Friday, May 21, 2010
Guess the Plot
A House Divided
1. Conjoined twins Johnny and Billy have always found it amusing that the Mason-Dixon Line runs smack under the middle of their bedroom. But it isn't so funny the day the fateful news comes from Fort Sumter.
2. The Robertsons' messy divorce gets even messier when their lawyers convince them both to demand the house in the settlement. The situation is at a standstill -- until George buys the Acme M-3600 chainsaw.
3. As the end of the world draws nigh, miracles are on the rise. So when Jesus Reyes’ modest two-story colonial shows the ability to do long division, a skill long lost to the general populace, no one takes notice. How can they, with zombies wreaking havoc on the town?
4. Jeremy Thatchett is in love with his black servant in a world where the South won the Civil War, splitting up Jeremy's family. His two cousins live in the Republic of Texas and the North. And a mad scientist is plotting to destroy the world. Actually, he may have the right idea.
5. Cassi can't get into her own home, because she was turned into a vampire so she can't enter unless someone invites her, but her family is in a huge fight and no one will leave their bedroom and Cassi knows if she doesn't do something her parents will get a divorce, but what can she do if she can't get inside?
6. They've hired the divorce lawyers, they've filed the papers, they've split up their assets. But when Sue and Graham can't sell their house, they decide to do the next best thing - turn it into a duplex. Hilarity ensues.
Growing up in a 21st-century Confederate States of America, Jeremy Thatchett believes that his only problems lie in his dwindling [deteriorating?] relationship with Alyshea, his colored servant and childhood friend. That is, until his free-wheeling cousin from an estranged Texan branch of the family appears to show him how wrong he is…
My first novel, A House Divided, is a YA alternate history about three cousins whose family was separated when the Confederacy won independence in the American Civil War. When Teresa, from the recently-reformed Republic of Texas, uncovers an out-of-place scientist’s apparent plot to destroy the world, ["Out-of-place" is a good description.] she hops borders and social boundaries to escape her pursuer [Who's pursuing her?] and enlist her cousins’ help.
Her presence forces Jeremy, already uncertain about his dictated place in Southern society, to come face-to-face with the social injustices that threaten [to] consume his beloved Alyshea. [What does Teresa's presence have to do with Jeremy's problem?
Teresa: Help, I'm your estranged cousin, and I'm on the run from a mad scientist who wants to destroy the world.
Jeremy: In that case, I have no choice but to address the social injustices threatening to consume this other woman, Alyshea.]
A civil rights rally gone horribly wrong sets them on the run as well. When they finally arrive in the US, their northern cousin Kyle, a recent high-school graduate already dedicated to his dream of flying in the US air force, must decide where his loyalties lie: with his family, or with the devious Benjamin Acker, an ally of Teresa’s mad scientist, who holds sway over Kyle’s entire future? [Teresa, in the Republic of Texas, uncovers a mad scientist's plot and runs to her cousin in the United States, only to find that his future is tied to the mad scientist's ally? Can you make that sound less like a billion-to-one coincidence?]
The recent success of other YA novels in this genre, [the genre of science fiction thriller/family saga/civil rights novel,] especially Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, inspired me and instilled the confidence that alternate history can work in teen-oriented fiction. Though my novel is less fantastical than his, [it's almost as ridiculous, and] I believe the strong teenage main characters and their struggle to realize themselves in a complicated world will resonate with readers.
A House Divided is complete at 75,000 words. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Too many characters have been deemed important enough to make it into the query. Jeremy, Alyshea, Teresa, Kyle, Benjamin, the mad scientist. Cut two or three of them. The mad scientist plotting to destroy the world seems out of place in the query (if not the novel).
If a family is separated after the Civil War, and it's now the 21st century, it's hard to believe members of the separated families consider themselves cousins. My cousins are the children of my parents' siblings. Is that the relationship of your cousins? Because it feels like they're related only because they're descendants of the family that separated 150 years earlier.
Unless your Civil War lasted until the 21st century, I'd minimize that aspect of the query. Just say, In a world where the American Civil War was won by the South, and slavery has endured into the 21st century, three cousins . . . This should also guard against readers missing the 21st-century line and thinking the story is set in 1865.
It's not clear whether the main plot is the attempt to prevent the mad scientist from destroying the world, or Jeremy and Alyshea trying to make it in the Confederacy. Even if they're equal plot threads, you might want to focus on one of them in the query, as they don't blend together seamlessly. You also might focus the query on one character. It's easier to make us care about someone if you concentrate on that person.