Friday, March 15, 2013

Face-Lift 1110

Guess the Plot


1. Nine-year-old Nur is forced to be caretaker of a gigantic, ill-tempered, mute creature that hates her. Think Beauty and the Beast, except Nur's face is covered with scars, so think Scarface Meets Mute Godzilla.

2. Eight-year-old Lisa is delighted when the mute button on the tv remote control also works on annoying adults and siblings. Even better, when she tries the fast forward button, it ages them by fifty years.


4. Talkshow host Adelaide Scherbotski comes home one day to find her six brothers have been kidnapped by a crazed former fan of her show. The fan is threatening their lives unless the show goes off air, putting Addy in a race against time to find her brothers. Till then... the show must go MUTE.

5. I'd like to tell you what this story is about, and I will, just as soon as I break out of this annoying invisible box. Oh, crap, that's MIME, not Mute. I've been so wrong for so long...

6. When homely Ongyala the bard bested the lich Manzikar in poker, he let her pick her prize: beauty, long life, or wealth. She chose beauty--at the cost of her singing voice. Now all kinds of people are willing to help her out. Should she sleep with everyone in hope of a cure, or should she remain--Mute?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I would like to submit my 130,000 word science fiction novel MUTE for your consideration.

Nine-year-old Nur learns an important lesson when the adults in her life decide to sell her to the lung-eating denpars: difference is dangerous. [The good news, daughter, is that we put you up for sale on Ebay, and someone actually bought you! The bad news is the buyer is a gang of creatures that want to eat your lungs.] [Do the denpars eat only lungs, or do they just consider lungs a delicacy?]

Because Nur is different. For as long as she can remember, she's had a horribly scarred face- [Her face is] so horribly scarred that it's common knowledge that no one will ever want to marry her, and in Nur's society, that's practically a death sentence. Fortunately for her, one member of her village takes pity on her and helps her get away to find a new life. Unfortunately, the [her] new life Nur finds herself leading may be just as dangerous as the one she left behind. She's been forced to be the caretaker of a gigantic, ill-tempered creature called Mash. 

Mash may not be [is un]able to speak, but he's very good at making his feelings known, and the main thing he feels is that he absolutely hates Nur. As she struggles to care for this unpleasant creature, Nur starts to understand [realizes] that he's hiding scars of his own- just not ones that she can see. Time passes, Mash grows larger and more violent, and Nur begins to realize [sees] the choice she will eventually have to make: save him from himself, or save herself from him.

A science fiction story that grounds itself [grounded] in themes of abuse, healing, and the fear of the unknown, MUTE is a love letter to the natural world [That didn't come across at all.] and the compelling relationship that exists between man and [lung-eating] animal.

The idea for MUTE was drawn from my experiences conducting studies of animal behavior, which range from mist netting for bats to assessments of the evolution of cat meows. My experience in running a college creative writing club was also invaluable during the process.

Thank you for your time and consideration!


This is mostly setup. Nur is forced to be caretaker of Mash. Then some vague stuff happens, like time passes and Nur realizes stuff. Does any specific stuff actually happen? Focus on the plot after Nur becomes caretaker of Mash. What does she want out of life now? What's she doing to get it? What's standing in her way? Be specific.

A lot of unnecessary words, which may mean you could cut the book down to 100,000 words, making it easier to sell.

If you escape from your village, it seems like you have a choice where to go. Why go to a place where you're forced to be Mash's caretaker? Why didn't she go to Pleasantville?

Mash hates Nur, and Nur doesn't seem happy with her new position. Can't they agree to an amicable parting of the ways?


Eric said...

#3: Best GTP ever.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, i was certain #3 was the winner!

BuffySquirrel said...

If Nur has grown up scarred and it's common knowledge she's therefore practically under a death sentence, she *already knows* being different is dangerous. She doesn't need to learn that lesson after she's sold/helped to escape.

Which is it, anyway? Sold? Escapes? Or is she sold but escapes before the actual handover? It's not at all clear whether Mash is the denpar to which she's been sold or some other creature of unknown kind.

Who forces her to look after Mash, anyway? What's in it for her? What's keeping her from walking away from the unpleasant creature rather than bothering to try save him at all? Why save him at all? It seems to me that if it's save him or save herself, the obvious choice is herself. You need to give us some reason why she should care.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Exchange I once had with the editor of my fifth novel:

me: See, there's this underlying theme of...

editor: Yeah, okay.

Sadly, editors don't want to hear about themes nor about what gave you the idea for your novel. Neither do agents. With luck, reviewers might suss out the themes and interviewers will ask you what gave you the idea for your novel. Till then, best to keep mum on those subjects, and stick to matters of plot and character.

Veronica Rundell said...

As this is young middle grade, I wonder about the "different is dangerous" theme.

As for the query, I'd like to know more about Nur's new life. Is she living in the wild with Mash? Are there other people around her? From whom does she learn her lessons? Does she find acceptance anywhere?

Skip the long set-up. Start with brief backstory that gives a hint of voice [Nine y/o Nur is so disfigured her parents despair over ever finding her a husband; so they sell her for two sacks of grain to the marauding Denpars who plan to eat her lungs for Thanksgiving dinner.] sure you can do better it's just an example of jumping in quickly....

Then tell us how she and Mash can't get along, but all they have is each other....and do it briefly.

Then tell us what other things happen that help Nur realize she's just grand no matter what her folks thought.

Just some thoughts. Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Veronica...I'm guessing the theme of the novel is to discredit the 'different is dangerous' assumption.

The novel sounds like it might be interesting (although to keep the readers' interest at 130 k words, it needs to be very interesting) but the query needs more oomph to convey that. Buffy's comments are worth noting. Why can't she just let Mash stew in its own juices?

Having a 9-year-old protag suggests it's a middle grade novel, however, the word count is waaay too long, unless your intials are JKR.

Is it actually middle grade, or does most of the action occur once Nur has grown up? You need t specify that point.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I don't think it's middle grade. The querier said it's a 130k word SF novel.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Books w/child protags that aren't middle grade novels:

Oliver Twist
Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow
The Boy in Striped Pajamas
About A Boy
The Book Thief
The Red Pony
Carson McCuller's stuff the top of my head.

I think if this was a middle grade novel the querier would have mentioned in the query.

khazar-khum said...

Alaska--how did you miss "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "The Lovely Bones"?

Child protag doesn't always mean child's book, any more than female lead means romance or male Western.

Ruth said...

I've seen The Boy in Striped Pyjamas listed under "children's books" at a bookstore. I would not give that book to my child to read.... (Granted, my child is ten weeks old, so wouldn't understand it, let alone be traumatised by it, but still. My point stands.)

I thought the setup did sound really interesting - until it said it was a love letter to the natural world. That made me assume it was going to be all, well, "science-y" and boring. Also, not sure how lung-eating denpars fit into the (our) natural world.

I'd also suggest that if Nur grows up during the book, to mention that in the query. I hope she does - I can't imagine a 9yo child dealing with this situation in a way that doesn't involve bed-wetting and/or running home to Mommy/out into the wilderness to "live on her own" with the one sandwich she's brought along....

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I only read TBWSP 'cause I received the ARC. But the publisher was classifying it as YA, hence not "middle grade". The protag was nine. The premise was ridiculous. The movie rights sold.

The Book Thief is a much, much better YA with a middle grade-aged protag. Plus, unlike TBWSP, it's a historical novel based on actual historical facts.