Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Face-Lift 688

Guess the Plot

The Lost

1. Janet's best dog ever was Waldo, a well-trained poodle. It was a tragedy that he went missing. But if Janet can't stop lamenting the loss of her dog and notice Digby, the handsomest taximan in Glasgow, she'll never know happiness.

2. A young puppy shows up on a widow's porch one morning and worms his way into her lonely heart. As Wilma cares for Jo Jo, she realizes that Jo Jo is no ordinary dog, but the leader of a pack of werehumans.

3. Vic hates everything about Mr. Grim's Boarding School for the Criminally Deceased, including the constant feeling of being lost and of course the part about being dead, but the very worst part is that the dining hall doesn't serve nachos.

4. Angela is sick of wearing mismatched socks. Determined to discover what happens, she sets her dryer to fluff and climbs inside. Transported to the world behind the Internet, she'll uncover the true origin of sock puppets. Can she escape a world-wide mob of mis-matched hosiery?

5. In 1939 Max and Roberto took a shortcut on their way from Las Cruces to North Dakota and were never seen again. Sixty-nine years later a squad of commandos on a desert training mission discover two men pushing a car toward Los Alamos -- two men named Max and Roberto who claim they just escaped a horde of space aliens. This is their story.

6. Bridget Abraham always knows where she is: not in the location she wants to be. When her husband gives her dog tags and a GPS for her anniversary, she decides to get therapy. But can she find the counselor's office?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, "each year in the U.S., thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds." [For those interested, here are the top ten causes of death among 15-to-24-year-old American teenagers:

10. Sibling murder.
9. Living in Afghanistan.
8. Brain cancer from cell phone overuse.
7. Video game violence.
6. Living in Iraq.
5. Zombies.
4. Amusement park accidents.
3. Suicide.
2. Rap music.
1. Texting while driving.]

My young adult novel, The Lost, explores this deep and disturbing issue. It's a cross between Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere. [If I haven't read those books, that means nothing to me. If I have read them, I should recognize the similarities from your plot description, without needing to be told.]

Occupants of Mr. Grim's Boarding School for the Criminally Deceased have at least one thing in common: they each took their own lives. [life] [Why isn't this your first sentence? It's a novel, and you open with statistics that make me think it's a depressing nonfiction book.]

Sixteen-year-old Vic has been at the school for awhile. Vic is dead, she knows that much, and she's lost all hope of leaving the school where colors are dull, the rooms are always changing, and the classes revolve around others[apostrophe] past lives, but not her own. [Who are these others the classes revolve around? Historical figures? Other people in the school?] There are no windows and no nachos (Vic's fav). It's high school, but worse. She's stuck in a wandering, unsatisfying, lost existence. She doesn't remember who she is so she spends her time showing a Phase One (a new boarder) the ropes [As a simple matter of tact, it's best not to show new boarders the ropes until you're sure they didn't hang themselves.] while trying to ignore the flashes of memory popping up in her head. As the old memories consume her, Vic is overwhelmed with her past choices, desperate to understand her former self. [Shorten this paragraph. Keep the specific, lose the general.]

When Ty, a past football player, finds a lustrous red rose, a sign of a world outside of the dust-encrusted school, he rallies Vic and the others to plan an escape. She partners up with some of her peers as they try to find a way back to the life they willingly left behind, but Mr. Grim's Boarding School is less like an educational institution and more like a prison, full of secrets of its own.

Will Vic find a way to see her family and friends again? Will she remember why she chose to end her life? [These questions aren't needed.]

The Lost is dark, but also filled with hope. The manuscript is complete at 40,000 words. May I sent a partial or full manuscript? Thank you for your time and consideration.



Lose the suicide stats. It's the story we're looking for.

Mr. Grim's Boarding School for the Criminally Deceased makes me think it's for dead people who were criminals or were killed by criminals. I don't think you're trying to give the impression suicide is a crime. Maybe it should be for the self-dispatched.

An amusing name for the school will give the impression the book has plenty of humor, and you say it's dark. Is it also funny?

If you must mention other books, just say your book will appeal to those who liked the other ones, not that yours is a cross between them, which sounds like you set out to produce a hybrid of other people's works.

Ty rallies the students and Vic partners with her peers. It might be better if Vic does the rallying or leads her peers. I assume your main character is the heroine, not a follower, so don't give the wrong impression in the query.


Mame said...

I have a hard time relating teen suicide to "Criminally Deceased".

Not good.

Sarah Laurenson said...

As a simple matter of tact, it's best not to show new boarders the ropes until you're sure they didn't hang themselves.

LOL - Good one, EE.

This is an interesting concept, but EE's right (of course) you're query reads depressingly like statistics laden non-fiction. I'm assuming your book is a lot more exciting. The trick is getting the tone of the book into the query. Good luck!

_*rachel*_ said...

Take out what EE says and I think this is going to be a good query.

40,000 words? In YA? I think that's a little on the short side. I mean, I'm not going to quibble too much if you edited all the junk out of it and that's how short it was, but still....

Faceless Minion said...

but Mr. Grim's Boarding School is less like an educational institution and more like a prison, full of secrets of its own.

This might sound better without the comparison statements:

but Mr. Grim's Boarding School isn't an educational institution. It's a prison full of secrets of its own.

Or another phrase that says what the school is as opposed to what it's like.

Hope this helps.

fairyhedgehog said...

This brought out some wonderful GTPs and I liked EE's summary of your book. If that was an accurate summary then I would love to read it.

I agree with the other commenters that suicide doesn't seem to go with Mr. Grim's Boarding School for the Criminally Deceased, although I love that name.

Maybe you can fill us in about the plot more and make it clearer if this is funny, upbeat, dark, or whatever by the tone of your query.

Lisa Aldin said...

Author here! I'll revise the name of the school. That was more a place-holder that I haven't fixed yet.

It's hard to describe this story. It's told from Vic's point of view and she's sarcastic and a bit of a smart ass so that brings humor to it. I'll need to revise the query to show that voice more.

It's dark because of the content, but there's certainly humor I think. Thanks for all the great feedback.

Dave Fragments said...

the true origin of sock puppets
Hank Stohl? Rodney and Knish? Lambchop? Shari Lewis?

Chelsea Pitcher said...

This story actually sounds really good. But I could do with a bit more voice. Is it possible to infuse the query with some of Vic's sarcastic wit?

Robin B. said...

Sounds like an interesting read to me. I do agree to drop the stats and start with the story.

EE, your list was a sick scream. Enjoyed it.

Kathleen said...

if Vic doesn't remember who she is, how does she know that the classes revolve around others' lives, but not her own?

Uberman said...

What do they learn at the school? Where is it? Why do they need to escape? Where would they go once that happens?

Lisa Aldin said...

In class, Vic learns about her classmates lives, but the faculty don't teach about her own. Yet. Slowly she remembers and learns about herself.

This school is in a blank space in the afterlife. They want to escape because they feel something is always missing. They hate this place - it's dull and mundane and they are going a bit mad. Basically, they want something more. They want LIFE.

It's written in first person, so I'm not sure how to add that voice to the query. But I'll take those stats out.