Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Face-Lift 229

Guess the Plot


1. When Joe discovers that the lead singer in his band "FireHouse" has given up smoking and drinking to become a wrestler, he realizes his dream of fame and fortune depends on talking some sense into the misguided fellow.

2. The boys at Firehouse 12 stage a strip show to raise money for a new truck. When the fire alarm goes off during the full monty finale, the girls at the burning tri-delta sorority get a pleasant surprise.

3. It's been 9 years since one-armed albino meth-addict Josh saw his dad who with one hand ran a cactus nursery in the heart of New Orleans and with the other hand beat Josh and his mother every afternoon over tea. Now, Josh is bringing a gasoline can to the reunion.

4. When right-wing petroleum tycoons from the Amazon threaten to incinerate all of New Jersey with their "Firehouse" bio weapon, only fashion designer Alara Bouzenbottom stands in their way.

5. Hunky firefighters seemed like a great reality TV show idea--until the pent-up man-passion became hotter than the blazes they fought.

6. 14 year old Katie is the good-natured joke of the DC fire department--until she single-handedly carries the president out of the burning White House on her back.

Original Version

Dear E. Editor,

Zach Bowie has been singing and playing bass with a local garage band for years. [Though he has ten times the talent of his brother David, he doesn't care about the fame and money.] He does it because he loves everything about it. Last winter, though, he got a taste of something he thinks he might like just as much. [Skydiving? Filmmaking? Writing a novel?] When the 152-pounder on the high school wrestling team was injured, Zach filled in and won ten matches. [Wrestling? Who's gonna buy this?] If only he had trained more and partied less, how many more could he have won? Now he's secretly training hard with the intention of finding out. By summer he’s mastered the art of pretending to smoke and drink, [Why? Will his bandmates throw him out of the band if he doesn't smoke and drink?] while at the same time strengthening his body for another season on the mat. Like the Bill Clinton, he doesn’t inhale. [Huh? Falls flat. Delete.]

One obstacle in Zach’s pursuit of his other obsession is the pretentious lead guitarist in the band, Joe Fauquier. With his carefully cultivated rock and roll look and obvious talent, Fauquier still thinks he's going to make it big. [Not with that name, he won't. I suggest he change it to Pork-Sword Fauquier.] He's sure that Zach, with his distinct voice and stage presence, is his ticket to stardom and a record contract. When he sees Zach diverting too much time to wrestling he reacts badly.

[The obvious compromise: limit their musical repertoire to songs about wrestling (a better idea than singing while wrestling).

"Get in the Ring"... Guns N' Roses
"Wrestle a Live Nude Girl"... Michael Franks
"Pin"... Leroy Hanghofer
"Get a Hold"... Loggins & Messina
"Headlock On My Heart"... The Fleshtones
"Half Nelson"... Charlie Parker
"Full Nelson"... Miles Davis
"Takedown"... Pissing Razors
"Body Slam!"... Bootsy Collins
"The Self-Proclaimed World's Greatest Tag-Team"... K-Otix
"All Fake"... John Ford]

There is resentment in the wrestling room over Zach's plans, too. Many of the jocks on the team resent the presence of a "pot-smoking burnout", even if he does appear to have reformed. On top of these problems, Zach has a girl in both [each] of his worlds that [who] thinks he’s looking in their [her] eyes when he’s singing. [If he's in high school, I can tell you where he's looking; somewhat lower than their eyes.]

"FireHouse", a novel for young adults, contains about 70,000 words. Please let me know if you'd be interested in seeing any more of it.



I realize we're not talking pro sports, but it still seems unlikely a kid could take up wrestling mid-season and be better than so many kids who've been training all along. It's not like playing the bass builds body strength.

If FireHouse is the name of the band (I guessed for Guess the Plot), it would take only a word or two in the first sentence to say so. I assume they chose "FireHouse" because "Pissing Razors" was already taken.


GutterBall said...

Pork-Sword Fauquier

I'm pretty sure that my guava/passion fruit/nectarine whatever juice shot not only out my nose, but from my eyes with that one. All I know for sure is that it hurt.

Anonymous said...

Actually, 'Firehouse' is already the the name of a band - named in turn (I think) after the KISS song. They had some big-hair-power-ballad hits in the mid-90s.

It's always hard to judge a book just from the query, but I have to say I find the premise hard to believe. I wrestled and played in a band in HS, and the idea that anyone could a) just walk on to the wrestling team to replace an injured wrestler and b) win 10 matches doesn't pass the laugh test. Unless he's competing in the Catholic Orphan Girls' League or something...

Most wrestling teams will have more than one person at 150 - it's a common weight.

And nitpicking here, but how old is Joe? 'still thinks he's going to make it' implies he's been trying a long time - unlikely if he's only in High School.

There maybe be perfectly legit explanations for this stuff, but they don't come out in the query

Anonymous said...

Thanks EE. I worked for a while on that query and it's still full of holes!

I should have made it clear that Zach has wrestled for years, but he hasn't worked very hard at it. So when he wins ten matches (and loses twelve) it isn't that big a deal.

The band guys won't throw him out for not partying, but they kinda' sorta' get the feeling that he's not as into the band life as he used to be. And they don't like it.

...dave conifer

Dave Fragments said...

You know, I looked at the description in an entirely different light after I reached the bottom and saw it was Young Adult. Zach and Joe being in high school makes it a different story. It explains their party demands (boys in high school) and his wrestling for years without exerting effort and yet being able to win ten matches.

Stacia said...

Pork-Sword Fauquier

Oh, EE, you have no idea how badly I needed that laugh. Thank you.

As for the query, I can only agree with what's been said. While I do kind of like the wrestler/rocker premise (although it brings up shades of Danny Zucko), saying tings like, "He's been in a garage band for years" made me think at first this guy was in his 30s. Emphasize the high-school pressures.

Also, he's dating two girls at the same school and they don't know about it? There were over 600 kids in my graduating class at my high school, and everybody still knew who was dating whom. If they aren't both at the school, you need to mention that.

Anonymous said...

I think the concept for this story would work as YA. I've met a lot of people from "up north" that are really into wrestling (here in Texas, it's football), and what young man doesn't dream of being a rock star? -JTC

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree that this sounds YA. I don't think that I would find it interesting (as described) for an adult book.

For me, the query lacks a hook. I don't know why I'd want to read about this kid.

Rei said...

Like the Bill Clinton, he doesn’t inhale.

Wow. this has to be the worst line I've ever seen in a query. Please, please listen to EE's advice and cut this.

Please tell me that the word "the" was a typo. Not that removing it would make this line good . . .

Anonymous said...

I'd change "Bill Clinton" to "Rutherford B. Hayes".

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Everybody knows Clinton was lying.

Anonymous said...

Fauquier? As opposed to a real queer? Also yeah, Bowie's gotta go.

I think one problem here is that I'm really having trouble understanding why wrestling is more appealing, especially since he loves everything about being in the band. Is it the sense of personal satisfaction? Is it fulfilling a competitive need? Is it his ticket to college and an Olympic gold?

Is Joe our antagonist? You're going to have to give me some more information about his "reacting badly." The obvious storyline would be that Joe will set Zach up with some kind of drug or drinking violation to get him kicked off the wrestling team and possibly expelled from school, crushing Zach's sports dreams forever. Or maybe he could, like, club Zach's leg so he can't wrestle but he's free to play with the band.

I also have to agree with December Quinn about the two girlfriends thing. If they're going to the same school, there's no way they wouldn't know about each other. If one is at a different school, it would have to be a large town where there wasn't any crossover between the schools. Plus, girls aren't stupid. Girlfriend #1 is going to very much notice a Girlfriend #2 who keeps showing up at his concerts and meets making doe eyes at him.

What is this story really about? Is it a statement on high school cliques and how the stoners vs. jocks clash? Is it a personal journey of one young man who finds his purpose in life and abandons one love for another?

The YA market is very competitive. Having a character whose biggest problem is faking a toke so he can be a straight-laced athlete is just not really enough for today's audience.

kiss-me-at-the-gate said...

Really really really really really really (repeat ad nauseam) wanted it to be GTP #3.

This one was cute, though. And for once I'll disagree with EE -- my little bro joined the high school wrestling team not long ago and apparently he started winning right away, even with no training. Some kids just have all the talent. And if he's wrestled before, it makes it even more believable.

Also, when I was in middle/high school I think I would have found the two girlfriends bit the most intriguing... perhaps you could emphasize that a bit more? I'm sure you have logical explanations about why the girls don't notice one another (or maybe they do eventually).

Anonymous said...

Good suggestions, Kiss-me. I thought my query letter was good when I wrote it, but now I know it pretty much blows. As usual I introduced things without explaining them sufficiently. But about the two girls -- everybody has been way over the top about that. The query doesn't say that Zach is 'dating' either of them, or that both attend the same school. All it said basically was that two girls are enamored with him. And yup, they run into each other eventually.

I already mentioned that Zach isn't 'new' to wrestling. He was a second stringer that got pushed into the starting lineup because of an injury (in the previous year). For the first time he felt the thrill of winning matches. I failed miserably in explaining that this is what suddenly got him hooked.

The bottom line is that our excerpts and queries here are as close to being published as most of us we'll get. Like EE's subtitle says -- "Why you don't get published."

So what's the big deal anyway?

Anonymous said...

Aw Dave, the "big deal" is that you can get published. EE does not have to be the be-all, end-all of publishing. EE is about getting past that first step to get someone to read your ms. If you master this, you master a lot. Keep plugging away. Maybe FireHouse isn't your best work. Lord knows I've got 2 in my filing cabinet I hope never to see the light of day, and I'm not even published yet, but I do have hope. We can't judge whether or not you're a talented writer--only whether or not you can write a decent query, which as you have no doubt surmised by reading EE is that it's pretty much impossible the first time around. Hang in there, revise, and go for it.

Anonymous said...

But its funny... Leave the holes in! Just add in some of those EE-beloved songs, and a scene where Zach wrestles The Principle for the diploma, you know, live, while singing "We are the champions"...

Okay, okay, shutting up...

Anonymous said...

Not a bad YA idea, but the title could be a LOT catchier.

Anonymous said...

Nut, I warned you against singing. Now you will all suffer! Just let me find dust of my Mozart collection. What? I always carry dusty mp3s when on the run from the police. The cds make for great ammunition.

Anonymous said...

Hi Evil,

Thanks to you and the minions for your suggestions.

I have question about one of your remarks. When you realized the story involves high school wrestling, you inserted "Wrestling? who's gonna buy this?"

Although it isn't a glamour sport, high school wrestling is more popular than you probably realize. The next time you go to meeting, try asking everybody who has wrestled to raise their hand. You might be surprised.

If you think wrestling is obscure and unpopular, most agents will probably think that too. Do you think I should include a blurb to counter that impulse?

Here's a possibility.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has released its 2005-06 High School Athletics Participation Survey, and the sport of wrestling has grown in all categories studied.

n 2005-06, there were 251,534 boys competing in wrestling, an increase of 8,525 wrestlers from the previous year (a 3.5 percent increase).

In 2005-06, there were 9,744 boys wrestling teams in the nation, an increase in 182 teams from the previous year (a 1.9 percent increase).


1. Football, 1,071,775
2. Basketball, 546,335
3. Track and Field, 533,985
4. Baseball, 470,671
5. Soccer, 358,935
6. Wrestling, 251,534
7. Cross Country, 208,303
8. Golf, 161,284
9. Tennis, 153,006
10. Swimming and Diving, 107,468

Note that hockey didn't make the list. If Zach was a hockey player I'll bet you wouldn't have made that remark.

There are also tons of famous people that have wrestled. Donald Rumsfeld was well-known in high school and college for a move called the "Fireman's Carry". Coincidentally, that's Zach's favorite takedown. Tom Cruise was also a pretty good wrestler.

Is this kind of information worth working in if I can make it brief enough?

Evil Editor said...

My comment was meant to suggest that rarely would a singer/musician in a rock band suddenly give priority to wrestling, a sport that doesn't attract the babes like playing an instrument. I see no need to trumpet the popularity of wrestling in the query.

Anonymous said...

Oh, now I get it. You didn't "buy" (read, purchase), you meant "buy" (believe this could actually happen).

It's tough being a slow thinker...

Anonymous said...

So... since EE attracks more babes than an ultra-mega-super magnet, what was the sport He played in high school?

(I bet its skip-out of class right after the teacher took attendence, and read some good literature while pumping iron at the ultra secret hideout sport. Am I right?)

Anonymous said...

EE's right, no one will believe a rock star-minded kid will forgoe that for wrestling unless there is some big reason.

Anonymous said...

Could be a multiple personality disorder. One personality is a rocker, second a boxer, third, underage doctor Doodoo Houser(dunno how to spell it, so I'll just improvise). There's, also, a dragon slayer... and a balerina.

Anonymous said...

EE, what do you mean "Pissing Razors" is taken? I was gonna name my grand novel that!