Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Face-Lift 1200!!

Guess the Plot


1. Finding out your second grade teacher was secretly a porn star in unsettling, but nothing compared to learning that her buff stallion was your own father. Dom Scorlini's first taste of Internet mischief results in a serious upset in his family's equilibrium.

2. When workaholic pediatrician Dave Marzotti falls in love with Katie, the mother of one of his patients, she brings a new balance to his life. But then Katie and her daughter are kidnapped, and Dave must rescue them, for their DNA holds the key to the fate of the entire human race.

3. In the competitive world of international equine high-wire performance art, Jamie Lancaster thinks he has the next grand champion in Dapples, a feisty little horse he rescued from a pony ride concession. But when vertigo strikes, can Jamie and Dapples recover their . . . equilibrium?

4. Klutzy fashion model Crash Bang can't stay on her feet long enough to complete a runway walk. She's sure her career is over until a quirky, new designer announces a line of "walker" dresses for drunk celebutantes. But can she make it through the go-see without toppling over?

5. Single Mom Shauna-Lee was happy for any sort of work, even scrubbing floors in the strange laboratory deep in the Arizona desert. Flirting with the cute scientist makes her day bearable. But when her kids are kidnapped, the only way she will see them alive again is to steal details of Project Equilibrium.

6. When psychic Malora tried to fight off the wizard's advances, she not only lost, she got turned into a statue as punishment. Now she's the Justice figure in a family courtroom. By day she listens to the cases. At night, she uses her still-formidable powers to manipulate the papers so the right party wins.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Pediatrician Dave Marzotti is content with life as a workaholic until he falls in love with Katie, the mother of one of his patients. Their whirlwind romance is cut short when Katie and her daughter are kidnapped.

Dave must risk everything - his medical practice, his relationship with Katie, even his own life - to rescue them. [Why does he have to rescue them? How does he know where they are? Do the authorities know about the kidnapping? Usually kidnappers contact a family member, not the family's pediatrician. If I tried to contact a pediatrician to announce I'd kidnapped one of his patients, I'd get the person who answers the office phone, who would tell me Dave was with a patient and I'd be forced to leave an incriminating or extremely vague message.] For it quickly becomes clear that their lives are not the only ones at stake. Their DNA holds the key to the fate of the entire human race. [How does this quickly become clear to Dave?] [More importantly, WTF? You can't just toss that out and expect us to buy it. What does "key to the fate" mean? Key to our survival? If the villains know about the DNA, wouldn't the good guys also know? Wouldn't they have Katie and her daughter in protective custody in a fortress on a mountain surrounded by a shark-filled moat?]

EQUILIBRIUM is a commercial novel, complete at 65,000 words.

I am a member of the [XYZ] association. My blog is available at [URL].

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Have the kidnappers contacted Dave? If they've got the fate of the human race in their hands, they have enough leverage to be contacting governments or billionaires. What they can get from Dave is chicken feed. If they haven't contacted Dave, what's preventing Dave from calling in someone who's better than he is at rescuing people?

If they haven't contacted Dave, have they contacted the press or anyone to make their intentions known? If so, what do they want? Money? Are they threatening to destroy the human race? We need to know if Katie was kidnapped for ransom or if some evil overlord kidnapped her to destroy humanity. Either way, we need to know what's so special about this DNA and we need to know: Why Dave? If the fate of the human race hangs in the balance, I want James Bond or Ethan Hunt on it, not some schmuck named Dave.

How many people are aware that Katie and her daughter hold the key to the fate of the entire human race? Do the kidnappers know, or did they just get lucky? Do governments know?

As you see, the plot sounds incredible, and not in a good way. Fortunately, your query is so short that you have plenty of room to fill in the holes so we don't find ourselves asking all these questions.


Dave Fragments said...

Congratulations on 1200 face lifts . . .
Here's a tiny celebration:

Veronica Rundell said...

I will second EE's WTF!

Please add some detail to the query, because, right now, it sounds so shady I can't see the pavement.

I am at a complete loss to understand how the DNA of one mother and daughter will save the human race. You do know that human DNA is nearly 99% identical from person to person. For that matter human DNA is 90% identical to rat and mouse DNA, and 97% identical to gibbon DNA--so how does Kate's slight variation mean such a dramatic shift in human survivability?

This, from a genetic standpoint, needs to be absolutely nailed in the query, or your grandiose plot line is going to be considered bunk. As I'm sitting here, I'm grateful that I hadn't been drinking while reading this query, as my reaction to the outrageous premise would have been to spit out whatever I'd been consuming all over my tablet.....

khazar-khum said...

This isn't a query. It's a log line, a pitch.

How is their DNA important? Does it confer immunity to cancer? Does it make you immortal? Does it make you part Xantheys, the aliens who will enslave humans in a later book?

Please say there's more to this.

Anonymous said...

Author here...

Oh boy! Face-Lift 1200? Do I win a prize? (Other than the wonderful gift of my query being gazed upon by EE's laser-shooting eyes?)

Thank you all for the great feedback so far! I have a lot to think about.

I had a feeling my query was too vague. But how to entice without giving it all away (or turning it into a synopsis)? Aye, there's the rub.

EE's feedback and the comments certainly point me in the right direction. I'll try to answer those questions in my revision. I just wasn't sure how much of that information would be considered backstory and setup.

@Veronica - You're correct! Human DNA is not considerably different from the DNA of other lifeforms on this planet. Aliens would probably consider us to be all one lifeform. And yes, I am familiar with DNA - at least with respect to forensics and anthropology.

Back to the drawing board for me!

Jo Antareau said...

the difficult part of writing a query is resisting the urge to pack all of the cool details in that make our manuscript so compelling. So well done on the self restraint.

But maybe put in one little cool detail....

Evil Editor said...

It's ok to give stuff away to agents and editors. And they're the only ones who will see your query letter.

Cil said...

Equilibrium is an action movie from 2002. You might want to rethink the title to give it some originality. My suggestion is Le Chatelier's principle, it will increase your science nerd credibility. I presume the book is somehow about perturbing an equilibrium, so the title would fit.

Anonymous said...

The Author again...

"well done on the self restraint" - LOL!! Yes, I did manage that much, didn't I? =)


Thanks for the name idea! But Le Chatelier's principle relates to chemical equilibrium and my book is not about that.

I'm sure there are many books and movies with the same names. Especially if you go back 12 years.

In any case, my book is actually called something else. I didn't want to use the real title here, though I did use the working title (which also happens to apply to the plot).

Author said...

@Evil Editor

Loved the comment about "some schmuck named Dave." LOL!

You say, "agents and editors [are] the only ones who will see your query letter." Just them and the ... I'm sorry, but how many evil minions look at your blog again?

Seriously though, the explanation of just how Katie's DNA holds the key to the survival of the human race is (I hope) a major reveal toward the end of the book. So I misspoke when I said "it quickly becomes clear." Dave quickly knows something is going on, but he doesn't really know what.

To answer a few of your questions: The government does know about the kidnapping and they're on the job. So while Dave plays a key role in the rescue and the book's climax, he is only one member of the rescue team. The bad guy is using Katie's DNA (and her daughter's) to create a genocidal biological weapon. He's not interested in ransoms. Only a handful of people know about the DNA thing.

I'd like to figure out a way to write the query without saying specifically "what's so special about this DNA." However, based on your comments, if I'm going to say it's special then I need to say why.

khazar-khum said...

Author--there's a time and place to be coy. Sidling out of the closet clad in a red corset and black heels with only a Garfield towel over your shoulders is a time to be coy. Even when your husband is in the room.

But here, in the loving, safe enclosure of EE's sturdy arms, is not where you want to be coy. You want to tell us the real title, give us the juicy details, so we can eviscerate you and then help you, usually in that order.

Submit to EE. Those of us who have, who have given ourselves over fully to our guru, have seen success, or at least publication.

Tell your story, without fear of theft, ridicule or anger. Derision is a given. That's what makes this place so wonderful. Your characters will thank you.

Author said...


Thanks for the advice!

Ink and Pixel Club said...

It's hard to tell from the query because it's so short and vague, but I'm concerned that Dave is going to turn out to be one of those "all-purpose doctors" that are so often used as convenient plot devices. That even though he's a pediatrician and his knowledge should be largely focused around treating common childhood illnesses and the occasional broken bone, he'll somehow end up figuring out that Katie and her daughter have the super special humanity saving DNA. If that's the case, maybe Dave should be in an area of medicine where he'd have reason to know about DNA. If not, maybe include some hint as to how Dave being a pediatrician is key to the story beyond getting him close to Katie and her daughter, which could be accomplished just as easily by giving him any number of other professions.

The Author said...

Looks like my last post never made it up, so I'll try again.

For the record - I'm not worried about someone stealing my idea (in most cases, that's harder to do than it sounds). I am, however, trying to write a proper query. Not a logline, or a hook, or a pitch, or a synopsis. A query.

Each of these tools seem to reveal a different level of the plot. I'm trying to find that sweet spot.

@Ink and Pixel Club

You bring up a valid concern! Dave's profession is used in what I hope is a believable way. And while Dave plays a key role in the rescue mission and the book's climax, he is not the one that discovers the DNA. A specialist does. But thank you for asking!

Evil Editor said...

In most cases the sweet spot can be achieved with three 3-sentence paragraphs. 1st paragraph: the setup. Who's the main character and what is the intriguing situation in which he finds himself. 2nd paragraph: the story. What's he planning to do, who's trying to prevent this, what's his plan B? 3rd paragraph: the wrap-up. Why should we care, i.e. what happens if he succeeds and what happens if he fails?

Preferably you can work all of this in without saying anything that inspires us to question the story's logic. And of course you'll tell us the genre, word count, and all about your previous bestsellers.