Thursday, November 11, 2010

Face-Lift 840

Guess the Plot

Living in Forgotten

1. George accidentally opens a portal to Forgotten - the land of awkward titles.

2. Annie lives in, um... uh... someplace, where she's a grocery clerk at, uh... some grocery store or other. Something happens.

3. The protagonist, whose name escapes me, leaves her hometown and, unable to remember its name or location, searches desperately for a way to return there.

4. A guy with a funny name was the mayor of Wherever when he got into some naughty trouble with the milkmaid, or was it the baker's wife? Anyway, a lot of crazy stuff happened and then, um, the end.

5. Khris thought it would be a good idea to move to Forgotten, which is filled with gangs and thugs and thieves, but now that he's here it's not the exciting adventure he was expecting. Can he find his way back to Privileged before he gets killed?

6. Forgotten, Illinois lives up to its name. They forgot to build a school, a church, a town hall or even a Wal-mart. When wannabe Senator, Bob Forthwright, makes a PR mission out of bringing these things to 'poor' Forgotten, the citizens revolt- led by hot country bumpkin Mary-Alice McMaddock.

7. After a brief stint of notoriety, a Payphone’s Occlusion is cast into a dimension of forgotten shadows. When the phone itself shows up in a background scene of Cheaters, fame and fortune return…but at what price? Calls cost more than 10 cents these days and the Occlusion can’t even scrounge up a nickel.

8. Alexandra Capricorn can't remember how she got to Forgotten. She can't remember her three ex-husbands, discovering Blackbeard's lost treasure, or what happened to her twin sister. She's not the only one--everyone in Forgotten has had their mind erased by evil producers mining their pasts for soap opera gold. Can Alexandra stop them in time?

9. Janie Kent loves her job running Ciudad Olvidado, a sleepy trailer park. But when drug dealers try to move in on her territory, ex-Marine Janie organizes her cadre of misfit tenants into a makeshift army, all while trying to duck the notice of that cute sheriff.

10. M’jula sells real estate on The Forgotten Planet, a Gas Giant orbiting a dying sun. She’s just discovered a legal loophole allowing considerable leeway in her depictions of the methane-rich frozen wasteland. Bring on the wealthy willing to buy "sight unseen". But the Alpha Centauri Mafia do not easily forgive being swindled.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

Living in the streets of Forgot wasn’t the adventure Khris had hoped for. [Although it does get pretty exciting at rush hour.] Stealing, hiding from the gangs and keeping his home a secret wasn’t exactly what he had imagined. [The second sentence is more specific than the first, but basically, both say the same thing. They can easily be combined into one sentence.]

When running away from a bunch of thugs, he runs into a small mute boy with a very big talent. [He has the ability to speak with perfect enunciation, almost unheard of among mutes.] Together they learn to understand each other as well as to trust others. But life in Forgot never stays easy.

In the Forgotten, a gang will corner them into an impossible heist [The first paragraph was past tense, the second was present, and now we're in future tense? I can't wait to see what we progress to in the 4th paragraph.] while in the Privileged, the PC get ready to hunt for more talented, a hunt that will leave many dead and many more missing. [If that sentence is clear to you, it's either because you wrote the book or because your mind works in mysterious ways.]

Can they live the streets especially on the wrong side of the wall? [Ah, the hypothetical tense.] [Also, what wall?]

My young adult fantasy, LIVING IN FORGOTTEN, is complete at 69,000 words. It's the first instalment [sp.] of a planned trilogy, yet it is quite capable of standing on its own. [The word "quite" is almost always useless. Note that I didn't say "quite useless," as that would have meant the same thing.] LIVING IN FORGOTTEN is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


What is Forgot? What is Forgotten? Why isn't the title Living in Forgot or Living in the Forgotten?

What is the mute boy's big talent?

Start over, and this time summarize the book such that someone who's never read it has some idea what you're talking about. Apparently the city of Forgot is divided by a wall into areas known as the Forgotten and the Privileged. Apparently Khris is from the latter but has crossed into the former seeking adventure? Why don't you just tell us this? Then tell us what happens to Khris. If the Forgotten isn't all he was hoping, why doesn't he just go back to the Privileged? What does he want and who's stopping him from getting it?

If the Forgotten is the bad part of Forgot, why do you claim that life in Forgot never stays easy? Shouldn't that be Life in the Forgotten never stays easy?

No way would the privileged allow their city to be named Forgot. You don't see the Park Avenue crowd campaigning to have New York City renamed Homeless Shelter. Also, I can see the forgotten referring to the two sectors as Forgotten and Privileged, but the privileged would probably have different names for them, like the Industrious and the Iniquitous. In short, if Khris is originally from the Privileged he probably doesn't call it that.

Do we have to name this place Forgot? It makes me think the novel is an allegory, and you want to make sure we get it.

Does PC stand for Politically Correct? Because the politically correct probably wouldn't participate in deadly hunts of talented people. If it stands for Privileged Commandos, use the words. You can't just toss out terms like the Privileged, the wall, the PC as if everyone knows what you mean.


Wilkins MacQueen said...

Wow, what EE said. Start over. I truly do not mean to sound insulting/rude/nasty or comical but are you a native English speaker? This is so close to my China experiences in compositions, enough said.
Who is the mc, what does that person want, what stops them and why should I/we care about them? Then raise the stakes.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

And what is the mute's big talent? I'm on the edge of my keyboard waiting to find out.

Dave Fragments said...

I read Sci-Fi/fantasy novels (recently) with what seems to be this complexity of plot. However, they all settled on one or two characters and their actions. I don't know any YA or teen who wants to read "literary" books about daily life without action or cute and interesting characters.

Neil Gaiman's STARDUST might be called "Living in Wall" and described that way, but it would lose some of its luster.

THE HUNGER GAMES is a good example. It can be described as "living in totalitarian squalor" but that would be a lousy title.

I'm hesitating to add Nick Harkaway's GONE-AWAY WORLD here because it is such an amazingly complex plot. It is not a YA novel and that is the type of mysterious vibes I get from this query. This isn't a YA story. Kids and teens don't have mysteries any more than Sherlock Holmes and Batman and Wolverine or will the new Robin Hood survive the Sheriff of Nottingham.

There seems to be a complex mystery in Forgotten that isn't YA. At least, that is what I read into your query.

Anonymous said...

One reads this and thinks wow, WTF?? That's too vague and all in code, or something. Then one worries that the book will be the same way.

Unrepentant Escapist said...

You know, say what you will about the infamous occlusion, but occlude is one of the words on my GRE prep tests, and thanks to EE, I will now never forget what that word means. Wish I could say the same for Amanuensis.

Sounds like the main part of the plot involves the heist? Might want to focus the letter around that, since the stakes aren't articulated anywhere else. EE's right in that things need to be a lot clearer. I'm intrigued by the idea of a setting where wealth is tied to memory, and poverty to the lack of it. I bet it's a theme that could be good in the YA market, provided that the book was well written. Naming stuff "Forgotten" and "Privileged" may be a bit over the top, though.

Anonymous said...

unrepentant, read Claire Messud's
The Emperor's Children and you'll never forget what amanuensis means.

Living in the streets of Forgot, just doesn't sound right. It's awkward because, you know, "forgot" has a meaning, and then when you add in the title and the "in the Forgotten" who can pay attention to the query itself?

Except for the mute boy. There, you've got us hooked. Maybe you shouldn't reveal the talent and an agent will overlook the rest and ask for pages just to find out.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to announce a twist -- in fact, if you're going to announce three twists in your first four sentences -- at least get us settled in first so we can be jolted by a surprise. For some odd reason, Khris thinks that a place called "Forgot" or "the Forgotten" where the PC go hunting humans is going to be a place of happy adventure? Does life get easy for a while because he meets a mute kid with a big talent? "Especially" on the wrong side of the wall? Were they ever thinking of street life on the other side?

Beware of sloppy wording. If the heist is "impossible," we know it will never be pulled off. And how does one "live the streets"?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

OK then. Obviously that approach didn't work, author. First novel, first query. My first query sucked, too. Where you've got me beat is that I actually sent mine out before I got feedback. You've taken the smart step of asking what doesn't work first, so KUDOS.

I'm not going to be so down on your names as others. I'm reading a new YA now that has an angel named Gabe and a demon named Nick. And it's pubbed by TOR, so there ya go. Obvious is apparently not such a detriment after all.

"Talent" is a major plot device here. A reader needs to know what talent is and why the PC are hunting it. Do they feed off it somehow? Are they harnessing others' talents and using them as slaves to keep their own world going? Do they just hate folk with talent because they're different and so are on a genocide spree?

See how many different ways your story MIGHT go based on the limited info you've provided? An agent or editor wants to know which way YOUR story goes.

Once you've clued us in on how the PC view people with talent (and what talent is), then we understand what kind of danger the mute boy is in. Now we need to see the connection between the heist job and the talent hunt and how those two will intersect. And then we need some glimpse into what might happen if the heist succeeds or fails and what Khris will have to do to ensure the needed outcome happens and to keep his talented friend safe.

vkw said...

I would like to comment on the query, but I can't. I have no idea what is what, who is who, or why anything is happening.

Is this novel along the lines of Gulliver's Travels? Is it a satire and/or parody? I am asking because of the names Forgotten and Privileged. Are you trying to comment on society?


Stephen Prosapio said...

Huh? Forgot with Forgotten and Privledged? What are the gangs called, Winken, Blinken, & Nod?

This sounds like some sort of middle school or lower grade theme unless it's literary and complex and then I agree with Dave F.

Swing and a miss, author. Please try again over on Phoenix's site.

Dave Fragments said...

I came back to add some fuel to the fire of all these YA novels people are writing...
There are a whole group of writers that scorn Tom Swift as poorly written. I remember reading them and enjoying the mysteries. The same for Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Doc Smith, John Carter of Mars and all that pulpy stuff. It fed my reading habit for a number of years until I went on to better writers like Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke. Don't rush these kids, they want stories that appeal but only a few can handle adult novels. "Forgotten" seems to have no plot other than a dystopic world.

What I seem to read in some of these queries are obscure characters and plots with baffling twists. What I think that YA and early teens want are intersecting characters that they can identify with, action stories, teen dating angst, more teen angst, teen struggles for autonomy, and things that occupy their lives. Which are decidedly much less complex our adult lives.

What I see in a query like this is a character thrown into an impossibly complex mystery that is hopelessly more adult than Narnia or Hogwarts or Wall or Forks.

If I were going to write a YA or Teen novel, I would first set up the real world in a High School and create a bland town where life exists in relative normality. Then I would create kids with typical kids problems like parental authority, gang pressure or curfew or breaking up, drugs, pills or unrequited love (ala Jacob and Edward) then and only then would I (metaphor time) frost the cake with the cherry of magical power or mad doctor or sinister stepmother or evil scientist villain, or just a kid who isn't communicating with a distant father or mother.

Here, I don't even know if Khris is a teen or a 20ty-ish or a broke down 30-something bum. When he meets a mute kid (and I know mute kids and adults. They aren't helpless waifs.)... A kid just doesn't wander the streets. homeless thieves do not just run the streets everyday.

So now we come down to what you should have written in your query: Who is Khris? What happens to him in the story and why does the mute kid make Khris a better man?

150 said...

You know you're living in a dystopia when even the Peace Corps goes bad.

Anonymous said...

As of the the third paragraph, I was completely lost. Totally at sea.

It does sound like an allegory, in which case, yikes. Change the names. Undisguised allegory went out with Pilgrim's Progress.

It also sounds rather grim. Is there any sliver of jollity you can offer us? Perhaps something to do with the mute boy's talent?

M. G. E. said...

Allegory. Didacticism.
No thanks.

I want a good story, well written, over all of those. Naked allegory is a major turn off.

Also, "Khris" is fairly close to "Kris" a kind of knife used in sacrificing people to the gods and whatnot >_>

Why the variant construction of that name--unless Khris is a girl maybe?

Um, yeah, I think everyone else has covered the rest.

Joe G said...

Why is it always the baker's wife?!

I was hoping for some obscure Latin grammatical forms. Or that there should have been an entire language shift.

I think this novel is perhaps more stylistically daring than we, blinded as we are by convention, could ever hope to comprehend.

The day will dawn. Society will be ready.

Srsly, I think people gave you some good advice. You could probably explain more of the plot because I actually was mildly curious. It's never great to be too coy.

Dave, you know, I really enjoyed Hunger Games, but I didn't necessarily see it as having an especially complex narrative or having spent much time world building. The narrative is super tight and focused on Katniss. It's more about a person who goes from a to b to c, who lives in an interesting world, but I don't know if it's a masterclass in world building. That adds to the mystery though.

Dave Fragments said...

THE HUNGER GAMES is a good example. It can be described as "living in totalitarian squalor" but that would be a lousy title.

but I didn't necessarily see it as having an especially complex narrative or having spent much time world building.

Joe G.
I agree. That wasn't the best example of a complex plot. It was a good example of a reader-catching title.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Hey, Joe G,
You may be right but then the writer needs to show us that in the query.

And Writer, my query (blush) was a hideous botch of what a query should be so please take heart, kudos for doing it, kudos if you can do it better in the next revision of the query.

We're pulling for you.


Maria said...

Thanks everyone for all your comments. I must say that this is going to be very helpful and mthat these were some of the better critiques I ever got.

After reading them I realized that I still had a lot to do :)

Which is funny because after I wrote this I was jumping up and down like a pogo stick thinking that this was aaaamazing!


I am now back to the "writingboard". I will get back once I figure out a new query.

angela robbins said...

i had something totally awesome to say, and then i forgot what it was...

_*rachel*_ said...

I think you forgot to be specific.

I'm not sure whether it's called Forgot or Forgotten.

Good luck!

Joe G said...

Ah you're right Dave, sorry about that.

Maria, if you do a revision you should sent it to Phoenix!

batgirl said...

I feel compelled to mention that there is a town in Canada called Forget.
It's pronounced For-jhay.