Monday, February 08, 2010

Face-Lift 728

Guess the Plot


1. Lana longs for the open road, but husband Gary wants to stay put. When he dies, she takes his insurance money to buy a big RV. On her way from Albany to San Clemente she meets different people, and at 87 she falls in love with aging screen idol Jack LeMans. Will they travel together to the end, or will she drive her RV through the great Farmer's Market in the sky?

2. They used to have a lot of negative stereotypes thrown at them; transients, tinkerers, thieves and prostitutes. Then the world was introduced to Frankie ‘the fingers’ and his inexplicable ability to snatch sickness from people as easy as stealing a wallet. It’s a latent ability that has been hidden among clans of gypsies for centuries until Frankie is exposed for his ability.

3. Rhodes Scholar Gypsy Rodes is hitting the road again—this time in search of her gypsy past. But after running into a dead end in Romania, she’s at a crossroads of a sort. Will she wander the highways and byways both physically and metaphorically until the end of time or can she overcome her gypsy past?

4. Gypsy Johnson's parents didn't think her ability to animate toys would force them into a nomadic existence--on the run from the law, the mob, and social services. Maybe allowing her to go to the Museum of Natural History with her pre-school class was a bad idea.

5. Kathy Barnes's parents are dead. To get her inheritance she must locate a man known as The Traveler. She jets off to Albania and meets a loathsome but irresistible Gypsy, but there's no sign of The Traveler. Maybe she should have gone to Moldova.

6. An old Gypsy woman travels through the Carpathians in a mule-drawn wagon, trying to avoid vampires, wolfmen and other cliche characters, but failing miserably.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

What do Gypsies, Klingons, and Gadjos (non-Gypsies) have in common? [Having looked ahead, I'll answer that: They all get mentioned in the first sentence of your query for no discernible reason.] Kathy Barnes is about to find out in Gypsy. [No need to say "in Gypsy." As we don't know your title yet, we may think you're talking about the Broadway Musical.] [Although I don't recall any Klingons in the musical, unless you count Mama Rose.] After her parents die under mysterious circumstances, Kathy—a modern-day American girl with a Gypsy lineage—receives a cryptic letter with instructions to find a man known only as The Traveler, the sole person who can help locate the family inheritance left to her. [When you're trying to locate a guy, it's never good to discover his nickname is "The Traveler."]

Two years, a bought [bout] with depression, and a closet-case of teenage alcoholism later Kathy turns eighteen and jets off to Albania, to begin her quest. Upon pick-pocketing her own wallet back from Gypsy thieves she devises a scheme to use them for information in her search for The Traveler. But her quest goes awry when she meets a Gypsy with a charismatic, overconfident demeanor she loathes—and a magical spark she simply cannot resist. [I usually find it easy to resist anyone whose demeanor I loathe.]

In a bizarre twist, Kathy uncovers secrets from her family’s past that date back to the Klingon takeover of Earth during World War II, [The Klingons had plenty of success, but I think they were prevented from taking over Earth.] and her life is thrust upon the brink of disaster when the Gypsy leader discovers her lies, her family lineage, and her secret mission to find the inheritance.

Gypsy is a 99,250 word YA novel geared toward a crossover audience (teens to twenty-somethings) that whisks the reader into an exotic world full of young love, lies, and unexploded landmines [Three is a good number of items to put in a list, but if you can come up with only two, it's best not to just toss in a random object.] in the heart of colorful Eastern Europe. [The only colors I think of when I think of Eastern Europe are gray and drab.] Evil Editor once said: “The question is can you say a hearty yes to your quest.” [True, he wasn't referring to my novel (or to any novel), but] My novel begs this same question of the reader. Will you follow Kathy on her quest? Will you answer the call when your own adventure arises? I hope you said a “hearty yes” to these questions [Actually, I tried to ignore them, as they seemed irrelevant, but in retrospect they were annoying enough that I believe I'll use them as an excuse to send a rejection slip. I'm petty that way.] because Gypsy was written to inspire the adventurer in all of us.

This is my first novel. The capstone for my Bachelor’s degree was a research project I conducted on Eastern Europe and the three countries (Albania, Serbia, and Moldova) used for the setting of my story. [Moldova's a country? When did that happen? Ah, research shows my geographical knowledge needs updating. Apparently their main claim to fame is the boy band O-zone, who came to prominence in 2004, when their hit song "Dragostea Din Tei," also known as "The Numa Numa Song," took over the #1 spot on the Eurochart Hot 100, replacing Eamon's "Fuck it (I Don't Want You Back)".]

The manuscript for Gypsy is complete, and I would be happy to send a partial upon your request.

Thank you for your time, Evil Editor. I look forward to having my query letter ripped to shreds.



It's not clear why Kathy needs to "use" the Gypsies to find The Traveler, or why her lineage is being kept secret from them. Why doesn't she just say, "I'm of Gypsy lineage, like you guys, and I'm looking for The Traveler. Seen him around?"

If the main plot is Kathy's quest to find The Traveler, can you hint at whether she ever finds him? I hope your answer is a hearty yes.

What's the Klingon secret? Kathy's great grandfather was a Klingon collaborator, and the inheritance is his ill-gotten gains? There's no harm in telling us. Why is she on the brink of disaster when her secret is discovered, if she didn't know the secret herself until she got there? What danger is she in, and what's her plan?

Dump the Evil Editor stuff and use the first sentence of that paragraph to open your last paragraph.

How the heck did the Klingons get into this?


Ellie said...

It does not beg the question. It encourages people to ask the question. I suspect this particular usage battle has long been lost, but it still drives me crazy--and may drive an agent crazy too.

Having not seen your story, I have no idea how you portray the Gypsies (nor am I trying to accuse you of being insensitive, I promise)--but it seems like your query hits a lot of the stereotypes (thieves! magic! colorful!) without promising a lot of nuance in the way you present the culture. Your query does not have to be a Very Special Episode, but you should let it show you know the culture you're writing about.

Anonymous said...

"Beg the question" doesn't mean what you apparently think it means. Look it up.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the old "begs the question" tirade.

Language is a virus...

Look it up.

wv: "Tomaggi" - a brand of authentic Italian tomato spaghetti sauce. Becaus that's what I want it to mean.

Melissa Sue said...

This sounds like a fun story, I want to read it. That being said, the query does little for you. I would dump paragraphs four and five, as it just sounds like you're tooting your own horn, and as Evil editor points out, seem a little irrelevant.
The first two sentences comes off as a little kitschy, and bogs the query down. The third sentence though, throws us right into the action. It's a great sentence to start with because it introduces the main character as well as the main conflict that drives the story (it would make a great hook as well). It's a great sentence, and may I be so bold as to suggest that you start with it instead of the first two?
Try to clean this up a little, focus. The mention of her pickpocketing might be a little too much information for a query letter. I would also leave out "in a bizarre twist". just a bit of pruning to tighten things up.
Keep going on this. It sounds like a great story, and I think with a little polish here and there, this query could attract some attention. Good job, minion.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Yes, please, kindly share with us a bit more of the adventure that the novel is begging us to be a part of.

I'm also not clear why Kat's plan to use the clan to find information goes awry when she meets Maksim. It sounds kind of like she says to herself, "I'm going to get myself invited to dinner and ask them some questions to trick them into telling me want I want to know. Oh no! They have an infuriatingly cute member. Well, in that case, scrap that plan."

On a personal note, author, I got my MA at UNT, just a block down the road from TWU. But other than my having the chance to wave "Hi" to a fellow North Texan, that paragaph doesn't really say much except you've got a degree and you've done your research -- and the degree doesn't matter and the research should really be a given.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

They're not called Gypsies. They're called Romany. The word Gypsy comes from the old mistaken impression that they came from Egypt. The Rom actually trace their origin back to the Aryan peoples of the Punjab.

I might suggest checking out the Dosta project.

Polenth said...

It comes across as using Roma people because you think they're cool. Exoticising cultures is generally unpopular among those who like multicultural fiction. I'd reconsider using terms like "exotic world" and "colorful Eastern Europe" for that reason.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I loved #2. Cool idea.

This query begs the question as to why we should read the book, because we should really desire to.

While it sounds like it could be an interesting story, there were enough mistakes, errors and unexploded landmines to make me wonder how well it's organized.

I also take issue with it being a "YA" novel. I'm starting to see this as an issue with writers because "YA" isn't a true *type* of book/story. It's a "genre" in the sense of how the novel will be marketed, but just calling it "YA" doesn't give a writer the leeway to not know what his/her story is.

Case in point: Harry Potter was a Fantasy story. Twilight is a Supernatural story. Neither are YA stories. If GYPSY is an "Action/Adventure" book, then focus on that in the query. If it's a "Coming of Age" story then focus on that in the query.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

"in a bizarre twist"

Just saying something is a "bizarre twist" doesn't make it so, and there is nothing inherently "bizarre" in finding out a Nazi past when searching European family roots. This isn't a book jacket. There's no advantage to hiding the secret here, and by doing so you violate your own language usage.

In a bizarre twist, I discovered a secret about Evil Editor's drinking habits.


In a bizarre twist, I discovered that Evil Editor likes to drink Manhattans while wearing an "I Voted for Richard M. Nixon...and would again!" T-shirt while staring out at Manhattan.

See the difference?

_*rachel*_ said...

Delete the paragraphs without any plot; you don't need them. That said, elaborate a bit on the plot: make it more engaging.

The others have a point: desensationalize your language. But that only means not talking like a ringmaster; you should still use interesting nouns and verbs.

Joe said...

This query begs a plot! So far we have:
1. Kathy loses her parents and gets a letter about her inheritance.
2. Two years later (for some reason) she goes looking for her inheritance.
3. She falls in love with a Gypsy.
4. Another Gypsy finds out who she is!
5. So what?

Are there fights? Chases and escapes? Mysteries to solve? Vampire sex scenes?

Does she find The Traveler? Does she find her inheritance? What is the inheritance and why should we care? Because if it's just a recipe for oatmeal cookies, I will be disappointed!