Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Face-Lift 239

Guess the Plot

Snake & Freaky John Kick Ass

1. After many close calls and hare-brained escapades as they ride the rails from Boston to Los Angeles, Snake and Freaky John win the National Hobo Poetry contest.

2. Snake and Freaky John are cowboys lost in Death Valley with a bag of gold and one surviving steed: Harold, the talking donkey. Can these three amigos read the map and make it to Reno?

3. Snake & Freaky John Kick Ass . . . at preaching the Gospel! Follow the adventures of Preacher "Freaky John" James and the snake from the Garden of Eden in this collection of updated Bible stories for a new generation.

4. Snake and Freaky John, tech-geeky high school seniors, use their science project time machine to go into the future to steal exam papers, selling the questions to cashed-up students while rote learning the best answers. They graduate top of the class, with enough cash to spend on the wildest post-exam party anyone has ever seen.

5. Snake works in the butterfly-raising business, and Freaky John is trying to get into law school. Together these pot-smoking hippies from Hoboken team up to take on a ring of Manhattan art thieves.

6. Snake is an all time loser who gets nothing but contempt from those around him. Freaky John claims he lost his left leg in a shark attack in Buffalo. A mad struggle for superiority ensues when they both sign up for the National Ass Kicking Championships.

Original Version

Dear Prospective Literary Agent:

Snake Rivers and Jonathan "Freaky John" Frekenberg are two guys in their mid-thirties who smoke an awful lot of pot. [The name Freaky John Frekenberg is suspiciously close to Fat Freddy Freekowtski, one of the pot-smoking Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers from the underground comics.] Snake lives with his brother, helping out with the family butterfly business in lieu of rent,

[Brother: Rent's due, Snake.
Snake: I'm a little short.
Brother: Again? Okay, how about misting the chrysalises.
Snake: Is that what those were? I ate 'em all. Munchies.]

and Freaky John has spent the last several years trying to get his act together and go back to law school.

[Admissions Officer: We expelled you from law school because you were were constantly high and never showed up for class. Now you stand before me with a plastic bag of marijuana hanging out of your pocket, reeking of smoke, bloodshot eyes--
Freaky John: Excuse me, are you gonna eat that last doughnut?]

They've been friends since kindergarten and still reside in the same neighborhood where they grew up. Freak's neighbor, Margaret Milton, is the assistant director of a prominent gallery in Manhattan, and while they're all good friends, [Nothing improves your standing in the fine art community like maintaining friendships with a couple unemployed stoners.] Margaret has a secret or two up her sleeve.

One night, Snake and Freaky John are kicking back and smoking when they see Margaret on the news. It turns out she's been framed for an art theft at the gallery where she works, and she's lost her job.

[Katie Couric: Turning to national news, Margaret Milton has lost her job in a small Manhattan art gallery.
Viewer: Is it just me, or has the evening news lost its edge since Katie took over as anchor?]

In the course of trying to help her restore her good name and find new employment, the guys find themselves drinking poisoned wine, [I'm happy to do whatever it takes to help a friend find a job, within reason, but drinking poison is asking a bit much.] confronting ex-girlfriends, resisting a cartoonist's attempt at brainwashing, being doused with a fire extinguisher and getting into a screaming match with a psychotic art dealer. Meanwhile, the elderly neighbor Freak cares for is quickly deteriorating into senility, and Snake's supposed to help Margaret get a new job — which would be easier if [he hadn't been poisoned and] Margaret weren't disappearing at odd hours for meetings with a certain undisclosed someone. To top it all off, there are seven crates of stolen "watches" hidden away in the garage at Snake's brother's butterfly farm. [I don't care about the "watches." If you're going to "top it all off," top it off with hot fudge and a cherry, not a piece of melba toast.] Sure, everything's going to hell in a handbasket, but that's the natural state of the universe, man, and Snake and Freaky John are here to kick some ass and save the day.

As you've probably guessed, I'm seeking representation for Snake & Freaky John Kick Ass, a 75,000-word comedic novel set in Manhattan and Hoboken, New Jersey. Enclosed are a one-page synopsis of the manuscript and the first four chapters for your review, as well as a SASE. [Your query letter is longer than your synopsis. Whether it's longer than your first four chapters remains to be seen.]

The characters were developed in a series of flash fictions written over the last two and a half years [Two and a half years? I'm not sure you've grasped the concept of "flash" fiction.] during the course of my previous writing project. Afterward, I liked Snake and Freaky John so much that they got their own novel. [You're aware that they aren't real people, right? Just checking.] As mentioned above, the book's plot involves Snake and Freak [Yes, I believe that's been made clear.] and their involvement in the lives of all the people they care about: family, friends and neighbors alike. When they find out Margaret's in trouble, the guys do their best to help. [Rehashing what's been said previously doesn't help the cause.] On realizing that elderly Mr. Hersch may have Alzheimer's, they try to help him keep his life on track. When Mr. Hersch's daughter reveals her husband's infidelity, they're on hand with caring advice. Snake and Freaky John aren't always effectual (or even coherent), but they give a shit, and that's more than you can say for most people.

While there is (considerable) drug use [by the characters, and especially by the author,] and drug humor, this is not Cheech & Chong. [For it also has drug pathos.] [Suddenly "Cheech" and "Chong" sound like normal names.] Snake and Freaky John live in a world where there are real-life responsibilities and consequences for their actions. They have a lot of fun, but life doesn't always turn out in a satisfactory way. In fact, sometimes life just sucks. Still, with good friends and the right attitude, Snake and Freaky John manage to come out on top. [You're rambling. Go eat a chocolate cake and a bag of corn chips.] Maybe they're not the kind of people you'd want to meet in a dark alley, but they're absolutely the kind of friends you'd want to watch your back.

I look forward to your response.


If there's anything in the last two long paragraphs you feel must be in the query, work it into the earlier paragraphs. Most of it is repetitive or boring or unimportant in the big picture.

A minor character who's always high can add comic relief, but when it's your main characters, I fear it will become tiresome to many readers. I could be wrong, of course.


writtenwyrdd said...

#2 & #3 sound like they would be hysterical, but I think the real plot, #5 sounds great, too.

I think, if you toned down the burn out, pot-smoking factor, this could work. Just avoid making it the dope smoking a recurring joke and make this serious (mostly.) Up In Smoke worked in the 70s, but I seriously can't believe it would work today.

Like EE, I think the tie to Margaret is a bit...loose. Perhaps sew it up by having her be related to one of them? A twin sister, perhaps? Thus, the inevitable, Gotta Help Little Sis plot line falls into place and off ya go!

Anonymous said...

GTP #6 is funny.

When I first read the character's names I thought, "This could be good." But, dope-smoking do-gooders do nothing for me. Heed EE and writtenwyrdd's advice. -JTC

Anonymous said...

Oh, man. I still have a couple Freak Brothers comic books out in my shed.

While I was intrigued (dare I say "highly"?) by the premise, I was less than thrilled by some of the particulars, e.g., drinking poisoned wine, getting doused by a fire extinguisher, a screaming match with a psychotic art dealer. That kind of thing is, I suspect, funny only if you're high.

But I did appreciate the author's intent to have real-life consequences. If he/she manages to carry that off well, I think this would be an interesting read.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Jay & Silent Bob to me.

Anonymous said...

Well, out of all that, the only thing that intrigued me was the line, "Snake and Freaky John aren't always effectual (or even coherent), but they give a shit, and that's more than you can say for most people." I liked that. The rest? Not doing it for me.

writtenwyrdd said...

Actually, Anon 12:47, it sounded like Dude, Where's My Car? with dope smoking, to me. I picture the movie version starring Ashton Kutcher (which would make me refuse to see it, I cannot stand that guy) and Ray Romano, for some reason...

(Shakes head, clears the eggnog fumes...) Anyhow, I thought I'd add that I really like your comment that these two characters care. That is a good thing. But, Author, have you ever known a pot head? I mean, a joint in the morning, at break, at lunch, at afternoon break, and all evening lit up with the homies pot head? I grew up in the 70s, and I assure you, they aren't up for this kind of social service.

That's what I meant by toning down the burnt out aspect of Freaky John and Snake's characters.

This actually sounds like a cool plot. Might make a better screenplay or a graphic novel than a novel, though.

Anonymous said...

I think if you chop those last two paragraphs, you have a good query letter. Those final paragraphs only consist of trivia the agent doesn't care about (how you developed the book) and apologies and defensiveness about the subject matter. Chop all that.

You could also chop the sentence about the characters all being friends since kindergarten; that's unnecessary backstory.

I assume the book has a pretty whacked-out excuse for a plot, so playing up the quirkiness is a good idea, as is capturing its tone in the query letter. And you have made it clear that there is a plot.

Finally, don't worry about the poo-poohing you're getting about the subject matter. If the book is good; people will read it.

After all, I read Trainspotting and enjoyed it, even though I don't do heroin.

If you're worried about the agents you send this query to turning their noses up because of the pot-smoking, then salvage this sentence out of the final two paragraphs:
Snake and Freaky John aren't always effectual (or even coherent), but they give a shit, and that's more than you can say for most people.

That's the sentence that tells the agent these characters are sympathetic, regardless of how they live their lives. It's an important thing to get across.

HawkOwl said...

Not only was I bored, but I also found the plot implausible. Realistically, how would two unemployed drug addicts and the director of a prominent art gallery have such incomes that they end up living next door to each other? Like most comedy, it sounds contrived and like it's trying way too hard. However, some of it sells anyway.

Good luck with it.

Zany Mom said...

I think the subject matter would work; depends on how it's written and presented.

The query seems a little wordy and lacks focus, and I'd wonder if the writing is the same (rambling and lacking focus), which it might if the protagonists are potheads.

As to how they come to live next to the art gallery director -- uh, dude, they sell? Don't they have a--ehem- garden in the basement?? ;)

Anonymous said...

EE said...

A minor character who's always high can add comic relief, but when it's your main characters, I fear it will become tiresome to many readers. I could be wrong, of course.

Two words, man. Beavis and Butthead. Wait, that was four words. Huhuhuhu.

This book could only work if there's a scene where Snake is lying in the bathtub litening to Nine Inch Nails' Hurt, and demands Freaky John throw the radio in and kill him when the song peaks, and then Freaky John throws in a bag of pumelos instead. Hilarity ensues.

Evil Editor said...

Two words, man. Beavis and Butthead.

Exactly. Thanks for corroborating my statement.

Dave Fragments said...

Somedays, I read the six "guess the plots" with fear, trepidation, and terror.
Today was even worse, utter panic and hysteria invaded my quiet realm.

Anonymous said...

I think there could be a good book hidden in there, but I hate the title. You've got a legacy of potheads: Beavis and Butthead, Jay and Silent Bob [Strike Back], Bill and Ted[ 's Excellent Adventure], going all the way back to Cheech and Chong. You'd have to convince me that this one is different. As someone said, much of the time, reading about potheads is only funny and entertaining if you're a pothead yourself. Because there's nothing worse than being the designated driver and standing around while all of the others are getting wasted and becoming irritating. Drunk/high people are obnoxious unless you're drinking or getting high too.