Monday, August 13, 2007

Face-Lift 399

Guess the Plot


1. Evie has discovered one of life's hard truths: It's tough to fit in with the other kids when you're new in town, when you're an orphan, and especially when you transform into a seal every night.

2. In a flash all nine hundred thank-you notes are written. Her new husband gazes at her fondly, clearly thrilled being married to a witch. But if she can't remember the sealsong, his tongue is going to be useless tonight.

3. Nine-year-old Chance can't wait to join his father and brothers at the annual hunt. But animal activists are once again threatening to interfere. Can Chance fulfill his destiny as a seal clubber, or will he have to kill a hippy first?

4. Herbert Micewort loves clean hotel bathrooms, reveling in the scent of exotic soap, the feel of those sample shampoos and the brilliant sight of white porcelain. But nothing compares to the satisfying sound of breaking that paper across the toilet bowl.

5. Kayleigh is the preacher's daughter; Harlan is the ne'er-do well-the good girls shun. When a single act of violence turns their world upside down, will their forbidden love find space to blossom? Also, they're all seals.

6. A powerful alien race sends a death ship that looks like a rusty Electrolux to Earth because they no longer hear a seal song from, what . . . 200 light years away? Can aging actors go back in time to get a pair of seals to scam the alien fools and save Earth?

7. While examining the connection between mythical Sirens and seals, zoologist Dirk Tweezle botches the gene-splicing experiment and turns himself into a seal. Can he communicate the reversing protocol to his fiancee through sealsong, or will he end up as dinner for the sharks?

8. Animal-rights activist Polly Turnpull has long suspected that seals are singing when humans hear them "bark". But when she proves this theory correct, she discovers there are a lot of people who want the secret to stay hidden. If she dies in the conspiracy cover-up, will the seals keep her memory alive in a new song?

9. In this contemporary romance, Edna Thripp discovers love among the salad keepers at her annual Tupperware Sales Party. But will the man of her dreams, twice-divorced Lester Goob, turn out to be just another leftover?

10. Brittany hopes to raise awareness of the plight of marine mammals with her new album 'Sealsong', which combines the mating calls of Elephant Seals with African chants and Peruvian flutes. Will her album deliver its message, or will it be crushed by the music industry?

11. Every day young Carla goes to the shore, to wait for her pirate father's return. One day a seal appears, her father's signet branded into its back. Is this a message from her father . . . or her father himself?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

It's one thing to discover that an ancient legend is true;­ it's a whole other thing when the living proof is you [, that you are the Loch Ness Monster].

My 70,000-word young adult contemporary fantasy, Sealsong, thrusts a fourteen-year-old Australian girl into the heart of one of Scotland's most ancient legends:­ the half-human/half-seal world of the selkies. [Hey, I was close.] [Which would look weirder: a human with a seal head or a seal with a human head?] [Either one would be highly disturbing.]

Orphan Evie Cochrane is sent from her home in Australia to Scotland to live with an aunt she has never met. It's tough to fit in when you're the new girl in town ­ especially when "town" is a remote island where they refuse to adopt radical modern concepts like cars, TVs and shopping centers. It's even tougher when you discover you are a selkie [, and thus unable to resist the urge to balance a beach ball on your nose]. Life as a freak of nature doesn't appeal, but Evie has no control over her nightly transformations. Repelled by her own nature [Is she repelled by the idea of being a seal half the time, or the idea of being a human being half the time?] and disdained by the islanders, particularly the eerie minister, Mr McLellan, [who declares her cloven flippers to be the mark of the demon,] her alienation is complete. When Mr McLellan threatens to reveal the selkies' secret to the rest of the world, Evie must embrace her true identity to survive.

I am an ex-pat Scot living in Australia and I have used my experience of both countries to create the world of 'Sealsong'. I am a freelance copwriter [Does this mean you write to cops or that you write about cops, or that you are a cop?] and have had short stories published in Australian magazines, including xxxx and xxxx, and xxxx in the UK.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


I can imagine how the world would react if some guy from a remote island held a press conference to reveal to the world that there are people who morph into seals every night. McLellan would be dismissed as a nutcase.

It's mostly setting up Evie's situation. Of course you need to set it up, but the main plot seems to be: When Mr McLellan threatens to reveal the selkies' secret to the rest of the world, Evie must embrace her true identity to survive. How about expanding on that? Is their secret that they exist? Is embracing her true identity enough? Shouldn't they try to stop the guy? What action do the selkies take? If that's not the main plot, maybe give us more about Evie's life as a girl and as a seal. We need to know a few things that happen.

What causes a person to become a selkie? Moving to Scotland? Reaching a certain age? Surely if she was born a selkie she'd have known it before turning fourteen.


WouldBe said...

EE agrees with agree with EE that you've told little about the story. But your writing about the setup is clear and pleasant and the MC seems interesting, so you should have little trouble converting the setup to a query.

I can't help but think about Little Orphan Evie, though.

Sylvia said...

The glaring issue from my point of view is how did she discover she was a selkie (and second, how could she deny it)?

I love the idea of a 14-year-old city girl fitting into ancient myths, that is very cool :)

Anonymous said...

...and have had short stories published in Australian magazines, including xxxx and xxxx, and xxxx in the UK.

Reads a little awkwardly for me, like the parallelism is off. Would this be better?

...and have had short stories published in both Australian and British magazines, including xxxx, xxxx, xxxx.

By the way, I cancelled my subscription to XXXX Monthly because I was tired of the sly look from the postman every time that plain brown wrapper arrived; but maybe I know your work?

pacatrue said...

You'd be amazed how attractive a woman with a human body and a seal head looks after about six tequila shots. At least, I'd swear that's what she looked like when we woke up the next morning. On the plus side, she finished off, like, eight cans of sardines that I wasn't sure how to cook up.

Selkie and me dated for about four months. I kind of grew fond of the whiskers.

She was definitely a better match than the dryad with a human head and a tree body. Rubbing skin on bark is just not a pleasant experience. I had to apply lotion every night. Besides, we could never go anywhere together. I told her she seemed completely rooted in place with her mom only about 20 yards over, but she wouldn't listen.

That one ended when the great spotted woodpecker was taken off the endangered list and the logging company moved back in. I did get a really nice end table out of it, though.

Robin S. said...

I googled 'selkie' and read wikipedia stiff on the selkie, origins, books and movies, etc.

Your query may need a little work, but your idea has resonance and staying power.

Best of luck to you.

writtenwyrdd said...

I don't have anything new to add here, but it is nice that selkies are getting some attention instead of the werewolves. The issue is that someone is going to out the selkies, so tell us how this involves Evie.

Pete said...

I agree that although you haven't told very much of the story's problem, what you have told is written in a clean, concise, assertive style. If you re-write it, then I expect your style will be just fine. It's just the content that needs fine-tuning perhaps.

I'd never heard of a selkie before, so now I'm spending a happy hour or so reading about it. Thanks for that.

(actually, content problems aside, your query succeeds in that I would be willing to read your novel)

Nancy Beck said...

paca, you had me cracking up!! :-)

I remember this from the Crapometer; not sure if it was a query or a synopsis there, though.

Anyway, I liked the idea there, and I haven't changed my mind: I still find the idea of a selkie paired with a city kid trying to fit in interesting and different (from the usual werewolf or vampire thing). Maybe a little more details to flesh it out better for the agent.

Good luck with it!


Bonnie said...

Pacatrue, that's hysterical.

Author, your idea sounds good, but the sprawling way the query goes about telling me almost nothing about the story would make me as an agent doubt that you had the skill to translate it to a reasonable book. Sorry.

verification: vknyl. What the Vykings used before plastics were invented?