Monday, November 15, 2010

Face-Lift 841

Guess the Plot

How to Be Ruthless

1. Marry Ruth, fight with Ruth, divorce Ruth, stalk Ruth, die, haunt Ruth, get chased off by her new Ghostbuster boyfriend.

2. After insuring the life of his wife, Ruth, for a million dollars, Lance is looking for a hitman who can make her murder look like an accident.

3. When his beloved wife Ruth dies after 47 years of marriage, Aaron Cohen must learn to live, laugh and love again in the wild, savage jungle of senior dating.

4. Humble, henpecked accountant Fred Fotheringale plots to murder his shrewish wife, Ruth. The twist: she wants to be Fredless.

5. Orphaned in mysterious circumstances involving a runaway sled and a chain saw, Ruth now lives with her creepy, but clueless guardians. She’s sure they have her best interests at heart, that those near-misses were just accidents. But when she finds a flow-chart headed: “How To Be Ruthless,” her suspicions are aroused.

6. High school student Hunter Kent has been dumping girlfriends for years. Now he's dating hot hot hot Ruth, but while she's out of town over summer vacation, Hunter falls in love with someone new: Ruth's little brother. Hunter may become hunted when Ruth finds out.

7. Ruth and George seem to be the perfect couple. Then George discovers Ruth sleeping with the milkman and--after a protracted and painful divorce--begins his new Ruthless existence.

8. Existential poet Marcus Prufroche loves his all-grey decor, his beret, and his cadre of nubile graduate students. What he doesn't love is his grandmother Ruth Himmelburg, who thinks her Marky should go out and get a real job. When she tries to fix him up with her best friend's granddaughter visiting from a Lithuanian shtetl, Marcus decides it's time to take action. Fatal action.

9. When Fredrick is kidnapped by a band of female pirates, it seems like heaven at first. But the amazon pirate leader, Ruth, wants more from him than just pleasure. To prove that Fredrick is worthy enough to be her equal, he will have to launch a solo attack on a rival pirate band and bring back the forbidden Crystal of Foretelling. Can he succeed if he is . . . Ruthless?

10. Ruthless vigilante sorcerers descend on Mobile, Alabama when they hear rumors about a baby with the power to heal broken bones. Unfortunately, they're about to encounter a pack of ravenous ninja were-zombies.

11. In a post-apocalyptic world where the Catholic church is the only surviving authority, Ruth is an assassin for T.H.U.G.S.--the Thaumatological Heresy and Unnatural Gestation Society. In other words, she's an angel hunter. But after the Church discovers that Ruth's own biological father is an angel, it's Ruth's turn to be hunted. Her mother is as hot on her heels as hell itself, so it'll take a miracle for Ruth to survive.

12. At the behest of his therapist, smalltime hoodlum Petie Raklune begins blogging anonymously about his exploits. When the readership hits a million plus, book deals pour in amidst a clamor to reveal his identity. But should Petie give up a life of picking pockets merely for an international book tour?

Original Version

Dear Evil One,

At the end of his high school career, Hunter Kent has racked up four virginities taken, ten ex-girlfriends, and one-hundred twenty-six insane parties hosted. He has no idea what he’s going to do with his life, but never mind that for now. It’s the last summer before adulthood begins. [He sounds like Holden Caulfield.] [Wait a minute, Hunter/Holden. Caulfield/Kent. Too close to be a coincidence . . . although you might change Hunter's last name to Kenfield.] He just wants to live it up.

At Hunter’s very last high school party, theatre star Laura Welch fixates on him. [Whattaya mean, theatre star? Are we talking school play or Broadway?] [Okay, the truth comes out. I changed her name from Laura to Ruth in the Guess the Plot feature; I had to, or the title wouldn't make sense, as there's nothing about ruthlessness in the plot summary.] Hunter’s cool with that -- she’s hot. When Laura takes off to Mexico for half the summer, however, her sixteen-year-old brother Taylor crashes into Hunter’s life. Taylor is a musical prodigy, home for the summer from a prestigious fine arts academy. He’s fresh, uncharted territory, and Hunter is obsessed. Their relationship is a slow burn, evoking more passion in Hunter than he’s ever felt for anyone else. [He never suspected he could be this obsessed with a pianist.] For Hunter, the best part about dating the hottest girl in town is making out with her little brother. [The term "little brother" is introducing the Ewww factor, even though we know he's only a year younger. I don't think we need the word "little" now that we know his age.]

The only problem? Laura. Hunter thinks he can handle telling her he’s in love with her brother, until she drops a bomb: she’s pregnant. [And to make matters worse, the father is Hunter's kid sister.] On top of that, Taylor seems to be lying about everything. [Either leave that out or be more specific.] Grown-up life is a helluva lot more complicated than high school.

How To Be Ruthless is a YA novel complete at 50,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.



For starters it's obvious that you simply must change Laura's name to Ruth.

It's not clear why it's called How to Be Ruthless. Normally that doesn't matter, but in this case I think you should mention some ruthless behavior in the Laura/Hunter relationship. "Ruthless" doesn't feel like the right word. Which is another good reason to change her name.

Are we supposed to like Hunter? I've noticed that the minions often make comments like: Why would I want to read a whole book about this jerk? If this is about Hunter coming to terms with his sexuality, you might want to tone down the stolen virginities part and try to make him sound more sympathetic. Unfortunately, you may need to do that in the book as well as the query.


arhooley said...

These are phrases that snagged my brain:

Laura Welch fixates on him. -- You could improve this description.

Their relationship is a slow burn -- You could get rid of that.

I'm puzzled why such a hunter as Hunter has never charted smokin' hot young male territory before. I also realize that the conspicuous absence of parents is probably part of the point, but really, where are they?

If the surprise pregnancy is a problem, it's clear Laura intends to have the baby. I hope you're in complete control of the shift of tone this will necessitate. "Grown-up life is a helluva lot more complicated than high school" doesn't inspire confidence.

It's not my kind of book, but the writing and plotting seem breezy and competent. I might see the movie.

Anonymous said...

I kind of like this. Maybe all the bagging the hotties was to distract himself from the whole gay thing. Or maybe he's bi, mostly into girls but he's actually in love with this one guy. I'd like it more if I knew he was, actually, in love with the little bro, but I don't want to get all Brokeback Mountain on you.

Dave F. said...

So let me get this "straight" (sorry, I couldn't resist opening with that phrase)...

Hunter leaves a trail of ex-virgins, ex-girlfriends, and parties and is the current obsession of the theater girl and

wait for it,

he falls in love with her younger brother? And his problem is how to tell the world he loves a man (well, a 16 or 17 year boy)?

And the girl is pregnant.

You have written a gay novel. A quite iconic gay novel. raging heterosexual finds love with the same sex and has to deal with his love, its consequences and society.

I think those three facts should open the query. When High School playboy Hunter falls in love with his pregnant girlfriend's younger brother, he is torn between staying with her or joining him.

See, Hunter is unlikeable in those terms and the critique of the other minions make sense.

Joe G said...

Yeah, I dunno... hopefully in the book the sexuality change makes sense because he doesn't seem particularly emotionally conflicted about having been a lady killer and then suddenly falling in love with a guy. You make it pretty clear that he is attracted to the sister as well. Maybe he's bi.

Wasn't Holden pretty much uninterested in sex? Or rather, not especially interested?

Stephen Prosapio said...

What I like:
This really IS a YA novel as opposed to some idea contorted to "write a YA book."

You've pared down the summary into the core characters and elements. I'm sure there are more than 3 characters in this novel but you've selected the 3 key ones to bring up here. That's not as easy as it sometimes sounds.

Topic - teen pregnancy and growing up. If done well it can be very relevant.

What I'm not sure about:
Voice - Something about it is a bit too "on the nose" maybe it's just me. I like that you've got a voice though.

Turn - I don't mind the turn of Hunter being bi- but I think it could be done a bit better. Is HE surprised by the attraction or has he always been fighting it?

Lastly-- I'm hopeful the novel isn't just a morality play. IE - don't have premarital sex (causes pregnancy) and don't entertain thoughts of homosexual relations (causes confusion). 50k words is pretty short for what are rather complicated issues.

It's something I bet that you get reads for. Good luck!

150 said...

I don't know, I kind of liked it as-is. Apart from EE's comments, I only have two suggestions.

1) You might want to make it clear what kind of character arc Hunter is on, and use that last paragraph to hint at what kind of person the book will turn him into, whether better or worse.

2) 126 parties hosted? That's three out of five weekends for the entire four years. Does he have no parents at all? How exactly does a fourteen-year-old put together an "insane" party?

I'm interested. Good luck!

vkw said...

I don't find anything likeable about Hunter.

He's a party animal, (no way he hosted that many parties and I am wondering how he graduated), enjoys sexual conquests, breaking up with girlfriends and starts dating his newest girlfriend's younger brother.

Ewwwwwww. . . .is right.

Now that I know about Hunter, please give me a reason to believe he's conflicted about what to do now that Laura's pregnant. There is nothing in his description that even hints at morality or a conscience or being conflicted about anything. He may be against hurting puppies and kittens, but from his description I'm not sure.

He sounds like his biggest obstacle is going to be about how to talk them into a threesome.

Ewwww. . . the turkey gel casserole sounded better.

It almost seems like the author wants the reader to believe that Hunter develops a moral compass when he falls in love with Taylor.

Is there really a market for YA novel about bi-sexuality and depraved morality? (And before anyone jumps me, I am not referring to Hunter's sexuality as being depraved but his treatment of those he is in a relationship with.)

And, I agree with the other minion, I think Hunter would have been dating both males and females prior to meeting Taylor.

And then we have Taylor, what is up with him? Doesn't he even care about his sister's feelings? Do we just cast away all consideration for anyone else but ourselves and our mate when we fall in love? Or are we kinder, gentler, happier when we are in love and this is reflected in all our relationships?

Nevermind. . . .

I think this would be a better story if it was about Laura.


chelsea said...

Yayyy, a pianist joke! :)

I have conflicted feelings about this one. The twist could work out well: through love, Hunter becomes a whole person rather than a two-dimensional playboy. Or it could work out poorly: of course Hunter can't find love with females - they are, after all, just vapid playthings - but once he gets turned on to guys his relationships become meaningful.

I'm guessing it's the first one, but I don't know. I think it all depends on whether or not we are supposed to like Hunter. Are we?

BuffySquirrel said...

I think you need to consider carefully who your target readers are. The kind of reader who'll like the party stud are probably not the kind who'll like the suddenly-gay (or bi) guy, and vice versa. Maybe Hunter is irresistibly charming, or very funny, or has some other trait that will make his company bearable, but, if so, that's not coming across in the query. Probably needs kittens.

pacatrue said...

My thoughts were along the lines of Buffy's. Who is the target market exactly? I don't get a feel for the tone of the book. Some parts seem to be aiming at tenderness and emotional conflict; some parts seem almost like pulp. Those won't appeal to the same people. My guess is that the girls who would like a story of Hunter and Taylor won't get past his treatment of Laura and other girls before. But people who wouldn't mind the latter may get bored by the former. Just not clear to me, though there's certainly a lot of meat to this story.

Georgina said...

I read a lot of YA, and I think there's definitely a market for this. But I agree with the other minions that the way Hunter's being presented is a turn-off. He sounds so awful in the beginning (counting virginities, bleah) that I think you're going to struggle to keep readers before they get to his redemption.

The pregnancy also makes me doubtful, and I wonder if Laura gets the short shift in the novel. I get the feeling she's going to be pregnant just long enough to give Hunter some character growth over the issue, then have a miscarriage.

Still, I like LGBT YA, and I especially like LGBT YA with possibly-bi characters, because I think they're under-represented in what's already an under-represented genre. So I'd check this out if I saw it in a bookstore, and hope that Hunter didn't start off so icky that I put it right back on the shelf.

Good luck with it, and cheers.

Anonymous said...

Yuk. A virgin seeker turned gay, like all of a sudden. It may not be a bad story but the query needs help. I quite liked Dave's revised opening. The her/him shift is not sitting well in my gizzard. See you at the House of Phoenix I hope.

Becca C. said...

Hey guys, I'm the author.

Thanks so much for your comments, they've given me a lot to think about. I'm actually embarrassed at how Hunter comes off here! I wrote this story because I wanted to write from the point of view of a real guy, not a thinly-disguised 35-year-old woman in a man's body like you see a lot of the time in YA. He's an anti-hero, but he's not a bad guy, and his parents are actually his best friends.

I'll definitely think more about how he's portrayed in the next draft.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Don't be embarrassed. I mean it. Re-think the query line. That's your task. Best, this is tough sledding.