Monday, July 10, 2006

Face-Lift 109

Guess the Plot

Barely There

1. There's a guy who does some stuff, but then some other guy tries to stop him from doing the stuff, in a plot that is.....barely there.

2. Vince wants Kerri back; but can she trust a schizophrenic man who almost got her killed to advance his career with the French government?

3. Cecily hardly makes enough to provide for her three children after her skirt-chasing husband abandons her. A moral decision has to be made when she's offered the chance to become an exotic dancer to pay the bills.

4. Suffering from a malady that causes his body to shrink by 40% each year, Simon desperately wants to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. But Shari's wedding plans don't include a nine-inch-tall dwarf.

5. Joe Lamont streaks at Wimbledon during the women's semi-finals, hoping to win the attention of Missy Messina, the number-one seed. What he doesn't count on is the sniper in the crowd aiming at his crown jewels.

6. Jack Steele never expected to be forced to go to work for his sister's lingerie company. Now, up to his neck in panties, he must deal with an all-woman office and a rival company that put the "hostile" in takeover.

Original Version

I am seeking representation for Barely There, a 113,000-word commercial/political novel set in South America that deals with schizophrenia, genetically modified soy and child trafficking.

Kerri Mansfield felt the travel brochure should have come with a warning; “Welcome to Brazil, a country of endless beaches, velvety jungles and cities crumbling into desperate poverty. Please try to avoid the homeless children, drug rings and police death squads. If at all possible."

Because now Kerri has a problem. She has promised her bed-ridden sister-in-law that she will find two children she’s never met hidden in a country of 170 million. [Who are these children?] To do this, she bribes a prison guard and purchases an inmate, [How much for that stud in cell block 14, the one with the ripped biceps?]

[Kerri: I'd like to buy an inmate.
Prison Guard: Pardon me?
Kerri: An inmate. You do have some in stock, don't you?
Guard: I'm not sure you understand what--
Kerri: I'll give you $500 American.
Guard: Welcome to Cell-Mart.]

a victim of the violence and poverty in Brazil. The young prostitute, arrested for selling drugs in the slums, knows what happened to the children. [How does Kerri know that this woman knows?] But she doesn’t want to tell.

Worse still, Kerri runs into Vince, the man she left five years ago after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. [You're mentally ill? I'm outta here.] All she wants from Vince is his signature on the divorce papers, but his intentions appear romantic. Can she trust him when the last time they were together he put her life in danger to advance his career with the French Government? [Does he really love her, or does he just want her to buy into his genetically modified soy business?]

Vince: I want you back, Kerri.
Kerri: The last time I saw you, you were dangling me over a shark tank for the amusement of Jaques Chirac.
Vince: Hey, it got me the ambassadorship to Brazil, didn't it?

Kerri barely has time to be suspicious of Vince's strangely-timed change of heart. Her car explodes, her papers are lost, a seven day party begins, the prostitute vanishes and people start shooting at her. [Apparently they all miss.] Then things start to get complicated. [Hey, that line was in Face-Lift 72's query. Did you write that one too?]

Set during Carnaval, Brazil’s wildest and most anticipated celebration, Kerri [No, no, it's the book that's set during Carnaval, not Kerri.] finds that, sometimes, barely being there for someone is worse than not being there at all. [Not clear who is barely there for whom.]

Revised Version

Now that she was in Brazil, Kerri Mansfield wondered why the travel brochure, among its photographs of endless beaches and velvety jungles, hadn't included a warning: Please avoid the desperately impoverished slums, the drug rings, and the police death squads. Kerri had promised her bed-ridden sister-in-law Kim that she would find Kim's two missing foster children, hidden in a country of 170 million. But it was quickly becoming clear that she was in over her head.

To make matters worse, Kerri runs into Vince, the husband she left five years ago after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. All she wants from Vince is his signature on the divorce papers, but he's more interested in rekindling their romance than in closing the door on it. Before Kerri can even address her suspicions of Vince's motives, her car explodes, her papers are lost, a seven day party begins, and people start shooting at her.

Barely There is a 113,000-word commercial/political novel set during Carnaval, Brazil’s wildest and most eagerly anticipated celebration. The story deals with schizophrenia and child trafficking, and reveals that sometimes, barely being there for someone is worse than not being there at all. If you'd care to consider representing the book, I'd be happy to send along sample chapters or the complete manuscript.


The genetically modified soy and the purchased inmate only led to unanswered questions, so I cut them. You do need to identify the children.

I'm not sure this wouldn't be more interesting without Vince showing up. He's ancient history. Presumably it's not a coincidence, and presumably he is somehow involved in whatever happened to the kids or he helps find them. If not, I'd dump him. If so, why not make it clear in the query?


Fish Monkey said...

I want to know whether Vince really had a career with the French goverment, or if he was simply delusional.

Anonymous said...

One last note for the author, EE: I hope to hell you know what you're talking about when you say 'schizophrenic'. Contrary to popular belief, it does NOT mean 'to have a split personality'. That is called 'multiple personality disorder' if I'm not mistaken. Schizophrenia is something dramatically different.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be giggling at that "Cell-Mart" exchange for days.

Stacia said...

Those darn schizophrenics working for the French government...

Boy, dumping him because of his (usually controllable with medication) mental illness is kinda jerky of her, isn't it?

I think this could be good, but as EE said, too many unanswered questions. The query might want to mention something about the childrens' last known address, or something, so we don't think this woman flew to Brazil without a single lead and just luckily stumbled on people who know about them.

Anonymous said...

I would have started the first paragraph in present tense. but that is just me.

Anonymous said...

I hope the schizophrenia in the manuscript has more impact in the character's lives than one past incident.

Does it bother anyone else that she has apparently had divorce papers for this guy to sign for 5 years, but she never looked for him? She waits until she runs into him in Brazil?

"Vince! Hi! Gosh lucky I ran into you, I've been carrying these papers around for simply ages. Gotta pen?"

Anonymous said...

You know, I actually liked the original version. If the tone of the book is as loopy as the query, I bet it's a fun read. -A

ETA: Wait, wait. My word ver is actually "RX glue"? That could be the license plate for a horse doctor.

darth_giggles said...

"Cell-Mart: Always low prices. Always." Oi vey. Nicely done, E.E.

I found the title for this book to be...interesting. When I think of a book titled "Barely There" my mind automatically lumps it into the chick-lit genre (which tends to sport books that use titles like this as puns.) I.E. A title like "Barely There" conjures images of a bikini clad woman seeking romance in Brazil (not visions of a woman on a mission to fulfill her ailing sister-in-law's wish). The author may want to rethink the title if he (or she)doesn't want it to come off as a romance novel.

For further examples of such titles, (if anyone needs convincing) visit the Knight Agency's page and look for books titled as follows: "Bound and Determined," "Animal Instincts," "Strip Search," etc.
I rest my case.

Anonymous said...

I think some of this points out the difficulties in writing a query. How do you explain 113,000 words in one page? And do it justice?

Well, you can't, so you have to go with your gut on what to explain and an agent/editor has to be intrigued enough by the idea to see if you've covered his/her questions in the ms. Right?

I mean, the writing in the query is done very well (except maybe the dangling modifier, but that's an easy fix) so why not assume the author handled subjects well instead of assuming otherwise?

Queries are tough.


Lightsmith said...

"Barely There" doesn't sound like an appropriate title for this book. It suggests a story about a woman sleepwalking through her life. My suggestion? "Brazilian Whacks." Not really, but it should be something more spicy.

Also, the joke where you list a bunch of calamities and then add "and then things really started to get complicated!" is hackneyed and should be avoided, in my opinion. But then again, what do I know? I just made a terrible pun about a Brazilian wax.

Anonymous said...

EE your Cell-Mart comment should have come with a beverage alert! Thanks for the badly needed laugh.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or did anyone else start to get the feeling that this query was channeling "Romancing the stone"? Woman goes to a latin american country on a mission to help her sister and runs into a flakey guy that she falls in love with while dodging all sorts of people that are after her for mysterious reasons.

Yeah, the details are different (and sometimes, a major mental illness that is controlled with medication still leaves people pretty dysfunctional), but I was starting to have flashbacks.

Brenda said...

Well, crap. I was really diggin' #6 there.

And I about lost it on the RX Glue - license for a horse doctor.

Anonymous said...

I mean, the writing in the query is done very well (except maybe the dangling modifier, but that's an easy fix) so why not assume the author handled subjects well instead of assuming otherwise?

Good question, John. I think there are two things on display in a query: the writing, and the plot. Capable writing is easy to tell. We can even assume that a writer didn't spend as much time as he should on the language, and forgive the dangling modifiers. But a really good plot is a series of cause and effect: "Hamlet fakes crazy because the ghost of his father told him that his mother's new husband murdered him." A bad query would neglect links between characters and actions, or just list events, or insert characters with no explanation. Unlike the quality of writing, there's no reason to believe that the book makes more sense than the query implies. There probably are problems with the plot. Actions should flow from other actions, and if every element of the story needs to be explained individually, there's probably something wrong. -A