Monday, July 19, 2010

Face-Lift 798

Guess the Plot


1. When Death takes a holiday, he leaves his scythe in a safe place behind the dresser. But Elizabeth, the put-upon perfectionist cleaning lady, finds it and goes on a "holiday" of her own. Can Death get his job back?

2. Elizabeth is having one lousy fifteenth birthday, mostly because of the hitman who killed her. Now she's awakened in the morgue, and the hitman wants to turn her from the living dead to the dead dead. It's beginning to look like she won't make it to her senior prom.

3. Thirteen years after the night Eliza found both her parents murdered, she's come back to her home town to witness the execution of the murderer. But when she contacts her dead parents via ouija board and they claim to have been killed by someone else, Eliza suddenly finds herself fighting for the freedom of the convicted killer.

4. Countless biographers have recounted the life and times of Queen Elizabeth. I'm the one you want to pay attention to, however. Only I maintain the proper history of the vampire herself, who, in the proper circles, was known only as Elizadeath. But as I translate the records from vampiri to English my own life becomes threatened.

5. Elizadeath is sick of her classmates’ cruel jokes—-her parents’ dyslexia is no laughing matter. But when new kids Warren, Fammy and Penelopestilence move in next door, Elizadeath finally makes some friends. As all hell breaks loose, will Elizadeath choose to save her repentant classmates from their impending doom?

6. As soon as they turn 18, sisters Elizadeath, Ebola Gay, and Eleamorgue plot to revenge themselves on their parents for giving them such morbid names by legally changing them to Daisy, Buttercup, and Rosebud...until one of them notices that with a last name like von Fatal, they're still screwed. Hasty marriages to guys named Smith, Johnson, and Baker ensue.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Waking up in the morgue is just the icing on the cake. [Icing on cake is a good thing. The idea is that cake is good and icing makes it even better. For instance, if Evil Editor buys your manuscript, you're thrilled even if he pays you nothing, and if he offers you a seven-figure advance, that's the icing on the cake. Your situation is a bad thing topped off by one more bad thing. Sort of like:

Of course, you probably don't want to say, Waking up in the morgue is just the sudden downpour on the body snatching excursion, but you could call it the final indignity.] Elizabeth is having a rough day. [First she uses the wrong cliche, and then--the final indignity--Evil Editor mocks her query.] It’s certainly not how she envisioned her fifteenth birthday would end. She wishes she could comfort her grieving parents, but she can’t speak…yet. She would run away from the hitmen sent to dispose of her, if her legs could move. And she would tell her boyfriend everything was okay, [but she can't speak...yet.] if she hadn’t died two hours ago. Or did she?

Welcome to the strange new world of Elizabeth Davis. If she thought she had self-esteem issues before, becoming the living dead isn’t going to help. Rigor mortis, dull hair, and cloudy eyes are NOT cute. She’s not sure why this is happening, she doesn’t know who is after her or why, and she can’t BELIEVE how pale she’s become- “it’s so gross”.

Follow Elizabeth on her mysterious journey to find out what happened to her, [I've got a better idea. Tell us what happened to her.] how she can get her life back and whether she’ll ever make it to senior prom- if you can stand the smell. [Senior prom? Isn't she a little young to be thinking about that?] ELIZADEATH is a middle grade novel standing at approximately 38,000 words. Sample pages available upon request. I hope to hear from you soon.


It's good to put some voice into the query, but some of the voice is falling flat. "It's so gross," for instance, and "If you can stand the smell." The phrases immediately preceding these have the voice you want, so just drop these.

Once you've done that, the "Welcome..." paragraph isn't bad. The opening paragraph would be better if it were examples of how Liz is having a rough day. Something like:

Elizabeth is having a rough fifteenth birthday. First her boyfriend calls to say he can't make her party, then her mom pukes on the cake right in front of Liz's friends, and then the final indignity: she gets murdered by a hitman.

I wouldn't mind a few sentences about what happens after she wakes up in the morgue: Being dead is inconvenient, but Liz is determined it won't keep her from making it to the prom. First she'll have to deal with the hitman, though. He was hired to turn her into a corpse, not a zombie, and he's still on the job.


Ellie said...

Am I just genre-confused, or does this not really sound middle grade?

The query is all setup and vagueness. What does she DO? Investigate? Get into wacky situations? Fight for her (un)life?

I love GTP #3.

Rebecca Christiansen said...

Omg please get GTP #3 into a bookstore near me, someone.

Yeah, I really don't think this sounds MG. For one, the character is fifteen. That's pretty far out of the middle-grade range. And she has a boyfriend. I don't think that's really appropriate in a book for 9-12 year olds (or whatever the age range for MG is). The only thing that's really middle-grade sounding to me is the tone of the query.

Michelle Massaro said...

I agree about the MG tag being iffy, but is YA the right audience? Is there a split for YA- young YA and older YA? I read the Sweet Valley High books when I was about 11-13, and those girls were in HS, attended dances, had boyfriends. I couldn't imagine reading those books when I was actually in HS myself though.

Aside from the genre question though, I do think the auhor has great voice coming through. I don't read much in the genre but I don't think I've seen or heard of a story about a teen zombie before. Teen vampire, teen werewolf, but no teen zombie. So that could be a unique twist to explore.

Maria said...

hm... I`m just wondering how does Elisabeth manage to do anything in her "afterlife". Can she move around or will be able to do so? Is she a ghost rather than a zombie? How does she see the world now, are there other ghosts, how is she going to communicate with anybody...?

Stephen Prosapio said...

I wondered about the MG. It frankly shocked me when I got to that part in the query. I'd assumed based on the tone that it was chick-lit-ish or YA. Something's just off. I can see a 15 year old being obsessed with her senior prom... but getting 9-12 year olds to buy into that might be a stretch.

I agree with EE that the strongest part of the query was the "Welcome to..." paragraph. I think that's a good place to start and take us from there.

If this does get upgraded to more YA-ish standards the word count is going to need to increase.

150 said...

Actually Kristin Nelson just commented on the huge number of books with dead protagonists:

I would be willing to let this pass as MG if the tone and overall point of view skewed young (I'm thinking Sweet Valley High too). Fifteen-year-olds weren't even allowed at our senior prom, though. Freshman spring dance, maybe?

So Elizabeth is murdered. Use your space to describe what she does next and what other people do in reaction to what she does. Don't be coy. Just tell us.

_*rachel*_ said...

I dunno if it sounds like middle-grade, but I'd put aside my normal dislike of the living dead to read this.

She's not getting into the senior prom without a senior boyfriend, and she's young enough a difference of 3-4 years may set off alarm bells. Spring formal, maybe.

The main things I'd do here: get rid of "Or did she?," the "so gross" bit, and the 1st and 3rd sentences of the last paragraph.

Then use the extra space to tell us what she does. Telling us why anybody would try to kill her would be nice, too.

Oh, and watch your punctuation when you use quotation marks. It distracts from this otherwise witty and fun query.

Michelle Massaro said...

Rachel- good point. I went to the prom as a sophomore with a friend, and my boyfriend at the time was a few years older and yes my parents hated it. Junior prom perhaps? Anyway, I'm guessing that's not all that important to the actual story and is only in the query to add interest and detail.

Here's my stab:

Waking up in the morgue is not how Elizabeth Davis thought her fifteenth birthday would end. Now she's not sure what to make of the fact that she not-quite-dead.

Welcome to the strange new world of Elizabeth Davis. If she thought she had self-esteem issues before, becoming the living dead isn’t going to help. Rigor mortis, dull hair, and cloudy eyes are NOT cute. She’s not sure why this is happening, she doesn’t know who is after her or why, and she can’t BELIEVE how pale she’s become.

Will her boyfriend dump her once he catches a whiff of fermaldahyde? Can she still go to the school dance? Elizabeth must unravel the mystery of what is happening to her if she has any hope of living a normal life. She's not sure who she can trust with her secret or who might be on their way to finish the job-gone-wrong that was to be her demise. But she's determined to find out and put an end to her unique brand of 'high school drama' once and for all. When she tracks down her enemies she'll have to make a choice: Let them live, or eat their brains.

Elizadeath is a 40K novel for young YA. Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your input! Michelle, the last line of your rewrite made me laugh. Let me see what I can rewrite and I'll be back. =)


M. G. E. said...

I wrote GTP #3 ^_^

I wasn't able to fit in 50 words the part where she starts falling for the accused killer :P

As for the query, EE knocked it already for the tired and misused metaphors and figures of speech.

My concern is more the approach itself. The author seems to have fallen prey to the "dust-jacket teaser" mentality, beginning with this line here:

"Follow Elizabeth on her mysterious journey to find out what happened to her..."

And I'm not sure I'd want to read about a character who's literally rotting during the course of the story. Morbid to the extreme. I suppose the goth girls might make take to such a narrative though >_> But probably not with that jolly narrative-voice.

Am I the only one starting to get annoyed by the exact same flippant voice being used in so many queries these days?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one starting to get annoyed by the exact same flippant voice being used in so many queries these days?


_*rachel*_ said...

Apparently you're not the only one, but I'm not yet one of you.

On the other hand, I don't have a slushpile.

Min Yin said...

The dead chick-lit-y protagonist with the name of a famous star (Bette Davis) reminded me of Undead and Unwed featuring undead protagonist Elizabeth Taylor.

Probably just me, though.