Friday, March 30, 2012

Face-Lift 1011

Guess the Plot


1. A detailed description, along with precise illustrations, of lovers who are bored with doing it in the other two positions.

2. Hired to impersonate a Nobel Prize laureate during public appearances, Mimi finds said laureate dead and the evidence pointing at her. She runs away to Greece with the hit man who actually did the killing. Although she doesn't know it's him.

3. Dr. Robert Norvich has created the first working time machine, a device that enters a slightly parallel dimension and exits it moments later, back in this world. When his assistants accidentally send a coffee cup back in time, it ends up knocking out John Wilkes Booth. Now our whole world is in chaos as things vanish and reappear. That's the end of that grant money.

4. A temporal rift experiment accidentally goes wrong and causes five scientists to warp out of existence. When they re-appear with politicians in tow, the Tea Party homeworld is revealed.

5. Physicist Lars Kadonneet invents equipment that allows him to traverse time and space. As Lars returns from the past, where he introduced Einstein to LSD, his machine malfunctions; it’s now 1966 and he is three inches tall and locked in a padded cell with a psychopath.

6. A time traveler materializes and informs teenager Sophie that witches' spells are backfiring ever since her grandmother died. Naturally this threatens to destroy the fabric of time, and only Sophie can prevent what may be the end of the universe.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Army brat Sophie Moore is still reeling from her family’s sudden move to Georgia, the loss of her grandmother, [There's always something you can't find after a move.] and her father’ [father's] deployment to Afghanistan. [If you're sending a soldier to Afghanistan, I see no reason his family would need to move to Georgia. Then again, I see no reason for a lot of things the military does.] [Wait, is it the country Georgia? Now that would make sense, a much shorter trip for dad to visit family.] When a strange boy appears in the woods near her house, she fears stress-induced hallucinations. Each time she sees him, the boy vanishes before she can get a straight answer about who he is and why he’s here. Is she seeing ghosts? Demons? Or is she going bonkers? [Not entirely clear whether he's vanishing as in running into the woods, or literally disappearing before her eyes.]

This story is about a usually self-assured teenage girl thrust into a new environment. Sophie is an expert at fitting in – she has always moved every year or two, [It feels like you've started the query over.] but adjusting to life in Beaumont is harder than it should be. As she struggles to cope with her father’s absence, she grows determined [she determines.] to discover how Ren, a boy her age who repeatedly materializes in the forest, comes and goes. At the same time, Ren takes an unusual interest in her family, [I was under the impression Ren was vanishing before Sophie could even talk to him. Are they having conversations and interacting?] especially Sophie’s grandmother who has recently passed away. Slowly Sophie becomes convinced that her grandmother’s childhood friend Agnes, who ran away from Beaumont when they were teens, is somehow linked to Ren. As she sorts through old letters and memories for clues, she realizes that Ren’s tattoo bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother’s treasured silver necklace.

As she delves deeper into the mystery and Ren reveals more, Sophie discovers that Ren is not a monster or the product of an over-active imagination; he is a bumbling time-traveler. The death of Sophie’s grandmother has released a precious artifact that, without a knowledgeable witch to control it, is interfering with all manner of spells in the area. With no training, Sophie is forced to seek the unlikeliest of help to master the artifact before it brings unwanted attention from some very unpleasant individuals.

I am a recovering Army brat and an unpublished author currently living outside Atlanta, Georgia. [That sentence wasn't needed.] I am seeking representation for my YA paranormal suspense novel, Sideslip, complete at 75,000 words. Partial or full manuscript is available upon request, and feedback is most appreciated.

Thank you for your time and attention,


When Sophie wonders if she's seeing ghosts or demons or going bonkers, I naturally assume the answer is No, and there will be a logical explanation for her "hallucinations." So it feels off when it turns out time travel and witches casting spells are part of the real world. It may take Sophie three fourths of the book to discover that supernatural stuff is real, but I shouldn't have to wait through three fourths of the query to discover this. It forces me to readjust my view of what kind of book it is.

The first two paragraphs are all setup. And the second paragraph repeats most of what's in the first. Combine what's important in them into one paragraph. I think we can do without the father. Something like this is plenty of setup:

Exploring the woods near her family's new home in Georgia, teenager Sophie Moore keeps seeing a boy her age materializing and vanishing. When she notices that the boy's tattoo bears a striking resemblance to her late grandmother’s treasured silver necklace, Sophie suspects that the boy is somehow linked to her grandmother.

Now you can move forward with (I'm guessing): When the boy finally sticks around long enough for Sophie to talk to him, she learns his name is Ren and he's a time traveler. Turns out the death of Sophie's grandmother has etc. etc. Try to come up with something less vague than "released an artifact," "all manner of spells," "the unlikeliest of help," "very unpleasant individuals." What exactly is happening as a result of the artifact interfering with spells? Who helps? Who are the villains and what do they want?

Do Ren and Sophie work together to prevent some disaster? Spell out what's at stake and what they plan to do about it.

Was Ren sent to the past to deal with this problem? Why would they send a bumbling teenager on such an important mission?


Anonymous said...

Follow Evil's advice.

My comment: start at Sophie being an expert at fitting in. Army brat, Dad gone and so forth.

If you can make what follows very clear I think you've got a good story.

Rashad Pharaon said...

I agree, I feel that every four or five lines could be combined into one stronger line with a punch. The query almost has a synopsis feel to it. I would offer suggestions but the debit card terminal at Starbucks was down and I was unable to purchase my coffee.

I'm afraid I'm the one now suffering from stress-induced hallucinations.

kbradley67 said...

The beginning felt disconnected.

I'd like to know what's at stake if the artifact cannot be controlled. Sounds like witches in the area can't cast, but why is that a big deal, and how does this thing interfere with spells anyway?

Clarification on the 'unlikeliest of help' would be nice, too.

Sounds like we have a reluctant witch on our hands.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Ren and Sophie looks like it should be Ren and Stimpy.

BuffySquirrel said...

The sudden move to Georgia might have more impact if we knew where she's moved from. Somewhere much bigger or smaller or more to the north?

I had the same reaction as EE when I got to the time travel and the spells. Uh?

What spells aren't working right and why does it matter? Does their failure affect her father's safety? If not, he probably doesn't need to be in the query.

Stress-induced hallucinations doesn't sound like a teen speaking. Has she been Googling hallucinations? Or perhaps talking to a helpful counsellor?

It might be a good idea to mention Ren's tattoo before the mention of the necklace. Otherwise we're going, what tattoo? Or, something like, 'she realises her grandmother's heirloom necklace has a design similar to a tattoo on Ren's.....' Well, whatever part of Ren it's on :).

As kbradley says, the query needs much higher stakes. Or the book does.

That you're a recovering Army brat is relevant to the query. That you're unpublished is not. The agent or editor will cleverly deduce that from the lack of credits.