Monday, August 22, 2011
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!
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.