Monday, March 19, 2007

Face-Lift 297


Guess the Plot

Jelly Time

1. Kit always dreamed of owning her own doughnut shop. As an intern, she's worked her way up from cake through glazed and even sprinkles. But is she really ready for . . . Jelly Time?

2. Horace and Elizabeth, two residents of the Orchard Hills community, show how it is possible to stay actively intimate well into the senior years.

3. Women of three generations converge in a hot kitchen full of jars, kettles, sugar, etc. to make the year's supply of jelly. But where's the fruit? Sandra was supposed to bring peaches, grapes, and blueberries, but the only sign of her is a strange text message about going "south" with "Jack."

4. When Marie Wensley's baby son flings his lunch at the kitchen clock, the gears of time itself become sticky, and soon history is replaying itself in devastating ways. If Marie can't undo the damage, the world will be stuck forever in . . . Jelly Time.

5. Pherto Dallowish, having failed to publish his novel, embarks on a quest to know the true nature of evil by immersing himself in a psycho-surrealistic world he calls Jelly Time. He expresses his revelations in a new novel based on the evolution of elephant tusks. But will his agent have any better luck selling this one?

6. Judy Moore is the meanest secretary in the world and she will take all the time she needs to eat her jelly donuts on Friday afternoon--no matter how important Tom Johnson thinks his little letter to Hing Ho about the blasted widgets might be.


Original Version

Dear Agent X:

While a quirky, mentally ill, professor-turned-novelist is trapped in his car and immersed in Jelly Time (a psycho-surrealistic world), he tries to recall and jot down the circumstances of his life that led to his crash. Will he survive long enough to be rescued?

As a boy growing up in Pittsburgh, Pherto Dallowish is told his mother lives in Africa saving children from starvation, [And, incredibly, he buys this.] only to find out later at age ten that she’s in a mental hospital. When he visits her, she tells him she could never love him and rants on about the impossibility of any kind of peace in a world where good and evil are indistinguishable; he reacts to the rejection by opposite-acting. For years Pherto obsesses over the paradox of his mother, [The paradox?] and struggles to cope with her overbearing nature. The added stress from losing his professorship and then failing to publish a novel, prompts him to resolve the longstanding conflict with her.

Pherto believes reconciliation is only possible by disproving her fatalistic theory. He starves himself to understand the pain of evil; [Me, I would have jabbed a pointy stick into my thigh to understand the pain of evil, and then raided the fridge.] and then, to define evil, he visits and pesters a couple convicted of starving their adopted children. [That's the third reference to starving already. Suddenly my stomach is growling. Which means . . . it's Peanut Butter and Jelly Time!] The quest becomes a romp in Jelly Time, and borders on the ridiculous when Pherto spreads food [Jelly?] on street corners and organizes a ride on the Peace Train. Neither his friend, Chess (dreamer but conformist), nor his literary agent, Vernon H., are [is] able to bring order to his quest. [Out of curiosity, do you happen to know if Vernon H. is taking on new clients?] With the Pittsburgh media and police searching for the mystery man who littered the city, Pherto has a breakthrough. He expresses his revelations in a novel called The Elephant Dentist, which is partly influenced by the Hindu beliefs of Ganesh and his past research on the evolution of elephant tusks. [I had no idea Ganesh researched elephant tusk evolution; perhaps he was searching for a way to repair his own broken tusk.] Will his efforts prove that peace (and good) is possible and lead to reconciliation with his mother? And why has she been bitter all these years? And, if Pherto is not rescued, who writes Jelly Time and why? [You already wrote it. Jeez.]

Jelly Time is a literary mainstream novel of 90,000 words and explores universal themes from a son’s need for a mother’s affection to his need to be cared for in his own mental illness [to world starvation]. The protagonist is a former scientist; I have experience in this area as an assistant professor for six years at The Universities of Ohio, Cincinnati and Alabama. I published twenty-four peer-reviewed scientific papers and twelve book chapters and reviews and now am a full-time writer with two other novels in the works. Mr. X, the managing editor of X, heard my pitch at the X conference and suggested I contact you. [That bastard X again? He's always sending me his castoffs.] May I send you the manuscript? Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

While a quirky, mentally ill professor-turned-novelist is trapped in his car and immersed in Jelly Time (a psycho-surrealistic world), he tries to recall and jot down the circumstances that led to his crash.

As a boy, Pherto Dallowish was told his mother lived in Africa saving children from starvation; at age ten he learns that she's actually in a mental hospital. When he visits her, she declares she could never love him and rants about the impossibility of peace in a world where good and evil are indistinguishable.

Into adulthood, Pherto struggles to cope with his mother's overbearing nature. Eventually the added stress of losing his professorship and failing to publish a novel prompts him to resolve their longstanding conflict. He believes reconciliation is possible only by disproving her fatalistic theory.

Pherto's quest becomes a romp in Jelly Time, and borders on the ridiculous when he spreads food on street corners. With the media and police searching for the mystery man who littered the city, Pherto has a breakthrough, a revelation that could lead to the reconciliation he desires. But rushing home, he drives into a ravine and becomes inextricably trapped in his car. Will he survive long enough to be rescued, end starvation and bring peace to the world?

Jelly Time is a literary mainstream novel of 90,000 words and explores universal themes from a son’s need for a mother’s affection to his need to be cared for in his own mental illness. Mr. X, the managing editor of Y, heard my pitch at the Z conference and suggested I contact you. May I send you the manuscript? Thank you very much for your time.


Notes

Okay, you don't want my ending (unless I've yet again guessed correctly). But you don't want yours either. I wouldn't read the book to get the answers to the questions you pose, which aren't that interesting.

It was too long. No need to tell us everything. Though it might be interesting to know at what point Pherto slips into mental illness. Also, while I've shortened it, what it may need is for you to decide what's really important (Pherto's breakthrough? The mother/son interaction?) and concentrate on that. There's a lot of stuff in here, and some of it sounds pretty nutty in the query, though I'm sure it's well-handled in the book.

Not clear how a novel could prove peace is possible. And even if it did, it would probably take twenty years to find a publisher and another three to get into print and it would come out the same day as Harry Potter and the Triple Bypass.

Anagrams of Pherto Dallowish: Worship Hell Toad, Death Whirlpools, Adolph Hitler Sow

18 comments:

pacatrue said...

Thwo thoughts of no use to the author:

1) Thanks, EE, now half of the minions are doing the peanut butter jelly time dance. If they aren't, they should be.

2) My Guess the Plot that I never got around to writing involved a 350 lb MC Hammer in parachute pants singing. "Stop. Jelly Time."

You cain't touch this.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was sort of rambling. Instead of listing things that happen to describe the plot you might want to start with a structure something like this --

Pherto Dallowish is determined to improve the world and find his place in it -- if he can survive his life-threatening accident.

-- and insert a few more details you think are most important.

Dave said...

This sounds like a Chuck Palahniuk novel. Especially the one where his protagonist thinks he's was cloned from the DNA of Jesus Christ recovered from the Shroud of Turin. It shares a crazed protagonist, a mental mother and delusions of something non-Nietschean.

BTW - I just ordered Harry Potter and the Triple Bypass on Amazon.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

LOVE GTP #2!!

judy said...

I want to know when the mother got out of the mental hospital.

Judy

Marissa Doyle said...

Uh huh. Okay. Er, I'm not sure this one should necessarily be labeled "mainstream"...

I guess what struck me about it(apart from the weirdness level) was that the author somehow felt divorced from his main character--it was like he was talking about a character in someone else's story, not in the one he wrote and (I would assume) cares passionately about. If you can't feel much for your main character, your readers won't either.

Death whirlpools! Ooh! Ooh! Is that the only way to destroy the zombie cows?

pjd said...

Maybe it's just me feeling a little baited-and-switched, but the title and beginning with "quirky, mentally ill professor-turned-novelist" made me think this was going to be humorous or lighthearted.

But then we get starvation in Africa, an insane mother who hates her child, and failing to publish a novel--perhaps the three most mind-bogglingly atrocious affronts to all that is Good and Right.

So I think that put me off a little. I expected lighthearted but got cerebral, so I doubt I gave the query the fair shake it deserved.

On the positive side: Although I think this is not for me, it sounds like you've got strong character, a rich plot, and good command of the writing.

Finally: You have a reasonably concise and (presumably) accurate accounting of what happens and why. But it's got no soul. The query reads like... well, like it was written by a professor. I recommend that if the novel has voice, bring that out in the query more. (And if it doesn't... well...)

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, I read to escape reality, not to punish myself. This letter didn't flatter your book at all. In fact, I felt like I was reading someone's psych file, and it wasn't pretty.

I'm not sure what could fix this, because I don't see anything interesting in the story that you describe. Might just be "not my cuppa" but I don't know...

blogless_troll said...

I'm confused about Jelly Time. Is the whole story a flashback while he's stuck in the car? Or is he getting a second chance having escaped from Jelly Time? If it's a literary novel then he obviously dies in the crash.

Sorry, I was hoping for GTP #4.

Twill said...

I so want to read number 4. Is it mid-grades or adult humor?

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Four words: Find a New Title

I just couldn't get over the title. Isn't there something catchy like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or something? ;)

Anonymous said...

You know, I was having a bad day, bad week, and then I read Evil Editors thoughts on my letter and all of your comments as well, and I couldn't stop laughing. You guys are great and so is evil editor. Yeah, I will have to improve the letter and that's good to know, but mostly I love all the senses of humor you all have... For some reason, the 'guess the plot' thing almost had me on the floor rolling around in laughter.

I think I had been taking myself too seriously lately... and reading all of your comments makes me realize that all this should be fun and not just hard work. You guys are clever and witty... thanks for helping me too... best to you all,...

Xenith said...

Am I missing something that would make GTP #3 make sense?

Anonymous said...

anonymous author, you're a charmer, and I like your attitude!
-mb

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Anyone who can be heckled and prodded and come out laughing definitely deserves jelly. Maybe even some toast to put it on.

Bernita said...

The Hell Toad... that would make a great title.

acd said...

One of us! One of us!

Kanani said...

I'd shorten it even more, EE.

Just tell me what happens. Don't get lost in a bunch of adjectives or words like Jelly Time (which sounds like Sci-Fi).

What does your character do that makes him interesting? What happens?

Try this: Describe what happens in your book in 5 simple lines that tell me why I should read your book.