Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Face-Lift 927


Guess the Plot

Through a Glass Darkly

1. The school's science nerd hacks Kari's digital scale and livestreams the results on the Internet, launching Kari into a deadly struggle with anorexia, bulimia, cutting, and a mean stepmom.

2. Nerdy Aaron could not believe his luck! His cool new house-mates not only turned him on to the joys of substance abuse, but they actually trusted him to store the pillowcase full of weed in his room. Hilarity ensues when their house gets raided.

3. The light is out. The glass is broken. Preacher man Joss Simpson will either lose his soul or save it when he enters the mysterious mirrored portal to Dimension X. He has to build a city, an army, and save the world.

4. A gay Japanese man in his last year of law school in the US goes out for the football team and falls for the wide receiver. But will his conservative family in Japan approve? Also, other characters who see life . . . through a glass darkly.

5. At a wild party celebrating his divorce, Steve Betts falls through a second story picture window in the dark. He wakes up in the hospital to find that his wiseacre friends have left him a gift: copies of all 273 books listed on Amazon under the title "Through A Glass Darkly".

6. Kids holding a giant bar mirror across one lane of a dark mountain highway are causing causing a rash of fatal roll-over accidents by drivers trying to avoid head-on collisions (with themselves) -- until a suicidal divorcee sees her chance at escape and floors it dead ahead.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Stephen James has finally accepted himself as a gay man when he meets Grace and, one coffee later, is left torn between his undeniable attraction to men and the red-headed exception that proves the rule. [Does that mean I can't be sure I'm straight unless I find a guy who's the exception that proves the rule?] [How many coffees did it take for him to accept himself as gay?] He and Grace marry, but his confusion continues, and the marriage fails. [Too bad. But how could anyone have foreseen that?] Another year, another coffee shop, and this time it is Gabriel who has Stephen brushing up on his flirting skills. Will it be different with Gabriel, [Count on it.] or will Stephen push him away as he did Grace? [Don't take this the wrong way, but who cares?]

Higen Nishida attends law school in the United States, planning to return to Japan, the family law firm, and an arranged marriage upon graduation. [Apparently you've overreacted to my last comment by switching the query to a different book.] [Is the legal system in Japan so similar to America's that going to law school in the US prepares you to practice law in Japan? A lot of law school involves studying cases that can be cited as precedents, but not in any country.] When Gabriel encourages him to try out for the football team, [In his last year of law school? Can you make that the badminton team?] Higen finds himself more interested in scoring points with the wide receiver than in scoring points on the field. [Some gay guys do like a wide receiver. Others prefer a tight end! Ba dum ching.] Their relationship [Higen and the wide receiver?] develops over wine, poetry, and summers spent together on the Johnson family ranch, but as Higen’s time in law school nears its end, he must choose whether to meet the expectations of his family and culture or pursue his relationship with Gabriel. [Something tells me Higen isn't going to meet his family's expectations no matter what he does.] [Is Gabriel and Stephen over?]

Raven Madison and Jack Johnson slip away from a party and make love on the beach. [Third time's the charm?] [Is this Jack Johnson of the Johnson family farm?] As Jack rejoins the crowd, Raven is raped, [You'd think he'd stick around until she was ready to go back. What did he say? "This was nice, but it sounds like they're doing the limbo."?] and her injuries leave her blind. [Those are some pretty serious injuries not to have been mentioned at the same time you said she was raped, i.e. Raven is attacked, beaten and raped.] Jack stays by her side as she heals and adjusts to life as a blind woman, ["I'll hang around until you stop bumping into things. Should be good for a few laughs."] but the terrifying flashbacks brought on by his touch leave Raven wondering if her sight is the only thing she lost that night.

Complete at 117,000 words, Through a Glass Darkly is a work of literary fiction that follows the overlapping lives of Stephen, Higen, and Raven [The only names that appear in more than one of the mini-plots are Johnson and Gabriel. Yet Stephen, Higen and Raven are the ones whose lives overlap?] as they struggle to define themselves while relating to others. [Vagueness is always boring. Note how much more interesting the book sounds with a more specific wrap-up: . . . follows the overlapping lives of Stephen, Higen, and Raven as they lead an army of zombies in an invasion of the Johnson family farm.] Thank you for your time and for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

There's no evidence that any one of the three main characters even knows the other two.

Is it possible to focus on one character and how that character's life overlaps with the other two, instead of doing these separate paragraphs for each character? It's hard to form an attachment for a character who merits mention in only a third of the plot summary.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good literary title, and Amazon only returns 1,262 hits on a search for that one.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a big mess. Start over. Begin by telling me what this is. Linked novellas? Independent stories? An experiment in literary structures? Then tell who the main characters are etc and make it clear why the plots require all 3 stories to be published in one book. Because otherwise my impression is you wrote 3 stories that ended before they reached novel length and publishing them together is merely convenient, not a brilliant literary design.

BuffySquirrel said...

Only 1262 hits on Amazon? And I was going to suggest that this particular title might be a tad overused. It also doesn't seem to have much to do with the novel as presented.

As the characters and the events in their lives are not that unusual, except perhaps for Raven's situation, the writing needs to stand out in order to attract attention. At the moment, it doesn't. Why should we care about this man who can't connect to a lover? Why should we care if one law student doesn't become a lawyer after all? Engage the reader.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the first "story." Why would he have a problem with Gabriel? It didn't work out with Grace because he is gay, and when a gay guy marries a woman, it doesn't always work out. Gabriel is a guy, so I don't see any reason why he would push Gabriel away because he pushed Grace away.

I can't beleive that a guy would just decide to join the football team his last year of law school. How bad is their team?

The last sentence in paragraph three kind of bothered me. Duh, she lost something else than her sight when she got raped. It's kind of a huge issue. I get what you're going for, but maybe word it differently.

As it stands, I just don't care about these characters, and that's a bad thing. Make me care about them.

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm pretty sure you can't call a book ANYTHING, Darkly, without having it be about drugs.

John said...

Given the gay love story angle, I would avoid the name Johnson.

BTW, I would totally read GTP #6.

vkw said...

1st Corinithians 13, verse 12!


"For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known." (Kings James Version)


By the way, Paul's writing has nothing to do with the plot of this book.

Did I get it right? Wait, this isn't name that Bible verse is it?

I'm going to be nice. This may be an interesting book if the author can write a query that explains how these lives overlap.

And. . . tell us why we should care. Most of these characters sound petty and deceptive.

Furthermore the Japanese man wouldn't be studying law in America . . unless maybe international business law? And, football - really - in law school? Make it a bachelor's degree.

Leaving a lover on the beach after having sex sounds like a loser to me. Does he stay with her out of guilt?

And what happened to Gary? Did he confess to his wife prior to marrying her that he accepted himself as a gay man? He sounds bi-sexual to me and selfish.

vkw

batgirl said...

How much of these plotlets take place within the book, and how much of them is backstory? I found that particularly unclear. Does Grace come into the present story at all, or instance, or is she backstory? Does the attack on Raven happen within the story or as a memory or flashback?

batgirl said...

Oh, and minor point for the minions - the query itself doesn't say Higen joins the football team in his last year of law school. He might have been playing football all along.

If Gabriel is the linking character, maybe the query could tell us something about him? Maybe centre the query on him?

Whirlochre said...

This reads like a precis of a synopsis.

There's too much and too little at the same time.

Who's the protag in whose life all others are shimmers and glimmers?

And what's snuffing the light?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, but how many law schools even have a football team?

And yeah, you do kind of need to study the laws of your own country, if that's where you intend to practice...

no-bull-steve said...

A literary work...exciting since we don't get enough of these here! Not to mention we hardly ever get LGBT work here...that said, this obviously needs some work.

The main thing for me is the lack of identification with any of the characters...especially since the hook involves Stephen (great name by the way). Then it's like poof he's gone.

Gabriel as a name is okay except that you equate Stephen pushing away from the redhead...which stopped me to verify it wasn't Gabrielle....you never want to stop someone reading your query.

I don't know of ANY Law School with a football team. Who would they play? If someone is in Law School, that means (I think) they've already graduated college and thus used up their eligibility. I strongly disagree with Batgirl that the query doesn't say he's NOT playing football...

"When Gabriel encourages him to try out for the football team..."

You don't try out for a team if you're already playing. Moreover, anyone with any knowldege of law school OR college athletics (even a small program) would know that no one has time to do both...especially someone from another country who's unlikely to have ever played the game before.

Worst of all IMO is the "wide receiver" quip. It's like trying to be clever based off a cliched joke (no offense EE). Kind of insulting actually...and I stopped reading completely to check out the comments to see if this was a joke query. Not good.

Next, come up with a better name than Jack Johnson. In addition to the popular singer, there's also the famous boxer of the same name...who was involved in an historic "rape" case because he liked dating white women.

Lastly, this query reminds me of an artsy movie that vaguely overlaps stories rather than literary fiction which is supposed to focus on a character's development. Good luck with this!

Evil Editor said...

It doesn't matter whether he's been playing football all along or just starting in his last year. College football players practice three to five hours a day, and half their games are on the road. To manage law school at the same time isn't believable.

BuffySquirrel said...

Where did the idea that it's his last year at law school come from anyway? EE?

Evil Editor said...

Law schools are affiliated with universities that have football teams. And if you don't play football as an undergrad, you still have eligibility as a grad student.

Evil Editor said...

I guess I got that impression from the talk of going to Japan at graduation and his time in law school coming to an end. Sorry if anyone got the GTP wrong because I claimed it was the last year.

sarahhawthorne said...

I just don't understand what your book is about. You are following three very different characters, going through three very different struggles. What is the connection? Why did you choose to link these three people together?

Not Normally.... ya know. said...

EE -- I see what you're saying but I beg to differ...and as you know there's a difference between REAL and "fictionally realistic".

"Higen Nishida attends law school in the United States, planning to return to Japan...blah blah blah....When Gabriel encourages him to try out for the football team...."

That is COMPLETELY unrealistic. I don't care if he's in his 1st, 2nd or 3rd year of law school....how the HECK is he going to make a college football team without having played football before?!?! You're saying he played in Japan before attending Law School in the States?!?!? WHERE?!?!?! What position is a Japanese man going to play at 23 never having played the game? Cornerback? Running back? It just makes NO SENSE!!!!

EE & others...you can debate writing with me til the cows come home to roost (LOL) but you're NOT going to win a football debate with me!!!

--- SJP

Evil Editor said...

I don't see how that differs with what I said. In fact you basically repeat what I said in my 8:21 comment.

Also, even in the NFL the position of field goal kicker has gone to people who never played football so it's not unreasonable for the same to happen with a college team.

Furthermore, a college football team can have over 100 players, aplay in the games, but help the first, second and third team players by simulating the opponents in practice.

Amazing. I actually won a football debate with you.

Evil Editor said...

I don't see how that differs with what I said. In fact you basically repeat what I said in my 8:21 comment.

Also, even in the NFL the position of field goal kicker has gone to people who never played football so it's not unreasonable for the same to happen with a college team.

Furthermore, a college football team can have over 100 players, many of whom are walk-ons who rarely play in the games, but help the first, second and third team players by simulating the opponents in practice.

Amazing. I actually won a football debate with you.

arhooley said...

I wonder if published litfic authors ever do normal, human things like share their successful query letters. (They have so few readers you'd think they'd be glad to be approached by one.) Maybe ask a few you admire?

I'd reduce each paragraph 50%, get rid of the "scoring" pun in the second one, and reveal the interconnections between your three key characters. And maybe add one sentence to make it all sound hopeful or appealing.

BuffySquirrel said...

In the Kanto League or the Kansai League maybe? American football has been played in Japan since 1934 (with a hiatus during WWII).

So, yanno, you lose.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Football aside. The fact remains that in law school you have to study your heinie off. You do not have time to be running said heinie around no football field.

(Author, I realize it may not seem very helpful of us to be arguing about whether a Japanese citizen would

1. Play football
2. Bother to study law in a country other than Japan
3. Have time to play football while doing so

But it points out a believability problem. The sex-then-rape is another believability problem.)

batgirl said...

"I strongly disagree with Batgirl that the query doesn't say he's NOT playing football..."

Huh? I can't even parse that. It has three negatives, does it end up negative again, or positive?

All I said was that the 'last year of law school' was one of EE's satirical interpolations, and not the actual words of the query.
I completely agree with everyone that the idea of combining a study-heavy program like law with a practice-heavy activity like American football is implausible.

On the other hand, maybe he's studying American law so he can be the expert on business dealings with American companies or something.

IANALSOAFP (I am not a law student or a football player) The point is that this query raises too many distracting questions and not enough intriguing questions.

ril said...

I wonder if published litfic authors ever do normal, human things like share their successful query letters. (They have so few readers you'd think they'd be glad to be approached by one.)

Good litfic authors don't do all that badly for readers, actually. They're bloody good writers, and not to be sniffed at.

Of course, there are a lot of people who think they've written litfic, when all they've really got is a meandering stream of overly self-conscious prose which lacks any kind of tangible story arc. Probably a bad idea to have the query letter look like this is one of those...

Anonymous said...

I got lost in the first line. Red headed exception proves what rule?
Gay men can be turned over coffee? Gay men go straight with a red head? In my understanding gay is gay and that's that. If he's bi, write him bi.

If Hig is Japanese he will fulfill family expectations. Make no mistake about that. Also if he's Japanese he's too small to play football at any level in the US. Table tennis is more his game.


I think you need to understand the characters you are writing about and the cultures that shape them.

And a seeing eye dog.

Anonymous said...

If Hig is Japanese he will fulfill family expectations. Make no mistake about that. Also if he's Japanese he's too small to play football at any level in the US. Table tennis is more his game.


I think you need to understand the characters you are writing about and the cultures that shape them.


This is meant ironically, right? Because you can't actually be this bigoted and ignorant...

ril said...

I concur with EE. The suggestion that the Japanese are all ping pong playing midgets, enslaved to follow the traditional protocols of the Yamato mind hive, shows sadly little understanding of the characters and the cultures that shape them.

Evil Editor said...

Japan has professional basketball (not to mention sumo wrestling) with plenty of native players well over 6 feet tall. A glance at the randomly chosen New England Patriots roster shows 22 player under 6 feet tall, including some at 5'8".

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noriaki_Kinoshita

Heather Munn said...

Hey, I thought litfic wasn't supposed to have, you know, a plot. I thought it was supposed to be about shimmering lucid prose 'n' stuff.

If I was a litfic editor, I bet what I would be looking for would be a much shorter query that doesn't go into this much detail about what happens to the characters but just hits the highlights--"a Japanese student torn between family loyalty and his love for his American boyfriend," "a young woman tries to rebuild her life after a rape and beating that leaves her blind and terrified" (or whatever), and that at the same time showcases your absolute best writing, some of the most shimmering awesome sentences you can do. I'm pretty sure that's what to focus on.

Because if you try to go even more in depth and actually explain how the characters' lives intersect, it will be TOO LONG for a query. This is a great site and all, but people often neglect this aspect when they give advice. You can't clarify everything in a query 'cause it can't be two pages.

Evil Editor said...

This cannot succeed without either focusing on one character or connecting all three characters. A list of characters and no plot won't get it.

no-bull-steve said...

I've got so lost in who's contradicting who. I was referring to this statement by batgirl: "He might have been playing football all along."

And this statement by EE: "if you don't play football as an undergrad, you still have eligibility as a grad student."

We indeed may need a Japaneese lawyer to iron this all out, but I think we all agree that this isn't an element of the query which leads us to ask the right kind of questions.

Hope the author rewrites and posts on Phoenix's site!

Heather Munn said...

Yes, EE is right, it should focus on one character. I wasn't exactly saying there shouldn't be a plot in the query, at least if the book has one, I just kind of suspect that it doesn't--the summary is more of a blow-by-blow than the broad lines of a plot and how they come together. I just suspect that they don't really, except in the artsy-movie sense, like Magnolia, where the parallel stories inform each other but don't affect each other; maybe I'm wrong.

But I really do think, to put it more plainly this time, that to be accepted as litfic the prose in this query needs to be better.

BuffySquirrel said...

Good litfic authors don't do all that badly for readers, actually.

Compared to what? Cereal packets?

Anonymous said...

Compared to what? Cereal packets?

Having yet another bad day?

BuffySquirrel said...

It's all relative, Anon dear.

Anonymous said...

It's all relative, Anon dear.

Well, you can't choose your relatives.