Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Face-Lift 1135

Guess the Plot

A Flutter in Time

1. When Angie discovers time travel and thus the ability to change history, one question remains: Should she murder Hitler as a baby or save her mother from the car wreck that killed her? Then she decides: She only has one mom, but there'll always be another megalomaniac ready to step in and kill 20 million people.

2. Boyd is convinced that miniature horses at the college Ag complex are involved in a complex plot to turn people into small equines so they can control time and take over the world. Can he prove they aren't simply innocent horses--or will the tiny stallion Flutter finish him off first?

3. Suzanne is thirty-nine, childless, and afraid to be on her own, but her boyfriend's fart jokes are getting stale. The last straw is when he fake farts in her face as she's trying to sleep. Will she accept his dozen roses, or move on?

4. Meteorologist Abe Jenson has traced the origins of Hurricane Katrina and the Japanese tsunami back to one butterfly that flapped its wings in Jamaica in 1873. Now he and physicist Edison Jones plan to time travel to 1873 and stop that butterfly. But will stopping the butterfly mean the end of humanity?

5. Tiffani is working through the night in the high energy lab. Suddenly everything goes haywire. When she wakes, it’s on a strange world where porcupines rule and humans are dumb beasts of burden. Will the porcupines respect her in the morning? For Tiffani, it’s a sticky situation.

6. Professor Landsberg's time travel experiment was supposed to send a dozen mice to prehistoric times and bring them back safely. But what came back was a flock of pterodactyls, and it's going to be a bad day on the Oxford campus.

Original Version

On a cloudy, rainy day seventeen years ago Angie Ramirez’s life changed forever in a hail of twisted metal and broken glass. For seventeen years she has placed her life into two categories, the before and after. The day she lost her mother and very nearly her own life is the dividing line. [It's not like she was the only one who lost a loved one the day it hailed twisted metal and broken glass. It was the worst day in meteorology since the mysterious rain of frogs in Weil der Stadt in 1620.] When Angie meets Mike her guardian angel, with brilliant Caribbean blue eyes, sun kissed golden skin and a witty sense of humor, [she's so busy swooning] she has no idea her life is about to change again.

When Angie discovers the ability to travel back in time through a series of photographs, she is forced to come to terms with the acceptance that what is happening is real and her sanity remains intact. When she realizes she has the power to change history only one question remains; what will she change? [That's three consecutive sentences all starting with the word "when."] [That gives me an idea for a writing exercise: Comment on this query letter giving every sentence of your comment the structure When x, y.] [That was also way too wordy. Try: When Angie discovers she can travel back in time, she realizes she has the power to change history. One question remains: what will she change?] The answer is obvious of course, [she must kill the producer who green-lighted the Twilight movies.] the death of her mother. [That's obvious?] Armed with the knowledge that she will risk her own life as well as her very existence she embarks on a life altering journey with her angel as her guardian and guide they travel together through time unraveling the pieces of the puzzle that were her mother’s life. [That sentence was two sentences. The first could end after "guide," but I suspect you wanted it to end after "journey," so you'll need to change "they travel together" to "she travels."] [Also, you put together the pieces of a puzzle. You unravel the sweater you've been knitting when you realize you skipped a yarn-over three hours ago.]

My book titled A FLUTTER IN TIME is a [73,000-word] work of [paranormal] women’s fiction with a dash of paranormal taking place [set] in Tucson, AZ at just over 73,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I don't see why we need Mike. Does he do anything? Why does Angie need guarding? 

What are these photographs that show Angie how to time travel? Are they photos of her mother? Can she travel only to times in the photos? Can she time-travel unlimited times and change history each time?

Too much space is used to set up the situation. When Angie Ramirez discovers she can time-travel to the places in her family photo album, she decides to use this ability to prevent the car crash that killed her mother.

What happens in the past? Why is she unraveling stuff instead of preventing the wreck? Is Mike showing her the devastation her mother will cause if she lives? Does she meet her mother in the past? Give us some specific information.

Most importantly, you have to clean up the writing, or the reader will think the whole book is vague and wordy and full of run-on sentences. Is it?


Veronica Rundell said...

Hi author!
When I began reading this is was not hooked.

When I continued to read the query I thought: all this fantastic power and she decides to go selfish?

When I considered the role of Mike the guardian angel guide I thought: what does he do? (Besides sparkle in the Tucson sun)

When I finished reading the query I decided it was all set-up with vague plot description and would be form rejected everywhere.

So, I'd follow EE's suggestions and put a bit more plot in the query. What are the stakes? Angie's mom ain't getting deader. Angie could die in this endeavor--why would she risk it after so much time?

How old is Angie anyway?

This 'turn back time to save Mommy' plot sounds like something a young girl might envision, but you call it women's fiction. How many grown adult women would turn back time, travel through it at great peril, to return her mother who died 17 years earlier to the living?

Honestly, I kinda think she'd be over it. 17 years is a loooong time.

And, nothing in this query convinces me that Angie's current life is so horrific that she would want to re-start. She's a grown woman with a dreamy angel to tend her whims and she can time travel, though how is not clear. Seems like she's got the best of everything.

In short, the query does not make me wish to learn about Angie and Mike and Mom.

Dunno. I love women's fic and this query tells me this book seems to fall somewhere else.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Veronica, I could totally buy her not being over it, because there are things we don't get over. But I couldn't buy her still being in the "bargaining" stage.

And of course it's a risk being undertaken for the sake of a solution that is no solution. Knowing how painful it is to lose her mother, why would Angie deliberately set herself up to go through the whole miserable thing again in the future?

(I'm reminded of the Buffy episode where Spike and Dawn do a spell to resurrect Buffy and Dawn's dead mother. But yeah, Dawn's presented as a child, and Spike as an emotional child.)

Jonz Stoneroad said...

I have had my share of "stories" like this and one from a woman who made the SAME mistakes in all her "work". The three whens would annoy me too.

150 said...

How many grown adult women would turn back time, travel through it at great peril, to return her mother who died 17 years earlier to the living? Honestly, I kinda think she'd be over it.


Rusholme Ruffian said...

Indeed, massive clean-up for sure. But the biggest item for me would be to make sure you understand the target: I say this since being able to time travel by somehow looking at photos describes more than "a dash of paranormal". If unsure probably best to leave out the genre target and leave up to EE to deduce.

Not that I know anything but sounds generally like a good idea but poor execution. Maybe worth a partial request then reject.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Seems my comments on the query qua query got deleted, but anyway they boiled down to this: The first three sentences should be one sentence. The punctuation is off.

As for the book, writer, I'm wondering if this is the story you actually wrote:

1. Angie's life spun out of control when her mom died 17 years ago. (Concrete example of how out-of-control Angie's life has become, eg she's living in a Salvation Army drop-box with an imaginary elephant named Spuds.)

2. When she realizes that she has the power to time travel, she's determined to go back in time and prevent the crash that killed her mother, even though a friendly angel warns her that she could destroy civilization by doing so.

3. Events unfold; Angie nearly destroys civilization, but she comes to her senses in time, gains a new understanding, copes with the loss of her mother, and generally becomes a better person.

If that's the story you wrote, well, that story would make narrative sense. But as it stands, it's not the story your query describes.

khazar-khum said...

Veronica, it sounds like she's 17, and this just happened. If she's 34 and this happened 17 years ago, then the writing has me confused.

And believe me you, if I could go back in time and save my mother, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Losing your family is something you never "get over".

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Maybe worth a partial request then reject.

Nah. A partial request followed by a rejection is what happens when you have a kick-ass query but your manuscript doesn't measure up to it.

When your query doesn't measure up, what you get is a rejection, or the ever-unpopular "no response means no".

Anonymous said...

From the writer:
Thank you everyone for some very insightful opinions and advice. It seems I left a lot of unanswered questions in the query. I obviously need to do a lot of work on the next draft to ensure they come across more clearly. This was my first attempt at query writing and it seems my plot came across as vague, muddled and full of holes. I will take all your opinions to heart in my next draft which I am currently working on. Thank you most of all to Evil Editor who I think in spite of his self proclaimed evilness is a sweetie.

Mister Furkles said...

Is there any conflict? We know what she wants but is anything or anybody going to stop her? Basically, ‘no conflict means ‘no story’. Also, she doesn’t appear to need a guardian angel. It seems so simple: pop back seventeen years, put a nail into Mom’s tire, and back in time for Wheel of Fortune. What is the story about?

CavalierdeNuit said...

When a work of entertainment that has a hot angel as a guide presents itself, it makes me think of Barbarella:

"An angel does not make love, an angel is love."

I will stop now with the quoting.

You should make your story a little meatier, especially if it involves angels and time travel (fun subjects). Like Mike is a devil who wants Angie's soul. He has tricked her into following him into hell, but Mom is in heaven. Now Angie has to get out of hell, or Mike will eat her soul and use it to bring all humans into hell (she has a magic soul). Angie must find her way out to save Mom, and humanity. Angie also finds out that Mom died protecting her from Mike. Mike has been creeping around for a long time.

I don't know if your story goes in that direction, but I would make Mike a bad guy who leads her to the wrong place from the start.

Veronica Rundell said...

Maybe I'm just callous.

Or, maybe I'm dead tired of the dead parent trope.

No mention of Angie's dad in the query...where is he?

And, yeah, it's fucking horrible to lose a parent. My own dad died in February so I know it first hand. Would I turn back time twenty years from now to bring him back? I can't imagine wanting to do so. Fuck. I wouldn't even turn back the past five years of my marriage to pinpoint where it started turning to shit because then I wouldn't have the better life I now enjoy. Shit happens and we live on, grow, become better people just like the ideals we strive for in fiction...

Time travel to save a beloved relation is a small story. Even EE poked fun at it in the Guess The Plot wondering why Angie would save her mom vs kill Hitler.

My point was that Angie doesn't seem to have any problems with the exception of missing her mom. Ergo, it could be argued that her life was pretty okay and a dance through time was more peril for peril's sake.

As always, Alaska made the point better than I did.

If we are to root for Angie, we need to see that she is suffering horribly without her mother. And with so much time passing between the loss and the present situation it seemed even LESS likely that time hadn't healed her wounds.

I'd really turn this story inside out. Give Angie the time travel power as a consequence of the accident that killed mom and make it a Teen or New Adult paranormal with Mike being less a guide and more of an impediment to the time travel. Making it happen in the post-accident period would bring immediacy and grief to the fore in a more realistic way.

Evil Editor said...

Possibly Angie was driving the car and responsible for the crash that killed her mother, in which case it's more guilt than grief motivating her.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Aw, thanks, Veronica. Sorry to hear about your father. I've just been through a similar experience, so this is all rather close to the surface.

In terms of the query, what's completely believable to me is that her mother's death led to a collapse of Angie's world, the repercussions of which she still lives with 17 years on.

This query got me thinking about a homeless guy I knew years ago. He had once been well off and living with his wife and daughter in a house which, early one morning, collapsed in an 8.1 earthquake.

That had been years ago and he'd been wandering this earth ever since. I don't doubt that, given the opportunity to time travel, his first thought would have been of the earthquake and not of Hitler. Here's the important distinction, though.

On the average day, he seemed sunny and cheerful. He had a lot of friends. His family tragedy was the reason he was homeless in the US instead of rich in his own country, but not what he spent all day talking about or, as far as I could tell, thinking about.

That's the state I can imagine Angie would be in after 17 years. (Perhaps with added depression, because women are statistically more prone to that than men.) If that's the actual state she's in in manuscript, it needs to be made clearer. The first paragraph of the query takes a stab at saying that, but doesn't succeed. It needs to be less dramatic and more specific.

BuffySquirrel said...

What I'm wondering is, where the heck was this guardian angel when Angie's mother died and Angie nearly died and everything went to hell? What use is he if he couldn't/wouldn't prevent that? What exactly does he do apart from be described in purple prose?

My own time-travel romance does touch on the whole 'use it to kill Hitler' thing with the characters deciding this would be a Very Bad Idea because something even worse might result. But everyone's take is different, I guess. Anyway they're trapped in a time loop for much of the book.

I like the idea of time travel thro photos. But what is Angie's dilemma?

Anonymous said...

It's the author again,
Just to squelch everyone’s curiosity (and I promise I am trying to make these points more clearly in my revised version)
1. Angie was 7 when her mother died and no, she wasn't driving
2. For 17 years she has watched her father live in a constant state of grief and mourning, unable to let go and move on
3. Angie is only able to travel back in time through a series of photographs she finds in the attic
4. Mike was extremely busy saving Angie’s life at the time of the accident. Angie’s mother had her own guardian angel who failed
5. Angie only chooses to prevent the accident after she learns it was not her mother’s fate to die, and her mother was actually murdered (via the accident). There is no catastrophic outcome, her mother was never supposed to die in the first place and she is merely fixing history so to speak.
6. She can’t skip to the end to the day of the accident for a couple of reasons. First, she is only able to time travel through the photos in sequential order. Secondly she has to solve the mystery of who the murderer actually was in order to prevent it
7. Mike is necessary for more than moral support (and eye candy backdrop) although her knowing he is always there and she is not alone in this sudden departure from the reality of normal life is a big part of it. She does not realize that the Angel of Death stalks her, as he has for the last seventeen years. He was unsuccessful at his attempt to take her life prematurely and is a sore loser (to say the least).
I hope that answers everyone’s questions and again, I want to thank everyone for their input. It’s helped a lot!!

Veronica Rundell said...

Hi author!
Try to bring some of this plot info into the query. It needs it. You may also clue us in to the actual story behind Angie learning she could time-travel. That does sound fascinating and ,makes for a hook...

I am one of those "butterfly effect" people that freak out about altered timelines...and yet I adore time travel books, so do your best to rewrite in clear concise plot revealing sentences and re-submit.

khazar-khum said...

Author: The new explanation makes this into a book I'd want to read. Especially with the sequential photos. It's a far cry from what I originally thought this would be.