Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Face-Lift 1229

Guess the Plot

Love to the 25th Power

1. High school mathematics genius Tim has always been too interested in ones and zeroes to pay attention to girls. But when he tweaks a new formula he's working on it has unexpected consequences - the Binary girl of his dreams comes to life from the paper. Hilarity ensues.

2. Junie Jasmine has 25 boyfriends, and the only way to get rid of them is cannibalism. But eating the flesh of 25 guys won't be easy, not unless she has some delicious apple juice to wash them down. Also, a homeless guy with a cello.

3. After months of calculations, adjustments, and equations, ubernerd Felix Snodgrass has finally found the Holy Grail of Nerddom: The mathematical formula that, when performed, gets girls to instantly fall in love with you. Now all he has to do is leave the basement and find a girl to try it on.

4. Delbert is tired of never having a date for prom, or any other dance. This year will be different. All summer he toils creating his perfect girl. She's beautiful, and witty, and his. But when senior year begins, she falls for Jason, star quarterback. Now Delbert's on a mission to destroy them both.

5. Love Potion No. 9? The Magnificent Seven? Sixteen shells from a thirty-ought-six? Amateurs. When it came to a love of math, Music Professor Studdly McMuffintops would show them a thing or two. He would give them a Love to the 25th Power. Trouble was, he’d never been very good with differential equations… and how in the heck was he gonna work that into a hot, sexy sax solo?

6. Snerdly Butterschnokin had never been much of a people person. But when sweater-wearing Swanoula moved to town, Snerdly’s goose was cooked. He needed to up his game, and fast, before any arrogant hunters could move in on his territory. Trouble was, he’d been stuck at the first level of power ever since he could remember. Let’s see… if breathing was the 1st power, then what was second? And how was he ever to develop his Love . . . to the 25th Power?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA fantasy/suspense novel, 70k words, Love to the 25th Power.

Sixteen-year old Junie Jasmine Wilshire’s got 25 boyfriends, all at the same time. And most of them want to kill her. [What's stopping them?]

Ex-boyfriends is more like it.

But, as far as she can remember Junie's never even had a date, let alone a boyfriend. But one of her exes swears she's been with him for years. Her only clue, giving to her by a silent, cello-toting, homeless guy is a note with a single word written on it "Haven."[I think I'd rather know the explanation for this seeming contradiction than who gave her the clue.]

No girl wants to eat the flesh of her ex-boyfriend to heal her wounds, but cannibalism of past lovers is the least of Junie’s worries. [What the--? Where is this coming from? You can't bring up cannibalism of past lovers without laying some groundwork or immediately explaining yourself.] Junie Jasmine Wilshire only wants to be herself- a non-conforming, irresponsible, teenage tomboy who likes urban hip-hop and apple juice. Yet, when the reigning high school cat-fight champion crashes her sixteenth birthday car into a ditch, Junie realizes she is not immortal. [Did she think she was immortal up until then? If so, why?] [The sentences in that paragraph don't seem connected to one another.

But, the many men hunting her very well could be.

A thousand years ago, a witch poisoned 25 men with a potion that captured every romantic ideal of love in its spell: long-lasting youth, emotional intimacy, soul bindings, and last but not least, duration--forever. [This "poison" doesn't sound so bad to me. It's like your doctor tells you you've contracted an STD and, horrified, you ask what the symptoms are and she says, "Eternal youth, a much-improved sex life, and no side effects.] [Maybe you can just say she gave 25 men a potion.] [Maybe you should start the query here, as up to now everything's been sounding nuts.] Like 25 blood vessels connected to one heart, the men will survive as long as she, the heart, survives.

But there’s a problem: men hate forced commitment, and when the spell lifts after a thousand years, [What was that about "duration--forever"?] they want revenge. Now, the witch is sixteen years reincarnated, and Junie Wilshire is their new (and improved!) soul-mate. [Are you saying she's the witch? If so, she would have had to die in order to be reincarnated. If she died, why didn't the 25 "blood vessels?]

Junie’s got to figure out what's going on, who she is, and how to break up with her exes once and for all. And fast. The past has come back to haunt her. Karma is a real, and the men are out for blood. She’s got to drop the mean-girl act, [What mean-girl act? She's been described as a a non-conforming, irresponsible, teenage tomboy who's never had a date, not as a mean girl.] protect her friends and frienemies [From what?] or bring her immortal soulmates down with her. [Are her soul mates immortal despite the spell being lifted?] [I don't see why she has to drop the mean-girl act or why she has to protect her friends. What does she have to do to thwart those hunting her? Leave town and go into hiding? Can she put them under another spell? Can't her witchy powers protect her from them?]


This is all over the place, confusing, disorganized, and full of extraneous information. If you use only the last three paragraphs it'll sound decent, something like this:

A thousand years ago, a witch put a spell on 25 men, granting them eternal youth but also binding their souls to hers. Problem is, the men didn't all want to be romantically committed to the witch.

Fast-forward to modern times. The witch has taken the persona of 16-year-old high school student Junie Jasmine Wilshire. The spell, which lasts a thousand years is about to be lifted. And Junie's "soulmates" want revenge.

Junie’s got to figure out how to break up with her exes once and for all. And fast. The past has come back to haunt her, and the men are out for blood.

Build on that, especially with the stakes. What must she do and what happens if she fails to do it?


IMHO said...

Edit out the 'buts' and 'yets' (I count five).

Make sure the reader can follow your sentences -- remember, we don't know this story like you do. Example:

"Yet, when the reigning high school cat-fight champion crashes her sixteenth birthday car into a ditch, Junie realizes she is not immortal." Is Junie the cat-fight champion? Or is it someone else, who Junie thought was immortal and now realizes isn't? Are they really fighting cats (you've already mentioned cannibalism and the mysterious cello-guy, so real cat-fighting seems possible).

"But there’s a problem: men hate forced commitment..." So do most women. I think you need more explanation of why the 25-exes want to kill her than a stereotype about men.

Finally 25 exes seems like over-kill (hah!).

khazarkhum said...

What does "HJaven" have to do with anything? Is it her old name? Where she's from? Is she a haven for the reborn witch? And why cannibalism? I know you don't want to answer everything up front, but in this case, you have so many things going on that you have no choice but to reveal at least some of the answers.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah. What others said. This is very confusing.

Abandon all attempts to make this sound peppy or to give it voice. Synopses are not meant to hook readers. They're meant to adequately summarize a story so that decision-makers can make decisions without having to read the whole manuscript.

Take the character, call her just one thing (I'd suggest "Junie"), and tell us what challenge she faces and how she overcomes it.

Twenty-five boyfriends or ex-boyfriends (don't tell us one and then tell us they're the other) is unbelievable, especially if they're all trying to kill her. But perhaps we'll understand this better once you've explained the story more clearly.

Anonymous said...

My first impression on reading this was: step away from the book. Now, take a deep breath.

You know your MC. You know her big problem. You know what she's risking. You know what she's trying to do about it. You know why it doesn't work. You know plan B.

Tell us this clearly, consistently, and logically (as in cause->effect). Only include essential details, preferably ones that don't involve long explanations or raise more questions. Re-post and we'll let you know if you need more.

As for what (I think) is included here, you can go lighter on the set up and heavier on the progression.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what everyone else said. With a double helping of leave off the 'men hate forced commitment' bit, as that makes me immediately bristle.

On the light side, once I got my head around what the story seemed to be about, I actually think it sounds pretty cool.

And don't get discouraged - queries are HARD.

Beth said...

Can't improve on EE's edit.

InkAndPixelClub said...

What ARC said. Strip it down to its bare bones. Who is the protagonist? What does she want? What's preventing her from getting it? What happens if she succeeds or fails? Drop everything that doesn't relate to that core story, even if it's vitally important to your book. The query doesn't need to outline everything that's in your book; just enough to give editors or agents an idea of the story and your writing abilities. The current draft has way too many elements that show up for one setence and never get mentioned again and that's making for a confusing query.

Once you have that basic version of the story down, then you can go about adding some voice and energy back into it.

Anonymous said...

Like EE, I found the immortality rules confusing. If the witch is immortal while her twenty-five suitors live, how did she die and reincarnate as Junie? If the suitors are immortal only while Junie lives, why are they trying to kill her?

Your query leaves me rooting for the suitors. Junie may not recall having bound them to romantic servitude for a thousand years, but she still did it. That's not cool. I might be able to forgive her if the new & improved Junie/witch were a really neat person, but she sounds unlikeable--a "mean girl" with "frenemies" who is smug about having a fancy car when her neighbors don't. The fictional 'mean girls' I root for are either so powerful (but messed up) that they're fascinating (Blair Waldorf/Gossip Girl, Regina George/Mean Girls) or not really 'mean' girls at all, but simply wry and self-aware and hilarious (Olive Pendergast/Easy A) or kind of spoiled/dumb but a sweet person overall (Cher/Clueless). I have no idea who your character is or why I should be rooting for her.

The first time I skimmed through it I misinterpreted the reincarnation bit--I thought Junie just had the witch's heart. The idea of twenty-five pissed-off men coming after a teenaged heart-transplant recipient because they're enslaved to the previous user's heart seemed kind of fun. It also made Junie more sympathetic--she wasn't the one who ruined their lives--and made the "consume the ex's hearts to gain immortality" temptation more understandable. (The average post-transplant lifespan of a heart recipient is only fifteen years.)


Here's all I could come up with:

Sixteen-year-old Junie Jasmine Wilshire has never been on a date--unless you count listening to urban hip-hop and drinking apple juice with her nerdy best friend, Joe. So she's understandably confused when twenty-five men show up claiming to be her ex-boyfriends, and understandably freaked out when she realizes they want to rip out her heart and consume the still-beating flesh. (Or whatever they want to do to her.)

A thousand years ago, a witch poisoned these twenty-five men with a potent date-rape drug, binding their hearts to her own. Now that the spell has reached its expiration date, these men are out for revenge--and unbeknownst to Junie, she's the reincarnated witch.

A homeless guy hands Junie a note on which is written "Haven." She naturally jumps to the conclusion that this is a huge clue about her origins and identity, because cryptic one-word notes from homeless people are reliable and illuminating. ;) [If it's worth mentioning the cello-playing homeless dude and the "Haven" note, I want to know what Junie gleans from this or how it helps further the plot.]

Now tell us the stakes. If Junie fails to do [x], what will happen?

Anonymous said...

A thousand years ago, a witch poisoned 25 men with a potion that captured every romantic ideal of love in its spell: long-lasting youth, emotional intimacy, soul bindings, and last but not least, duration...

Isn't that exactly the stuff they sell on late night infomercials? And these guys are getting it for free? Where's the conflict?

CavalierdeNuit said...

I second what everyone else said--not much to add there, but I thought this was a really cool idea:

Like 25 blood vessels connected to one heart, the men will survive as long as she, the heart, survives.

I was recently told by a very critical friend, who read two chapters of my novel, that I had ten more years to go until I was ready to be a traditionally published author. I've been working on my book for 2.5 years, and will continue to. Think about that. It takes a looooong time to get there.

Unknown said...

I just had to comment on this part:

"I was recently told by a very critical friend, who read two chapters of my novel, that I had ten more years to go until I was ready to be a traditionally published author."

Personally, I hate comments like this. It's about the time and effort you put in, not pure amounts of time. The more you work at something, the more you learn from a variety of sources, you more you try to fix your mistakes and understand why they were mistakes in the first place instead of just moving on to something new--those will all speed up the learning process exponentially. If you plug away at something using the same broken (or just too familiar, not challenging) process, you're not going to get any better. This stands for any kind of learning, not just writing.

My point is, Cav, that maybe we just need to try learning to write in a new way. Don't feel like this kind of time frame is inevitable. That's up to no one but you, and I'm cheering for you.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Thank you K Hutton. My friend was trying to light a fire under my behind, and it worked. I was stuck in a rut, not sure what the problem was with my writing. I don't think I have ten years to go. I now know what to do, and will continue working on it. Sometimes we need a dose of exaggerated reality. Thanks for the encouragement!