Friday, January 26, 2007

Face-Lift 266

Guess the Plot


1. When llamas and zombie cows begin acting strangely, cultists, roaming ostriches, and rival biker gangs are suspected, until one woman exposes the true culprits: parasitic brain-worms from outer space!

2. Deep sea diver Phil Walters is on a mission to discover new forms of sea life. To this end he dives deeper than anyone before. Is the giant grinning worm a result of his low blood oxygen? Or is it . . . a fluke??

3. Bob Johnson's mom blabs the truth about his birth -- he exists because of a defective contraceptive -- and sends him into an episode of depression. Bob breaks up with his girlfriend, starts smoking weed, and changes his college major to philosophy, then art history, then microbiology. Can he find the meaning of life in a petri dish, thanks to . . . the fluke???

4. RIL had a pretty good run of winning continuations at EVIL EDITOR, but grizzled continuator Kate Thornton thinks it was a fluke. When she releases her latest editions she knows no work of RIL's will ever see the light of day again.

5. Aided by a homicidal jellyfish, Skipper the Dolphin plans to kidnap the high-flying goody-goody who hijacked his starring role in a new yet-to-be-named TV show about a crime fighting porpoise, forcing the producers to rehire him. Sure, flippers are cute, but if you want to be a star in this town, you gotta kick some fluke.

6. After Captain Ahab's death, what became of his son Fluke? The boy with flipper-like feet is determined to find the great white whale, to avenge his father's death, but Fluke also wants to win the gold in swimming at the upcoming Olympics. Will he find his way through the uncharted waters of his emotions?? And what of the man they call Ishmael???

Original Version

Dear Dream Agent,

Laura is used to picking up after the people in her life. When her charming, feckless husband dies, leaving her with a failing sheep farm and a 14-year old nephew, she sets out to sell the farm and get back to the familiar city. She expected rural life to be hard and boring. She didn't expect weird.

First, an unknown, addictive fruit appears in local orchards and her sheep develop a magnetic pull toward a nearby mountain. Her neighbours bring in ostriches, llamas and alpacas, who share the sheep's fascination with Mount Donald. [Actually, it's not Mount Donald the llamas are fascinated with, it's the sheep.] A farm patriarch finds a prophetic tablet and starts a millennial cult. Her nephew can't decide whether to join the cult (the patriarch's grand-daughter is pretty hot) or stay out all night with the astronomy club, looking for strange lights in the sky. An outbreak of cattle mutilations [I suspect the ostriches.] raises fears [Especially among the cattle.] and brings media attention. UFO-watching tourists wander into fields where the unofficial cash crop grows, annoying the local biker gang. [This list is way too long. You need to connect some ideas. Plus, when you throw it all into one paragraph it makes the book sound ridiculous rather than comical.]

With every turn, Laura finds herself more enmeshed in the small-town life she meant to escape. Her veterinarian friend Jan and distractingly-rugged biologist Mike involve her in uncovering the source of the uproar. Cultists? Bored teenagers? UFO aliens? Rival biker gangs? Roaming ostriches? Or parasitical brain-worms from outer space? [Let's limit our lists to three items.] Laura thinks she's found the answer (or gone crazy), but now the sheep and llamas have broken down the fences, and reanimated cattle stagger out of their bulldozed grave. They're heading for Mount Donald, [New title suggestion: Close Encounters of the Herd Kind] along with the cult members, the astronomy club, the tourists, the bikers and the lights in the sky. Laura must race her old pickup truck against a spaceship to reach Colin and her friends [Colin and her friends? Who's Colin?] before they hitch a ride with strange aliens.

Fluke is a 60,000 word comic sf novel. I have attended (genre writing workshop), was a finalist in (gimmicky writing contest) and have a story in (new e-zine). Thank you for your time and consideration.


[EE--the title 'Fluke' refers to the alien brain-worms, who are, yes, what's behind it all. The ostriches have their own agenda.]

Revised Version

Dear Dream Agent,

Sheep farmer Laura Davis expected rural life to be hard and boring; she didn't expect it to be bizarre. So when all the animals in the area develop a magnetic pull toward Mount Donald, and Laura's nephew, Colin, considers joining a new cult, and an outbreak of cattle mutilations brings the media to town, Laura decides it's time to sell the farm and move back to Liverpool.

But soon Laura finds herself more enmeshed than ever in the small-town life she wants to escape. Her veterinarian friend Jan and distractingly-rugged biologist Mike involve her in uncovering the source of the weirdness. Is it the cultists? Bored teenagers? Roaming ostriches?

Everyone's a suspect, until Laura uncovers the true culprits:
Parasitic Brain-Worms from Outer Space!
But it may be too late! The sheep and llamas have broken down the fences, and reanimated cattle have staggered out of their bulldozed grave. They're all heading for Mount Donald, along with the cult members, the astronomy club, and local biker gangs. Can Laura's old pickup truck reach Colin before he hitches a ride with space aliens?

Fluke is a 60,000-word comic sf novel that may sound like Close Encounters, but did Close Encounters have zombie cows? Did it have llamas? Did it have . . .
Parasitic Brain-Worms from Outer Space?
No. So there.

I have attended (genre writing workshop), was a finalist in (gimmicky writing contest) and have a story in (new e-zine). Thank you for your time and consideration.



Even if you leave out the lights in the sky and everyone being drawn to the mountain, and the pick-up truck/spaceship scene, they're in the book, and some will say it's derivative of . . . that movie. Unless it's intended to be a satire of the movie, perhaps there should be a different strange occurrence, something totally un-derivative, like all the animals have developed an insatiable appetite for human brains.

Not sure why it begins: Laura is used to picking up after the people in her life. It may be true, but the query doesn't make it clear what that means. Also, it sounds like the opening line of a query for a more serious book.

Parasitic Brain-Worms from Outer Space is a much better title than Fluke.


Bernita said...

Oh my aching liver.
EE, are you a fluke?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an episodic saga so you can cut various episodes and shop them around to scifi lit mags as short stories. Consider this an exercise in test marketing. If these people love the stuff and demand to publish, great. If not, that's your clue to shelve this ms and start on a new different project. Hopefully one with a plot that won't remind everyone of some movie or recent bad news.

Marissa Doyle said...

"Close Encounters of the Herd Kind" face still hurts from laughing.

I don't know--done with the right touch, this could be funny. But the handling and humor has to be just right to keep it from falling into plain dumb or painfully imitative. Good luck to you, author.

word ver is "athkay". Pig Latin, huh?

Judy Griffith Gill said...

The revised version is one of the best clean-up jobs I've seen. Sounds as if EE is also used to picking up (or cleaning up) after people. Still, if the book sells it'll be a...sorry...fluke! IMHO

Anonymous said...

Ril, #4 wasn't me, honest! And I'm not grizzled. Oh, wait, maybe I am...

Author, this sounds like it might be a lot of fun in that quirky Bimbos of the Death Sun way.

writtenwyrdd said...

This could be an amusing read. I think the humorous elements are great and would love to see this in print. Good luck with it.

pacatrue said...

Personally, I think you should talk a lot more about the alpacas. While any alpaca mention gets a lot of ummm Paca Points, any story could only be better with an alpaca as the hero. Perhaps the parasitic brain-worms can trigger super-fast evolution in one of the alpacas, such that he becomes exceedingly intelligent and capable of leaping over small barns.

In fact, I say dump the rugged biologist Mike, and make the Alarmingly Alluring Alpaca the love interest for Laura. A little human / alpaca love could be a bit controversial, I grant, but if Edward Albee can win a Tony award for writing about a relationship with a goat, I don't see why a much handsomer alpaca should be a problem. After all, this is SF. Kirk would have gotten it on with a cute alpaca in no time.

Better yet, hire Aishwarya Rai or Monica Bellucci to play Laura in the movie adaptation and I might, just might, come out of retirement to play opposite her.

P.S. please add lots of love scenes to the story immediately. No need to be coy about any of the details either. If you want to cut out this whole plot thing you have going, and just write a bunch of scenes with the alpaca and Bellucci making out, I don't think it would be a problem. If anyone objects, we'll toss in some explosions and a car chase through San Francisco. Hollywood will love it.

Blogless Troll said...

I realize it might take away the mystery, but you might consider changing the title to Parasitic Brain-Worms from Outer Space! It's impossible to read that without hearing a woman scream to the accompaniment of pulsing string instruments.

Anonymous said...

paca! lol!

Anonymous said...

I laughed my way through the Guess the Plots. It was only when I was done that I did a double-take and realized one of them had to be real! This was the first time I didn't have a clue which one was the real one.

Considering your market, author, that's a compliment.

I, too, think "Parasitic Brain-Worms From Outer Space" is a much better title. Then, in all your marketing, you can call the book sort of a "Close Encounters of the Herd Kind" and pay EE a percentage of your marketing dollars for using it. Win-win, with the best of both titles covered.

Could be a fun read if the writing is tight and right, as others pointed out...

shaded-lily said...

I vote for "Parasitic Brain-Worms from Outer Space" as the title! :D

I keep "Bimbos of the Death Sun" and "Zombies of the Gene Pool" on my bookshelves just because the titles are so cute.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

If done with the right touch, this could be hilarious. The plot of a Tom Robbins novel is no less sane, but he makes it work.

Is it just me, or does 60K sound a little short?

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to the
hollywood treatment. It'll be set in Wyoming, starring Samuel L. Jackson. The logline will be:

Parasitic Brain Worms on a motherf***in' plain!

Anonymous said...

EE, you are a miracle worker! I'm only slightly disappointed that you didn't give more space to the reanimated cattle, but that may have been modesty, since you did inspire their addition to the plot.

Paca, the alpaca does have a major role, and gets the last word.

I'm going to sound really clueless now, and admit I never thought of Close Encounters parallels, probably because I've never seen the movie. Or ET, either. My model was more the b/w films by Jack Arnold, like It Came From Outer Space, Monolith Monsters, Tarantula, and so on.
(word ver: preux - where's my chevalier?)

GutterBall said...

Zombie cows. It was only a matter of time. They're the next big thing, you know.

Pacatrue? But I'm dying, here.

Oh, and:

Parasitic Brain Worms on a motherf***in' plain!

Anonymous 6:44, you're killing me! I almost choked on that one!

Ahem. Author, the story could be hilarious, but I'm afraid that it can never be as hilarious as the commentary it will draw. But since that's what'll sell it, you may just have something. Good luck!

The Droll Bastard said...

Hate to poop on the party and all that, but there's already a comic sci-fi novel named "Fluke". By a certain Christopher Moore. And it's a very good book.

I'd look for another title no matter what.

Anonymous said...

You should give the suggestions to change the title some serious thought, especially since there is already a novel by Christopher Moore titled "Fluke." While it's perfectly legal to use the same title, it's not necessarily a good idea, especially since Moore is also writing comic SF.

Anonymous said...

Zombie cows but no zombie deathfish?

How on earth do you expect this to sell without a zombie shark in it?

Anonymous said...

This sounds like it would be a fun read if done right. -V95

Anonymous said...

I vote for "Close Encounters of the Herd Kind" being the title of the book, actually. That's hilarious.

batgirl said...

There's also a semi-comic fantasy by James Herbert, called Fluke, about a murdered man reincarnated as a dog.
The publisher would get to decide the final title anyways, so not much point agonising over the perfect choice. It would be like sketching the cover art oneself.