Friday, April 18, 2008

Face-Lift 517

Guess the Plot

Monster Apartments

1. Godzilla requires a miniature replica of Tokyo in the bedroom, and the Boogeyman is only interested in closet space. Georgia Gorgon, real estate agent in the city of Scaresville, must deal with some real terrors for clients.

2. The ad said Monster Apartments. They weren't kidding. But between the vampire downstairs, the witch across the hall, and the werewolf on the top floor, how will Shannon ever get any sleep?

3. All the stadiums and lecture halls have been named for corporate sponsors, so now what? A hunky real estate developer teams up with a buxom ad sales exec to bilk corporations out of millions.

4. When Mo moves into the Monster Apartments, he has no complaints--until he meets the other tenants: Cyclops, a dragon, a werewolf, and worst of all, a Minotaur who's more bully than bull. If Mo's going to find any peace, this monster's got to go . . . and that's no bull.

5. Where, oh where, do monsters live in the post-apocalyptic town of F'nashi? Real estate tycoon George Goodwin has the best luxury condos around. Problem is, the servants that come with the rentals keep disappearing.

6. When Giselle finds a spacious one-bedroom in Manhattan for $300 per month, she can't believe her luck. But what she thought to be rent control turns out more like a roach motel: you can move in, but you can't move out.

Original Version

Dear (Agent or Editor),

The kids at school call him "Monster". Twelve-year-old Mo is the school bully -- and darn proud of it. That's before he finds himself homeless and forced to move to the only place available: a building called Monster Apartments.

At first it's all cool. Giant apartment, creepy forest scenery, nice girl across the street. Then Mo meets the tenants and the shock hits harder than a schoolyard fight: ["The shock hits harder than" should be followed by something that hits really hard. Hercules, The Hulk, Russell Crowe on steroids.] real monsters, every one. Cyclops, dragon, vampire, werewolf--and a Minotaur maniac with a taste for tormenting Mo. [The last time I lived in an apartment I had Mr. Macho Stud with his creaky bed on the other side of my bedroom, a Flamenco dancer above me, and a rock drummer below. And they had the nerve to complain about me, just because I was in my chain saw sculpting phase. I'd have welcomed a minotaur.]

Before you can spit, Mo goes from bully to bullied. The Minotaur quickly crushes everything Mo's got - his confidence, his safety, his friendship with the new girl. Like it or not, Mo's got to face that two monsters have to be stopped here: the bully in the building, and the bully inside himself. [But mainly the bully in the building.]

Monster Apartments is a coming-of-age novel in which the bully learns firsthand just how "monstrous" his bullying really is. Add a cast of unconventional, and often dysfunctional monsters, and Monster Apartments is a fun tale for middle-grade readers.

The manuscript is complete at 50,000 words. May I send you a whole or partial of Monster Apartments?

Thanks so much for your consideration, etc.


It sounds more like a funny picture book than a coming-of-age novel, but that's not a criticism. The query reads nicely.

I should think there's room to squeeze in a couple more sentences of information. Unlike younger kids, those old enough to read 50,000-word novels are old enough to wonder how a twelve-year-old kid becomes homeless and moves into an apartment building. For some reason it's easier to buy a Cyclops and vampire living in an apartment building than a solitary kid. If there's an explanation, you could throw that in at the beginning. Or you could include an example of the monsters being dysfunctional.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, the premise is too loose for the age group, as EE said. Maybe it could all be a dream, after which he wakes up and is a good boy.

Good letter.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I'd read it.

writtenwyrdd said...

This sounds like it could be a neat kids' book. The thing that snagged my attention and raised questions was that the kid's called Monster and he gets sent to the Monster Apartments. A bit too coincidental for me.

I like that you say this book is fun; but it sounds a little dark. The "before you can spit" paragraph does lighten the mood a little bit. However, it doesn't really answer the question as to how Mo must solve his problems, or what the problems specifically are. I think maybe just a little bit more about what's at stake and the struggle Mo goes through might be added-- in particular something that makes the book sound more like the fun romp you say it is.

Scott from Oregon said...

I too thought it acceptable to live with monsters but not alone at the age of twelve. We do have child services...

Chris Eldin said...

Yay! I was hoping this would come up soon. The author is in my online critique group. I know she's in Florida vacationing right now, but I hope she gets a chance to log in!!
The story is really good. I hope she posts the beginning.

PJD said...

Reminds me a little bit of Where the Wild Things Are. I like the minotaur as the bully monster.

I don't agree with the first anon's advice of making it all a dream.

The way the query's written, I think I'd take on faith the details that get him homeless and into his own apartment. After all, there are monsters living there, so something's already amiss. I'd read it. Well done.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I'd read it.

I did think parts of it sounded a bit too coincidental - like the Monster name and the 'Monster' Apartments. Makes it sound a bit on the hokey side.

Looks like a few minor tweaks and you're good to go.

Anonymous said...

My only concern would be labeling it as a coming-of-age story. I've read a lot of agents saying that is a turn-off. It's a bit cliche, and the story is clearly a coming-of-age one, so I don't think you need to call it such.

Fun premise, and I agree that a homeless twelve-year-old sounds odd in a query, but could probably be explained in a playful enough book.

Deborah K. White said...

It's funny what people are willing to believe and not believe. I, too, was completely willing to accept monsters in an apartment complex, but not a twelve-year-old kid living alone. You might want to give some sort of hint about how you handle it in the book since several of us are getting hung up on that point.

Good luck.

PJD said...

give some sort of hint about how you handle it in the book since several of us are getting hung up on that point

But all of you hung up on this point... if you were in an agent's shoes, would this keep you from requesting a partial? I'm thinking you might still request the partial, in which case the questions could be answered in the first 30 pages of the story.

I'm concerned that if the author tries to stick in the explanation for this point, it'll throw the query off focus or out of voice, doing more harm than good.

Anonymous said...

pjd - deefinitely a fair point, but given that a *lot* of us are thinking the same question, I'd say the query writer would be wise at least to consider whether that reason couldn't be included without destroying the balance of the letter. It's an obvious weak point, and eliminating that could leave the query pretty much impervious to agent nitpicking.

Evil Editor said...

We're worried that there is no explanation, that the author assumes middle grade readers won't see a problem with the premise of a 12-yr.-old moving into an apartment alone.

One well-known agent was occasionally seen rejecting crap(o-meter) submissions when she didn't buy the premise.

Bernita said...

Basically a very good query.

writtenwyrdd said...

I don't know what an agent would think of a possible logic flaw, pjd, but if I saw that on the back of a book jacket, I would probably debate on the author's skill or lack thereof. Might keep me from buying the book. But she'd have the second chance at that point, because if I picked it up, I'd probably look at the first page.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm the only one, but I assumed the parents or parent also being homeless was a gimme. Also I assumed it was just a phrasing choice and that Mo was just being self-centric, you know, the world revolving around him and his problems.

Overall, the concept sounds pretty interesting.


Whirlochre said...

This has monster scope and works well as a query.

BUT—while I'm perfectly OK with monsters romping around all over the place, it's a fantasy premise that needs a rock solid foundation upon which to rest and I don't think the Home Alone 12 year old will wash.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I didn't get that he lived alone either. I just assumed that his parents were there but not central to the story.

none said...

I don't buy into the boy learning not to be a bully--what about the situation prompts him to confront the bully inside himself? Seems like wishful thinking to me.

talpianna said...

My comments are vanishing again. I had said that I assumed the kid forged a parental name on the lease and used some of his stolen lunch money to hire some homeless guy to pose as his father for interviews.