Monday, October 08, 2012

Face-Lift 1075

Guess the Plot

The Loving Man’s Home

1. Photographer Mackenzie McWallis gained unprecedented access to the home of Evil Editor and compiled this coffee table book of full-color photographs. Includes vivid macro close-ups of the most interesting stains.

2. The bank has just informed Ernie Wilson, Cookietree's most famous ladies man, he's about to lose his bachelor pad. That home equity loan he took out to pay for a lifetime supply of Viagra was probably a mistake. Could this be the end of . . . The Loving Man's Home?

3. Marie's grandmother, with whom she lives, doesn't like the fact that Marie spends her weekends in the home of an accused pedophile. But hey, sometimes children have to learn the hard way.

4. A patriarch's guide to taking over the headship of your family. Includes instructions for getting your wife to obey, homeschooling, filling your quiver, and how to talk to those pesky folks from Child Protective Services.

5. The first how-to guide for househusbands doesn't really contain any new information, but it's written in a very manly style, with lots of football references.

6. Henry's psychologist has diagnosed him with objectum sexuality. Henry thinks the man is blowing things way out of proportion. His house isn't an object, and Henry can feel that it loves him back. And a magnificent Victorian two-level? Who wouldn't love that?

Original Version

“The Loving Man’s Home”

Marie Miller is simply your typical young girl of the 1970s, an avid basketball player who is just looking for a new, fresh start with her mother and grandparents after her father’s death. After moving from West Chester, Pennsylvania to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania soon after the funeral, she finds life even more distressing than it must be for girls her age. [What is her age?] She has a boyfriend who she’d known for quite some time through participating in the Chester County Science Team, and she has befriended the man from up the street, Mr. Morgan Lieberman. An accused pedophile and obviously hostile elderly man, Marie finds grace and peace through befriending the wealthy retired doctor, with whom she finds it best at her duty to help this crippled old gentlemen in his household chores during her weekends. [There's so much wrong with that sentence I don't know where to begin. But why begin at all when it's quickly becoming clear that I'll be advising you to start the whole query over from scratch?] She knows her friends find it a little wacky and her grandmother stubbornly believes that all of the pedophile rumors are true, but she still makes it a requirement for herself to help this poor old man, that she somehow feels sorry for in her heart.

But what Marie doesn’t know is the history of Morgan Lieberman—the tragedy in his life from thirty years before that kept him isolated from the world and expunged his faith in God. Marie doesn’t know of the conversations between him and his wife that go on in his house when he is alone there at night—with a wife who is long gone, who killed herself with five sharp stabs to the waist of her body in May of 1949 [You gotta admire the persistence of anyone who's been stabbed four times and still manages to go for a fifth.] due to her depression over the fact that she could not bear her husband a child. Marie doesn’t know any of this—
[Yes, you've said that already.] and while her mother and grandparents do, [How can her mother and grandparents know about conversations that go on in his house when he is alone there?] she is untold and begins having dreams. Dreams of a young handsome man living up the street from her who is married to a lovely young woman, and then the woman turns to blood before Marie’s dreaming eyes. Marie finds herself being lured into Mr. Lieberman’s backyard and she hears pounds from below the ground—she believes she hears voices calling her from beneath the frigid surface of the ground in his backyard—human voices, human fists pounding for help. [Are we still in the dream?] She is confused, and while she becomes more craven and hesitant towards taking any steps towards the house at all over time, she finds herself putting the pieces together about what is exactly going on in the Lieberman household—and on the property itself. When her friends start disappearing, she seems to be lured to Morgan Lieberman’s house right away—she knows he wasn’t guilty of anything anyone in the neighborhood accused him of being guilty of—but she knows the man is murdering her friends [She knows the guy is murdering her friends, so she goes over there right away? For what? To tell him he has to stop or she'll rat him out to the cops?] —it’s only been children that have been disappearing, anyways. Does Marie know that this man is actually guilty [You just said she knows he is murdering her friends.] and has killed multiple numbers of teenagers, or is there something strange going on behind the scenes…something…out of “love”?


This reads like a really wordy voice-over for a horror movie trailer. It's not a query letter, as it doesn't include the genre or word count. It's too long to be the plot summary in a query letter. A synopsis would take us through the story, while this basically sets up Marie's situation. Whatever it is, it won't convince the reader that she should request the book.

If the guy isn't a pedophile but is being unjustly treated like a pariah, he probably deserves our sympathy, but no way is Marie going to be allowed to go in his house unsupervised just because she doesn't think he's a danger.

Apparently Lieberman isn't a pedophile or murderer. He's just locking all the neighborhood children in the dungeon beneath his property. What a relief.

The first thing to do is work on your writing skills, as I can tell from your word choice and repetition and awkward sentences that your book isn't ready for publication. Then you need to write a query letter, of which there are more than a thousand samples on this blog. The query should include Marie's situation, but in just two or three sentences. Something like:

After moving to Phoenixville with her mother and grandparents, 14-year-old Marie Miller befriends Morgan Lieberman, an elderly neighbor who's rumored to be a pedophile. Marie is sure Lieberman is innocent, and spends weekends helping him with his chores--until she discovers the old man has been murdering her friends and locking neighborhood children in his underground torture chamber.

Now you have plenty of room to tell us what Marie plans to do about the situation, and what goes wrong with her plan and what will happen if she can't fix things. 

All without filling up more than one page.

I recommend not mentioning that Marie's mother and grandparents know she's spending her free time in Lieberman's house.

Also, don't include the dreams. Focus on Marie's situation and what she does.


khazar-khum said...

Was the dead woman also named Marie?

How does she get involved with this man anyway? Was it a 'befriend the neighbor' thing or an offer to mow the lawn that slowly drew her into his life?

Something like this:

13-year-old Marie doesn't know anyone in her new Phoenixville neighborhood. When she sees old Dr Lieberman struggling with his lawn, she offers to help. Soon she and the old man are fast friends, with Marie routinely helping him at his house. Everything seems normal, until she starts having weird dreams revolving around Dr Lieberman and his long-dead wife. When her friends from school start vanishing, attention focuses on the old man. But he's innocent, isn't he? Surely he isn't hiding them in those funny chambers in the basement?

Now you've set up what appears to be your story.

150 said...

Evil Editor is wise. Don't spend too much time on this query. Write another book. Maybe take a class. Then revisit.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Oh man.


I know a lot of people are for some reason unaware that "crippled" is a highly offensive word to use to describe disabled people. But don't bet on the person who reads your query being similarly unaware. That's my advice.

Other than that, I agree with 150... you're not there yet. There's a saying that you have to write a million words before you're ready for publication. Count this as some of that million.

Take a class. Take a bunch of classes. Learn what's wrong with starting a sentence "An accused pedophile and obviously hostile elderly man, Marie..."

Chelsea P. said...

I'm having a hard time understanding Marie's motivation. It just doesn't seem like the way someone would behave.

I mean, she hears the guy's a pedophile and immediately seeks him out, convinced he's innocent, even though she just moved to town, and wasn't around when any of the alleged abuse happened (right?).

Her friends find it "wacky," rather than really dangerous and foolish.

She has haunting dreams about his wife's violent death, and she automatically assumes he's 100% innocent (again).

Her friends start disappearing, but again, he must be innocent.

Then she realizes he's totally to blame, but he did it out of "love."

I understand that predators are very talented at portraying themselves as victims, but I still can't understand why Marie would keep insisting on his innocence. It's like she's bending over backward to ignore warning sign after warning sign, fact after fact. Why?

AA said...


I don't mean to be offensive, but I have to assume that English isn't your first language. If you don't know know what's wrong with this sentence : "An accused pedophile and obviously hostile elderly man, Marie finds grace and peace through befriending the wealthy retired doctor, with whom she finds it best at her duty to help this crippled old gentlemen in his household chores during her weekends," then your English is not as good as it needs to be in order to write novels.

If English really isn't your first language, congratulations on learning it. English is one of the hardest languages to learn.

If English IS your first language: How old are you? If you're still a teen, you have a bit to learn. Take some college- level classes and look at your manuscript again.

If you're an adult, you have a choice to make. Is it worth it to you to take some higher level English and writing classes to get this book published? Do you have the time and money to do that?

I hope you manage to get what you want in life. Good luck.

khazar-khum said...

I can't tell if the writer is there or not because the query isn't there yet. Not everyone can write a good query, which is why we're all here.

It's unfortunate that you have to have a good query to even be considered, but that's one of those facts of life, like learning to spell or wearing clothes when you go to the store.

Oh, and as a disabled person, I'm not offended by crippled, handicapped or whatever else you call me. But that's me.

Mister Furkles said...


I'm trying to be helpful. Here are some exercises to improve more quickly:

Go online and check out web sites for diagramming sentences. If it's difficult to diagram a sentence, then simplify it. Never submit a sentence you can't diagram.

As an exercise, limit your longest sentence and your average sentence. Say, 25 words maximum with an average of 15 words. Then rewrite your query or any other sample of your writing. The objective is to use words more effectively.

Take a writing sample and color code the words by part of speech. Make the adjectives red and the adverbs blue. Then eliminate half of them. You don't need to tell the reader everything -- just inspire the imagination.

Some very good writers recommend that you read your prose aloud.

Most important of all: keep writing.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

K-k, yeah, it may just be you. I think for a lot of people, the playground insult never wears off (especially if they were already disabled in grade school). Mr. Webster finds it "sometimes offensive," but he's out of date.

The writing doesn't so much say non-native English speaker to me as inexperienced writer. Things like the dangling participle or putting "Pennyslvania" twice in one sentence show up in freshman comp papers. But a writer has to do better.

I'm just focusing on this stuff to avoid discussing the plot, which, if it in fact follows Chelsea's outline, creeps me the #$%@ out.

PLaF said...

I also found this plot creepy in the extreme and wondered if the idea was marketable. However, I recalled "The Lovely Bones" which dealt with a child predator and was very well done up until the girl realized she had died.
Then it went the way of the crapper and I heard the voice of Alaska Ravenclaw screaming in my head, "The protag is haplessly carried along and doesn't DO anything to solve the crime!"
So, if done well, the subject matter may provide a suspensful work as it reveals how the predator goes about ensnaring the youth right under everybody's noses.
The query, as it stands, tends to overdramatize the story instead of explain it. Try telling it to us like you'd explain what you were writing about to your grandmother: just the facts and not so much of the "ewwww."

Anonymous said...

PLaF, I apologize for screaming in your head. You've caused me to go and look up the plot of The Lovely Bones on wikipedia. Dang, that doesn't sound like a plot at all.


150 said...

In The Lovely Bones, the murdered girl is the narrator and mostly viewpoint character, but I'd say the family as a whole is the "protagonist".

PLaF said...

ARC - don't apologize, it's a good thing.

150 - interesting viewpoint. That story floundered for me because the beginning was so intense and then what followed felt like a let down.