Friday, December 22, 2006

Face-Lift 250

Guess the Plot

Five Days in Jail

1. Pro football player Jerrod “Sweet Moves” Walker's memoir about the time he was convicted of rape, vehicular manslaughter, illegal weapons possession, possession of a controlled substance, and first-degree murder.

2. A week in the life of a small town jail is chronicled as criminals come and go. Also, tortoises and a hypnotist.

3. John had seen DJ's doing fun stuff with vinyl records and thought he'd try it himself. But when he played the Kingston Trio's "Tijuana Jail" backwards it opened a portal and landed him behind the bars of that very jail. How can he demand a phone call when he flunked Spanish?

4. After planting a bomb under her ex-boyfriend's car, there's only one place Annie knows she'll have an ironclad alibi for the time of the explosion -- jail. So she "robs" a bank -- and accidentally succeeds, escaping with idiotic pickup guy Luke Dunbolt, in his dad's Maserati. Now what should she do?

5. Berkle Wump slips across the timeline to escape the hairy minions of Wizard Sqweepleton and is instantly lost in Tucson, Arizona. Local thugs terrify him so he attempts to steal a Twinkie, hoping to use it to return to Jizzle, but is arrested for shoplifting and thrown into jail. Now the hapless elf must quickly learn to speak Spanish and play jail soccer -- or get his ass kicked.

6. Rajendrah Day thinks he's pretty smart. He came up with a scheme to employ his wife and four children to smuggle drugs into England. But when he reads in the Bombay Times that they've been taken into custody by Customs Agent Hardbottom at Boring-on-End International Airport, it's time to think again.

Original Version

Dear Editor:

This manuscript provides a glimpse into the machinations of American small town and County law enforcement in action for one working week, and from several viewpoints, innocent and guilty. There is no one person from Mayberry who takes the lead because everyone in the City of Glenview, deputies, attorneys, the homeless and the nearly homeless, a judge and even his wife must work together in order to find a little girl who has gone missing.

Tory Burns is caught speeding and must spend five days in jail. Sheriff Deputies Martin and Mondale treat him as respectfully as he deserves, but they are busy with more pressing duties. An all out search for the missing girl begins when an armed robber tries to deal with Laura Peterson, the D.A. with information about the child’s whereabouts. [This sounds like it's the D.A. with the information. It's the robber, right?] Martin and Mondale set out to track the girl down.

Judge MaGuire runs his staff and his court with an eye to the law. [What?!! How did this guy get elected?] His wife must work around his distaste of animals cluttering his backyard in order to make a refuge for an endangered species of tortoise.

[1-800-Got-Junk. May I help you?

Yes, I need someone to clear out the clutter in my backyard.

That's what we do. What kind of clutter is it?

About forty endangered giant tortoises.

Maybe you should try an exterminator.]

[Orkin Exterminating.

I have an infestation.

Roaches? Rats?

Giant tortoises. They're everywhere.

Have you tried calling the local soup kitchen?]

The judge sends the hapless drug addict Randy to a hypnotist [I sentence you to three years of clucking like a chicken whenever you hear a cell phone ring.] where he relives the experience of coming home to find his house on fire with his kids still inside. [Who is Randy? You speak of him as if you've already mentioned him. Is he the armed robber? If not, why is he coming before a judge? What does he have to do with anything?] Randy meets the parents of the missing girl outside the judge’s courtroom. [Why are the missing girl's parents outside the judge's courtroom? Shouldn't they be a part of this hunt that involves "everyone in the city"?] He explains to them that it was by chance, not from their own negligence, that someone took their child. [And he knows this how?] [How is it known that the child was "taken"?]

As Rae MaGuire rescues a tortoise stranded in a drainage channel, the missing child comes forward. [That's it? That's your big wrap-up paragraph?] [No wonder she was missing so long; she was on the trail of a tortoise. I once followed a tortoise across the Brooklyn Bridge. It took four years. The traffic was backed up to Wyoming.] [Coulda been worse. She could have been following a snail across the La Brea Tar Pits.]

I went back to college in 2004 and attended classes in Justice Admin., volunteering several months for the San Bernardino County Mental Health Center. My education was enriched by the people I met on both sides of the counter and in the courtroom. This is a story about normal, everyday people in action. [When a cast of characters includes an armed robber, a hypnotist, a drug addict, a tortoise-obsessed judge's wife, and Barney Fife, I'd hardly call them normal, everyday people.]

Please let me know if you would be interested in taking on my manuscript. I am unpublished but willing to write. [While a lack of willingness to write can be a deal-breaker, it turns out a willingness to write isn't a big selling point. Drop it.]


Based on the title, the book is about Tory Burns. Yet his role in the book itself, which seems to be about the search for the girl, isn't brought up at all. Not that it's clear how a guy in jail can have any influence on the search anyway.

The missing girl just comes forward? What a letdown.

There's no overall coherence. If the main plot thread is the missing girl, the query should talk about the characters who are connected with the kidnaping/search. The speeder and the tortoise refuge and the judge and the burned-down house distract from the main plot. If they're connected, explain how. Otherwise drop them.

The Mayberry reference isn't working.

Start over. Concentrate on the main story. Sideshows are fine in the book, not in the query.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I so like number four. I might actually write that one one day, though I doubt I could do it justice. (no pun intended)

Anonymous said...

I liked #4 best, myself.

Author, no offense, but you have obviously never actually worked in law enforcement, have you? I didn't recognize anything from my experience working as a cop.

Additionally, I couldn't follow what your story line was. What did the guy Tory being dumped in jail have to do with the rest of it (politely treated or not)?
Furthermore, when you say "glimpse into the machinations" you imply by the connotations of that word "machinations" that something sleazy is going to be shown; and I don't see that in the rough synopsis you have going here.

I was really confused by "There is no one person from Mayberry who takes the lead because everyone in the City of Glenview" because it appears that the City is Glenview AND Mayberry (which I would highly recommend that you NOT use, if you had any thoughts in that direction, this is not Maybury RFD.)

You've given a list of characters and a bit of character motivation, and nothing to explain why we should want to read, other than a mention that a child is lost, a bank robber (I think) knows something and the kid shows up near a tortise.

Make an outline of the events that are important and interesting. Then try reworking this.

It sounds like there might be something interesting here.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps your assorted subplots will work well as separate short stories.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I'll rewrite that query.


Angus Weeks said...

I'm guessing this story runs something like the movie Magnolia?

Obviously writing a query for a story like this is more difficult than usual. However, no matter how many characters you have in your book, you must have a plot that runs from the start of the book to the end of the book - so focus on that one plot.

It sounds to me like that main plot thread is the missing girl, and that would make the characters you need to focus on the deputies Martin and Mondale (I'm assuming, since you mentioned them, they are significant characters). Drop everyone else out of the query.

HawkOwl said...

Wow, it was actually the plot I wanted to read. Too bad that there was so much more to the actual plot than five days in jail. Five days in a small town jail is a hilarious plot all by itself. The whole missing girl angle etc, I couldn't care less.

Anonymous said...

Thank you hawkowl for getting it right! For some reason it really bothers me when people say, "I could care less." When they really mean they "couldn't" care less.
Sorry. Anyway, I will be original and insightful by saying I agree with what everyone else has said about this query. -JTC