Saturday, March 22, 2008

Face-Lift 505

Guess the Plot

Zaught Green

1. Martha loves her knitting but when the parson is murdered she rallies all the ladies of Zaught Green to search out the killer. Who will find him first: the professional and highly trained detectives or the little old ladies with their walking frames? Or will the killer turn out to be one of them?

2. As a Galactic Star Warrior, it's Jeleth's task to identify those stars in the zaught green phase, which a red dwarf enters just before reaching the point of supernova, and evacuate the vicinity. When she meets Callou, a scientist who believes that zaught green is a disease transmitted from star to star, he insists on staying to test his theory. Jeleth must choose between safety . . . and the man she loves.

3. In a world of magic where everything has a soul, a little girl named Zaught Green is identified as the nexus of time travel itself. She's not, really, and she gets so pissed at the misconception that she creates an army of zombies to take over the world. Also, a vicious pack of meerkats selling bubble gum ice cream.

4. After Coach Green was found buried under the soccer pitch, the Zaught sports field was abandoned. But when Danny and Shelley discover all that short grass just begging to be run over, they ignore the rumours and start a kickaround. Suddenly, ghostly hands appear and try to drag them down into the earth. Will anyone believe their tale of . . . Zaught Green?

5. Two aliens take possession of the Earth and rename it Zaught. Then, for laughs, they torment Zack Sterling, making fire hydrants and wood mulch attack him. Which, as it happens, is an improvement in Zack's life.

6. Chazton Huston once thought that the biofuel made at the factory came from corn. He has uncovered the secret of zaught green and he wants to tell the world. Can he escape from security guards who have orders to kill anyone who discovers that zaught green is made from . . .

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When every other kid began to tackle him, Zack was in a fix. It was already hard enough surviving past twelve years old: what do you do when the kids beating you up are from another world? Zaught Green is a work of middle grade fantasy in a contemporary setting. It is approximately 56,000 words with series potential. [You've made two statements here:

1. Every other kid is tackling Zack.

2. The kids beating Zack up are from another world.

This could lead one to believe that all the other kids are from another world, which I, having read ahead, know is not the case. You have two hooks. You need only one: What do you do when you discover that the bullies who've been beating you up are from another world?]

The mysterious rumor started five years ago: knock Zackary Sterling to the earth, earn $3.00 a take-down. It turned out to be true. Thanks to the trouble that follows him, he's seen seven foster parents and twelve different schools. [That's almost two schools per year.] [Every other kid tackles him, but no one does anything about it? Don't teachers know what's going on?] At his latest home near Indianapolis, two boys in strange clothes show up, causing fire hydrants and wood mulch to attack him. [Now that there's just one hook, maybe you should start the plot here: Zack's been bullied by the other kids for years, but when fire hydrants and wood mulch start attacking him, he's had enough. Now there's plenty of room to tell us about the boys in strange clothing.] Zack's had enough! With the help of Van, his tiny but tough girl friend (but not girlfriend!) [with a boy's name], Zack sets out to solve the mystery behind his two new attackers—Brown and Blue. He learns not only to stand up for himself, but to stand up for others—even if it includes his antagonists. Told in fresh voice and snappy dialogue, their unique adventure combines the quirky humor of Maniac Magee and the heart-capturing adventure of A Wrinkle in Time. [It's always dangerous to compare your book to a true classic, so I recommend getting rid of the reference to Maniac Magee.] [Their "unique adventure" combines the "heart-capturing adventure" is too much adventure for a query that hasn't described an adventure. Tell us about the adventure.]

A member of SCBWI, I hold a BA in English Literature. I currently and have always worked in the non-profit sector to bring aid to needy families. [Thus . . . ?] While the situations in the novel have a fantastical bent, many were inspired by the real ones that I've encountered. [Like the time I fell into a mulch pit and the time I tripped over a fire hydrant.] [Why the hell do they have to have a fire hydrant right where I always park my car?] The first three chapters or the full manuscript of Zaught Green are available upon request. Thank you for your valuable time.

On the title: yes, it's a non-sensical word followed by a subscript color. One of the otherworldly boys renames the earth Zaught. He owns the planet, after all. [Who owns the planet? Blue or Brown? Why isn't the title Zaught Blue or Zaught Brown? Who's Green?]


It begins: When every other kid began to tackle him, Zack was in a fix. But that was five years ago. Usually when you're in a fix you don't wait five years to take action. Fortunately we're getting rid of that line anyway.

What's the connection between getting tackled and getting new foster parents? Is getting knocked down the trouble that follows Zack? His foster parents are saying they don't want Zack because he gets knocked down too much? Fortunately, we're getting rid of the foster parents anyway.

If an alien owns the planet Earth, you might want to mention it in the query. It's an intriguing plot point. In fact, when beings from another world are on the scene, everything else in the story takes a back seat in the query. Just like with zombies and wolfmen.

Another intriguing plot point: Why would an alien being who owns the Earth single out a twelve-year-old kid as a victim?

I'm not crazy about the title, even knowing where it comes from. Maybe middle-graders will like it. Or maybe they'd prefer Zack Sterling and the Bullies from Outer Space.


Anonymous said...

Good, helpful comments. Thanks Evil Editor!

Whirlochre said... the adventure.

I'd go with that.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please, somebody write #3!!1

Sarah Laurenson said...

I think the 1st paragraph is trying to be a quick summary, but it doesn't work for me. The story is in your second paragraph. Perhaps adding in the earth being owned by one of the alien kids. As EE said - that is an interesting fact of your story.

Are the aliens really colors? What is the significance of the colors?

Zaught Green can be an interesting title, especially if you talk about the boy who owns Earth naming it Zaught. I think it would be even more interesting if he named it after himself and the green is changed to the color of the owner. Kids should really relate to that.

Van is short for Vanessa? I've only known one Van and she's a woman.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm so excited! Guess the Plot #1 was mine. (Are we even allowed to say that?)

Anonymous said...

Sure, why not, fairyhedgehog?

- freddie

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sarah, the title change was the one thing I was really sweating. Isn't it mind-plaguing to know that these few words can determine the fate of the rest?

Also, both you and Evil Editor's comments made me clue in that my query makes doesn't make it clear that Zack will turn out to be the 'Green'. And yes, Van is the shortened nickname ;).

Great Guess-the-Plots! Two of them made me spit out my Diet Coke. (Yes, the legendary double-spurt.)

Jamie Hall said...

I'm agreeing with those who want you to change the title. At least for the querying stage.

Who knows what title it'll have as a finished book, but you don't want anything confusing in your query, because anything that will hurt your chances is something to avoid.