Monday, July 17, 2006

Face-Lift 123

Guess the Plot

Giovanni and the Magi

1. Time traveler Giovanni intercepts the Magi outside of Bethlehem and replaces the frankincense with sensimilla, dooming Jesus to be forever pictured as a long-haired hippie.

2. While following yonder star, the three wise men find themselves in Rome. Lost and confused, they must depend on Giovanni, the senile mapmaker, to get them back on their path to destiny.

3. A letter to God? A joke, thinks post office paper pusher Giovanni Galli. But opening the envelope plunges him into the mystery of mailbox 666.

4. At Christmas, Mandi and Daniel each make great sacrifices in hopes of providing the other with happiness. Will their sacrifices tragically render their gifts useless? Or will Giovanni MAGIcally save the day with his Deus ex Machina appearance?

5. The true story of what happened that fateful night when three rich, swarthy travelers asked for directions to the stable, but could not speak Italian.

6. Italian chemist Giovanni Brutto's latest elixir transports him back to the time of the Slaughter of the Innocents. Should he save his Savior? Or will that mean the end of Christianity?

Original Version

Dear Evil Sir,

Giovanni and The Magi is a 126,000 word manuscript about life, love, and a robot. Despite the bit about the robot, it still falls into the genre of general fiction. [On the other hand, because of the bit about the robot, it already sounds more interesting than most general fiction.]

Daniel West's life isn't perfect, but it is uncomplicated. He hates Los Angeles, and he hates the little research company he was given as a booby prize after he finally got kicked out of college for the last time. Still, life is simple, and at least LA is hundreds of miles from New York, [At least.] where his domineering father keeps an iron grip on the family business,West Corporation International. [Boring.] Business is in his blood, so Daniel settles down in LA and does the simple things he knows how to do to revitalize his little research company. He even meets a nice woman. [Yawn.]

Mandi has a few secrets, but all Daniel sees is a brilliant and beautiful woman who chose to be a partner in a home improvement business rather than hide in the ivory tower of academia. [Snore.] He thinks her obsession with robots [Robots!! Did you say robots? Now we're getting somewhere.] is just an adorable quirk, and that her fondness for whips and chains [Bingo! Isn't there some way to get the whips and chains up front?] is an exhilarating change of pace.

[Oh, Mandi . . .
Well you chained me and whipped me with feeling,
Till my buttocks were bleeding, oh Mandi . . . ]

She has a lot of strange friends, including the reclusive Giovanni who Daniel has never met. Daniel himself doesn't really have any friends, so he tries not to be judgmental.

Then one day Mandi witnesses a minor act of his father's brutality [Also involving whips and chains, but not handled with the same tenderness Mandi uses.] and Daniel is forced to begin dealing with what a complicated mess his life really is:

His family has a secret: Neither he nor his father has come to terms with his mother's suicide, and it seems neither can begin to find a resolution without the other. Unfortunately, both men struggle to protect their weaknesses and the fallout hurts everyone around them, especially each other. [They're 3000 miles apart.] [Daniel has no friends, so whom is the fallout hurting?] Arthur West, Daniel's father, takes drastic measures, including blackmail and kidnapping, [Who does he kidnap? Mandi? Does she get free when her laser-firing robot rescues her?] to protect Daniel from a woman he believes will leave his son with the same wounds he himself bears after his wife's suicide. [He thinks Mandi will commit suicide? Or he thinks she'll leave Daniel, and this would be just as painful as if she'd committed suicide?] [How can he have such strong opinions about Mandi when he lives in NY and she lives in CA?] Even while resisting his father's attempts to break them up, Daniel does a good job of screwing up his relationship with Mandi all on his own by sleeping with an ex-lover. [He moves to California where he has no friends, but ex-lovers he's got?] [Not so "ex," actually.]

His simple life in pieces all around him, Daniel takes refuge in a bottle of codeine and a bottle of scotch and wakes up in the hospital where he is forced to realize he has to stop hiding from his own life.

As he begins to reconcile with Mandi and confront his father about the past, Daniel learns some astonishing secrets about his parents' relationship [They were Siamese twins who had a Vaudeville comedy act known as Pimp and Hooker.] and finds out that Mandi is a lot more than she appears to be, [Amazing what vertical stripes can do for your figure.] and that Giovanni is a very unique and useful kind of friend.

Reconciled, both Mandi and Daniel realize that their secrets keep them lonely, and come the Christmas season both make great sacrifices to free themselves from the past and bring happiness to each other. [Daniel sells his research company for the money to buy Mandi the part she needs to give her favorite robot human emotions, only to discover that Mandi sold her favorite robot to buy Daniel a gag plaque to hang on his office wall that reads, "Don't ask me; I only own the place."] Fortunately, Giovanni redeems their sacrifices with some literal Deus ex Machina. Daniel and his father begin the long process of coping with his mother's death, and in the end. . .well, it's complicated, but that's life.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I can be contacted via e-mail or phone [cut because the Evil Editor doesn't need to know my phone number], [Nobody needs or wants to know your phone number, except telemarketers.] and have included a SASE if you prefer to reply via post.


Revised Version

Dear Evil Sir,

Daniel West hates Los Angeles, but at least it's thousands of miles from New York, where his domineering father keeps an iron grip on the family business. When he meets Mandi, a woman with mysterious secrets, all Daniel sees is a brilliant and beautiful woman--albeit one who's obsessed with robots, who's into whips and chains, and who has a lot of very strange friends.

Neither Daniel nor his father has come to terms with Daniel's mother's suicide. Daniel's father worries that Mandi will leave his son with the same wounds he himself bears after his wife's death. He takes drastic measures to drive a wedge between Daniel and Mandi, including blackmail and kidnapping.

His simple life in pieces, Daniel takes refuge in a bottle of codeine and a bottle of scotch and wakes up in the hospital, where he decides he must stop hiding from his own life. He reconciles with Mandi; together they realize that their secrets have kept them lonely. Come the Christmas season, both make great sacrifices to finally free themselves from the past and bring happiness to each other.

Giovanni and The Magi is a 126,000 word manuscript about life, love, and a robot. Thank you for giving it your consideration. I can be contacted via e-mail, and have included a SASE if you prefer to reply via post.



It's not clear how big a role Giovanni plays in the book, but his role in the query was minimal, and I found it easier to eliminate him than to have him pop in at the end to solve a problem, when it isn't clear what the problem is to begin with. Whether you need Giovanni in the query I can't say, but if so, you haven't shown why. Presumably he's the robot? Perhaps you need to spell out why his intervention is needed at the end. It sounded like we were close to Happily Ever After without him.


Anonymous said...

Without seeing the entire story it's hard to say, but you might want to reconsider the ending. That "Gift of the Magi" ripoff feels artificially grafted onto a rather interesting story of modern life and conflict. The story seems like it might want to end in either hard-earned satisfaction or violence and discord, but not delicate irony.

Just a thought, and possibly way off target.

Bernita said...

Like Bonniers, didn't care for what looked like a Gift of the Magi rip-off.

Novelust said...

You might reconsider the title. 'Life, Love, and a Robot' sounds awesome... granted, it doesn't seem quite like the book you're selling, unless Mandi turns out to be the robot - and is this set in a gritty, Bladerunner-type future? (Please?)

Anonymous said...

Thanks to fake plot # 1 I finally realize why Jesus looks like a hippie. Hooray!

Jean said...

Thanks EE...

I'll never think of "Mandi" the same...ever!

Anonymous said...

Evil Editor, I'm spitting coffee now! How undignified. I will overlook it, however, as you provide a valuable service to aspiring writers.

Those Mandi lyrics!!! "Did you say robots?" snort snort

Dear Author, EE boiled your plot down into a logical sequence. Given that everyone here has a penchant for name changing, I'd like to recommend you name the book The Robot and The Magi, assuming Giovanni is the robot.

Also, this seems like more of a romance to me, and if the whips and chains are employed in a sex act this is Romantica. But what do I know.

Anonymous said...

I liked EE's take on the query: interesting and to the point. And I agree with him that it doesn't seem as if Giovanni (whom I also took to be the robot) has much to do with the plot - although without reading the story, there's no way to know for sure.

I also agree that if Giovanni doesn't have that much to do with the plot, maybe you should rename your story. (It's tough to come up with a good one, isn't it? I know it's been for my current WIP, which I have a feeling I'll have to rename yet again. Sigh.)

Anyway, it does sound like an interesting story. Good luck with it.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like an unsatisfying ending, O Henry homage or not. I suggest blowing up a helicopter.

Anonymous said...

Okay, is it like... a sexbot?

Now that's interesting, with or without the whips and chains.

Anonymous said...

I think the author is slightly confused... The father wasn't trying to protect his son, he was trying to get Mandy for himself.

Call it: "A Girl with a Whip", you'll definitly get more readers for that...

Anonymous said...

Sounds just like my ex-wife. You know, from before... Does Daniel wind up loosing a body part?

Anonymous said...

Eunuch: You had a WIFE? Now I've heard everything.