Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Guess the Plot
From the Diaries of Anna Butcher: Have a Great Summer
1. Mrs. Hoffman gives her first-year German students an assignment to be completed over summer vacation: translate into English the diaries kept by Holocaust victim Anna Butcher in Dachau.
2. When her best friend hooks up with her main crush, Anna is devastated. Life isn't worth living. Or at least it wouldn't be if it weren't almost time for . . . the annual summer mango festival!
3. A guide to making great sausage, scrapple, and mincemeat from roadkill you can pick up for nothing. Recipes presented in the form of humorous haiku.
4. On the eve of reconciling with her philandering husband, Anna Butcher sells his vintage guitar collection, quits her job, and hits the road in search of the perfect martini lounge.
5. A serial killer is hiding under the boardwalk, just up the beach, ten yards down from the ice cream stand. This is her story, in her own words. Don't order the Cherry Surprise.
6. After her junior year at Western High, Anna Butcher is ready for a summer of partying with her friends. Then her little brother Kirk scans all the pages of her diaries and posts them on the Internet. Maybe she can talk her parents into moving the family to Alaska.
Dear Evil Editor,
Thirteen year old Anna Butcher leads a cursed life--- or, at least, that's what she believes. [Commas aren't needed around "at least." Actually, nothing after the dash would be needed if you inserted "believes she" after "Butcher."] Being a Butcher means relationships never work and [your clothes always smell like raw meat and] all the odds are stacked against you. [Leading a cursed life means the odds are stacked against you. So we already know the odds are stacked against her. Make that sentence more specific or dump it.] And just when things are looking up at the end of her eighth grade year and she begins to entertain the idea that maybe the curse doesn't exist, her best friend and life-long crush hook up at the Spring Fling. [Life-long crush? She's 13. Has she had this crush 13 years?]
Friendless [Her best friend was her only friend?] and heart-broken, Anna enters the summer before her ninth grade year anticipating nothing exciting except the annual Mango Festival and her dad's second wedding. But when her no-good cowboy boot wearing [boot-wearing] cousin from New Jersey, Rosalind, comes to town, Anna's summer goes from uneventful to frustratingly interesting. [In what way is Rosalind no-good?] Can all the chaos happening with Anna be mere coincidence, [I don't see this as chaos. Can you add a couple examples of frustratingly interesting chaotic incidents?] or is it the product of a curse put on her family long ago? [Was a curse put on her family? How was the curse worded?]
From the Diaries of Anna Butcher: Have a Great Summer is a contemporary middle grade story, complete at 42,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.
This is mostly setup. Once you set up the situation you need to tell us more about what happens than that Anna's cousin comes to town. And we need to know about the curse. Start with something like this:
According to Anna Butcher's grandmother, back in the 1600s a wronged Gypsy's dying words cursed the entire Butcher family and their descendants to never have a fulfilling relationship for eternity. So it comes as no surprise when Anna's best friend, Rosalita, hooks up with Anna's long-time crush. 8th grade can be such a drag.
With nothing to look forward to but her father's second wedding and the always-lame mango festival, could summer vacation be more horrible? Apparently so. Anna's cousin Elvira rolls into town and recruits Anna for an arson and murder spree.
Now you need to add a few sentences about how Anna deals with the chaos and how the curse is ultimately broken or disproved.
The title is unwieldy. Where do the diaries come in? Is it in diary form? Is Have a Great Summer supposed to be sarcasm? No will know that. They'll think it's about a great summer, and no one wants to read that. I recommend a simple title like My Shitty Summer, or Season of the Bitch.
Butcher is a lousy name. It makes people think of people getting butchered.