Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Face-Lift 918

Guess the Plot


1. Suppose you've hit puberty and your body has developed the ability to switch genders. You can't control it; it happens whenever you see somebody hot. Now suppose 'Bouncing' Debbie Hawkins and Joe 'The Horse' Smyth are both in your gym class...

2. Twins Anna and Tina like to switch places to liven things up. Partners are off limits, of course, or so Anna thinks, until Tina decides she'd rather have Anna's life . . . and her husband. So Tina imprisons Anna. Fooling Anna's hubby is no problem, but can Tina also fool Anna's secret lover?

3. Master Dick Dangerfield is the king of the New York S&M scene, but he’s feeling a dull been-there, done-her ennui, and wondering whether maybe he’d have more fun on the other side of the whip. Is inexperienced (but scrappy!) new sub Justine the right person to show him the ropes?

4. London, 1665 and Fellscratch is undisputed king of the Harrow rats. Fellscratch longs for a quieter, less violent life, however, and when he meets Longwhisker, a somewhat dim rat that could be his double, he decides to switch lives. Also a plague.

5. It's that little white thing on the wall in twelve year-old Stevie's bedroom. Yesterday it opened a passage to the water world and pirates, lots of them. Can Stevie discover the Island of Lost Boys or is he doomed to sail the seas of the Pirate Planet for the rest of his life?

6. Beneath the frozen lands of Siberia lies a secret bunker, its location known only to ex-Soviet scientist Yuri Kosovich. Now retired, his life is simple, until he’s kidnapped by terrorists seeking the bunker’s stash of nuclear weapons. Yuri risks everything by leading them astray, for he knows the destruction that could be unleashed by a single flip of the . . . Switch.

Original Version

Twins Anna and Tina sometimes play their childhood game of swapping identities, just to see how many people they could [can] fool. Boring meetings, too-long parties – switching livened things up. There was just one condition: each other’s partners were off limits. Or so Anna thought. But she occasionally awakened with a massive headache, never realising that Tina put her nursing skills to use and sedated her to seduce her husband. [There's no reason this paragraph should switch from present tense to past tense. Unless . . . is that why it's called Switch?] [You don't need nursing skills to sedate someone. Unless she's sedating her with a hypodermic needle, which would be difficult to pull off in secret.]

The years go on, and Tina’s [Tina] becomes obsessed with her own infertility, and her resentment at Anna’s three beautiful children grows daily. So she switches with Anna – for good. She imprisons Anna in a semi-drugged state and lives Anna’s life instead. For a while she has fun playing the role of perfect wife and Mom, but her bullying style of discipline starts to take its toll on the family.

The twins’ mother Maria is desperate with worry for missing “Tina”, and is shocked when “Anna’s” tears for her twin start to sound hollow. [I've never known tears to make any kind of sound. Unless they're falling into a bucket of water, in which case they would sound like a leaky faucet. Sort of a "ploop." Or if it's an empty metal bucket, it would sound like "plaink."] Only Anna’s lover, Marcus, whom she had kept secret from Tina, guesses the truth [when "Anna" suddenly can't remember his name].

Marcus and Maria need to put their mutual loathing aside [Anna told her mother about Marcus, but not her sister?] [Why does Marcus loathe Maria? I'm surprised he's even met her.] and team-up to trap Tina to rescue Anna, before time runs out. [When does time run out?]

SWITCH is a 90,000-word thriller, with an adult twist on “Parent Trap”. [I wonder if it's better to declare your book is an adult twist on a movie or an adult twist on the book the movie was based on.] [Actually, as the twins in The Parent Trap conspired together, I don't see how this bears any relation except that there are twins. Of the hundreds of movies involving twins, this plot seems to most resemble a 1993 A&E movie called Thicker than Water, and two Bette Davis films called A Stolen Life and Dead Ringers. Switch doesn't sound any more like The Parent Trap than Twins, starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.] I am an unpublished writer, and very happy to send a partial or a full. Thanks for your consideration.


If I've taken over my twin's life, I'm gonna keep him more than semi-drugged. I'm keeping him mega-drugged. In fact, I'm killing him, because otherwise he'll kill me once this charade is over.

It sounds like the only likable character spends most of the book chained to a bed in a drug-induced stupor.

It's not easy looking exactly like your twin after having three children. You have to admire how Anna's kept her figure.

I suspect Anna's husband noticed that Tina had switched with Anna. But Tina put out more often, so he saw no reason to complain.

Once Maria believes that Anna is actually Tina, why doesn't she tell Anna's husband, instead of letting Tina continue the deception? Seems like Anna's husband would make a better ally than Marcus.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The issues EE raises are similar to my concern: The story described in this query letter is not believable.

Sure, it could happen, but as I read my brain kept raising all kinds of objections, like:

1. twins tend to be very close friends

2. switching places is a game children would play, but not adults

3. most young adult women tend to be very very busy, and they just wouldn't have time for this

4. I suppose it's *possible* that Tina is so dissatisfied with her life that she'd rather have Anna's. But the logical reaction to being dissatisfied with her life would be to get a divorce, move to another state, go to grad school... I'm not convinced she wouldn't do one of these things.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = no suspension of disbelief.

If you could give us some convincing reason why The Evil Twin has to stay in her unsatisfying life, it might work.

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with EE...why would the bad twin bother keeping her sister alive, captive somewhere in a drugged state. And how long does this go on? Days, weeks, years? And what about Tina's husband? Does he not matter with his seemingly missing wife, or does she have none.

Even identical twins raised together have noticable differences to anyone familiar with them, and I'd really think husbands, lovers, and children would notice once they are older, have their own lives, and as EE notices, some serious body differences when one has birthed three kids and the other none.

I'm also having a bit of a problem with caring what happens to either of them. Anna goes along with such ridiculous childish pranks this far into adulthood? And is cheating on her husband, who is apparently a slow but presumably decent fellow? If she was unhappy, why didn't she just leave him for her lover in the first place? And while Tina may not have known about the lover, did Anna's husband not even suspect?

150 said...

Ooh, I liked Dead Ringers!

I've got no idea who's the POV character in this. Try to rewrite the query entirely from their point of view.

I don't share AR's logical objections, because people be crazy. The point about the post-birth body is a good one though.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Sure, 150, but the writer's got to convince us that they're crazy.

It's an example of how fiction has to be more convincing than real life. In real life s&*# just happens. In fiction it has to happen for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a good story in here. Sort of reminded me of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.

As for post baby bodies, there is always surgery. She's a nurse; she would know that.

Plus, if Anna and her husband have been married long enough, maybe they're not having sex any more. I kid the married people! But seriously, with the inclusion of the lover, it's quite possible.
And it IS the lover who is suspicious.

batgirl said...

Have to say, that's a brilliant list of fake plots. I hope some of them get filled in.

I'm guessing that this is a multiple pov story, with lots of artful cutting back and forth at tense moments. But for a query letter, you probably want to focus on one character. I'd suggest Maria, since she's not the villain, not passive, and not oblivious. Keeping the lens on Maria would also avoid some of the plausibility issues that stand out when you concentrate on Tina's actions.

vkw said...

The most unbelievable part in this for me was when the twin just keeps her other twin sedated.

If she's crazy enough to do this to begin with and believes she can get away from it, I would think she would just do her twin in and get on with it. Sure, you'll have to get rid of the body and that can be a pain but if it's found you cry, "Oh no Tina's dead!" Thus eliminating all those inconvienent questions and lost persons hunts and having to spend you time making posters rather than bullying the kids.

I can kind of buy the fact Anna uses her dry runs as practice and so maybe be able to get away with it . . . . but that needs to be spelled out.

I think there has been cases of twins taking on the identities of of their twin but usually it happens across the country, far for home and has to do with credit reports and vocational credentials.

Anyway as written, it sounds pretty boring which is what it may have in common with Parent Trap - probably not what your looking for.

Make it a murder mystery and about how forensic science proves that it was Tina who died based upon body changes that occur in pregnancy and birth. The climax in a hide and go seek hunt using the kids as cover.

Get rid of the hidden lover. He sounds boring already and throw in hunky detective.

Everyone loves hunky detectives.


Anonymous said...

I knew it was going to be the twins option. I really wanted to read about the plague. Oh well.

I agree with what everyone has said here about the story being kind of hard to believe, but at the same time, it reminds me of a Lifetime movie. Whenever my mother is watching one of those movies, I am yelling at the screen and pointing out the ridiculousness. However, those movies are popular among that target audience, so perhaps the audience it is intended for would accept the situation. I don't know because I'm not the intended audience.

I didn't really like any of the characters in this query. It seemed like everyone was either a huge jerk (cheater, other cheater, evil twin) or an idiot (husband who doesn't know his own wife, mother who lets her daughter do whatever she wants without confronting her, sister who never realized her twin was evil enough to do something like this).

Since the lover and the mom are the two trying to stop the evil twin, I'm thinking the lover is a good guy and maybe Anna's husband is a douche or something...maybe? I don't know.

Chose someone likable and tell us about that person.

Anonymous said...

Punctuation Nanny here. This side of the Atlantic, commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Also, there's no need to hyphenate "team up."

Maybe you can pull off a quiet family switcheroo like The Parent Trap or Dead Ringers, but it will take some doing. Nowadays a missing person case should kick off a frantic search by family and friends with major media, tons of volunteers, and law enforcement involved. Why don't Maria and Marcus at least go to the cops when their suspicions are hardened?

none said...

The obvious thing to do is to kill Anna then pretend to be her. This woman is taking over a life with a husband and three kids and she has time to take care of a drugged adult on the side? Unlikely. Does nobody wonder where she is while she's off feeding Anna and changing her diapers several times a day?

Anon, a woman having surgery to make her body less attractive? Even less believable.

Maybe all these issues are dealt with in the novel, but the query needs to make the storyline at least sound convincing. Maybe ditch some of the plot in favour of motivation. After all, lots of women are childless. Few women do this.

Trisha said...

YAY, yet more awesome potential plots...hehe

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I second Batgirl about the brilliancy of this set of fake plots and predict this GTP list lands on the shortlist for year's best!

Mother (Re)produces. said...

I don't comment too often on these Face-Lifts, because by the time I get here everything I can think of has been said. This time, though, I just have to say there is nothing new here. We had the Parent Trap, we had grown-up Parent Trap (thinking Stacey Richter's "Twin Studies") and that episode of Monk (called "Mr. Monk and the Bully," I think?) where the lost twin tries to kill her sister and take over her life. I feel like the shark's been jumped and we haven't hardly even started yet.
Show me what's new, different and interesting about this?

*btw, in defense of the twin swapping thing, people would have already experienced Tina as Anna and vice versa, since they do this often, right? I'm not sure close friends and family would have fallen for it the first time, but if they did then, why not now?

none said...

Maybe because previously Anna/Tina only played the part of being each other for a short time. Now Tina's expecting to do it fulltime. There's a big difference.

Biancadonk said...

I have some of the same disbelief issues that others have brought up, but some ideas for how to work around them.

Instead of Tina just getting "fed up" with her life, one day when they're doing this swapping thing, maybe she just kind accidentally overdoes the drugging. Anna's not dead, but she remains passed out for much longer than usual (maybe 12-24 hours) and Tina has to keep up playing her role. She starts to kind of like it, she's always had a thing for Tina's husband. She falls into this evil business by accident at first. Something like that would make Tina's treachery against her beloved twin seem a little more feasible.

Or better yet, take out the whole drugging piece, it's a little melodramatic. Instead, maybe Anna's an alcoholic and one night after getting really drunk, Tina takes her place to try do Anna a favor. The next day when Anna wakes up and Tina tells her what she did, Anna's pissed. There's a big fight, and it ends with Tina locking Anna in her basement. From Tina's perspective, she tried to help her sister. Maybe Anna's even kind of a bully, and Tina's always been the meek one. But now she's reached her final straw and just kind of "breaks" emotionally.

Instead of Anna being semi-drugged somewhere, how about just being mildly sedated (maybe injured too) and locked away? Think Paul Sheldon in Misery. That way you can have the book really switch back and forth between their two perspectives, which might be interesting, and plays up the title in a cool way.

Lastly, get rid of the secret boyfriend. His character seems really unnecessary. Keep the perspectives simple -- the two twins and each of their experiences of the story. Tina is desperately trying to keep up this charade that she feels like she got thrown into. Anna is sober for the first time in weeks, and is trying to make a thrilling escape from the dank basement while overcoming her withdrawal. You could also throw in some really interesting dynamics between the sisters. Tina is obviously messed up and has some major psychological issues, but she actually loves Anna, and feels a tremendous conflict with what she's doing.

And then just avoid scenes from any other characters' perspectives. You can introduce suspicion among Mom and Husband in some other way. Everyone wonders why Anna's been so nice recently...?