Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Face-Lift 884

Guess the Plot

Squeaky McLean and Mouse Tails

1. A mouse detective must track down a predatory farmer's wife and her carving knife... before she strikes again.

2. Grandma raised Squeaky to keep an eye out for the big score. So when he found mouse tails in his McLean sandwich, he reached for his phone and dialed his lawyer. Now he has the mansion of his dreams and a memoir worth writing.

3. Jeff "Squeaky" McLean was once a star of his own kiddie TV show "Mouse Tails", playing Squeaky while wearing a mouse costume with his marionette mouse Cheesy. But the kids are gone, the lights shut off, and Cheesy is talking about hijacking a gasoline tanker.

4. Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist Sandra 'Squeaky' McLean synthesizes an amazing new protein which could unlock the door to eternal youth but to her horror she discovers that something isn't right with her lab mice.

5. A series of cautionary tails (haha) in which the dangers of e coli are graphically represented with whimsical illustrations of infection and death.

6. When Claw Clarey, aspiring evil overlord feline, sets out to make cats the dominant species on the planet, it's up to Squeaky McLean, mouse detective, to thwart him and save us all from servitude.

Original Version

For mouse detective Squeaky McLean, this is the worst day ever. [All the cheese is missing. If that's the problem I suggest changing the title to Squeaky McLean and the Case of the Missing Cheese.] His feline nemesis, and Marsupopolis's biggest crime boss, Claw Clarey, has co-ordinated a mass breakout from prisons all around the world. Heinous criminals [including Tom, Sylvester, and Scratchy] are pouring back onto the streets. Claw's aim? To gather an army of evil creatures who can help him restore cats to the dark glory of ancient times. Never mind that most cats aren't into that stuff nowadays. [And never mind that Tom, Sylvester and Scratchy have a record of 0 - 1437.] Claw's got a vision, and he's sticking to it.

To stop Claw from achieving his ultimate goal, Squeaky begins a frantic search for chinks in the cat's armour, weaknesses that can be used against him. He and his comrades then devise a plan for how to use those weaknesses--such absurd things as 'fur', 'mothers' and 'yoghurt'--to topple the mass-murdering mobster. [I can't tell if fur, mothers and yoghurt are the cat's weaknesses or the things Squeaky plans to use to exploit those weaknesses.] Now that he's got the plan, all he needs is to get close enough to Claw to unleash it. But there's an epic battle between good and evil, on the grounds of Claw's estate, standing in his way. [Not clear what that means. What's going on?]

Complete at 62,000 words, SQUEAKY MCLEAN AND MOUSE TAILS is a middle grade novel.


This sounds more like a job for Mighty Mouse or some other mouse superhero than for a mouse detective. Where does the detecting come in?

The first paragraph is a good setup. The second doesn't follow through with a clear summary of what happens. It should say something like: Gambling that Claw is addicted to catnip yoghurt, Squeaky brings a tanker truck of the substance to Claw's estate, hoping to cause the diabolical feline to OD. But getting to Claw won't be easy, not with the Dalai Lama and the Antichrist engaged in war on the front lawn.

Not clear why "and Mouse Tails" is part of the title. One expects that to be a play on "Tales," and that there'll be several stories, but this seems to be one story. Maybe it should be titled like Harry Potter's books: Squeaky McLean and the Cat from Hell, opening the way for a series.

62,000 words is obviously too long for kids younger than middle grade; on the other hand, I'm wondering if fifth graders would read 62,000 words about mouse versus cat. Maybe this should be a screenplay for an animated film.


Anonymous said...

Someone's bound to say that the query doesn't work but is probably good enough for middle grades, so I'm gonna seethe in advance. /There, done with that.

Things that are unclear in your first paragraph: Are these criminals cats? Is this a critter-world? (If so, it's going to be a harder sell. Not an impossible sell, and yes, there are numerous examples of successful middle grade novels set in critter-worlds. But a harder sell.)

What stuff aren't most cats into these days? In my exp most cats are still into catching mice.

IOW, define the threat clearly.

2nd paragraph, yeah, this gets a little vague. The cliches (chinks in the armor, etc) and the unclear refs make it even harder to figure out what's happening than in the first graf.

IOW, define the MC's response to the threat clearly.

Hope this helps.

vkw said...

define who or what the escapees are (are they all cats or are they the group of weirdos like those that conspire against Batman's world?)or you could just define "evil creatures"

And P.2. is very vague. . . epic battle taking place on someone's estate. What is that? It seems like it came out of nowhere.

Anyone missing pinky and the brain? I am. Or watership down?

Joe G said...

So. Many. Puns!!!!!!!!

This kind of reminds me of an early 90's cartoon I may have watched as a kid. You remember a movie called The Great Mouse Detective? Yeah, you do. Actually, I can think of a few mice detectives. Why are people always making mice detectives? Why is the cat always the bad guy? Just once, I'd like to see a heroic cat eating disease carrying rats.

Anyway, I guess my point is that there are already a lot of famous meeces in literature and movies who are detectives/epic heroes/etc. I'm not really sure who the book is aimed at but I'd just advise avoiding being too clever by half with this.

Because the first thing I thought was, "This is the sort of thing I would've watched in the 90's," and that's not necessarily a compliment. Kids' tastes have changed, and you can go back and watch some of those things and notice how aggressively cheesy (ha!) and pun-filled they are.

Khazar-khum said...

So the picture proves what many have suspected all along: EE really IS a rat bastard!

Chicory said...

If Mistmantle Chronicles are any indication, stories set in animal worlds still sell, but EE is right that the plot needs a lot of clarification. So far it really does read more like a cartoon than a book.

Anonymous said...

Sell? Yes. Redwall, etc., line up on the left. (Taps foot impatiently.) One said they were a harder sell.

Trisha said...

Thanks guys - I've since had advice that I should try to show the 'darker' side of this world. Because it's not really a harmless kids' story, it gets quite gory in parts :P

and there are good cats in this story too. and bad mice. :P there's also a vigilante turkey.

Anyway, I appreciate all your thoughts and comments! :)

Jayne said...

Good voice. Clean up the vaguaries in the query, author, and I'd ask for pages. I'd read them to my grandkids for a target-audience test (if I had any).

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a cute premise and I agree that the voice is nice. I would tend to agree with what Joe G said about figuring out a place it will fit in...and middle grades are a tough age to try and be too cute with. My niece is 4th grade and she's starting to move beyond the cartoony stories and into more real life stuff. I think if it is darker, you should show that somehow so that you hit the mark with your target audience.

Good luck!

Aika said...

Do mention the vigilante turkey. Love that detail!

St0n3henge said...

There's some really clunky writing here. For instance, "His feline nemesis, and Marsupopolis's biggest crime boss, Claw Clarey, has coordinated a mass breakout from prisons all around the world." Now, I'm a very good reader, but I stumbled over this. Try reading it out loud. I challenge any middle schooler to pronounce "Marsupopolis."

Also, the voice is very uneven. "To stop Claw from achieving his ultimate goal, Squeaky begins a frantic search for chinks in the cat's armour" sounds almost like an adult detective novel, but "For mouse detective Squeaky McLean, this is the worst day ever," sounds like elementary school level writing.

PS. GTP #5 is written all in rhyme, I hope.

St0n3henge said...

BTW, if you were to count up every kids' story written since the 1930s that have "tails" instead of "tales" in the title, it would number in the hundreds. Thousands if you count "tail." As in "A Tail of Two Kitties," "DragonTails," "An American Tail," ad nauseum. It wasn't that clever to begin with.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

I think the mention of the epic battle between good and evil is doing you more harm than good. For one thing, the tone sounds wrong for a detective story. Maybe more like "an all-out war between the forces of law an order and the world's most fiendish criminals"? Secondly, it makes everything Squeaky's doing sound uninteresting and unimportant. There's an epic battle between good and evil going on and the guy we're following is just trying to get around it to his destination?

So this story has a dark edge and moments of gore? Ditch the title. I can't imagine anyone picking up a book with a title as cutesy as "Squeaky McLean and Mouse Tails" and expecting to find blood and guts within. If your target audience is more likely to be reading Redwall than Mouse Soup, then steer clear of the cute puns.

Jo-Ann said...

All the GTPs sounded convincing - or is it just me?

I'm guessing that most modern cats would quite enjoy being restored to the glory of ancient days, provided that they didn't have to lose any precious nap-time in order to achieve it. So, yeah, go for it Claw. Wake us up when it's over.

@Joe G yeah, I'm also over villainous felines, then again, I always wished that Tom would turn Jerry into a bite sized snack.

@Tricia - a vigilante turkey sounds wonderfully fresh, please add it to the query. I think the query could do with something less tired than evil cats versus resourceful mice.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and. The cooler a character name seems to us, the more it behooves us to run that bad boy through teh Google:

"Mike "Squeaky" McClean (born in Saint Sebastian, Spain) is an English television presenter and actor from Manchester, most famous for being a roving reporter on Richard & Judy and The Big Breakfast." --wikipedia

(They mean San Sebastian. Who says "Saint" Sebastian?)

Anonymous said...

All lot of people are hung up on the detective thing. I think this mouse is a detective in the same way that Indiana Jones is an archaeologist.

Jo-Ann said...

Just one more point regarding cats. The president of the RSPCA recently commented that some sections of the community perceive that acts of cruelty against cats are acceptable because they are cold, evil creatures.

Now, I'm not saying that MG novels featuring criminal cats creates this viewpoint, but just think: how many other animals are anthropomorphised as wannabe dictators/ evil geniuses (ok, other than a single coyote?). Cats are no more evil than any other animal. And mice have plenty of other predators.

I really would like to see cats given a break and portrayed as selfless defenders of the world for once.

batgirl said...

Robert Westall's YA sf novel Urn Burial has spacefaring alien cats and dogs, with the cats being the good guys and the dogs the scum of the galaxy. Just for the record.

One really minor point for the author - you don't need both 'chinks in his armour' and 'weaknesses he can exploit' - decide whether you're going for cliche or straightforward.
And yes, what they said - specifics please? There may well be a market for a contemporary animal fantasy once you've made it clear what this one is about.

Trisha said...

Thanks everybody, all your comments are most helpful.

Jo-Ann said...

Thanks, I'll check it out!