Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Face-Lift 401

Guess the Plot

Rachel Takes the Crown

1. A trip to London is just what the doctor ordered for the Lipschitz family. But for kleptomaniac daughter Rachel, it's more than just another family vacation - it's an international incident.

2. After stumbling into a time-warp portal, Rachel discovers she's just become the wife of Henry VIII. Thanks to history lessons, she knows that she's not his last wife and that she'll soon be beheaded . . . unless she manages to change history.

3. Ten-year-old Rachel wishes to be a princess one night and she wakes up the next morning as Princess Victorine . . . the day before she's to become Queen. Can Rachel get back to her own life? Or is she destined to rule the land of Althadia?

4. The Little Miss Tyke Beauty Pageant is open to the prettiest 6-year-olds in the city. But even false teeth smiles, adult makeup and teased out hair can't compete when Rachel's mother sets her sights--and the sights on her RPG-7 anti-missile weapon--on winning.

5. Traditionally, only men can rule in Laternia, but when Princess Rachel's father dies, she refuses to abdicate, and her cousin Damien, next in line, secretly plots to overthrow her and set himself up as leader, in this politically astute chapter book for seven-year-olds.

6. Rachel Sumner hates 5th Grade--Mrs. McAllister is mean, the girls are all into clothes, and Jamey Draper needs to be punched in the mouth. When the school starts selling candy bars as a fundraiser, Rachel hopes to sell enough to earn the TV. But will Carrie Ellesmere beat her to it?

7. When Norman discovers the basement of the Waterhouse is full of life-sized, cut-crystal figures of all the inhabitants of Waterford he is fascinated, until he meets the furnace-tending fire-ogre. But soon he becomes a regular, secret visitor, spending happy hours rearranging the figures (and likewise the lives of those represented). Also a crystal weredingo.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor;

With her father dead, Princess Rachel has assumed the crown – but her cousin who is next in line for the throne is intent on preventing her from keeping it. Rachel Takes the Crown is a 12,000 word chapter book for 7-9 year olds and is meant to be the first in a series. [For those unfamiliar with chapter books, instead of selling entire books, you sell each chapter as a separate book. Eventually we'll have paragraph books, and you have to buy 800 of them to get the whole story. Of course it'll be annoying to get home with your paragraph book and all that's in it is one word, so they'll probably go with page books, where each book is one full page of a novel. It would be hard to keep one page from getting bent, so they'll have to be hardcovers.]

When her father, King Joseph, dies, Princess Rachel is left with a decision: buck the tradition that dictates that only men can rule, or abdicate in favor of her cousin Damien. It is a decision that she struggles with, but in the end, she decides that her father would want her to become the next ruler of Laternia [even though she's four years old and Damien is 28] . However, Damien would have no part of that [for he is the son of the devil]. [Isn't this the plot of Damien: Omen II? I hope you've cut down on the violence, considering your audience.] Declaring her rule illegal, he secretly plots to overthrow her publicly in order to install himself as king. The plan is overheard by young Captain Lassiter who attempts to defend Rachel. In the end, they together are able to thwart the attempt, but Damien escapes to a safe haven, free to plan a new attack to get what he wants.

While this is my first foray into fiction, [I am already an expert at alliteration.] I am a published writer who has worked with newspapers and magazines. I have covered business events as well as written on legal issues relating to real estate and investment funds from an institutional point of view.

I have enclosed a summary for your review, as well as a SASE for your reply. A full manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time.


This reads fine. I guess if the book is this short, I should expect its summary to be brief, but I wouldn't mind some additional plot. Rachel's age, a few details about Damien's scheme or Rachel's and Lassiter's defense?

The plot paragraph sounds like it could apply to a book with a much older age range. It has a mature vocabulary and concepts like abdicating and overthrowing seem a bit advanced for seven-year-olds. Presumably you've put it in terms they'll get. The question is, do you need to put the query in terms that sound less mature? I'm not suggesting that you write as if you're writing to a seven-year-old, but possibly you can make it sound more like a book young kids will dig. At least give it a quick try, and compare to this version.


Blogless Troll said...

I'd be interested in reading this just to see if you could pull it off. Political intrigue without magic or adventure would be a tough sell to 7-9 year-olds, especially boys, unless there were plenty of fart jokes, sentient underwear, and Rachel's most trusted adviser was a talking booger.

Anonymous said...

If tradition dictates that only men can rule, how come Rachel ascends to the throne in the first place?

Robin S. said...

I agree with you, blogless - 7 to 9 year old boys are usually just about where you said they are. Come to think of it, so are quite a few 9-18 year-old boys.

Tell me again why men have ruled the world for so long? Hmmmm. Can't think why....Oh, yeah. I remember now.

So anyway, I think the author should simply be honest and forthright and say - Hey, people- this is for 7-9 year old GIRLS. Why? 'Cause they'll 'get'it.

They'll also like the idea of a girl kicking a know-it-all guy's ass (in a mental gymnastics kind of way, or sword fighting, or getting schmo-boy Lassiter to do it for her, it doens't really matter. Hell, a win's a win.)

Have I had an interesting day at the office today which may have prompted these comments? Well, yes, maybe I have.

Disclaimer: I have a husband, a brother, two nephews, several colleagues, friends, neighbor kids, my daughter's darling boyfriend-du-jour, some guys on this blog, along with other men and men-in-the-works, that I really like and/or love. So, give me a break, please, with any reverse-misogynist crap.

GutterBall said...

...he secretly plots to overthrow her publicly....

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this sentence. However, it does make me think of this:

Mrs. White: He threatened to kill me in public.

Miss Scarlet: Why would he want to kill you in public?

Wadsworth: I think she meant he threatened, in public, to kill her.

Miss Scarlet: ...Oh.

I doubt this will be a problem with anyone else. Carry on.

My worry is similar to Anonymous's. How did Rachel (a child?) nab the throne if it's not "legal" for her to do so? If her father really did want her on the throne, why didn't he change the no-females rule?

Anonymous said...

OK, apart from some seeming logic problems, the need to establish ages and personality, and to introduce some kind of plot a kid can relate to, this query is -- sorry -- pretty boring.

So much of it is written in the passive to begin with. It would bore me in a synopsis, much less in a sales letter that's trying to hook someone into reading more. Especially for the children's market.

The first sentence seems to infer that Rachel is already the ruler when the book opens. Can you really pull off setting up that the political system is contrary to what seems to be the reality as the book opens? That's going to be a hard concept for 7-9 year olds to get.

I think an agent would want to know how Damien plans to publicly overthrow her, especially given the age group this is aimed at. Raising an army, kidnapping, assassination, blackmail - these all come to mind as adult ways to deal, but for a chapter book? Will you go for the grit or will you have Damien try to make Rachel cry in public? And though you say Captain Lassiter is young, he's still old enough to be a captain and therefore an adult. How much does he help Rachel? Does she still work through most of this herself?

From the query, I'm not getting a firm sense you understand what's being looked for in a chapter book.

A rewrite in a more active voice with a few more plot details and simplified (not dumbed down) language should really make this query a better read for the market.

Uh, Robin, a little extra testosterone kicking around there at the office today, eh?

pacatrue said...

robin s. loves me!

Chris Eldin said...

I agree with the comments you're getting. The vocabulary used in your query felt off-putting for a children's book. Keep it light, funny, easy--especially for a chapter book. I've never written a chapter book, but I think you have to target a certain reading level. That means sentence length, average number of syllables per word as well as the story concepts. So keep your query toward that side of the spectrum (rather than having an editor assume that you're so used to writing non-fiction that writing fiction wouldn't be an easy cross-over for you).

Blogless troll **talking booger** cracked me up! Wasn't there an opening or query a while back with a talking fairy booger on a desk? It's in my head, anyhow.

Robin, you're a crack-up!! So are 9-18 year olds! ;-)


Bernita said...

Sounds like Stephen and Matilda and civil war.

Bonnie said...

I was puzzled by some basics in the setup. To abdicate a throne, you have to already have it, which makes it sound like Rachel is queen. Declaring her rule illegal makes it sound like Damien already has the throne. That's also a public statement, so what's with the secretly plotting? And if Rachel is around 9, which she needs to be for a book aimed at kids that age, aren't there issues of guardianship as well as of rule?

It sounds like a good story but for slightly older readers, 13 maybe.

Blogless Troll said...

LOL gutterball.

Mr. Boddy's body, it's gone!

Anonymous said...

I spent a chunk of my life as an elementary school librarian (that's the extent of my expertise), and I agree with just about all the comments here.

However, 7-to-9-year-olds will read about older kids, so Rachel could be 12 or 13 be interesting to your audience. A young queen will have appeal; maybe not as much as a young princess, but still you get the crown and dresses and castles and (maybe)horses.

"he secretly plots to overthrow her publicly"--this can only mean the actual overthrow is to be public. Is that important?

I agree that politics is boring to kids and other living things, and this query doesn't help the subject sound any more interesting.

Oh: but I like the way you opened with a log line, went right to the genre and word count, then to the brief summary. Smooth.

Anonymous said...

Well, now I'm just curious how you got this plot into that length and age group. Want me to do a quick and dirty beta-read? Maybe fresh eyes can answer some of the questions the minions have brought up here.