Thursday, March 01, 2007

Face-Lift 283

Guess the Plot

Dani's Inferno

1. A new Phoenix nightclub serves up hot food, hot waitresses, and hot action. When the diamonds on the murdered girl in the ladies' room also turn out to be hot, it's up to Detective Dani DeMarco to cool the situation down and clear the club's name.

2. When every house in her neighborhood except her own burns down, Dani Darrell becomes an arson suspect. Can she escape the hot seat while also fanning the flames of her new relationship with the mysterious hunky German, Hans?

3. Thirteen-year-old Dani likes low-slung jeans, designer thongs and the latest boy bands. But when her mother gets a Chadwick's mailorder catalog and decides to burn all of Dani's clothes, a toxic cloud engulfs the neighborhood as Dani learns the meaning of Hell.

4. Not satisfied with the dark and somber colors of the Inferno, nor it's nine circles, Dani redecorates in pastels and adds anterooms complete with kitchens, bars, and novelty items.

5. It's Chili Night at the House of Paco's Taco House and Dani, the new chef, has just got a new shipment of the Red Savina Habanero at 577,000 SHU. Will dinner be a spectacular affair, or will the guests require transplants in the morning?

6. Dante's Inferno retold as a 12,000 line rap epic. Dani Tay is led through the circles of hell by the Notorious V-ir-G. It turns out that Lawrence Welk is at the bottom. Also, some bitches.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I read on your web site that you are interested in women's fiction. I am hoping you will consider my novel, Dani’s Inferno, for representation. It runs 69,000 words.

Dani Darrell habitually dates the type of men who give women post traumatic stress syndrome. [In fact, her last four dates have been with Mike Tyson, a molten metal Terminator from the future, Evil Editor, and that Jared guy from the Subway commercials.] The day after the Berlin Wall falls, East German Hans Walgesang appears at the PR firm where she works. He brushes aside questions regarding how he managed to get to the U.S. so quickly. His goal is fame, even though he admits to having no talent.

[Hans: I want to be famous.
Dani: That's what we're here for. What do you do?
Hans: Nothing.

Dani: Hmm, that narrows it down to TV game show host, lead singer for a heavy metal band, or serial killer. Wait, any chance you could marry Joan Collins?]

Dani tells herself that this lanky man with scarred knuckles [He spent an entire week trying to claw the Berlin Wall down, only to discover that it was scheduled for demolition the next day. Boy, was he pissed.] and Baptist-preacher-meets-punk-rock hair is most likely a criminal, but being around him ignites something besides her constant anger. And that’s a promising change of pace for a woman who lives in a neighborhood where all of the homes are burning down, except hers. [Thank God she went with brick.] [Her neighborhood is in flames, she's either the next to lose her home or the chief suspect, but whenever she's around this jobless, talentless criminal, things are looking up?] If Hans could flee the communist bloc, maybe Dani can escape an arson investigation, locate her missing father, and bring her secret artistic dream [Which is what?] to roaring life. [There's no connection between these things. If Hans can hop a plane from Germany to America, then I should be able to find my father and escape an arson investigation? It's like saying, If Tiger Woods can win the British Open, then I should be able to open a chain of Italian restaurants and find my missing sock.] She’ll have to break a few laws to get what she wants. [Which is what?] But Hans is the perfect partner, [How can she know this?] even if he hasn’t told her what really brought him to Seattle. [He's searching for the perfect skim hazelnut latte.]

Dani’s Inferno is my first novel. I’ve completed the advanced fiction writing program at XXXX and my essays have appeared in [name of large newspaper]. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.



If this is to make any sense, it needs to explain:

What does Dani want?
Why does she need to break the law to get it?
Why is Hans needed to get it?

Is that how it works with PR firms? You walk in and declare you want fame, and they make it happen?

Which came first, the title, or the burning houses plot? Is this part mystery, with Dani trying to discover who the arsonist is? Do all the houses burn at the same time, or one at a time? If the former, that's a lot of arson for one day's work. If the latter, you'd think after the third or fourth house, the cops would get wise and stake out the neighborhood.

You don't need the first sentence about traumatic stress syndrome. It has little to do with the rest of the letter. You could start: The day after the Berlin Wall falls, East German Hans Walgesang appears at the Seattle PR firm where Dani Darrell works. Or you might consider starting by saying all the houses in her neighborhood have burned down, Dani's a suspect, her dad's missing, things seemingly can't get any worse--until a talentless but hunky German walks into her office. I'd want to know if this is mainly the story of Dani satisfying her artistic aspirations, or of her romance with Hans or of her life behind bars before defining how it should start.


Rashenbo said...

LOL.... :) I like the House of Paco's Taco personally :D

This letter did seem a little scattershot to me... kind of meanders around a bit and I'm not really seeing a few of the connections. It could be tightened and weeded a bit, me thinks.

none said...

Dani: Hmm, that narrows it down to TV game show host, lead singer for a heavy metal band, or serial killer.

You forgot critic.

Blogless Troll said...

The German should've tried Jared's PR firm. Talk about a guy with no talent. I still think if Subway was smart they'd pay him to eat McDonald's for a year, gain all that weight back, then put him on the six inch veggie diet. He's been milking that gig for 10 years, so I don't think he'd object to selling himself a little more blatantly, and it'd make a great reality show.

Anonymous said...

Can't tell if this is chick lit, murder mystery, or a mess: you've got dueling subplot syndrome. It would help to focus on your main plot/genre and reduce mention of the others to a few words.

I've never had a job where it would be ok to romance the firm's clients so that didn't quite work for me. Could she meet him some other way?

I'm also skeptical that any savvy person would think an East German with the $$ and motivation to vault over the remains of the Wall and into a PR firm in Seattle 24-36 hours post "fall" could possibly be anything other than a criminal or a wizard. So with that as your set-up, I'm convinced this chick's no genius. Cute and naive, perhaps. But that makes it really hard to imagine her out-detecting the detectives on the nation's biggest arson case in decades while also solving the missing dad case so you might want to give us some clue how she does that. You do realize arson that's leveled an entire neighborhood would bring out the FBI and ATF as well as SPD, King County Cops, the State Patrol, and a whole swarm of insurance investigators -- don't you? Did this all burn with no one getting hurt or are there charred bodies galore? Maybe one burnt house and a few flaming dumpsters would be enough.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

It sounds like a plot that needs a ton of research to back it up, but personally, I'm not convinced by the query that the research is there. My best advice would be to try and whack the thing down to one solid paragraph and anything else you can fit in there is gravy.

Brenda said...

I'd hoped for #1. I may write that. Someone tell me who to credit if I do.

There's nothing I can add that hasn't been mentioned here. It's scattered and then your tossing in the missing dad when you did made me think "aliens in chapter 14". Look at how EE reworded it. So much better to give us all the issues at once.

I got all mentally-stuttery at the idea of a date with EE though. Then he ruined my visual by mentioning Jared. So, so evil.

shaded-lily said...

Which came first, the title, or the burning houses plot? I wondered about that too. The burning-houses bit seems tacked on.

being around him ignites something besides her constant anger I-hate-you-I-hate-you-I-hate-you-I-LOVE-you -- am I the only one who's getting a little tired of that? And did you intentionally use "ignite" because it turns out that Hans is the one setting the fires?

This plot outline sounds as if it could be a fun satirical novel. Talentless, possibly criminal, guy wants to be famous for being famous; talented, unprincipled PR chick helps him capture America's heart and loses her own shallow heart to him in the process -- I'd read that. But I don't get the impression this novel goes that way.

(Author, there are plenty of women's-fiction readers out there, so you don't have to worry about my opinion.)

writtenwyrdd said...

There isn't much I can add to the previous comments. Start with a synopsis or a plot outline and see what the various plot threads are, then decide which one your book is supposed to be about. I'm guessing from the query that your book itself will need some surgery to get it into shape, too.

Anonymous said...

"Flaming dumpsters" would be a great name for a punk band.

Anonymous said...

It would help to know if the protagonist is the arsonist. Can't tell if she's supposed to be wacko, either.

Your identification of the "women's fiction" genre doesn't seem right with these plot elements. Maybe Snark's catch-all "Commercial Fiction" would be better.

PJD said...

bb, happy to take credit for GTP #1 and happy to have you write it! I would also be happy to offer a critique swap if you ever do.

PJD said...

Oh, I should amend my taking-credit comment to acknowledge EE's editing skills. The GTP is mine, sure, but the final version has his fingerprints all over it. Maybe that's why you liked it so much...

Dave Fragments said...

The latest "In" name for a punk band would be "Screaming Scrotums" in honor of the Newbury award.

An East German Punk Baptist preacher...? Now that strains my credulity. Mostly because the Communists who ran East Germany supressed religion. Also, the main religion of Germany is still Proteatant (Calvinists and Lutherins, mostly).

Brenda said...

Guess I'd have to credit you both then, eh?

I'd love a critique swap!

Xenith said...

>a neighborhood where all of the homes are burning down, except hers

That makes it sound like all the houses except one are currently on fire or there's a systematic burning of a (very large) number of houses going on. In either case, surely the neighbourhood would have been evacuated by now? And wouldn't it have more impact on what she is currently doing?