Monday, July 22, 2013

Face-Lift 1141

Guess the Plot

The Brother's Band

1. On the road with the band. The sex, the drugs, the backstage parties. One wild Gregorian-chanting monk tells all.

2. Lily's always been drawn to troubled musicians. Dylan's a troubled singer in a British band. When Lily quits her job and moves in with Dylan, she discovers he's a coke addict and trades him in for his brother Thomas. The big question: Will the baby be named Dylan Thomas or Thomas Dylan?

3. Impotent athletic-supporter, Sgt. R. Latex knows what he is holding up. His brother from another mother, Pvt. S. Latex, has taken one for the team and future children are seriously in doubt. From the battlefields of war the brothers return to their hometown rubber factory and buoy up their quest for an heir.

4. When Jax Planton, lead singer for the Peruvian Drag Queen Boxers, is found stabbed to death behind the Golden Bird, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, "Jax" was really a Jill, and two, man the Golden Bird has really gone downhill since his brother's band played there.

5. Cindy sings blues for brother Fire Robinson’s Blues Band. Their shows are stalked by a sadistic serial killer. Washington Detective Wilson Waters arrests Fire on erroneous evidence. Cindy and singer Earthy Edith find the killer and free Fire from phony charges. Also, a litany of artless alliteration.

6. Jesse forms a band that includes his brother Frank and buddies Cole, Jim, John, and Bob. They don't play music; they prey on banks and trains. All is fun until the Northfield fans boo with Winchesters and Colts.

7. After the Civil War, rebel soldier Virgil Jenkins wants to form a band of marauders to bring mayhem and destruction to the North. He can't get anyone to join him, though, so it ends up being just him.

Original Version

Travel agent by day and cocktail waitress by night, Lily Mitchell contentedly divides her spare time between her two true loves—classic lit and modern rock. At twenty-six, Lily has realized that despite her normal, uneventful childhood, she’s drawn to troubled musicians and other men in need of fixing. Determined to stop making the same mistakes, Lily initially refuses the advances of Dylan Parker, the mysterious and sexy lead singer of a popular British rock band. But Dylan is smart, hardworking, and humble, and he quickly wins her over, proving that he’s nothing like the cheaters and losers she’s dated before. [Was it the cheating and losing that made the musicians she dated previously "troubled"? If not, what about them needed fixing?]

Lily and Dylan’s relationship moves at whirlwind pace, and Lily has never been happier or more satisfied. Dylan’s passion and enthusiasm for every aspect of life is contagious and Lily finds herself drawn quickly into his world. She travels to his hometown in the U.K. and learns that Dylan’s sister died in a childhood accident, a fact which helps explain the extreme closeness and fierce loyalty between Dylan and his brother / band-mate Thomas.

Lily and Dylan share the perfect love, so perfect that Lily doesn’t notice the initial red flags—the bloodshot eyes, the sudden mood changes, [the nosebleeds, the traces of white powder on his upper lip every time he comes back from the other room,] or the constant energy flowing from Dylan. By the time Lily discovers that Dylan abuses cocaine, she’s already moved in with him and quit working. When Dylan’s addiction leads to abuse, [Abuse of Lily? She dumped the other losers she dated, what's she waiting for this time?] Lily finds comfort in Thomas, the only other person who cares as deeply for Dylan as she does. As Dylan spirals further out of control, however, Lily is forced to question whether Thomas’ behavior is motivated by his loyalty to Dylan or his love of her. [Tell me what behavior you're talking about, and I'll tell you what's motivating it. For instance, if he's screwing Lily, I'd say it's not out of loyalty to Dylan.] Lily’s love for both brothers jeopardizes everything she believes she wants. [She's torn between the abusive drug addict and the nice guy.] But in the end, it is an unexpected pregnancy which threatens to break the bonds between Lily, Dylan, and Thomas. [Is the pregnancy unexpected because they haven't had sex or because it's one of the guys who's pregnant?]

The Brother’s Band delves into the classic literary themes of romantic love, brotherly love, passion and betrayal, [If you successfully show the themes of the book in your plot summary, you don't need to declare them.] incorporating a short quote from a well-known romantic tragedy at the start of each chapter. The Brother’s Band is complete at 84,000 words and the full manuscript is available on request. I appreciate your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


Should the apostrophe be after the "s" in the title? If not, which brother is the one in the title?

This is mostly setup. You can set it up in two sentences:

Lily Mitchell knows from experience that rock stars are all cheaters and losers, so she's reluctant to hook up with Dylan Parker. But the sexy singer wins her over, and they share the perfect love--until Dylan's drug addiction drives him to beating her senseless on a regular basis.

That leaves plenty of room to tell us what happens. Does anything happen?

You could drop the first two paragraphs and start with the third, adding a few details to identify the characters. Here's what I want to know, plot-wise: You already said Dylan abused cocaine, so I assume the next mention of abuse is abuse of Lily. What exactly does he do? What is this "behavior" by Thomas that Lily finds so ambiguous?

For that matter, you could drop everything and start:

Lily Mitchell is pregnant, and the baby's father is a member of British rock band Dylan, Thomas, and the Walers. Unfortunately, she's not sure which member. Is it Dylan, the sexy, abusive drug addict? Is it Thomas, the boring all-around sweet guy? Or is it Ringo, the clueless drummer?

That gets us right to the conflict that's the heart of the book, the part that makes us want to read it.


150 said...

incorporating a short quote from a well-known romantic tragedy at the start of each chapter.

Not only is this a waste of query space, reconsider doing it in the book.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

An editor once told me that she doesn't read past the first error. In this case, the first error appears to be the second word of the title... unless there's only one brother in the band.

In your first paragraph, we learn that Lily has dated loser musicians, but has now found a guy who's not a loser, but is a musician.

By the first sentence of your second paragraph, we begin to suspect that Dylan is the same ol' same ol'. But Lily doesn't figure it out till the 3rd paragraph.

This, alas, sends a TSTL signal. And it is hard for readers to empathize with a character who is TSTL. Rework.

Dave Fragments said...

What makes your story of a drug-fueled musician different from what is already in the news and other literature? That's what I was looking for in the query.

A musician on drugs is not unusual because when I was 18 and flirted with the idea of being a professional musician - all of them were on drugs.

IMHO said...

That's so weird, Dave. When I was 18 and flirted with using drugs, all of the druggies were musicians!

BuffySquirrel said...

Oh come on. She's a cocktail waitress and prone to hanging around with musicians, yet she doesn't spot Dylan's cocaine use instantly?

Tell me another.

AA said...

Plausability issues aside, this has the breezy, conversational tone of a magazine article. "Spider plants are some of the easiest houseplants to grow. Keep them out of direct sunlight, and water only when the soil is dry." It doesn't come across emotionally.

You say, "Travel agent by day and cocktail waitress by night, Lily Mitchell contentedly divides her spare time between her two true loves—classic lit and modern rock." And I say, "Hmm. That's interesting. Could you pass the salt, please?"

CavalierdeNuit said...

I like your writing, but your book needs to be seedier (for me: a woman in the 26-35 age group). It sounds like a Lifetime movie with a TSTL waitress clinging to an abusive, cokehead musician (is this your goal?). She gets pregnant. Who cares. The pregnancy thing has been used many times. She's 26, not 17. It's not a big deal at 26. Any girl who is dumb enough to quit her job and move in with some musician is not worth reading about.

Make your characters do bad things. Throw in a murder or two. Make a coked-up Dylan beat up a pregnant Lily a few times because Dylan is a really bad guy. Maybe Lily has a handful of businessmen she hooks up with for extra money a few times a month. Thomas' secret is that he's been in a few pornos.

Maybe your characters are doing bad things in the book already, but it's not reflected in the query.

Good luck (:

khazar-khum said...

Let's see. Everyone else has pretty much covered the glaring flaw: a woman who hangs with musicians doesn't recognize drug use.

Unless she thinks she can 'save' him, of course. But there's no real indication of that, only that she 'loves' him in some kind of hideous co-dependent way.

His brother seems to be the only rational one. Please tell me he gets out of this mess in one piece.

Tk said...

I would have liked more plot too, but I’m not the audience for this kind of book. Is it perhaps a genre where character and details are more important? Because your first sentence, though oddly calm (when does she have any spare time and how does “contentedly” work with such a packed schedule?!), does hint at a level of quirky character building. If this describes your story, better, perhaps you need to ramp up this stuff and make the reader get interested in Lily.

To that end, it’d be an interesting exercise to look at the verbs you’ve given Lily:

contentedly divides her time
has realized
is drawn to
determined to stop
been happier
finds herself drawn into
doesn’t notice
moved in
finds comfort
is forced to question

The one truly active thing she does is travel. All the others are about observing or reacting to events and others. Some are even about checking out of taking an active role in the direction of her own life.

Veronica Rundell said...

Hi author-
So, I'm a fan of this genre--women's fiction. In fact I'm rather a big fan of rock fic, too. I just love when a gal gets a shot with her rock idol and etc.

Here's the big problem I see with this story straightaway. (Aside from punctuation and Lily not recognizing the drug has been mentioned.) A gal leaving her lover for his brother is often very yucky.

Even if said lover is an abusive coke addict, it's yucky.

I think the bone-deep revulsion comes from biblical times when women were raped by her husbands male relatives to ensure progeny.

Women like sexy. Women like smoking hot. If this story is either of those things you have a slim chance of overcoming the yuck-factor...but your query doesn't reflect heat, passion or love. At all.

How does a smart, hardworking, humble man become an abusive coke addict? Was his whole wooing phase a giant subterfuge? Why doesn't Lily book herself on a big long trip to escape Dylan instead of shacking with his brother?

Sorry. I'd buy it more if it were a menage-relationship that was uber-hot, but poor Lily feels compelled to choose one brother over the other. Yes, sick too, but somehow not nearly as sick as a woman staying with her abuser. My $0.02.