Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Face-Lift 1012

Guess the Plot

Life Changes

1. First Penny's boyfriend vanishes, then she starts imagining sexual predators around every corner and has a nervous breakdown and now her nosy therapist is asking way too many questions. Life was so much easier in junior high.

2. Jim's wife took off with his best friend's brother; his kids are all staying with his former mother-in-law, who redefines the word "witch"; his Dad has Alzheimer's and now Corporate is announcing layoffs. That update to the old board game "Life" he was assigned? Yeah, you bet it's getting updated.

3. Ah, the pathetic life of Lester Lorins. Birth, teething, toilet. Crawling, walking, talking. Stupid haircuts, clarinet practice, 6th grade 'graduation'. Football tryouts, SATs, Senior Prom. First job, first marriage, first kid. Lather, rinse, repeat. Wait! He can do it over? Gimme that book!

4. Menopause, divorce and empty nest syndrome are the least of the problems facing three fifty-something women on a road trip to a reunion of the Milltown High class of '76. Equipped with back issues of Oprah magazine as inspiration, they’re out to vanquish an evil prom queen and the cheerleaders who once made their lives hell.

5. Wall Street mover and shaker Jeff Ricksby recounts the tragic challenges and events which led to his ultimate calling: chieftain of a tribe of Himalayan chimpanzees. Guest prologue by Bubbles.

6. Bored billionaire Hugh Morrow makes a deal with a magical being to swap his life with two lesser lives of equal value. He then inhabits the bodies of Ken and Ada Vlasblom, a troubled married couple who must now work out their differences while sharing Hugh's body.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Penilia Rutherford's life changes abruptly when her boyfriend gets harassed by a stranger at their school's hockey game and then disappears a couple of hours later.

The police dismiss the case as Brent just taking a break from his demanding sports schedule until Penny picks the stranger's face out of an index of prostitution ring members. [Tips for criminals #236: If you're gonna kidnap or kill someone, never choose someone you were harassing a couple hours ago in front of an arena full of witnesses.] [Tips for criminals #237: If you're kidnapping someone for your prostitution ring, the girl named Penilia will be easier to control than the athlete named Brent. Especially if the athlete plays hockey. Hockey players are taught to beat the crap out of people before they're taught to skate.]

With the nationwide search in full motion, her parents expect Penny to move on with her life. [Her parents are idiots. Etiquette demands that you wait until the next nationwide search for a missing person is in full motion before you move on with your life.] But that is easier said than done when Penny suspects [imagines] sexual predators behind every corner. [Shouldn't that be "around" every corner? Google is familiar with behind, but Google is familiar with everything. And they're more familiar with around. I'm familiar with "behind the eight ball," or "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," or Behind the Green Door. If you're in a room, what's behind the corner would be a stud, but the wooden kind, not the sexual predator kind.]

After a nervous breakdown, Penny finds herself in the office of nosy therapist Dr. Tannen, [She "finds herself" there makes it sound like she has no idea how she got there. Was Tannen expecting her?] who seems way too interested in Brent's disappearance... [What are you suggesting? Brent's disappearance was the catalyst for Penny's breakdown. What is Tannen supposed to be interested in?] [Wait, does Penny suspect that Tannen is head of the prostitution ring because Tannen's acting interested in the topic that brought Penny there in the first place?]

Life Changes is an 80,000 word YA drama.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I'm guessing Brent "disappeared" to get away from Penny's paranoia.

I assume the main plot is Penny's mental breakdown, not the search for Brent. If Brent is alive, his "life changes" seem more extreme than those of Penny.

This is the skeleton of a plot summary. Combine the first two paragraphs into one. That's the setup. If the main plot is Penny's mental state, add two paragraphs that focus on what's really going on and what she thinks is going on. No need to keep secrets. And these paragraphs should be more than one sentence each. Build on ideas, elaborate with cause and effect; we want specific information. If the main plot is the rescue of Brent, dump Tannen and add two paragraphs that focus on the obstacles and the plan and its execution.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

After a nervous breakdown, Penny finds herself in the office of nosy therapist Dr. Tannen...

I would like to thank the writer for not putting a comma before "Dr. Tannen". I have gotten so jumpy about inappropriate name-surrounding commas (even some supposedly edited news sites have taken to using them) that I cringed instinctively, expecting one. Me and Penny.

But it wasn't there!

From this alone I believe the querier has a great literary future of her. (Or possibly him.)

Carry on.

Rashad Pharaon said...

What is the word count of this query letter? Not that you couldn't pull a great query with only a few words, but I find it lacking in plot information.

I'm assuming this index of prostitution ring members is at the police station?

Don't get me wrong, I like your writing style, but as EE said, expand a little more on the story?

I appreciate you sharing it! Best of luck :)

none said...

Wait, what? We don't get to find out what happened to Brent?

Anonymous said...

"Penilia" is really close to "penile".

Just sayin'.

sarahhawthorne said...

This is just too brief. You've given us nothing but the bare bones of the story, and without a bigger picture those bones make no sense. (Sex traffickers target a boy big enough to play high school hockey? Penny's parents "expect her to move on" after her boyfriend is kidnapped from her side? Penny's therapist is involved somehow?)

You might take a look at the back cover copy for "Once was Lost" by Sara Zarr. It's also about a teen girl whose view of life changes when a friend is abducted.

Also, according to Google, "Penilia" is a type of zooplankton. So unless her parents are marine biologists, I'm not sure how she could have ended up with that name. Perhaps you can just call her "Penny" for the whole query?

Laurie said...

What's been said - not enough there. I don't really know what this story is about - is it about her therapy, which doesn't interest me, or is it about the crime, which does? And yes, what happens to Brent?! You just drop him, and it's the most interesting thing in the query. BTW, unless Brent turns up dead and the criminals are caught, I don't expect anyone to be able to get on with their lives.

Also, the title doesn't do anything for me, it sounds more like a non-fiction book about menopause. (I'm terrible at titles, and I'm guessing this is a working title until the right one comes to you.)

This could be a good story, but it's not coming across in the query yet. Good luck. ^_^

150 said...

Nothing here clued me in that this was YA--not even that her parents expect her to move on, since that could happen at twenty or thirty or forty.

I don't think a psychiatrist can really be TOO interested in the source of your breakdown. That's like a doctor caring TOO much what exact kind of tumor you have.

khazar-khum said...

I'd wonder what kind of prostitution predator targets a hockey player. They're usually the fittest of all athletes, and as EE said, they know how to fight. Unless, of course, Brent wanted to run away, and this man provided a convenient cover story. It would be ironic if the predator was checking out Penny when Brent spotted him, decided this was the perfect time, and then took off, framing the man.

Mister Furkles said...

My guess is that “behind every corner” is a mixed cliché—a cross between “behind every tree” and “around every corner”. Another cliché is “easier said than done”.

I would purge such expressions from the query letter. An agent may fear that the novel if full of clichés.

Don’t be like that Shakespeare—his plays were packed with clichés. “tide in the affairs of men”, “Pound of flesh”, “out damn spot”, jeepers! I think the last one was stolen from Dick and Jane.

Whirlochre said...

Anyone on the run from sexual predators could help themselves a little by not having a name like 'Penilia'.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I'm guessing the therapist has a vested interest in the case that we don't know about until later in the book. I'm also guessing Penny's parents expecting her to move on with her life actually means they expect her to get out of bed/go back to school/start eating again rather than forget about her missing BF. But I am just guessing, because the query doesn't tell me these things flat-out.

So tell me if this is the gist: Brent disappears and Penny's convinced his disappearance is related to the stranger who turns out to be connected to a prostitution ring. She's also convinced these prostitution ring (human trafficking?) predators are following/keeping an eye on her, hence the predators behind every corner. Her parents set her up in therapy because she refuses to let go of this theory, and there she finds the therapist more fixated on Brent than on her well-being, which just adds to her suspicion that there's more going on than meets the eye. BUT NO ONE WILL BELIEVE HER.

Or something to this effect. If I'm right, it's an intriguing set-up but it is still just set up, and I think you could get another paragraph (or two) telling what happens next.

So what does happen next? I'd very much like to know :)

batgirl said...

Can I just say that GTP #4 would make a great movie, possibly by Quentin Tarantino?