Monday, August 22, 2011

Face-Lift 944

Guess the Plot

Legacy of a Mad Scientist

1. Assorted beakers, flasks and test tubes, an operating table, a million-watt generator, and a big red lever next to a sign that says PULL ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. Loretta's wondering if the lever opens a secret room in which her father kept emergency funds.

2. A five-year-old Cadillac, two TVs, four thousand dollars, a filing cabinet full of tax returns dating to the fifties, and a key that opens a door to another dimension. Yep, Uncle Ralph left Arlene one hell of an estate.

3. A $900 Subaru? That's it? Sheila is pissed, until she discovers it can fly, float, and submerge. But there's a strange, glowing green lump under the dashboard. And it's getting bigger.

4. Pretty much nothing . . . except a blueprint for blowing up entire cities in one massive chain-reaction! And since his daughter Ashley is a cybernetic killing machine, it's pretty much just what she wanted.

5. To win the upcoming San Francisco Cocktail showdown -- and the notice of the hot local food+drink critic -- Alice Fries must uncover the secret of her father's legendary freeze gun. Will she succeed, or turn the guests into drunk popsicles?

6. At the reading of the will, Cindy discovers that her beloved and departed uncle was a mad scientist. He left her a small metal chest. Tied around it with a red ribbon is a note saying: ‘Do not open near candy’. Also, a talking pig!

Original Version

Dr. Fox is the smartest man in the world [That's something I'd expect to read if this is a book for children. If the book is for adults, include his first name and make him the second smartest man in the world. It's amusing, and it hooks the reader into wondering who could possibly be smarter than Dr. Fox. If the book is for children, make Dr. Fox an actual fox.] and his own worst enemy. Ergo, can he possibly be smart enough to outwit himself? [Ergo? Make that: But is he smart enough to outwit his clone?]

His daughter, Ashley, is a cybernetic killing-machine, programmed to protect her younger brother, Geoff, at all costs. [If this is YA, and Ashley is the MC, make her the subject of the first paragraph. We'd much rather read about a cybernetic killing machine named Ashley than the smartest man in the world.]

When Dr. Fox discovers a kitchen-sink method for blowing up entire cities in one massive chain-reaction, he becomes a threat to national security, and has to be eliminated. [On the other hand, he's also a threat to the national security of his country's enemies, and has to be protected at all costs.]

Now Ashley and Geoff are on the run, [Why?] and not from the enemy but towards them. [Who are they on the run from, and who is the enemy?]


The government wants Fox eliminated. How are Ashley and Geoff involved? Focus on the main character. I can't even tell who the main character is.

If you can't be bothered to provide more of your query letter than the plot summary, at least give us the genre/audience. It's hard to give useful feedback on a query for a book that could be intended for adults or fifth graders.

As for what's here, it's little more than an outline. Combine the first three paragraphs into one. That's your setup. Then give us two more paragraphs in which you tell us who wants what, what's at stake, and what happens. Don't just list stuff, tell an intriguing story. And don't forget that the plot summary is only part of this business letter.


Anonymous said...

In addition to EE's questions:

Why does Geoff get Ashley's protection and not the other way 'round? What's so special about him? And is it necessary that Ashley be a cybernetic killing machine? Can't she just be a black belt who packs heat? Just how "programmed" is she? Because if she's not the least bit conflicted about being a killing machine, I might not be able to relate to her at all.

Mind you, Author, I don't need to see your answers in the comments; I just want you to know that I'm more baffled than intrigued. It seems as though some major stakes are missing. Geoff is extremely valuable to someone for some reason. What if he dies or is captured?

--arhooley, accidentally killed google account

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

"Ergo" is a word you shouldn't use even if you know how.

Like so many queries, this one has a lot of seemingly unconnected events. I'm sure they're connected in the manuscript, but not here. Who's the MC? What does s/he face? (Be specific.) How will s/he face it?

I'm guessing from the title that Ashley is the MC.

EE, the Subaru was sposta be a Legacy, see...

Evil Editor said...

I got it. It's still sposta be a Legacy.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

lol-- okay.

Re arhooley's comment, I had the same problem w/the cybernetic killing machine. That would be a mighty hard protag to get in touch with.

150 said...

EE's dead on, but to reiterate: we need to know the length and genre, which character is the protagonist, what is threatening them, what they try to do about it, and what happens if they fail.

If Ashley is designed to protect Geoff but not vice versa, is she really a daughter or more of a household slave?

You have some interesting elements but no obvious story. I'm looking forward to seeing the rewrite.

none said...

I used to use ergo all the time when making notes in History. It needed fewer letters than 'therefore'. Of course, I didn't know then about the little triangle of dots that would have been easier to use even than ergo.

Ergo, I don't have a problem with someone using ergo.

Evil Editor said...

Unless, of course, they don't mean ergo.

Anonymous said...

Can we use a triangle of dots for therefore or ergo in a query?

What about a bar over p for after?

How about prn for as needed or in this circumstance?

What about twexting-speak?

I think getting the word count down in a query is very important. Well not for this query, getting the word count up would be important for this one.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Well, I thot about it, and I came up w/2 sentences where I wouldn't have a problem w/people using "ergo".

1. Cogito, ergo sum.

2. "I need a box of that corn starch, Ergo or whatever it's called."

Otherwise, it's a distraction even when it's being used correctly.

Not a problem in notes, of course.

But the real issue here is still who's the protag and what's the threat/task/challenge/danger/impending disaster.

Evil Editor said...

A bar over a p is short for prn which is short for porn which is short for porno which is short for pornography.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

All mathematical symbols have a different meaning in query-language.

The pi symbol means "This novel ends or begins with a marriage."

The three dots means "This novel contains a love triangle."

The line over any symbol or set of symbols means "These characters narrowly escape being shot in the head."

Sigma means "In this novel the protagonist gets all bent outta shape."


Khazar-khum said...

Why is Ashley a cybernetic killing machine? More to the point, what, exactly, is Ashley? Human? Cyborg? Machine gun?

Evil Editor said...

But the real issue here is still who's the protag and what's the threat/task/challenge/danger/impending disaster.

The other issue is, Does the book exist, or did someone just dash off a few lines and submit them as a hoax.

none said...

If we were to eliminate all the words that might be a distraction, then

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

But some words and phrases contain more than a soup├žon of pretension, and hence really aren't comme il faut.

EE, aren't hoaxes usually... hoaxier?

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I feel like the chief problem with this query is that I have no idea what genre this is, who the MC is, and why these people are doing any of what they are doing. This needs to be a lot clearer.

Evil Editor said...

There are hoaxes that are parodies of query letters, intentionally bad, and then there are those that are attempts to put one over on us. I have no evidence this is the latter, but 5 sentences, no letter format makes me wonder.

150 said...

It does appear to be a real, albeit already self-published book:

Possibly in this case the author is looking for feedback on his text as a blurb, not necessarily a query letter. Author?

150 said...

Strike my last; the book is out through Alpha Channel Books, and the author's relationship to them isn't clear from my few minutes of distracted Googling.

Evil Editor said...

Googling reveals that the book is part of a series called Trials of Ash, a phrase that sounded familiar to me, so I searched this blog and found that the book has already been queried under the title Ashley Erin Fox.

I specifically recommended in the comment trail not to change the title to Trials of Ash, so of course the author has made that the title of the whole series.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Oh dear.

It looks like you can read the whole book online for free.

Now I'm not sure now whether this is meant as a query, or meant to make us go read the author's book.

If the former, then, author: If you're querying agents to sell this book you'll need to take it offline. No reason for anyone to buy a free download.

If the latter: Well, I've read the first page. The writer can certainly construct a sentence, but the story's not grabbin' me.

And as an experienced teacher, I gotta say that (unless there are amputees in the class) if everyone in the room raises their hand, then half the hands in the room are raised.

R.T. said...

This sounds fun.

I hope that the smartest person in the world is not a homicidal lunatic with a Frankenstein daughter.

I found the query lacks a few explanations: 1. By what standards is Mr. Fox the smartest person in the world. An I.Q. test? 2. What is his goal. Is he just fiddling around and coming up with bombs and homicidal robots, or is there a master plan. 3. Who is the son, Geoff.

Dave Fragments said...

And as an experienced teacher, I gotta say that (unless there are amputees in the class) if everyone in the room raises their hand, then half the hands in the room are raised.

Only if they are not single or double leg amputees or the odd eunuch.

One of my Amputee buddies (BK) used to make extravagant flower arrangements in his worn out prosthetic legs and sell them as "yurns"...

Kathleen said...

I guess Dr. Fox wasn't smart enough to have the cybernetic killing machine guarding him.

Dave Fragments said...

When you build a cybernetic killing-machine, programmed to protect her younger brother, Geoff, at all costs
the you must build in a failsafe so that you can kill your younger brother when he threatens world existence or whatever he threatens.

I think I read that on the Evil Overlord list...