Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Face-Lift 1245

Guess the Plot


1. Here? Are you kidding? Fugeddabout it!

2. Truth is not your typical rat-ass ho working the tracks of New York. She's building a future along with her street family of three boys. She's going to marry one of them on her 16th birthday and live happily ever after. At least that's her plan, but for some reason things don't always go the way you want when the streets are your crib.

3. Plummeting 10,000 feet strapped to a sloth and a bag of surgical waste, Meredith reflects on her recent, regrettable decisions. She can’t help but wonder how her life would have been different if, at Johnny’s alcohol-fueled party the night before, she hadn’t chosen ‘dare’.

4. We here at deplore the excesses of crass commercialism that Nirvana, Inc., has fallen into. We would rather our sincere, but somewhat over-zealous brethren could channel their enthusiasms into more philosophical endeavors… But we are concerned with facts. Facts are true. Our guiding light here at is that "Facts are truth, and truth facts." There is no other way to say it. Anyone who tries to deny that over-riding principle is a heretic.… and will be destroyed.

5. They say truth is stranger than fiction (Google it), so why don't people just write about truth? Saves the bother of making shit up and more interesting to boot. Well, turns out they do. The library has a whole wall of books just about true things. People are making money just writing about things they see happen; about things that actually exist. Fucking awesome, and complicated twists to keep track of. So here's the definitive, totally factual Potatopedia: Volume One -- From Accent to Exquisa.

6. Carol's fat, no one really likes her, her office job pays nothing, and she's scared as hell. But she saw that magic fax getting faxed to The Universe. Now she can read minds. Time to take control of EVERYTHING.

7. Tracy has finally gotten it all figured out. She knows the answer. To everything. It will reconcile all the world's religions, it will end hatred and poverty – it will turn the planet into a paradise. No more war, no more hatred. No more strife or greed. tt really was quite simple, when you came right down to it. It’d been right there in front of us all the time. It wouldn’t cost anyone any money. It didn’t require hallucinogens of any kind. It was perfectly reasonable, and incredibly simple. And it was going to get her killed.

8. High school is hard enough, but when everybody is a lycanthrope, it's twice as hard. Priscilla wants to be popular but the guys all consider her a bit stiff. She is the only wereporcupine in Thrope Academy and simply can't avoid those prickly situations. But it's love at first embrace when she meets Jerry, a werejellyfish. Follow these two kids through all their sticky adventures.

Original Version

Dear evil editor,

I’m seeking representation for my YA thriller, Truth, complete at 83,000 words.

Fifteen-year-old Truth is not your typical rat-ass ho working the tracks of New York. With a fat bankroll, Truth is building a future along with her street family of three boys. She's going to marry one of them on her 16th birthday, rescue her brother from foster care, and live happily ever after. [Possibly introducing your main character as a rat-ass ho--albeit an atypical one--isn't the best strategy. Maybe runaway or foster-care escapee or street orphan? I mean, if a query began "Hannibal is not your typical serial killer who eats his victims' organs; he's going to open a fine-dining establishment," would you want to read that? Bad example; of course you would. It sounds fantastic. But that's because sophisticated serial killers are all the rage, while rat-ass street hos are not. ]  

A brutal kidnapping brings Truth back to the realities of the streets. She manages to buy her way out of a death trap,

[Truth: If you don't kill me, I'll give you a thousand dollars. 

Killer: Deal.

Truth: Hand me my purse, will you?] [That joke sounded familiar, so I searched the blog for the phrase "Hand me my purse," and found it in Face-Lift 1214, which turns out to be for the same book, except that her name was Mercy instead of Truth.]

only to discover that her street family, her husband-to-be [He's included in "her street family," right?] and five strangers have been murdered in a seemingly senseless killing spree. Truth is devastated. Her apartment is sealed as a crime scene; her dreams of square love and happy-ever-after are crushed. As much as she'd like to nail the killer, all she has to work with is a single shitty lead, enough to realize that the cops got the wrong guy. [So the killer isn't whoever had her in a death trap? Why was she placed in a death trap? What is a death trap?]

Alone and homeless, Truth must crack the killer's scheme just to stay alive. The secrets she digs out reveal not only the killer’s identity and the fortunes at stake, but a side of the streets she could not have imagined.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


You've gotten rid of some of the problems with the earlier version. If you tell us Truth ran away from abusive foster parents or something, we might sympathize enough to want to read her story.

What crime was committed in Truth's apartment? If the cops have their guy, it shouldn't take long to unseal the crime scene.

Has anyone else ever noticed that when the main character is a cop, he's brilliant (though flawed), but when the main character is a private eye or a little old lady or a kid or a rat-ass ho, the cops are idiots?

Can you pick out one of the secrets she digs out and reveal it to us, just so we have a hint of why Truth is a key player in a plot where fortunes are at stake?

Obviously you're convinced that the people who buy YA books will want to read a story about a 15-year-old rat-ass ho who brings down a killer. Maybe they will. I'm told kids like to read about kids who are older, which, if true, puts your readership in the 13 - 14 year-old range. To me, the plot, despite the youth of Truth, sounds more like adult fare.


IMHO said...

I can envision a YA novel where the MC is a crime-solving street prostitute. And maybe this novel is it, but the query doesn't convince me.

Truth sounds like a two-dimensional character (super-hero whore with a heart of gold! able to escape killers & solve crimes! with a fat bankroll!) rather than a YA main character. You haven't convinced me to suspend disbelief. In Hunger Games (as an example of a YA female MC with extraordinary powers), Katniss is not presented on page one as Warrior Queen. She struggles and develops. By the time she single-handedly takes down the Games, I'm along for the ride.

All of Truth's obstacles are still external (killers, dumb cops, the street). If you're committed to a 15-year old prostitute as your MC, give your readers a 15-year-old prostitute -- a kid with psychological and social issues to overcome, not one whose happy cozy street home is disrupted by mean people. Why portray her as supporting three boys if they are there only to get blown away? A half-starved alley cat she befriends would serve the same purpose and be more believable (and possibly more poignant).

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I have all the same objections I had the first time around.

Mister Furkles said...

I think you need to concentrate the query on the girl (whore) and the serial killer cop. You should explain why she is a street ho and why the cop is killing. Add the threat to the girl and her choice. Some details to leave to the book are the rape and kidnapping.

Shorten the plot description to 200 words. The list it as a crime thriller or mystery thriller.

Try again.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Unfortunately, I'm not seeing enough of a change between Truth and Mercy to convince me that the story you have now is working better than the previous version. You've removed some of the extra baggage, but the core problem is still your completely unrealistic depiction of what teen prostitution looks like. Atypical or not, you start off with a fifteen-year-ols prostitute with a fat bankroll and you've lost me already. If the premise alone is too much for me to suspend my disbelief, I'm never going to buy Truth bribing her way out of a death trap or solving a mystery the cops can't crack.

Is there any reason why Truth couldn't be 18 or 21 or any age where the idea of her having sex for money isn't so troubling. I'm not saying fifteen year old prostitutes don't exist, but the issue is so big that it's overwhelming your story. It's hard to care about whether or not Truth solves the mystery when the circumstances of her life seem like a much bigger problem. And, just because you didn't seem to get the message the first time around, your ideas about prostitution seem more "Pretty Woman" than real world.

If there's no way you can write this story without making the protagonist a fifteen year old prostitute with considerable cash on hand and mystery solving skills, then maybe it's time to let it go.

Cil said...

The name Truth irked me. Mercy I found easier to deal with.

As for the query, I have the same complaints as IMHO, I don't feel like I get to know anything about Truth as a character. She is a street Ho who wants to get married and then she is fighting for her life. If this is a character driven book, let us get to know her. I think the same comments were made last time.

Also make it seem more related and flow a little easier. At the moment it feels like all bad things happen to Truth and then she fights a cop to the death (if I remember from last time), and the bad things weren't really related.

JRMosher said...

A lot of the comments from the earlier version still apply here. What strikes me is that the voice is off. Truth is building a life, looking toward the future with marriage, her bother, etc. She is hopeful, despite what she is doing currently to get by. So she wouldn’t think of herself as a “rat-ass ho.” And if this is her book, I’d suggest using her voice to convey the story. She becomes more sympathetic, someone to root for. If this is her voice, calling herself a rat-ass ho, then it sounds like she doesn’t much care about herself and so reader’s won’t, either. Maybe open with something more like:

Everyone knows that life on New York’s mean streets is hard, and you have to do whatever you can just to survive. But fifteen year old Truth is doing more than surviving, she is starting to build a future for herself, the three boys in her street family, and her young brother who is stuck in an abusive foster home.

Concentrate on her fighting spirit and what she’s doing to rise up. The other questions that pop into my mind while reading this, which you may want to address:

How fat is her bankroll? If she has money already, why is she still hooking? I assume it’s not enough yet for her to move on, but just saying she has a fat bankroll means nothing and opens up the question. Maybe say she is building a fat bankroll, as opposed to already having one?

You mention three boys, none by name, and that she is going to marry one of them on her 16th birthday. Leaving aside the legal issues mentioned in comments of the earlier version, this sounds like she is going to just pick one of them when the time comes. Does she have a romantic relationship with all three? Other than being mentioned alive and then dead, are they developed in the book? What does each of them mean to her, individually? If only one is her romantic interest and the others serve no story purpose, you might want to consider condensing them into a single character. The loss of one fiancé is just as devastating as the loss of him and two close friends, if he’s all she has.

What is the connection between the kidnapping and the murders? Are they connected? As others have said, she should be dead as well. And if it is a “death trap” then maybe don’t call it kidnapping, which (to me at least) suggests holding for ransom with the possibility of return, whereas a death trap is kind of a one-way trip.

Finally, the statement that she finds a side of the streets she could not have imagined. Does that mean she finds something hopeful and uplifting about them at the end? Does the street community band together to help save her and her brother (assuming he is still alive; he is not mentioned after the murders)? Because if you mean that she finds out that the streets are vicious and deadly, she pretty much already knew that.

IMHO said...

Fictional prostitutes:

Fantine - Les Miserables
Nana - Nana (Emile Zola)
Sugar - The Crimson Petal and the White
Jamie Lee Curtis as Ophelia in Trading Places. Yeah, it's a movie, but her character was one of the few heart-o-gold prostitute characters that I liked. She was smart and looked out for herself.

khazarkhum said...

15 year old prostitute reminds me of an exploitation film of the 1980s...'Angel'.

While I can buy a street girl building a home with a family of other street kids, I can't buy that she is randomly marrying one of them. If she's got one in mind, tell us, and tell us why they haven't taken off for someplace safer to wait until she comes of age.

What can't she imagine about the streets? Cleanliness? Kindness? Education? She has to have seen just about everything else.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, I think I mentioned that movie last time we talked about this query.

I think the writer needs to just send the query, stop working on it, collect the rejections and move on to another manuscript. We are none of us getting any younger.

chekurtab said...

I want to thank our EE and everyone who commented. I appreciate your input.