Friday, February 05, 2010
Guess the Plot
Ballad of a Gutter Punk
1. Yeah, it's my autobiography. What do you mean, you don't like the title? Listen, I was CEO of Halliburton and Vice-President of the United States, I don't take lip from the likes of you.
2. Abandoned by her parents, her friends, even her social worker, a teen turns to drugs and prostitution. But through grit and determination she manages to turn her life around completely, getting a minimum-wage job and food stamps.
3. What do you do when you’re born in a gutter, live in a gutter and will probably die in a gutter? Well if you’re Jeffrey Einhorn, you compose the most amazing and perfect ballad ever written. A ballad that brings world peace.
4. On his 18th birthday, Faerie Prince Aureon lost all his powers. With the most recent Guide to Being Mortal in hand, he sets off to spend the year until his powers return in the human world. Chaos ensues.
5. Geoffrey thinks nothing speaks louder than words, but Prucilla takes one look at his new neon mohawk and disagrees. Will the poet's mother kick his up-and-coming behind into the gutter, or will she have a good rest home in her old age?
6. Homeless teen Charlie Coffee pulls himself up by his bootstraps and becomes the top bowler in the United States. But when he starts rolling too many gutter balls, only sports psychologist Barry Childs can keep Charlie from falling back into the gutter.
Dear Evil Editor:
Baby comes from nothing and is going nowhere. Or at least, that’s what she’s been raised to believe. [It's what she's been named to believe. Naming your baby "Baby" is like naming your dog "Dog." Doesn't show much imagination or effort.] So it comes as no surprise to Baby when, at the age of seventeen, she’s dumped unceremoniously into the gutter.
At 119,000 words, Ballad of a Gutter Punk is the tale of a troubled young woman becoming fractured and then putting herself back together again through hardship and struggle. [Think feminist retelling of the classic "Humpty Dumpty."] Baby’s story begins the day she takes her little sister Emily by the hand and they run away from their father and stepmother to their now clean-and-sober mother’s house. Emily finds a comfortable new life there. Baby doesn’t. Within a few months her mother kicks her out, sending her on a two-year roller coaster ride bouncing from one foster home or group home to the next until, disgusted, Baby runs away to her girlfriend Deonya’s house, only to find that she isn’t exactly excited to see her. The next thing Baby knows, Deonya kicks her out and she’s told by both her mom and her social worker that they don’t want her back, either. [Getting dumped by friends and family is one thing, but when your social worker tells you she's letting you go, you start to wonder if the problem is you.] Baby has become a gutter punk. [What's the difference between a gutter punk and a guttersnipe? Actually, I imagine even the gutter has a social hierarchy of its residents, something like:
And she’s quickly devoured by homeless life. Baby leaves her hometown of San Jose, California for Santa Cruz, a liberal seaside town reputed to be more tolerant of homelessness, and befriends Rowdy [Yates], a pillar of the homeless community. Rowdy promises Baby adventure and protection [on his next cattle drive], and he lives up to his promises—at first. Unfortunately, Baby doesn’t know that Rowdy’s promises come with sexual strings attached. [How naive can you get?] When he attacks her at a shelter Baby’s illusions of protection are shattered and her humanity begins to erode. Over the next few months the daily trials of homelessness wear down Baby’s resistance and she plunges headlong into her new life of drugs, prostitution, and casual sex. [And then things get really bad.] Very little remains of who she was before she fell into the gutter.
Until Baby meets him—Corey McEwen, her flawed knight-in-shining-armor—at the soup kitchen. [He recommends the minestrone.] Corey gives Baby a reason to remember who she really is, [An untouchable.] the motivation and the ability to climb out of the gutter, and he gets her pregnant the very first time they have sex. [What a guy.] Baby follows Corey out of the gutter—albeit several weeks after him [Luckily he's made it only as far as the sidewalk.] —and across the country where they set up a new life in Pennsylvania with Emily. They get minimum-wage jobs and food stamps [Not exactly a Horatio Alger story.] and begin to eke out an existence together. But it’s not enough of an existence to support the life growing inside Baby, so she and Corey make a decision to give the baby up for adoption. It is a decision that puts Baby back in touch with the grieving child inside herself, the child she has been running from for so many years.
Thank you for your consideration of Ballad of a Gutter Punk. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
When you're pregnant and destitute, making your way from balmy California to Pennsylvania doesn't seem sensible. What made them decide to do this?
Emily gives up a comfortable life with her mother to travel across the country with her destitute gutter punk sister and the homeless guy who knocked her up? How old is Emily?
We don't need this much information in a query letter. Three sentences of setup in which we learn Baby has been abandoned by everyone and has hit rock bottom. Three sentences in which she meets Cory, gets pregnant and they decide to drag Emily 3000 miles with no prospects. Then wrap it up with the happily ever after: food stamps.
People like to read about people whose lives are more exciting than their own. Baby's life is miserable and doesn't get a whole lot better. If there's something uplifting about her story, you might want to make it clear.