Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Face-Lift 931

Guess the Plot


1. A beautiful princess is woken by a kiss from her handsome prince but all she wants to do is catch a few more years.

2. It's only two weeks till the big event of the year - Katie Rossi's slumber party. But a mysterious sleeping sickness is sweeping the school and kids are dropping like drowsy drosophila. Maybe Katie shouldn't have chased those fairies off her poppy garden.

3. Grant, Sevars and Tony are in a 60's folk band stuck in the Summer of Love. Trouble is, they're vampires--and while neither they nor their music may have aged, the same can't be said of the fans. Also, lots of panty-tossing Boomers.

4. In a wonderful land called Slumber, which she visits when she's asleep, Kate Isley meets her identical twin. Kate's life has been sucky lately, so she agrees to switch places with her twin for a while and stay in Slumber. But the twin turns out to be a ruthless murderer. And guess who's gonna get the blame? Also, a bird-watching gas station clerk.

5. 17-year-old Rafer Winslow awakens after 200 years, in a future where global warming has literally fried everyone's DNA so they are incapable of sleep and must "relax" wide awake with the assistance of dangerous drugs. Scientists are the hunters, Rafer is the target, and every 16 hours he has to find a secure place to hide so he won't be captured while he sleeps.

6. When Kelly McKinney, spokesmodel for the Sit & Sleep chain of mattress superstores is found headless and stuffed into a pink Laz-E-Boy, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the security guards were asleep on the job, and maybe it's time to get him & his wife one of those fancy tempopedic mattresses.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Seventeen-year-old Kate Isley can't sleep. Haunted by the car accident that killed her old brother a year ago [Come on, he couldn't have been that old.] and left her scarred, her only comfort stems from a bird-watching gas station clerk and a bottle of whiskey. Until her mysterious therapist places her under hypnosis.

Once hypnotized, Kate gains access to the land of Slumber, a vivid dream world where her brother is alive, [she's married to the bird-watching gas station clerk,] her runaway father is home, and her scars are gone. Everything is perfect again...if only the buzzing of the alarm clock didn't yank her back to reality each morning. But when Kate meets Lilia, a girl who appears identical to Kate in the dream world, she's offered an opportunity to escape her crumbling life.

The deal: Kate would live in Slumber while Lilia would awaken to reality. Thinking the switch will be temporary, Kate chooses to live in the dream, where she's free from her guilt over what happened the night her brother died. But as Kate's forced to watch Lilia take over her real life, she soon discovers Lilia isn't the sweet girl she presented herself to be. Lilia will do anything to get what she wants, including murder.

Kate's dream quickly turns into a nightmare. She must warn those she loves about her replacement before it's too late. But how can she reach them when she's trapped inside her own subconscious? [Enter . . . the parrot. Turns out birds have access to both worlds, so Kate sends a parrot to tell the bird-watching gas station clerk that her evil twin Lilia plans to pour whiskey all over a gasoline pump and toss a match onto it. But will the bird-watching gas station clerk believe the parrot's incredible tale, or will he just find it an amusing novelty act?]

There are two sides to every dream... [If you're going to make that line a full paragraph, I suggest making it the first paragraph. That seems to be the standard place to put vague hook statements.]

Slumber is a YA psychological thriller complete at 55,000 words. Think Black Swan meets Inception for teenagers. [I have a feeling if I tried to think of that my head would explode. Can't we just say it's like the His Dark Materials trilogy?] My short stories have appeared in Monkeybicycle, Staccato Fiction, Word Riot, and Pank. I currently work in the publishing industry. [As what? Better to say nothing than to say something so vague it sounds like you're hiding the fact that you're the janitor at a greeting card manufacturer.] May I send a partial or full manuscript?

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Lilia will do anything to get what she wants, including murder. But what is it she wants? That seems like a vitally important point to include.

The story idea sounds like a winner. The query seems a little long. We can eliminate the movie titles, at least one of the one-sentence paragraphs, the bottle of whiskey, and, alas, the bird-watching gas station clerk.

Calling the therapist "mysterious" leads us to ask a question you don't answer. For purposes of the query, maybe we should just say that she's haunted by the accident and sees a hypnotherapist. We don't need to suspect that there's something mysterious about the therapist.

So Kate thought the deal was that she would spend all of her time in Slumber until she got past her guilt feelings, and then would switch back with Lilia? But the deal turns out to be that she spends only her sleeping hours in Slumber--which she was already doing--and her waking hours are still spent in the real world, except that Lilia has control of her body? Actually, it's a better deal this way, because Kate knows what's going on and can try to stop it. If she spent three months exclusively in Slumber and then returned, she might find herself on death row. And the claim that her evil twin killed all those people probably wouldn't fly.


Whirlochre said...

I'm seeing a lot of Alternative Reality Where Things Are A Bit Different plots, mostly accompanied by drugs, possession or phantom wardrobes masquerading as "the key".

That said, what makes this interesting is the Kate/Lilia switch which sounds like it offers two plots rolled into one.

If handled well (and since your query hasn't been bluelined to death by EE, you're clearly on the plus side of instant annihilation), this could be very teen friendly.

Do you mean 'older' brother? 1st para makes it sound like relatives are a potentially renewable commodity c/o eBay.

Intrigued by the bird-watching gas station clerk but since you provide no more detail on this, maybe you should cut it for the sake of the query.

Laurel said...

This actually reminds me of Coraline for teenagers, but there's nothing wrong with that. I find the idea intriguing. I agree with EE's comments.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a good book. And the query is good enough to convey that as is, so if you tweak it, I think you'll get good responses.

Chicory said...

When you said Kate was `scarred by the accident' I thought you meant mental scars at first. The plot with the identical twin switch makes me think of `Mirrormask.'

sarahhawthorne said...

I like this too. I only had two quibbles: Once Lilia's got access to the real world, what is it that she wants so bad that she has to kill for it? And if this is a mirror world, why is Slumber-world Kate named Lilia instead of something similar like Cate or Katie?

Evil Editor said...

Out of curiosity, are Lilia and Kate moving into each other's bodies? If so, they wouldn't have to look alike. If not, Lilia needs to have scars in order to pass herself off as Kate. Does she?

Lisa Aldin said...

First of all - Thank you all for the feedback!

Lilia and Kate share the same body. For all of Kate's life, Lilia has watched the world through Kate's eyes. But she had no control.

When they switch, Lilia finally gets the control she craves. She has fallen in love with Kate's ex-boyfriend. That's what Lilia wants. His love. But when he turns her down for another girl, Lilia gets pissed. And that's when she loses it.

Kate is forced to watch the real world through Lilia's eyes, the same way Lilia was forced to watch the real world through Kate's eyes for seventeen years. Being locked up in the mind like that is bound to make you a little crazy, I think.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

May I send a partial or full manuscript?

Just as you don't want to start a query with a question (because agents and editors delight in sarcastic rejoinders) you don't want to end a query with one. For the same reason.

Chelsea P. said...

Oh, oh, oh, it gets better! Loved the set-up, but had the same issues with wondering what Lilia wanted. Now that you've answered that question, author, I would definitely put it into the query. The ex-boyfriend bit both clears up the mystery and should make it very intriguing for the teenage set.


arhooley said...

A visit from the Grammar Nanny:

But as Kate's forced to watch Lilia take over her real life, she soon discovers Lilia isn't the sweet girl she presented herself to be.

You have two adverbials of time in that sentence. Take out "soon."

I'm a little unclear on how Kate sees her "real" life if she's sleeping. It's a minor point. The concept sounds like a winner to me.

Matthew MacNish said...

I hate to disagree with you, EE, but the bird watching gas station clerk and the bottle of whiskey are effing awesome. I mean I know it sounds a little weird, but one of the most important things about the beginning of a query letter is the sense of character, and a 17 year old who hangs out in that situation is one I wish I knew at that age, and one I will certainly read about.

When it comes to comparing your work to other creative storytelling efforts ... don't use movies. It doesn't make any sense, and you sound pretentious.

Evil Editor said...

I didn't say they weren't awesome. In fact I blatantly showed regret that the query is too long to include the bird-watching gas station clerk. However, if it turns out the clerk is the boyfriend Lilia covets, I have a feeling the clerk will be in the query after all, as Lilia's motivation was the missing element.

Xiexie said...

I wish I had more to add, author, but the minions and EE have summed up my nits.

Good luck! Post the revised query with the boyfriend aspect!

Laurel said...

Author, I think your explanation in the comments section is much clearer than your query. I am truly intrigued by the story concept, so I hope you can get your letter straightened out.

no-bull-steve said...

Great story idea. As a hypnotist who's written a novel about the Dream World, you've hit several of my hot buttons. I agree that you shouldn't compare your books to films when querying. Ironically enough your mechanics remind me of a movie: "Being John Malkovich".

I too hope that the ex bf is the bird watching gas station clerk. The only nit I have that's not mentioned is that there's a disconnect from the hypnosis session to the alarm going off in the mornings. The query does run a bit long, so make every word count.

I'd also take out the question at the end. This query is excellent and you should just assume they'll want to read the first chapter or two (depending on length) unless their website info precludes it.

Good luck and keep in touch!

Lisa Aldin said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

The bird-watching clerk is different from the ex-boyfriend. It's not a love triangle where Kate has to choose between them or anything like that. But one boy represents who Kate used to be before the accident. And the other represents who she is after.

But I wonder if I have a manuscript issue now. I wonder if I should combine those two characters, if that might tighten things a bit. Will have to take a closer look.

Much to ponder.



Phoenix Sullivan said...

Personally, I'd leave in the "May I send" line and ditch the "Thank you."

Ask for the sale. Ask for the sale. Ask for the sale.

I personally close with:

"I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript."

It shows confidence while not being obnoxious (why bother with a partial -- of course you'll want to see the full next!), mentions the next expectation of action in the transaction, and points out the MS is complete and ready to send without using all those extra words to say it.

*shrug* Mileage varies.

BuffySquirrel said...

I've heard from agents that they like being thanked for their time. But not from every agent on the planet, tis true!

no-bull-steve said...

My reasoning is that every agent I've spoken to has preferred getting a partial with the query (at least in hard copy/snail mail). It eliminates an entire step of the process and time and energy on their part. If the query is great but the pages not right for them, it let's them reject it faster (which sounds bad but is a benefit to writers in the long run because it allows them to manage their query process more efficiently).

Additionally, an agent who loves the query but is swamped with partials and fulls (and remembering that getting new clients is only about 3% of an agent's job), they're going to be much more tempted to ask for the full (having read the partial) than they would be asking for the partial only having read the query.

Just my 2 cents.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Steve:

Of course, 5 pages were always included whether snail mailed or emailed, but here are the stats from my latest spreadsheet:

28% of snail mailed queries included a partial

72% did not -- and from the guidelines, most were adamant about not including a partial

From both emailed and snail mailed queries:

I had 7 requests for partials off the query

8 requests for the full after seeing just the query

3 requests for the full after seeing the partial

My conclusion: It's all a crapshoot ;o)

no-bull-steve said...

72% did not want a partial? That's surprising!

Hey speaking of agents, how's our Hanna Montoya or whatever her name is...our very own agent doing? She should be able to untangle this web of confusion (or amuse us trying to!).

Anonymous said...

Okay, I've got yet another "this reminds me of...":

_Summer of Fear,_ I think it was. A YA novel. The switch-up occurred through astral projection: the main character projected, and the usurper...usurped.

I liked that book, and I like how this one sounds. If you put more specifics in the query, as others have suggested, I think you might get requests.

Good luck. Were I still a teen, I would definitely read this.