Thursday, September 26, 2013

Face-Lift 1156


Guess the Plot

Rift

1. Captain Tisdale wishes he never took the helm on Disney's Bermuda Triangle Line. Mickey's smoking blunts while Donald's tapping Goofy. Chip and Dale have bivouacked in the galley and Pluto thinks he's a cat. Can the stalwart captain pull them from the rift before Snow White begins the striptease, or will every child aboard grow up to become a Pirate of the Caribbean?

2. After taking a wrong step during a hike in the Rocky Mountains and falling into a deep rift, Alice discovers that she’s breached a border between our world and a world of demons. Her fear of ending up like the guy from 127 Hours is now replaced by a question: “Is she stranded here or is she simply tripping from the mushrooms she found while hiking?”

3. Militant atheist and unemployed journalist Jason Simmons is lonely and desperate to meet girls, so he starts an organization: RIFT, Religion Is For Twerps. After weeks of relentless blogging, retweeting, and posting, his only followers are male. There's got to be a way of meeting girls without leaving Uncle Ralph's basement.

4. High atop one of the two cleft hills in the bushy realm of Pubus Moundus, a lonely cootie stares longingly at a girl cootie who sits atop the other hill. Dare he brave the treacherous terrain that separates the two hills, where there are said to be beguiling folded crags and a slippery cavern that is often frequented by gigantic bald-headed ogres? Will love and the biological imperative to make a whole bunch of baby cooties compel him to try and get past...the Rift?

5. When struggling author Jamie Webster moves to Wheeler’s Cove to work on his second novel, he discovers the town is a rift in time, and that he's gone into the future. Fortunately, it's only a month or two in the future and this is Wheeler's Cove, so everything is pretty much the same.

6. Paleontologist Ashley Drake is working on a site in Africa's Rift Valley, near where the famous "Lucy' was found. Jacob Hauser, class clown and brilliant grad student, finds an Australopithecine skeleton--but won't let Ashley see it until he gets a kiss. Is it worth risking her reputation for a chance with the hot, hunky Jacob?

7. Minor league shortstop Eddie Rift tells his fiancée he’s never going to make the show, so he will take the small college coaching job. Then aliens abduct him and experiment on him. At spring training, he’s stronger, faster, and has acute vision. For three years, he's a superstar: beautiful girls, celebrity friends, and scandalous parties. Suddenly, his talents vanish. Now, Rift has no fiancée, no coaching position, and no future. Also, a sardonic talking glove.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The body of a sixteen-year-old girl washes ashore in Wheeler’s Cove, a small Victorian coastal town. She’s been shot twice – once in the head, once in the stomach. The next day she turns up at the local police station, very much alive. [Twins. Clone? Wait, zombie! Final answer.]

Jamie Webster is a struggling writer who moves [moved] to Wheeler’s Cove to escape the mounting expectations of his second novel. [I would expect mounting expectations if his first novel was a bestseller. As he's a struggling writer, I'm not sure why there are any expectations.] Alice Jackson has returned to her home town to wait out her husband’s death from lung cancer. Alice and Jamie meet one night on the peninsula, where they are the first to find the murdered girl, strewn across the rocks.

But something strange is taking place in Wheeler’s Cove; the dead aren’t staying dead. Alice and Jamie figure out that the peninsula is a rift in time, a place that exists simultaneously three months apart. Jamie is from the past, Alice from the future. While Jamie sees the homicide as inspiration for his novel, Alice wants to use the link to the past to see her husband one last time. [If, in her "world," her husband is already dead, remove the word "has" from the previous paragraph.] Problem is; they’ve also got a dead body to worry about. [It seems to me that by the time they've somehow figured out that the peninsula is a rift in time, the dead body would be someone else's problem, namely Timecop's.]

Using clues both before and after the murder, they must piece together the mystery before the past catches up to the present, and the girl dies for good. [In the time it takes the past to catch up to the present, is the present standing still so that the future is now twice as far ahead of the present as it used to be? Or is the past moving faster than the present which is moving faster than the future so that they all meet up? And if the latter, after they all meet up do they maintain their speeds so that the past passes the present and they both pass the future which means the future now happens first and then the present and then the past? That reminds me of Counter-Clock World, by Philip K. Dick, in which the dead aren't staying dead, but when they come back to life they're buried six feet under and have to be dug up.] [Not that I need an explanation, but I assumed when you said Alice was from the future and Jamie from the past, that they met in the present, which means the girl is dead in the present. Now you say she hasn't died for good, so my question is, In which time period is the girl still alive? Past or future? Apparently the future, as she turns up alive at the police station. So she died in the past and she's dead in the present but alive in the future. Got it.]

But old towns have old secrets. As Alice and Jamie delve further into the murder, they find that this may not be the first homicide in their quiet town. And, if they’re not careful, it may not be the last. [I find the previous paragraph a more interesting wrap-up to the plot than this one.]

Rift is a 75,000 word thriller novel where [in which] the protagonists must work together to simultaneously investigate a murder both before and after it happens.

I am an award winning and nationally televised stand-up comedian. [Are you Louis C.K.?] I have been featured on ABC Television and JJJ, RRR, and ABC radio. This is my first novel. Other novelists I enjoy reading in this genre are Peter Temple, for his realism, and Stephen King, for his higher concept thrillers.

I also have an Engineering Honours Degree, which I know has no credence [connection] with novel writing, but mentioning it makes me feel like I didn’t waste five years of my life. [Unless you've written a comedy, your comedy credits haven't much connection either.]

Thank you for your time,


Notes

Well done. I'd be intrigued enough to want to check it out. As with all time travel plots, there are inexplicable plot points, but no one will expect otherwise.

I wouldn't think there would be so many changes in this place over a three-month period that Alice and Jamie would suspect that something weird is happening. I assume they weren't in the police station when the dead girl walked in alive, but even if they were, they'd assume twin, clone or zombie long before they settled on three-month rift in time. What is it that they can explain only as a rif--. . . Unless:

Alice: Kind of warm for November, don't you think?
Jamie: Actually, I was thinking it's awfully chilly for August.
Alice: Hmm. Apparently this place is a rift in time.

14 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Is this set in Victorian times? It sounds like it isn't, but your first line makes me unsure.

I'm confused about whether the plot revolves around solving the murder or around why everyone in the town sticks around after they die. I feel like I can almost see a plot sequence here: The body turns up. Next day, the girl turns up at the police station, very much alive. The police close the case (why? Isn't there still a corpse?) but our protagonist/s (Jamie? Alice? both?) know/s that a murder has in fact been committed. So he/she/they set out to solve the crime, motivated by...

Is that your plot? It's confusing because each paragraph of your query seems to introduce a completely new story.

If the story centers on time travel, I'm not sure it's a thriller.

Item: I grew up in a small town. There had been a murder once, in 1896, and every adult and child in town knew this. So I think a murder in the past would not be forgotten.

"High concept", not "higher concept".

150 said...

I'm on board.

Veronica Rundell said...

Not my cuppa. I felt there were many inconsistencies that upset the story flow. The paragraph with authors you read can be cut to make room for more plot.

Why do these strangers take up investigating a murder case? Really it's THE LAST thing I'd consider doing whilst on holiday. Okay, public waxing is THE LAST thing, but still--how did these unlikely folks become Sherlock and Holmes?

What are the stakes? Solve the maybe-murder and prevent more maybe-murders? They seem to have nothing going but curiosity. It's not even their town. I see no imminent threat, no smoking gun, and no intrigue, so, really, I don't feel the 'thriller' factor here.

Just my thoughts. Best of luck.

AA said...

"Alice Jackson has returned to her home town to wait out her husband’s death from lung cancer." This tells me that Alice has fled back to her hometown to wait for her husband's death because she can't handle witnessing his slow decline.

I'm sure this is NOT what you meant.

"As Alice and Jamie delve further into the murder, they find that this may not be the first homicide in their quiet town. And, if they’re not careful, it may not be the last. [I find the previous paragraph a more interesting wrap-up to the plot than this one.]"

Besides that, it is meaningless. Certainly the couple cannot prevent ALL future murders, just the ones related to this case, right?

If you were writing almost any other kind of a novel, you could get away with using some imprecise language. But for a time travel novel you MUST use precise language. If any thing doesn't seem right or logical it will throw the reader right out of the story.

The agent needs to know you are capable of handling this type of story. Re-write and please re-post.

Mister Furkles said...

Author,

You need conflict and high stakes risk for a thriller. You don’t mention either an antagonist or any risk to your two main characters. Also, tighten the prose.

I like the time rift. Maybe that is the antagonist but I can’t tell from the query.

khazar-khum said...

The time rift is great. Does the whole town feel this--or just Alice and Jamie? If it's the whole town, older residents would be sanguine about it by now. If it's just them, why?

Taisy said...

AlaskaRavenclaw - Victoria is a state in Australia.

Author - I like the sound of it, it's intriguing enough that I want to know more! I do think you might want to add more detail on why Jamie & Alice are thrown into investigating the murder. Also, is everyone in the town in the rift or just Jamie and Alice? And the murdered girl, presumably?

Anonymous said...

Hmm , guess I'm in the minority but I really like this and would want to read it.

AlaskaRavenclaw - it seems obvious to me that it's a reference to a place, not a time: Victoria is a state in Australia.

AA - I assume the husband is with her but the author didn't want to add unnecessary characters to the letter. I also thought it was reasonably clear from the 'it may not be the last' line that Alice and Jamie are in danger also.

I expect a bit of confusion with time travel plots so I don't think it needs a rewrite, personally. I found it intriguing and would definitely read pages.

Each to their own, I guess.

Jo Antareau said...

Hi Author, interesting concept. I wasn't stumped by the Victorian coastal town reference, as I happen to have lived in that particular South Eastern corner of Aust for my enitre life. As this is an international site, you might need to specify the location more clearly.

Although to locals, "Victorian coastal town" = Shipwreck Coast, (with bleak weather for about 8 months of the year), to international readers, "Victorian (Aust) Coastal Town" = Sunshine coast = tanned, scantily clad hotties. Then they'd get so distracted by that image, they wouldn't pay attention to the rest of your query.

Stick to coastal town unless you're querying in Aust.

Otherwise, good job. And as a long term listener of TripleJ and TripleR, I now wonder if I've heard your material.

CavalierdeNuit said...

#1 fake plot so funny, and #4 I want to read.

This sounds interesting, but let's hope it doesn't get too funny or campy considering the subject matter. I'm wary of fiction written by pro comedians unless they're comedic books.

You also have to really pay attention and get all your time lines and lives lined up. That's not easy to do. And, speaking of Stephen King, have you written your one million words yet?

AA said...

"I assume the husband is with her but the author didn't want to add unnecessary characters to the letter." I actually assumed this too.

But then it says: "Alice wants to use the link to the past to see her husband one last time." If he's with her, she can see him anyway.

Presumably, the husband has died by that time. But then it's odd that she would be chasing down murderers instead of making funeral arrangements.

Kelsey said...

I'm also intrigued by this concept, but a few things stood out to me:
1. Even though EE's final comments about June/August temperature's were tongue-in-cheek, they also did wonders for me to understand what your world would look like with a rift in time. Is EE's comment accurate? Maybe if you use the moment in the book where the protags first see [x event] that makes them realize they're in the same place but not the same time in the query, the query reader can have that same understanding. All that without getting too bogged down in world-explanations--I know it's hard, but I needed just a touch more.
2. If I discovered I could spend 3 more months with my loved one, I would not be wasting time investigating murders, no matter how much I wanted to see justice served. I have the chance to see my dead husband one last time? Screw the dead body; get outta my way. So I don't understand why Alice could still spend time instead researching old murders without a compelling PERSONAL connection to the girl. Or, without solving the murders being an obstacle she must overcome IN ORDER to see her husband.

Good luck with this!

Ben said...

Hi Everyone, Author here,

Thank you for all your comments. The basic gist of most of them, that I can tell, is that you want more of an explanation of the actual time travel mechanics, and that you want more stakes to classify this as a thriller.

I will post the revised query below.

I have hopefully raised the stakes a little by explaining more narrative events, which suck the main characters into the mystery. The trade off of this is I have to properly introduce two new characters into the query, which I worry lengthens it. I personally think it gets a bit too heavy now, but let me know which one you think is better.

As for the time travel mechanics, I haven't added them in to the query as I feel it would definitely bog it down. You don't need an explanation of how it works in the query, I believe in a story where time travel is involved there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief inherent.

Lastly, I'll note that I consider it a thriller with a supernatural plot concept - built around normal people - so it's still a thriller. Think Carrie, Odd Thomas, etc.

Also, yes it is set in Victoria (modern) - and it is considered standard to list influences in Australian query letters.

QUERY:

Dear Agent,

The body of sixteen-year-old Evelyn Chambers washes ashore in Wheeler’s Cove, a small Australian coastal town. She’s been shot twice – once in the head, once in the stomach. The next day she turns up at the local police station, very much alive.

Jamie Webster is a bestselling writer who moved to Wheeler’s Cove to escape the mounting expectations of his second novel. Alice Jackson has returned to her home town to wait out her husband’s death from lung cancer. Alice and Jamie meet one night on the abandoned peninsula, where they are the first to find the murdered girl, strewn across the rocks.

But something strange is taking place in Wheeler’s Cove; the dead aren’t staying dead. Alice and Jamie figure out that the peninsula is a rift in time, a place that exists simultaneously three months apart. Jamie is from the past, Alice is from the future. While Jamie befriends a still living Evelyn, Alice hides her corpse in an ice freezer and starts poking around.

But one other person knows about the time rift, and they will kill to keep it a secret. After Alice’s husband is murdered, Jamie begins to see the events as inspiration for his novel, while Alice wants to use the link to the past to see her husband one last time. Using clues both before and after the murder, they must piece together the mystery before the past catches up to the present, and Evelyn dies for good.

Rift is a 75,000 word thriller in which the protagonists must work together to investigate a murder both before and after it happens.

I am an award winning and nationally televised stand-up comedian. I have been featured on ABC Television and JJJ, RRR, and ABC radio. This is my first novel. Other novelists I enjoy reading in this genre are Peter Temple, for his realism, and Stephen King, for his higher concept thrillers.

Thank you for your time,

Not Louis C.K.

AA said...

"The next day she turns up at the local police station, very much alive." So, the police know about this.

"While Jamie befriends a still living Evelyn, Alice hides her corpse in an ice freezer and starts poking around." So, the police DON'T know about this?

"After Alice’s husband is murdered..." Wait a minute. He's dying of cancer and somebody murders him? I know this sounds crass, but couldn't they just WAIT?

"and Stephen King, for his higher concept thrillers..." It may be a bad idea to compare yourself to the best-selling novelist OF ALL TIME at this point.

I think you're confused about how much of your story is coming across. Remember, you know what's in your story but nobody else does yet. Let me write what I get out of this query so you can see where the confusion lies.

Alice and Jamie find a murdered girl, but they don't tell the police for some reason. The next day the murdered girl shows up alive at the police station. Apparently she comes to the station for something entirely unrelated. J. and A. show up in time to see her still alive (why are they there?)

J. and A. figure out the place is a rift in time. Alice is more than happy to flee her dying husband's bedside and start "poking around." While she's out, somebody sneaks in and murders her dying husband for unknown reasons.

Alice sees the opportunity to go back in time to see her husband again, and presumably mercy-kill him, considering she's the only person who could possibly have a motive to do this. We still don't know who shot Evelyn, but at this point, I'm more intrigued by how long Alice can successfully keep a corpse in her freezer.

So- this is what I'm seeing. Are or aren't the police involved? Does anyone have a motive for any of the killings?