Thursday, January 28, 2010

Face-Lift 724

Guess the Plot

Playing Dead

1. Kaleena Shrapner, agent of the Midwest Regional Supernatural Control office, is dead . . . but only in the realm of the living. In the realm of the dead, she's alive. Which is highly annoying to those in the Realm of the Dead who are dead. Or undead.

2. Unlike all the other foxes, Eddie hates hunting and killing. Eddie enjoys the relaxed life of swimming in the pond and lounging in the sun. So, taking a cue from his possum friends, he plays dead in order to get everything he has ever wanted in life: to do nothing. But will he be happy?

3. Sick and tired of school bullies and his overbearing parents, 17-year-old Gus decides to start over by faking his own suicide - only to be shocked when his long time crush admits in her eulogy that she's always had a thing for him. Can he carry on a romance from beyond the grave?

4. After years of dinner theater and TV commercials, classically trained actor Jacob Foxworthy finally gets not one, but two chances at legitimate theatre. But which role should he take? The ghost of Hamlet's father, or Higgs in The Real Inspector Hound?

5. Eric Tripp wants everyone to be sorry, so he engineers his own suspicious disappearance. In front of the TV at the vacation cabin he's broken into, he sits back to enjoy the weeping and searching. Except there isn't any. After three weeks, he gives up and heads home--only to discover no one remembers him.

6. It's 1974 and Bob's dream has come true: front row for the Grateful Dead. When the keyboardist dies midway through "Truckin'," Jerry calls out, "Can anyone play piano?" Bob can, but getting on stage will tip off the IRS that he's been . . . Playing Dead.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

My name is Michelle Garrett, and I am [telling you this because I'm worried I'll forget to sign this letter. I am] seeking representation for my fantasy novel entitled Playing Dead, complete at approximately 120,000 words. Below is a very brief synopsis of a twisting and turning story. [Turning and Twisting. Alliterative synonyms should be listed alphabetically unless they also rhyme.] I have made significant progress on the sequel, yet to be named, and I plot material for additional novels in the same world as Playing Dead outlined. [Say what?]

Kaleena Marie Shrapner has just graduated with a degree in Supernatural Control. [Apparently you can get a degree in anything these days. I assume she attended Paranormal University?] Now, as one of the newest and fastest-learning agents at the Regional Supernatural Control office in the Midwest, she has been assigned the task of killing a notorious demon named Botis. [They send one green agent to kill a notorious demon? Who do they think is gonna win between Kareena Marie Shrapner and Botis the Notorious?] When the tables are turned and he kills her instead, [I don't wanna say I told ya so, but . . . ] the adventure really begins as she regains consciousness in the Realm of the Dead, fully functional and alive. [Also known as undead.] [We will assume she's fully functional and alive from the fact that she does stuff in the rest of the query.]

Wrapped up with the disintegrating barriers [Whaddaya mean, "wrapped up with"?] between the three realms, Living, Demonic, and Dead, Kaleena must learn what it is she has become: the newest Traveler. [From whom can she learn this? Is everyone in the Realm of the Dead alive?] To make matters worse, she’s the only Traveler and the only one who can heal the collapsing barrier separating the three realms … [Actually, she's not the only Traveler, as another one appeared in Face-Lift 305.]

… And the best resource she has for knowledge may be the very demon that killed her.

I've been writing for fun for about six years, and I've had a chance to really watch my writing develop and change. I've finished five novellas previously, and [Delete this paragraph up to here (if not entirely) and use the extra space to explain what happens if the barriers disintegrate.] I have been published as a co-author for a children‘s story called “The Lonely Monkey“ in the anthology The World is Our Home: A Collection of Short Stories, written for children in Rwanda learning English. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



I suggest dumping the entire first paragraph and starting the last paragraph: Playing Dead is an urban fantasy, complete at 120,000 words.

There's not much here about what happens after "the adventure really begins." All we know is Kaleena will try to mend the barriers and it may or may not be useful to consult Botis the Notorious on the matter.

If there've been barriers separating the Demonic Realm from the other realms, how does anyone know Botis is notorious?

Has the barrier already disintegrated? If not, how can Kaleena get to Botis? If so, why haven't thousands of demons spilled into the Living Realm?

Out of curiosity, if the barriers disintegrate and Kaleena goes back into the Realm of the Living, will she be alive or dead?

They wouldn't call it the Regional Supernatural Control office of the Midwest. They'd call it the Midwest Supernatural Control office. Actually, they'd probably give it a name whose acronym is pronounceable, like Supernatural Control Alliance of the Midwest.


Sarah Laurenson said...

Wow. I want to work for SCAM.

As for the query letter - this one seems to have a lot of beginner mistakes. I suggest looking at some of the other query letters here and the feedback on them.

It's an interesting premise, but there's not enough here to figure out how you're dealing with it in the book.

Dave Fragments said...

Kaleena discovers that she can walk between the three worlds of the living, the dead and demons because the barriers between the three worlds might collapse. How Kaleena fixes that problem is the story that (I think) makes up most of your novel and will excite the reader.

Why should the readers care about Kaleena? What's endearing about her? I ask in those terms because I don't want the answer that she's a "traveler." I'm thinking of Neil Gaiman's story INTERWORLD where the main character gets lost in his own house. Typical boy -- a guy in training.

Steve Wright said...

This one looks like it's mostly set-up - I think you need to tell us a lot more about what happens after your protagonist becomes a Traveler.

Also, we need to know what a Traveler is, and why it's a big deal. And some explanation of how your protagonist can be killed, and go to the land of the dead, but not actually be dead... now, some clarity there would be welcome.

You should probably trim all the bits about writing for fun, and all the stuff about planned sequels (no one wants the sequels if you can't sell this one). Use that space to tell us more about the plot!

Ellie said...

I really liked plot #5.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

When you rewrite, make sure every word on the page (or screen) counts. There is a lot here that can be shortened:

EDITED: (On her first day) as an agent at the Midwest Regional Supernatural Control office, Kaleena Marie Shrapner is assigned to kill a notorious demon named Botis. When he kills her instead, the adventure really begins as she regains consciousness in the Realm of the Dead. Kaleena has become a Traveler; the only one who can heal the collapsing barriers between the three realms of Living, Demonic, and Dead. And the best resource she has for knowledge may be the very demon that killed her...

That's a rough edit, but hopefully it give you some ideas about ways to cut down your word count and fit more plot into less space. Good luck!

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Wow. Nice edit, Sarah from Hawthorne!

I am curious about the Traveler thing. You say Kaleena is both the newest and the only Traveler, which sounds contradictory. I'm guessing the previous Travelers failed and thus no longer exist in her realm. But I could be wrong.

This has promise, but I'd definitely like to know more.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Nothing to add to the great advice above and SFH's excellent summary but to say revise and let us see your fresh take, please!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

EE, January appears to be your month -- you've been on top of your game with these last few queries and synopses (SCAM - *snicker*)!

Also, I made the mistake of clicking on the Paranormal U link. I signed up just to get that music to STOP.

Evil Editor said...

You gotta admire a university that knows their main selling point is that they give you a parchment diploma suitable for framing.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'd totally read #5.

Author, the basic plot has a major flaw EE pointed out which might make getting this story to sell a bit difficult: Why would her agency set a totally green agent up against a tough demon unless they are trying to off her on purpose?

Perhaps it is just the wording of the query. Like Sarah observes, there are quite a few beginner mistakes. The main thing is to tell us why to care about your protagonist, what's at stake, and give a sentence or so telling us how the problem starts.

I think the issue I am stuck on would be fixed if you changed the wording from saying she was "assigned" to kill Botis to she "accidentally stumbles across" Botis and is killed by him, or that she sees him and foolishly goes after him (going cowboy) and gets killed for her trouble.

Unknown said...

I'm going to second or third a lot of what's already been said. Don't give me set up and then says "but the story begins when XY happens." Just start the query with XY happening. I would suggest starting a revised query with Dave's first sentance. Learning that Kaleena must seek help from the demon that "killed" her can have more impact than it currently does.

So, something like:

Kaleena discovers that she can walk between the three worlds of the living, the dead and demons because the barriers between the three worlds might collapse. Trapped in the world of the dead, she learns (HOW) that she's the only Traveler, a being that can freely walk betwen the realms and is charged with keeping the barriers from falling. But, that's only if she masters these abilities before (WHAT is bad about the barriers falling). Unfortunately, the one being that can help her learn what she needs is Botis, the demon that killed her.
Botis wants to twist her power so he can rule the three worlds. (NOW TELL me what happens).

Good luck.