Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Face-Lift 420

Guess the Plot

Four at Night

1. A collection of four ghostly tales set aboard four 19th-century sailing ships that pass in the night.

2. It wasn't easy being a multiple-bodied, single individual when the sun went down; or so Sharon thought. But then her boyfriend, Stan "the Ironman" Kazinsky got busy.

3. When The Vamps rock band went on the road, they performed at night. They dined at night, and partied at night too. They slept all day. In short, they were like any other rock band

4. Rebecca didn't know if she should reveal to her friend Gareth that she's been dating a vampire. Finally she comes clean, and Gareth reveals that he, too, is a vampire. Also, a couple more vampires. At night.

5. By day he’s a powerful force in the literary world, suave and wealthy and utterly ruthless. But when the sun goes down he becomes a little boy again, afraid of his own shadow. Can his trophy wife put up with the bed-wetting, thumb-sucking and lack of nookie when her fortyish sugar daddy becomes … four at night?

6. Running low on cash after being downsized, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse resort to performing in an all-male burlesque show ("Hung Like Horsemen"), but the show fails to develop any word of mouth because the entire audience dies every night.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation for my novel, Four at Night, an urban fantasy complete at 130,000 words.

After a good deed turns into a near fatal mistake, marathoner Rebecca Hanson discovers four vampire brothers living in a quiet Baltimore suburb. [Not specified what the good deed or mistake are, and thus why they're even mentioned.] [Of course it's easy enough to guess that the midnight marathon is winding through Glen Burnie when a woman suggests to her son that he provide the runners with Gatorade, but the kid thinks she means gator aid and releases several alligators onto the course, which leads to a lot of bleeding from chomped limbs, attracting the four vampires, but if you're not going to spell it out, best not to bring it up at all.] Far from undead, these living creatures thrive on contact with humans, and can sense and manipulate emotion through touch. Willing to protect their secret, she finds a budding romance with Christopher, the youngest of the four. [You happen upon a quartet of creatures who must drink human blood to stay alive, and you can't resist getting romantically involved with one of them?] [She must be on the rebound. After her breakup with a weredingo.] As their relationship deepens, Rebecca learns that she is one of few humans who can mentally link with the vampires and temporarily share their abilities—their strength, their rapid healing, and their ability to [pronounce their "w"s as "v"s.] control feeling—without their drive for blood. [That rapid healing will come in handy when their drive for blood leaves her anemic.]

But Christopher and his brothers have fallen under attack from a new, more powerful vampire with a hidden goal. As the threats to his brothers prove progressively more deadly, [If that's "deadly" meaning "causing death," I'm not sure how many progressive levels there are.] Christopher is forced to abandon his relationship to protect his family. Hurt and bewildered by his sudden rejection, [It's bad enough when you can't keep a boyfriend, but when a vampire dumps you, before he's even drunk your blood . . . Maybe you have garlic breath.] Rebecca seeks and finds friendship with her new running partner, the ever charming Gareth.

When her trusted friend reveals himself to be the terrifying new vampire, [What a coincidence.] [When your sweetheart and your trusted friend both turn out to be vampires, maybe it's time to get a mentor, someone to help you make better choices. Preferably a mentor who's human.] [It must be tough breaking it to someone who trusts you that you're a vampire:

Gareth: (gasping) I'm dying. We should have stopped after 10K.

Rebecca: Here, drink some of my water.

Gareth: Never touch the stuff . . . Mind if I tap into your carotid artery?]

Rebecca must fight for her life and the brothers' survival with everything she has—including her newfound ability. But when Gareth tells her his real reasons for coming to Baltimore [--to participate in the Cab Calloway Vocal Competition]--she must make some serious decisions about who truly needs help, who can be trusted, and who the true villain really is. [I don't think I want her making serious decisions about anything.]

Thank you for your consideration. Should you have any interest, please do not hesitate to contact me.



There should be three vampire brothers. Literary groups are always threes. Take the biblical characters, Shadrach, Meshach and Horshack. Or The Three Musketeers (Athos, Porthos and Abednego). Even though there was eventually a fourth musketeer (Shemp) the title was still three. Three Amigos. Three Men and a Baby. Maybe your title should be Three Vamps and a Babe. Four at Night isn't grabbing me.

Something about how manipulating emotion pays off might be nice. Is that how Christopher gets Rebecca to fall for him?

The plot doesn't sound like 130,000 words worth. Maybe it should be cut to 100,000. Or is there really important stuff going on that you haven't told us about?


Unknown said...

I think I would be crying if plot guesses number 5 and number 6 didn't keep me laughing so hard.

Thank you for the comments. The "what a coincidence" one is very valid, from how the query presents it. G specifically targets her because he needs something, so it's not really "coincidental," but I can fully see how it would appear that way in the query.

Blogless Troll said...

...progressively more deadly, [If that's "deadly" meaning "causing death," I'm not sure how many progressive levels there are.]

There's all dead. And there's mostly dead (which is slightly alive).

EE's right about the numbers, unless it's a story about swingers. Then four works better. But if you count Rebecca and Gareth, you end up with six, which is a good evil number. Except that the query doesn't mention why Christopher's brothers are important, leading me to believe they could be deleted, which brings you back down to three. But if you're locked in to four, maybe you could change the title to Four in the Morning, because 1) it's catchier, 2)it's still vampire friendly because it's dark at that time, and 3)it's a triple entendre, thus satisfying the rule of three.

I liked this, but the query makes it sound too coincidental.

Anonymous said...

You know, even though it lacked vampires, the simplicity of GTP #1 really caught me. I want that book. And a nice cup of tea.


Unknown said...

I couldn't come up with a title, and I was desperate. I knew, after sending, that I could do better. I considered "Four in the Morning," but for some reason -- though still dark -- it just didn't seem to jive.

The brothers are all important, but like you mention, it's six characters to work into a query, and I typically see people get hammered for listing too many people in their query. That's why I brought it down to bare bones. I'll have to see if I can somehow highlight their importance without making the query into a synopsis (which was my original problem).

As far as the debate over the word "deadly," I always took it to mean "capable of causing death," not the definite "death causing," and after jetting over to google, I see it can be used either way. Since more than one person has called out this word, I may have to change it to something equally potent yet not as confusing. Maybe "lethal," though I always took THAT to mean someone actually died, and a trip to says that the meaning is equally ambiguous.

Maybe I should just call him a big ol' meanie, and leave it at that.

Evil Editor said...

Words that may mean what you want to say without being ambiguous:

barbaric, brutal, depraved, malevolent, pernicious, ruthless, sadistic, vicious

Anonymous said...

The word you're looking for is: Deadlyish.

Lightsmith said...

How about "as the threats to his brothers grow progressively more dire" or "more grave"?

pacatrue said...

Hi Brigid,

Even though the other three brothers are important, as you've indicated, you might still drop them from the letter. The query doesn't need to fully explain the story, it just needs to get someone interested enough to read your sample pages. I think if an agent was interested in the story of Christopher and Minnie the Moocher (I mean, Rebecca; just doing Cab Calloway here), they won't be shocked to learn later that he has three brothers which do stuff.

Overall, this was a query where the story sounded enjoyable, but I kept thinking it's been done before.(In fact, it's rather similar to fello minion December Quinn's 'Blood Will Tell' in its broad outline). You need to find a way to move this from "oh, another vampire novel" to "oh, that's a different take on it; I wonder how Rebecca would handle THAT." As EE hints, maybe the emotional manipulation part will help on this. Also, Rebecca never seems to use these amazing abilities that she shares with vampires. Maybe you could pursue that somehow?

Unknown said...

EE's suggestion of brutal may work. There's a point where the villain almost kills one of the brothers, but doesn't succeed, which is why I used "deadly." Dire and grave, while good words, don't have the right impact. All good suggestions, but as you're all writers, too, you know how important it is to have just the right word!

Anonymous said...

Evil Editor: the Roget of the underworld.

Unknown said...

Thank you all for the great comments. Her borrowing their abilities turns out to be pivotal for the story, so I think you're right that I need to highlight that even more. I appreciate all the feedback.

Bonnie said...

It leaves me thinking, "Oh, another vampire novel." *yawn* "Next query, please."

Anonymous said...

I'm personally always happy to see another vampire story, especially one with a new slant, such as this one (love the idea of a human woman who metaphorically feeds off of them). So as soon as people who read vampire stories tire of them (which won't happen anytime soon judging by the recent success of Stephenie Meyer), then I say bring 'em on. Vampires, like werewolves, are much older than literature and so is our fascination with them.

Unknown said...

Really, Bonnie? Thanks! I'll go back over to MSWord and delete the whole thing! Wow, what a rush! Problem solved!

Seriously, I know there is now a huge glut of vampire novels on the market. When I started this novel over a year ago, I hadn't read Twilight or any of the number of other vampire novels that have cropped up recently. The only vampire series I'd read were Anne Rice (which started 30 years ago) and Laurell K. Hamilton. When I started this, I had no idea that vampire novels were going to be so hot in 2007, therefore killing any market for my book. (And I can imagine this applies to anyone else who posted a vampire query/pages here as well.)

Maybe my next novel will be about a conspiracy dating back to the days of Christ, and having to do with paintings in the Louvre. No one has done anything like that, have they?

Anonymous said...

Literary groups are always threes. Take the biblical characters, Shadrach, Meshach and Horshack. Or The Three Musketeers (Athos, Porthos and Abednego).

Wasn't that last one Abedingo?

Anonymous said...

brigid says:

I couldn't come up with a title, and I was desperate. I knew, after sending, that I could do better. I considered "Four in the Morning," but for some reason -- though still dark -- it just didn't seem to jive.

That's "jibe,"

intr.v. jibed, jib·ing, jibes
To be in accord; agree:

but meanwhile, how about the raunchy:


Wonderwood said...

Gotta love those people who come in and piss on someone's novel and offer nothing constructive. What's the word for what bonnie has contributed? "Shitique", I think is what they call it.

Dave Fragments said...

I don't see an end to vampire novels. They burst out after "Interview with the Vampire" hit as a movie. The novel came out in 1976 and the movie didn't get made until 1994.

There are numerous remakes of the Dracula story and vampire novels, and, as numerous as they seem, are still being pumped out. It only takes a little to fuel the "undead" in one form or another.

Just to prove the point, the latest incarnation of Richard Matheson's I am Legend is due out this December. The SciFi legions are lining up to buy tickets already.

writtenwyrdd said...

You give us a lot of plot details but nothing that grabs me. Why should I care about these characters? I find myself suspecting that Gareth is the good guy, and he must be using her to get to the four brothers.

I think you need more emotional grab in the letter. My inference was that the real story was something like this:

She is a commodity of some sort because she can share their powers, and is thus wooed by the four evil vampire brothers; but on the cusp of doing something truly stupid she is saved by the good vampire Gareth who she has been told is bad. Then the confusion is cleared up after she's probably used against Gareth or he actually saves her, and she gets together with Gareth or the bad vampires are slayed.

Am I close?

writtenwyrdd said...

BTW, the way it was written, I really thought GTP #4 couldn't be the real one.

Lynn Sinclair said...

Should you have any interest

Just a minor thing--change this bit of your query. "Any" comes off sounding weak. Best of luck, Brigid.

Unknown said...

Thank you all for the crits and support.

Writtenwyrrd, your guess is a little off the mark. Gareth isn't really the good guy in the end. The four brothers think he's there to take over their territory, but he's actually come to Baltimore on the run from an enemy. He's an older, powerful vampire, and he has no allies against this enemy. When he discovers that Rebecca can share his powers at no cost -- and therefore be an equal ally -- he wants her to help him. Unfortunately, because he's on the run and paranoid, he thought that the four brothers might be in cahoots with his enemy, which is why he kept fighting with them. When he is in the process of telling Rebecca the truth and asking for her help, the brothers have ambushed him, and after learning Gareth's back story, she has to decide whose side to fight on.

I reworked the query last night to include Gareth's motivation. It's not something that would ever go on the back of a paperback, because it reveals the twist, but maybe its necessary in the query, so someone wouldn't think the story is so straightforward. If anyone is still reading these comments, I'd love your opinion.

Blogless Troll said...

I'll go back over to MSWord and delete the whole thing! Wow, what a rush! Problem solved!

Maybe my next novel will be about a conspiracy dating back to the days of Christ...

If your characters share this kind of sarcasm, you should have no problem. It won't be just "another vampire novel."

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote the Four Horsemen gtp, you are a brilliant, brilliant person. LOL.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Yes, vampires are still hot. Look at the I Am Legend-sounding trilogy that just sold for, like, $1.5M (which may include film rights -- I'm not going out and double-checking). I'm guessing there's SOMETHING about that trilogy that's different and unique enough to be worth the hype.

Now, many, many agents admit the way they read a query is in this order:
1) First couple of sentences to see if it's a genre they even rep.
2) Credits to see if they should pay extra attention.
3) Hook to see if it's attention-grabbing.
4) Skim-thruough to determine if the writing is coherent.
5) Assuming the query hasn't been rejected already, a full read-through.

You'll want to put right up front what makes THIS story different from all the vamp stories Bonnie's seen before. Rebecca's mind-linking ability appears to be that hook. Stick it right up front, whether you start the query with a one-sentence summary of the book, or just introduce this hook in the first sentence. Something like:

When Rebecca stumbles across four vampire brothers in hiding in a quiet Baltimore suburb, she discovers her mind-linking ability to share their strength, rapid healing, and manipulative powers.

pacatrue said...

I doubt anyone is reading this comment trail anymore, but just in case....

I think you should take Bonnie's comment seriously if you are worried about the query letter as a sales device. As you indicated in your response, an agent is probably reading a few vampire novel queries a week. Vampire novels are still selling, as people have talked about, so the agent might want to represent one. The key is that you want her to choose YOUR vampire novel and not one of the others in her stack. So, in your query, you need to make yours stand out.

If the heroine adopting the vampiric powers isn't common, emphasize that in the query. If their are interesting relationships other than hanging out with cute guys, emphasize that. If your voice is funny and sarcastic, emphasize that. You get the idea.

You can't do anything about people who don't like novels with vampires. But you can do something about making your query be different from the others.

pacatrue said...

Or as another lead-in:

It's hard to be disgusted with vampires when you learn you can share their powers.


The only thing more shocking to MC NAME HERE than discovering a group of four vampires down the street is discovering that she can absorb their powers herself.

Or something.

none said...

Hey cool, the html instructions are in German today.

(if you want to do something about people who don't like vampire novels, make sure they don't give them a try anyway with "The Historian"; it will only confirm they should NEVER read vampire novels (once they wake up))