Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Guess the Plot
Twice Named Son
1. Madison Paulson's parents wish she was a boy. Jackson Johnson's parents wish he was a girl. The two kids swap places, and all four parents are delighted.
2. When Cy Maestas finds himself being hunted by Earth's beloved rulers, the Orden, he realizes that his only hope is to erase his name from everywhere it's written. Hey, he's never been crazy about the name Cy Maestas anyway. Also, a van full of catatonics.
3. Tribal court has given Johnny Twice Named Son one last chance to turn his life around before they send him to Federal prison. Nothing funny, entertaining or uplifting to see here, just an aging journalist desperate to win a Pulitzer, so cut him some slack, OK?
4. Unwed mother Dancy Darlin has her baby the very night the local news announces the jackpot ticket for the lottery was sold at the beer store where she works. And she's been sleeping with the only two guys who ever buy tickets there! She's just not sure whether to name the kid Johnny Joe or Billy Bob. Luckily, she's also been sleeping with the guy who issues birth certificates at the hospital, so she gets two and names him both.
5. Son Son is sick of his obsessive compulsive parents who repeat every action to make sure they got it right, including the time they submitted his birth certificate. He wreaks vengeance on them by murdering them both twice - once as humans and once as zombies.
6. His mother is set on Jim Bob. His father insists on Chauncy Reginald. Will the fight over this infant's birth certificate spill out of the hospital and end in divorce? Also, switched at birth with the prince of Lichtenstein.
Seventeen-year-old Cy Maestas wakes imprisoned in a van rushing through the night, surrounded by catatonics. [The van is surrounded by catatonics?] All he remembers from the last week is a camping trip gone awry. All he knows now, breathless and shaking after a harrowing escape, is that the horrified face in the mirror is not his own. [That was some shabby imprisonment if he's already escaped.] And that the second he stumbles from the road to hide, [It sounds like he jumped out of a rushing van and is stumbling into the woods. So where is this mirror he looked into after his escape?] he’s nearly knocked senseless by overwhelming visions into a million human lives. [I love it when I don't have to work hard to make the plot sound so crazy no one guesses it's the real one. True, someone will probably write in to say "I knew it was that one because it was the craziest or the least crazy or the only one I didn't want to read," but that person will be lying.]
The world has changed. For centuries its beloved rulers, the Orden, have shielded mankind from eerie catastrophic events called ‘gritos.’ ["Gritos" sounds like a breakfast cereal. Ground corn meal, cooked into a porridge consistency with lots of sugar, then shaped into O's, baked till they're golden brown and crispy, and sold in a box with a cartoon possum on the front.] Stunned to discover he’s been unconscious for seven years, [Seems more like 7000 years.] Cy doesn’t know which is more baffling – that gritos have vanished, [My favorite cereal vanished too, about 40 years ago. Kellogg's Sugar Stars.] that he’s trapped on roads by the crushing omniscience lying beyond them, or that the ruling Orden has turned sinister…and they’re hunting him down. [Just so I've got it straight, what planet is this?]
Host to a strange power that makes his own mind an alien thing, [A character whose mind becomes an alien thing I can live with; when the author's mind is an alien thing we've got trouble.] ripped from home and reeling at his physical age, Cy goes on the run. [Hasn't he been on the run since paragraph 1 when he jumped out of a speeding van?] The friends he makes he must leave behind, and those who wish him ill stay unnervingly near. Stripped of everything he knows, he struggles to remain himself - but when the Orden closes in, his only chance to survive is using his omniscience to break a heartrending taboo and erase his last anchor to self, family, and home: his name. [The Orden have almost caught up to me. But they'll never find me if I change my name.]
Close by, the Orden’s leader quietly fights to prevent the world’s stability from causing its own collapse. Humanity has adapted to the catastrophic gritos; its confidence and freedoms will upend society if gritos never return – and trigger disaster and death if they do. [It's a lose/lose situation. So who cares what happens?] If Cy is the key to mankind’s safety, she’ll have him – at the expense of his life. [Is this one of those gag queries?]
TWICE NAMED SON is literary YA speculative fiction. At 99,700 words, it is my debut novel and the first complete of a well underway four book arc. To use my favorites, it is similar to Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS in its deep world-building, Hess’ CHAOS WALKING for its travel and aspects of omniscience, and Zusak’s THE MESSENGER and Pierce’s BEKA COOPER trilogy for its literary style. [Assuming your book sounds like this query, if you ever see me picking up anything by Zusak or Pierce, swat me.]
I’ve worked in documentary for a private foundation, writing the stories of people working for social change. I founded and for eight years ran [redacted], a literacy nonprofit enabling over 2,000 teachers and 25,000 children to build home and classroom libraries. I am in love with roads of all sorts, and I am epileptic, which informs the ruling Orden’s own structure and abilities. [It's nice that you live in a time when you can reveal you're epileptic without people thinking you're insane, but the world is not so enlightened that you can also afford to reveal you're in love with roads.]
Do your worst,
A chica pulling hair out at the brain-flattening exercise of query writing
WTF? This is mostly incomprehensible. Start over. Imagine you're standing in front of a classroom, explaining your plot to twenty-five 8-year-olds. Paragraph 1 is the setup. Tell us where and when we are, who the main character is, and what situation he's dealing with. Stop. Start over; you forgot that we're 8-year-olds.
Paragraph 2. Noting that 8-year-olds have short attention spans and that you're already losing us, dive into what Cy wants, who's trying to stop him from getting it, and what will happen if he fails.
Review what you've got so far. If you've mentioned catastrophic gritos, crushing omniscience, heartrending taboos, or overwhelming visions into a million human lives, start over and imagine the class is now 6-year-olds.
Okay, paragraph 3 wraps it up. What's Cy's plan? What goes wrong? What's plan B? Send your revision as a comment.
Nitpick: The 1st time you mention the Orden, it's plural: the Orden, have shielded... The next two times it's singular: the ruling Orden has turned sinister; the Orden closes in.
Is Cy Maestas the twice-named son? Are his parents in the book? What's his second name? It's gotta be better than Cy Maestas.