Monday, January 28, 2008

Face-Lift 479

Guess the Plot

Stage Kiss

1. When "pre-engineering" geeks Watt and Wayne return to their dorm after watching EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX, they know the only way they'll ever get laid is to emulate Woody Allen and produce a play starring themselves. Any lawn will do for a stage, but do they need a script? Plus, three bimbos and a bomb squad.

2. Malcolm, gay & firmly in the closet, must convince his dying grandfather that he's found a bride. Michelle, a freelance writer, goes to interview Malcolm only to have him declare her perfect as a bride. How far will the charade go before Malcolm is unmasked or Michelle's estranged husband finds her?

3. Never-been-kissed Janna lands the lead in the college play, only to find that there's a kiss involved. She needs someone to practice on before rehearsal, so she doesn't embarrass herself. Fortunately stage manager Lizzie is only too happy to help Janna solve her problem.

4. On the stage line from Denver to Salt Lake, Butch is the driver, Tex rides shotgun, and Kitty is a beautiful passenger. When they get stuck in a snowstorm, Kitty makes a pass at Butch. Tex, jealous, makes his own play for Butch. What neither knows is that Butch is really a woman.

5. Kathy wasn't keen to join the Bendigo Amateur Dramatists. But then she met the dreamy Cliff Ravine and knew she just had to get a part in the BAD production of "Hello Dolly" - but who would play the sheep?

6. When Trudy Hench cast Mae Wong as Juliet, and aspiring rock star Joe Bowie as charming Romeo she had no idea how passionately they hated each other. This production will be a hideous flop unless she can get some chemistry going. What'll it take?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Janna Larson won the lead in her college’s freshmen-only production of The Music Man on the basis of her good-girl (let’s face it, bookworm-y) demeanor. But when the director tells her that he’s added a kiss to the choreography, she only has a week to experience her first kiss before the final dress rehearsals. [At least he didn't tell her he added a sex scene.]

Luckily, Janna’s love of reading has finally come in handy. She’s always heard that there are only seven unique stories, so all she has to do is set up and run through each scenario in the seven days left before the show.

The Unappreciated Best Friend, Until Suddenly Love Blooms
The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping is Merely a Screen for Attraction
The Opposite in all Things whose Path Unexpectedly Crosses Hers
The Boy whose Public Bravado is Disguising his Inner Pain (which will Only be Resolved by Love)
The Long-held Crush
The Cynic who Yields in the Face of Love’s Potency
The Huckster with a Heart of Gold

[You forgot these other seven unique stories:

The Unappreciated Best Friend, Until Suddenly, fed up, he kills her
The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping evolves into a coast-to-coast murder spree
The Opposite in all Things whose Path Unexpectedly Crosses Hers and continues on in a perpendicular direction
The Boy whose Public Bravado is Disguising an Inner Pain which will be Resolved only by a sensational murder/suicide)
The Long-held seething hatred that culminates in a fight to the death
The Cynic who laughs in the Face of Love’s Potency
The Huckster with no conscience]

Her partner in her quest is stage manager and science major [No one majors in science. Be more specific.] Lizzie Brennan, whose dislike of ‘romantic nonsense’ is outweighed by her love of grand (and strange) endeavors and her friendship with Janna. Together, the two use every approach from speed-dating, to ballroom dance, to frat parties, to a cappella for the cause of True Love. [Did they ever think of just kissing each other? Not only would it save them a lot of time and trouble, it would jazz up the book. It would jazz up The Music Man, for that matter.]

My humorous YA novel STAGE KISS is complete at 75,000 words. Enclosed please find a synopsis and the first five pages. Thank you for your consideration.


Problem: Freshman college girl wants to get kissed.
Solution: Walk up to any male college upperclassman--or professor--and suggest make-out session.

Maybe your list of the only seven plots should be made genre-specific. I don't see how such stories as the submarine crew trapped at the bottom of the ocean while being bombarded by depth charges, or the underdog basketball team winning the state championship, or the astronauts encountering a Klingon warbird, or the prison riot, or surviving a haunted house . . . fall into any of these categories.

Actually, I don't think it's clear what the list is all about. Is she planning to get kissed by enacting each scenario? Does she have a friend who doesn't appreciate her? Does she have a long-held crush? Does she know a huckster with a heart of gold? Does she have a bitter enemy she wants to be kissed by? Do the seven unique plots always end with the girl getting kissed within a few days?

I don't like the list being part of the query. I'd go with something more general, like Janna wants to experience kissing a boy before rehearsals start, so she tries to get into situations similar to those in romantic books she's read, hoping one of them will end up in a kiss. Hilarity ensues. Even if she somehow follows the specific list in the book, you don't need it in the query.

How do you go to a frat party with the goal of getting kissed and leave disappointed?


Robin S. said...

I'll read later- but had to say-
I love the return of the gorgeous, handsome EE picture. I really do.

Can we please keep him?

Lyz said...

This sounds more appropriately set in a High School and the situations seem more out of the movies than books. But then again, I don't read YA novels.

Anyway, it is very interesting and strangely compelling. I can already see Amanda Bynes as the lead.

Anonymous said...

I think this sounds like a cute idea, but I agree that the problem of getting kissed doesn't sound like enough to get you through a whole book. Why is it so hard for her to get kissed? I think some hint at her obstacles will help.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a hairdresser college. In that case, everyone else would be a woman or a gay man.

But seriously, EE is right. Frat guys have insanely low standards, so unless Janna was cast as Jabba the Hutt, or unless "bookworm-y" means she looks like an actual worm squished between the pages of a book, getting kissed will be no problem. In fact, at some fraternities, even then it wouldn't be a problem.

Unless you mean Janna wants to experience a Princess Bride level kiss, involving True Love. In which case you should make that clear.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I thought YA was high school only. Is that not true? (I'm not that familiar with the genre.) In any case, this story does seem more appropriate for the high school setting anyway.

Blogless Troll said...

I really like the idea of a bookworm trying to work the various romantic plots in order to get kissed. But I really don't like the reason for it. A play just doesn't sound important enough. And as EE pointed out, college freshman is not the right age.

Now, if she was for some reason unkissable, but had to be kissed by the end of the week or else something more horrible than embarrassment would happen, then you've got a winner. I just don't think the stakes are high enough as it is.

Also, I had to read this one twice because EE's GTP cleverly led me to believe there would be girl on girl action and I thought I missed it.

Anonymous said...

Can I guess? All her efforts fail, so her first kiss is with the leading man during the dress rehearsal, when she realizes that she's fallen for him and wouldn't have chosen any other first kisser. Right?

Anonymous said...

This college sounds nothing like college and everything like high school.

Freshman only play?

Not one, but two chicks having trouble finding someone to make out with?

I can understand why you would want to set this in college, because high school girls will be drawn to the added "maturity" college stands for. But the only way the book makes sense in its setting is if this is some tiny hyperchristian liberal arts school.

Stacia said...

In my high school plays, when there was a kissing scene it was rehearsed just like anything else.

At least, that's what the guys in question always told me we were doing.

Anonymous said...

LOL December! And I'm thinking she'd be only too happy to practice kissing too! If 150 is right about your plot, you have some work to do. Don't give up, just did deeper and surprise us.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a High School setting as envisioned by Middle graders.

I volunteer as the costumer for our Middle School drama productions, and this plot sounds a lot like the ones the kids love to do. Especially if it's set in the 'olden days', like the one we produced involving a '50s sock hop.

If this was pitched as a MG book involving HS kids, I think it would stand a better chance.

Stacia said...

Also, I believe 75k is at least 10k too long for YA, but don't quote me. My friend who writes YA for Razorbill brings her books in at 55-65.

Anonymous said...

In this day and age doesn't it seem a little odd that a girl made it all the way to college without getting kissed? I wasn't exactly Little Miss Popular in highschool but I even managed to kiss a boy by 16. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how such stories...fall into any of these categories.

Let me help you out here...

The submarine crew trapped at the bottom of the ocean while being bombarded by depth charges: The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping is Merely a Screen for Attraction.

The underdog basketball team winning the state championship: The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping is Merely a Screen for Attraction

The astronauts encountering a Klingon warbird: The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping is Merely a Screen for Attraction.

The prison riot: The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping is Merely a Screen for Attraction

Surviving a haunted house: The Bitter Enemy whose Clever Sniping is Merely a Screen for Attraction.

Dave Fragments said...

In this day and age doesn't it seem a little odd that a girl made it all the way to college without getting kissed?

I know such girls. They are raised in very religions households and their brothers are just as chaste. They are waiting until marriage.

And if you think there is anything "less" about them for being virgins, you're sadly nuts and way out of touch.

pacatrue said...

I managed to graduate from high school without ever being kissed except for... wait for it... when I played Mortimer in Shakespeare's Henry IV.

I did kiss outside of a play about 2 weeks after graduation.

Brenda said...

Um, I was raised in a very religious household, and I was kissed by junior high. Real kiss. Not peck-kiss.

This sounds more like junior high to me, around 8th grade, when girls get giggly over guys and guys pretend to think they still don't like girls at all, even though they're tired of carrying their books mid-body level.

pacatrue said...

Since Dave added his comment, I should add that my upbringing was not religious much at all. I was just shy.

talpianna said...

I agree with blogless_troll, though I'm not sure if he's my Long-Held Crush or The Boy whose Public Bravado is Disguising an Inner Pain. It needs to be high school; and the school play isn't a good enough motive.

I have a friend who in her senior year of high school actually wrote a novel as a senior honors project. What if your heroine was doing the same and had to write a romantic scene (though the book is primarily something like fantasy, SF, or mystery, the plot demands it) and was indeed a never-been-kissed bookworm? She finds the assorted plots in one of her writing guides and attempts to re-enact them. A major project on which much of her grade (and perhaps her chance to graduate with honors) depends would be a much more powerful motivator.

I, too, have never been kissed; but I've always assumed it's because I look like this:

Anonymous said...

Now you see, I practised by eating soft-serve ice cream out of a cone. That pretty much covers all of the required moves.

That's not wierd, is it?

Anonymous said...

I have to second a lot of what everyone else is saying. YA tends to run more towards the teenagers. It is also more than a shade unbelievable that a girl who actually wants to be kissed by frat boys, would manage not to be kissed by said frat boys at some point.

I say, if you listen to nothing else the Minions tell you, change the setting to High School or Middle school.


Polenth said...

No one wanted to kiss me in high school either. Lack of girliness and a tendency toward eccentricity does that to you.

On the other hand, I didn't stand in the middle of the corridor shouting "Kiss me! Anyone! I'm desperate!"

Maybe that's where I went wrong...

Ali said...

I do read a lot of YA, and I can't think of one that involved a college student as a main character (but I googled some--they are out there). YA is generally marketed towards 12-16 year olds, and that sounds like the right market for this plot. I'm guessing you want college because of the freedom college students have from parental guidelines and because of the party scene. Maybe boarding school or an artsy summer camp would be an appropriate setting. I think that book would sell.

Or maybe this query just makes the plot sound lighter than it truly is, and the novel actually has substance that would appeal to a 16-20 year old reader. If so, I'd suggest revising your query to reflect that.

I don't really get the connection between the kiss and all the scenarios. Why does she have to do all seven?

Also, choreography is generally a dance routine or possibly a fight routine. I don't think that's the word you're looking for here, unless the kiss is actually part of a dance.

Anonymous said...

I do write YA, and I stay in touch with the market and the trends. There's no hard and fast rule about YA word count. There used to be, before Harry Potter, but now it's generally accepted that kids will read longer books -- some books are even packaged now to appear longer than they really are!

As for intended audience age, it's a bit of a hot topic under debate. The YA label is sometimes used on books for 10 and up, but recently more and more YA books are dealing with very adult subjects, and even adult protagonists, and these books are clearly marketed for 12 or even 14 and up. If you think anyone in publishing or bookselling is sure exactly what YA means, I invite you to read up on the Newbery and Printz awards and the endless debates about which book is eligible for which award. Everyone is confused.

Sorry, I don't usually deliver lectures.

Sarah Laurenson said...

What mb said.

The industry is trying to keep up with the times and the fact that young kids read very adult material. I read Looking for Mr. Goodbar when I was 13.

They are also trying to balance this with what parent's want, but not so much when it comes to YA.

And one YA editor I talked to said that YA word count is 'whatever it takes to tell the story'.

As for this query. I think you should read some of the YA chick lit out there and see if this fits. I don't read much in that sub genre.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi mb. I agree that the YA/MG/Tweener labels are subjects of debate, but I think what commenters here are really saying is that generally kids and YAs want to read about someone just a little older than themselves in situations relevant to their age groups. (Or, like Sarah, read scandalous adult books.) True, some stories wind up appealing to a wide age range, but most MG/YA stories find a narrow audience.

What commenters here seem to be saying is that the age of the protagonist doesn't seem to fit the situation she finds herself in. Generally, it's high schoolers wanting to experience their first kiss. And younger high schoolers at that. So situationally, this appears to be something tweens would be interested in. But the protag is too old for tweens. 14 or 15, and in high school, would seem to be a better age for her.

The age of the protag here would appeal to older YAs, but the situation wouldn't because, well, been there, done that, what's this girl waiting for? (And, um, Dave, we're talking about a kiss here, not losing one's virginity.)

So there's a disconnect between age and situation. Doesn't matter what you label the book as. Now, if the stakes for this story were upped by having the girl be from an ultra-conservative family and she's having a crisis of conscience about that first kiss, and you layer in religious themes with the psychology of social pressures and such, then age and situation make more sense, and it might feel more "right."

And, yeah, author, I agree with the others that the query is missing her motivation since a stage kiss would be rehearsed anyway. Maybe if the query made it clear that the guy is some hottie and Janna has a crush on him and wants to come across to him as someone more experienced, then it would sound more plausible. Or if the query told us what comes of her attempts in the cause of True Love, we could get a better sense of what the story is actually about. And perhaps clue us in on how needing that first kiss under her belt transitions to a quest for True Love.

Anonymous said...

I'm dying to hear more about this from the author. We're making a lot of assumptions here, since all we have to go on is the (pretty spare) query letter. Are you there, Author? Can you tell us more?