Friday, November 15, 2013

Face-Lift 1170

Guess the Plot

Bummin' It

1. Joe Chesterfield rides lonely Wisconsin roads in search of answers to life's meaning with nothing more than an Ipad, a fedora and a suit from Goodwill. Will his resulting memoires be an ageless paean to adolescent angst and freedom? Or will it be proof that the old "Gas, grass or ass" rule of the road is still alive and well?

2. Lance glues a big clown butt on his butt and does a silly dance that will hopefully get his kids to eat oatmeal instead of sugary cereal. Unfortunately, Lance used super glue instead of Elmer's. His board meeting is going to go well at work today.

3. He blew out his flip-flop, cut his heel on a pop top, and his new tattoo has a misspelling. But, by gosh, George is going to enjoy his first solo vacation since his wife left. Also, a shark frenzy.

4. Elijah's parents set him up with the perfect summer job, but Elijah has a better idea: street-corner panhandling with humorous cardboard signs. But when Eli's record haul is stolen by a professional beggar he finds himself in over his head in the city's underbelly. Especially when he falls for the thief's hot daughter.

5. Laid off from his job working with psychiatric patients, Parker dresses like a bum, acts like a schizoid, and demands donations from yuppie shoppers. He’s having fun and clearing hundreds of dollars a day. Then two bodies are discovered in dumpsters and the police suspect Parker. Can he find the real killers before the cops pin double murder on him?

6. Sally's facing foreclosure. Bob just got fired. Mel was kicked out by his parents when they learned he was gay. Their lives intertwine in La La Land as they're all forced to start . . . Bummin' It.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After growing up in the foster system, seventeen-year-old Elijah Briscoe wants more than a house . . . he longs to feel at home – with his adoptive parents, [Are these different from his foster parents? Have they adopted him? Why doesn't he feel at home with them?] his friends, a girl. Especially a girl. Trouble is, nobody warned him that childhood tweaked his inner wiring to make him sabotage any real connection.

So when his parents try to set up their perfect summer job for him [Practice dummy for trainees at the local bordello.], he lies about hunting for his own gig. Secretly, he and his best friends [Has he already sabotaged any real connection with these best friends or is that what happens next?] cook up a quick money-making experiment — street-corner panhandling. Their arsenal of humorous cardboard signs

is rocking awesome until some shady professional beggars rip off Eli’s record-breaking haul. Not about to lose the contest with his bros, Eli chases the thief down to reclaim his money and his pride. [Starting that paragraph with "So" suggests that Elijah thinks panhandling is going to help him feel at home with his parents, friends and especially a girl. It's not clear why he would think that. Perhaps if some of his classmates talk him into the panhandling scheme and he goes along because he craves friendship?]

What he doesn’t know is he’s not the only one chasing the money. His pursuit leads him into a hidden homeless neighborhood [Is "neighborhood" the right word? Maybe "enclave" would be better.] where he runs into Blue, the thief’s street-smart, so-hot daughter. Then when Eli witnesses a group of thugs kidnap Blue’s dad, he quickly realizes his idiotic excuse for a job has him in way over his head. Trying to play the hero, he makes a split-second decision that saves Blue [From what?] but loses her dad.

Fearing how much his choice has cost her, Eli decides he must help before time runs out. [When does time run out?] If they hope to fix this, [If "fix this" means rescue Blue's father, just say that.] they’ll have to help each other face the darkness in the city’s underbelly, the unlikeliness of their romance, and the secrets of their screwed-up pasts.



If the thugs are just after the money, I would expect them to just take it from Blue's dad. What's the point of kidnapping him? Do they think they can get a ransom?

Even the extremely rare panhandler who can make $73,000 a year is averaging just $200 a day. That might attract attention from thieves who somehow know how much Eli took in, but these thugs going after the thieves? Lets say three thieves steal $200 from Eli, and split it up. Then four thugs kidnap Blue's dad, take his $67 share of the $200, and split it up. They get less than $17 each. There's more money in robbing pizza deliverymen.

That said, the story doesn't sound like the same old same old.

I tend to think that a homeless thief and his so-hot daughter would have gone their separate ways by this point in their lives.

Presumably your completed query includes the book's title (which was in the subject line of the email), word count, genre?


Unknown said...

Hi author,
It sounds like your book is a contemporary YA romance/adventure. It also sounds like your protag's an imbecile. He's got a good life and a good summer job, but he blows off his good fortune to pretend he's poor and panhandle?

Even if this is just boys and silly pranks, let me just say it sounds callous. And insufferable. And you do not want your potential readers to feel that way about your protag. You want us to support him, admire him, wish to read 250+ pages of his 'life'.

The rest of this is so vague it's hard to understand the direction of the plot. I don't really get how Elijah helps Blue before 'it's too late'--for what? The girl is living on the streets already. What else does she have to lose? Her dad's clearly unable to help her, being some sort of homeless thug ripping off other beggars to survive. How could anything Elijah do make her circumstances worse?

Also, grammar. Employ it. We have professional beggars who morph into a single thief. Some how we lost guys...

Are there any un-shady professional beggars out there? The term 'professional beggars' has a pretty poor connotation. I think the adjective is unnecessary. We'll assume they are trouble if they are shaking down other beggars.

So, mechanics aside, Elijah needs to come off not like a whiny tosser getting his kicks by begging charity when he has plenty. And we need to know how his interaction with Blue changes him for the better. So far the stakes are Elijah being worried that a homeless girl won't like him because her deadbeat thief dad got kidnapped. It's kind of thin. Especially as Blue's best shot of surviving in her dad-less state is prostitution. A smart girl would sink her claws into Elijah and his cushy life without qualms....

Best of luck!

khazar-khum said...

Elijah sounds like the idiots you see in LA who think panhandling is a fun way of making money before going home to a cushy suburban house for the night.

Is part of the story his redemption from entitled jackass to compassionate person who seeks real answers for homelessness and thereby finds his life's work? Does he go from whiny to aware? Or does he take nothing from this adventure but other people's hard-earned money?

And Blue. Is she a sweet girl in a bad situation, desperate for a home and stability? Or is she a street hardened bitch who uses Elijah's naivete against him while fleecing him and his family for everything she can get her nasty little hands on?

And how are any of these people doing any of this without also doing drugs?

J.M. said...

Ditto in EE's "So" commentary. To me, your logic reads as "Elijah wants to snag a girl, so he lies to his parents, bails on the nice summer job they got him, and has a panhandling contest with his bros instead."

Then it gets stranger.

Beggars keep records.

The girl-snagging wish that got the plot rolling gets switched out for pride and competition.

Eli keeps his entire haul with him at all times.

It's Eli's fault that Blue's dad steals the haul.

Eli doesn't have the option of just walking away.

Eli's finally got a girl -- but he doesn't want her.

It might all make sense in the manuscript, but the dots didn't connect very well in the query.

Anonymous said...

@ author. During my one and only trip to the States I was amazed at how many times I was approached for money, sometimes by people who looked well-fed and dressed. But then again I tended to roam the tourist areas, so maybe begging's a good scam for some. Or maybe they were good at hiding their substence habits. (not that we dont have poverty where I come from, but the scammers focus their attention instead on rorting the welfare system. And doesn't the media know how to exploit that sense of middle-class self-righteousness to gain ratings...)

My point is that there seems to be a beggar sub-culture over there which hasn't really been explored in contemporary fiction, so well done. (Now I'm wondering if you had do do much research.)

Overall, I think Elijah needs to come across as slightly more sympathetic. Particularly, as you point out, that he's hard-wired to sabotage any real connections. Actually, the superficial charm and lack of empathy that comes with an Attachment Disorder would make it a real challenge to portray him as a sympatheitc character, so kudos if you can pull it off.

Otherwise, as EE said. Plus, the cardboard signs would have to be very witty for a newbie beggar to pull a fortune on his first day. I'll try it next time I'm over and fund my accom that way ; )

Mister Furkles said...


There are phony panhandlers who can make a fair amount of extra bucks. But they don’t make that much in one day.

The first paragraph doesn’t say anything you can’t leave out of the query. You must explain why a homeless street man is kidnapped. So, cut most of the set up and provide particulars. Also, what does Eli do? Be specific.

Another problem I have with it. The following are rarely mentioned things boys find attractive in girls: they bath every day, their hair is clean and well groomed, they have charming smiles and practice dental hygiene, and their clothes are clean and stylish. Does that sound like a homeless girl living on the street?

So, cut the setup, trim the prose, be specific, and cover the plot holes.

CavalierdeNuit said...

I think it would make more sense if Blue was an uptown girl. Her dad is a Wall Street workaholic, and she's depressed because her parents are getting divorced or something. Elijah falls in love with and cleans up his act for her. That is, if they're in NYC.

I agree with Mr Furkles. How can a homeless girl be hot? And she's most likely on drugs/is a prostitute if she's living on the street. But if she's under 18 she's probably in and out of foster homes.

PLaF said...

I agree with EE that the story doesn’t sound like the same old same old.
A few things I liked:
Eli ditches the summer job his fosters/adoptives had set up – tell us what was so horrible about the job. Was it scooping manure out of the foster grandparent’s barn all summer? I’d think twice before agreeing to that as well.
Then he runs off.
I like the idea of his wanting to make a few bucks and prove to his fosters/adoptives that he’s not a loser. By accident or by choice, he begins panhandling. His signs, thanks to the encouragement of EE, are over-the-top catchy and folks start to give him money for the laugh or maybe an ad exec buys one outright. In any case, he’s on a roll.
Things get interesting when he finds Blue.
This character is a mystery. I agree with khazr-khum that we need to know where she’s coming from. Google “homeless girl gets scholarship.” Not all homeless folks are homeless because of choice nor do they all do drugs. Some actually use the system as it was intended and get life-lifting results.
The plot thickens with additional thieves and kidnappers, but it’s unclear why. You’ll need to sort this out and then explain why this jeopardizes Eli’s chance at a real life.