Friday, August 18, 2006

Face-Lift 160

Guess the Plot

The Life of Nicolas Parlier

1. Nick has terminal cancer and an insurance policy with an air-tight exclusion clause. Determined to provide for his family, he volunteers his services as a scout for a hunting party of drunks.

2. Nick massages the deal points and gets a very nice contract for his author, Santo Mas. But when Mas takes his next offering, a sure blockbuster, to a different agent, Nick talks less and gets his gun ready.

3. Nicolas Parlier is dead. But how? The circus performers who raised him gather under the Big Top the night of his murder. Together they laugh, cry, tumble and toast, and attempt to unravel the monkey-riddled mystery...of the Life of Nicolas Parlier.

4. From the grimy back alleys of Paris to the mysterious open-air markets of Istanbul, we follow Nicolas Parlier as he navigates around the world with his family and his monstrous dog.

5. From the grimy back alleys of Paris to the mangrove swamps of Burma, we follow Nicolas Parlier in his poignant efforts to find the mother who abandoned him, the Mademoiselle from Armentiers.

6. From the grimy back alleys of Paris to the Palace of Fontainebleau, we follow Nicolas Parlier as he survives the French Revolution by first pretending to be poor, then pretending to be rich, and finally pretending to be interesting.

Original Version

RE: Adventure by Adventure; The Life of Nicolas Parlier (Query)

Dear Ms. ___________,

Joshua Mowll's Operation Red Jericho caught my eye with its clever use of graphics that succeed in drawing the reader into Rebecca and Doug's universe. I have written a story (the first in a series) in the same genre as Mr. Mowll's and hope that you will consider representing my work. [Is the genre the only similarity? Does your book also cleverly use graphics to draw the reader in? If not, I wouldn't bring up that point.]

With an atmospheric physicist, obsessed with sailing, for a husband and my own work as an anthropologist and teacher I have run into my fair share of characters with true histories of survival and daring; most recently in Istanbul, Dakar, Sao Paulo.... These elements plus a dose of charm and just plain fun make up the personalities and stories of the Adventure by Adventure series. [That sounds good, but I can't say I know what is meant by the phrase "Adventure by Adventure."]

Nicolas is a twelve year old from Paris with a dry sense of humor and a flair for seeing the logic of science in everything. As he navigates around the world with his parents, quirky kid sister and monstrous dog his reputation as an adventurer grows with each scrape and escapade. In less than 60,000 words the first story, La Cachette*, shows how even an ordinary boy can start on the road to becoming a legend—with a little nudge from one mean teacher, two class bullies, a devious politician and a missing treasure. [I was under the impression The Life of Nicolas Parlier was the first book in the Adventure by Adventure series. Is La Cachette the first book? In the Adventure by Adventure: The Life of Nicolas Parlier series? That would be an unwieldy title for a series. Is this a novel, or a collection of stories about Nicolas? Will Nicolas be the star of the future books? Whatever the title, you've provided only three sentences about the book you're offering. It's fine to tell the agent why you chose her and something about yourself, but not at the expense of describing the book.] [This is like going into a furniture store to buy a mattress, and it goes:

Salesman: Looking for a mattress?
You: Yes, I--
Salesman: I knew you were. I chose to approach you because you remind me of the people I sold a mattress to last week. The Sinclairs. Know them?
You: No--
Salesman: I've been sleeping on mattresses for decades, and so has my wife, who's narcoleptic, so trust me, I know what you're looking for.
You: Can I try--
Salesman: You want to try one out? You're not allowed to sleep in the store, but . . . I'll let you touch one for a few seconds.]

Is this the type of series that would interest you? If so, could you send me your submission guidelines. Sorry for the bother but e-mail is the best way to reach me as I will be sailing and without a fixed postal address for the next few weeks. [A few weeks? I'd say there's an excellent chance your travels will be long finished before your SASE makes its way to your mailing address.] [What are you expecting, an email to a sailboat, from which you will dispatch your complete manuscript if requested? The submission process is a slow one; I recommend waiting until you live somewhere before submitting.]

I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm regards,

* Translates from French to The Hiding Place


I'd like to hear about a couple of these scrapes and escapades that enhance Nic's reputation as an adventurer. Or about the devious politician and bullies. You can talk about the rest of the series after you sell me on this book.


Anonymous said...

I was hoping above hopes it would not be number 4, but I knew it would be because it sounds tediously boring. Definitely needs more descriptions on what makes this book stand out and make a person want to read it and less about sailing. A guy wandering around the world with a big dog isn't enough to draw me in. Put the story in the front because that's what an agent is looking for right away, get to the sailing and how you're qualified to write it afterwards.

On another note, I would love to read a book on #3.

Anonymous said...

I obviously know nothing about query letters, but the title seems to have nothing to do with the book.

I like the premise because there is a ton of potential for adventure. The question is: Can the author write interesting and exciting adventure?

I would suggest submitting the first 150 to the New Beginnings list and let us have a go at it.


HawkOwl said...

The French aren't known for their dry sense of humour. Actually, I believe that's exactly the kind they call "British humour."

braun said...

It's rather funny how often it's been true here - you read the Guess the Plots and (in between snickers) you say "that's a good one, that's a good one, oh that one's pretty boring" and lo and behold! the boring one is the winner.

Now I'm not bashing the author of this particular query, but more making a general observation - it definitely seem like the more outlandish plots suggested in the GtP contest are often more intriguing. Maybe when writers are plotting their next bestseller they should consider 'going for broke' and throwing in as many ex-Russian mafia members, murderous circus performers and brutal eunechs as possible.

I'm certainly tempted to.

pacatrue said...

I like the idea of the series very much. It reminds me of all the series adventure teen novels I read as a kid, though I am blanking on their names right now. Jonathan Swift? No... Hm. You know, things like Teen Boy and the Swamp Monster. Teen Boy and the Cult of Archimedes. Teen Boy and the Assassin's Guild. But it seems that right now all we have is a cool idea (in the query), so you need to convince the agent/editor that you are someone who writes a terrific "Teen Boy and the Cannibal Witch of the Carribean" novel. I too have had lots of terrific ideas, but I don't ever do them, so that's why I am writing blog comments and not regaling you with stories of the two blondes, a copy machine, and the king for a day game at my first novel's release party (because that's what an author's corporate parties are like, you know, and, ok, it was more like king for 5 minutes, but there were two of them so that's my excuse). I bet you have a lot more to show, so show it.

Anonymous said...

braun the query author basher.

Now there's a name the proudest of knights would be proud of!

Anonymous said...

"sorry for the bother but I'm sailing" just sounds really, really arrogant.

or maybe i am just really, really envious.

Anonymous said...

#1 and 3 peaked my interest – and I'm the arrogant, humorless Frenchie who wrote 4. I'll be sure to get rid of all the rubbish and add lots of juicy details as soon as I'm finished trying out my new mattress. But offer up my hide to the New Beginnings militia? Have you EVER heard of the French standing in the line of fire???

(Seriously, thank you!)

Anonymous said...

I would posit that the real reason the "boring" plot is usually the right answer is not that the book is boring, but that the fake plots are deliberately trying to be outrageous. The publishably sane plot, among five outrageous ones, will stick out like a sore thumb.

(We'll see if this holds true for my own dubious brainchild, now wending its way up the query queue.)

pacatrue said...

Mark, I hope yours is the Abe Lincoln one. I am so ready for that.

HawkOwl said...

T - are you a Frenchman living in France, or like me, a Frenchman (or woman) living happily elsewhere? Or, a French expat wishing you were back in the old country?

Anonymous said...

This letter sounded more like "look at me!" than "look at my book!". You're trying to sell the story first, babe--not yourself.

Bernita said...

Agree, last Anon.

Anonymous said...

Isn't 'The Life of Nicholas Flaman' one of the library books in 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'?

Anonymous said...

It's Nicholas Flamel, jeb.

I guessed correctly. I didn't want it to be this one because I read a lot of YA and this seems too familiar. I'm blanking on any particular title (except Whittington, which is more mid-grade and definitely more off-kilter, but involves exploits around the Mediterranean, to Istanbul, in the company of a cat).

But it could be interesting. I agree with the suggestion--offer up the first 150 to the New Beginnings.

And I'm somewhat miffed that no one said they want to read #2--my offering. sniff, sniff.