Monday, December 12, 2011

Face-Lift 976

Guess the Plot

Skin Deep

1. Being a flea is tough especially when your entire village was destroyed by poisonous fumes and giant brushes. Is a journey worth a jump to find a new home?

2. When spunky redhead Gidget meets hunky Bert, she falls hard for him. Only one problem--he's a popular athlete, and she's just your average ghoul. Can she make him see that looks and being alive aren't everything?

3. Polly Microbial is a concerned Necrotizing Fasciitis – a flesh eating bacterium. To keep human scientists from trying to eradicate her kind with new antibacterial medicines, she implores her fellow bacteria to consume sparingly to save the host. For this, she becomes a pariah and is ridiculed as an enviro-nazi.

4. Being the only shapeshifter in the junior class sucks, especially when you haven't learned to control your power yet and you're talking to that hawt senior, Johnny Post, and you start to sprout scales.

5. An accident leaves a teenager horribly disfigured, but also gives her supernatural powers, powers she must quickly learn to control if she's to rescue her mother from the mad plastic surgeon who's taken her hostage.

6. Mad scientist Max Magma invents the top secret nuclear-powered magnetotron. He'll drill into the South Pole, bore along the planetary axis to the North Pole, install a drain to suck the Arctic Ocean through the molten core, and spew out a giant geyser on top of the Antarctic ice fields, saving Mae Wong's secret tropical island paradise from climate-change flooding.

7. Linda Lampquist, biochemstry major, finds a thumb drive containing the secret formula for a miraculous wrinkle cream. Who lost it? She has no idea, but she's determined to beat them to the patent office and cash in on this bonanza.

8. A tattoo artist comes back from lunch and finds the waiting room full of green space aliens who all want a rose and I LOV U and they promise to vaporize his wife Loretta if he screws up, but OMG, their skin is like rawhide.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

I am currently seeking representation for a 60,000 YA horror novel titled Skin Deep. [My attempt to determine what a horror novel could have 60,000 of that's abbreviated YA turned up "yoctoamperes," a unit of electrical current equal to 10−24 amperes. I don't actually see how you could torture someone with such a tiny amount, but maybe if you were trying to create life by combining body parts of dead fleas in a novel called Frankenflea...]

Quinn is the only survivor of a bus crash which leaves her horribly scarred, mentally and physically. After months in the hospital and an attempted suicide, Quinn is finally ready to go home. ["If you're gonna try to kill yourself, we recommend doing it at home where there aren't dozens of medical personnel hanging around hoping for the opportunity to keep you alive."]

She even meets a doctor who says he can completely cure her scars. [I don't get the meaning of "even" in that sentence. It implies a stronger relationship between this sentence and what's come before than has been established.]

But the doctor has a secret supernatural agenda. [Which is?] His tools for restoring youth and beauty to the jet-set are a trifle … unorthodox. And he’s bored. [Using my supernatural powers to remove the scars of mildly disfigured people bores me. Where's the phantom of the opera when I need him?] Quinn’s disfigured flesh is just the challenge he’s been looking for. He’s even willing to take Quinn’s mother hostage to get control of Quinn. [Better use of the word "even." But it's not clear why he has to take Mom hostage. Doesn't Quinn want his cure? Why not?

I can make you beautiful again.

Okay, let's get start-- Wait a minute, do you have a secret supernatural agenda?]

Fortunately for Quinn, her close brush with death has left her with a few supernatural secrets of her own. [The bus crashed into a nuclear waste facility.] Will she learn to trust them before it’s too late? And will she be able to find her mother in time to put them to use? Or will she fall under the control of a madman in a last-ditch effort to save her mom? [A lot of questions. Got any answers?]

I would be delighted to send you a sample chapter or the complete manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


This is a new query and a new title for the book formerly known as Quinn's Law (Face-Lift 955).

What are Quinn's supernatural abilities?

We're now out of queries and openings. And as soon as we get some we'll be needing fake plots and continuations. Is it your turn?


Anonymous said...

That's quite a variety of subplots. You're describing things that happen in chronological order. Is the novel structured the same way? That's my best guess, but it doesn't seem to be the optimal choice.

I can't tell where backstory ends and main story begins because I don't know what your main plot is. Seems like maybe you started with a literary melodrama and then shifited genres to add some magic wands or vampires or, I don't know, zombies, maybe. Can't tell. Mention of supernatural powers and hostage taking is so vague and comes so late in the query, it seems like they were added late in the development of the novel and are perhaps not fully embedded in either the plot or the characters.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This situation isn't making sense to me:

1. Quinn was in a bus accident and is now horribly disfigured. She spent months in the hospital, where she tried to kill herself.

2. A doctor say he can make her scars vanish. Presumably all the docs in the hospital said they couldn't, but she believes this guy. Okay.

3. The doctor kidnaps her mother.

This is where the WTF sets in. If she wants her scars healed, and he turns out to have a creepy hidden agenda, then that's your plot right there... or at least it is once you tell us what the creepy hidden agenda is.

Extraneous details:

1. she tried to kill herself (unless used to show how desperate she is to recover her pre-accident face)

2. her mother is kidnapped (you're not showing us that this is narratively necessary)

Then in paragraph 5-- argh. It all falls apart. The story wasn't making sense and now you're throwing in Quinn's supernatural powers. If those are what the story's about, they should come in sooner.

It's confusing.

Zachary Gole said...

Aside from what's already been mentioned, I was bothered by the bit about how she has to "learn to trust" her supernatural powers. That does not sound to me like a compelling conflict. Learning to trust a person, okay, or learning to use her supernatural powers, okay, but learning to trust her powers... what does that mean? She isn't sure what's going to happen if she uses them, so she refuses to try? So she has these amazing powers, but she won't use them to save the day because she doesn't "trust" them? If that's the case (and it may very well not be, but it's what that phrase implies to me), then this seems like it could be something of an Idiot Plot.

Also, I'd lose the "And he's bored." That sort of implies that the villain is mainly motivated by boredom, which I really hope isn't the case -- that's not a much better motivation for a villain then "Because he's evil, that's why!"

I get the impression there may be a good story in here somewhere; I just don't think your query, as written, is doing a good job of conveying it.

(As for the dearth of queries and openings... I have one I'd been meaning to send in, but was considering waiting till I was done with rewrites so I'd at least have an accurate word count (which may change significantly during the revisions). But, eh, if the word count in the version of the query I show to Evil Editor is off by a few thousand I suppose it's not really a big deal; maybe I'll go ahead and send it in...)

AA said...

I read both of your queries and combined them. This is what I think your story is so far:

"Quinn Sage is the only survivor of a bus crash that killed thirteen of her friends and which leaves her horribly scarred, mentally and physically . She tries to kill herself and join them but ends up in a psych ward instead. When she’s finally sent home, she thinks things are getting back to normal.

Her mother, a Broadway actress, starts receiving rejuvenating treatments from a slick doctor who says he can completely heal Quinn's scars. But the doctor is not all he seems. He becomes obsessed with the idea of restoring scarred, damaged Quinn to her former beauty, and he’ll do anything in his power to get her, including holding her mother hostage and terrorizing Quinn with horrifying creatures of his own supernatural creation. A man with no face starts stalking her. Nightmarish winged creatures scrabble at her windows at night, leaving deep claw marks in the concrete window ledge.

Quinn is terrified she’s having another breakdown. Desperate to find a different answer, Quinn does some digging and discovers that the doctor's great-grandfather was in the same business he is—until his patients were found drained of their fortunes and their health, then left as insane, skeletal shadows of their former selves. As Quinn delves deeper, she realizes the doctor isn’t the great-grandson after all—he’s the same monstrous man, who has somehow found a way to drain the life force of his victims and maintain his own youth for centuries.

Fortunately for Quinn, her close brush with death has left her with a few supernatural secrets of her own. She puts them to the test when she follows the monster to his lair to free her mother and put an end to his evil once and for all."

With some changes, this could be a good query itself. There are some more problems, though.

First of all, there is no indication why the doctor becomes obsessed with healing or capturing the MC. Since the plot revolves around that, there needs to be a good reason.

Second, it doesn't make sense that near-death experiences give you supernatural powers. Even pretty young kids won't believe this, and I certainly don't. There should be another reason at least hinted at. Perhaps it's genetic on her father's side?

BuffySquirrel said...

Oh lordy, I so want to read Frankenflea.

Zachary Gole said...

Oh, and by the way, EE... for metric prefixes, the case matters. Yoctoamperes would be yA, with a lower-case y. YA would actually be yottaamperes, which is not 10^-24 but 10^24. (I'm not making this up.) So 60,000 YA would be 6×10^28 amperes... i.e., six followed by twenty-eight zeroes. That's enough current to fry pretty much anything. (For comparison, a bolt of lightning carries a current of only 100,000 amperes or so; the radial electrical current in the Sun is about 10^9 amperes; some astronomers theorize about an enormous electrical current flowing through the galaxy that might be as large as 10^19 amperes.)

debhoag said...

AA, you've totally got it, but since it's YA, I've been trying to figure out how to squeeze the query down to a one pager and really struggling with it.

Any ideas, anyone, since AA has (so thoughtfully!) put together a pretty good synopsis of the plot?

And yes, it is genetic. Quinn is Inuit on her father's side (I just couldn't help it) :)

BuffySquirrel said...

I don't understand why the doctor has to force her to accept healing. What puts her off?

debhoag said...

@Buffy: survivor's guilt.

My question to the minions is this: what elements are essential to the query, and what can be trimmed down or left out? Obviously, I'm not doing a very good job on my own, so I need some help. :)

Zachary Gole said...

At this point, I'd be less worried about what needs to be left out than what still needs to be added. Even in the version of the query that AA wrote, there are still some important things missing (because you never supplied them, so AA couldn't put them in).

Like AA says, you've given no indication of why the doctor is obsessed with healing her. (Does he simply plan to drain her life force like all his previous victims?) Also, like EE asked in his comments on the original query, what are Quinn's supernatural abilities? Just saying she has supernatural abilities is terribly vague; you really ought to be more specific.

If you do need to cut it down, there are some things that can probably be omitted. The details of the doctor's supernatural sendings, for one (the man with no face and the nightmarish winged creatures—they're interesting, but if something's got to go they're not really needed). But again, before you worry about taking out what's not essential, first you need to make sure everything that is essential is there. Right now, it isn't.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I know hundreds of Inuits, both Yup'iit and IƱupiat, and not one of 'em has got a single damn supernatural power.

debhoag said...

@AlaskaRavenclaw: now I know who to go to for background! ;)