Thursday, June 07, 2007

Face-Lift 350

Guess the Plot

The Nature Room

1. Evalina Flint wanted the latest in green technology for her new home: solar power, wind technology and composting in the kitchen. But squatting over a dirt hole in a shed full of thistles, she wonders whether the bathroom has to be so, uh, primitive.

2. All Derora wanted was to fit in at her boarding school, but then she becomes enemies with Megan, the most popular girl in school. Even worse, she is thrust into the Nature Room, a peaceful planet connected to the school by secret passages. Also, a crippled elf.

3. There's ragweed growing against the wall, the walls are rippling fur--either cat or dog, no one knows which-- a tree is sprouting like an elephant's leg in the corner with wasp and bee hives dangling... The Ninth Circle of Hell has no worse punishment for the allergic than the Nature Room!

4. Twelve-year-old twins Venice and Genoa complain so much of boredom, they are sent to stay with relatives in France. Everything there seems normal, until midnight, when the wallpaper comes to life -- then the girls must run through jungles, fleeing jaguars, gibbons, pythons, and the ghostly Skeleton King. Will they survive till morning?

5. In 3729 AD, the whole world’s surface has become a giant city called Unitropolis. Driven by descriptions of a thing called the “Outdoors” from the “ancient times,” a group of college students search the globe for the legendary Last Tree and the hidden vault that holds it – only to find themselves enmeshed in a conspiracy of global proportions.

6. Todd has never been part of the Crisco crowd, opting for single partner sex . . . but when the hot new swingers club opens up on Pheelmore Avenue, Todd decides an “orgy” is in order. It isn’t until he pays the two hundred bucks and follows the circuitous underground tunnel that he discovers he’s in the orangutan cage of the city zoo.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

New classmates, new school year, and a different planet. One invading army. A pinch of magic, telepathy, and secrets. [Three sentences, nineteen words, and no verbs.] From two viewpoints, THE NATURE ROOM is a finished 66,000 word YA novel.

Way back before the bible, humans lived on another planet in the city of Eden, until they got kicked off for being too violent. [Humans. They screw up everything they get their hands on.] This upset the balance of nature, and only a few centuries ago was a solution reached: a crippled elf was sent to Earth, where he started a boarding school with some secret passages that magically bridge the gap between worlds and others that spy on the teachers lounge. [After thousands of years of brainstorming, this is the solution they come up with to nature's imbalance?] He implemented a test, ensuring only the smartest and most peaceful students would get in. And he faked his own death once The Schools tradition of rich graduates was established. [Why?]

John is one of the students at The School, and his concerns are normal: Get a date with Megan, stop the kid he's tutoring from mauling his balls, [No way would I continue tutoring a kid who was mauling my balls. You have to draw the line somewhere.] get his history project done, stop his mole-like friend Akamu from insulting his groupmates. [Mole-like? Meaning what?] Then yet another kid passes the test, but this one's right below the age cutoff, [Why would someone below the cutoff be taking the test? And why do we care about this kid?] and now there's a new freshman assigned to his group. [I should never read these queries after drinking an entire bottle of Drambuie.]

All Derora wants is to fit in, for once- and she thinks she's off to a good start when the group she's assigned to be her 'family away from family' is friendly. Then her secrecy is tested, and she's thrust into a duel life almost faster than she can swear. One is normal, the other another world known as The Nature Room, where she finds a Symbiote (other species friend-closer-than-family) named Flip, gets a secret nickname, and makes an enemy of Megan, the most popular girl in The School. [Wait, did you mean the kid he was tutoring was mauling his own balls during the tutoring sessions? That would be only slightly less bothersome.]

Just as Derora's adjusting to her new life, and John's adjusting to her, their world gets barfed on as an invading army takes their whole school captive. Spying through secret passages is fun, getting reeducated isn't- especially when John spits on the invaders flag. Their education turns into a struggle, for their lives, their school, and each other- and they'll be damned if it's one they'll lose. [Suddenly this kooky fantasy has morphed into military science fiction?]

I look forward to hearing from you.



You've got the apostrophe-s to replace "is" figured out, but you need to use an apostrophe to show ownership, as in teachers' lounge, invaders' flag, and School's tradition.

There are numerous phrases in here whose meanings aren't 100% clear:

From two viewpoints
Way back before the bible
tradition of rich graduates
her secrecy is tested.
other species friend-closer-than-family

The humans were kicked out of Eden--banished to Earth?
Because this upsets the balance of nature in Eden, a school is started on Earth from which humans--smart peaceful ones--can transport to Eden and back, thus balancing nature?
If that's correct, it's only because I guessed right. It's not clear enough.
In any case that's just the background. Your plot starts when Derora arrives at the school. Tell the story from her viewpoint. Work in what you absolutely must of the background, but stick with Derora as much as possible. Got it? Now start from scratch.

What's dem lights in de sky? Derora.


Unknown said...

oh so many questions, and so little time to ask them all...

so, humans got kicked off another planet? by whom? and didn't he/she/it know it would upset the balance of terror (oops, Star Trek on the brain) balance of nature?

and do i really want to read a book where someone is maulling their own or someone else's balls? nope.

this sounded like so many stories going on at once but i never got a feel for the basic story. why don't you try to summarize your story in once simple thought first (like EE did in the guess the plot) and then build from there what is absolutely important to put in the letter.

Unknown said...

you also said this was from two points of view, right? be clear who these people are because I wasn't sure. i think i'd like to see it from the crippled elf's view, but that might be a little short sighted.

(sorry, i'm deliriously tired at work)

Brenda said...

"world gets barfed on" - love that line.

I had no problem understanding the two viewpoints or how they're describing individual issues in the query. I understood "before the Bible", etc. What lost me is this war stuff - who are they? All I see is the "Eden" and Earth. Is Eden attacking Earth?

I like this. I like the idea, I like the voice - good job in getting voice into the query. Not an easy task!

I agree with EE - focus on Derora if you can. Hers seemed more interesting to me, but overall, it sounds like something my kids would like.

writtenwyrdd said...

So many disparate elements cobbled together make your book sound like it has an identy crisis. Because of all the elements from so many tropes, the query reads like the book should be an amusing spoof... but I gather it isn't.

merper said...

So is this like Harry Potter meets Red Dawn?

Anonymous said...

Dual life, not duel.

It seems like I'm reading excerpts of synopses from several different books. We start with Derora and her standard school worries, the next paragraph is a fantasy history lesson, then we get John and his standard school worries, then it's back to Derora again. Focus on one thread. Eliminate all the extraneous plot points.

The most popular girl in school, guys wanting to date her, the outsider who wants to fit in - these are all standard school story stuff. Not needed. If John's history test isn't central to the plot, leave it out. We all know what kids do in school.

I also don't see the importance of rich graduates, the elf faking his own death, the kid who passes the test but is too young, John's tutoring - in fact, most of the plot points you mention seem minor until you suddenly hit us with the invading army, which presumably comes from oh-so-peaceful Eden?

Find the most important narrative thread in your story (probably the other planet and the invading extra-terrestrials?), and focus on that.

PJD said...

Most excellent GTP entries! My entry was not selected, but it paled in comparison to these. Of the six, I was really hoping this was not #2 (OK, nor nos 1 or 3). I love #4 and #5 especially.

I did not care for this query. While I guess you could say it had a strong voice, I found that voice annoying and contrived, like someone trying too hard to speak teen. I would not want to read an entire book in that voice. (But I'm not the target audience, am I?)

I also just didn't get the premise (why start a school?). And what's with the crippled elf? Crippled how? Is that important? Is this an elf like Elrond or an elf like in the Keebler commercials, or an elf like with Santa Claus? Were there elves in Eden? And where does the crippled elf go, and how can the crippled elf let an invading army take over the school?

Really, though, you lost me with "From two viewpoints, THE NATURE ROOM is a finished 66,000 word YA novel." Are there viewpoints from which THE NATURE ROOM is not a finished 66,000 word YA novel?

To bastardize spooge26's comment: so many questions, so little patience.

Blogless Troll said...

This is another query written for someone who already knows the story. It sounds interesting and fun, but some of the things you included (like the ones anon pointed out) come off like inside jokes because we have no context and get no explanation. Pretend the reader doesn't know anything about your story.

Also, since this is a YA novel, you risk forcing your audience to endure 66,000 words while singing, "Derora Derora Derora the Explerorer..."

And I'm assuming you're using "The School" as a placeholder until you've decided on the real name. You've put all this time and energy into creating this world and these characters. Take ten minutes and write down as many names for the school as you can. At least one will be better than "The School."

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with pjd, I found the voice of this query very trying. I thought it was trying too hard to be flip and cool and young. Also, I had to read it twice carefully in order to understand what was happening. The second paragraph is clunky in wording but I thought it was a very intriguing concept. However, I think the main thrust of your query is in Derora's paragraph. I think you should start your query with Derora and cut out the second and third paragraphs completely. You can incorporate the importance of the test within your Derora paragraph cause it is important, but should be condensed. I actually think your story sounds very interesting, and the flip tone of your query is not a bad idea, since it is YA, it is just a little too much at times. You might consider toning it down a notch so it doesn't feel so much like a rebellious, obnoxious teenager mouthing off.

Anonymous said...

she's thrust into a duel life almost faster than she can swear.

Nah, almost faster than she can cut and parry.

Writen said...

"From two viewpoints
Way back before the bible
tradition of rich graduates
her secrecy is tested." -EE

It's almost like a query in hiaku form... which sounds like fun exercise.

Either that or it sounds like the little promo blurbs that would show up on screen in some Asian fantasy/action/sci-fi movie poorly translated into english.

Sylvia said...

I just couldn't make sense of the first paragraph of the plot at all. The crippled elf is solving what? Why is a boarding school a solution? Why do the passages need to be secret ? And still, why make passages at all? Who is spying on the teachers lounge? And are the passages connecting those people to the bridges?

I see others followed this so I guess it's just me ... but I gave up on the basis I hadn't a clue what was going on.

Anonymous said...

I should never read these queries after drinking an entire bottle of Drambuie.

You have it backwards, EE. You should never read our queries until you've drunk a bottle ... or two.

Author, I have faith there's a story here somewhere with some good voice, but there's too much cluttering detail and not enough plot detail. Too many things thrown out that don't seem connected.

A little more focus, a little more consistency, and a little more dot-connecting and I think you could make this sound like a really fun read!

Anonymous said...

Amusing characters are good, but not enough. You put all your writerly attention on the nouns. The action is not very interesting and things don't always logically connect or have a coherent cause. Try going through the whole thing staying focused on the transitions, relationships, causality. Here are your verbs from the paragraph that starts --

All Derora wants...

wants, fits, thinks, is, is assigned, is, is tested, is thrust, can swear, is, finds, named, gets, makes.

The query comes off as interesting characters doing boring stuff, see why?