Monday, September 17, 2012

Face-Lift 1070

Guess the Plot


1. The Hunger Games meets Steel Magnolias as one spunky girl gets stranded in post-apocalyptic Queens, New York with two dozen Guatemalan lesbians.

2. After years of abuse and humiliation, a mattress at a seedy motel tells its story in its own wo-- [Insert Another Quarter To Continue]

3. Spunk is the worst band in Liverpool. Maybe that's because they've got a musical imbalance: three drummer guys, one guitar chick, and that kilted bagpiper. Whatever. The 19th Battle of the Bands is still a good excuse to spend an intoxicated week in London.

4. New ]ork model Davendra Fetlock inherits her uncle Spud's Kentucky farm. Once a top Thoroughbred breeding facility, the farm now has only one stallion, swaybacked old Hunk o' Love. But Hunk harbors the rare Man-o-War gene, and Davendra seizes the chance to restore the farm to its former glory — by selling Spud's old stud Hunk's spunk.

5. A major furniture company, buys 5000 acres of Alleghany Valley’s cherry tree forest. They begin clear cutting. Spunk, a porcupine, organizes a resistance movement. They fail to stop the timbering but strike back at the retail outlets. After dark, Spunk’s porcupine patrols break into stores and chew up their finest furniture. It’s a prickly situation.

6. When class brain Maria got stuck with class clown Travarious for their Science Fair project, she knew it was going to be a long weekend. And when he came up with the idea of analyzing spermatozoa, she knew they were in for a rough go--until he demonstrated his technique. Now she can't wait for their presentation on Monday.

7. The knowledge that Todd thinks she's no good for him does nothing to dissuade Tiffany's pursuit of his love. She is a cute spunky witch and she loves a challenge. When all else fails, will she wear that magical miniskirt?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

If you're the sort of person your blog indicates that you are, then you are the perfect person to entrust with negotiating my six-figure publishing deals. [The sort of person I am will gladly see that you get published if you're willing to fork over six figures.] I know people; and I like you.

Me? That's easy.

I'm the sort of person who, after a career publishing educational books and rhyming poetry for children, would write a post-apocalyptic, dystopian fantasy and call it Spunk. (Yes. That kind of spunk.) [Yes, which kind of spunk?]


Sex, cannibalism, infanticide, and boozing it up are all comme il faut [Not everyone is up on their French, so you might want to go with de rigueur.] in the world in which our heroine, Senga, finds herself stranded, along with a troop of Girl Scouts, some lapsed Catholic peace demonstrators, and two dozen Guatemalan lesbians. [This list sounds comedic. Does it have to be in the same sentence as the one that describes a world where cannibalism and infanticide are acceptable?] Senga and the Abbess, her nemesis, engage readers in a classic confrontation between good and evil, [I'm guessing they engage each other in this confrontation, rather than readers.] [Although it might be cool to be confronted by some characters in a book you're reading, especially if you read erotic romance novels and not dystopian novels about marauding gangs of serial killers.] set among the survivors of a global cataclysm in one small pocket of Queens, New York in the 1970s and 80s. Black humor and brutal violence coexist in this story, along with explicit sex and a poetic narrative lyricism. [I predict bestseller. You've got the big three: brutal violence, explicit sex and poetic lyricism.] Think of it as The Hunger Games meets Steel Magnolias. [I have to confess I wouldn't mind seeing the women from Steel Magnolias participate in a death match. I see Daryl Hannah and Sally Field getting killed in the opening melee at the cornucopia.  Olympia Dukakis would take out Dolly Parton with an ax to the head, but would then be bludgeoned to death by the Julia Roberts/Shirley MacLaine alliance. The winner would be Julia because she has the most spunk. Also because it's my blog so I get to choose.]


We need to know something about what happens in your book. We know Senga's situation: She's stranded in Queens with Girl Scouts and lesbians. Now we need to know her goal and what happens if she doesn't reach it and how she plans to defeat . . . The Abbess. Tell us the story.

Possibly you should call this alternate history if it's set in New York after a global cataclysm in the 1970s. Of course, I was a little out of it in the 70's, so maybe I missed the apocalypse.


150 said...

Oh, hi again.

This isn't a query letter. The archives are full of examples, good, rewritten, and otherwise. So is Query Shark. So is Kristin Nelson's blog. Go read a couple dozen examples. This query, unfortunately, will get form-rejected for two reasons: it doesn't tell the agent what she needs to know, and it betrays an ignorance of how to query this type of book.

Here's your most important takeaway. Every genre has its mores, both on the page and in its dealings. You have wonderful credits, which should go at the end of the query, after you present the story the way THIS genre requires. I didn't follow up on your opening, because you seemed resistant to advice, but listen: several of us are working in THIS genre, reading and writing and selling post-apocalyptic, dystopian fantasy and its cousins. We're giving you advice from fairly deep wells of relevant experience. Please take that into account when you're comparing our advice to your experience, or the advice of your colleagues, in educational nonfiction and children's poetry. Again! Congratulations on your successes. But respect that changing to such a different area might take some unexpected work.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

If we hadn't already seen the opening that accompanies this, I'd think we were looking at Hoax City here. After all, the first line practically screams hoax, and the next few sing "hoax" in three-part harmony.

Since we have seen the opening and conversed with the author, I'm not gonna fritter away any time making suggestions. Got things to do, people to see.

Dave Fragments said...

Hi, How are ya?

If I were you, I'd start this at:

Senga, finds herself stranded in a post-apocalyptic Queens NY with a troop of Girl Scouts, a handle of lapsed Catholic peace demonstrators, and two dozen Guatemalan lesbians.

Then mention her nemesis, the abbess, (I hope you realize that rhyme quality of those two words sounds like silliness {which also has that ending sssss}) Should we expect such wordplay in the novel?

And then go one to ell us what happens in the story. I am thinking of a few sentences describing how the survivors attain some form of safety. I'm thinking back to THE WALKING DEAD TV series that ended the first season in the CDC, the second at the Farm, and the third at the prison.

Anonymous said...

So... Does it rhyme?

St0n3henge said...

Hi again.

I was wondering about the name. All the characters mentioned seem to be female. If it's "that kind of spunk" there must be some males hanging around, but "explicit sex" doesn't tell me that for sure. I guess if there's infanticide there's male/female relations, but if the focus is on that it isn't made clear. This is presented more as F on F erotica.

You might start with "Senga and the Abbess engage in a classic confrontation between good and evil among the survivors of a global cataclysm in the Queens, New York of an alternate 1970s and 80s." It's a little long but interesting, and it's the bottom line. Then explain:

1.Who Senga is,
2.Who the Abbess is,
3.What causes the two MC's to hate each other,
4.What is going to happen when the two clash.

That's your story. Then you can find places to work in the other survivors and all the sex and violence that goes on all day. Structure your query based on the plot of your story.

It's a good idea to read the archives as 150 suggested.

150 said...

Oh, and as always--if you put a revised version here in the comments, we'll take a second look. Good luck!

Stephen Prosapio said...

AA, I don't see how infanticide indicates male/female relations. Are you confusing it with incest or just the fact that there are kids indicates reproduction.

Anyhoo. I love Dave F's opening line. I'd go with that and cut out the over-the-top cocky attitude. You might think it comes off as humorous or unique, but then so did the previous 7,456 people who tried it with that agent/publisher.

Tell us the story. Seems there is one and it has some cool unique elements. Good luck!

St0n3henge said...

Yes, Stephen, there must be male/female relations to create children. I just don't see whether the name is relevant to the story. At first I thought maybe they worshiped a particular essence or considered it magical. Not a big deal.

I like Dave's line, too. It's a good hook line. I was thinking that it might be better for this author just to learn to put the plot down first, even if it's a little synopsis-y, then refine the query and jazz it up later. If she thinks she's ready to write a more exciting query right away, that's fine, but it still needs to contain the actual plot, even if it seems almost boring at first.