Friday, June 25, 2010

Face-Lift 788

Guess the Plot

Joshua and the Fantastic Forest

1. After the Dreary Desert, the Crappy City and the Pathetic Polar Region, things are finally looking up for ten-year-old Joshua.

2. Eleven-year-old Joshua lives in the desert, not a tree in sight. But across the river is something he has only heard of, a forest. It's the answer to his prayers, plenty of wood for arrows, bows and even battering rams. But Moloch, god of fire, has his own plans for that wood. In a clash between the fire god and a hard-headed monotheist, only one will survive.

3. Eight year old Joshua Cohen is thrilled when his parents move to the Mojave Desert, home of the exotic Joshua trees. When he wanders into the lush juniper forest, he meets a strange guide who seems to be one of the trees. Also, a coyote who tells bad jokes.

4. Twelve-year-old Joshua is thrilled to discover a peaceful community of talking animals in the forest. When a power-hungry fox secretly transforms thousands of animals into his allies to rule the forest, Joshua raises his own army and builds an arsenal of weapons. Unfortunately, when he leads his troops in bloody war against the evil animal horde, he is struck down. Hey, at least he tried.

5. Nine-year-old Joshua Has been warned time and again not to go into the forest alone. Which of course makes it irresistible. What he finds is a trail of candy that leads to a house filled with video games and unhealthy snack foods. What could possibly go wrong?

6. After his amateur theatre group's hit production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, director Stitch Jones turns playwright. Egos inflate over who gets the lead until no one, including Stitch, can see the Fantastic Forest for the trees--until thirteen-year-old Joshua arrives, halo and all.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Twelve-year old Joshua Cooper finds out a walk in the woods can change his life – or end it.

Bored as the new kid in town, he is desperate for adventure. He finds it in the forest when he befriends talking animals transformed accidentally from DNA of the same highly-evolved animals that lived millions of years ago and died out. [They're called dinosaurs. Sure, Hitchcock could have called his movie The Evil Flying Creatures Who Swoop out of the Sky and Attack Humans, but he decided the more subtle The Birds would be preferable--a decision that probably cost fifty million in box office receipts, but that's not the point.] He shares his magical world with two unlikely friends he rescues, [Rescues from what?] and they vow to protect the secret of their forest friends.

When a power-hungry fox secretly transforms thousands of animals with his prehistoric DNA into his allies to rule the forest, Joshua must find a way to save his captured friends [He just rescued them one sentence ago and they've already been captured? If someone I rescued was that careless, I'd just say, Screw you, and worry about my own safety.] and stop the fox. He rallies his comrades to raise their own army and build an arsenal of weapons to defend themselves in the battle of their lives.

When Joshua leads his friends in bloody war against the evil animal hoard [horde] he is struck down near death, and it is up to his friends to save him. [Usually when you reach the climax of the book, it's the main character doing the rescuing, not getting rescued.]

I am seeking your representation for my manuscript, JOSHUA AND THE FANTASTIC FOREST, a 52,000-word middle grade adventure.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


When the kids were building an arsenal of weapons I assumed we were talking about slingshots and pea shooters. Then it turns into bloody war, near-death, battle of their lives. Do the kids have machine guns and artillery? They must, if they're going to defeat thousands of animals, unless we're talking about chipmunks and bunnies.

The title leads me to believe I should read the book to my five-year-old. That the situation devolves into bloody war leads me to believe I should wait till he's six. Maybe it should be something like Joshua and the Animal War.

Aren't you worried that kids will pull for the animals instead of Joshua in this war?


Jill Cook said...

Hey! I remember this one from "The Public Query Slushpile." Sounds like a cute story.

Stephen Prosapio said...

"If someone I rescued was that careless, I'd just say, Screw you, and worry about my own safety"

Too funny!

The DNA-melded animals is a good hook. It got me, but are middle graders going to get it? Just food for thought.

I agree with EE about the bloody war. I rewatched "Hook" recently and was reminded of all the hoopla when Rufio is murdered by Hook near the end. Not sure kids need to see or read about violence especially to other children when when they're 8, 9, 10.

Anonymous said...

Not sure kids need to see or read about violence especially to other children when when they're 8, 9, 10.

Better keep 'em away from Little Red Riding Hood, then. Or Hansel and Gretel. Or The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe...

Anonymous said...

The fox transforms thousands of animals into allies so they can rule the forest. How many thousands of animals are left to be ruled? This is quite a forest. Joshua rallies "his comrades." Are these animal or human comrades? What about the "two unlikely friends" Joshua rescues -- human or not? I mean, with talking animals who wage biological warfare, anything is possible.

Dave Fragments said...

If this is the "battle" level of the Narnia movies, then it would be OK for kids.

You need for boys and girls to identify with Joshua and imagine that they are him on his adventure. That's what will attract the MG crowd. They want to be part of the fantasy, to imagine themselves in the hero's role.

That's how the query needs to be written. Joshua befriends talking forest critters but when he discovers an evil plot to eliminate humanity, he must lead an army of critters to defeat the evil.

Anonymous said...

The Absolutely Fabulous Forest is filled with neurotic, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, sex-obsessed animals.

Anenome said...

Hmm, tough one. Much as I want to say the plot leaves something to be desired, this could work depending on the quality of the actual book and the nature of the "warfare".

Sidenote: The Fox is the ultra-evil animal in Japanese mythology, much as we might view the wolf. /sidenote

I think there's a genre mismatch. You've got talking animals, which is very fantasy, yet you're trying to rationalize it with talk of DNA. Also, how does the evil fox use his DNA to secretly transform other creatures?

And are you sure that your bad guy, this fox, isn't a caricature of a bad guy? Is he just there to provide opposition or does he have an actual goal? If I were writing this, I'd probably co-mingle the fox's goals with the arrival of Joshua somehow.

The story also seems a bit one-dimensional and a bit contrived: It seems like Joshua's two friends exist merely to keep him from running away from the forest when things get rough.

Anonymous said...

Here's a revison:

Josh, the new kid in town, is desperate for friends. Aged 12, he finds friends in the forest where animals talk. He shares this secret world with two new best human friends who promise to keep the secret of the chatty forest dwellers.

As power-crazy Fox turns the forest animals into allies, Josh learns Fox took his new best friends hostage. Now the war is on. As Joshua goes into battle with Fox, he is hurt. He thinks he may be dying. Josh's friends escape, kill the evil fox, save Josh and the new kid who needed friends

Trying to help, Bibi

_*rachel*_ said...

I don't think it's too bad for the hero's friends to have to save him afterwards--as long as he's already defeated the main villain. It seems to happen a lot.

You could probably do all this without the DNA stuff. Saying the fox finds a way to create animals that will serve/fight for/obey him, should get the point across.

Several 10-year-olds I know have been recently obsessed with the Redwall books, and I know people who are getting into the Percy Jackson books at an only slightly older age. And I read Ender's Game to my brother when he was only 7 or so (granted, I abridged some parts). They may or may not understand some of the book, but fighting that leans towards swords and away from blood seems to be OK.

The level, often, isn't in the fighting; it's in how graphic it is. To compare, read Thomas Hardy's description of rape. It's about as subtle as you can get on that subject.