Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Face-Lift 480

Guess the Plot

Dog Park

1. A scientist recreates an entire species from DNA gathered from the blood inside a frozen tick, and builds a theme park around the animals. When the animals turn on him, it's up to two children, a mathematician, and Miss Nevada to set things right. Also, a saber toothed weredingo.

2. When Sheila Abernathy built a "wilderness" dog park outside Cincinnati, she had no idea it would soon be swarming with Ohio's prostitutes, blackmailers, juvenile delinquents, and real estate speculators. Or did she? Ace homicide detective Zack Martinez has 3 gruesome murders to solve and 483 suspects . . . including Sheila.

3. There are already enough bars filled with high-maintenance bitches and horny wolves, so frat brothers Eric and Rob start a new chain of pick-up joints for fat, ugly people and call it "Dog Park." Over time they come to learn that fat, ugly people don't just exist to be exploited, and both men find love in the lunch-lady arms of double-bagger twins Velma and Thelma.

4. Dog Park; the overgrown tract of land where kids play in the rusted car wrecks, where you don't have to poop-scoop after your pet, and where ducks and humans can breed in privacy in the overgrown bushes. Now the council wants to clean it up. Can a bunch of mums and dogs, kids, junkies, fags and whores take down the fascist bastards?

5. In a moment of desperation secret agent Nick Armstrong tucks a flash drive in the jacket of a poodle in the elevator. Tiffy Jones strolls away with no idea the fate of Chicago is on her dog, Fluffkins. But Gus "Chicken-Face" Lombardi knows and he'll stop at nothing to get it. Can Nick do a Houdini from the thug-mobile and get to the dog park in time to save Tiffy and Fluffkins?

6. When terrorists release a plague inside the US, a Homeland Security intern and a hunky medical student may be the country's only hope of figuring out how the disease is being transmitted. When they stumble on the answer in a dog park, they are torn. Should they tell the president, knowing he will declare that to save human lives . . . all dogs must die?

Original Version

Dear Holder of My Future, Please Treat It Well:

Ivy Leaguer Samantha Carre is enjoying her summer internship with the Department of Homeland Security. That is, until something that looks like the plague on steroids starts killing people in New York, Virginia, and DC. [Let's see, who would want to wipe out literary agents, lovers, and lobbyists?] The superbug is resilient and fast-spreading. The evidence points to a bioweapon being mechanically released -- but by whom, by what vector, and where will it strike next?

Teamed with brilliant and handsome biomedical student Max Stein, Samantha sets to work interviewing victims and their families, [Interviewing victims of a plague?

Samantha: I understand you're a plague victim.


Samantha: Hellooooo?! I may be a summer intern, but this is serious government work. Have you eaten any raw seafood lately?]

looking for any common thread among them. But with a frightened country bringing travel to a standstill, the healthcare system on the verge of collapse, and a viable vaccine still months away, time is growing desperately short.

When Samantha and Max stumble on the answer in a neighborhood dog park, they become terrorist targets. Chased, shot at, and possibly exposed to the plague, they must rely on brains, brawn, and each other to stay alive long enough to alert authorities to their discovery.

But eluding terrorists is only their first challenge. Harder still will be convincing the Director of Homeland Security and the President that [Say no more. I think we're all agreed that there's no convincing the president of anything.] containing the outbreak doesn't mean wholesale slaughter of the vector used to carry the plague: not strays and discards, but a nation of dogs people care about and love. [Why a whole nation of dogs? If the terrorists are infecting dogs in dog parks, then it seems only dogs whose owners have taken them to dog parks would be potential plague carriers.]

DOG PARK, a thriller with romantic elements, is complete at 80,000 words. I look forward to sending you the manuscript.



I don't see how the superbug is "fast-spreading." I get the impression dogs are infected at the dog park and their owners later die. How does it spread beyond that? Do the dogs then get adopted into new homes whose owners die? Seems like if that were the case it wouldn't have taken an accidental stumbling-upon to determine the vector. Dog's family all die, dog's new family all die. Coincidence?

Why are these two people desperately searching for answers in a dog park in the first place? I could see Samantha maybe interviewing a family member in the dog park, but why would she and Max both be in the dog park, if, up to now, they don't suspect dogs?

Okay, okay, you've confessed that this novel doesn't really exist, so you don't have to answer the questions, and of course there aren't any correct answers anyway, unless this has actually all been thought through. Has it?


Anonymous said...

Ha! So is this the EE equivalent of a snow day?

This doesn't read as especially hoaksy or "trying to be funny." Did the writer have some objective in mind? Trying out a plot for credibility, or query practice? There may still be some value to be had in flailing the skin from its back...

Matt said...

I would definitely read number four.

Anonymous said...

Really? 'Cause I was kind of interested in this premise. Oh well.

Must go think up GTPs.

PJD said...

I find it astonishing and alarming how much more credible a query seems without EE's blue ink all over it.

I will admit that New York and DC are worthy targets, but why leave out Los Angeles? Can't we have Los Angeles destroyed by a plague? Please?

I don't really understand the end. It sounds like strays are OK but that well-kept pet dogs need to be eradicated?

Does the Bad Guy get it in the end? And is the virus contained and eliminated, or is the source of it still out there in the hands of the originating Bad Guys?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Huh. Reminds me of what has been going on in Brazil with the disease down there that I can't remember the (very long) name of.

I have a friend with 6 Akitas who are all infected. Getting them treated is expensive and dangerous. She finally found a vet willing to treat them rather than kill them.

And though the laws have just changed recently where killing the infected dogs is no longer mandatory, the culture is still geared towards the killing.

Interesting thing about this query is that it does touch on what it's like to be a loving dog owner and being faced with the idea of having your pet taken from you and killed.

And I'm not even touching on China and their reaction to rabies.

Hoax or not, this has possibilities.

none said...

You did some work on my Coldharbour Lane query, and there's no actual novel there either.

Umm. Did I forget to mention that?


The minions could still learn something from a critique, yanno!

Evil Editor said...

Well, no one suggested I should have critiqued the 16 fake queries I posted Sunday, and this didn't seem any different. Nonetheless, as it's the Buffster who asked, I'll see if I can come up with some blue words to insert.

none said...


Dave Fragments said...

AS for GTP #3, there's a movie called "Shallow Hal" that fits the bill. It's a "love it or hate it" movie.

If we think about the last exercise on Fake Queries and this Dog Park query, there's a pattern there. At least, I think I see a pattern, does anyone else?

Dog Park is an update of "The Satan Bug" from 1965. It would make a nice action-packed mystery novel.

But to get back to the question I asked.
It seems the authors are getting lost in the details of their novels. It seems like there wasn't a beginning and end to the story, it just wrote itself and ended someplace in a climax. the fake queries have fewer twists because the writer focuses on the main plot. What's the first thing we usually ask a writer to do to fix a query? Write a single sentence plot (or two sentences at most).

Now maybe I'm seeing things that aren't there. But I get the feeling that most writers are so far into their novels, they've already lost sight of the forest and not only are looking at trees but examining the moss.

I might go off track here: As most of y'all know, I write short stories but have a few novels on the hard drive. The short stories that take the longest to write are the ones that have a great idea for a beginning -- a stunning idea, a brilliant scene, a quirky twist -- and no thought out plot.

Why would Dog Park make a nice, readable action mystery? It's all there - the plot, the heroes, the villains, and the problems. We get world-threatening plague, feisty girl and hunky guy to cure it, terrorists, several action sequences and romance. In the end we cheer democracy, salute the flag and eat apple pie. Who could hate that?

PJD said...

Dave, you nailed it, at least for me. Your comments on my query a couple weeks back were right on, and once I approached it differently it began to look like something I might actually think about reading.

Dave Fragments said...

Now if only I could get off my lazy butt and write the ($&@!#) novel.

none said...

It was worth chivvying EE for that plague victim interview!

Anonymous said...

Dave, you're absolutely right. And frankly, I'm glad I'm not the only writer with this problem. A few nights ago I decided to write one-sentence summaries for the half dozen undeveloped ideas I have. Not only was it easy to do, it was fun. And it got me excited in the ideas again. But when I went to do the same thing for the novel I've been developing for 4 months now, I couldn't do it. At all. It's all too complicated in my mind. Don't even get me started on how hard it's been to write the query for the novel that's already finished. Everyone who's read both the novel (or parts of it) and the query come to the same conclusion: Novel, good. Query, bad. How do I overcome this hurdle?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Yikes! Hoax - the cruellest label of them all.

*facepalm* This is my query.

The queue was low and so I submitted this query to procrastinate real work. And, like Buffy, I really thought any halfway-thought-out query could be instructional for everyone. In fact, my suggestion for the query exercise was as a way to fill the query queue when it's low. (So, um, well, yeah, I did kind of suggest EE critique our practice queries, too. -- Well, no one suggested I should have critiqued the 16 fake queries I posted Sunday)

I'm properly chagrined.

But I do have answers even though it's not a real story because I did have to do some level of story-building to write the query. And I have a question.

Terrorists are methodically seeding dog parks with the superbug and, because people in the same neighborhood start showing symptoms soon after a new park has been seeded, it appears to be fast-spreading.

Max and Sam both own dogs and are with them in a dog park that's been recently seeded. They aren't looking for the answer there, hence stumble on. Hmm, would probably have helped to mention that bit in the query, eh?

So, to my question, which was sparked by pjd's question about the ending. How much of the end is it necessary to give away in a query? Must give it all away in the synopsis, I know. But how far do you need to go in the query? First base? Second? Third? In other words, do you need to bare it all (and then some)?

*trying to save face* See, these mock queries can be instructional and provide fodder for EE's caustic humor. Plus, it gives the GTPers something to do in a lull time. :o)

talpianna said...

We see nothing whatsoever wrong with exterminating all the dogs in the country.

---Sethra and Aliera, tal's cats

Wonderwood said...

Hi Phoenix. I thought it was a well constructed query, given that it isn't derived from a sweat and blood fueled story. As Dave said, all the necessary elements are there, and I thought the query laid it out with some voice and drama. I'm no query expert, but I thought it was pretty damn good.

Dave Fragments said...

I wrote a comment on the Psychiatrist question that EE posted that concerns how you take something unique and make it routine. It bears on that last question Anonymous asked.
go here:

or here:

ril said...

Don't want to go off on a tangent or anything, but... Round these parts they have Dog Parks where you can rent a dog ($5/30 minutes) to take it for a walk. I suspect that for an extra fee you can feed it too. I believe poop scooping is free so long as you bring your own baggies.

Fuji Subarau Land Doggy Park. Really. It's at the foor of Mount Fuji.

talpianna said...

The principal problem I have with this is that the protagonists are a med student and an intern. Surely they haven't yet acquired enough knowledge to solve such a high-tech scientific mystery? I read a similar story once (though with quite a different premise) in which the much more believable protagonists were a professor of electrical engineering, an old and experienced epidemiologist and a CDC team, and a famous astrologer. And it worked. Great story. I'd give you more info, but I've forgotten the title and the author's first name, and his last name was Smith. Well, as the books get unpacked and sorted, it will turn up, no doubt.

Robin S. said...

Good question, phoenix, on how much of the end to give away.

I wouldn't want to give away the end. Is that the right answer?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I so hoped it would be #4. I would love to read that story.

Or write it, for that matter....