Thursday, December 06, 2018

Face-Lift 1386

Guess the Plot

Pickled Punk

1. Mike Maloney, a circus punk from Detroit grew up cleaning up after elephants and alcoholic clowns. When his ideas on modernizing the circus destroy it instead, he goes into hiding from the furious clown cabal. How long can he escape the swift justice of the International Clown Court?

2. There's this guy named Bob, and the author is way overqualified to be writing this, so the book should fly off the shelves, and any and all persons involved in its publication will be living the high life aboard a twenty-foot yacht with three years of booze included. 

3. Detective Martinez has the case of a lifetime. The punk found dead at the pickle factory turns out to be the heir to a billionaire. Dozens are suspect, but he can't get past a single question: How many pickled peppers did the pickled punk pilfer? 

4. When their only hit from the 70's is used as a movie theme song, the band Pickled Punk are suddenly awash with cash. And groupies. Then Rory Rotten agrees to transport a package home from Thailand for his cute new girlfriend, and the guy in customs makes him open the package, and this punk is in a real pickle.

5. Amanda Green couldn't be happier when her animated character Tickled Pink goes viral on the Internet. But where there's success, there's parody, and soon the poorly drawn, foul-mouthed "Pickled Punk" comes on the scene. When Punk becomes more popular than Pink, Amanda declares war on his creator- her brother. Their sibling rivalry divides the Internet and makes family gatherings much more interesting.

6. After some punk robs Amanda at gunpoint, he takes off running, but he trips and falls into a vat of balsamic vinegar. He can't swim, and he asks Amanda to help him, but she wants her purse back first, so he gives it to her and she still lets him drown. Also, an appearance by Emperor Tojo.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

A secret society of circus clowns, formed in reaction to the Nazi clown ban in occupied France, has infiltrated the Chambers of Commerce, Lions Clubs, VFW halls, and popular family restaurants throughout midwestern America. [Why?]

[Bozo: The Nazis have banned clowns in France.

Krusty: Then we must unite in a secret society here in the midwestern USA.

Pennywise: Makes sense. And we should infiltrate family restaurants.

Ronald:  How? I can't cook. I can't even make a decent hamburger.]

Pickled Punk tells the story of Mike Maloney, a circus punk from Detroit who grows up cleaning up after elephants and clowns, [Are clowns that messy? I'd clean up after a dozen clowns before I'd clean up after one elephant. Although I suppose most clowns would create a lot of empty liquor bottles and puke-covered bedsheets and bloody costumes from butchering children.] learns about heavy drinking and irresponsible sex from his dwarf coworkers, and gets promoted to business manager of the Great Western Circus of the Americas. [Was he qualified for this job?] Mike goes into hiding from the furious clown cabal after his grandiose ideas about how to modernize the circus end up destroying it instead. [Never mind previous question.]

Mike manages to avoid the certain and swift justice of the International Clown Court for twenty years. It's not until his secret protector in the circus dies and he's betrayed by his own sister that Mike is forced to go on the run. [Are the clowns he's on the run from driving a clown car? Just asking. ] [Why is it only the clowns who want revenge? If he destroyed the circus, I would think the lion tamers and guys who get shot out of cannons would also be pissed at him. Perhaps it's only clowns who've unionized.] Along the way, he's poisoned by a mysterious stranger, he picks up a con-woman companion, and he befriends the illegitimate son of a famous Russian entertainer.

Pickled Punk is my second novel and is complete at 103,000 words. I'm a professional technical writer and computer programming teacher, and I've authored or co-authored over a dozen published technical books.

I self-published my first novel in 2017, and it received good reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. I recorded an audiobook, built a website, and created a Facebook page that today has more than 5,000 followers.

The experience of self-publishing convinced me to seek representation by an agent for my second novel so that I can benefit from the help of an experienced editor and the distribution of a publisher. [This red stuff is unlikely to matter to an agent.]

I'd be happy to send you the complete manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,


There's a lot of stuff that sounds like it's really funny, and this could appeal to some agents, but I think the query is too listy. All three plot paragraphs include lists. Plus, many of the items being listed don't seem important enough to be in the query. Better to connect ideas so that you tell the main story. I can't tell if the story is mostly what happens after Mike goes on the run, or during the twenty years he's in hiding, or something else. 

Is there a second character important enough to be named, maybe the con-woman or Mike's secret protector in the circus, or his sister?

What does Mike want, what's keeping him from getting it, what's his plan to overcome this obstacle, what's at stake if he fails? Once you work all of that into a cohesive summary of the plot, you can embellish to show your humorous voice. But we need to know you have a story.

You could start: Mike Maloney, a one-time circus punk from Detroit, has risen through the ranks from cleaning up after elephants to apprentice clown to business manager of the Great Western Circus of the Americas. But when his grandiose ideas for modernizing the circus end up destroying it instead, he's forced into hiding by the furious clown cabal. 

Where you go from there depends. Maybe the circus is in his blood and he'll do whatever he has to to keep his feet in his giant shoes, which he does with the help of his secret protector. Or maybe he infiltrates Denny's and his ideas on how to modernize the restaurant make him a millionaire, but then his jealous sister rats him out to the International Clown Court.


Unknown said...

The tone of the query doesn't suggest humor, absurdist, or anything even remotely funny. It sounds like a bizarre, drug-fueled mess that wants to be Hunter Thompson but doesn't even land on the same planet.

Is there a way to convey humor in a query that doesn't make the book sound stupid?

Evil Editor said...

Obviously you're one of the many people who are deathly afraid of clowns. A secret clown cabal infiltrating Denny's is funny.

Mister Furkles said...

Best to add ‘originally’ in the first sentence “...clowns, originally formed...”

Second paragraph reads smoother if the phrase ‘Pickled Punk tells the story of’ because it contributes nothing to the query. Might also add ‘alcoholic’ before clowns. Then end that sentence there: period.
Next sentence starts with ‘He learns...’ Because queries should consist usually and mostly of short sentences not compound multi-clause sentences. (I don’t know why but it seems to work better for a query.)

I really like the idea of a society of clowns secretly trying to become Masters of the Universe