Thursday, September 03, 2009
Guess the Plot
1. Dashiell Colourful is an extraordinary gentleman: charming, refined, affable, a sharp dresser . . . in a word, whiz-bang fantastic. Yet he's bored with his life--until he finally meets someone who's neither whiz-bang nor fantastic. Also, a talking fox.
2. Egbert Ostlethwaite's Family Fireworks Company has been failing for years. Now it's on the verge of bankruptcy, and everything hinges on whether Egbert's sons, Toby and Trevor, can rediscover the secret recipe for their best firework, the Whiz-Bang Fantastic, in time for Guy Fawkes Night.
3. As Guppy Tweed, the neighborhood pot dealer, makes his rounds, he notices all the cats on Mrs. Finch's porch staring at him with giant glowing red eyeballs. Is he having one of his hallucinations? Or has he discovered the secret hideout of the witches who keep Ferndale safe from zombies? Plus, a psychic albino watchmaker and his dog.
4. Brenda is skeptical when her dating service sends pictures of a guy in a wizard suit, complete with some kind of Harry Potter wand and funky broom! Get real! Grow up! But women over 33 are all desperate, so she meets the guy anyway, and whoa! Discovers a wiz bang is fantastic!
5. Terry wanted to be a superhero all his life, but when he tours their headquarters, he discovers that the heroes are some of the most manipulative and conniving people he's ever met. If he dons a suit, buys some fireworks, and becomes the masked man known only as Whiz-Bang, can he provide a better sort of hero for the city?
6. When Norma Small finds a genie in her bottle of Whiz-Bang soda she uses her wishes to break into the bottling company. There she joins four other intrepid teens who had the same idea. Together they will uncover a plot so mysterious even they can't understand the implications.
Dashiell Colourful is an extraordinary gentleman. He's charming, refined, street-smart, handsome, and a sharp dresser. He's intelligent, affable, strong and agile. To put it succinctly, he is Whiz-Bang Fantastic. [Why didn't you put it succinctly in the first place?] As such, he is the protagonist of Whiz-Bang Fantastic, an 83,000-word fantasy novel of perfect worlds, thrilling adventures, and discoveries that could change virtually everything. ["Everything" is a big vague word. Could these discoveries change the gestation period of the wildebeest? The number of planets in the solar system? What's the most important thing these discoveries could change? That's all I care about.]
Dashiell leads a charmed life in the vibrant town of The City, a gilded place where everything [There's that word again.] is grand and amazing. He works as a haberdasher, selling the most chic wares the High Street has to offer, he has a loving wife and a talking fox for a pet, his best friend is a flamboyant stage actor, [So far this query is a series of lists. Anyone can make lists. Tell me a story.] and he is admired and respected by all.
And he finds it endlessly boring!
He tries to lash out against his walk in life however he can, from soaring through the air on his aluminum "Gull" glider, to exploring the vast, untamed forest in his backyard [to reading his beloved thesaurus]. He's still in a rut, however, and he thinks nothing will ever change… until he meets Raleigh.
Raleigh is a young woman that Dashiell found wandering in the forest, lost and injured. She's not grand and amazing, and we probably wouldn't notice her on the street. To Dashiell, however, and to his world, she's like nothing they've ever seen before! [Instead of telling us what she isn't (grand and amazing), tell us what she is. What is it about her that makes it obvious she isn't grand and amazing?]
Raleigh's arrival in The City causes an astounding stir, [It's not the stir that's astounding; the stir is perfectly natural and to be expected given the circumstances.] and sends Dashiell and everyone close to him on a journey of perspective, realization, and self-discovery. [Vague. What do they do, specifically?] Some, though, believe Raleigh to be a corruptive influence due to her being the complete opposite to the way of things, and no one can be sure what else may change… [This is all vague. What happens when Raleigh arrives in The City? Who's the bad guy?]
Whiz-Bang Fantastic is my first completed novel. I work primarily as an animator, with experience in both traditional and computer animation. As such, I have an extensive knowledge of modern media. [How is that relevant?] My writing has won me the Seamus Flynn Memorial Award, a local scholarship for creative achievement. I've enclosed the full manuscript for your consideration. Thank you in advance for your time.
This is similar to the September book chat book. It's a book about the far-reaching effects of one little change on a community. Except you're not showing us any concrete effects. Does someone try to run Raleigh out of town? Who? Does it lead to conflict between the townspeople? Is there danger to anyone? You're giving us the set-up, and we can infer the theme, but you don't tell us anything that happens.
It's usually a waste of paper and postage to enclose the full manuscript at the query stage. If guidelines are available, send what they request. If not, hold off until they request the manuscript.
You say that Dashiell is the protagonist of Whiz-Bang Fantastic because he is Whiz-Bang Fantastic. But everyone else is also Whiz-Bang Fantastic, right? Dashiell is actually the protagonist because he's the first one to see Raleigh.
Which leads me to ask, as The City is just one town, why hasn't anyone in this town ever seen anyone who wasn't amazing? Is the town totally isolated and self-sufficient, or are all the delivery people who bring goods/mail/news from other towns also whiz-bang fantastic? Hasn't anyone ever visited another town? Is Raleigh the only person in the world who isn't amazing? In a children's book this wouldn't be an issue, and perhaps it isn't in yours, but if there's an explanation in the book, maybe slipping it into the query would be helpful. I'm not sure why people would consider themselves whiz-bang fantastic if they are no more amazing than the only people they've ever had to compare themselves to.