Friday, May 07, 2010

Face-Lift 766

Guess the Plot

Friends with Death

1. When Death showed up at Mary Kate's high school, he didn't expect to fall in love with her. But now that he has, can he convince this seventeen-year-old hottie to enter a romantic relationship, or will she insist that she wants to just be . . . Friends with Death?

2. Jake thought he and Diana were "friends with benefits" but didn't realize until too late that she had an axe to grind...literally. How long can Diana's killing spree continue before someone realizes this petite Comparative Literature major is a serial killer?

3. Zachery Vanderbilt has built his Harvard rep on being the best friend who helps you hide the body, no questions asked. But when his frat brothers start calling him 'Bridesmaid of Death' he decides it's time to step up his game. Which of his former best friends will be the first to make friends with Death himself?

4. Death wants to go roller blading. Arnie wants to watch a movie. Arnie always gives in to what the Grim Reaper wants, for obvious reasons...and because Death's such a passive-aggressive nit. But when Death falls into a bad crowd that involves leather jackets, cigarettes and drag racing, can Arnie save Death from himself?

5. When you're an immortal wizard, chances are pretty good you're going to have some strange friends. And when the skeletal dude at your poker table says he's the universal god of death, you're going to believe him. You just hope the stakes aren't your life, and that he's a lightweight when it comes to whiskey.

6. Mark and Aggie have been friends with benefits for a long time. But when Mark wants to bring the relationship to the next level, Aggie can think of only one way to stop the awkward conversations. Eliminate him.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Mary Kate Stewart can see when people are about to die. [It's one of the advantages of working in a hospice.]

When the charismatic Death shows up at her high school and forces this strange ability onto her, she's horrified. But ignoring Death and the dying isn't doing anybody any good - he still pops in for chats about human emotion and the lines to the Afterlife aren't getting any shorter. So Mary Kate decides to use the curse as it was intended - a gift.

Stalking her classmates and strangers at the mall, Mary Kate learns what their dying wish would be if they knew that they were dying. [It seems to me that the number of students at one high school who are about to die wouldn't be high enough to keep MK busy. Unless it's one of those schools where they require everyone to eat the cafeteria food.] From skydiving to adventures in online dating, Mary Kate tricks the almost-dead into living the last moments of their lives to the fullest. [Tricking someone into putting on a parachute is easy; you just tell her it's the latest fashion fad. Tricking her into jumping out of an airplane with no training is the hard part.] It doesn't take long before Death finds himself charmed by her positive outlook on life. But falling in love with a mortal is against the rules.

Determined to stop it, Death's brother Zachariah plays matchmaker and introduces Mary Kate to Cary, a human who can see what she sees. When Mary Kate develops feelings for Cary, she's devastated to see his black aura one morning, signaling his impeding [impending] demise. When Death gives her a choice: lose the guy or lose the gift, Mary Kate can't help but wonder if Death wants to be more than just friends.

FRIENDS WITH DEATH is an urban fantasy that explores common young adult questions surrounding the afterlife, bucket lists, and who dies and who gets to live. Complete at 60,000 words, I'd be more than happy to send you the manuscript upon your request.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work



Because MK is horrified by her ability, and considers it a curse, her choice doesn't seem that hard. If you stress that she's thrilled to be doing so much good rather than that she's making the best of a bad thing, her conflict might be more obvious.

You need to close with MK's choice, which is a serious conflict, not with MK wondering if Death wants to be more than friends, which is a much lighter matter--and we already know the answer anyway.

The number of high schools in the US is greater than the number of high school students who die in the US in a given year. Thus, stalking her classmates isn't gonna get MK much action.

Does Death dress in the traditional hooded floor-length cloak? Can everyone see him?

Does MK see how the people who are about to die die? If not, it would be cool if she saw that someone was about to die and tricked him into skydiving, and it turned out the death she'd foreseen was caused by his parachute not opening.

Most high school student deaths are accidents or murders, which means they don't have time to reflect that even though they're dying young, at least they got to skydive. It also means their deaths might be preventable if MK would just warn them to be extra careful instead of tricking them into jumping out of airplanes. After all, if MK's ability was intended as a gift, who's to say the gift isn't to be used to save lives?


angela robbins said...

The 1st GTP sounds like a YA Meet Joe Black... until I read the actual query.

There is a good premises, I just think the wrinkles need ironing out as EE pointed out. I don't see how there could be enough teens to stalk to keep her busy and sound realistic. Though I will admit there is a school in my city where 4 kids committed suicide all in about 7months in 2008, and then a
5th occurred the following year...

Maybe a twist is that Death is falsely showing her these teens deaths so he can somehow get closer to MK?

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I like the voice you have in the query and I love your title. But in a high concept YA like this, I think you've got to give us a little bit more about Death's background and motivations. Two particular questions:

1. Why, exactly, would Death give Mary Kate the ability to see when people are about to die, especially if he hasn't fallen in love with her yet? The only explanation I can think of is that it's some kind of badly judging courting gesture. Wouldn't it more sense if Mary Kate comes by this ability on her own, and that's what enables her to see Death and make friends with him?

2. Death has a brother? Named Zachariah? Does that mean that Death has parents and a human family? Or is Zachariah also an anthropomorphic concept like Love or Romance or something? This definitely needs to be explained.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I started but never finished a screenplay with this concept! It's actually closer to what EE is suggesting, that the deaths are least in certain cases.

Anyhoo. I obviously think it's a great concept, but the query might need some polishing. First, the tone doesn't sound like an urban fantasy. In fact with death falling in love and the lead getting hooked up with a guy of similar powers, this sounds like more of a light-hearted romance.

Urban fantasy is darker, more gritty and typically longer than 60K words. Make sure your story matches your pitch so you can target it to the right agents.

I also don't get the choice at the end. Lost the guy or lose the gift? She didn't want the "gift" to begin with?!?!

Make sure your novel puts your lead character in progressively worstening situations and that your query matches that suspense.

Keep going with this!

_*rachel*_ said...

That paragraph in the middle talking about what she does with her ability is confusing; the rest is pretty good.

I'm not a fan of calling her Mary Kate; the name combination has a distracting history.

"and the lines to the Afterlife[, which] aren't getting any shorter."

Why does he force the gift on her?

Ok, so is the middle paragraph saying that MK knows when someone's going to die, finds out their dying wish beforehand, and makes sure the wish comes true before they actually die?

"[Friends with Death is c]omplete at 60,000 words, [and] I'd be more than happy to send you the manuscript[.]

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work[.]

All in all, though, not bad.

vkw said...

EE has the best point here...if knowing someone is going to die is a gift what is the gift's purpose? Not what Mary figures out how to use it for but how was it intended to be used?

I can see it may have some uses like. . . becoming best friends with someone so they'll will you the X-Box, for example.

Then I have problem number #2. If Mary can see who is about to die and she talks them into trying that extra special thing they have been dreaming of . . . . like jumping out of an airplane or diving with sharks, can she be really, really sure that the parachute is going to open and her friend isn't going to become lunch?

And now number #3 -

Along with unexpected injuries and accidents, number 2 cause of teenage death is homicide and #3 is suicide. Mary is obviously bright and she probably has figured out she can't do anything about accidents, strokes or cardio events but she probably realizes that homicide and suicide can be prevented.

Here is a list of older teen deaths (15-18) in the US. I am not sure which year but I would guess within the last 10 years.

Unintentional Injury 7137 51.67%
* Motor Vehicle Traffic 5522 39.98%
* Poisoning 486 3.52%
* Drowning 320 2.32%
* Firearm 107 0.77%

2 Homicide 1892 13.70%
3 Suicide 1513 10.95%
4 Malignant Neoplasms 723 5.23%
5 Heart Disease 405 2.93%
6 Congenital Anomalies 248 1.80%
7 Chronic Respiratory Disease 93 0.67%
8 Influenza & Pneumonia 75 0.54%
9 Diabetes Mellitus 55 0.40%
405 2.93%
10 Cerebrovascular

I have a problem with the entire idea. Do you think we really should be making teenage Death sound anything but what it is - a tragic, loss of life? There are a lot of studies that have dealt with the domino effect involving teenage death where a teenager dies tragically or even from medical reasons and the chances other teenagers will die from suicide increases significantly. It's why schools make grief specialist and therapist immediately available to students when a fellow student dies.

I rather a book about death for teenagers focus on the pain and suffering and the loss of life than make it seem like anything else.

Faceless Minion said...

The ability to forsee death and not be able to do anything about it, intended as a gift.


Insurance Racket?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I do like the voice, and I just figured MK goes to Sunnydale High. Anyone ever add up the number of students who died on Buffy's watch? I was perfectly happy to suspend my disbelief for the sake of Whedon's story and characters. But, yeah, story and characters need to be pretty incredible to pull off that hat trick.

Am I the only one who got a bit of the "ick" factor regarding Death infatuating over MK? Since he isn't described, I immediately envision the chess-playing Grim Reaper or the current Death guy on Supernatural or even Hades (whose kidnapping of Persephone certainly wasn't the stuff of YA romance). Even Brad Pitt was a little old to be making a play for a 17-yo.

We can kind of stomach centuries-year-old vamps courting teens because we figure their hormones as well as their aging process were arrested at the same time they were turned, so they are eternally young. What's the mechanism for this Death to seem young enough that MK can't be considered jailbait?

Joe G said...

I like the idea of Death being a young handsome teenager. Who says Death can't affect any form he/she likes?

That said, it's a very grim idea for a story, which is not a bad thing, but the tone of your query suggests a feel good lighthearted romance. I would at least read the beginning bits to see what it was like.

If she is supposed to die herself I like the idea of Death falling in love with her, because Death would probably love morbid things. The idea of Death being in love with life seems the more obvious way to go.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Joe: I agree Death can take whatever form s/he wants. However, the query only says he shows up at the high school, nothing else. He could be a student or a teacher or someone just dropping in. I bring a wealth of images of what Death could be to my reading, none of which is confirmed or denied by the query. My suggestion is that the author include some small detail other than the stereotypical "charismatic" about this Death, just as she has mentioned MK is 17 and has classmates. It would help ground me better as a reader.

Joe G said...

No I agree. I was making a leap in my own imagination that made the story make more sense to me.

Of course, if Death is the typical skeleton playing Chess, the story takes on a whole other dimension.