Thursday, July 06, 2006

Face-Lift 102

Guess the Plot

A Better Life

1. When "why-Pod," "8-Up," and "The Perpetual Motion Mousetrap" drive him into bankruptcy, manic inventor Dodge Dilligence bets all on an update of the beloved board game.

2. Burned-out nine-to-fiver Lon Mercer quits his dead-end job in a sewage treatment facility to accept a position as CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

3. Hollis Dixon becomes a car salesman to provide for his children, and eventually achieves the American Dream: his own dealership and a starring role in its annoying commercials. Ironically, his children remain miserable.

4. Quick-build housing company Anderson Builders, with their slogan, "A Better Life," posted first quarter profits over ten million dollars. But Jonesy Dayton found his new home hazardous to his health. Now it's Jonesy versus the goliath corporation--if he lives long enough to expose the truth.

5. Bovine Bessy has eyed the lush bluegrass on the other side of the cattle fence for a while. When a freak lightning bolt transforms her from cow to human, the farmer catches her climbing his fence and has her arrested for attempted cattle rustling.

6. Desdemona Botts, a marine biologist charting the lingering effects of radiation from the nuclear blasts at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, discovers a bizarre creature. Her fascination with the mutant beast soon turns to impassioned love.

Original Version

A Better Life is the tragic and sometimes comic story of Hollis Dixon, a boy who has grown up in abusive rural poverty who finds he must turn down a scholarship to Colgate University in order to raise his fraternal twin children by himself. Hollis is determined to give his babies a better life than he had and finds that he has a knack for car sales. Spending eighty hours a week convincing people they can afford the leather upgrade [My car salesman convinced me I couldn't afford not to get the leather upgrade. Now I get third degree burns whenever I get in the car in the summer.] [Maybe I should stop driving in the nude.] buys his family a house of their own, and a solid foothold into middleclass. [Not to mention costing 5000 cows their hides.] But Hollis never shakes his fear of poverty, he needs more. By the time his children, Robert and Joanna, are in high school, Hollis is running his own successful dealership, complete with larger than life photos of himself on billboards and thirty second local commercial spots. [Evil Editor believes you'll find few readers who want to read the life story of a guy who does those local car dealership commercials, unless the book cover shows him getting eaten by sharks.] It never occurs to Hollis that he has failed his children. [Their friends mock them mercilessly because of Hollis's commercials.] Only after receiving a late night phone call from his twenty-seven year old divorced daughter does Hollis seriously consider his part in his children’s failures.

[Joanna: Hi, it's your daughter. Sorry to call so late.
Hollis: What's up, Sweetie?
Joanna: Bastard. My psychiatrist says it's your fault I got divorced last year.
Hollis: You mean from the wife-beating crack addict who's now in prison, the one I begged you not to marry in the first place?
Joanna: Yes. My psychiatrist says you ruined his life too.
Hollis: I ruined your husband's life?
Joanna: No, you ruined my psychiatrist's life. He flew into a rage during one of your obnoxious commercials and threw a toaster through his plasma television, causing his wife to miss the tribal council at the end of Survivor. So she divorced him for mental cruelty and took everything. Now he wants me to marry him. He says if I say No he'll kill himself, but first he'll kill you. By the way, call Robert. My psychiatrist thinks you probably ruined his life too.]

Hollis takes off on an uncharacteristically spontaneous journey to visit his son in California in hopes of finding evidence to deny at least some of his daughter’s claims, but instead, finds that he is just in time to witness the ugly end of Robert’s marriage and the revelation of numerous lies that confirm his daughter’s suspicions. [Aren't revelations usually truths?]

A Better Life shows us a man who, at least in appearance, has achieved the American dream. It is only after seeing the lives of his children unravel that he realizes the better life he promised could have been purchased with far less.

I would be happy to send you a copy of the completed 100,000 word manuscript for your review. Thank you again. [Again?]

Revised Version

A Better Life is the tragic story of Hollis Dixon, who grew up in poverty, and who finds he must turn down a scholarship to Colgate University in order to raise his children by himself. Determined to give his twin babies a better life than he had, Hollis takes a job selling cars.

Eighty hours a week convincing people they can afford the leather upgrade buys his family a house and a solid foothold in the middle class, but means precious little time spent with his children, Robert and Joanna. By the time they're in high school, Hollis is running his own successful dealership, oblivious to the fact that his workaholic ways are doing his children more harm than good.

At the age of twenty-seven, Joanna phones Hollis one night, demanding that he accept some of the responsibility for the unraveling of her life, and claiming that her brother is probably no better off. Hollis leaves for Robert's home in California, hoping to discover Joanna is wrong. Instead he is hit with revelations that confirm his daughter’s suspicions.

A Better Life shows us a man who, to all appearances, has achieved the American dream, but whose fear of poverty has brought perhaps irreparable harm to his children. The better lives he vowed to give them could more easily have been purchased with time than with money.

I would be happy to send you a copy of the completed 100,000 word manuscript for your review. Thank you.


What does Joanna blame Hollis for besides her divorce? Presumably the kids had someone caring for them while Hollis was at work. Were they miserable? They've been out of the house for almost ten years. Have they been less miserable on their own? Evil Editor isn't defending 80-hour work weeks while raising kids, but I'd rather hear that Joanna is in therapy three times a week because she had no father figure in her life, than merely that she's a divorced 27-year-old. The fact that Robert and Joanne have broken marriages isn't so unusual that we must look for an obvious cause and settle on Hollis, so tell us what else has gone wrong in their lives.

Hollis Dixon is the name of a Muscle Shoals bandleader/singer from the 60's, 70's. Maybe you should change the name to keep people from thinking this is biographical.


Bernita said...

Dump on Old Dad.

Anonymous said...

I like it alot...

Anonymous said...

Guessed right again. (Helped by the fact that EE chose 2 of my submissions! Yay!--And edited them masterfully-another Yay!)

I'm with "Bernita." By the time kids are in their 20's, their blunders and problems are no longer dad's fault, if they ever were, especially if he worked hard, gave them food, clothing, shelter-and some love (which he must have, as he chose to stay with them and support them, etc.)

So, while Dad may have regrets about his choices, I think it's not "true" that he failed his kids (and thus find the premise unfulfilling and the novel something I'd not pick up to read).

BTW, EE, you've listed "original" version twice, forgot to denote revised version.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Hollis didn't remarry after a year or two.

Daisy Bateman said...

Reading about a hard-working father being blamed by his children for their screwed-up personal lives: depressing.

Reading about the guy who makes those annoying car dealership ads being blamed by his children for their screwed-up personal lives: hilarious.

It's all about the context.

Kathryn said...

Did he do wacky commercials, because that would put the kids in therapy.

Anonymous said...

I think the author should take EE's advise about the cover. That alone would sell the book. Better yet, just make up posters of car salesmen being killed and devoured by different creatures. You could make a fortune. -JTC

Cheryl said...

My husband is in a goofy car dealership commercial. I totally understand the pain and embarrasment suffered on the family. At least if the kids get screwed up, we can blame him!

Anonymous said...

I don't quite get where this story actually starts. Is it when poor young Hollis gives up his dreams of academia for fatherhood (and where's mommy?)? Or is it when the late-night phone call from his messed-up daughter shatters his innocent belief that doing the best you can with the hand you're dealt is a good enough way to raise children?

What does Hollis discover on his journey besides that his son's marriage is also on the rocks (hardly a revelation these days)? That he really, secretly resents those snotty twins because he gave up his dreams for them, and he's going to beat them senseless now for their base ingratitude? That he really, secretly, was terrified to take up his scholarship and begat the twins as an act of self-sabotage? That his facade of lifelong self-abegnation covered a callous disregard for the welfare of his children when they weren't appearing in his tacky commercials?

I don't get a sense where the story concludes, either. Does he die alone and friendless after chasing money all his life? Does he reconcile with the ungrateful monsters by groveling, or have they grown up enough that reconciliation-without-abasement becomes possible?

In short, the summary isn't telling me enough about the story. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

As others have said, the only thing more annoying that obnoxious car salesmen are children who don't appreciate a father who did the best he could (whether that was enough or not).

If this book is comic, maybe the query should be as well?