Friday, November 04, 2011

Face-Lift 968

Guess the Plot

Dandelion Teeth

1. When a love spell gone wrong shrinks Lizzie to 3 inches high she wonders how she'll ever impress hunky Brad from next door. But that's the least of her problems when she discovers the vampiric weeds in her back garden orchestrated the whole thing for one purpose...dinner!

2. Just as dandelion leaves have tiny teeth that annoy you if you lie on them naked for a while, Julia Marsh's family have kept secrets from Julia, secrets about family members Julia didn't even know existed. Which annoys Julia. See, it's an analogy.

3. A new serial killer leaves a bizarre signature - he hacks out his victims teeth and puts dandelions in the gums. As investigators waste time arguing over whether his nickname should be "dandelion mouth" or "the floral dentist," he manages to kill three more times.

4. Going to Lewanski School for Witches wasn't that hard for Megan. Dragon Handling, Wand Making, Potion Brewing--all cake. But when Mr Larch, orders them to get deadly dandelion teeth from the Troll Swamp, suddenly that nursing school all the other girls went to doesn't look so bad.

5. What's a witch to do when alien plant monsters invade, cats go on strike, and the town council condemns her condo? Create a better love potion with the help of an Egyptian zombie. Also, illicit fertilizer usage.

6. 10-year-old Lizzy loves Dandelion wine. Too bad some of the crushed dandelions get stuck in her teeth. Too bad—for her parents—that they decide to make fun of her for it. And . . . maybe they should have hidden the family axe.

Original Version

Dear EE,

23-year-old Julia Marsh gets a mysterious voice mail from her father: he must talk to her face-to-face and is catching the next plane to Chicago. When his plane crashes, Julia returns home to mourn and find out what her father thought was so important. Coming home isn’t what she expects. Instead of comforting each other, her mother turns to a friend and her younger sister keeps pushing her away. [But all] her attempts to learn why her father had to see her [questions] are met with deflections.

Julia discovers an old version of her father’s will that divides his assets between her and Amy, a girl listed as his eldest daughter. [Nothing to his wife? Easy to guess when that marriage hit the skids.] The more Julia pushes to learn about Amy, the more her mother retreats and the angrier her [younger] sister becomes.

An estranged uncle crashes the memorial service, revealing an extended family Julia’s parents worked hard to hide. Desperate to hold onto her father through memories, hers and other’s, [others'] Julia seeks out her uncle, even after her mother sends him away.

Julia learns that Amy had a fatal chromosomal disorder and died as an infant. While her death wasn’t unexpected, [It rarely is when you have a fatal disorder.] the circumstances and family stories Julia is just now hearing make her wonder if her father actually killed Amy. [That's why he wanted to talk to her face-to-face. It's unlucky to leave a murder confession on someone's voice mail.]

Pursuing the truth about a sister she never knew existed and a trying to connect with a family she never knew she had could cost Julia the only family she’s ever known.

Dandelion Teeth is a 52,000 [-word] women’s fiction novel.

Thank you for your consideration.


[Author's note on title: Dandelion leaves have minute teeth on the ends that you may not notice at first, but if you lay on them for any length of time (Julia is a runner who, at one point, collapses on a dandelion-filled lawn), they start to dig in, annoy you and cause pain. Much like secrets.]


This seems a bit long, so I've indicated a few lines that can go. Also, you might combine paragraphs 3 and 4.

Something feels like it almost doesn't add up. What's the chronological order of these events:

Amy is born.
Julia is born.
Parents learn Amy has chromosomal disorder and will die.
Father has will drawn up leaving all to Amy and Julia.
Amy dies as an infant.

You have two daughters--both are infants and one has a fatal disorder--and you make time to have a will drawn up splitting all your assets between the girls?

It sounds like Mom and Sis and Unc all know the big secret. Usually a small number of people are keeping a secret from everyone. Here, everyone who matters except Julia is in on the secret. Why would they tell Julia's younger sister but not Julia?

The secret is that Julia was adopted because they were afraid a second child would have the same disorder. Wait, no, they were twins. Or Julia's father isn't her biological father. Or the mother killed Amy. Or Amy isn't dead. The father wasn't on the plane when it went down. Or he was and Mom and Sis planted a bomb on the plane to keep Dad from telling Julia the secret.

Why don't you tell us the secret, and we'll tell you whether it should be in the query.


Zombie Deathfish said...

Maybe Julia was a designer baby, born to save her sister? I don't know, it just seems weird nobody would mention Amy ever. I mean, yeah, it's tragic but is that motivation enough to get a conspiracy going?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

When Orson Scott Card did this, the secret was that dad was really the next door neighbor, or rather the other way 'round.

And there were man-eating trees instead of dandelions. Any chance of getting some man-eating trees in here?

Writer, if you lie on dandelions they may bite you, but if you lay on them the neighbors complain. And IANAL, but in most states it's illegal not to leave a fixed minimum portion of your estate to your spouse.

52k may be a little short for adult fiction.

Anonymous said...

In community property state like mine only half the total estate would be his, and if half would be enough to support her, it would not be considered odd to leave his to the children. Doing so keeps the goods in the deceased parent's family and prevents the surviving spouse leaving everything to a seductive 'gold-digger' and/or new cohort of children.

Sounds like this plot might fit in a short story. I'm guessing him not coming to visit could happen in the first paragraph, people not talking to her could be adequately shown in a few pages, and her not finding a clue could be quite brief. Do not add 50,000 more words about that stuff. Better to make it backstory. I don't want to start reading until something is happening.

Evil Editor said...

Even so, a major portion of the estate would be the home they're living in, and the surviving spouse shouldn't have to deal with the children forcing her to sell her home because they now own half of it and want to cash it in. Thus the spouse should be mentioned in the will, i.e. I leave my half of the house to my wife and my half of our money to our children.

batgirl said...

I like plot #5, though I'd really like to know how we'd be able to tell if cats went on strike.

Is dead Dad a bigamist? That's how I read it, that Amy was born to his other wife and that's why it's such a tremendous issue. Not that it really clears up the timeline problems.

vkw said...

I had problems with the will as well. Estate laws are different from state-to-state. In my state, since historically it is ranch country, land laws are complicated in order to keep ranches intact in cases of deaths and divorces.

It's a bit bizarre dad left HIS part of his estate to a child who died as an infant and his other daughter.

Amy is born with a congential birth defect that she didn't share with her twin. Her father puts the fatally ill twin in a will but then may have killed the child. So what father revises his will to leave a fatally ill child part of his estate?

I just spent 15 minutes puzzling out how this story works. Then, I had an aha moment. That's not my job.

It's the author's.

The query, written as is, is lacking very important details and isn't holding together well.

BuffySquirrel said...

Surely the significant part of the will is not leaving out the wife but including Amy. Maybe therefore the query could just say that Julia runs across an old will that includes Amy, an older sister she never knew she had. Or something better than that.

Anonymous said...

Seems like maybe the estate/will legal questions are mainly distracting people from the crux of the plot, which is your family/medical mystery. If so, it might be best to just leave the will out of the query.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I also found the first mention of Amy confusing. Might want to put something at the first mention to explain this isn't the same sister already mentioned in the query.

Evil Editor said...

One sister is called the younger sister, while Amy is called the eldest.

I'm not sure we need the younger sister in the query, actually.

chekurtab said...

I see you all entangled in a legal battle over the will. I think the plot has bigger problems. Why is mother pushing the protagonist away? Why is the younger sister angry? What's the crime in the death of Amy?
I am sure the story has more twists. I think we need some explanations to make sense of the query. EE has a great list of possible scenarios at the end.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I know, but, and this may just be cuz I'm a dumbcluck, but I initially thought that the younger sister had been re-assigned by the will to older-sister status.

Dave Fragments said...

The dread family secret in the "V" family was that the Mother did indeed have an affair with the neighbor and the kid was never told, only whispered about behind his back and that was back in the early 1900's (fifty some years before I was born and heard the whispers). I was never told the truth until the late 1990's it was hush, hush, the dread family secret, still whipsered.

I will swear on a bible and provide the real names if you can find me and knock on my door, in person.

Nowadays, we don't care about those "secrets" anymore. I won't even begin to tell the indignity heaped upon a Down's child who was hidden in a back room and never left the house. That would never happen today, not in my state, county or town.

I have seen the sins of the grandfather politician taken out on the grandson politician and bragged about. That again was the "V" family. Some of my distant, far-flung cousins.

Hiding a "dead" child does not surprise me. I think its a great plot twist. Perhaps the Uncle is the father of all the kids since the dead father could only sire genetically doomed children and they used in vitro fertilization or did the horizontal mambo in person.

I would start out with a statement that
"On the sudden death of her father, Julia discovers that not only did she have an older sister but the man she thought was her father wasn't."
Something like that. Even where you started is OK. I would forget the younger sister and I would also reveal the plot twist because it's the family coming to terms with that revelation that makes the story.

All families hide things and over time those little tiny buried acorns grow to mighty oaks of hate, despair and guilt. Mostly guilt.

cam.robbins said...


Thanks for all your comments. It seems this query is a little too much in the *ahem* weeds. So I need to pull back and share a little less of the detail?

For those of you that were worried -- the wife is in the will. However, I thought that would clog up the query. I see now that it only muddied things up. It's getting the ax.

Amy is born
Julia is born
Will is written
Mom has a breakdown
Dad decides only way to resolve things is to kill Amy

Thanks for your help...back to the drawing board.