Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Face-Lift 1016

Guess the Plot

Suicide City

1. A fifteen-year-old girl, tired of slopping the pigs, leaves her family farm for the big city. There she meets Reese, who is an apathetic male prostitute, recovering heroin addict and cutter who sleeps on a cardboard mattress under a bridge. Romance ensues.

2. When a gloomy churlish lad asks Judy the Psychic for directions to Suicide City she gives him a feathered cap and an envelope full of magic beans and puts him on the next bus to Oz.

3. As Detroit recalls its days as a motor and music Mecca in the 1960s, and its plummet to mean streets and economic failure in the 21st century, it realizes it has nothing to live for and implodes.

4. Kristina operates a suicide prevention clinic in Vilnius, Lithuania, suicide capital of the world. When she finds clues that several suicides were murders, she investigates and finds a ring of former KGB agents plotting to make Vilnius the biggest drug distribution center in Europe.

5. In a futuristic world, all people over the age of seventy-five are expected to report to Suicide City and take their own lives. It's a system that has worked for centuries, keeping medical costs and population down. But now a feisty old man named Harry has failed to show up for his suicide. This isn't going to go well.

6. Reporter Keirsten Pollus is developing a series of articles on the high suicide rate in Las Vegas. She sees too many similarities in the suicide notes; it can’t be coincidence. Aided by her uncle Jack, a retired homicide detective she uncovers an organized crime syndicate that sells murder and makes it look like suicide.

Original Version

Fifteen-year-old runaway, August Bailey, is ready for a new life full of freedom and adventure. At least in the big city her mother can’t treat her like slave labor, [Her? I don't see what's gained by giving your female main character a guy's name. January, April, May, June and December are fine names for a female fictional character. August is the only month we guys get, and we're keeping it.] prevent her from dating, or slap her face ever again. And there are no stinking pigs to slop.

When August meets Reese, a seventeen-year-old street kid with electrifying blue eyes and disarming charisma, she is instantly infatuated and drawn into his world.

Reese, a recovering heroin addict and cutter, reveals with casual detachment that he has sex with men for cash. August is shocked by his apathy toward most everything - except her. She breaks down the emotional walls he has built and they form a bond like neither has ever known. He becomes her guide to the streets, her protector, and her lover. [This is better than slopping pigs how?]

The reality of August’s new life hits hard and fast. Home is a cardboard mattress under a bridge. She may have to sell her body just to eat. When they find a member of Reese’s street family dead with a needle in her arm, August almost runs back to the farm. But Reese doesn’t belong in the country. And she refuses to live without him.

When Reese reveals a long-kept secret of the abuse he’s suffered and the truth about his mother’s death, August is convinced her love can save him. But she has to hurry - because Reese may have nowhere left to run.

SUICIDE CITY is adult fiction, [Those few adults who want to read about a fifteen-year-old runaway's romance with a seventeen-year-old street person can buy the book, even if it's published as YA.] a tragic love story, complete at 61,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.


I sympathize with your characters, but unless one of them has a hidden talent I don't know about, I don't see that anything interesting is going to happen to them. (If something remarkable happens, say so.) August may save Reese from suicide, but if they're still living miserable lives, who will want to read about them? Isn't there some way they can rescue a generous billionaire from a werewolf?


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Get those commas the #$@% out of the first line. Thank you.

The girl is named August and the guy is named Reese-- confusing. I suggest renaming the girl Arthur and calling the guy Rosanne.

Writer, life is grim. Life is miserable. Life is a nasty, brutish slog toward the grave. A few teenagers may not know this yet, so they may actually want to read a book that tells them so. The problem is the book first has to be gotten past rank upon rank of adult gatekeepers who do know it, and don't want to read about it.

So if there's a cheery side to this story, I suggest you try to get it into the query.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Whups, I just reread and saw this isn't YA.

Okay. I don't know what to say. It sounds really grim.

khazar-khum said...

After a few weeks of living on the streets the novelty is bound to wear off. BTW, we called it feeding, never slopping, because we gave the pigs a dry food, not junk. All the swine producers feed something that is not slop.

BuffySquirrel said...

What does she see in him?

Evil Editor said...

Electrifying blue eyes and disarming charisma.

BuffySquirrel said...

*shakes head*

thieleas said...

"Fifteen-year-old runaway, August Bailey, is ready for a new life full of freedom and adventure." This sounds like she was already a runaway and now she'll looking for freedom and adventure away from that. Also, this isn't attention grabbing.

"Reality hits hard and fast" So much so that she's sleeping under a bridge and considering selling her body for food. Yet, she's already slept with the druggie Reese, so maybe that's not such a big deal.

After all this: hunger, sleeping on the streets, and nearly having to sell her body so she doesn't starve to death - it's the random girl dead from a drug overdose that makes her want to go home? As if she didn't know that were a possibility? That's what you're going with?

I disagree with EE on two things:

First, I like the name August. ;)

Second, I don't feel sympathy for your mc. In my opinion, she sounds like a brat and an idiot. I didn't get paid for my chores and my parents prohibited dating 'so long as I was under their roof'. Just made me work harder to save up the money to leave on my own. But I wouldn't have headed for a big city where I knew I couldn't afford to live.

"But Reese doesn’t belong in the country." Again, what?! Chucking pig slop in the country or dying on the streets in the city... hmmm yeah I suppose if Reese really didn't like her he'd risk death in the city.
It's not like this 'truth' came out of the blue. He's known, so why is his life in jeopardy now especially since he also has August?

"because Reese may have nowhere left to run" Well, there's the country. Wait, did August's mother ever offer to take him in? Was that ever even an option?

kbradley67 said...

Like Rihanna said, "I found a love in a hopeless place, but I gotta let it go." Not sure electrifying blue eyes and disarming charisma are enough to outweigh prostitution and sleeping under a bridge.

Evil Editor said...

I like the name Elizabeth, but I wouldn't give it to my son.

Dave Fragments said...

Sorry to pounce upon the pile but there are dumb things kids do and then there are the truly dumb things that kids never do...

I mean, even "Baby" could go to Daddy for money. That's a hint about where to take the plot.

And one more thing, Even the Prodigal Son was welcomed home.

Jo-Ann said...

First of all, author, thank you for bucking the trend and not glamourising the life of a young prostitute.

Now for a lecture - a percentage of kids will run away from home. Most return within days, unless they have no place to go back to, or are unsafe in their own homes. Most runaways will sofa-surf, ie, rotate between friends' homes that will take them in until they wear-out their welcome.

Kids will only stay on the streets if there's nothing else for them. Reese might have had a hell-like home, but August sounds as if her basic needs (food, safety) at least were being met.

I'm finding it hard to believe that Reece will let men sleep with him, yet turn up his nose at a shot of rural life. What's keeping him in the mean streets? It's not like he can't return if the country is worse than his current life.

@Alaska- some people love grim.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

This is well written and has an interesting set-up, but I agree with wanting more plot. It's not impossible for things like this to be successful (see SMACK or GO ASK ALICE) but you'll need some unique specifics to really spark interest. Also, I found myself wanting a third option for August--logically, she shouldn't remain on the dangerous streets OR return to an abusive mother.

Personally, I've only heard of August as a girl's name (Tommy dated a girl named August on Third Rock From the Sun), but I seem to be in the minority here.

I wanted "slave labor" to be "a slave laborer." Feels more accurate to me.


Rashad Pharaon said...

I would like to see a hint of the positive side of August's choice. She seems to be going for a guy who has no future so I'm assuming a) it's a tragic ending, or b) you haven't told us the up-side of her choice. Not that you have to blow the lid on it, but at least hint on the positive aspect?

Thank you for sharing.

Rashad Pharaon said...

Forgot to add, in my humble opinion, this query was very well-written.

Eileen said...

Grim can work, but it can be a harder sell. People tend to prefer a happy or at least satisfying ending. If it starts grim and stays grim it will likely appeal to a smaller audience. (this isn't a bad thing- just something to understand)

My biggest issue with the query is I need to understand what motivates August. I understand that she feels her parents ask too much of her and she desires a more exciting life, I am still shocked she would choose to live on the streets, sleep under a bridge, sell her body for money etc just to get out of doing home chores. For me to buy that she prefers that life she needs a compelling reason to stay (if she stays she stands a chance to win the Hunger Games) or compelling reason to not go home (she's sexually abused there)

Anonymous said...

Jo-Ann, we call those people "English teachers."

Anonymous said...

There was certainly a time in my life when I thought living on the streets was what Real People did who were Sticking It To The Man. But it was very brief. And it did not involve selling my body, or even renting it.

Mister Furkles said...

On a large names site, Reese is given as a boy's name and not as a girl's. Too bad for you, Witherspoon.

A typical boy's name is Augustus. In the nineteenth century, a popular girl's name was Augusta. Both use the nickname Augie. Doubtless, EE will remember Augie Doggie--a talking boy dog.

This seems too much plot and not enough character to me. I don't get a feeling that either are real people rather than plot ciphers.

If you, Author, add some kind of humor it will help. But great prose will make up for a lot. Faulkner's Sanctuary was really depressing and much more violent and violating. It sold well and made his reputation.

See if you can't get the reader to like the characters.

Bonnee Crawford said...

I think I'll be keeping a close eye on this blog, seeing someone's critique on someone else's work helps me to improve my own work.

arhooley said...

August is big enough to run. Instead of leaving her home, why didn't she slap her mother back?

I'd change "reveals with casual detachment." "Reveals casually" or "reveals detachedly" should do.

Anyway, if the book is grim, you do convey that well in the query. I also get a sense of onrushing desperation towards the end.

khazar-khum said...

Every kid has a fantasy of running off to live wild & 'free', whether it be on the California beach or in the woods by the lake. Smarter ones think about how they'd get food & shelter. If they spend a couple days roughing it, most kids decide that a bed, TV & real bathroom make up for taking out the trash and cleaning the stove.

There really isn't any clear reason why August would leave a county home for a life on the streets. Nor is there any compelling reason for electric-eyed Reese to refuse the country life. Unless, of course, he's a druggie and doesn't realize that drugs can be found anywhere. He might like the sex, too, but again that's available outside city limits.

I can already hear the argument: But kids do things like this all the time. Yes, they do. But that's real life. This is fiction. And fiction has to make sense.

BuffySquirrel said...

Maybe August has a boy's name because she originally was a boy. But then someone told the author their book would end up on the GLBT shelf and not the NYT Bestsellers' List if they kept THAT in, and so....

Nah. Too cynical even for me to think that.

Anonymous said...

...we call those people "English teachers."

Harsh judgement.

An English Teacher

150 said...

Names aside, remember the only purpose of a query letter is to make an agent want to read pages. There are just two reasons I wouldn't read these pages: one, that you think it's adult fiction when the length, characters, and growth arc make it clearly YA, and two, there's no hint of what a satisfying ending (not necessarily happy, but with a satisfying narrative closure) might look like.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Augustus is the authentic boy name. August is the girl name in today's world. But August is the short name for boys used by -see below.

AUGUST: Short form of Latin Augustus, meaning "venerable." In use by the English and Germans.

The name isn't important to me. The character counts.

I'd do what Evil suggests and think about 150's comments.

Evil Editor said...

After Googling "Baby Names" and consulting four sites that list thousands of names, I've found August listed among boy names everywhere and girl names nowhere. So let's just agree to disagree.

BuffySquirrel said...

Umm, no, the girl's name is Augusta. The clue is in the a at the end.

batgirl said...

I went to school in the 60s with a girl named September.

Author, I don't know if this is helpful, but I got the feeling the query is too much outside the characters, in that we don't see what drives them from the inside. Not that you need heaps of backstory, but that I don't see what's driving Reece to be recovering from drugs and cutting, or why it's impossible for him to leave the streets (especially if he's recovering). Is it only August's perception that he can't leave? I'd also like a clearer idea of August's character arc from resentful (but naive) runaway to coping with the realities of street life to making up her mind to stay (if that's what she does) and take care of Reece. Maybe if you worked more from within the characters, and a bit more chronologically?