Monday, May 02, 2011

Face-Lift 901

Guess the Plot

Another Lonely Day

1. Cassia just needed to get away from her dreary job as a waitress. Away from her nagging mother. Away from her boring fiance, John. But how do you break out of a Groundhog Day loop when there's no one around to treat differently?

2. Three car crashes, five kids on a slide that falls over, a plane crashing on takeoff. But no one dies. For Biff Galooley, it's another lonely day. It's rough being Death's understudy.

3. This memoir of an Irish lighthouse keeper includes recipes for fish, reports of stormy weather, various yearnings, efforts to secure a copy of Wuthering Heights, sketches of gulls, notes on the seaside cultivation of potatoes, inventions to aid the extermination of rodents, incomprehensible missives from his superiors in Dublin and his efforts to diplomatically respond to them, poetry written to charm a certain lass in Limerick, musings on philosophy, etc.

4. The laments & confessions of Brother Vincent, formerly a rock star guitarist, now part of a French monastery. For sixteen years he's been living in a shed, growing turnips, wishing he knew some French, wondering whatever happened to dear Loretta. Meanwhile, Loretta has been very busy and is now racing across France, desperate to hide the satchel of jewels she swiped from Todd Jones and his band of cat burglars.

5. First Anne's boyfriend dumps her for another woman. Then she falls for Joe, despite his tattoos. But Joe is untamable, so she bounces to another relationship and another, and another, ruining every one of them. Will she ever find a stable and passionate relationship? Yes! And when she does, will she run away from it? Actually, yes, she will. Christ.

6. When scientists accidentally release an anthropomorphic plague, Dave's world dissolves into chaos as the days of the week become sentient - and realize they are irrevocably alone. Armed with just an unfinished psychology degree and an encyclopedic knowledge of comic books, can Dave convince the days that loneliness is not so bad before time collapses in on itself?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Anne Donnelly’s happily ever after is shattered when her boyfriend leaves her for another woman. When a new job takes her to Key West, she falls for Joe, a complicated, tattooed musician who awakens a passion in Anne she never knew existed. [A passion for guys who hire tattoo artists to paint their skin. One thing I've always wondered about: is it the mere fact that a guy has tattoos that's attractive, or do they have to be cool tattoos? If the latter, shouldn't it be the person who drew the tattoo you're attracted to, rather than the person who acted as the canvas? I guess it's the same with any art form. If I love Christina Aguilera's singing, but I'm pretty sure I could never get Christina Aguilera in the sack, I might try for a relationship with someone who also loves Christina Aguilera's singing. The difference is that if you love some guy's tattoos, I'm pretty sure you'd have no trouble getting the tattoo artist in the sack.] As if to drive her completely crazy, he weaves in and out of her world while she bounces from relationship to relationship, trying to reconcile her maddening addiction to him and her desire for stability. [Is it her addiction to him or her bouncing from relationship to relationship that shows her desire for stability?]

When presented with nice, successful men, Anne manages to ruin it each time. [When presented with them? That sounds odd.] She wonders if she’s cut out for happily ever after. Worse still, she becomes more entwined with Joe after learning of his tragic childhood.

[Joe: My childhood was rough. I never felt loved. My shrink says that's why I'm addicted to sex.

Anne: Come here, baby, let me comfort you.]

So what if he’s untamable? Though she knows it's not good for her, being with him is maddeningly tempting. Maybe a faithful, reliable man isn’t what she deserves after all.

When Joe leaves without knowing when – or if – he’ll ever be back, [He's made it to Hollywood Week on American Idol.] Anne finally moves on, and finds a man who is both passionate and devoted. But just when her life starts to even out, Joe dies. To deal with her grief, she does the only thing that makes sense at the time, and runs away. While in her grandfather’s home town, she finds her extended family. A journey that started out simply an escape helps her to truly appreciate the life she’s built. [How much time has passed? I didn't get the impression she'd built a life with this new guy. Her life was just starting to even out when she ran away.] Upon her return to Key West, she will learn if the man she now knows she wants and deserves is waiting for her, or if she’s managed to lose him too. [He's gone. Otherwise the title would be, Lonely No More. Always guard against carelessly giving away the ending in the title.]

Another Lonely Day is a 70,000 word contemporary romance novel (help! - would love suggestions here). [If you're asking for a better way to describe the book, that was fine. A hyphen between "70,000" and "word" and possibly deleting "novel," but this is not a problem area.] A full manuscript is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Anne ruins it with nice, successful men, she maybe doesn't deserve a faithful, reliable man, she finally finds a passionate, devoted man . . . These are all general adjectives. Which are boring. The reason she falls for Joe is because he's a complicated tattooed musician. See how much more interesting specific adjectives are? It's certainly possible for a musician to be as nice and successful as an accountant, so maybe if we had more specifics about the guys she ruins it with. Is she ruining it because they're successful and reliable? Or because they lack passion? Or just because she's obsessed with Joe?

I think this needs to focus on what changes Anne. Dump the first boyfriend. Anne moves to Key West for a new job, bounces from relationship to relationship, but the only passion she feels is for Joe's tattoos. Then Joe leaves and Anne builds a life with a nice successful reliable faithful passionate devoted man. What normally happens at this point is that Joe rolls back into town and Anne is torn, but in your book Joe dies . . . and Anne is torn. In any case, by reducing the setup to three or four sentences, you have more room to tell us what happens in Mayberry that turns Anne around. Does she see how passion and stability can go together? Does Gramps take her aside and say, "The guy is dead. Get over it."?


Anonymous said...

As described it sounds like everything the chick wants, she quickly gets, and her main problem is a short attention span.

Adele said...

Oooh, I want #3, especially if he's slowly going insane but doesn't know it.

"Another Lonely Day" - lousy title for a romance. Who wants to buy another lonely day? "Love Tattoo" is more like it, but don't worry, the publishers would change it anyway.

About the plot ... hmm, generally in contemporary romance the heroine has to make a choice between two attractive paths. Between two men, or between an exciting man and a really great opportunity ... you get the idea. When Joe dies Anne's choice turns into the man she already has or ... Another Lonely Day. Which isn't exciting or particularly romantic.

Maybe the climax is Anne's realization that what she has with Mr. Other Guy is really better than what she had with Joe. If so, you need Joe to be a viable option for her to refuse, and for that he needs to be alive. I'd re-think killing off Joe.

She runs away? That sounds wimpy and unheroic.

Even if you don't want to change your plot - rewrite the query so the stakes are clear. What is Anne's conflict and how does she resolve it. Why are we rooting for her? In your letter, show us why we love Anne and want her to be happy.

vkw said...

when I was reading the "Guess the Plot" I was certain it was either this one or #4.

I hope someone writes #4.

Maybe, just maybe, Anne could have an epiphany and realize it ain't all these wonderful men but her that has the problem - because let's be honest here - desiring stability but rejecting anyone that has that in their lives and rejecting someone you desire based upon not being stable (read perfect). . . mean you're the one that has the problem. Furthermore, Ann should realize that it is she alone that can provide what she says she wants.

Honest, if you want stability and your partner isn't then why can't you have it?

HE: "I'm going to dump my job and go on a bike tour across OZ land."

Me, "Okay. I am going to remain in my stable home in my stable job. I'll be here when you get back. Do not call for money because there are consequences for being unstable. I would be a horrible person for depriving you of the full experience of the lifestyle you have chosen. And, I won't post bail either. 'Cause I don't date criminals."

See - delimma solved. Interesting enough that is what the perfect man in Key West, who Ann returns to, may be doing despite his Unstable girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

"A passion she never knew existed." 4420 results isn't a whole heck of a lot, but I'd still try for something original.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Comtemporary women's fiction, maybe, but NOT a romance.

I'm not really clear on the plot or why I should particularly care whether Anne comes out of this OK. Obviously, she attracts safe, boring types -- but why? What about Anne is it that attracts these guys? What about her would keep that last guy hanging around to see if she returns?

And what about Anne will make the reader see her as more than a whiny lady who gets frustrated when she can't have what she wants. As painted here in the query, I'm not even remotely concerned that her first BF ran off with someone else. In fact, I'm likely to think that BF was flavor-of-the-day, and the only reason Anne's pissed is because HE left first.

What's the hook here that will draw a reader in? Start your query there.

Anonymous said...

I've been told that men have feelings, too. If that's the case, then Anne's riding roughshod over them. Makes her seem like not a very nice lady. Why would we root for her?

Joe just seems like an object-- tempting but bad for her, like a Boston cream doughnut. Then, like a doughnut, he's gone.

Nobody seems to matter except Anne. Then we're told she "deserves" a good man-- hard to see why.

I agree with everything everyone else said.


Anonymous said...

I guess the key thing to know is whether you supply lots of hilarity and/or X-rated scenes to create reader interest in her numerous brief relationships or not. If yes, well, that could work. If not, why would we bother?

batgirl said...

dear lord, the word ver is borer!

Um, okay, what I meant to say was that if the author plans to sell this as a romance, then the Boring but Stable Guy needs to have a name at the very least, and a personality, and probably to _do_ something in the narrative besides wait around for Anne. Romance is your heroine finding her hero and being happy ever after.
I agree, this sounds more like 'women's fiction' where the protagonist finds herself, or her place in the world. Is Safe Boring Guy a character, or a token prize for maturing?

Sarah said...

The way you've presented her here makes Anne look like she's blindly following her passions at the expense of everyone else in her life.

I'm assumingthat the rational part of Anne knows she needs to get out of this relationship and that's the drive of the story, right? In that case, start where Anne, on the rebound from her last Mr. Right, meets Joe and gets entangled in this messy, out-of-control relationship. Tell us how the relationship goes wrong and how Anne struggles to take back control of her life. Then just when Anne seems to have herself back on track - bam, Joe reappears in a shocking, devastating way that threatens to ruin Anne's life forever unless she can finally find the strength to say goodbye once and for all.

And this is definitely women's fiction rather than romance since you kill off the main romantic interest. (Nothing wrong with that - just a different genre)

Hope this is helpful and good luck on the rewrite!


Anonymous said...

I don't have a lot to say on this one because this just frankly isn't my kind of book. I have no interest in it, but I'm sure there would be people who would be if you do as EE and Phoenix suggest and make it more specific.

And whatever you do, don't try pitching this as a romance. Romance genre has very rigid and specific rules/structure (some say formula) as to what's expected. This is about as far from a romance as it could be...unless her solution is to die and end jup happily ever after in heaven.

And the title must change.

none said...

Why should boring stable guy do anything in the narrative? Anne doesn't. She doesn't seem to exist outside of her relationships with men. Does she have a job? A career? A house, a car, a best friend, a pony? Anything apart from a sex life?

Just how many men does she go through? Is there a touching, romantic scene where she and Joe have back-to-back HIV tests?

Eh. This reads more like a synopsis than a query. A query is supposed to entice us to read the novel, not to lay out its outline. It also needs something to make us like or at least care about Anne and her problems, rather than thinking that she is, basically, behaving like a selfish, immature idiot. Maybe throw in an orphan.

batgirl said...

Anne runs away. Boring Stable Guy stays put. Opposites attract?

Maybe the story is really about what happens when Anne goes back to her family? If so, maybe use your query space on that, and cut Boring Stable Guy altogether.

none said...

Put Boring Stable Guy in a stable.

batgirl said...

Then Anne would have a pony!

Basically it seems to me that the only character who gets any real space in the query is the dead guy. Is this a character study of Joe, through Anne's eyes?
This might be an engrossing book, but presently it's quite difficult to get a grip on who or what it's about.