Monday, May 12, 2008

Face-Lift 525

Guess the Plot

15 Minutes

1. Johnnny Gunz doesn't want to be a one hit wonder. So when he stumbles upon a brilliant songwriter, Johnny kills him and claims all of the songwriter's compositions as his own. Just as his second album becomes a hit, Johnny's loved ones begin to die one by one. Is it a coincidence? Karma? Or a vengeful ghost?

2. Dr. Emile Steinner has learned about a plot to assassinate a U.S. senator, but a bizarre supercollider accident has accelerated him to 35,000 times normal human speed. Now Steinner has fifteen minutes to save the senator from certain death, but those fifteen minutes may be the longest year of his life.

3. When superstar Anthony Harris collapses, poisoned, at the hot dog stall in the mall, Disco Dog assistant manager Rebecca has the fame she has longed for. But can she parlay her fifteen minutes into something more? Perhaps a job as full manager?

4. Geri doesn't want fame, but she does want fortune. So she settles for a live-in job as the personal assistant for socialite Cora Delaney. Living the high life second hand is pretty good--until Cora dies and the cops hang the murder on Geri.

5. Demiel the arch-incubus has a terrible problem: he only lasts 15 minutes. Among incubi, that's comparable to a human male who only lasts 5 seconds. Demiel seeks out the multiverse's most competent sex instructor, but a series of mistakes cause him to be trapped in a commune full of elderly bisexual hippies. Also, panties that grant wishes, but only in the way you didn't mean.

6. Controversial game show "15 Minutes" offers contestants the best 15 minutes of their lives--provided they're also the last 15 minutes. But socialite Nancy Cochrane, armed with charm, money and stilettos, thinks she can beat the system.

Original Version

Dear Wonderful Agent,

I've very much enjoyed reading your blog and having read BOOKX that you represent, I decided to contact you about my novel, 15 Minutes.

All Rebecca wanted was to be famous - despite that niggling little issue that she didn’t have a good reason. She wasn’t pretty enough to be an it-girl and not talented enough to lead a rock band. She didn’t know anyone who could give her a big break and her family socialized with accountants and librarians instead of movie moguls. [When you say she didn't have a good reason, we assume you mean a good reason for wanting to be famous. What you mean is she didn't have a chance in hell. You can say it that way, or you can delete "didn’t have a good reason. She".] Trying to get noticed took up all of her time - her mother insisted that if she put that much effort into anything else, she wouldn’t be stuck in a dead-end job as assistant manager of the Disco Dog food-stall at the Buena Park Mall. [At first I thought you meant a stall where they sell dog food. Sort of an upscale Taco Bell.] But she was convinced there was a solution to her dilemma.

It finally seemed she found it when she recognized hot teen super-star Anthony Harris and waved him over to her. [Hey, big boy, how about a foot-long, all the way?] She’d just made him a double-onion mustard dog when he collapsed at the counter. She rang the long-since memorised phone number of the local gossip mag and then an ambulance, convinced she was finally at the right place at the right time. But when it turned out he had been poisoned, [If he ate a mall hot dog, of course he's been poisoned.] Rebecca found herself a lot less happy about being in the limelight. And then the death-threats began...

15 Minutes is 90,000 word YA novel. I am a freelance writer with a monthly column in Piper Flyer. My short stories have been published in and Dark Tales Magazine. This is my first full-length novel.


When you wave a superstar over to your hot dog stand, do his bodyguards and entourage actually let him go?

What does a superstar think when a hot dog seller waves him over to her stall? Hmm, that woman seems to want something. It could be important. I'd better check it out. Or...Note to self: have bothersome hot dog chick killed after leaving mall.

It sounds like he collapses before eating the hot dog, in which case why the death threats? If he eats and then collapses, that could be made clear.

Usually the plot sounds better in present tense than past.

I could do with less set-up and more plot. Do we need an explanation of why a woman working in a mall hot dog stall isn't famous? Even with looks and talent and connections most people don't achieve fame.

You might see how it sounds beginning the query when the guy collapses and working in more of the aftermath. Or at least shorten the set-up to something like All Rebecca James wanted was to be famous - but without looks, talent or connections, it seems she's destined to languish in her job as assistant manager of Disco Dog. Then she gets her big break: teen super-star Anthony Harris dies after eating one of Rebecca's hot dogs, and the face of the "Disco Dog Killer" is plastered on newspapers and magazines worldwide.


Unknown said...

I want to read that!

Anonymous said...

I don't get why she has the magazine phone number memorized, if she's so unfamous and boring. Why was she calling the magazine so often?

batgirl said...

I'm guessing the death threats are because she called the gossip mag before she called 911, and that this has gotten out. But maybe that could be made clearer? It's an interesting setup - girl gets fame, finds out it has drawbacks - but there's not much here beyond the setup. Wouldn't an agent want a hint of the body of the story?
I'm not sure you need the information about her waving him over, unless he's incognito and she's the only one who recognises him?

Anonymous said...

I don't know batgirl, I'm not sure I follow. Being the hotdog girl where a big star died is the fame she craved? I feel like there must be some dark humor going on. oR else it's me thats in the dark.

none said...

I presumed she memorised the number in case she ever needed it. Frankly, when I consider the dubious routes to fame some people take--being convicted of perjury can make you a tv celebrity, for example (and your awful wife)--I don't think it's so unreasonable (or even undesirable) to become famous as the doler-out of poisonous fast food to superstars. Unfortunately.

Stacy said...

I feel like there's a lot of set-up here. What happens to Rebecca throughout her brush with fame? If she immediately becomes known as the girl who poisoned Anthony Harris, I can't imagine that she would enjoy even one moment of it. Does she first become famous as the girl who saved him, then the tide turns when people find out she called a gossip mag, then an ambulance? I'd like to see more in the query letter about what Rebecca learns. Does she just learn that fame is not all its cracked up to be? Does she indeed use her energy to find a new job?

It sounds like a pretty cool idea. Not something I'd read, but I'd sure as hell like one of my nieces to read it. I'd also be curious to know whether there's some dark humor in this, like Heathers.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to steal GTP #1 and write it. Just lettin' you know.

Lots of interesting possibilities here, but like the others, I have questions. The hot dog chick waving the star over might be totally plausible in the book, but that sentence by itself in the query is hard to believe, as EE points out. Easily fixed.

Good luck, sounds like a story with some cool possibilities.

Off to write the Johnny Gunz story.

Anonymous said...

Cute idea from the 'be careful what you wish for' trope... But...

Only three years ago, I was involved with the judging panel of a national YA novel award (Canadian). Not one of the nominees was longer than 50,000 words.

Have things changed in YA so much so fast, or is 90,000 words as far out of the field as previous experience leads me to suppose?

I'd need to be convinced this manuscript had a plot strong enough to carry all those extra words before I'd request pages.

talpianna said...

I think this would only work as black humor. I just finished a mystery novel, OSCAR SEASON by Mary McNamara, about murder and mayhem during the run-up to the Oscars, set mainly in a luxury hotel from the PoV of its publicity director. A lot of the things that happen are over the top, and no one is quite what s/he seems. Apparent murders turn out to be publicity stunts, and apparent publicity stunts wind up as murders. This sort of approach seems to be what is needed here--not sympathetic real people caught up in events beyond their control.

Julie Weathers said...

[Hey, big boy, how about a foot-long, all the way?]

Oh, my.

PJD said...

What a great crop of GTPs. And EE, you scored big with At first I thought you meant a stall where they sell dog food. Sort of an upscale Taco Bell. Since I'm at a Holiday Inn in rainy Baltimore right now, I can relate. I think I'll be laughing about that one all night.

To the author: Beyond a superstar dying unconvincingly in front of the vapid worker at a mall hot dog stand, I can't really figure out what happens here or why. EE's notes light the way, but you might even start with the death.

"When superstar Anthony Harris collapses before her eyes, mall hot dog chick Rebecca thinks she's finally gotten her big break."

And rather than just selling hot dogs, I think Rebecca should make her first appearance dressed up as a giant hot dog.

Julie Weathers said...

This is a really good bunch of comments, as usual.

One thing that stood out is him collapsing before he eats anything. That should clear her immediately since the hotdog won't be in his stomach.

Also, as I have learned, a brief set up is best.

This has an interesting idea, I think you just need to tighten it and give us what the story is about. If the whole thing hinges on her being at the scene of his collapse, I'm not sure what the story will be.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

This was a really good crop of GTPs! Guess all those faux ads below make for great fertilizer.

As for the query ... run with EE's suggestion as to where to start. I think with the "waved him on over" line, you were going for voice, but this falls a little flat for me. The "didn't have a good reason" and "found herself a lot less happy" were actually turn-offs IMO. Sort of 'anti-voice.'

Renee Collins said...

I agree with EE that there is too much early build up. And then, you only give us a quick set up of the actual plot. I feel like I don't really know where the story will go. Is this going to turn into a high stakes thriller? A comedy? I'm not really sure, you don't tell us.
I'm assuming there is more. 90,000 words seems a bit long for a story of how Rebecca deals with death threats. So, give us a few more tidbits.

Whirlochre said...

I'm with everyone else on this — it reads like a long back cover blurb.

I like the style, but it needs more plot to work as a query.

Bonnie said...

I think both of these have already been mentioned, but:

Isn't it too long for YA? And isn't an MC who's out of school and into the world of work a trifle too old? Or are the boundaries extending?

Does anything actually happen in the book? A dead guy and death threats don't make a plot.

Anonymous said...

Hi, sorry so late to respond! I'm on the road.

She has the number memorised in case (which is why I thought the fame obsession was so important). The hotdog was not poisoned but that's not clear to start and the trash press jumps on her - so the fans blame her. Her initial seeking out of attention just makes this worse.

I'll work on getting this tightened up and reducing the character description to start. Also sounds like I need to avoid using her phrasing.

It's very much a spin on "be careful what you wish for," of course.

The length was an estimate, based on sub-plots and ideas.This is a potential WIP - I'll be sure to keep it right down to 40-50k.

It's nice to hear that there might be some interest in the concept!