Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Face-Lift 1230

Guess the Plot


1. There was trouble in the Security checkpoint line at Terminal 1. But then, there was always some kinda trouble. And that was when eccentric inventor Cornelius Crankpot had his epiphany. It was only a matter of time before fingerprints could be circumvented. But since people had their shoes off anyway, why not surreptitiously verify their identity, by their . . . FOOTPRINTS.

2. Leroy has the job of his dreams: dressing up as a Jesus at The Holy Land Experience (he gets to carry people across sand!) When another Jesus shows Leroy how easy it is to get big tips from older women, will Leroy open his robe for them, or resist temptation? 

3. The MO is always the same. Bloody swim-fin footprints led to a victim completely devoid of blood. A deranged, bloodthirsty surfer/killer was on the loose. The local police, the state police, and even the FBI came up empty. Then the 11th bloody trail led down the pier, and two-headed, squid-like creatures with webbed feet emerged on the beach, leaving a trail of bloodless victims in their wake.

4. There are only a few sets of footprints on the Moon, all left over from NASA's glory days. So when 12-year-old Scott Welpern spots a different, new set of prints, he's ready to call NASA--until he realizes that they aren't human.

5. Knowing she is not long for this world, Ella vows to reduce her carbon footprint. But what can she do about the carbon that returns to the Earth when her body decomposes? Also, a bizarre tarot reading.

6. Ryan Carver analyzes footprint molds for the FBI. He's also a foot fetishist. And Washington DC's latest serial killer has the most heart-stopping size 7s he has ever seen. 

7. On every park sign is the signature phrase: Take only pictures and leave only footprints. "Screw That!" says Smokey the Bear. After fifty-plus-years of "Shoot yourself in the Foot" National Park administration, Smokey's going postal. In a tell-all memoir for the ages, he describes riotous bonfires, by-the-ton littering and free sex with rangers. "Only you can stop...Smokey from baring it all.

Original Version

[Just the plot summary from a possible query for a projected NaNoWriMo novel.]

Ella Rosbury's empty nest is almost unbearable, and while comtemplating ending it all, she finds a lump that might do the job for her. 

Upon discovering the lump is cancer, she chooses to fight to live instead, and to live as ethically as possible in the time she has left. She gives most of her possessions away, turns her yard into an organic haven, reduces her carbon footprint and offers her spare rooms free of rent to people in need. 

She chooses three very different women to share her home with her, each of whom is fighting their [her] own internal battles. Clara, a 25 year-old alcoholic, who reminds Ella of her own estranged daughter. [Because her daughter is an alcoholic?] Mickie, whose obsession with cleaning rituals and routines is so overwhelming she has been out of work for 10 years and only left her own home because she was evicted. And Kyra,
 [a 40-year-old serial killer/heroin addict. Because when you're dying you want to be surrounded by those you care for the most.] a herbalist hippy who occasionally forgets that it's no longer the '60s. [I just realized, it's now closer to the 2060s than the 1960s.]

Kyra's bizarre tarot readings strike a chord with the housemates and act as the catalyst for their own journeys of healing as they face their past traumas. 

Ella in particular realises she has to forgive herself for not seeing the abuse of her own daughter happening under her [own] nose for years at the hands of her [own] late husband. As her illness progresses, time is running out for Ella to find her lost daughter and to heal the fractured relationship. [If you name her daughter in paragraph 2 when you first mention her, you can use the name from then on, instead of calling her her daughter.]


Seems like the story is mainly set in Ella's house, which has me wondering what she's doing to find her lost daughter. Googling her?

You could throw in a mention of the hopefulness or joy experienced together by these women so that it doesn't sound like a total downer.

Presumably this will be one of those character-driven litfic novels without much of a plot. Otherwise you'd have told us more about what happens. Of course, maybe you don't yet know what happens.


InkAndPixelClub said...

Tough to critique a query knowing the story hasn't been written yet, but here goes anyway:

So the women are all living together, Ella figures out she needs to forgive herself, and...? Maybe this is a character driven story, but an editor is still going to want some sense of what happens, what Ella is going to do to try to find her daughter, and how easy or hard it's going to be.

It's clear by the end of the query why Ella starts off thinking about ending it all, but the first sentence sounds more like "Well, the kids have all moved out and I have nothing left to live for. Guess I'll go blow my brains out." Try to make it clear that Ella is really alone in the world at this point, not merely someone whose children have their own lives now.

The other women disappear once you describe them, except for Kyra. They may well have their own interesting story arcs and challenges to face, but for the purposes of the query, you need to show how they help or hinder Ella in attaining her goals.

Learning to forgive herself for not realizing her husband was abusing her daughter and repairing her relationship with her daughter sound like two mostly separate issues and I'm not sure you have space to adequately address both in the query. Unless Ella Jr. ran off because Mom was so stuck apologizing and beating up on herself for not seeing what was happening that neither she nor Ella Jr. could start to move on with their lives, Mom showing up and announcing that she's finally forgiven herself isn't likely to fix things.

On a totally unrelated not, lot #4 sounds like something I would read.

SB said...

I'm really curious if anyone has any tips specific to writing queries for character-driven stories. Because it seems a lot harder than plot-driven high-concept stories.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm hoping there are some bright spots in here that you'll discover as you write.

Anonymous said...

It sounds a bit as though Ella is trying to find her daughter (not literally at the beginning, but by the end) is the main theme here.

She takes in boarders in a(n unrealized?) attempt to mother by proxy, or maybe figure out what went wrong. So treat that as your plot.

Maybe something along the lines of:

The estrangement of her only daughter has haunted Ella for years. Discovering she has cancer becomes the fire she needs to discover what went wrong.

She takes in boarders (names, reasons (I'd go with the reasons she picked them over their quirks to keep it character focused)

(Maybe a short bit about how the tarot readings are directing her journey of self-discovery/healing). (Maybe something about realizing she can at least try to make things right) Wrap up with her actual plan to find her daughter. (Hopefully the book doesn't stop there, but I could see it ending with her on her daughter's doorstop about to ring the bell. Would probably make me cry.)

Hope this helps