Monday, September 28, 2015

Face-Lift 1276

Guess the Plot

Me Against the World

1. When a black market deal goes bad, Perry Barker tries to run for his life. But no one can escape the over 5000 members of the nefarious American Pawnbrokers Association.

2. My husband is cheating, the kids are delinquents, and I'm getting laid off next week. Plus, I'm turning 40 and can't fit into my size 10 pants. I dare you to say you won't represent my book.

3. Mom channels the spirit of Sarah Bernhardt. Dad invents things. Rocky crawled into the pantry last week and covered himself with flour and red food coloring. Ten-year-old Dusti Rhoades (her real name!!!) secretly plans to win the Kidtastic Writing Contest and tells you all about her life in... Me Against The World.

4. I shot my old man to save my little sis from the drunk bastard. Now they'll probably throw me in juvie. No way I'm letting that happen, not when I can just pack up my pjs and my Gameboy and blend into the cutthroat streets of Bed-Stuy.

5. My parents suck and school sux and I totally wish I had never been born. All my clothes are sooo last year!!!! Like, should I just get a tattoo saying "I'm lame" on my forehead? And my car. My car!!!! It's brown!!! It is like soooo embarrassing. My parents must really hate me buying such a piece of sh*t like that.

6. Jason Poe Jr has accidentally unleashed a curse that turns nature itself against him. It's him against the world... he attacks at midnight.

7. The planet Earth has shrunk down to human size and now it's looking for a fight. It's up to Big Brad Little to give Earth an ass-whupping so severe it'll go back to big and quiet. But can he administer the beating before the oxygen runs out?

Original Version

Dear [Agent Name]

Tony will do anything to protect his little sister Leslie—shooting their father included. When the drunk bastard attempts to choke Leslie to death, that’s just what Tony does. [Luckily Tony's father keeps his loaded gun on a table in the same room where he's choking Leslie, so Tony doesn't have to go get it, which would take way longer than it would take a man to strangle a girl.]

Sirens sound in the distance, which means the police are on their way. If Tony doesn’t do something, the police find two orphan minors and report the incident to Child Protective Services. Tony will most likely end up in a juvenile facility and Leslie in a foster home. But CPS has to find them first. And [no one is better at hide and seek than Tony and Leslie.] CPS be damned. Tony will not let the government split them up.

Hiding out and blending in with others seems to be the only way to avoid separation. The question is where. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many places to go with no money—except the streets. However, running the streets of cutthroat northeast Bed-Stuy is just asking for trouble—trouble they certainly don’t need.

Tony has not one, but two lives to think about. He doesn’t have much time to decide. CPS is coming. And they won’t leave empty-handed. [Actually, it's the cops who are coming, and they're gonna find a bloody corpse and start looking for a shooter, so it'll be a while before CPS is coming. My guess is the kids would be taken to CPS.]

Me Against the World is YA fiction, complete at 78,000 words. [Shouldn't it be Us Against the World? Surely Leslie is going to be useful in the quest for survival.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.



This could be pretty funny if you put it in first person present and tell it like a film noir:

I walk into the kitchen in my pjs hoping my kid sister Leslie hasn't finished off the Froot Loops. And there's the old man, trying to choke Les to death. Lucky I'm packing heat. I pull out my 44 and blast the drunk bastard to kingdom come.

Sirens. Shit, already? Gotta move fast or they'll throw me into juvie for saving Leslie's life, and I'll never see her again. But where can we go? Maybe the brutal, merciless streets of northeast Bed-Stuy? Nah, that's just asking for trouble. But we got no moolah. Wait, I've got my gat. We can rob a Chucky Cheese.

The trouble with my version is the same as the trouble with yours. It could all take place on page one of the book. You need to tell us a story, not just describe the situation the main character is in when the story begins. So instead of just deleting the parts I colored red, condense the setup into one short paragraph, something like:

After Tony shoots his father to stop the drunk bastard from choking Tony's sister Leslie to death, he realizes Child Protective Services will soon swoop in and separate the siblings. No way he's letting that happen, not when he and Les can just blend into the streets. But how long can an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl survive in cutthroat northeast Bed-Stuy?

That leaves room to tell us about the plot: what they plan to do, who stands in their way, what big decision they face, what will happen if they choose badly . . .


Anonymous said...

I can't really tell from this query what kind of story this is supposed to be. Survival on the streets? Literary depressive? Something else?

The ages of both (presumably) kids would help. So would knowing if they have a goal other than 'stay together.'

You've written 78,000 words. If there's a plot in there, tell us what it is.

Anonymous said... all over the keyboard.

PLaF said...

How old is this Tony character that he would be aware of things like CPS, juvy, and foster care?
CPS doesn’t come across as the big bad villain of the query.
If Tony has some prior experience with CPS and perhaps a no-good government flunky bent on putting him in juvy, that would explain a few things as well as up the ante.
You also need to tell us Tony’s personal stakes aside from losing his sister and then how hiding out in Bed-Stuy is going to help/hurt his chances at attaining those goals.

InkAndPixelClub said...

I like PLaF's idea of Tony having a few previous run-ins with the law that could make this his third strike. If he's never been in trouble before and his sister can back up his story with the bruises on her neck, I don't see why they'd be so worried about Tony ending up in juvy that life on the street seems like a better option. I usually kind of skeptical of these "the big mean CPS people are going to break up our family" stories, as they usually involve the kids choosing a very dangerous option to avoid foster care. It's one thing if Tony is breaking his sister out of a foster home that's even worse than the one they had with their father. Sadly, I can believe that. But as is, Tony is choosing a clearly unsafe path for himself and his sister to avoid one that may or may not be so horrible.

You do end the query with Tony facing a choice and both options have potential consequences. But it's obvious that Tony and his sister are going to run, as there wouldn't be much of a story if they didn't. You need to get to the point where Tony has a less obvious choice to make or a chance to either succeed or fail at something, a point where it's less obvious what the outcome will be.

Anonymous said...

"When the drunk bastard attempts to choke Leslie to death, that’s just what Tony does." That arrangement makes it seem that Tony attempts to choke Leslie to death.

Evidently, Tony and Leslie go on the lam in Bed-Stuy. It seems Leslie is pretty young and has years of schooling and growing up to get through. Does Tony have some longer-term goal than to survive the next day? Like get a job, an apartment, support the two of them? Make their way to some sympathetic cousins somewhere? Does Leslie die in the end? What's the structure of this story?