Friday, March 23, 2007

Face-Lift 301

Guess the Plot

The College

1. When the computer industry nosedives, one geek decides to switch majors. Follow Cole, as he spends an entire biology lab attempting to dissect a computer mouse.

2. Before his death Hitler sent a guy to America to start a college, training people for leadership roles in all walks of life. Sixty years later, alumni of the college are ready to make their move, and if they succeed . . . the U.S. will have its first Nazi president.

3. This tell-all expose on the Electoral College shows what really happens on election night and in the months following: the shocking S&M parties, illicit use of hallucinogens, strip poker, and even drinking games based on FOX News shows. Is this any way to choose the leader of the free world?

4. When a group of college professors attempt to take over the world, and educate all the illiterate by force, only one thing stands in their way... some of the professors can't read.

5. The farmers didn't mind Tim setting up his "college" on the Perkins place. It was cute that all them girls wanted to get eddy-cated. Suspicions arise, however, when the girls start coming home . . . different.

6. When Tera wins a scholarship to her local community college, she is thrilled. Now she can achieve her dream of becoming a taxidermist. But soon after she starts classes, she discovers someone is practicing taxidermy on the students.

Original Version

Dear Sir,

I see on your website that you represent mystery/suspense, among others. [Be more specific: say "among other stuff."] My novel, THE COLLEGE, is complete at 80000 words.

One week before the fall of the Third Reich in 1945, Hitler secretly sent off his teacher from Berlin to America. [His teacher? Whom are we talking about? Hitler probably hadn't been in school for forty years, and when he was in school he surely had more than one teacher.] The man faded into obscurity in upstate New York while his death was faked in Istanbul. Soon after, a college more exclusive than Harvard was born in New York State with a single-minded vision of training up the next generation of white extremist leaders. More than 60 years had now gone by. In that time, THE COLLEGE had successfully placed its leaders in all areas of commerce. [Unfortunately, most of them have now taken early retirement.] [So, is THE COLLEGE the name of the college? Has the administration ever heard of lower-case letters?] [I can see not wanting to call the place Nazi University, but if you want your graduates to get jobs in all areas of commerce, it might be better if job interviews don't go:

Interviewer: And where did you get your business degree?
Applicant: THE COLLEGE.
Interviewer: What college?
Applicant: Just THE COLLEGE.
Interviewer: STOP YELLING. We'll be in touch. Next.]

Now it had its first Senator. With the Presidential elections looming in the near future, [No need to provide the definition of "looming."] THE COLLEGE’s plans were coming to a head. But all its careful planning could become undone when THE COLLEGE hired its first non-white faculty member. Lee, a top Stanford graduate, was hired to fulfill accreditation purposes. [If full accreditation requires a racially diverse faculty, I would argue that hiring one black guy isn't gonna do it.] As Lee inadvertently discovered the secrets of THE COLLEGE, [He looked through the catalog of course offerings and put two and two together:

English 212: Fantasies of Literature, from Wonderland to Oz to the Holocaust
Religion 160: Why God likes white people best
History 265: The 20th century's most benevolent leaders, from Gandhi to Hitler
Political Science 115: Getting away with genocide in the 21st century
Chemistry 101: Building your own home gas chamber]

he became a target for elimination.

[We must kill Lee.
Why, Herr Dean?
He knows too much.
But he's the only black guy on campus.
That's the other reason.]

Will he survive and expose THE COLLEGE’s past and its plans for the future before America, unknowingly, elects a Nazi President? From corrupt officials to racism, THE COLLEGE is a mystery/suspense novel that combines historical facts [Historical facts like, There was once a guy named Hitler.] with current issues.

Can I interest you in a few sample chapters?

Thank-you very much for your time and consideration.



If you don't want to put the whole thing in the present tense, at least do so with the part that takes place in modern times. It'll read much better.

Not sure why they need to fake the guy's death in Istanbul. Plenty of Germans died in Germany during the war.

I'm not sure what's involved in starting a college, but I'm pretty sure they aren't just born.

I think you've got your work cut out for you if you want people to buy into this plot. I mean, the first graduates of THE COLLEGE are now about 70. The first faculty members are probably dead. Finding new faculty members on a regular basis for a Nazi curriculum wouldn't be easy. Sure, there are neo-Nazi groups, but how many of their members are qualified to teach college classes?


none said...

Just how much more mileage can EE get out of that one piece of clipart? Bets should be taken!

Anonymous said...

Do research on the Cold Springs Harbor lab and its associates, then rewrite your book.

PJD said...

This is totally unbelievable for the simple reason that no Stanford graduate is smart enough to put two and two together. (Oops, did I let my Berkeley colors show through?)

Anyway, I was not bothered by the Istanbul thing. Also, 70 is not an unusual age for a US President, is it? I am more likely to disbelieve that they have just acquired their first senate spot while also having a clear path to the White House. Seems to me they'd have multiple senators before they'd be in position to place a president.

I think it's a great idea, but the query does not entirely convince me you can pull it off. See EE's questions. Also, with politics being what it is these days, wouldn't there likely be some conspiracy theories floating around about THE COLLEGE? Bloodhounds and character assassins abound during election years.

Additionally, are you sure that diverse faculty is a requirement for accreditation at a private college? I would be surprised if that were the case, but I have no background in accreditation.

The whole white supremacists hiring minorities thing doesn't feel right. Like fundamentalist Christians hiring an avowed atheist to teach Bible classes to children. I think it would be so abhorrent to them that they would fight with any and all means against it, from legal action to deceit, forgery, violence, etc. Or maybe dissolving and re-forming the college every few years. Or maybe even going without accreditation. You'll have to be very convincing on their need to hire a minority, I think.

Kanani said...

Oh, EE made me laugh.

This requires me to suspend too much of what I know about that particular time period.

If your belief is that the social elite from clubs such as Skull and Bones at Yale, as well as those from all the other ivys, work to create public policy that discriminates against non-whites, then write a novel about that. Because frankly, you can make a damned fine case, especially if you choose an era before civil rights and also before the current economic divisions.

But to mix Hitler in with the social elite is really iffy because one of his means to reaching his goal was genocide. And I wouldn't make the correlation between the social elite here and an outright act of genocide.

Anonymous said...

"The man faded into obscurity in upstate New York while his death was faked in Istanbul."

Faking a death and fading into obscurity are contrary, unless one happens something like ten years after the other. If he faked his death in Instanbul, New York Obscurity (I hear they've got killer racquetball courts!) would be shocked to find him there. Sloppy phrasing, I think.

Bernita said...

Difficult to suspend my disbelief on the backstory, even with piano wire.

GutterBall said...

That's the other reason.

Ow. I just fell out of my chair laughing. I'm seriously.

Anyway, why does it have to be Hitler's teacher? I'm sure all the Nazis didn't die when he did. Any of them could have loosely organized and formed an obscure private college with exacting entry categories. Maybe they had an Asian or two for accreditation purposes before now but were finally pressured to bring in a black guy.

Your suspension of disbelief niggles can be handled if you just step out of the box a bit. You don't have to have Hitler to have Nazis, for example. And not all minorities are black, for another.

I think you can pull it off if you just sharpen up those plot elements and get your timeline straight. It's perfectly acceptable for a few generations to have gone through the school before someone gets elected to office. Again, not too much a stretch if you tighten the other loopholes.

Just be very careful of your "facts". Not everything has to be historically accurate to be enjoyable, but don't ask too much of us!

PJD said...

I find it interesting that people assume Lee is black. I made that assumption myself before re-reading the query. The only things we know about Lee are (a) he's male, (b) he's non-white, and (c) he graduated from Stanford.

Hmmm. In listing those things out, I'm wondering exactly who the people are in this book. The original teacher is probably dead. There's a Senator. There's a presidential candidate. That's three.

Following that line, I'm beginning to wonder what happens in the book. I hope when you send this query it is accompanied by a synopsis. I think that could work because you've got a pretty good hook buried in here. If not, then you might consider reworking the query.

Is Lee the main character? You'll notice all the comments you've received are analysis of the scenario, not of the story. Start with Lee and run through what he discovers and what he does about it, and why. Bring in the other characters.

If you were writing a query for Grisham's The Firm, for example, would you talk about how mob bosses hire lawyers to launder their money? No, you'd talk about the young lawyer roped into a bad situation, and what he does about it.

What you've given us in the query is all backstory. I think if you focus on Lee and the plot, you'll get far fewer comments disbelieving your premise.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I'm with pjd. You have a complex premise, and complexity doesn't lend itself to a one-page query letter.

Skip the backstory and focus on Lee and his problem. He thought he was getting his dream job, only to realize more than just the usual academic bickering over tenure is going on. He uncovers a plot more than sixty years in the making, with its ultimate goal... what? Sure, a Nazi president would be bad, but without collaborators in Congress and on the Supreme Court, how much mayhem would he get away with before he was impeached?

I'm assuming your college's fiendish plan doesn't just stop at the oath of office and doesn't hinge on just one man. So what's the really BIG thing Lee finds out, besides that some rich white jerk might get elected to the presidency. It's happened before. In fact, it happens nearly every time.

But whatever you do, leave most if not all of the backstory out of the query. This novel is about Lee, right? The query should be, too.

And as for GTP#1, you just unscrew the back. No scalpel or even a screwdriver needed. Duh, Cole!

merper said...

I blame the black thing entirely on EE's hilarious comments.

Dave Fragments said...

I can think of several stories:
Brotherhood of the BEL (Beta Epsilon Lambda), The Skulls, The Boys From Brazil, The Manchurian Candidate, to mention a few that involve old conspiracies about taking over the USA by getting a nasty, mole-like presidents elected. Or at least something like that. Conpsiracy theories are good plots. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was another but is sucked swamp water so bad, I hate to even mention it.

The plot is not the problem, the implementation is. Most WW2 vets are dying off. So it's got to be a second generation of nazi loonies and far, far, far, (even farther - like beyond the Ortt Cloud) right wing nutcakes who run this entire college.

I don't believe that. Refine your plot some and make the story match up with it.

Start out with the premise that your protagonist is attending college at 21 and was born in 1986. His mother had to be born after 1946 or later. I suspect 1955. So her mother, your heroes grandmother would be born no earlier than 1906 and died in childbirth having a late child. Fathers don't count for this because they don't suffern from a "biological clock"...

Ages can be so restricting. You have to be careful about them.

Wonderwood said...

Religion 160: why God likes white people best

LOL That's classic. All the classes were pretty damn funny.

I always come in late with my comment, and I don't have much to add to what's already been said. There's some good advice in the comments. Your job is to figure out which ones to use :-)

Anonymous said...

A veteran of the WWII would have to be 80+ years old now, not 70. [62+18]. I know there are people who love to hate Hitler in fiction, but that's not my genre. I don't find this plot the least bit believable, but maybe your readers love any conspiracy theory with Nazi villains and will therefore adore it as is.

Evil Editor said...

A veteran of the WWII would have to be 80+ years old now, not 70.

True, but the conspirators are not veterans of WWII, they're graduates of THE COLLEGE, which was born after WWII, possibly quite a few years after.

Anonymous said...

I frankly don't find the plot the least bit believable either, but it still sounds interesting and fun if done well. It's kind of like watching that video (I never got all the way through it) that essentially says that the US government created the 9/11 hijackings. Not believable, but a darn fun story.

And I keep forgetting to bow down to EE's superior creativity. This was a good one, EE.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't someone a few queries back doing a book where the culprits were a sleeper cell of aged communists? Is this the same book but with the names changed? Or was that one of the guess plots?

Evil Editor said...

That would be Face-Lift 268 (

No idea if there's a connection.

Anonymous said...

Dear EE and fellow ee'ites, I want to thanks all of you for your insightful comments to my novel THE COLLEGE. I really appreciate all of you and look forward to future input as well.
I will be sure to modify my novel in light of this new comments. Also, the query of course.
A little bit more info on the book. Fact:The Nazi party evolved from the teachings of 1 man, whose death was faked in Istanbul. He subsequently disappeared.
Yes, the book is all about Lee and his discoveries thereof. I gave the backdrop story to see how it would be received. Why did you all assume Lee was black?
The accreditation was not a race requirement. It is much more complicated and involves a lot of money! Very smart that some of you saw this right off.
Yes, all the characters are second generation (or sympathisers) extremists. But we are not talking about the Nazi party here. We have a master teacher here who can adapt very well to US culture. So forget about genocide. Think power, money, and influence.
The book has lots of historical facts mingled with the fiction. Mendelian laws, eugenics, immigration are all there. Couple it with some fast action and a plot that grows into paranoia (as the book progresses)and you get a book that I hope will be accepted for publication one fine day!
I just want to say again that many of you saw through some of the intricacies of the plot and I tip my hat off to you.
Thank you EE and all ee'ites.
Any other comments to help me would be most welcomed.

Anonymous said...

I have attached the new rewritten query below. Please can I ask you and your minions to tear it apart again. Each comment is a valuable learning experience for me. Thank-you so much.
Dr. Billy

Staying in school can kill you.

Lee is Stanford’s top doctoral graduate. His publications make him a superhero in the academic world. So it was no surprise to him when top colleges came a courting. Seduced by an obscene offer, Lee chucked Harvard and MIT, and opted for Mayfair College, a small exclusive college in upstate New York.

It was a happy nuptial but why do people who stood in the way of the college die off in accidents? Maybe it was just coincidence. And why, in this time and age, were there no other colored faculty in the college? Maybe that was coincidence too.

Lee’s world of mundane academics, tenure, and promotion was finally turned upside down when he inadvertently discovered that a handful of top leaders at Mayfair had the insane idea of getting a racist Senator alumnus to become the next President of America.

But did their plan stop there?

Who else in the school was involved?

Can anybody in the school be trusted?

To his chagrin, Lee also learnt that Mayfair was after his publication record so as not to lose their billion dollar endowment fund. When another one of his colleagues’ died, Lee discovered to his further dismay that the college had a master plan, formulated before he was even hired, to get rid of him too. Permanently.

For everybody who stood in the way of the college dies.

As the Civil Liberties Group got involved, Mayfair’s cloak of secrecy fell to reveal a past so terrible and a future so unthinkable that if successful, America will be changed forever - for Mayfair was started by the founding father of the Nazi party. Can Lee survive his honeymoon long enough to expose a racist plan, 60 years in the making, to take over America?

Evil Editor said...

It's much better with the focus on Lee. It needs to be in the present tense from beginning to end. The paragraph that begins "It was a happy nuptial ... can be dumped. If it isn't, at least change "colored" to "minority" or "African-American." There are a few rough spots, but I'll let the minions point out the most glaring ones.

Anonymous said...

It's better but still too long. When you cut to the chase you can really strengthen this. This isn’t perfect but IMHO the plot comes through better.


Staying in school can kill you.

Lee (INSERT LAST NAME) is Stanford’s top doctoral graduate and a superhero in the academic publishing world. Top colleges court him. Seduced by an obscene (job) offer, Lee chucks Harvard and MIT, and opts (for a position) with Mayfair College, a small exclusive college in upstate New York.

(From the first day at Mayfair, Lee notices that things are different than expected. There are no minority professors. Or even minority students. And colleagues are dying in unusual accidents.) Then he inadvertently discovers (HOW?) a (plot to elect, insert name, a) racist Senator Alumnus, the next President of America.

Mayfair, started by the founding father of the Nazi party (Hitler?? If you mean him, just say it. If not, give me a name and then the description), is on the brink of ushering in the next holocaust. Everyone who opposes the college's master plan is terminated. And Lee's next on the hit list.


I don't like ending with a question mark as you did with the original. The problem I had with all the questions in the most recent version is you didn't answer them. Strip out the questions and give me the information, which I indicated in "( )", I need IMHO to believe the plot will work. Also I think present tense is the preferred tense for queries and synopsizes.

The first line is great. Now keep that tone throughout the query

M Harold Page said...

Much much better IMHupO. However, it still doesn't give much sense of the meat of the book. What's happening while he's gathering evidence? Is he on the run, or merely dogged by snipers? Why don't they frame him for something nasty?