Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Face-Lift 1130


Guess the Plot

The Medal

1. Gabriel is not looking forward to this year's Angel Olympics. Michael has won the javelin throw for the past twelve hundred years. Satan offers to replace Michael's platinum javelin with a replica, but in return he wants Gabe to sneak him back into heaven. Will Gabriel lose again, or take the deal?

2. Controversy erupts in Cold Falls when it's discovered that the winner of the annual 5k Race To The Falls is doping. So is the 2nd place winner. And the 3rd, and the 4th. Ultimately, the medal is awarded to Ambrose Bledsoe, who ambled the course with his Bichon Frise, Toodles, in six hours, 43 minutes.

3. Surfer Logan Quinn is on his last leg. Literally. A great white shark ate his other one. One day an Olympic gold medalist lets Logan try on his magical medal, and before you know it Logan regains his form as a champion surfer. Also, an inquisitive dolphin.

4. Lyn never knew his grandfather; the WWII vet died when he was still a young child. He grew up hearing stories of the old man's generally evil, nasty temper. When he finds a box containing his grandfather's war memorabilia, will he discover that Gramps was a hero--or a bastard?

5. Shani's wanted an Olympic gold medal since she was 3. Ice skating ended in hospitalization, as did gymnastics, running, three-day event, fencing, and curling. Confined to a wheelchair, can she finally medal at the Paralympics--or should she just break down and buy a replica from Home Shopping Network?

6. Ginger has trained for the Olympics since she was ten. Endless workouts, laps, lifting, spartan diet--she's done it all. But when she finally reaches the Olympics, will she be able to stay the course in the 4X400--or will that disturbingly handsome Venezuelan cyclist knock her off-stride?



Original Version

Logan Quinn is living the life he's been trained for, until the day a Great White Shark shreds his dreams by claiming half of his left leg. [He becomes obsessed with hunting down that white shark. I call the book Moby Mako.] Unable to continue his life as an elite surfer, [he becomes a world-class hopscotch athlete.] he’s lost his career, the love of his life, and the last dregs of his dignity. [No need to switch from present tense.] [Wait, the love of his life dumps him because a shark ate his leg, and he's the one with no dignity?] Working at a dead-end job at a Cash-for-Gold, Logan is on his last leg, literally and figuratively.

Little does he know that an old man who wants to sell some of his late wife’s jewelry will change his life forever. George Akina is a former Olympic gold medalist who recognizes the former surf champion and invites Logan to try on his medal, inviting him to imagine greatness. Logan does just that. When the medal disappears into Logan's chest, George tells him the same thing happened to him twenty years prior, and that the medal's magic has kept him alive and healthy for many years past his wife's death. Logan doesn't believe in magic of any kind, but he's forced to admit he's feeling optimistic for the first time in many years. [So optimistic he quits Cash-for-Gold and applies at National Pawn.]

George dies soon after, willing the medal to Logan [George got the medal back? Did he reach into Logan's chest like that bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or like that bad woman on Once Upon a Time, except grabbing the medal instead of Logan's heart?] with the caveat that he regain his position as one of the elite surfers in the world, [That's like me willing my estate to Evil Jr. with the caveat that he take up tennis and win Wimbledon.] a task Logan is reluctant to attempt. But, with encouragement and help from a neighbor, George's youngest son and his wife, a slew of old friends, [the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, ], an inquisitive dolphin, and even the ex-wife he still loves but lost, he decides to give it a shot.

Logan begins his climb back up the ladder to success. [Figuratively, but not literally.] He just might make it, despite his obvious handicap and opposition from some of George's offspring. [They want the medal? They don't have a leg to stand on.] That is, unless [the Association of Surfing Professionals rules that using a crutch on his surfboard gives him an unfair competitive advantage.] someone else needs the medal more than he does, especially when that person arrives in the form of George's great-granddaughter [who was forced to quit the LPGA when a wolverine ate her left arm]. [I don't think "especially when" works there. You could start a new sentence: And that person arrives...  And include why she needs the medal.

The Medal is an 80,500 word novel. [Your genre is expected; I'd call it magic realism.]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes

If George got the medal back and died soon after, perhaps it wasn't the medal that was keeping him alive after all.

Does Logan have an artificial leg?

You'd think if George's great-granddaughter needs the medal more than Logan does, George would have willed it to her.

If you're going to use the "last leg" line, I recommend opening the query with it: Logan Quinn is on his last leg, literally and figuratively.

The inquisitive dolphin is distracting me from the theme/conflict.

I would mention that Logan's a pro surfer before I mention that a shark claimed his leg. Also, "shark" is good enough. Otherwise readers may wonder if Logan took the time to identify the shark as it swam off with his leg. Plus, if you mention "Great White" someone may think the quality of your book is comparable to that of the movie Jaws 4: The Revenge. You definitely don't want that.


23 comments:

IMHO said...

Query needs some polishing (see below), but I am intrigued. However, I can't decide from the query what the tone of the book is -- light-hearted and magical? Or serious and mystical? The query's tone is serious, but some of the elements suggest a lighter touch (shark-bit former elite surfer working at Cash-for-Gold, the whole 'last leg' motif).

Nitpicks: George is not a "former" Olympic gold medalist -- he is still an Olympic gold medalist (unless they stripped him of his medal). And 2nd para, 2nd sentence uses 'invite' twice.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This query sounds a bit choppy. Look at the second paragraph:

Little does he know that an old man who wants to sell some of his late wife’s jewelry will change his life forever.

The above sentence does nothing but wag cliches at both ends. You can delete it.

George Akina is a former Olympic gold medalist who recognizes the former surf champion and invites Logan to try on his medal, inviting him to imagine greatness.

There appear to be three different people mentioned in the above sentence. Call your characters by their names all the way through the query. Don't redescribe them as old men or former surf champions. It's awkward and confusing.

When the medal disappears into Logan's chest, George tells him the same thing happened to him twenty years prior, and that the medal's magic has kept him alive and healthy for many years past his wife's death.

This sentence has multiple issues:

1. If a medal disappeared into your chest, you'd be too busy freaking to hear what anyone told you.

2. "Prior" should be "before" or "ago".

3. It's not at all uncommon to survive one's spouse's death, even by decades. Magical intervention is not required.

Logan doesn't believe in magic of any kind, but he's forced to admit he's feeling optimistic for the first time in many years.

He's feeling optimistic when a big clunk of gold just vanished into his chest?

The language in this query tries too hard, and comes out sounding ungainly. Try to rewrite it in a simple, straightforward manner.

The problem with the "last leg" line is that the actual expression is "on his last legs". And that describes most of us.

CavalierdeNuit said...

The tone is a little confusing, and it sounds more serious and mystical to me. But a talking?, inquisitive dolphin indicates a certain light-heartedness. Logan could murder his ex-wife, Blade Runner style, and your book could get really dark. I don't know if you want to go in that direction, but it would be a nice twist (the medal brings out a Mr. Hyde?).

I think you could benefit by cleaning up your query, and answering EE's questions/applying his suggestions in the Notes section. There are many words/sentences you could cut.

These sentences for example:

"George Akina is a former Olympic gold medalist who recognizes the former surf champion and invites Logan to try on his medal, inviting him to imagine greatness. Logan does just that. When the medal disappears into Logan's chest..."

Could become something like:

George Akina, a former gold medalist, invites Logan to try on his medal. Logan imagines greatness as the medal disappears into his chest.

Trust your reader, you don't need to explain too much.

:)

Lisa H said...

Author here, and thanks to everyone who's commented. You've all got valid points.

EE, George doesn't get the medal back before he dies. In fact, he dies soon after because he doesn't have the medal. Logan, however, is desperate to return it but can't, which is why George wills it to him, letting Logan know he wants him to keep it, even thought Logan really has no choice at the moment. The medal only appears for those who need it, which is how the great-granddaughter fits in eventually. George isn't aware she'll ever need it before his own death.

Yes, Logan has a prosthetic leg. It takes some time and special outfitting for him to learn to surf with it.

Also, I didn't know exactly what genre it fit so I left it blank. Thanks for the help.

I think I should cut the dolphin out of the query. It's just an ordinary dolphin, mostly, and is obviously distracting.

Alaska, your comments are very helpful. The medal does vanish into Logan's chest, and he does freak out for some time, but it isn't until the next day that he finds George for an explanation. It's hard to be clear in such a small amount of space, but I'll work on it.

IMHO and Cavalier - the story is mystical, but not dark, so I guess it's what EE called it - magical realism. It's serious, but with a mystical overtone.

Thanks, all. Any other comments would be wonderful, and I'll get started on a rewrite soon.

Veronica Rundell said...

Hi author,
My question is related to the medal and it's appearance. So, does it stay in the person only while they need it? Would it jump out of its host's skin in the presence of a more needy candidate? And, why on earth, would it end up at a gold sellers? Did it leap out of George's chest at that time and he divined from that it was necessary to pass the medal to another?
It's an interesting concept and I'd love to see it polished up.
Best of luck.

Lisa H said...

Hi Veronica,
You're kind of right. George is at the gold store to sell some of his late wife's jewelry that his children don't want. He's planning to take a trip around the world. The fact is that George doesn't really understand what the medal does himself, and its showing up in Logan's presence surprises him. He's curious to see what will happen if he passes it on, so he does.

Kelsey said...

Hi Author,

I love magical realism. But as a potential reader, my honest reaction to the query as it stands is ho-hum. I feel like I can forsee the whole arc of the and how it will end, which kills the tension for me.

You give us the set-up: fabulous surfer loses a leg and can no longer follow his dream. Then he's given a second chance at glory. From the tone, I assume this will have a happy ending (finds love, learns to surf again, etc. etc. )

The reason this feels predicatble to me is that you've characterized the middle (and the majority) of the book as just a series of complications: a neighbour, a slew of old friends, a dolphin, an ex-wife... I'd rather read a story where the stakes (and therefore the complications) keep getting higher and higher, or worse and worse, whereas listing your plot points so casually makes it all sound the same, boring, troublesome for a bit but quickly resolved.

Also, speaking of conflict, does everyone want to help him? Is the only main driving conflict in the book his own lack of confidence and the logistics of learning to surf with a prosthetic leg? That might be enough to carry a short story, but not a whole novel, IMO. Does the medal create any more problems for him other than the granddaughter in the end?

The granddaughter, in fact, sounds like the most unusual or unexpected part of the plot--maybe focusing here would help.

Some underdog stories are fairly predictable--take The Mighty Ducks, for example. You know they're going to win. But that story works because the characters are so endearing you don't even care that the plot is a formula. And so far, I don't see enough personality in Logan to make me, as a reader, forgive a standard plot just so I can spend time with this character I love.

Best of luck!

Lisa H said...

Author here.
You're right, Kelsey. There is quite a bit of conflict in the story which I obviously didn't get into the query at all. It's not an easy road for Logan, but I made it sound simple. I appreciate your comment.

Anonymous said...

Hi, EE. May I have a feedback request on my new query?

Logan Quinn was the top elite surfer in the world, but now he's a washed-up has-been due to the shark that shredded his leg and his lifestyle with one bite. He's working at a dead-end job, until the day he asks customer George Akina about the gold medal hanging around his neck.

Nonagenarian George is surprised at Logan's question. No one, including George himself, has seen the medal for over twenty years! George put it on the day he wished to die, and watched as it disappeared into his chest where he could feel its warmth close to his heart. In his opinion, this invisible medal has kept him healthy and happy for two decades.

Curiously, George finds he can take the medal off in Logan's presence. He lends it to Logan for a night, asking him to try it on, look at himself in a mirror, and imagine greatness.

Logan follows directions well, but he's understandably freaked when the medal vanishes into his solar plexus. George has no explanation other than his own experience, although he does have a hunch. He encourages Logan to surf competitively again.

Logan finds the idea laughable. Who's ever heard of a one-legged pro-surfer? But George convinces him to return to the ocean at least once, where Logan discovers that he's not quite ready to give up on life.

Logan resolves to overcome his physical handicap and become a champion again, but it's not an easy ride. He needs to re-learn to surf on one good leg and an inexpensive, non-waterproof prosthetic. As difficult as that is, a skeptical media and allegations of doping swim about his head, the rumors fueled by his own greedy parents. Logan refuses to give up or give in, but he may be forced to do both when someone arrives who can not only see the medal, but may possibly need it more than himself.

THE MEDAL is an 80,500 word magic realism novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

It's much, much clearer what's going on here.

But you're writing from two points of view. Stick to one, at least for the query.

Evil Editor said...

S1:
The most common use of the term "washed-up has-been" is to jokingly refer to someone who's lost a step, even though he's still better than 95% of his peers. Specifically, Roger Federer. It would be cruel to refer to an athlete whose career was cut short by losing his leg as a washed-up has-been. True, it'll be said by anonymous Internet commenters, but you, the narrator of the book, can just say
Logan Quinn was the top surfer in the world until a shark shredded his leg and his lifestyle.

That also eliminates "due to the shark" which would have been better as "thanks to the shark."

S2:
"Until" isn't right unless he quits his dead-end job the minute George walks in. I'd go with: He's working a dead-end job at Cash for Gold when nonagenarian George Akina walks in wearing an Olympic gold medal.

S3:
needs to be altered now that we've changed the opening. How about: George isn't there to sell the medal; he hasn't even seen it since the day 20 years ago when, wishing he were dead, he put it on and watched it disappear into his chest.

The rest could stand to be condensed. We don't need to know the medal was lent overnight. Just have Logan try it on. I see no need to point out that the prosthetic leg is inexpensive and non-waterproof. I'm surprised all prosthetic legs aren't waterproof.

I'd leave out the allegations of doping and the greedy parents. Basically, the challenge of coming back and the conflict of whether to give up the medal are the story.

Dave Fragments said...

EE said nearly all of what I would have said. The new version is a little wordy.

BTW - "I'm surprised all prosthetic legs aren't waterproof. "

I have a friend who lost his leg below the knee and he takes his old prosthetics when they wear out (and they do wear out and rust and fall apart) and puts flower arrangements in them and gives them away as gifts. He calls them YURNS. Don't gasp like that! It's not a wicked as it sounds...

Kelsey said...

It is much clearer, but this query still doesn't make me think, "I NEED to read this." Obviously personal preference is part of it, but I think it's because the medal is the most unusual part of your story, but it's barely mentioned past the (four paragraphs of) set-up.

Especially since you label this magical realism, as a reader I would assume the magical aspect would be critical to whole story. Right now greedy parents, doping allegations and skeptical media aren't tied to the medal (or the magical realism) in any way--unless they are, and you just haven't told us? If the medal is somehow 'making' these things happen, I'd mention that.

This also is my personal preference, but I think stories are much more interesting when the magical talisman makes things *worse* for the MC. Right now it sounds like the medal might be helping Logan overcome challenges rather than complicating them--again, until the granddaughter shows up at the end which I'm still interested in.

Anyway, keep at it! Good luck.

Mister Furkles said...

Lisa,

Your last sentence raises a question I would like to ask Evil. If I am mistaken, Evil will – I hope – correct me. But first the sentence:

“Logan refuses to give up or give in, but he may be forced to do both when someone arrives who can not only see the medal, but may possibly need it more than himself.”

The pronoun ending the sentence, “himself”, must be either reflexive or intensive. The conjunction “but” breaks the sentence into independent clauses, the second is:

“…he may be forced to do both when someone arrives who can not only see the medal, but may possibly need it more than himself.”

This is followed by this construct “someone who … may need it more than himself.”

This may be “Someone who may need it more than [she needs] him.” OR by
“Someone who may need it more than he [needs it.]

I think it should be the latter. That would be an elliptical construct of comparison. It requires the normative pronoun “he”. At least, in standard formal English – I think.
The alternative – I think – is “She needs it more than she needs him.” Which by context makes no sense in your story.

So, Evil, aside from “am I wrong or am I right?”, is this question:

In a query is it better to use standard formal English or standard informal English? Nobody I know would ever say, and few would write, “She needs it more than he.”

Lisa, I may be wrong; it is a very complicated sentence. I've found the website grammartips.homestead.com, run by Tina Blue, to provide simple explanations for difficult grammar problems.

Evil Editor said...

I found the sentence problematical, but for different reasons. I didn't consider the "needs it more than she needs him" possibility, probably because if that were the intended meaning, I would expect it to say "him" rather than "himself."

If the writer wants to be clear between these two meanings the choices could be between "someone who needs it more than she needs him" and "someone who needs it more than he does." (Adding the word "does" makes it correct without sounding like no one would say it.)

My problem was that technically, "himself" would refer to the person who has arrived, rather than to Logan, as a pronoun normally refers to the most recently mentioned person (unless that person is the opposite gender of the pronoun--which it is in this case, but we don't know that because in this version it isn't mentioned that the person who arrives is female).

That isn't much of a problem, as the reader can quickly figure out that it doesn't make much sense to interpret it as the new arrival needs the medal more than he needs himself. But why make the reader think about it when you can see the new arrival "needs the medal more than Logan does."?

Once that's fixed, the only problem is that saying Logan may be "forced" to give up and give in removes the inner conflict.

Better to say that Logan must decide what to do than that he may be forced to do something.

Lisa H said...

Author here.

I had the same problem with deciding whether to use "himself" and found on several grammar websites that it's okay, but not okay on others. I guess what determined it for me was the use in many classic examples, but I'd rather not use anything that would cause anyone to question the correctness of a word, so it's out.

Dave, your prosthetic story is funny, and also illustrates the problem Logan has. Once water seeps in, it's hard to get out, making balance difficult on a surfboard.

Lisa H said...

Hi EE,

Re-write. I don't expect much feedback at this point, but I'd appreciate any that's offered. Also, in the last sentence in par. 2, there's a pronoun problem that I'm having trouble resolving. I think it's obvious, and any help would be appreciated.

Hello Agent,

Logan Quinn is offered the rare gift of a second chance in life. Giving it up may be more pain than he can endure - and Logan knows a bit about pain.

Logan was a surf icon until a shark shredded his leg and his life. Years later, with a prosthetic below his left knee, he's still wallowing in self-pity when an old man allows Logan to try on the Olympic gold medal he'd won nearly eighty years ago.

Unaware that the medal is more than it appears, Logan places it around his neck and imagines greatness, his spirit longing for past glory days. He then watches in horror as the medal disappears into his solar plexus, taking along with it the phantom pain that has plagued Logan since the accident. Experiencing his first sense of peace in years, Logan's feeling hopeful, inspiring him to start living again.

And to Logan, living means surfing.

Logan is riding a difficult and tumultuous wave to an impossible comeback when he meets the great-granddaughter of the original gold medal winner. The teenager can not only see the medal, but she needs it, leaving Logan faced with a choice – give up his own dreams once again, or allow someone else's dreams to die prematurely.

THE MEDAL is commercial fiction at 80,000 words.

Evil Editor said...

Regarding the pronoun, there are several options.

1. Do nothing, as it's obvious the character who won a gold medal 80 years ago is the one referred to as "an old man."

2. Change the old man to an old woman, making the pronoun "she," eliminating any doubt about who's who.

3. Change to ...in self-pity when he meets an old man wearing an Olympic gold medal he won nearly eighty years ago. (You don't need the "trying on" part, because he tries it on in the next paragraph.)


BTW, the 1932 Olympics were more than 80 years ago. So this must be the 1936 Olympics. And all the gold medal winners' names are a matter of record, so if your character is named in the book, he should have one of those names.

Anonymous said...

Lisa,

In this newest version, you might want to leave out the first paragraph. “The rare gift of a second chance in life” is cliché, and that’s the first sentence an editor or agent will ever read from you. The bit about pain is generic. We all know about pain. I got a paper cut the other day. It really HURT!

Your query doesn’t yet present Logan as someone worth rooting for. I wouldn’t want to spend 80,000 words with a guy wallowing in self-pity. Logan wallows, the medal inspires him, then Logan won’t give up the medal to someone who really needs it. I mean, if Logan can’t take up his own fight at some point, does he really deserve to be a surf icon?

Now if this were the story of a one-legged surfer and the magical medal that causes him all sorts of trouble (as Kelsey suggested above), I’d read it. But right now, I get the feeling the medal is the “magical feather”, and Logan is Dumbo.

Anonymous said...

EE, what if a character won a medal for an event that didn't actually exist in 1936, but exists now and we're familiar with? In other words, a fictional event in 1936 in which a fictional character won. Is that okay in a novel since it doesn't conflict with history, but isn't necessarily historically correct either?

Evil Editor said...

Readers are less likely to be bothered by a fictional character in the 1936 Olympics than about an event that wasn't staged then. In the first case they'll say, well, it's just a story, and the names were changed to protect the innocent. In the latter they'll say you didn't do your research.

You could, of course, label the book alternate history; in other words, the premise of the book is What if bowling had been an Olympic event in 1936? Usually alternate history has more depth; for instance, What if the Allies had lost WWII? I don't get the impression the specific sport is a major factor in this book.

Lisa H said...

This is actually more like if Duke Kahanamoku, who won two gold medals in 1920 and a silver in 1924 (he lost to Johnny Weissmuller of all people, was still swimming in 1936. It's not alternative, just a bit off history. The names are changed, of course. The book itself is not about the medal winner, but about the inspiration. Is that alternative history?

Evil Editor said...

It sounds like the book is a fantasy, or inspirational fiction rather than alternate history. It's not the end of the world if your fictional Olympian competed in a non-Olympic sport, and if you get an agent or editor who thinks it is, you can discuss how to change it with them.

That said, you could have Logan buy the medal in an antique store or on eBay. You could set the book in 1968 and make Duke Kahanamoku the guy who comes into the store wearing the medal.

If you're using a sport that wasn't in the Olympics, is it surfing? If not, why not? When was the first world or US surfing championship? You could make George the winner of that. Logan would be more impressed by that guy than any Olympic medalist (except maybe Michael Phelps).