Friday, April 29, 2011

Face-Lift 900!!

Guess the Plot

Being Fat and Other High School Sins

1. The protagonist's name is Debbie. Please refer to title for plot, setting, and conflict.

2. Hoping to avoid looking fat in their graduation gowns, a coven of witches summon a demon who can freeze time and allow them a few extra personal training sessions before the ceremony.

3. Geeky, glasses-clad Rodger's scientific formula for becoming popular is almost finished. To get it to work, he just has to learn the difference between phat and fat.

4. Jenna has been Lauren's best friend for sixteen years, which is pretty generous of Lauren, because Lauren is popular and pretty and Jenna is a tub of lard. So why is Jenna slowly killing Lauren?

5. Ned is a teenage wanker who lives on doughnuts and cheats on tests. He sells pot to eighth graders. He sneaks beer and porn from his dad's stash. His life is a complete waste of time until his sister, Nell, who has a terminal illness, decides to enter the spring cheerleader contest. And Ned realizes he must fix the vote so she can realize her dream.

6. At Mistress Millie's School of Mayhem, breaking and entering is homework and arson is lab work. To fit in with her vixen-like classmates, Emmaline's going on a crash diet... it's either that or blow the place up.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Jenna has been Lauren’s faithful sidekick for the last sixteen years. [Was she Lauren's faithful sidekick before they could walk or talk?] Lauren's got perfect grades, perfect hair, and whoever the perfect guy is this month. With Lauren around, most people don't even know Jenna's there to ignore. It rocks. [For Lauren.]

As the fat girl at a high school six minutes from the beach, [There's nothing six minutes from the beach except cheap motels, bad restaurants, and pawn shops. The high school is fifteen minutes from the beach. In any case, we don't need to know they're near the beach if the beach doesn't come into play in the query.] Jenna’s perfectly content to blend into the shadows. She’s the quiet one. She keeps everyone’s secrets and doesn’t get hassled. Much. She’s even managed to stumble into a relationship with the most amazing guy on the planet. [Wait a minute, the fat high school chick is perfectly happy with her life? Can't you come up with a plot that's at least mildly credible?] [You've spent two paragraphs just telling us who the main characters are. What happens?]

But lately, Jenna’s realizing her talent for keeping her mouth shut is slowly killing Lauren and someone she’s not supposed to want is getting way too close. [That's it? That's the hook, the plot, the conflict? One vague sentence? Here's what we know:

Paragraph 1: Jenna is perfectly content with her life.
Paragraph 2: Jenna is still perfectly content with her life.
Paragraph 3: Something is going on involving someone.]

I grew up on the Alabama Gulf Coast [My God, are you okay?] where this story is set. My short story [redacted] will be published in [redacted anthology] in 2012.

BEING FAT AND OTHER HIGH SCHOOL SINS is a YA contemporary novel with a tone similar to Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott and Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen. [At least your title is more specific than theirs.] It is complete at 55,000 words. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Lauren is smart, beautiful and popular; what made you think teens would rather read a book about her fat friend? Hey, I'm joking.

The bad news is that the only people who'll buy the book are fat high school kids. The good news is, pretty much all high school kids are fat these days. And those who aren't spend all their time at the mall, carefully steering clear of the bookstore.

The first two paragraphs are repetitive. Condense them into one. Then expand the third paragraph into two three-sentence paragraphs with specific information about what happens. Who's getting too close to Jenna? How is Lauren being killed? What's the plan to resolve the problem? What's keeping the plan from working?


150 said...

Boy, this is one of those cases where the query is all wrong but I get the feeling it's selling a really good book. I think the key will be to get through the backstory quickly and on to the conflict, using specific, concrete terms. EXACTLY what is killing Lauren. (Anorexia? Coke? Both?) EXACTLY who Jenna isn't supposed to get close to. (Lauren's boyfriend?) Then the stakes: is it better to have a dead best friend or no friends at all?

EE's notes nailed it. Good luck with the rewrite!

Unknown said...

I agree with the above issues. At the moment it sounds as though your dilemma could be resolved by the MC realising the impact she's having and telling someone. More plot specifics would help the reader see the conflict wasn't that easily resolved.

Anonymous said...

Characters are good but they need something to do. As described these ones seem a bit insipid. Yes, dull. Have they nothing in particular to do? Try giving each of them some sort of evil sordid goal.

Anonymous said...

I'd add a comma to this sentence:

Jenna’s realizing her talent for keeping her mouth shut is slowly killing Lauren [COMMA] and someone she’s not supposed to want is getting way too close.

I had to back up because I thought Jenna's talent was killing two people -- Lauren and some person whom Jenna (or Lauren?) was not supposed to want.

But that's a minimal fix because the sentence is still not clear. Either Jenna is realizing two things (that she's killing Lauren, and that someone's getting too close), or two completely different things are happening (Jenna is realizing something, and someone else is getting too close).

Evil Editor said...

It is my assumption that Lauren is not literally dying, though I suppose I could be wrong.

batgirl said...

I'm guessing this works the same high-school territory as Kody Keplinger's The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). Which is fine, it's a strong market.
But clarity, please, clarity? Is the most amazing guy on the planet relevant to the plot? Who's the someone Jenna's not supposed to get close to?
And what are the secrets?

flibgibbet said...

Beyond the lack of hook and tension, I "got" stuck on the first para.

"Laura's got" translates to "Laura has got". This hurts my tender ears. "Laura has" would be a better solution.

And should "whoever" be "whomever" since it's the object of the sentence? (I've been wrong about this more than once).

I share 150's thoughts on this one. I'll bet there's a good story in here somewhere, but so far all I'm reading is set-up and a very fuzzy dilemma. I'm not even sure if the "someone" is getting too close to Laura or Jenna. I'm assuming it's Jenna (subject of sentence), but in context, it makes more sense that it's Laura.

LOL. Word ver: preglike. Cracked me up given the story.

Beth said...

I get the feeling there's an intriguing story in there somewhere, but the query is working hard to keep it a secret.

Some of the sentences are clunky and wordy. For instance--

But lately, Jenna’s realizing her talent for keeping her mouth shut is slowly killing Lauren


Jenna's talent for keeping her mouth shut is slowly killing Lauren [and you absolutely must explain what this means].

Also--while "Jenna's" as a contraction for "Jenna is" is tecnically correct, it makes for awkward reading. I'd suggest saving the contraction for the possessive use only, and writing out "Jenna is."

Stephen Prosapio said...

How weird how alike some of us have become. I was so excited about GTP #4 that I skipped ahead hoping it was that one...and was stoked that it was! It just goes to show what a good title and a good hook will do for a story.

That said, the query has to live up to what's come before...and is typically more indicative of the actual writing in the manuscript. There's a story here, but you need to increase the tension you've created in the opening pitch (although I assume EE wrote that should steal it!).

Good luck with this!