Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Face-Lift 1238

Guess the Plot

The Eighth Day

1. Oh… MAN… the eighth day… will this week never end?

2. God created the heavens and the earth… and on the seventh day, he rested. But after you’ve materialized all of creation, what do you do for an encore? You thought you’d seen it all… but you ain’t seen nothing like . . . The Eighth Day.

3. On the Seventh Day, God became bored. He needed someone to bring him a beer while he watched football. So he made woman. During half time he was given a list of things to accomplish by dinnertime. He never saw the late afternoon game. On the Eighth Day he left the cosmos. Hopefully, his cell phone will have service to watch Monday Night Football. 

4.When Shawn gets hired as an investment broker, he's thrilled. But within seven days of arriving in NYC everything he believes about himself and his past is called into question. Can he discover the truth about who he really is before . . . the eighth day?

5. It had been mostly birds up to that point, with the exception of the five golden rings. Those, at least, I could pawn for some cash. I had no idea what to do with all the birds. Eat them? Then, on the eighth day, my true love shows up with a bunch of milk-maids. Couple of them were a little chubby, but I ain't complaining. Anything's better than birds. Then she whispers in my ear: tomorrow's gift ... strippers!

6. And on the eighth day, God said--"Oh, Hell, I screwed up on this one too. Oh well. Time to make 4,928,652,756 more. Maybe I'll get one right one of these days."

7. …And on the Eighth Day, God looked at all that He had made and said to Himself, “Unicorns? Dragons? Talking snakes? What in My name was I thinking?” And He caused the ill-conceived beasts to be swallowed up by the earth. “Well, maybe I’ll leave the talking snakes. I think they’re pretty neat.” 

8. And on the eighth day, Lucifer planted fossils in the earth's crust to make it look like evolution had been in action, then made the newly minted cosmos look like it was several billion years old. Oh, and he tranformed those scrawny brown apples to look ripe and tempting. Then sat back and watched the fun. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Shawn Jaffe is a recent college graduate who moved to New York City after landing a job as an investment broker for Lark Morton. When he receives a cryptic warning from a stranger, Shawn dismisses it as the ravings of a madman. However, as events unfold, the threads separating reality from fiction begin to unravel around him. Everything he knows, everything he believes about himself and his past, is called into question. [This is all vague. What was the warning? What are the events that unfold?]

Aided by veteran New York City detective Sam Harrington, Shawn sets out on a quest for answers that will threaten to destroy the foundation of everything he thought to be true. [Why would he even want these answers? Why would this detective spend time aiding Shawn in this quest? You don't just walk into a police station and . . . 

You: I need to consult a detective.

Bored officer at front desk: About what?

You: About the threads separating fiction from reality and a threat to the foundations of everything I thought to be true.

Officer: Let me make a quick call and then we'll get you situated where you belong.

It would be hard enough to convince an unethical private detective to take your case based on the information you've provided so far.] [Although an unethical literary agent might be all over this.] Before it’s over, the two will find themselves caught in an elaborate conspiracy that will separate them by death, rebirth, and a lifetime of memories. [Who is conspiring against whom, and why?] [These vague philosophical ideas may be fascinating in the book but in the query we need some concrete details about what your characters do.]

Pursued by mysterious adversaries who are both merciless and relentless and seem to know his every move before he makes it, [yet inexplicably haven't been able to use this knowledge to find him,] Shawn must sew the shreds of his frayed reality back together before they stop him from discovering the truth about who he really is. [Is "they" the shreds of his frayed reality or the mysterious adversaries?]

The Eighth Day is an 80,000 word thriller/suspense novel that explores the boundaries of the human condition and asks what would happen if one day those boundaries ceased to exit.


You have to tell us what's going on. Phrases like "everything he believes about himself and his past," "the foundation of everything he thought to be true," and "the truth about who he really is" don't tell us anything. You could swap them for each other and I wouldn't notice.

Start over. Paragraph 1: Soon after Shawn arrives in NYC to take his new job, a stranger tells him _________. He writes it off as ravings of a madman until ___________ happens. Now he's worried about _______.

Paragraph 2: When _________ happens to Shawn, Sam Harrington, a New York City detective, investigates. Shawn tells him there's an elaborate conspiracy underfoot to ___________.  Sam writes it off as the ravings of a madman until _________ happens.

Paragraph 3: As the villains close in, Sam must __________. Otherwise ________.

Fill in the blanks with specific information. Then enhance it with little touches that convince us to care about Shawn and that you are the person to tell us his story.


InkAndPixelClub said...

Nothing to do here but back up what EE is saying. Vague is not enticing. Vague is boring. Vague is confusing. Vague is asking an agent or editor to guess what your big, shocking revelation is and hope that it's good and reasonably unique. Unfortunately, for every amazing, original idea that could fill in the blanks you've left in your query, there are dozens of bad, cliched, or just plain nonsensical ideas that could fill in that blank. More than likely, editors will take the bet that you've got a three up your sleeve rather than an ace and send the form rejection letter.

Query letters can reveal more than the average book jacket copy does. This is too vague for even that use. Get your ideas into the query so an editor can see what your story is about.

Julie Weathers said...

As usual, EE hit the nail on the head.

We have to care about the MC. You threw in a lot of very vague and fairly cliche phrases instead of specifics.

John thinks he's moving on to a wonderful new life. Then he receives a mysterious message from nefarious beings who are going to destroy everything he believed about himself and his world. He seeks help from a detective before it's too late and his world comes crashing down around him. Also, the world ends.

You probably have a really exciting story, but you've buried it in mists. Give us a reason to root for the MC or at least care about him.

Writing query letters isn't easy, but that's why we have EE, Query Shark etc. I wish you well with this and look forward to seeing revisions. My synopsis took seven revisions and lots of feedback before I finally got it somewhat right.


IMHO said...

It's the difference between:

"Marry me. I'll financially support you as long as you agree to one simple contingency."


"Marry me. I'll buy you a beachfront house in Malibu and pay off all your overdue credit cards, just promise -- never ask what happened to my first wife. And never go into the basement."

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah. A query should not be like a book jacket. I've seen more than one blog in which the unpublished assure the unpublished that the work put into writing a query is worth it, because the query can later be re-used as a jacket blurb.

This. Is. Not. True.

khazarkhum said...

To get the attention of an overworked, underpaid NYC detective, you have to bring forward something concrete. As in, "I got a letter on my car, notes on my door, and emails from this guy threatening to kill me for witnessing a murder." I'm sure that the book doies have these details. But you need to share with your agent.

Your agent or editor is not going to steal your idea. It just won't happen. I know that we all worry about it. And it happens in Hollywood, which is so vicious it makes a T rex food fight look tame.

If you want to have a chance at all, you've got to lay the meat of the story out for an agent/editor to study.

SB said...

I've seen something about that too, AR. I wonder how often it really happens. (Personally, I frequently find that book jacket blurbs are too vague to entice me, even for books I read for other reasons and end up really liking.)

AlaskaRavenclaw. said...

SB, my rough estimate is exactly never. Usually the editor writes the jacket copy. Sometimes marketing or publicity tweaks it. The author may or may not be shown it. On my 7th book I was actually allowed to rewrite part of the jacket copy but I think this is quite rare.

It's a good example though of the plethora of "facts" that make the rounds on writing sites. Victoria Strauss over on Writer Beware says beginners should stay away from the internet when learning about publishing and for the most part she is right.

SB said...

Hm, interesting. It's difficult because if someone doesn't do their homework at all (like checking out sites on how to write query letters, or even that the process is that one writes query letters), they're likely to not get taken seriously at all. But even with that, there's wildly conflicting information, depending on where you look. I've seen beginning writers proudly share their query letters full of all kinds of things that agents say not to do in query letters, and I kind of cringed. But someone told them to do it that way. It's like all those books on writing by people who don't have any actual published books.

AlaskaRavenclaw. said...

Right. It took me a couple years to stop reading those books. And at least there you have a (presumably) legit author bio to go on. Online we mostly have to go by whether someone *sounds* like they know what they're talking about. And for neophytes that's difficult.

It's the great problem with the democratization of information.

Sometimes I want to write a book called THINGS THAT ARE ONLY TRUE ONLINE.