Monday, October 08, 2012
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?
“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.