Thursday, July 07, 2011
Guess the Plot
1. That John would stop screwing his secretary and pay more attention to her. That her mother in law would drop dead. That she was born rich instead of beautiful. That she hadn't just wrecked the car in the middle of some kind of horrible haunted forest in the middle of the night. That her cell phone was working. That she could actually walk in these shoes.
2. Marielle's grandfather bequeaths to her his genie in a bottle, along with the usual three wishes. When she sees the handsome, hunky genie, she knows what her first wish will be. Can she resist wishing for the same thing two more times?
3. Jake Barker races against time to find the secret lair of master criminal Marielle, before the eccentric ex-chemist can celebrate her fiftieth birthday by wishing the world's oceans into sulphuric acid.
4. On her 26th birthday, Marielle looks upon her lonely best friend, Kattrin, and makes a wish that Kattrin will find someone who makes her happy. The next day, Marielle's fiance leaves her for Kattrin. Can Marielle delay Kattrin's wedding for a year so she can undo the wish on her 27th birthday?
5. Marielle discovers that the old incense burner she bought at a yard sale is actually a magic lamp. The genie promises her three wishes, but Marielle only needs one. She asks for the man of her dreams--and ends up with Mr. Barkley, her third grade teacher. Well, she did just dream of him last night.
6. In the utopian future, there is no hunger, no war, no pedophiles, and no boy bands. Just pure, unadulterated boredom. When Marielle finds a wish, she decides to wish for some strife just to liven things up. Alas, The Church, to whom they've all been paying 'Happy Money,' doesn't like the idea...
Jinnī or Genie have always inspired our imaginations. From Alladin [That's spelled Aladdin] to I Love Jeanie [The show was called I Dream of Jeannie. You have it confused with I Love Lucy.] children and adults find the idea of ‘making a wish’ [Do we need those quotation marks?] terribly appealing. The heroin of MARIELLE'S WISH [Heroin is a drug. You're thinking of "heroine." We're off to a rousing start. Theoretically, you're sending Evil Editor the query you were planning to send to an agent. Let's hope you didn't get tired of waiting and send it already. The agent is going to think the book is as carelessly written as the query letter. That's what I'm thinking. Are we right?] is the exception to this rule. She’s tired of hearing about Jinnī. Here is why:
When Marielle Iris was five, she thought her grandfather was the most awesome storyteller ever. At seventeen, she thinks he’s full of bull. But what does he expect? What with the loss of her parents and the awful way in which she lost her innocence (her ex slipped her a roofie at a party), life hasn’t been exactly kind to her. If she doesn’t believe that her inheritance is a Jinn in a bottle, can Grandpa really blame her? She’s a skeptic and her trust in all matters is, at best, scant. [That sentence says the same thing twice. As most people would scoff at the idea of an actual Jinn in a bottle, you don't need either half of the sentence. And the sentence about the parents and the roofie has nothing to do with the rest of the paragraph. These are the main ideas you need: When Marielle Iris was five, she thought her grandfather was the most awesome storyteller ever. At seventeen, she thinks he’s full of bull. But then, could anyone blame her for not believing Grandpa when he said he was bequeathing to her an actual Jinn in a bottle?]
Besides it’s morbid! What sensible girl wants to think that her grandfather has to die in other [order] to get three wishes? [That reads like the grandfather gets three wishes when he dies. You want something like: She doesn't want three wishes if it means her grandfather must die.] It’s not worth it, not when grandpa’s all she’s got. [It's worth it if she's willing to squander the first wish on bringing Grandpa back to life.] But whether she wants to think about her unusual inheritance or not, life forces her.
Grandpa dies unexpectedly. With him gone, [and] she gets her three wishes. Oh, and, by the way, a handsome jinn with a curse that only true love can break. [Instead of "Oh, and, by the way," just say "--also" or "--along with." If nothing else it eliminates comma overload.] [Also, why not be specific about the curse . . . a handsome jinn cursed to wear satin pants until he finds true love.] This should take care of Little Miss Jaded.
MARIELLE'S WISH is my third novel, and I hope it’s ‘a charm.’ [Agents don't care how many novels you've written unless they've sold.] It should appeal to a young adult audience and it is complete at 78,000 words.
This novel has been plotted with passion and [unlike this query letter,] edited with care. Still, I hope to find an agent who can help me improve it further. [After an agent takes you on, she may well offer suggestions. Getting her to take you on by sending her a book that needs improvement is the tricky part.] I hope you might consider me for your list. Thank you for your time.
Instead of fixing the mistakes in paragraph 1, just dump it. Get to your book.
The whole query is set-up. Once you set up the premise, we want to know what happens. The setup is this: Marielle's grandfather often told her she would inherit his jinn in a bottle, along with the standard three wishes, but she always thought that was just one of his stories. Now Grandpa is dead, Marielle is alone, and there's a handsome jinn standing before her, asking for her first wish.
Once we have that, we want to know whether the remainder of the book is devoted to what Marielle wishes for, with no conflict, or whether the wishes all backfire, whether she tells anyone about her wishes, whether someone tries to influence her wishes. I assume she and the Jinn fall in love; what obstacles must they overcome? Is there a downside to their true love? Does the Jinn keep granting wishes after he finds true love?
With a one-paragraph set-up, there's plenty of room to make us care what happens. We aren't gonna read the book just to find out what Marielle wishes for.
When you're telling us what happens, include whatever makes this more appropriate for the young adult crowd than middle grade kids.