Thursday, October 09, 2008

Face-Lift 573

Guess the Plot

Damage Control

1. Fifteen years ago the girls of indy-rock band Damaged Goods swore they'd never speak to each other again. But when a teen pop star tops the charts with a bubbly cover of their grunge anthem, these four very different women suddenly have a damn good reason for a reunion tour.

2. Jillian is the damage control expert for the Lansing Redbirds, doing her best to keep the athletes' sexcapades and arrests from overwhelming the hockey team. But can she keep her cool when new goalie Paul Frontiere comes to town?

3. Superhero/Supervillain battles are ruining the city. Dewey Dunholm, a public works consultant, has a solution: legally force super-powered combatants to fight within zones scheduled for demolition. Urban renewal becomes cheap, and Dewey is a hero. Then a television promoter with a spandex fetish begins broadcasting the fights to stellar ratings, and Dewey loses control of the system. Can he shut down "Damage Control" before the upcoming Mega Brawl levels the entire city?

4. Floyd Harrison was used to waking up cotton-mouthed, head pounding, with no money and even less of an idea where he was. But the dead blond next to him in bed comes as a complete surprise. As does the safe deposit box key in his pocket. Now he's got to piece together what happened during his recent bender while staying one step ahead of the cops, a man with a scar across his knuckles, and a hotel clerk who demands payment for what Floyd did to the sheets.

5. Seventeen-year-old Lena Philips wasn't happy to discover that a secret militaristic society of time travelers moved into her grandmother's house, and have targeted Lena for assassination--until she fell in love with one of them. But if her future happiness depends on living out her life in the Jurassic period with her true love, will she have what it takes?

6. When a werewolf rampage ends, when your uncle the vampire moves in, when ghosts start partying in the yard and you don't want the neighbors to know . . . you call in Padre Felipe to handle Damage Control.

Original Version

Dear agent:

Chase Baker's rules started out harmless enough. Rule one: keep hold of his hand. Two: remain calm. Three: always close her eyes. That was all reasonable before seventeen year old Lena Philips knew he was preparing her for time travel. [I think you have this backwards. If I know I'm being prepared for time travel, I might find these rules reasonable. But before I know about the time travel, if someone simply says, "Hold my hand, close your eyes, and stay calm," I'm breaking all of the rules immediately.]

When the Baker family moved into her late grandmother's house, Lena knew there was something strange lurking behind their charming smiles, and she was determined to find out what it was. She had no idea that her spying would uncover a secret society that has been influencing history, [There's really no need to tell us she had no idea; of course she had no idea. If she actually did suspect a secret society of history influencers were living in her grandmother's house, then you'd have news.] or that it would force her to rely on Chase Baker, the middle brother, who seemed to instantly despise her. But after she is attacked by a strange man, who confirms her suspicion, [Not clear how getting attacked by a strange man confirms that there is something strange lurking behind the Baker family's charming smiles. Is that the suspicion he confirms?] and saved by Chase, she is forced to choose [decide] what is more important to her: solving the mystery or her own life. For her the choice is obvious. Mysteries have always been her thing. [Of course, they're easier to solve if you're not dead.]

After a failed attempt to break-in to the Baker's house, [The Bakers' house. Better yet, the Bakery.] Chase finally reveals to Lena that her attacker and his entire family are part of a militaristic society of time travelers, and that her snooping and his confession have marked them as targets. [There's no need to target her, as the likelihood that she bought Chase's "militaristic society of time travelers" line is zero. She knows guys'll say anything to get a babe into the sack.] Chase chooses to defy the society that has raised him and protect Lena from the fury of assassins they are about to unleash. Now Chase and Lena must try and control the damage they have caused.. [What damage have they caused? So far all they've done is not break into a house.] What they didn't plan on was falling in love along the way. [Like money and sex, in-laws are often an obstacle to a couple's happiness, and never so much as when they unleash assassins targeting you.]

I'm seeking representation for Damage Control, a young adult urban fantasy completed at 76,000 words. The continuation of this series, which has yet to be titled, has been outlined. [Usually the sequels have similar titles. Possibilities: Cruise Control, Remote Control, Arms Control, Air Traffic Control, Birth Control.]

The completed synopsis, partial or full manuscript of Damage Control are available upon further request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



This is mostly the set-up. You can set up the situation for us in two or three sentences, leaving room to tell us about the exciting things that happen. I assume they escape the assassins by time traveling. If so, say so. I assume we find out some things the bad guys have done to influence history. How about an example? Time travel is your hook, might as well use it. Especially if Lena and Chase escape, only to land in the middle of the Battle of Waterloo.

I expect to see something supernatural/magical/fantastical in any kind of fantasy. If time travel is the only speculative aspect, maybe this is YA science fiction. Or YA time-travel romance.


writtenwyrdd said...

"Like money and sex, in-laws are often an obstacle to a couple's happiness, and never so much as when they unleash assassins targeting you."

You know, if you started with EE's line, I'd have my attention caught but good. The specifics you cite are not strong enough. We need to know what damage she does by discovering the truth and a bit about the struggle to save her life. Sounds rather hum-drum so far, so give us something that makes your paranormal romance stand out.

Julie Weathers said...

"She knows guys'll say anything to get a babe into the sack."

So, he doesn't really love me and he probably won't be calling me soon?

I'm devastated.

It's an interesting concept, but EE's suggestions are spot on.

EB said...

A secret militaristic society that has changed history targets a teenage girl for assassination. This raises a plausability problem for me. If they've succeeded in changing history, surely they can take care of a few meddling kids?

The militaristic crew might stick out in suburbia.

Evil Editor said...

And if they're having trouble killing her now, they could go back in time and kill her when she's a baby.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Usually the sequels have similar titles. Possibilities: Cruise Control, Remote Control, Arms Control, Air Traffic Control, Birth Control.

Love these titles for a sequel.

And WW is right. EE's line about the in-laws is a great opening.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the great feedback. I'm already coming up with ways to get more specfic and ditch the lines and lines of set up.

There are reasonable explanations for the society targeting her and also why they can't go back and kill her when she is a baby. Sadly, some of these things won't be revealed in the first novel but if it's a major problem, it my be worth some re-writing.

Again thanks!

writtenwyrdd said...

I don't think the inability to kill her as an infant will necessarily be important if you handle it appropriately. You likely need not mention it at all in the query.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know a bit more about Lena and Chase's motivation. What kind of 17 year old girl cares more about mysteries than her own life? Is she naive? Is she overly self confident? Is she suicidal? And what does Chase see in her that would make him defy his family and betray their secret? Especially when that means the assassins will be coming for HIM?

Their behavior isn't out of the realm of possibility, but it is rather extreme. I'd like more detail to clarify how their actions come from their characters and not from need to advance the plot.

talpianna said...

Awww--I was hoping it was #1. And in the list of future titles, you left out PORTION CONTROL, in which Gordon Ramsay saves the world from aliens trying to destroy us with high-calorie snack foods.

I agree with the other suggestions, especially starting with EE's zinger.

The "reasonable explanations" for why some of the things can't be done need to be up front, because your readers are going to be smart enough to ask the questions. For instance, why can't they just strand her somewhere in the past--like London during the Black Death?

I'd think a modern teen would have more modern means to investigate mysterious people than trying repeatedly and ineffectively to break into a house. How about googling the people to see if they have genuine pasts or just appeared out of nowhere six months ago? Or saving up her allowance to buy spyware like cameras and microphones?

And it is SF rather than fantasy.

EB said...

Author, not to raise a thorny question, but why leave things to your second book? (You yourself say "sadly.") At the very least, you should plug the plot holes that crop up in the query.

Anonymous said...

"And if they're having trouble killing her now, they could go back in time and kill her when she's a baby."

Yikes EE, that's creepy good.

I have a question:
Why are the time travelers "militaristic" and how does that reality play into the story?

Also I would like to hear more about daily life as a time-traveler. Do they age? Can they backup life like a Tivo when they miss something? Is his homework ever late? Are there rules to time travel. How does the "pause" button work? And so on and so on and so on...which means you must have an interesting idea here, (at least to me) because I want to know much more about it.

Good luck with the story!

Elissa M said...

Time travel is one of the hardest type stories to write because of the inherent paradoxes involved (you can't go back and kill your own grandfather- or can you?).

The basic rules need to be in the query, along with the important conflicts your protag faces. Make sure it doesn't come off as yet another *yawn* time travel story.

Dave Fragments said...

Time travel is one of the hardest type stories to write because of the inherent paradoxes involved (you can't go back and kill your own grandfather- or can you?).

Well, IF, I said IF is is possible, scientists think that you can visit but not change. That what happened is invariant. That's science as it stands.

In fiction, you have to set up a set of self-consistent rules that seem logical (even if they are scientifically impossible.) There are ways to make time travel work that permit a character to kill his/her parents or grandparents. As long as you make that scenario believable to the reader.

BTW - the paradox of killing your ancestor and preventing your birth is called "causality" and it is a one theory. There are other equally as plausible and logical theories that permit what seems to be a causality violation by invoking the multiverse.

Anonymous said...


The reason some things are left to the second novel is that the first one is about time travelers, or timelinks. The second novel is about Lena coming into her own and becoming something completely different, an opposite to time travelers (which seems strange written like that but does work when written about in detail). Trying to get the audience used to timelinks, which is what Chase and his family are, is the mission of this novel. Adding in another big secret and all just seems like overkill. In this novel it is mentioned several times very subtly that there are strange things about Lena but the full idea is a novel length one and deserves to be presented as such. For this first novel though, it's sufficent enough to say that timelinks can't see her future.

Stacia said...

Yeah, I gotta admit, I'd be wondering like crazy why the bad guys didn't go back and kill her in infancy, or go back and not buy her late grandmother's house, or whatever. You don't have to explain it in the query but there should at least be something about it in the book, because I'm the sort of grump who would read it and get irritated and wonder if the author ever even heard of the Terminator movies, at least.

talpianna said...

The opposite to time travelers? Something like a super couch potato?

The best time-travel novel I ever read was TIME PIPER by Delia Huddy.

The best EVER is Heinlein's classic short story:

"'—All You Zombies—'" chronicles a young man (later revealed to be intersex) taken back in time and tricked into impregnating his younger, female self (before he underwent a sex change); he thus turns out to be the offspring of that union, with the paradoxical result that he is both his own mother and father. As the story unfolds, all the major characters are revealed to be the same person, at different stages of her/his life.

EB said...

tal, that's a great story. big fan of heinlein's.

i'm more confused about the story of "damage control" now than when we started.