like the worst stealth master in the business.] They can rescue him – risking imprisonment or death – or leave him to his fate. [Tough choice. Imprisonment and death or . . . nothing.] The choice is theirs, but it may not be as simple as they think, thanks to a traitor in their midst.

At 60,000 words, Spy is a futuristic adventure novel for mid- to late teens.

Thank you for considering my work.



The only characters who get named are the villain and the superspy who gets captured minutes after joining the SSS. Is there a main character (for instance, the leader of the SSS) you can focus on, or does everyone in the SSS get equal billing?

An actual spy ring with no adults sounds like it would be an easier sell to a middle grade audience.

You have room on the page for another two or three sentences of plot. Something about what happens after Black Dragon is captured. Maybe something about who the SSS spies on and spies for. Spy rings usually serve a country or a big organization. In what way do these spies serve society?


arhooley said...

This query leaves me all perplexed. This is a society with numerous competing spy rings? Why? Is it a totalitarian state? Who would hire a bunch of kids to spy? Are they like gypsy kids, able to hide and run and appear innocent? What's the upper age limit for the SSS? And how did they originally form?

You don't have to answer these questions specifically in your query, but you need to show that this world makes sense and that you've got control of your story.

M. G. E. said...

This plot appears terribly flawed.

Contrary to what many may assume, not just any plot is publishable, not even close.

Only as a YA story, or as a comedy could a plot this absurd be pulled off. If absurdity is what you're going for, well okay, but it doesn't read like it.

The biggest problem is that they can just walk away from the new guy and live happily ever after.

And when the going gets tough your reader will ask, 'why don't they?' And then the reader will put down your book and perhaps never take it up again.

Stephen Prosapio said...


For me, this was the least interesting of the Guess The Plot pitches. What's worse than that is that the entire plot as described makes ZERO sense.

"They are surprised to find" How does that work? They let people join without first knowing who they are? Wouldn't that be like rule ONE of a spy society: know who you allow in!

EE and Arhooley bring up other important incongruencies so I'll not belabor those, but the choice at the end is a no-brainer. You've given us NOTHING to think that they'd actually want to save this "Best Spy Ever" (who apparently is easily followed AND easily captured-- what part of the spy biz is his thing?).

Lastly, mid-to-late teens? Really??? If you're going to write a book for mid-to-late teens, you'd better have those teens being pretty darn smart (which means not doing cockeyed illogical things) or they're going to rip you apart. Reading this query I was rolling my eyes thinking that even middle grade would poke holes in the plot.

I hope you've just misrepresented the story somehow in the query. It's short and that can happen especially with short synopsises.

alaskaravenclaw said...

MGE is correct. Unless.

Are there stakes here the writer hasn't shared with us? What's all this spying in aid of? What, other than the death of a near-stranger who's put them in danger, do the main characters (I assume) stand to lose or gain? Is the nation (any nation) at risk? Humanity? The galaxy? The snail darter?

As a middle grades author myself, I agree that it sounds like middle grades... but the middle grades of a generation ago.

Eric said...

The plot sounds inspired by what I used to play with my friends on the playground when I was eight or nine. "Oh no, Bobby's been captured by the evil spies!"

Also, perhaps your title should be a bit more generic.


batgirl said...

What alaska said. This reminded me of Secret Agents Four, by Donald Sobol, which came out in 1967, for middle grade.
"Little did Ken and his buddies--Orv, Horseshoes, and Bo--know just how exciting their summer was to be. Instead of perfecting a few of Orv's earthshaking inventions (some of which even worked, sometimes), who would have pictured their joining forces with the good guys, Mongoose, in a heroic attempt to foil Cobra's latest nefarious plot? It is not long before V.A.C.U.U.M. (Volunteer Agents Crusading Unsteadily Under Mongoose) is officially born. Add one Beautiful Assistant Gangbuster, Mary Evans (full title, V.A.C.U.U.M. B.A.G.), a modest fleet of vintage cars and a World War I De Havilland and the fun is about to begin."

Phoenix said...

GTP #1 had me all a-giggle and a-sputter.

And we gotta pay attention with you, EE, don't we? (because the BSI are fictional - that's the way to handle humor, letting the reader come to it. It's like you're a pro or something...)

Perhaps the author will come by and explain the story a bit more so we can give them some helpful pointers, because until that happens, I'm afraid I've got nothing constructive to add.

_*rachel*_ said...

Speaking as someone who regularly reads this sort of book, this has my Willing Suspension of Disbelief running for cover.

Do you have a main character? Tell us who/how old. Why are there only young spies (it sounds like they're teens or younger) and what are they spying on? Why are there no adults?

Make this more specific, and for goodness sake make it more believable.

The BSI crack was a good one.

writtenwyrdd said...

I don't want to play Bash The Author here, but, yeah, what everyone else says. This description makes no sense and hopefully doesn't do your story or plot justice.

Georgina said...

Hi, author.

There's already a genre for mid- to late teens: it's called Young Adult. The fact that you don't seem to know this makes me think that you haven't been browsing in that section of the bookstore recently, and you really need to, because

a) today's YA is not the same as YA was even ten years ago, and

b) this doesn't sound like YA at all.

It sounds like Middle Grade, except that MG books don't have kids rescuing adults, they have kids rescuing other kids. There's a YA series about a girl who goes to spy school by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls), but it also deals with teen topics like romance and boys, and it's set in our world, spy school notwithstanding. Your story sounds more like a fantasy world (you call it futuristic at the end), but it's never shown how this is different from the world we live in now.

I'd advise you to go to the bookstore or your local library and spend a while just browsing the YA and MG sections. Read some opening chapters, get a feel for what's being published, and see where your book might fit in. I think you could re-write this so it works for an MG audience, but I have to agree that kids in a spy ring sounds very old-fashioned unless you can put a modern twist on it. Even spy rings in the real world aren't what they used to be, thanks to technology.

Good luck with it.