Friday, December 29, 2006

Face-Lift 253

Guess the Plot

Enter the Parrot

1. They say actors should avoid appearing on stage with animals. So when playwright Quentin Unmantt learns that Valeria Starre, Quentin’s ex-wife, has landed the ingénue role in his new Broadway play, he hurriedly adds a character and a new stage direction for each of her scenes.

2. Medium Madame Ming is deep in a tricky séance in San Francisco when a huge earthquake hits. The spirits are lost and upset. One moves into the plumbing. One reanimates the dead cat. But there's trouble when Stalin's ghost and Madame Ming both decide to . . . enter the parrot.

3. A professional stunt double is hired to take the place of a martial-artist hit man for the mafia, which also means taking out the hit man's targets. He begins soliciting advice from the mafia boss's hooker.

4. A martial arts legend sends his granddaughter deep into the seedy underbelly of Chinatown to search for his missing bird, a parrot who thinks he's John Wayne.

5. Jane Finch knows her new play will be a hit, but it requires a parrot to fly in and blab clues about the murder of Mrs. Crow to Detective Robin. She tried a trained live bird, a puppet on wires, and a holographic CGI character projected on mist. All failed. Her last hope is Tommy "the Midget" Jones, in a feathered suit. Will the show go on?

6. Wei Chin never wanted to study with the notorious Pai Mei, but when his own father is disgraced for failing to master Pai Mei's deadly art, Chin is thrown into virtual slavery in his father's place. His only hope of freedom is to learn the sole counter to the master's Tiger Claw technique . . . the dreaded Angry Parrot.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

One girl. One parrot. One ancient kung fu mystery. Meet Jade, the White girl in the Wong family.

On the surface, Jade fits in perfectly. But just below the surface lurks the fragrance of ginger, ginseng and a secret kung fu society. [The fragrances of ginger and ginseng I can tolerate. But the time I rented my garage to a secret kung fu society, the stench was so bad I had the place sandblasted and fumigated, and then I had to burn it to the ground. That's one of three groups I'll never rent my garage to again, the other two being the Institute of Filipino Cryptographers, and the Moose (no, not the fraternal organization, an actual herd of moose--I must have been out of my mind).]

When her grandfather asks Jade to find his missing bird, things take a turn for the bizarre. Soon, Jade is diving deep into the seedy underbelly of Chinatown and keeping secrets from her best friends and her cute eco mentor Cedric, the president of EASY-Stud (the Ecological-American Society of Young Students), aka the hottest guy in school. [Going to Chinatown and keeping secrets don't strike me as examples of things turning "bizarre." That's more of a "things get interesting" list.] [The organization name is too contrived. No organization would have that name. Try something like American Society of Students for Ecological Scholarship.]

There are a lot of questions Jade wants answered. Is grandpa really a martial arts legend? What's the deal with Asiaphile teachers? Is it wrong to wear chopsticks in your hair? [Hey, if western women can wear forks and spoons in their hair, why not?] Can you like Hello Kitty and still be cool enough to sit near the A crowd during lunch time? [No. You have to eat under the bleachers in the gym while wearing a hood.] When will her nerd cousin understand that there's a fine line between being chivalrous and downright stupid? When will Jade herself learn the same? [The other questions were amusing or intriguing; these last two could use some background if you're going to ask them. I suggest dumping them; you have enough questions, and I'd like a few answers.]

And how can you choose between a boy who is yum cha (yummy & charming)and one who's dim sum (dimpled & sumptuous) [and one who is wel rep (wealthy but repugnant)] while hunting for a missing parrot who thinks he's John Wayne? [Now listen, and listen tight, pilgrim. Out here, a bird settles his own problems. And right now, I want a cracker.]

ENTER THE PARROT is a Young Adult novel, complete at 65,000 words, set in California. It's intended as the first book in a series, [Is the parrot in all the books in the series? I think a parrot detective would be a great idea.

Officer: Well, the killer has to be the nephew, the daughter, or the butler. They were the only ones here. But there's no evidence against any of them, so there's nothing we can do.

Hercule Parrot: Squawk! I'm gonna enjoy pulling the trigger and watching you die, Uncle Paul. Squawk.]

but stands well on its own.

I am enclosing a synopsis and the first three chapters of ENTER THE PARROT for your consideration and will gladly send you the full manuscript if you are interested.

I have enclosed an SASE for correspondence only. If you prefer, you can send me an email. Should the manuscript be unsuitable for you at this point in time, feel free to dispose of it.

Thanks very much for your time and consideration.


Try to cut those last five sentences to two or three.

The tone is good, but outside of a missing bird, there's no plot. Now that I've had you cut a few things, you have room to address a few of my questions: Is there reason to steal the parrot, beyond it's value? Are there clues that send Jade to Chinatown? Is there a bad guy? Does her cute eco-mentor have any interest in her? Is it just a coincidence that eco-mentor is an anagram for erect romeo?


Bernita said...

Yeah, yeah.
All that EE says.
But I love it.

Anonymous said...

Another fine example of EE's comedic genius.

I like the author's style and i think the story is original and interesting. I would at least give this one a try. -JTC

GutterBall said...

American Society of Students for Ecological Scholarship

Bwahah! Hawaiian punch out the nose already this morning! The John Wayne parrot speech also killed me. Beautiful.

This is probably a really cute young adult novel. Good luck with it. I'd probably get it for my eldest niece, though the silly kung fu overtones would probably more appeal to my nephew.

Heck, I'd probably read it just to find out if her grandpa really is a kung fu master. After all, my favorite song of all time is Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting.

Nancy Beck said...

EE, you've outdone yourself. I was practically rolling on the floor...especially about Hercule Parrot! ;-)

This sounds like a lot of fun, but I would cut out the last two questions in that paragraph of questions.

And #2 was an absolute blast! :-)

Good luck with it!


Marissa Doyle said...

Hercule Parrot...oh dear... (giggle snort)

And eco-mentor/erect, having a slow day, are you, EE?

Sounds like a fun book, but EE won this round.

word ver: zucpuo. Don't ask.

Cheryl said...

I love the line 'White girl in the Wong family.' I'm not sure I love the title, though. It brings my mind to that spoof kung-fu moving...something-something Enter the Fist, and then all I see are cows doing the Matrix moves.

Angus Weeks said...

#2 gives me hilarious images. Poor parrot.

For the author of the query:
You headline it with 'ancient kung fu mystery' and yet you barely mention this again. If you want to keep that first paragraph, I'd like to see at least a clue or two more about the kung fu mystery.

You've got a great voice here, BTW, sounds perfect for the type of story. It's fun and lively.

I agree with EE to cut those extra questions.

I'm confused about the line "the White girl in the Wong family". Apparently everyone in the crapometer got it but me. Okay, so Wong can mean 'white' in Chinese. But 'jade' is green. So then she'd be the green girl in the white family.

That was my first thought. But since it made no sense, I looked in the dictionary and realised that some jade can be white. So in that case she can legitimately be the white girl, but now she's the white girl in the white family, which would seem to be a rather pointless thing to say. Unless Wong can also mean 'purple' or some other colour - but then you have a confusion amongst some readers as to which colour you mean Wong to be in this instance.

So the only other thing I can think you're saying is that she has white skin. But white skin amongst Chinese is common, so no one would assume that people called 'Wong' wouldn't be white, therefore this seems the most unlikely explanation. Even if she is white-skinned in comparison to her family, what does that have to do with anything else that occurs in the query? It doesn't seem relevant, but is distracting.

Unless everyone in the crapometer was just laughing at the rhyming slang of 'right' and 'wrong', but if that's all it is, I don't think the line is necessary in your query (since I doubt I'd be the only one trying to read some meaning into it and failing).

As I said, everyone in the Crapometer seemed to understand it except me, so perhaps I'm just missing some cultural clue that everyone else knows. Feel free to slap me down for dumbness.

Sylvia said...

The John Wayne Parrot quote had me laughing aloud.

I liked the first line (and I accepted the right/wrong pun and that "white" would be explained at some point) and then felt the rest of the query didn't deliver what it promised. I want to hear about the girl, the parrot and the kung fu mystery.

The second sentence is basically a repeat of the first without the parrot. Then we start to go somewhere (grandfather asks) to be stalled by school matters (we have ancient secrets and kung fu: who cares about boys!) and a long list of questions that I can't answer. By the time I hit the end of that list, I stopped caring.

I started the query thinking it was going to be about a kick-ass girl solving a family mystery. I ended it feeling it was an angsty teenage girl worried about not looking stupid in front of the popular crowd. The latter just doesn't interest me -- and I'm not sure that's what your story is about. It sounds like you have a killer main plot line -- I'd avoid the dilution of that with standard social trauma gaining as more space in your query as the parrot and the kung fu.