Friday, August 10, 2007

Face-Lift 398

Guess the Plot

A Certain Kind of Girl

1. She loves kittens and walks on the beach. She dances in the rain. She has been known to sleep on the muddy ground behind the freak show tent at a carnival, just so she can watch the sun rise from a Ferris wheel. She's wanted on four counts of arson. She consumes a live ferret at every meal. You know the type.

2. She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you're a man . . . unless you mess with her golf clubs. Then, she'll crack your head open with said frying pan.

3. She's manipulative, clingy, and jealous of anyone who even looks at her guy. Everyone can see that she's an insane psycho. Oh, and she's killed hundreds of men over the years, but it's not as bad as it sounds, since she's immortal.

4. She's the kind who would stick a huge bag of pot in your underwear drawer and call the sheriff to tell him you're a drug dealer. When you're arrested, she means to call and let the sheriff know it was a practical joke, but somehow she never gets around to it.

5. She's sexy and she knows it and she's the kind of girl who wouldn't be caught dead at a football game but who will happily move in on the quarterback just to annoy her roommate who has a crush on him. Also, she's sleeping her way through law school.

6. She's tall and tan and young and lovely and when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ah." Also, when she walks she's like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle, and when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ooh."

Original Version

Meg Carter sees her first fairy when she's twelve. [Insert joke here.] By the time she gets to college, the supernatural doesn't seem that important anymore. Sure, she talks to dryads and bribes gremlins so they don't steal her date's keys, but there are other things to think about, like friends, [boys,] classes, [boys,] and the horrible girls her brother Fred brings home on vacation. The hidden world just isn't that big a deal. [Also, you tend not to run into as many gremlins when you're in college as you did when you were a kid.]

Except that now there's a weird parasite out in the woods. It's magical, it's scary, and it eats people. Meg knows, because a dryad warns her—but dryads don't talk anything like humans do. [Not sure what the point is there.] Meg and her friends aren't even sure what this thing looks like. As they try and fail to track it down, Fred gets involved with his worst girlfriend yet. [I Googled "dryad," and I gotta say, the image results are interesting. Apparently there are bad dryads, and there are the kind of dryads you want to just stare at for hours. However, I tend to think that no matter what kind of dryad it is, if it tells me there's a magical parasite that eats people in the woods, I'm gonna find an excuse to stay out of the woods. Why is Meg trying to track it down?]

Eva's manipulative, clingy, and jealous of anything [Are you sure we're not talking about Eva Longoria?] that takes Fred's attention off of her. Everyone can see that she's a psycho—except for Fred. But Meg doesn't have a lot of luck convincing him of that. [No guy likes to be told his girlfriend is a parasite.] Besides, he's always had bad taste in women, and he's always gotten over it. [If you get over something, you don't have it anymore.] Meg figures Eva will go away eventually. She certainly doesn't connect her to the parasite in the woods.

Then Fred disappears.

When Meg goes to look for him, she discovers Eva's real nature: immortal, insane, and extremely powerful. [How do you discover that someone is immortal?] Like mortal men have done for hundreds of years, Fred's gone to her world. Like them, he'll die there, horribly, when Eva finds a reason to doubt his love. And she always finds a reason.

A Certain Kind of Girl is a 93,000 word urban fantasy novel. Much of it takes place at Brown University, which I attended for four years. [I'm not clear on the setting. Fred brings home horrible girls on vacation. Including Eva? Where is home? Are the woods at home or at Brown? Do Meg and Fred both attend Brown?] I currently work as an editor at O'Reilly Media. [Can you get Evil Editor on The O'Reilly Factor? I have a few things I need to say to that guy.] "Higher Education," a short story which involves some of the characters from A Certain Kind of Girl, will be published October 1st, 2007 in Spacesuits and Sixguns.


Is there anything supernatural about Meg? Does everyone have the ability to see fairies and gremlins?

Parasites are better off keeping their hosts alive, not eating them. Sharks and zombies eat people. Which leads me to ask if people are the parasite's host.

You make it sound like Fred is doomed. Does Meg make an attempt to rescue him?

As they try and fail to track it down would be better stated As they try to track it down--and fail--.

I think I'd leave the parasite out of the query. Drop the second paragraph and start the third one: When Fred gets involved with his worst girlfriend yet, manipulative, clingy Eva, who's jealous of . . . This would leave more room to tell us what Meg does when Fred disappears.


writtenwyrdd said...

The letter has a lot of extraneous bits to it, but overall I liked the idea of your story. I liked the beginning and thought it was a good hook despite its ability to also work as a straight line, lol.

One thing that confused me is that you use friends twice with apparently two different meanings. Friends, you say, are more important than fairies. Then you tell us that Meg and her friends try to discover what the magical parasite is. Seems like the fairy friends are in the second bit.

And perhaps consider why you call the mysterious thing in the woods a parasite when it is a human seeming predator.

Keep honing this one, I bet you can sell it.

pacatrue said...

I like the idea very much as well. I'd want to get the first chapter to check the writing. Cool.

I was trying to come up with actresses to play Meg and Eva, but everyone I thought of played college students fifteen years ago, not today. I don't think Molly Ringwald can still pull this off.

Stacy said...

Cool idea! Your query is well-written. Focuses a little too much on "discovery" rather than the story.

It seems to me you should cover more ground in the query about how Meg manages to free her brother (assuming she does). You could cover how Meg learns Eva's nature in one paragraph, then get to the real meat of the story: Meg's search for Fred. Also, you only hint (albeit strongly) that Eva is the parasite. In the query, I would just go ahead and spell that out. (Don't make an agent do any extra work than s/he has to.) "When Meg learns Eva is the parasite, she finds herself in a race against time to find and free the only brother she will ever know . . . " Something like that. (I know, my example is total cliche, but you get the idea.)

Dave Fragments said...

I think that you are looking in the wrong place for the query letter. I don't think that the hook is Meg's ability to see fairies, gremlins and dryads - a magic world. It's her search for her brother - how she finds him and how she saves him.

Gremlins stealing her date's keys is cute, but it's not a novel. Sister saves brother from death is a novel because it can discuss love, family and courage. That's where the query should focus.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

OOOOOOH! I really liked this query! I would absolutely buy this book to read. I definitely agree with the others that you can edit this much tighter. It definitely is longer than you need it to be. I don't have any other comments other than, WOW!, this sounds like my type of awesome story!

Anonymous said...

How do you discover that someone is immortal?

You wait.

Anonymous said...

I'll start off by saying I like the premise in this query. But I also happened to have read your synopsis on the Crapometer, and I think while this story shows promise, the synopsis has the story -- right after where this query leaves off -- devolving into finding magic swords and a pretty stock ending. I think if you can envision a more original ending, you'll have a better chance at snagging an agent. IMO.

As for the query, Meg Carter sees her first fairy when she's twelve is maybe not the best hook for this book. It sets the reader up for two false assumptions: the story is about a 12-year-old (the sentence is in present tense) and that it will be about fairies.

You don't elaborate on that first sentence, so the supernatural doesn't seem that important anymore makes me wonder if it ever seemed important.

I also questioned the term "parasite." Not sure how Eva fits that definition. The query needs some motivation for Meg going after the parasite. If a lot of people are disappearing around a college campus, someone's gonna notice and call in the uniforms. A dryad's "warning" makes it sound like the dryad is warning Meg away from the woods, not into them. No need to go into the detail of the dryad not talking like humans. Meg figures it out so it doesn't matter in the query.

You can cut a bit from this query by tightening up the pretty heavy-handed 3rd 'graph. Also, the way the last sentence in the 2nd 'graph is written, it's telegraphing the last sentence of the 3rd 'graph, so you certainly don't need 5 sentences to get the reader to the point they've already figured out. A couple of sentences to get across Eva's personality ought to do.

Then Fred disappears. This is great. Even though we expect the event, the single short sentence is terrific pacing in this letter.

OK, you don't HAVE to give away the ending in a query. But some indication of what happens next would not be remiss.

As for the GTPs, this title was just too easy to mock, eh minions? :o)

Bernita said...

Phoenix makes some *very* good points.
And you should watch constructions such as "off of her."

Nancy Beck said...

I, too, saw this over at the Crapometer, and I actually like this shorter version a bit more (of course it's a synopsis on the Crapometer, which is always longer than a query).

I wonder about the opening sentence, as you don't talk about fairies after that: maybe you should drop that first line. In fact, you might consider dropping the first paragraph and reworking the second paragraph as your first. The second paragraph is where the action is (EE also has a point in starting the query with the third paragraph).

I like the premise, but I feel this needs to be tightened.

Good luck with it. :-)