Thursday, July 07, 2011

Face-Lift 925

Guess the Plot

Marielle's Wish

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...

Original Version

Dear Agent:

JinnÄ« 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 JinnÄ«. 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.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

What he said.

You spend a lot of font telling us that when Grandpa dies, Marielle will get three wishes. A sentence could cover that. Or you could leave it out.

Then the djinn shows up, and he's a hottie with a curse. And that's all she wrote.

What's the plot? What happens? Who must do what in order to save or prevent what?

Still, I hope to find an agent who can help me improve it further.

Leave that out. An agent doesn't get paid unless a manuscript sells. So her enthusiasm for seeing a manuscript that even the writer thinks needs work is likely to be minimal.

Whirlochre said...

We don't need the documentary footage right at the start: the word 'genie' speaks for itself whenever it appears on the page.

Take EE's set-up and flesh it out, taking care to lose the apologist remarks of your sign-off paragraph.

I can see where you're going with the chatty style of this query but for me the questions quickly became annoying. Either tone them down or ramp them up.

Plus — you need to tell us what happens when she finally has the genie.

Anonymous said...

What they said. Based on the errors in the query, one wonders if the manuscript is ready for an audience. Maybe a writer's group would be helpful. Your plot either needs more development or a better description.

Anonymous said...

Is his curse that he has to be a jinn until he finds true love?

flibgibbet said...

As is, the set-up reads unoriginal to me---like a re-run of the Twilight Zone. In order to make it stand out, the story's going to need a great twist and it's going to have to appear in the query.

I'd also reconsider the language if this is meant to appeal to a modern YA audience. "Life hadn't been kind", "lost her innocence", etc., reads old school.

And for sure, leave out most of second to last para, nix the fourth, and use a spell checker.

vkw said...

I think #4 would make a fun romantic comedy.

I am quite certain that this would be something that would work in a movie and can't you see Jennifer Anistan in the lead role?

Dear Author,

Let's start with the first assumption that I, your reader, is fascinated by Jeannie or Ginnis or whatever magical, mystical creatures get stuck in bottles and promise some sort of reward for uncorking the bottle. The only thing that fascinates me about this is how a clever writer could turn that in a methaphor for drug and alcohol abuse.

Now that I am offended, I move to the 2nd paragraph where I read the author repeating her point several different ways. I am now deeply offended that the author thinks that I am so dumb - he/she has to spell it out several ways for me. (Furthermore, because he/she writes like I talk, I now think she is making fun of me. I have a little paranoia going on today.)

But what we get is skeptical typical teenager gets three wishes and a jinni and a curse when grandpa dies.

Here's your query -

Grandpa morbidly told Marielle repeatedly that she would get three wishes and jinni when he dies. Marielle is more than a bit skeptical, she's thinks pops is looney tunes. Who wouldn't? But when it happens, she wishes he would have mentioned the curse as well.

Now what happens?

sarah hawthorne said...

The chatty style and cute-jinn-in-a-bottle story seem rather at odds with the asides about date rape and being orphaned and losing her last relative. Be careful about tone - is this a dark, serious book or a breezy beach read?

Ink and Pixel Club said...

One thing that strikes me that hasn't been mentioned yet is how unsympathetic the last sentence of paragraph four sounds toward the main character. From the way you've described her life, Marielle has every right to be jaded at the very least. As Evil Editor said, most people in the real world do not believe in genies, even if they haven't been orphaned and date raped. Your opening paragraph suggests that Marielle is someone who has not interest in getting three wishes from a genie, but I don't see that in the rest of the query. What I see is someone who has a very reasonable skepticism about her grandfather's stories and a hope that her grandfather will stay alive. But once he does die and Marielle can't stop it from happening, I can't see why she wouldn't want three wishes to make her miserable life a little better. That last sentence in the fourth paragraph makes it sound like you think Marielle's attitude is a character failing and the jinn is just what she deserves and needs to turn that frown upside-down and stop being such a Little Miss Jaded.

I'd suggest you pick a term and capitalization - be it "jinn," "Jinn," "genie," or "djinn" - and stick with it.

Anonymous said...

"...Alladin to I Love Jeanie (comma) children and adults find the idea of ‘making a wish’ terribly appealing. The heroin...

---So within your first 3 sentences you've got more than 3 mistakes. It's extremely doubtful any agent is going to go much farther in reading this.

What I found most alarming though was there's a massive POV shift in this query.

When Marielle Iris was five, she thought her grandfather was the most awesome storyteller ever. [Marielle POV]

At seventeen, she thinks he’s full of bull.
[Marielle POV]

But what does he expect?
[Grandpa POV]

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?
[Grandpa POV]

I guess the case could be made that all technically could be her POV....but it wouldn't make sense...if she think he's full of bull, she'd just think that not think "well because x, y, z happened to me, I think he's full of bull".

BuffySquirrel said...

Don't assume your reader loves djinn. It's your job to make them love your djinn.