Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Face-Lift 1179

Guess the Plot


1. A vampire, mummy, zombie, werewolf, and alien walk into a dive bar. No one seems to care. Then the loneliest, most ordinary teen girl on the planet walks in and all hell breaks loose.

2. Ever notice how many movies, books, games, plays start with a normal, ordinary day? Everyone is going along, minding their own business, when suddenly an Orc comes running through, machine gunning the place. Wait--that was right outside the gym just now. And all Jason wanted this time was to pass Algebra.

3. Violet is in her fourth year at Miss Sadinity's School of Sorcery. Alex is in his fifth year, and doesn't even know she exists. Sixth-year Gretchen says she can fix that. Will she--or will Violet be stuck looking--Ordinary?

4. Jane Plane had always thought of herself as a cartoon that was quite ordinary: pretty, but flat to the point of two-dimensionality. Then her artist took a class in 3-D multimedia technology. Whoa! Move over, Lady Gaga!

5. Someone--or something--is preying on the local citizenry, and it's up to a team of werewolves to stop it. The last thing they need is some totally ordinary high school junior like Charlie Hawthorne elbowing into their pack, but when push comes to shove, guess who saves the town's ass?

6. Dan is born under a sign that prophesies greatness in all endeavors. Through high school, he wins every contest and receives every award. But Dan craves to be like everybody else. So he runs away . . . and accidentally breaks the marathon record. He takes a night job in a greasy spoon and wins an international chef award. He hides deep in the mountains and stumbles on Coronado’s seven cities of gold. Can Dan ever be ordinary?

7. In Ordinary, Oklahoma everyone lives in peace and harmony, with good will toward men. Unless of course, you're a woman. Because in Ordinary, women are hunted for sport. And that busload of nuns that had engine trouble is doomed, unless CJ McGillicutty gets there first.

8. John Smith, is an ordinary man. He is a married, white, middle-manager with 2.2 kids and can't decide if he should spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with his in-laws. He's not even sure if he should take his tree down before New Years or after. His life choices are in flux and a quandary. Then his wife asks for a divorce. Hilarity ensues.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

There is nothing special about Charlie Hawthorne. [I'm hooked. I must read on to find out the most fascinating thing about Charlie, namely why she's the main character of a novel.]

Keeping up her grades should be the hardest part of junior year, but when her best friend Melissa starts to experience strange recurring dreams and superhuman senses, Charlie knows that she can’t let her face this alone. [The part before the "but" has little to do with the part after. Instead of "hardest part" you need something like "main focus" or "sole objective,"] She throws herself into the problem the best way that she knows how: by finding out as much as she can. [She's totally ordinary, but when the chips are down she swings into action by ferreting out information like a ferret ferrets out whatever it is ferrets ferret out. She's the superhero known as the . . . Research Assistant.]

With the help of an old book and her own knowledge of myths and legends [Google], [not to mention the fact that Melissa is suddenly ordering depilatories by the gallon,] Charlie discovers that her friend has become a werewolf. She’s not the only one—there are three others, all turned by the same person and for the same purpose.

Connor, local engineering student and born werewolf, wants nothing to do with Charlie, but Melissa is part of the team he has assembled to protect the town from supernatural threats. Something is preying on the citizens of Elks Glade and three people are already dead, with more to come if the wolves don’t stop it. [Because nothing helps townspeople feel safe and secure in their neighborhood like knowing there's a pack of werewolves roaming the streets.] [Though I suppose it's better than knowing George Zimmerman is out there.] [You might change "stop" to "prevent" so no one thinks you mean the wolves are doing the killing.]

He thinks that Charlie is just in the way, but she stubbornly elbows her way into the pack. [This reminds me of that fifteen-year-old girl who demanded to go along with SEAL Team 6 when they took out bin Laden. As I recall, they threw her out of the helicopter over the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.] When the threat comes close to home, can she prove that an ordinary human is capable of protecting her town and her family? [That would be easier to answer if I knew what the threat was. Offhand, I can't think of any supernatural threat she wouldn't be utterly worthless against.]

Ordinary is a 60,000 [page?] paranormal young adult novel that explores the challenge of believing in your own power when everyone around you seems extraordinary. [Seems extraordinary? They're werewolves!]

Thank you for your consideration.


Better ways to open the query:

1. When Charlie Hawthorne sees her best friend Melissa howling at the moon . . .
2. Charlie Hawthorne's best friend Melissa is a werewolf.
3. Something is preying on the citizens of Elks Glade . . . and it's not the werewolves.
4. This book has werewolves, but No! Don't stop reading! These are good werewolves!
5. Werewolves!

Even ordinary people can be good at something. Does Charlie have some special talent? Is it her extensive knowledge of myths and legends that lets her defeat an entity a pack of werewolves can't?

Are all werewolves good in this world? I ask because turning people into werewolves in order to reduce the amount of killing going on sounds like a plan that could backfire. Were the killings done in a way that might lead the citizens to suspect that werewolves dunnit?


Unknown said...

Hi author,
So, in reading the query, it looks as if the MC is the intellect, here. She solves the mystery of her friend's werewolfishness. Now she's out to solve the mystery of who's killing the villagers. Throw in two spunky buddies and a platonic boyfriend and you got yourself a bona fide Nancy Drew.

What's important about the werewolves? Why are they key to the story? It seems Charlie is going to wrap up all the loose ends on this Caper, so why the fangs?

In total, the long-winded sentences and vague description leaves me with a blah feeling. I get no urgency, and can't fathom how the werewolves fit.

Also, let's not put Charlie in the dented can cart in the first sentence. She's gotta have some unique qualities. Even if she isn't a super.

Best of luck.

SB said...

This sounds like an interesting premise, but the query is a little confusing about who the bad guys are. While reading it, I thought the bad guys were also werewolves. I'd say clarify more who are the heroes and who are the villains. And I really like EE's 3rd suggestion for opening line.

And I want to see more about what qualities make the ordinary human special. Because if she weren't special in some way, she'd have nothing more to add to the quest than the werewolves do. If she's cleverer than all of them, show us that. Or whatever it is.

This reminds me of "Team Human", a book about the best friend of a girl who falls for a vampire. It was cute, but one of the problems with that book, I thought, was that the main character spent most of the book dealing with her friend's problems rather than problems that more directly affected her. I hope this book wouldn't have a similar issue.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a bunch of vigilante werewolves who use their skills for good instead of evil. Actually, they sound more interesting than Charlie, they get to grow hair and fangs and use their strength to fight bad guys once a month.

So let's see, Connor has turned three ordinary people into werewolves...did they consent to this? Are they a little peeved at him doing this to them? And can they keep themselves from snacking on the locals? How can they tell the difference between friend and foe in their lupine state? And the big question...who the heck are they fighting anyway?

You dont need to answer all the questions in the query, but when reading the query brings up these issues, maybe it's time to tweak. Maybe focus on the antagnoists here. Good luck.
- Jo Antareau

PLaF said...

I vote for EE Opening #2.
I also like the spin on werewolves not being able to trust humans and that Charlie elbows her way into the pack in spite of Connor’s objections.
I like the way the story will be told by a character who feels all the cool stuff is happening to her friends – lots of opportunity for teen angst.
I hope you take EE’s advice on “even ordinary people can be good at something.” Whether it’s her research ability/librarian skills or the fact that she has opposable thumbs 24-7, for one reason or other the werewolves are going to need her help. That is what will make this a compelling read.
And it would be great if the real threat to humans (whatever that is) is counting on the fact that the werewolves would never enlist human help.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

If there is a twist, if there's something different here, it needs to be absolutely front-and-center.

My agent says that it's impossible to get an editor to read paranormal YA right now. That probably means it's hard to get an agent to take it on. So you'll need to make sure yours sounds fresh and different.

CavalierdeNuit said...

What is preying on the citizens of Elks Glade? A fog? Druids? Witches? Mold? If there are werewolves that aren't eating people, then what is eating people? Werewolves eat people once a month and they can't survive without doing this. Are werewolves and this something both preying on people?

Why would werewolves care about saving their food from a supernatural entity unless that supernatural entity was a threat to the food supply?

I'm having a difficult time believing that a pack of werewolves cares about humans and their feelings. Humans are food.

I'm asking all these questions because I'm a huge fan of Glen Duncan's Bloodlines Trilogy--an adult werewolf series. I'm really into adult werewolves right now. Mr. Duncan does a good job of helping his readers understand that werewolves eat people, and nothing will ever stop werewolves from doing this, except love, but that's rare.

Evil Editor said...

Uh, excuse me, but you do know that werewolves aren't real, right?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

DeNuit, every writer has the right to his or her own werewolves.

Plenty of books feature werewolves who don't eat humans. Terry Pratchett's Sergeant Angua and JK Rowling's Remus Lupin would recoil at the very thought of chowing down on the locals.

I think you need to get out and meet more werewolves.

CavalierdeNuit said...

If you're addressing me EE, it's hard for me to believe they aren't real because Mr. Duncan has convinced me they are. Does anyone know where to find silver bullets?

SB said...

LOL, I've never read a single werewolf story that said that werewolves have to "eat people once a month" or they die.

And yeah, one of the great things about werewolves, vampires, etc. is that the author gets to reinvent them with each new story. Stop criticizing a story based on your own ill-informed hang-ups about what a werewolf can or can't be, CN.

CavalierdeNuit said...

IMHO, nobody writes like Mr.Duncan (I have a ridiculous crush on him) and I love his monsters. Their sole purpose is, to quote him, fuckkilleat. This is what I like to read. *shrugs* Sorry if it seems narrow-minded. I'm just one little reader in an ocean of millions.

Anonymous said...

Author here!

Thank you so much for all the feedback. I can definitely see how my query is a little vague and the details I can emphasize to make it more exciting. I guess the main point is that Charlie isn't supernatural but her intelligence and, essentially, stubbornness, make her an asset anyway? She has self-esteem issues, which I'm trying to handle without making her too whiny.

There is an Irish legend about werewolves who are protectors rather than vicious, man-eating animals. It seemed like an interesting change from the usual "fight against their evil nature" type, especially since the main character isn't one of them.

Also, I laughed out loud at the Guess the Plot summary based on my query.

It might be a while before I get around to revising this--I've suddenly become swamped with other things. But when I do, I will definitely keep all of these comments in mind!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm sure he's very nice. But he didn't invent werewolves. Werewolves are in the public domain, like amnesia and Texas.

_*rachel*_ said...

Why is an Connor turning grade schoolers into werewolves? I'm assuming it takes some sort of biting. Unless Melissa has recessive werewolf genes or something, I'd wonder why Connor's hanging around jailbait and not looking for either bodybuilders or hot sorority girls.

Charlie joining them despite not being a werewolf is an intriguing concept, though.