Thursday, November 03, 2011
Guess the Plot
Summer of the Flood
1. Stranded on the roof when the river breaks its banks, Elsa bludgeons her abusive husband and casts him into the deluge below. But her actions are witnessed by a ghostly child who taunts and goads Elsa the entire summer.
2. Sixth-grader Annie wants to stage a production of Hamlet with local children, while her cousin Maggie wants to jump in the rising river and drown herself. Either way, there's gonna be a tragedy.
3. Abby and Jake may be only 14 years old, but they know they're in love. Can Abby get her dad, Noah, to give Jake a place on his precious ark?
4. That was the year. The year we all despaired. The year red heels were found washed up on the beach. The year glue-on mutton chops sold on e-bay. The year NaNoWriMo happened in June.
5. Everyone in the valley is making fun of that crazy old religious man, for building that giant boat. When storm clouds roll in, however, and a parade of paired animals begins making its way through town, folks start getting nervous.
6. When a hurricane leaves Galveston Island flooded, residents are forced to wade to school and work. The wet clothes and shoes are bad enough, but the worst part? Sharks.
The summer before Annie starts sixth grade, her cousin Maggie goes crazy. The kind of crazy where she runs away from home and tries to commit suicide.
Maggie’s parents don’t know what to do with her. They think a summer in Northern England with her recluse grandparents – former Shakespearean actors who sing to their sheep [Baa baa baa, baa baa baa ram.] and haven’t left their house in six years – will clear her head and get her out of their hair. [Nice. Their kid tries to kill herself and they want her out of their hair.]
Annie – she’s coming too, with a grand plan for their English summer that includes finding clues about the mother she never knew, getting Maggie’s mind off jumping in another river, and convincing her grandmother to stage Hamlet in their backyard, cast with children from the local village.
[Quotes from 6th-grade Hamlet:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
You may not borrow nor shall I lend my iPod.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy comic books.
Something is rotten in the refrigerator.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than baseball cards, Barbie dolls and Xboxes.
Get thee to a video arcade.
Bieber or not Bieber -- that is the question.]
Maggie – she’s not having any of it. Her heart’s still set on running.
SUMMER OF THE FLOOD is a middle grade novel of 51,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
How old is Maggie?
You've given us the characters: Maggie, Annie, reclusive grandparents. You've set up the situation: the two girls are spending the summer in England. Now . . . What happens?
You can cut the setup to something like:
The summer before Annie starts sixth grade, her cousin Maggie runs away from home and tries to commit suicide. Maggie’s parents decide a summer in Northern England with her reclusive grandparents will set her on the right track, and Annie goes along, hoping to find clues about the mother she never knew--and to keep Maggie’s mind off jumping in another river.
Now give us two more paragraphs in which you relate the plot.
Posted by Evil Editor at 9:00 AM
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See if you can tweak the phrasing slightly to acknowledge that you know Maggie's parents are totally lame.
I know and you know that parents really do things like send a seriously troubled kid to stay with whacko relatives in a foreign country instead of getting help for 'em, but the neutral "don't know what to do" makes it sound like you consider their choice an acceptable one.
And then, yeah, say what happens.
And why Hamlet? I mean I get that its discussion of suicide works for your story, but most sixth graders haven't even read the play. Why is this kid so interested in it?
ps-- nothing against the UK, and not meaning to imply that it contains relatives any more whacko than those we enjoy here in the US. But the point is the parents are getting the kid to a place where, when the @#$# hits the fan, they won't be the ones dealing with it.
Ok, first off #1 continuation is so good someone has to write it.
I dare you.
Yeah, about the parents. I know of parents who have done exactly this. However, I don't think they did it to get the kid out of their hair. They did it because after months and months, perhaps even years, of dealing with a trouble child that climaxes with a serious suicide attempt they are exhausted and overwhelmed and at their wit's end. And, a change of scenery has falsely been thought of a cure for problems of every kind. And, grandparents are notoriously nice, most of the time, wanting to save/help their children and grandchildren. All that love and not giving up on family members gets in the way of their thinking.
Of course, maybe that's not the case with Maggie's parents or grandparents but I get it. I wouldn't be flippant about it, though. Either glance at it the way EE did or explain it better if it is part of the story or understanding your characters' motivation.
This is a good setup. I am notoriously bad about not liking middle grade queries because I think they sound shallow. But, this doesn't sound shallow, this sounds interesting and deep and even fun.
Please rewrite your query to convince me I am right.
Baseball cards? In Northern England? I think not, EE! lol
Once upon a time, when depression was known as melancholia, a common cure was the sea change. You go on a nice long cruise and by the time you get back home you're better.
I can't imagine an intercontinental flight having *quite* the same effect.
Boy is Annie going to be disappointed when she finds out what the North's idea of 'summer' is. Hope her theatre isn't outdoors.
Oh, wait, just noticed the title. Guess that answers the question about the author's familiarity with Northern summers.
I agree with AlaskaRavenclaw- I only read Romeo and Juliet in high school (and didn't like it). Hamlet is much better, but most kids have no experience with it. I hadn't been exposed to Shakespeare before high school except for pop culture references like tv shows.
A line about how grandpa recites some of it to Annie, or whatever, would be good. For believability, I want to know why this has to be THE play.
I do think it sounds interesting. I'd also like a hint if Annie finds anything surprising about her mother, or maybe something she didn't want to know.
I like the writing style in the query.
- Min Yin
The story sounds interesting, but the query is about the
set-up: things that happened in the past and plans for the future. Where is the action in the book? What are the conflicts? Who is the protagonist? I would think it's Annie, but query is more about Maggie.
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