Thursday, March 08, 2012

Face-Lift 1001

Guess the Plot


1. In this, the second volume of my epic trilogy about adolescence, I move on to high school. Don't miss my first book about junior high, "Inferno," and my third book about college, "Paradise."

2. When his brother Joey dies, Clayton gets his girlfriend pregnant. The plan is for Joey's soul to wait in purgatory for nine months and then move into the baby.

3. A zombie's memoirs of the time between then and now.

4. When alternative medicine enthusiast Anna Manion opens up Purgatory, her new colonics salon, her first customer is the shy but handsome Max Maxwell. Love blossoms in the unlikeliest of settings.

5. An attention-starved, cross-dressing zombie yearns to be human again, but to purge himself of his curse, he must convince the local pastor to let him enter purgatory. Will he agree to give up his tutu and heels?

6. The devil is struggles to get out of hell and into purgatory. He hopes to atone for his sins and make it back to heaven. But Jezebel has other plans...

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When an armed robbery takes the life of six-year-old Joey Stockton and critically injures his older brother, Clayton. [Um...] He struggles to find meaning in life while continuing to deal with the absence of his father, who he lost earlier to cancer. [Ah, I get it. I was complaining about too-long sentences recently, and you didn't want me complaining about your too-long sentence, so you stuck a period in the middle of your too-long sentence, thinking that made it into two just-right sentences. Might have worked if you'd changed "and" to "it."] He is a self-proclaimed agnostic but struggles to find closure of his little brother’s ill-timed murder. [You've gone adjective crazy.
1. Pretty much anyone's religious beliefs are "self-proclaimed."
2. Of
course Joey's his "little" brother. Joey was 6, and Clayton's already been described as the older brother.
3. As for "ill-timed," is the murder of a six-year-old kid ever
not ill-timed? I hope no one would console the parent of a recently murdered child by saying, Hey, at least it was good timing.]

Clayton, only eighteen years old, succumbs to the early stages of depression caused by the loss of his brother and father. He turns to drugs and alcohol for immediate ecstasy but constantly longs for the bond his family once had. It isn’t until after piecing together unexplainable mysteries correlating with Joey’s afterlife, [What does that mean?] that he figures out the love he yearns for, [no comma] can be recreated with his girlfriend Brittney. [There's something wrong with an eighteen-year-old boy who hasn't long ago figured out that his girlfriend can provide the "love" he yearns for.] With Joey’s reincarnated soul needing a host, and Clayton and Brittney’s baby [Whoa. They have a baby?] needing a soul –the reincarnation system God relies on can detect the chemistry between the brothers, but lacking emotional ties, it bypasses the conflict of interest that could wreak havoc on humanity. [The system sounds soulless. Lemme see if I've got this straight. God set up a detection system that determines who gets which soul, and one wrong step by the system would wreak havoc on humanity, but the system has a massive glitch?]

PURGATORY is about two worlds secretly coexisting as one, and how the death of a child and his brother’s determination could finally solve life’s most notorious question – what really happens after we die? I would love to send you my YA/urban fantasy manuscript, PURGATORY, which is complete at 84,000 words. PURGATORY is a standalone novel with recommended series potential.



You make it sound like the soul transfer works out because the reincarnation system lacks emotional ties. A better idea would be for Clayton to somehow beat the system in order to get his brother's soul into his child. As far as I can tell, Clayton doesn't do anything. He needs to actively participate in getting what he wants.

Does the reincarnation system take into account the fact that a lot more people are born than die? When the population of the planet was 100,000, were there seven billion other souls hanging around waiting for the day when the population would be seven billion? If not, and souls are provided by deaths, there aren't enough to go around.

Those who believe in the soul probably like to think their souls are amalgams of their parents' souls, not a metaphorical junker chosen by a computer from a used car lot in Albania.

Does Brittney mind that she had no input into her kid's soul? How will Clayton know whether the baby has Joey's soul? Is Clayton going to one day tell his child that he/she has Joey's soul?

The first half of the query sounds like literary fiction. Then it seems to become inspirational. Urban fantasy wasn't on my list. Unless . . . Is Brittney a demon hunter?


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

EE, many years ago I read an SF story in an anthology-- best SF of 1971 type of thing-- which had as its premise that when the world population reaches a certain point, there are no souls left to reincarnate and so babies are born without 'em.

Can't remember the title. It was a gloomy story, but not as gloomy as this query.

Writer, everything EE said, plus four more years of English classes, please.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the scheme here is a bad idea, but people do this sort of thing in real life. Having another kid is one of the most common ways people try to cope with the death of a child. Sometimes they seriously think they're going to get the dead baby back through some kind of metaphysical switcharoo, sometimes they don't.

kbradley67 said...

Hmm, I thought only vampires had control over souls. Besides God, that is.

kbradley67 said...

Hmm, I thought only vampires had control over souls. Besides God, that is.

BuffySquirrel said...

In Babylon 5, isn't the reason why the war ends the fact that the enemy's souls are being reincarnated as humans? Or was it something even weirder than that?

Drugs and alcohol providing immediate ecstasy? Well, perhaps if the drug you're taking is ecstasy. Alcohol is a depressant. If you're already depressed, guess what? It makes you *more* depressed.

Also, ecstasy depletes your serotonin levels, which, guess what? makes you depressed. If only temporarily.

There's a lack of clarity in this query that will probably make anyone reading it think the novel is equally unclear.

For instance, I'm not at all clear what It isn’t until after piecing together unexplainable mysteries correlating with Joey’s afterlife, could possibly mean. Even after rereading it several times then taking painkillers.

khazar-khum said...

The concept is interesting. But it's going to need a very sure hand to make it work properly. Otherwise it will sound creepy & strange.

batgirl said...

The Vitanuls, by John Brunner, F&SF 1967, also appeared in Other Worlds, Other Gods 1971, and I read it in Stars of Albion 1979.
Great story, but nobody can ever remember the title.

batgirl said...

Creepy and strange could be good, but only when coherent as well.
Author, can you rewrite this query with complete sentences, specific detail, and a protagonist with at least a little agency?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Seriously? I made it all the way through a John Brunner story?

Whirlochre said...

The whole 'babies born without souls' thing may be true of EE.

Meanwhile, there's much going on here between commas that may not be relevant. You're cramming in too much detail and falling over yourself.

Another whoosh of your info snippets through the sieve would improve this.

Rashad Pharaon said...

I like where this story is going, I really do, but I put a lot of emphasis on first impressions.

I was a little put off when I read that first sentence and noticed the awkward period. I mean that should have been caught right away--it's at the very beginning of the query. It just raises questions about the quality of writing. I know it's unfair to be judged by such a small sample, but this is how we are judged.

A lot of time and love went into your manuscript and I am certain your mastery of grammar is better than what is shown here. Take your time re-writing the query and repost it?


Xan said...

This immediately made me think of Charlie St Cloud and I've only ever seen the trailer.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I'll second what Rashad said. This isn't a typical plot and it's going to need superior writing to make it anywhere near understandable. To be blunt, this query is far below acceptable levels of writing. It doesn't bode well for the novel.

And it doesn't sound YA. Just because there is a young character doesn't mean it will appeal to a young adult market. Are 16-20 year olds supposed to relate to having kids? Those that do are not a target market for fiction.

And it doesn't sound Fantasy. Frankly it comes across as a pretty depressing literary novel.

Kudos to you for trying something different and good luck with the rewrite!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Actually the last time I was at B & N I saw a very pregnant teenager browsing the "Teen" section. And as a teacher I've known, well, lots of other examples. Teen pregnancy and unbookishness don't go hand in hand.

But I agree that the book sounds depressing. Of course, teens don't always mind depressing. Editors frequently mind it, however.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much anyone's religious beliefs are "self-proclaimed."

Oh, if only it were so...

Nekura said...

I'd be real interested in a story like the one AlaskaRavenclaw mentioned. I feel this story could be improved a lot by fleshing out the Metaphysics behind all this. Toss in a voodoo witch, blood cult, demonic summoning, or some such if you can think of no way better to answer the metaphysics behind the world in this story -- also, Clayton would actually have to do something by finding said evil person/cult thing and paying a price.

You could involve agents from heaven and aliens? There's a lot of choices.

"Alcohol is a depressant. If you're already depressed, guess what? It makes you *more* depressed."

Not if you pass out! =D

Ultimately I really do like the conflict, there's just so much more you can add. But, you may not have the skill to pull it off yet. I've already made a major failure by trying to create a whole world on my own for my first novel. Yeah. Didn't get far. I say keep this on the back burner and don't give up the idea whatever you decide to do.

batgirl said...

Alaska - I always think it's by Ballard, as well as forgetting the title.