Monday, March 11, 2013

Face-Lift 1108

Guess the Plot

Jack and Jill and the Talking Lizard

1. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. But Jack fell down and cracked his cranium and now he sees an invisible talking lizard wherever he goes. Crazy bastard. Also, a villainous were-poodle.

2. The true story of what happened that fateful day on the grassy knoll. Spoiler: Jill was pushed.

3. Jill and Jack are gnome twins, eager to explore the world beyond their toadstool. But soon they're caught by the mean old raven who lives in the pines. Also, a talking lizard. Illustrated by the author!

4. Investigative reporter Jack refuses to name his source, "the talking lizard" after he breaks a story about a colony descended from aliens inhabiting a remote island. Jill, CIA assassin, needs to silence Jack before he finds out about the psychic weaponry the aliens are building with the government.

5. Jill and Jack graduate one-two from Boyd Law in Vegas and are hired by Delenio and Lizardo PLLC. Tacito Lizardo (aka Talking Lizard) takes them under his wing. Soon, they realize Delenio and Lizardo are into real estate fraud, money laundering, and the Mafia. They steal evidence for the Feds. But their FBI contact sells them out. They narrowly escape a car bomb and must run for their lives. Also, a plethora of hot sex.

6. Jill is an out of work barista with an unfinished degree in the Theory of Art. Jack spends his time in an inner city middle school classroom, ducking before the rubber band or a stray bullet can hit him in the head. A week after they fall in love, Jill is in a car accident and in a coma and a talking lizard named Fred appears in Jack's bathroom and tells him he must go to Hades to rescue Jill's soul (which looks like a jellyfish).

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Jill Jenkins is an out of work barista with 100,000 in student loans for her unfinished graduate degree in the Theory of Art from the University of Louisiana. She lives alone with her cat and wonders what the heck she's going to do with herself when she isn't avoiding this question for the thirtieth year by spending hours re-reading Kurt Vonnegut and P.G. Wodehouse while devouring cherry-filled chocolates. The question is answered for her after she falls in love at first sight with the man next door, a thirty-year old middle school teacher named Jack.

Jack, a cautious man who spends most of his time in an inner city middle school classroom trying to make himself heard above a din, a man who has learned to duck before the rubber band or wad of paper can hit him in the head, is new to the experience of "love at first sight" and has doubts. So when a week after meeting and falling in love, Jill is in a car accident and in a coma and a day later a talking lizard, Fred, appears in Jack's bathroom and tells him that he must go to Hades to rescue Jill's soul (it's stored in a jar and looks like a jellyfish), Jack hesitates.

Jill's accident left her in a coma [We know.] and split her spirit into fragments. Jill's body is in hospital, but her two largest spiritual fragments are Shadow Jill and Jill and they can move around. Athena, Jill's fairy godmother, who has been derelict in her duties until now, flips a coin and chooses to rescue Jill over Shadow Jill. Athena uses her retirement money to send Jill to a spiritual boot camp to help Jill to find a profession and learn how to clean. Athena will put a good word in for Jill with the Creator, and try to get Jill her life back if Jill finds herself a profession. Ironically, Jill decides to start a cleaning business and forms a partnership with some cleaning angels. Meanwhile, Shadow Jill, alone, uncomfortable, and semi-transparent is convinced by Fred that to return to life a living person must get her soul back from Hades.

Shadow Jill appears in Jack's apartment a week after the accident and begs Jack to rescue her soul. Jack waffles. Then, an angel appears the day after and persuades Jack to follow his heart, rather than his judgment. Jack, unlikely hero, follows the lizard and Shadow Jill through the inner city entrance to Hades.

Jack successfully battles underground locusts and arrives at the final barrier to Hades, the River Styxx. Charon ferries the three across, but ShadowJill finds herself irresistibly drawn to the waters and dives in. When they arrive on shore, Fred devours Jack's soul, which is vulnerable in the "land of the dead". Fred is really a scheming fallen angel, and uses the energy of Jack's soul to purchase an enormous amount of beer for his Fallen Angel's Beer Pub. Jack's body is left trapped on the shore. This purchase triggers a soul alert, as Fred is on the "Most-wanted Angels" List, and Athena is notified within a few weeks of Jack's unfortunate fate.

Athena tells Jill the sad news about Jack. Athena lets Jill know that Jack was dumb to trust a talking lizard, and that after all, Jill's soul is safely in her (Athena's) cupboard. Athena also tells Jill that Jill can do nothing for Jack and that if Jill leaves the boot camp, she won't be brought back to life. Jill, appalled, acts the part of the hero. Her "true love" for Jack gets her the help of the Angel Dostoevsky, who has the power to re-grow souls and fly into Hades. John is saved, [John?] and Jill is brought back to life by the Creator because she was heroic (and she has a successful cleaning business which the Creator approves of as it brings order into the Universe).

Jack and Jill live happily together with the cat. Jill's cleaning company enables her to pay her student loans, and Jill begins a line of cleaning products for graduate students. Jack continues to teach sixth graders. Athena visits for tea every once in a while.

The End.

Jill and Jack and the Talking Lizard is 50,000 words and magical realism.

Thank you for reading this.


Sorry, it's been done.

This is more entertaining than the average synopsis, but if it's a query letter it's way too long. It starts to feel like a list of all the funny parts, except when they come so close together the book sounds like a string of absurdities rather than the respected genre of magic realism.

Usually I complain if a query is all setup, but here I might recommend just going with the first two paragraphs, and maybe tack on a short paragraph that basically says, And that's when things start to really get interesting. Working in the fact that Fred is actually a villain is okay, but the Jill/ShadowJill bit doesn't excite me, and adding Athena and Doestoevsky just gives us more characters to keep track of.

With a James Patterson bestseller and an Adam Sandler bomb, the title Jack and Jill has gotten a lot of play recently. Did you choose those names because it's your favorite nursery rhyme? Seems like it should be Jack in the coma, as he's the one who broke his crown.


Unknown said...

I'm a little off today, it being the first work day after Daylight Savings. As such, pretty much all I can manage is: is this a hoax?

Kinda seems too convoluted to be a real story, but maybe it's because all these mythology-bleeding-into- real-life stories seem convoluted.

And, it's got all the usual suspects for a ripe hoax: inexplicable name, far too long, few comments from EE, unemployed gal and poor-downtrodden guy experience love-at-first-sight, misspelled MC name...

So, in all, I've come to the conclusion that this is really a mystery story, wherein I'm to deduce if I can suspend my disbelief and comment for the 'author'.

Comment: Best of luck on this. ;)

Dave Fragments said...

I first thought this was a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice but that wasn't the way it ended up in the story. That's my problem...

It is too long as a query and has too many characters in the description.

If I were writing this, I would do it from Kill's POV and keep it down to the basic plot points.

Jack, an inner school teacher, and Jill, an out of work art major, fall in love and when Jill is killed, they each seek a way to meet again.

But Jill is not entirely in the Underworld, Only part of her is kept there. The other half of Jill can haunt the mournful Jack.

When Jack goes to Hades to save one part of Jill, the other half of Jill has to save him from a soulless existence in Hades when he doesn't succeed.

And that seems to be a rough start.

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

There is a part where Jack teaches his class about Orpheus and Eurydice, and Jack imagines that he's Orpheus.

The unique part of this is that Jack is not that mournful about Jill, and just wants to move on. But the love at first sight thing overcomes his practical cautious nature. He's unromantic.

Chicory said...

If Jack is unromantic, how does love at first sight overcome his practical nature? I don't get it.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

If the query's going to be cut to the first two paragraphs, then this sentence needs to get the heave-ho:

She lives alone with her cat and wonders what the heck she's going to do with herself when she isn't avoiding this question for the thirtieth year by spending hours re-reading Kurt Vonnegut and P.G. Wodehouse while devouring cherry-filled chocolates.

Unknown said...

The part that most bothered me about this whole story was the 'love at first sight' bit. I like a good love-conquers-all story, but the premise seems thin.

Second, Jill apparently drifts through life without purpose--that doesn't describe someone I'd like to read about for long. Unemployed, sitting around sucking down chocolate and re-reading stories isn't much of a heroine. Make her seem more appealing, please.

Perhaps this is a synopsis, but even so, Jill reads exceptionally flat. How are goddesses fairy godmothers?

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

Please explain why you want that particular sentence given the "heave-ho". I think it gives a good description of the heroine's mental state and explains why she's in limbo.

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

This heroine is unappealing. She's not a winner type. She feels sorry for herself. Then there's a journey from unappealing character to champion hero-type.

Love at first sight is a stretch, but why not, it's a story.

Also, the fairy godmother is not a goddess, she just has the name of a goddess.

Thanks for all the comments, I think they are helping me.

Unknown said...

Is this a query or a synopsis?
If it's a query, Dave had great suggestions. The main thing you need to do is cut.

First, make Jill seem more alive. I'd pitch that sentence about Jill's mental state because it makes her seem like a victim and shiftless. Like she's given up on life. This makes her unsympathetic and not attractive as a heroine. If she is down on her luck, fine. Make her sound like she's fighting her way out of a bad situation, not giving up.

Then, fix Jack's storyline. He can't be both indifferent and in love. Explain how true love is the reason he's willing to brave loss of life and soul to rescue part of Jill from hell.

What sort of viewpoint did you write from? I wonder about the length--50,000 words--because with the dozen plot points you mention it seems a bit short.

Sorry about my first comment. Yesterday was a crummy day and I was confused about the query.

Title could use some re-thinking as mentioned by EE, but you really need to focus on the first comment he made--"It's been done." What separates your story from the other myth re-tellings? Focus on that.

150 said...

That particular sentence is 40 words long, or around 1/6th of what you have space for. Mental states should be implicit in the sentences describing actions the character takes.

Anonymous said...

It's a run-on sentence. (Try reading it out loud.)

Evil Editor said...

I have no problem with the sentence, but if it read "She lives alone with her cat, re-reading Kurt Vonnegut and P.G. Wodehouse while devouring cherry cordials" you save more than 20 words, and the only info lost is that she's wondering what to do with herself, which we can infer from her being an unemployed barista sitting around rereading books and gorging on chocolate.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Hi author!! You've got some really intriguing stuff here (love the parts about Fred!), but I did have a few questions:

Is this a comedy? It starts out sounding serious, and then we hit jellyfish and things seem pretty comedic after that. If it's supposed to be funny throughout (kind of mocking/satirizing the love-at-first-sight conquers all, even death-type of story), it sounds like a really fun read, but I think the query could better reflect the comedy. I also think you could include it in the genre: a 50,000-word paranormal comedy (or paranormal satire).

Can you clarify unemployed barista for me? I keep thinking: if she's a barista, she has a job. Do you mean she's working as a barista but has no real career (thus, still employed)? OR do you mean she used to be a barista but got fired/laid off, but still considers herself a barista?

Lots of interesting stuff in here. I'd love to read a revision! :)

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

The book is supposed to be comedic.

Jill gets fired from being a barista in the beginning: "barista" isn't her career: she's got no real career.
Jack is supposed to be a parody on the love-struck man b/c he's the opposite: he doesn't want to rescue Jill's soul b/c he doesn't want to use up his vacation time, for example.
Ditto w/ the "fairy godmother" who is thirty years too late to help out Jill b/c of personal problems.

Thanks Chelsea for positive feedback and solid advice.