Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Face-Lift 1319

Guess the Plot

She'll Breathe Again

1. Little Katrina Halley wants the stuffed froggie so bad, she'll hold her breath till she gets it. But it turns out that holding one's breath with cheeks puffed out gets old pretty fast, so . . . she'll breathe again.

2. When Nicole's boyfriend takes her to a romantic Italian restaurant for dinner, she doesn't expect that he's sold her to a human trafficking ring, and that she may have breathed her last whiff of freedom. At least he waits till after dessert.

3. In this timely polemic about the evils of pollution, Reader Child seeks Mother Nature to cure her sick dog. On the way, she meets friendly animals who all die horrifically. She eventually meets an ancient tree who tells her Mother Nature is a lie. Also, trash disguised as food.

4. Twelve years ago, grieving Tony Marston had his cancer-stricken wife Angela cryogenically frozen. There's now a cure for her type of cancer, so they plan to revive her. But what, exactly, will come out of that tube?

5. She was the love of his life, but now she is dead. However, this young doctor has found notes from his ancestor detailing ways of bringing life from death. It may take a bit of grave robbing and waiting for a lightning storm, but . . . she'll breathe again.

6. The Sheila XVIII is a symbiotic re-breather unit that unfortunately resembles the face-hugger from Alien, stomach splitting spawn included. But, it's the only way to survive the clouds of sentient fungus spores that have taken over the world. Can Phil find a way to save humanity before he dies by giving birth?

Original Version

Dear ________

When 16-year-old Nicole is sold into the [a] human trafficking ring by her first love, she is forced to face not only heart break, [heartbreak] but the fight for [of] her life. [If you've spent enough time with someone to consider him your first love, and he sells you to a human trafficking ring, a broken heart is the least of your concerns.]   

Nicole is completely caught off guard when a romantic date with her boyfriend Jonathan turns into a worst nightmare come to life. After Jonathan leaves her stranded at a random Italian restaurant, Nicole encounters a strange man [If he's just a stranger, call him that; if there's something strange about him, tell us what.] who tells her that he is Jonathan’s “surprise gift.” [It's probably not necessary to tell us Nicole was caught off guard. Getting sold into slavery by your boyfriend during a romantic date is high on the list of things no one ever expects.] 

Suddenly, Nicole is kidnapped and drugged only to wake up in a room full of girls and a persistently annoying flickering lightbulb. [Bad enough I've been sold to human traffickers, but now I have to put up with this friggin' light bulb?!] Nicole is the last to know that her body has been sold [The last what to know?] once the leader of the ring, Don, sheds light on her situation. Now she is forced to fight for her life with a shattered heart and a cynical attitude. [More effective would be a sword and a shield.] [I would expect her to feel anger, fear, betrayal. Heartbreak and cynicism can be saved for after her ordeal ends.]

Right when Nicole is ready to lose all hope, she finds her inner strength in the most unexpected place; a young girl named Jessica who was sold into the trafficking ring by her father. [Her own father? That's horrible. Wait, how much did he get for her?] Each day that passes the chance of survival seems to be getting more and more slim. They are continuously faced with the men who sealed their fate ultimately unraveling secrets that were better left unknown. [Those three sentences could be put in any order. The sentences in a paragraph need to be connected and progress logically. For instance by telling us how Jessica gives Nicole inner strength.] [Also, that last sentence is so vague I have no idea what you're talking about.]

With a turn of events, a police raid sets them free. Nicole and Jessica get separated in all of the chaos. Jessica is taken in by Child Services while Nicole just keeps running until she [is] found by an old lady with a similar pain. [I feel your pain, Nicole, for I, too, once went on a date that was a disaster.] Jonathan and the men who did this to them are sentenced to life in jail, but it is not exactly a happy ending just yet.

Nicole has another battle to fight once she discovers she has HIV and Jessica must now face an unwanted pregnancy by a man who will forever haunt her dreams, the same man who is responsible for Nicole’s kidnapping. [Is it a happy ending now?] 

Jenna is a student at Temple University pursuing a career in publicity for a publishing house. [Get rid of this. I was about to complain that her her name's Jessica, not Jenna. Turns out Jenna's you. Your bio, if you include one, should be in first person, and if it includes nothing relevant, like you wrote a bestseller or were once abducted by human traffickers, you don't need one.] 

SHE’LL BREATHE AGAIN is a complete, 50,000 word young adult thriller. I would best describe [it] as “Crank” meets “Purge.” [I don't think it's a good idea to compare your book to these books, at least not without saying what's similar about them. A book of poetry about Estonia could be described as Crank meets Purge.] [Also, the reader may not be familiar with those books, while having seen the movies Crank and The Purge, which would not be good.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


It's too long, but fortunately you can dump paragraphs 1, 4 and 7. Unfortunately, what's left is a story about a girl whose misery is ended not by her actions, but by a police raid, and who has more misery to look forward to. People prefer to read about characters who take control and do stuff, not ones to whom stuff is done, and who do nothing to help themselves. 

In my opinion, it would be highly inefficient for a human trafficking ring to acquire their victims by dating them long enough to become their boyfriends and then sending in Borgo the Disemboweler as a "surprise gift." A blind date or a first date with someone encountered on the Internet would be more reasonable, though I suspect most victims are just grabbed off the street.

An occasional missing word, misused word, vague sentence, disorganized paragraph, etc. is no big deal, but they add up, and finding so many in a query letter may lead the reader to believe the book needs a lot of work.

We like specifics, but no need to be too specific in the query about things that are unimportant. That the restaurant is Italian, the leader's name is Don (it probably isn't) . . .  Three words describing the light bulb is a bit much.   

Jessica is important in the query only as she's involved with Nicole, who is your focus. We don't care what Jessica does after the two are separated. We might care what Jessica does to help Nicole (or vice versa) while they're in captivity.

Try putting your summary into three paragraphs. 
P1: Nicole's situation. (She's been kidnapped by human traffickers. What's happening to her? Three sentences.)
P2: What's her goal and her plan to achieve it? (Escape? Survival? How does Jessica give her the hope she needs to survive/not give up. Four sentences max.) 
P3: The wrap-up, wherein she decides to lead her fellow captives in revolt or plots revenge on her so-called boyfriend. So that readers find some tiny bit of pleasure in reading her story. Three sentences.)


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Very passive protagonist.

Anonymous said...

Most people who read thrillers aren't looking for stories about people who remain victims.

If this is more a story about survival in the face of adversity, your MC can probably get away with not rescuing herself, but you need to focus on that plot line in the query. Also, it will be a tough sell, and likely not to an agent/editor who wants thrillers.

If that's not the case, you need to show how the MC's actions impact the plot. Does she get a message out? Rally the other victims into barricading their room? Anything? If there isn't anything, you'd do better turning what's here into a subplot and making the MC one of the cops who raid the place or someone else who contributes to the rescue. (Your wordcount has room.)

Queries need correct grammar and punctuation. Always double check. If you don't see the problems here, your book may also need more work. Find a friend to help or study up.

Save the end of the book for the 1-2 page summary if one is requested. For the query you need the setup, plot progression, and a crisis/decision faced by the MC.

Good luck

InkAndPixelClub said...

When you're writing realistic fiction about a subject as serious as child trafficking, you need to make sure you have done your research. While I'm not the most knowledgeable on the subject, I'm not currently buying the "boyfriend lures girlfriend with a date at an Italian restaurant, then sells her into sex slavery" setup. If you've researched the topic thoroughly and found that this sort of thing does happen, then you're probably okay. If not, you may need to revise the beginning into so,etching more plausible.

Where does the story take place?

Did Jonathan promise Nicole a surprise gift? If he did, say so. If not, the strange man explaining that he is the surprise gift doesn't make sense.

Is Nicole in danger of dying? You say a lot about her fighting for her life and her chances of survival, but her situation seems to be more about whether she'll get free or not. If the traffickers have threatened to kill her, that needs to be in the query. Otherwise, make the language more specific to Nicole's situation.

I wouldn't bother mentioning Don if he only appears in the query once.

Other than that, I can only echo what everyone else is saying: Nicole needs to be seen taking some action and making some decisions. I realize that her options are limited as a sex trafficking victim, but it needs to be clear to an agent or editor why Nicole is your protagonist and why she's with Ruth reading about as opposed to any other character.

IMHO said...

From this query, it sounds like the girls are simply locked in a room somewhere until the police show up (a very inefficient business model as far as human trafficking goes). The revelation of HIV and pregnancy at the end comes out of nowhere. If this is a book about abduction, forced prostitution and sexual abuse, say it. Show it. Don't get all coy and rely on hints about "their fate" and "secrets better left unknown."

Anonymous said...

Sold, a book I didn't care for but which was a 2006 National Book Award finalist, is a YA novel about a girl who is trafficked. It's very hard reading and were it not for the fact that it's written in free verse and hence doesn't have very many words in it, I probably wouldn't have made it to the end as one damn depressing thing after another happens to the protagonist.

But she fights. She's the catalyst of her ultimate rescue, and the novel ends on an up-beat, with the promise that, while her life has been irrevocably altered, she's going to go to a boarding school for formerly-trafficked girls and things are going to get better.

Like I said, I didn't like the book. But it exists.