Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Face-Lift 437

Guess the Plot

Eel River

1. An opening in the Eighth dimension creates a new river flowing though the heart of the Outback, a river swarming with poisonous eels that devastate the continent.

2. Mutilated goats. A mutilated hitchhiker. Something is coming out of Eel River and attacking the commune. Is it an enormous evil talking land eel? Thanks to their mind-expanding drugs, the hippies don't care.

3. Songwriter Carol Cohen has just five days to compose a new song for Andy Williams, one that will be his biggest hit ever.

4. One slip of the knife cripples brilliant sushi chef Kaoru. After a corrupt local doctor transplants the body of a eel where his missing arm should be, Kaoru can return to the chopping board. Instead he becomes an Olympic swimmer.

5. When a genetic plague devastates cattle worldwide, McDonald's averts disaster by quickly switching to eelburgers.

6. When the peasants of Bumbria rebel against their Needling overlords, it looks bad for Nate Bugbutter -- until he meets the legendary Talking Eels, who hold the key to all wisdom and power.

Original Version

Dear [agent]:

In the early seventies, an idealistic group of hippies goes “back to the land” . . . never dreaming that the Land itself doesn’t want them there.

It all seemed so mellow and idyllic when the young couple bought seventy-two acres of pristine land in the country. But as their commune grows, strange things start to happen. [Strange eel-related things?] Two of the best milking goats are torn to pieces and left in a bloody mess in the back meadow. A hitchhiker disappears, her mutilated body later found in a creek. [Yep. Eels.] [The word "eels" looks weird when the first "E" is capitalized: Eels. It makes me think of golfer Ernie Els.] [Great idea for a horror novel: something is coming out of Eel River and mutilating goats, and it turns out to be golfer Ernie Els.] Yet the adults, busy experimenting with mind-opening drugs and free love, are slow to react.

[Hey, I found a mutilated woman's body in the creek.

Far out, man. Here, have a toke of this weed.

But shouldn't we . . . Mmm, mellow. Pass me that bag of Doritos.]

Only the ten-year-old Princess knows what’s going on—and that’s because the monster speaks to her. [You're missing a great opportunity if you just call it the monster. Call it an enormous talking land eel.]

The madness culminates at a groovy overnight party on the Land. All the hippies in the county attend, swimming naked in the river, sharing pot brownies and jug wine, and dancing to psychedelic tunes, while the monster [enormous talking land eel] stealthily works to rid his domain of them all. The monster [enormous talking land eel] now tells the Princess that she must get her family off the Land, or they will be sacrificed as well. But the party may have been just too much, as her tenuous influence over the evil being comes crashing apart. [I gotta start laying off the pot brownies and jug wine when I'm reading queries; this is sounding pretty good.]

EEL RIVER, complete at 80,000 words, is a gothic supernatural novel told from various viewpoints, including the Princess, her parents, [the enormous talking land eel,] and a sheriff’s deputy. I was raised on a commune in rural northern California not unlike the Land [and I feel it's time the truth finally came out: it wasn't me who killed my hippie parents; it was an enormous talking land eel]. I’ve enclosed [whatever guidelines ask for]. May I send you more of the manuscript?

Kind regards,


It's well-written, but it would help to have a couple character names. All we have is "The Princess." Is she a princess, or is that her hippie nickname, or what? I can see calling her "Princess," but the Princess seems weird . . . unless she's a princess.

Is the monster an enormous talking eel? As you have a character talking to it, I assume it's not a mystery what it looks like. There've been talking monsters and screaming eels, but a misunderstood talking eel would break new ground.

This is like Friday the Thirteenth, except instead of a guy in a hockey mask it's an eel.


Anonymous said...

Dang, I'd read this. It was sounding good and the fact that you'd grown up on a similar commune just tips it over into great. :) Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I lived on a commune, but not in Northern California. I guess those are different from regular communes, because this one sounds life Time Magazine made it up. For instance, nobody I knew in the 60s or 70s (or now) would have named their kid Princess. Never in a kajillion years. Might as well name her Goldwater or Nixon or Fascista or Barbie. But perhaps in the book you make it clear that this is a monarchist commune.

I second the question: why is she called The Princess?

Your query is clear enough and you do have a cohesive plot. However, the setting doesn't have the ring of truth.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm guessing this is like "beach Blanket Bingo" meets the Creature Hungry for Human Flesh. And that's a worthy horror plot. {All of these horror plots have been done before none are truly unique.}

However, there has to be another element to get past the cheesy horror. Even SAW has a gimmick beyond blood & gore. HOSTEL is the same way (I kinda puked all over during this movie, be warned). HALLOWEEN also has a gimmick.

I think that "Ten year old girl with telepathic powers" is good enough and that's where you have to focus. She saves her family despite their overuse of drugs. Be careful, you make the family and commune members sound like they are Too Stupid Too Live. Now, most horror requires a body count and some even require 55 gallon drums of blood splattering off the surrounds at regular intervals, but you need more than one character to be bright, courageous and understanding. Princess has to team up with someone else. A ten year old is not capable of beating a man-eating eel alone.

Precie said...

enormous talking land eel...LOVE IT! ETLE.

Anonymous said...

I'd read it just to see if there are any similarities between the commune in the story and any of the many communes I've lived in, at least one of which had a King.

Anonymous said...

Sounded good to me in the GTP and the basic plot sounds good, even though contemporary horror (movies) are not my thing. As far as the query goes, It sounds as though you have all the basic elements and relate them in an orderly fashion (except mind-opening -- I think the term used in GTP#2, mind-expanding, is more familiar, although I'm with EE that there could be more names and definitely a description of the eel. Also enjoyed his comment, re: Eel looks weird. Sounds like something I would pick up at Borders, chuckle at, and wait until the Major Motion Picture version hits cable.

PS -- love the hippie/commune aspect!!

Sylvia said...

Hmm. If I saw this on a book jacket. I'd put it back down. Sorry :(

I felt vaguely wound up at what seems like judgemental attitudes - they were stoned so a mutilated body got ignored? Er, hang on there. Princess can live with random goats and hippies being torn to shreds but now it's about to be her family, well that's different! Why is the monster speaking to her? I think the monster needs naming and this needs explaining and Princess needs some character.

If I ignore the wildly irresponsible inhabitants of the commune, it ends up feeling like Where the Wild Things Are to me.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Da-dummmmm, da-dummmm. Knock, knock.
"Who's there?"
"Western Union."
"Oh sure, be right there!"

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure if you meant it as a parody or not.

Jess said...

I'm just...confused. This sounds like a horror movie, not a novel. Admittedly, sometimes the distinction is very fine, but in this case, I find myself wondering: why do we care? I've got a lack of sympathy from the start for the apparently moronic hippies and a girl named (or called?) the Princess, and the usual difference between a horror novel and a B movie is that in the novel, we're supposed to care about the characters.

I think you might have a good book here, but it's hard to tell. With comments like "the land doesn't want them there," you're suggesting that maybe the monster (whatever it is) is the land or related to the land or...something. But without that connection or an explanation of why it wouldn't want some happy, nekkid, groovy hippies hangin' out, it seems like the monster (whatever it is) is effectively the bogeyman: it shows up for no apparent reason, it kills people cuz that's how it rolls, and then the people are dead.

Also, I'd ditch the part about being raised in a similar commune. Especially with the judgmental air about the nekkid groovy pot-smokin' hippies, it makes it sound like you have an axe to grind and this is the story of the Little Girl Who Really Knew What Was Right And Nobody Ever Listened And They All Got What They Deserved.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Um, a guy offered to show me his enormous talking land eel when I was in college. I declined. I think that's all I have to say on teh subject.