Friday, September 26, 2008

Face-Lift 569

Guess the Plot

Nick Rossi and the Real Piece of Work

1. In this light-hearted romance, ambulance driver Nick Rossi is enjoying a day off at the beach, when who should collapse unconscious on the sand nearby, but Amy Winehose?

2. That he's been chosen to mentor a toy doll in her transformation to human form is bad enough, but Nick Rossi discovers that the doll is a bubble gum-popping shopaholic. Before he can even ditch the doll, she's kidnapped by a life-sized wax figure. Will Nick bother trying to rescue his charge? Also, an inflatable yard Santa, a clipboard-toting cricket and a demented CPR dummy.

3. Nick Rossi invests the modern way -- blindfolded. Tactile vibes from annual reports tell him what to buy and sell. But where will all the money go when secretary Bootsi Campbell slips him a deck of mickies to choose from? Plus: three poodles, 12 red roses, a hunky motorcycle cop, and sixteen karate thugs.

4. Nick Rossi grew up in his dad's vermouth factory. Now he oversees production, shipping, foreign markets and the budget. Unfortunately, the public's penchant for extra dry martinis, not to mention that dirty olive juice concoction, means he has to work hard convincing everyone that vermouth is a necessary part of the drink.

5. Jeannie Glob is a piece of work, all right. Beautiful and vicious, with a streak of stupid right down the middle, she spots Nick at Rossi's Pizza Parlor. But she learns the hard way she's no match for a real piece of work when Nick's sister, mob hitwoman "Messy Tessy" Rossi, finds out about the lunch money scam.

6. Nick's day started out badly. Every one of the samples of so-called genuine Bruges lace from China, guaranteed to make him millions on a certain television shopping channel, looked like a doily from a Russian mobster's Zil. His only hope is to shop the real piece of work to another sweatshop and hope for the best. One more failure and he'll have to apologise to Dave Martini and beg for his old job back.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Like pretty much every other guy on the planet, fourteen-year-old Nick Rossi assumes he started out as a real boy. He couldn't be more wrong.

When a clipboard-toting cricket hops onto his nightstand and tells him he's been selected as a mentor for TUT – Toys Undergoing Transition – Nick figures there's a locked, padded room in his future. The cricket abandons Nick to a nightmarish fate: Melanie, an eight-inch-high, bubble-gum popping doll. Nick is supposed to be mentoring her toward Real Girlhood, but all Melanie wants to learn is how to online shop and which reality TV star is the hottest. She has all the makings of a real girl all right. A real annoying girl.

Then Mad Dog Marshall, a life-sized animated wax figure and cricket-experiment-gone-wrong, kidnaps Melanie. Marshall thinks Nick's got the secret to becoming fully real, and Melanie is his bait. Nick's tempted to ditch the dumb doll, but as he wrestles with the truth of his own unlikely beginnings, he decides a mentor's got to do what a mentor's got to do. Armed with the world's puniest pocketknife and a Google map, Nick launches his rescue mission. [When entering the lair of a wax figure, the weapon of choice is a flamethrower.] His goal is simple: find Marshall's lair and put the smackdown on the wax figure and [his] henchman freaks – a group that includes an inflatable yard Santa and a demented CPR dummy. But before Nick can defeat the bad guys and rescue Melanie, he's got to figure out just what this secret is he's supposed to have. [Why can't he figure it out after the rescue?]

NICK ROSSI AND THE REAL PIECE OF WORK is a 38,000 word middle grade novel that addresses the burning question on everyone's mind: whatever [what ever] happened to that Pinocchio kid, anyway? Thank you for your consideration, and I hope for the opportunity to speak with you further about this project.



Very nice. Some minor suggestions:

Change "supposed to be mentoring" to "supposed to mentor." Or "assigned to mentor."

Change "wants to learn " to "cares about."

Delete "on everyone's mind."

I assume there's a reason "that Pinocchio kid" assumes he started out as a real boy? Like he's blocked out Gepetto and the Blue Fairy and his donkey days as an emotional defense mechanism?


Stacia said...

Oh, I love this. How fun!

Whirlochre said...

This is the best query I've seen in a while.

It's instantly engaging, precisely the right length, and its fun tone hints at 38,000 words well worth reading.

writtenwyrdd said...

This does sound great indeed, and the query is good enough to sell me with the minor corrections EE makes. However, I truly cannot stand people taking someone else's idea and running with it. I object because it feels like cheating. And, besides, I be Disney may have a word or two to say about it.

Evil Editor said...

Of course, most Disney cartoons (including Pinocchio) take someone else's idea and run with it. And it's usually someone who's long dead so the story is public domain and Disney doesn't have to pay the author.

Anonymous said...

Ha. Isn't New Beginnings all about taking someone else's idea and running with it...?

Anonymous said...

If you thought Pinocchio was Disney's invention, your literary education will benefit immensely from reading a collection of the Grimm tales. Surely a huge revelation to you. Similar amazement will result if you follow that up with Ovid's Transformations.

writtenwyrdd said...

But wouldn't Disney be able to claim copyright infringement if the author riffs off their interpretation? I wouldn't want to get that megalithic corporation's attention with a lawsuit!

Evil Editor said...

I didn't see any evidence that the author based his story on Disney's version. And I assume Disney's version is reasonably close to the original anyway, not that I've seen/read either recently.

EB said...

The pinocchio boy didn't stick out (ha!) as much as what I saw as Jiminy Cricket with a clipboard (Yesterday's top hats are today's clipboards, I suppose). But I don't see that as a problem.

I enjoyed the query with the one caveat: Your MC is 14. That seemed a tad old to be dealing with the toy-to-boy brigade.

I was really hoping for GTP#4. "Manhattans. The future of vermouth sales lie in Manhattans."

Sarah Laurenson said...

This does sound like fun. And the tone of the query is great. EE's minor changes and you're good to go. Good luck!

writtenwyrdd said...

anon 11:13 I've probably read more of that sort of stuff than most of the minions (unless they be scholars). I never said Disney created Pinocchio, now did I?

Anonymous said...

Author here,

Thanks everyone! I'll be thinking about adding a flamethrower.

To each his own. I love books like COnfessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and all Robin Mckinley's fairy tale retellings, so I wanted to do something similar for middle graders.

Pinocchio was originally written in 1883 by Carlo Collodi. It's wildly different from the Disney version in some places, and similar in others.

I tried to make it so you can read this novel without knowing the Pinocchio story, but it adds a whole other fun layer if you do. Really it's just a boy addventure story about a kid trying to rescue a magic doll.

Anyway, thanks for the help EE and the comments everyone!

Evil Editor said...

If Disney added the cricket to the story (rather than have Jiminy play the part of the original cricket, if there was one), it might be a good idea to come up with something else, even if your cricket isn't Jiminy.

Anonymous said...

EE - I was wondering about that. There is the character of "Talking Cricket" in the original Pinoccho who dispenses sage advice for a short scene before Pinocchio (who is a much bigger psychopath than Disney lets on) bludgeons him to death with a hammer.

My cricket is not named Jiminy, nor does he refer to being a "conscience" or anything, and has three short scenes. Am I being risky?

Evil Editor said...

No, if there's a cricket in the original, you can use a cricket. Apparently it's not the same cricket if the original was murdered by Pinocchio. But apparently your cricket holds no grudge for his brother's demise.

Dave Fragments said...

Beware of Disney. Disney might just decide that the cricket is too much like their franchise and that would be it. They are ruthless and have deep, deep pockets to buy the result they want.

writtenwyrdd said...

We can all agree to disagree on this point, but I believe that riffing off of a fairy tale that's got a number of versions and which isn't exactly written by one individual isn't the same thing as taking a story that's been written by a known individual and writing a sort of continuation.

I probably would love your story, author. It sounds great. But I just object to using some other person's work to jump start your own--in a literal sense, not just riffing off ideas, which every writer does to some extent. If no laws are broken, you aren't wrong to use Pinocchio, Dracula, Scarlett O'Hara or whichever other character or world you want to 'borrow' from. I just object to it viscerally as a 'cheat' and you obviously do not. And that's okay.

The difference is that the first example is an individual's creation that is being used to source the story, while the fairy tales are not one person's creation but a cultural artifact.

It was the cricket that made me think Disney, by the way. I didn't make that clear. I believe there's no cricket in the original, just in Disney's version--but it's been at least 30 years since I read it and I could be entirely wrong on that point.

Evil Editor said...

Evil Editor said...

I should have mentioned in the notes that all five GTPs were submitted by Kate Thornton. No one else submitted any. Welcome back Kate.

Stacy said...

I think a lot of great work derives from old stories. The originality comes from what kind of twist a writer can give it.

This sounds like a great read. Good luck, author!

writtenwyrdd said...

Those are some good gtp's too.

Anonymous said...

The query is great. If your story reads similarly, I'm sure it is equally great.

Don't know the definitive answer on the legal issues, but the question would be whether your story is a derivative work. The original may be in the public domain, but Disney could assert rights in anything it deems derivative of its copyrighted works. Parodies are excluded. Seems like it would turn on how much of your story borrows major/basic aspects from Disney's.

In a case like this, EE, do you try to figure it out or let the agent/editor worry about it?

Evil Editor said...

Actually, I believe both the book and the film end just after Pinocchio becomes a boy. This story takes up so much later, he doesn't even remember he wasn't always a boy. Plus his name is Nick, not Pinocchio. I don't see the problem.

Heck, this would sound more derivative of Toy Story if Pinocchio hadn't been mentioned at the end.

Rachel Burton said...

Author here.

Thanks for the discussion all.

I understand your POV Writtenwyrd and accept others may share it, but obviously I feel differently. I've already referenced Wicked, where Gregory Maguire take Baum's character, the Wicked Witch of the West, and writes her backstory. Am I correct in assuming you dislike his mechanism? I also like the idea behind Jasper Fforde's "Lost in a Good Book" series, though the execution was a bit disappointing to me.

In the original - and the Disney, since we all seem familiar with that - Pinocchio is very young, and pretty wicked (the original is much darker). My premise was what if he was a modern day teenager who didn't remember his beginnings? I loved that question, but coming up with the character was still all up to me, since twelve long years have passed and presumably he's grown into his own person.

But thanks for taking the time to comment; I do want to hear all opinions - the good and the bad.

Kate Thornton said...

EE - you make me blush (it's about time someone could!) But to be honest, I only submitted the last three continuations.

Thank you so much - I am still having a hard time with the stroke, but I have a new device which allows me to write a little better. (It's a special keyboard, not a brain plug in, which I would have preferred.)

This particular opening is really charming, and I love the idea of the Pinocchio character - the author is so right about the boy's psychotic personality, too. I'd love to read this entire ms.


Rachel Burton said...

Oops, I google-outed myself! Ah well, nice to meet you all.

Evil Editor said...

Oops. The trouble with gmail is that once someone sends something, others can send mail on the same subject, and the original senders name appears as the sender until you open it. Two GTPs were sent by anonymous.

Renee Collins said...

You have a cute idea and well written query. I read the Velveteen Rabbit when I was a little girl and I always hoped that my toys would become real. I think kids will enjoy this.

I will echo what benwah said though, fourteen seemed too old for the MC. I think the readers that will enjoy this the most will still play with toys. Fourteen year olds do not. Even going with the standard that kids read two years older, most twelve year olds don't play with toys. Maybe eight or ten would be better age for Nick.

Whirlochre said...

Having seen the author's comments, I'm liking this one more.

Evil Editor said...

Hey, I still play with toys.

Rachel Burton said...

Benwah and renee,

You guys bring up good points about the age. I'm trying to appeal to 9 - 12 year-olds. Right now Nick's an eighth grader into video games and soccer. He notices girls. He's horrified at the idea of carrying around a doll. In fact, he refuses but she sneaks into his backpack anyway and humiliates him.

I liked the idea of the awkardness of middle school coupled with the problem of hiding an obnoxious talking doll, but he could be younger if it works better for the story.

Stacy said...

When you say no one sent GTPs, EE, I know that's code for how much you miss my participation. ; )

I'll try to keep up on this in the future. I used to submit one a day, like a vitamin.

Chris Eldin said...

Children love to read about characters older than they are. It makes them feel older themselves. Fourteen is a nice age, if you can avoid issues that are more YA.

I thought the query had a lot of bounce and energy. I really liked it. I also thought more of Toy Story than Pinnochio.

Anyway author, good luck!

Dave Fragments said...

By the way...
Disney and Pinocchio aside...

I have trouble with:
abandons Nick to a nightmarish fate: Melanie, an eight-inch-high, bubble-gum popping doll.

Abandon isn't the right word here. It stopped me cold. And the way I read it was wrong. I think you want to say his fate is teaching or mentoring Melanie.

Be careful of sentence length. There's a few very long sentences that take time and effort to read.

Renee Collins said...

EE, I'm not sure I want to know about the toys you play with.

talpianna said...

Rachel, this is a clever and original riff on the original, which has now achieved folkloric status. Go for it!

One suggestion: to avoid lawsuits and to modernize the story, and also because the subject of the transformation is female, how about substituting for the cricket a clipboard-wielding ladybug (or she could wear a Bella Abzug-type hat) who advocates feminist views.

Anonymous said...


Great story idea. Other variations on old stories for Middle Grade readers are Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (made into a movie) and A Mid-Semester Night's Dream by Margaret Meacham. These "re-tellings" are hot right now.

Good luck!

Julie Weathers said...

"Hey, I still play with toys."

Dare we ask what kind?

Anonymous said...

Loved GTP 5!