Thursday, February 12, 2009

Face-Lift 603

Guess the Plot

The Halleluiah Chicken

1. When Pastor John beheads a chicken for dinner, he's shocked that it continues to live--headless. Convinced it's a sign from God, he and Lazarus the Rooster embark on a journey across America.

2. This summer has been just plain weird. First, Cassie's dad leaves town with a suitcase full of embezzeled money, then her mom joins a strange religious born-again group, and now her health-obsessed aunt is making them eat chicken every night for dinner. And the worst part: It's only half-way through July.

3. Gloria the hen knew exactly why she wanted to cross the road: to get to the religious revival on the other side. Can she dodge aggressive roosters, angry farmers, and the dreaded arguments of her atheist friends to make it to her own Halleluiah?

4. A rooster attempts to take over the leading religious communities by raising an army of genetically modified chickens while passing himself off as the first reincarnation of the Christian Messiah and the 15th Embodiment of the Tibetan Poachen Lama.

5. Frank Donnelly, newly appointed CEO of McDonald's Corporation, attempts to appeal to Christian consumers by hiring a priest to bless the meat. But when the big cheese in heaven starts speaking to Frank, via The Halleluiah Chicken and the Beef McJesus, all hell breaks loose!

6. Maria, the shy daughter of an ailing farmer, is suddenly thrust into the spotlight when her father's favorite chicken turns up at the site of a religious miracle, leads police to find a missing boy, and pecks at a wanted, fleeing criminal. When crowds swarm her family's property, hoping to pay homage to the chicken, Maria faces some tough decisions.

Original Version

A power-hungry chicken with a messianic complex emerges from a caponiere to take over the world's religious communities and spread a new gospel based on Chicanery.

Adolph Schickengroper, a Minorca rooster raised in the bower of an eagle's aerie, attempts to take over the leading religious communities by raising an army of genetically modified chickens while passing himself off as the first reincarnation of the Christian Messiah, Huevos Christos, and the 15th Embodiment of the Tibetan Poachen Lama. [Not sure exactly what "take over religious communities" means, but we don't need it in both the first and second sentences.]

Arnold Hamnegger, a culture hero and soul mate of the wily bird, acquires the ability to communicate with all feathered fowl after he is bitten by a pit viper and in the ensuing struggle swallows some of its blood.

My novel of social satire consists of 68,000 words and is based on dozens of folk tales and superstitions surrounding birds and snakes indigenous not only to the United States but Europe and Asia. [What's indigenous to the US and Europe and Asia? The folk tales or the birds and snakes? Either way get the birds and snakes out of the sentence as they're drying up the humor.] [In fact, save the folk tales for your closing paragraph. Just tell us what happens.]

The folk tales, though not entirely concealed, are convincingly disguised in this contemporary satirical farce of a middle-aged family man who falls in love with a country and western singer, leaves his home and family to become a lone groupie, but is turned by the hand of fate into an American culture hero.

Ophites, trolls, evangelists, sports fans, TIME reporters resurrected from the dead, creatures from Irish, Welsh, Indian and Eastern mythology, and an American socialite so fat she is capable of disguising herself as a Victorian mansion, cruise ship and/or a blimp, [The mansion is funny. The cruise ship and blimp are the same joke. Settle for one laugh or risk getting none.] [Also, that list is too long. Shorten it to Trolls, evangelists, zombies, mythological creatures and an American socialite so fat . . . ] parade through the pages of this novel in time to resurrect humanity from the menace of Chicanery.

____________ is a news and articles editor with 20 years experience. He has worked for newspapers and magazines in the USA, and for international wire services and human rights publications in Hong Kong, Thailand and China. [No need to use 3rd person . . . unless you aren't the author. Did the chicken write this?]


Put the bio, word count, genre, etc. in the last paragraph and stick with the plot in the rest.

Pretend it's not a farce and organize it as if it's a serious novel. We'll get that it's wacky from the details, but we need to know how it progresses. Arnold leaving his home should be close to the front. How does he meet Adolph? Is he Adolph's translator? How successful is the chicken? Does he fill stadiums?

The huevos/poachen gags lead me to wonder if this is a world in which the leading religious communities are already fowl-based. If the chicken is taking over humanity's leading religious communities, which makes for a better satire, I'd leave those jokes out of the query.

This crazier the story, the more I want to feel the author is in control. The query is pretty much out of control. A tight query will go a long way toward convincing us you can handle this material.

Personally, I don't like the use of the names Hamnegger and Schickengroper, especially the former. Those are cheap laughs, better suited to a kid's book. We want to feel like an average guy is getting caught up in insanity. If his name is Hamnegger, we're not going to feel like it's real.


none said...

If that bird's come from a caponiere, he ain't no rooster.

I still don't get what's being satirised. Is it religion?

Dave Fragments said...

Don Imus has an old comedy routine about "One Sacred Chicken To Go" ... (one with that heavenly glow, one that's delicious, one that's nutritious...) Colonel Sanders gone all biblical in true Imus satirification.

Satire is best done with a straight face. Don't lay it on too thick. It's like a not smothering the Benedict with Hollandaise. And the best soft egs are coddled... And the best fried eggs are over easy.

A said...

One thing in particular confuses me a bit. Is he taking over mankind's religious communities? When I first read it, that's what I thought. But on a second look, I thought perhaps the human world is being excluded from the novel.

fairyhedgehog said...

I was so sure it was going to be GTP #2.

Anonymous said...

fairyhedgehog: Me too!

Anonymous said...

How exactly does Adolph come to be? Genetic engineering? A miracle? Or is this like "Animal Farm" where all the animals are sentient?

Also - do you by any chance have a screenwriting background? Because that first sentence looks like a logline, which should be omitted when you're querying for a novel.

I hope you post this again after revising, it seems like an interesting story.

Robin Wendell said...

Did the chicken write this? Ha!
I am getting a reputation as, 'that woman who spits tea on her laptop,' at Tully's. That was really a good one.

writtenwyrdd said...

I love the title, but the query makes the book sound like stream of consciousness blathering, when I suspect it might be extremely funny a la Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocolypse by Christopher Moore (I think).

Wes said...

I think I followed this until the guy runs off with the country singer (remember country and western are two different types of music).

Anyhow, if you want a real chicken story, there is the saga of Mike, the headless chicken of Fruita, Colorado ( He survived his beheading and lived for 18 months taking food and water dropped down his exposed throat. The town of Fruita has an annual festival celebrating its famous fowl.

Anonymous said...

Wes, I was channeling Mike for GTP #1. Mike's theme song is a real thing of beauty!

pacatrue said...

I too did not see the connection between chicken world and human protagonist world. Maybe start with protag and move him into crazy poultry land.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thought this was a funny hoax?

Anonymous said...

Anon: If you search the blog for "hoax", you'll find a few queries we thought were hoaxes that turned out to be real. This one is significantly less stupid than some of them.

Seriously, pick a name. We're already assuming that all the anonymous comments are coming from the same person.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Plus, sometimes you just play Match the Opening to the Query. This one gave it away with "country and western".