Sunday, July 16, 2006

Face-Lift 122

Guess the Plot

Fugue State

1. When the tiny nation of Balmagowry develops weapons of mass destruction, its despotic leader embarks on a worldwide campaign to forcibly replace hiphop with Baroque contrapuntal music.

2. Bob doesn't understand why he's so down...until he discovers the soul-sucking parasite attached to his head. This will ruin Bob's sex life--unless he can find the parasite a new victim!

3. After waking from a coma with amnesia, a scientist has visions of a beautiful woman. Are his visions a result of cranial damage? Images from his past? Or are they, as he suspects, a message from a celestial existence?

4. When the entire population of Montana suffer an abrupt change of identity, can Lieutenant Governor Grace Hackel save nine hundred thousand people who suddenly believe they're all opera singers? Or will she abandon them to pursue her own dream of performing at the Met?

5. Friedrich's wife ran off with a violinist--in Friedrich's car. After cleaning out Friedrich's bank accounts. His daughter ran off with a drummer, and took Friedrich's dog. Friedrich is pretty much fugued.

6. Maureen is distressed. Carter, the hunky composer she's been dating, disappeared for three days, and now he claims he can't remember anything about his past. Is he telling the truth, or is this a lame ploy to get Maureen to dump him?

Original Version

Dear EE

I have an 112,000 word work of literary fiction that I feel your expertise may be able to help traverse the road to publication.

“Fugue State” is the story of Sinjun Tate, a young, brilliant, behavioral science professor at Colorado University who awakens from a coma suffering what only seems to be amnesia. Motivated by a Dissociative Fugue, a condition that forces the victim of traumatic and repressed events to flee the environment around him, Sinjun wanders the streets of Denver, alone and destitute with faded hopes of piecing together the fragmented memories of his past.

Falling prey to violent, unconscious seizures that have scavenged his mind his awakening, he repeatedly sees the strange, lucid visions of a beautiful woman in a utopian land and of a little girl in a train station, both of who’s obscure advice is delicately woven into the answers he so desires. [Well, it didn't take long for this to go from, Hey, this might be interesting, to Next query.] Can he unravel the mystery of their vague existence? Are these visions simply the result of cranial damage done by the unknown cause of his coma? [If he knows he was in a coma, I assume he woke up in a hospital. If you wake up from a coma, and the cause of the coma is unknown, and you have amnesia, are they likely to release you?] Or are these idyllic dreamscapes something more? Perhaps a subconscious attempt to free his own tortured soul from an unbearable past? Or could they be a message from a more…celestial existence? [I keep seeing visions of a little girl in a train station. No doubt someone on a planet orbiting Rigel Kentaurus is trying to send me a message.] [Oh, right, I was supposed to pick up my daughter at the station . . . How long was I in the coma?]

As he begins to unearth all the cosmic possibilities of his minds illustrations, he encounters a society of malevolent drifters who live beneath the social lining of Denver’s lower downtown district. [It's a winter coat metaphor. The lower downtown district is a coat, Coors Field is the lining, and the drifters live in the catacombs beneath the stadium.] Fueled by carnal instincts, the clan of mysterious vagabonds deviously coerce him through a labyrinth of conflict, threatening to derail him from his desperate search. [I hate it when a writer first discovers the thesaurus.]

When a chance reunion with an attractive former student occurs, he realizes, despite his deteriorating psyche, that he must keep her existence in focus as she may be the only one who can help him escape the wrath of destitution and uncover the cause of his mind’s affliction. This however, will prove to be the worst scenario of all as Sinjun’s once ambiguous reveries eventually suggest a truth more horrible than his own potential end. [I'm sure you know what you're trying to say, but you're trying to say it too impressively, and it's falling flat.]

“Fugue State” is a multidimensional literary journey through similar themes of “What Dreams May Come” with the maddening psychological uncertainty of “Memento”. [Good movie. Though the idea of showing scenes in reverse order was done two years earlier in Seinfeld's wedding in India episode. No doubt they stole it from someone else.] [Describing your book by referencing a movie is unlikely to help.] Various chapter flashbacks chronologically carry the reader through Sinjun’s life to the ultimate point of conflict just as Sinjun arrives there himself.

My wife and I moved to Colorado from our Connecticut home in September of 2005, in an attempt to bring as much truth to the setting as possible. This is my first complete manuscript and I declare that so far, I am simply a lifetime writer of hobby. I do hope that my talents will present a respectable resume in place of a portfolio.

I am confident that this work will strike an interest you. If so, I look forward to further correspondence. However, I am extremely appreciative of the time you’ve taken in reading this regardless, and wish you continued success in all your evil endeavors.


Revised Version

Dear EE

Fugue State is the story of Sinjun Tate, a young, brilliant behavioral science professor at Colorado University who awakens from a coma suffering what seems to be amnesia. Driven by a Dissociative Fugue, a condition that forces the victim of traumatic and repressed events to flee the environment around him, Sinjun wanders the streets of Denver, alone and destitute.

With fading hopes of piecing together his fragmented memories, Sinjun repeatedly sees lucid visions of a little girl in a train station and of a beautiful woman. Are these visions simply lingering effects of his coma? Or are they perhaps a subconscious attempt to free his tortured soul from an unbearable past?

A chance encounter with a former student gives Sinjun an opportunity to find the source of his mind’s affliction--if he can pull himself together. But even as he learns more about his past--and his visions--he realizes that discovering the truth may him lead down the most horrifying path of all.

Fugue State is a 112,000-word work of literary fiction. May I submit the manuscript for your consideration? I am extremely appreciative of the time you’ve taken in reading this.



The revised version is nothing to write home about, but all you've provided is a character wandering around in a fugue state and a few details that may not even be important.

I believe you'd be far better off discussing your book in language you normally use in conversation. Editors are more interested in your ability to organize and convey information than in your vocabulary. If the book sounds like the letter, you need to go through it again and take out all the big words. They aren't helping your cause in the letter or the book. Sorry.


Anonymous said...

The name Sinjun bothers me - either you are a St. John (pronounced the English way) or an injun, which is not likely and is somewhat offensive these days unless you are also Mark Twain, also unlikely.

This could be one heck of a mystery/thriller if it didn't sound like such a downer. I want to know what happens to this guy!

Anonymous said...

"Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do."

Posted by Miss Snark and titled "How to Write Good"

This submitter should pay the Stilletto-shod Snark a visit -on bended knee bearing a pail of gin. -JTC

Anonymous said...

This actually sounds like an ESL query. Is it?

No comma after "brilliant."

Word ver "hyfwk"--ok, that just sounds dirty.

Anonymous said...

"My wife and I moved to Colorado from our Connecticut home in September of 2005, in an attempt to bring as much truth to the setting as possible."

Colorado didn't have enough truth in its setting?

On EE's revision: The celestial thingabobby completely disappeared. Frankly, I think I prefer the premise as EE presented it, without the celestial thingabobby--even though I suspect that the "truth more horrible" somehow involves the celestial thingabobby.

Anonymous said...

Chlamydia? That's an STD! If someone's parent's gave him/her that name, she/he should have the right to sue, imho. :-)

We are told that Sinjun is a "behavioral science professor at Colorado University", but he has amnesia and when he is released, he wanders the streets alone -- so how the heck does he (presumably the POV character) know that he's a prof at the local college?

Stacia said...

"My wife and I moved to Colorado from our Connecticut home in September of 2005, in an attempt to bring as much truth to the setting as possible."

Must be nice. I would have been forced to just set the book in Connecticut, as I cannot afford to move whenever I'm writing a book that may not sell.

Your wife is a real keeper, man. Go buy her some flowers.

Feemus said...

I wanted to hear about Bob and his parasite. For what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

Sinjun or Cinjun is a real name (might be Cajun) And there's a real live dude named Cinjun Tate -- lead singer/songwriter for the rock band Remy Zero. Since it's a rather unusual name, you might want to consider another option.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with unusual/foreign names? I got more problem with another Kate/Mike/John, because everyone seemes to have those names. Unless you do fantasy.

The plot seems interesting, especially if there is action.

Anonymous said...

Author: From what we heard so far from both EE and Ms Snark, is that you've got to be more specific. Are there aliens/spirits/drugs involved? Depending on whichever of these factors you have, you get a different genre. Some publishers might be more interested in supernatural aspect, others in "personal trauma" stories... Well, you understand. So be specific.

From what I heard, it sounds cool. 'Break a leg'.

(wv: pchiu - Pikachu? Yuck...)

Anonymous said...

My synapses got seriously jangled up trying to make sense of that query...A word of advice (actually three words) to the author - brevity, simplicity, clarity...

Anonymous said...

My dad was a dr. During his ob rotation, years ago, he saw some pretty horrific names. The most memorable? Twin girls named GoNorea (gu-NOR-ee-uh) and SiPhyllis (si-FILL-us). Those names went on the birth certificate because illiterate mom thought they were pretty. They'd be women in late middle age by now. I often wonder how they survived school.
(Name changed to protect my dad!)

Anonymous said...

My husband really did suffer amnesia (long story -- involved a farm accident) Based on his experience, I'm wondering who let Sinjun out of the hospital!

Evil Editor said...

Lipstick on my collar? I have no idea where that came from, honey. I don't remember anything about last night. Must be amnesia. Hey, what do you think you're doing with that pitchfork?

Anonymous said...

EE, what are you doing up at this hour?

Me? I'm bummed, got a painful rejection today. She said she was specifically looking for a story about that, which meant that mine had to be particularly bad to get blown off. Next sentence said she felt like "she was being told a story" rather than "living the story." I don't even know what to think now...

So I got out of bed to work on one of my many WIP. I'll show that dumb agent!

Anonymous said...

Oh, EE! You should have told her the truth...

You were working late last nignt, right? There you were, in the slush pile, up to your elbows in queries... Suddenly, something hit you on the head. You stumbled, yet you kept your balance. You turned around, fearless, to face your attacker. It was... a band of psycotic female writers, holding 500 page long manuscripts!

Of course, you tell your wife, you fought them off, with all your might.

Anonymous said...

"...society of malevolent drifters who live beneath the social lining of Denver’s lower downtown district."

Okay, I'm all for more Colorado writers, especially Denver-based writers, but vagabond clans in Lodo? Has this guy ever been to Lodo? Maybe ten, fifteen years ago, yes, it was derelict paradise, but it's now the new party vein of the city, and there's so many cops kicking the vagabonds out of Lodo, it's hardly a bum-ridden area.
Nowdays, the only drunks in Lodo are twenty-one year olds peeing down sidestreets in their designer pants and silk shirts. Hardly the type of "malovent drifter" he conjures up.

Now, if you want bums, walk around the capital building at night. That's where the bums hang out.

@crrwrites said...

"My wife and I moved to Colorado from our Connecticut home ...etc.

December Quinn said: Must be nice. I would have been forced to just set the book in Connecticut, as I cannot afford to move whenever I'm writing a book that may not sell.

Your wife is a real keeper, man. Go buy her some flowers.

Chris says to that:
Trust me its certainly not like that. We left a 78,000 income for a 32,000 income here so that I could write this book. We've defaulted on all our loans and my car has been reposessed. We've eaten pasta for 4 days straight. So no. It's not "nice" but damn it, the book will be published.

And I appreciate all the comments, good and bad. But for crying out loud, most of you want specifice details and then you want me to waste valuable time explaining how he got out of the hospital. Let's be reasonable.

Nikki said...

Oh dear, and I thought Ayla and Jondalar were bad choices for siblings.

Anonymous-with-the-rejection-letter, try putting the first few pages through Elektra's Crapometer - - and seeing what feedback you get.

Unknown said...

Anonymous-with-the-rejection-letter -- this is just part of the process. But you're doing the right thing getting back to work. The more you write, the better you get. Showing not telling is very important as well as not slipping into passive voice. Put it away for awhile, lick your wounds, write some more then re-read it and see if you can't understand what the editor was talking about. At least he/she took the time to explain what he/she found wrong. That's a big bonus.

Chris -- living your dream is all well and good, but don't ruin your life over it. Go back to CT or get a better job. It's a long road to publishing and when you sign that golden contract, it's even a longer road before you realize any financial stability. Oh yeah, and if you can't take the heat -- don't step into the frying pan.

Anonymous said...

Thanks TLH and Nikki, I'll try both those things...

.... "painful rejection guy"

p.s. at least I didn't move to another state, have my car reposessed and go on a pasta diet, things could be worse.

Anonymous said...

To "painful rejection guy" --

Sorry about the rejection, but kudos to you for your determination to show that dumb agent! I'm sure you will.

As to the agent's comment about being told rather than living the story: Perhaps you need to re-visit the issue of point of view in your manuscript.

Just a thought. Good luck with your writing.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The story could use some brutal eunuchs. I saw one in LODO yesterday so the element of realism is there. He (?) was complaining to the metermaid about a parking ticket he was issued.

Anonymous said...

When people pull out those tired old Female, Chlamydia and Syphilis name jokes and act as if they're true, I always wonder, are they really gullible enough to believe them, or are they just trying to see if everyone else is?

Anonymous said...

To Chris,

Your post here is a zillion times more readable than your query. Please listen to EE's point about "discussing your book in language you normally use in conversation."

Anonymous said...

Chris: Take December Quinn's advise about those flowers. Especially after what you just said, about the reduced income and... oh, horror! Pasta diet!

Word of advice: my grandmother makes home made pasta. It's easy, just mix some flour and water, make the dough, cut it with a knife, in tiny strips... Just in case, you decide to move again, and this time have even less money.

Finally: try not to lighten up.

PS: I nominate Chris' wife for sainthood.

Okay, end of episode.

@crrwrites said...

If I needed advice on a personal level I would write Dr. Phil. All I wanted was to get some critique on the query -which I did, some - and for that I thank you. No martyr here. Just keeping the blogospheres personal assumptions in line.

I should have my own blog up and running tonight. I have decided, in my apparent non-wisdom of the subject to chronical each and every step of the road to publication. A writer takes his blogopanions on a journey through the wicked and wonderous paths to publication. I'm sure all or most of you have or are currently traveling the same path but I think it will be fun for everyone to follow day by day, the eventual success or eventual failure of one of their own. I invite you all to join me for whatever pleasure you see fit. I will leave detailed updates, from agent comments to my own thought process with the writing. I will periodically submit excerpts, pages and maybe even chapters, thus throwing myself to you, the proverbial wolves. Maybe all I need is a stronger query letter. Maybe I need to burn the entire manuscript. Either way, let's find out what happens together. There is no underlying motive here. I'm going through with it as I've planned all along. I just thought this might be fun...Go ahead, hammer away...

@crrwrites said...

The Blog is at ""

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that Chris is new to this write, query, submit, get rejected cycle.

...painful rejection guy

Anonymous said...

This guy doesn't get it. It wasn't just using long words that didn't work. It was spelling them wrong and using them incorrectly that didn't work.

You can't fake a world-class vocabulary. Even a high school kid will see right through you. The good news is that you don't need a world-class vocabulary.

I still think the story Chris wrote is good. It probably needs to be revised the same way his letter did though. But the combination of his arrogance about his own work and his ignorance of how long it can take even to get his attention -- it's going to be fatal.

Anonymous said...

I dunno... Maybe Dr Phil is a good idea, Chris, to work off some of that anger. Oh, well, good luck anyway. Hope you can manage to cool down, long enough to REVISE. Its not the end of the world... Wait a minute, it is, cause you just addressed THE ULTIMATE EVIL(editor). Bahahaha!!!
End of pity.

Nikki said...


Please, please, please - you mean chronicle, not chronical.

I know it's only a blog comment, but're a writer. You're meant to care.

You could also try putting work through Elektra's Crapometer, if you genuinely want feedback.

Anonymous said...

Just out of interest, was it his idea or his wife's to move house and swap the big fat paycheck for a pasta-based diet?

Feisty said...

There's got to be more to this story than we know. I just wish I got the point of the story. I didn't.