Friday, July 09, 2010

Face-Lift 794

Guess the Plot

Eduardo's Parakeets

1. Eduardo has been with the circus for years; his love of parakeets enables them to perform the most amazing tricks. When his great aunt buys the circus and shuts it down, he runs away with his beloved birds. Also, a street-smart crow.

2. Ever since he discovered that the Aborigine name for parakeet meant ‘tasty snack’, Eduardo’s restaurant was the hottest place in town, with its new French ‘mini pigeon’ dish. However, the parakeets are going to teach him why ‘tasty snack’ is not the main course.

3. Since losing his brother three years ago, seventeen year old Eduardo relies on his parakeets for companionship. But when he meets Suzie, a spunky girl diagnosed with cancer who refuses to allow her fear of dying to run her life, Eduardo realizes that there's more to living than just remembering the dead.

4. When Eduardo Sanchez is murdered the Miami Police can't find a single clue, leaving his young niece Anna with nightmares about his killer being on the loose. Anna inherits Lulu and Bob, Eduardo's parakeets. Soon Lulu and Bob, the only witnesses to the crime, are helping Anna become the sleuth the PD need to put away a cold-blooded killer.

5. In the daytime Eduardo's parakeets chirp and flutter in their cages. At night, though, the little blue and green birds begin to talk. Now Papa is dead, Hortencia is missing, and Zack Martinez is on the case. And he knows his daughter can kiss any hope of having parakeets goodbye.

6. When ornithologist Derek Sarastro decodes some parakeets' warblings, he finds their song reveals secrets of a former Auschwitz guard living in South America. Sarastro threatens to sell the story to the tabloids, but Germany threatens to withhold Bolivia's IMF funding if the story comes out. Parakeet breeder Eduardo is in the ICU and unavailable for comment.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Ann Haibel[1], Holocaust chronicler Nathan Vogelmann's[2] editor, is stunned to discover Nathan may have had an affair with an Auschwitz[A] guard[3].

Nathan collapsed when he heard one of Eduardo's[4] Parakeets warble a song in German. The song unlocks Nathan's past as an undercover agent in Buenos Aires[B] in 1944, and evidence of an affair with escaped guard, Edalina Haselbeck[5].

The parakeets are supposedly bred by the shadowy "Eduardo" in Bolivia[C], but only Edalina could have encoded the song. Ann's conscience won't let her hide Nathan's secret. She can't expose him, though, without knowing the truth. Nathan is in the ICU. Ann can't press him.

Ornithologist Derek Sarastro's[6] futile searches for Eduardo have landed him in hock with a loan shark[7]. He unscrambles the song and threatens to sell Nathan's past to the tabloids. While Ann parries with Sarastro, Bolivian government official Hector Merino[8] arrives.

This is 1991, and reunited Germany[D] doesn't want its Nazi past sullying its new image. Berlin warns La Paz it will withhold IMF funding if La Paz doesn't bury all traces of Edalina. Merino assumes Ann will keep quiet to protect Nathan, but he must silence Sarastro.

Ann won't countenance bloodshed, and she has to know the truth. She demands Merino take her and Sarastro to the nesting grounds[E], where she will confront Edalina. If Merino refuses, Ann will blow the story apart--Nathan, Germany, and Bolivia be damned.

Merino relents. In Bolivia, the nesting grounds glimmer deep, deep in the jungle. Merino carries weapons.

My novel, Eduardo's Parakeets, is complete at 97,000 words. You can read the first five pages at ___________________________.

¿Está usted interesado? [Hey, how come my keyboard doesn't have an upside-down question mark?]

Gracias por usted tiempo y consideración.


It's a bit complex for the minions, so I've provided a key:

1 2's Editor, demands 8 take her and 6 to E to confront 5
2 Holocaust chronicler, former undercover agent in B, currently in ICU.
3 Worked in A, had affair with 2 in B, now in E
4 Breeds parakeets in C. Somehow got name in book's title even though he does nothing. Shadowy.
5 Former guard at A, now in C (same person as #3, presumably), taught parakeets coded song?
6 Ornithlologist, can't find Eduardo, can translate parakeet warblings, needs money to pay back 7, so threatens to sell translated warblings to tabloids
7 Lent money to 6
8 Government official in C, assumes 1 will protect 2, but must silence 6
A Concentration camp in D, former employer of 3
B Site of affair between 2, 3
C Site of E, D's lackey
D Image-conscious, warns C to bury all traces of 5
E Deep in jungle, glimmering

The song unlocks Nathan's past as an undercover agent in Buenos Aires in 1944, and evidence of an affair with escaped guard, Edalina Haselbeck. That's a lot of stuff to be locked in a parakeet's song. Why was it locked there? As parakeets live 15 to 18 years, there's got to be a more permanent way to preserve the info than training a bird to sing it in code. Writing it down and putting it in a safe deposit box, for instance. Or at least use a parrot. What if the bird decides he'd rather sing a different song after a few weeks? What if the bird dies of jungle rot next week?

I'm no ornithologist, but if I hear a parakeet singing a song that sounds different from other parakeet songs, my first inclination isn't going to be to try to translate it into German or Spanish. What made the ornithologist decide the parakeets' song had a message in it?

This is mostly a list of stuff that happens in your book. Start over, and limit yourself to ten sentences and three characters. Focus on the main character. What does this person want, what's standing in the way of getting it, what's the plan, what's at stake if he/she fails? Answer these questions while maintaining a logical flow, one event leading to another.


_*rachel*_ said...

There are too many characters and too much going on. Pare it down to Ann, Nathan, and Edalina, then tell us the basics of the story and why the characters should matter to us. All we know now is that Ann is smart enough to do detective work. What sort of person is she? Why should we care about her?

Eichmann was caught in Buenos Aires in 1961; that was a big deal. If I remember correctly, Israel rejoiced, Argentina got mad, Germany stayed out of it, and everybody else made disapproving noises about invasion of Argentina's sovereignty while quietly congratulating Israel.

In short, I could believe someone's career going down the toilet over an affair with a Nazi. I'm hesitant to believe it'd be an international incident.

But what needs to happen most here is simplification. This isn't a soap opera. Keep it simple.

Dave Fragments said...

To be a concentration camp guard in 1941/2/3/4 means that a person had to be at least 20 years old. At the fall of the Berlin wall in 1990 is 45 to 50 years away.

I do not get the impression that any character is sufficiently old enough for your story. That lack of credibility really hurts (IMO).

My understanding of Germany in 1991 is that Nazi's would have been immediately turned over to a court. The Germans wouldn't hesitate. Even the East Germans.

Who is the hero at the end of the novel? Is the mysterious Eduardo finally punished? What truth about Nathan does Anna discover? Is Edalina still living? Is Nathan the equivalent of Elie Wiesel? There are lots of Holocaust chroniclers but very few with enough stature to be an international incident.

I ask those questions because you bombarded the reader (agent) with those names. Is Edalina alive or just a memory? Did Eduardo really participate in WW2 and if so, do he and Nathan know each other? Is Nathan a survivor or is Nathan a son or grandson of a survivor with a mission? How could Nathan have suppressed or hidden memories of a love affair and be anti-Nazi? What is Anna's relationship with Nathan?

I'm a little lost here.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen encoded birdsong as a key plot element -- so I think that right there is pretty cool.


You have to handle it better, at least in the query. EE's questions about the mechanics of using parakeets (they had 1.44MB floppies in 1991) and the larger, more important question of What Drives Ann have to be answered. After all, Ann is an editor. Why on earth would she want to prevent bloodshed?

Stephen Prosapio said...

My brain hurts.

Joanna Hoyt said...

Yes, there's too much detail, but...this sounds like a book I'd like to read. And I do find it easy to care about Ann; she's intelligent, she has a pretty active conscience, she'd conflicted...what more do we need?

It sounds as though Eduardo could be left out of the query. (I presume Eduardo is really Edalina, but I don't know if the double identity is important to put into the query.)

John said...

My Spanish is feeble, but I'm pretty sure that last "usted" (you) should be a "su" (your).

Adam Heine said...

My highschool-level Spanish tells me your grammar is wrong. In fact, it looks as though you plugged "Are you interested?" and "Thank you for your time and consideration." into an online translator.

I recommend you find someone who speaks the language, or better yet, just say it in English. "Cute" often isn't.

M. G. E. said...

This reads more like a synopsis than a query.

A query should paint a picture to build interest, not play 20 questions, not produce every plot twist in detail.

I agree with whomever said this situation wouldn't likely turn into an international incident if it actually happened.

I get the feeling that you're positing an international incident to raise the stakes. The problem is, if Ann is your main character the stakes -for her- still aren't high.

You only say Ann's conscience won't let her ignore it, and that she "has to know the truth." Why?

Also, your final sentence is ominous. I get the feeling you're going to have Merino shoot Ann and end the book that way. She seems pretty naive if she thinks the threat of spreading the whole story alone will keep her safe.

Readers don't usually sympathize with protagonists who have TSTL-syndrome (too stupid to live).

Anonymous said...

King Evil,
Thank you for mapping this out for me. Your alphabetizing with cross referenced numbers sure cleared up my questions.
I drew this on my wall. The arrows help. I'll photograph it before I paint the wall.
I'm all for an Avian Bird Flu crisis in the Pair a Keets which brings the WHO into the picture, the international group, not the other group group.
Like I needed to figure this out today.

Author, it was a fun query. Take the advice.

Blodwyn said...

I agree there's too much in there, but I also think the book sounds interesting, quirky and fresh. Post a revision!