Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Face-Lift 1272

Guess the Plot

Bending Livi

1. Sheena thought Latin was stupid. Then Bella brought that funny-looking scroll to class. Now they have Livi as Latin teacher, and Sheena can't wait for 6th period.

2. When cat burglar Livi is given court-ordered community service in a retirement home, she feels like a fox ordered to work in a hen house. Will the retirees win her over and help her straighten out her life, or will she rob them blind? Also, Russian acrobats.

3. Livi's strict kosher parents promise to stop ragging her about her taste for Daisy Dukes and halter tops and purple hair and McRib's if she spends a summer at the kibbutz. She agrees (anything to get out of the house) and packs off for a camp somewhere outside Tel Aviv. Then the vampires show up.

4. Olivia is a headstrong businesswoman with no family ties to slow her down. Matt is a soft-hearted midwesterner who just made partner in his law firm. But when Olivia is accused of murder and needs Matt to save her, he's got his hand full trying to make her likable to the jury. If only she'd bend just a little and stop wearing that "I kicked Satan's ass" t-shirt.

Original Version

Seeing as how you represent mainstream fiction, I submit to you Bending Livi, It is a Southern woman’s tale mixed with humor and personal grit about becoming someone better. [Not the best opening to a business letter. "seeing as how" is too informal. Just say "Because." Or mention where you learned this information. Also, the first sentence needs a period at the end, not a comma. The second sentence is vague. We don't know what you mean by "personal grit" or "becoming someone better." It's information you can show with specificity in your plot summary. I recommend dumping the whole first paragraph.]

Who is Livi? A loving caretaker? Or a thief who preys on the city? [You can save some more space by starting with the answers instead of the questions.] Livi is a stubborn young woman who finds herself on the wrong side of the law, a cat burglar with extraordinary athletic skills. [Saying that a cat burglar "finds herself" on the wrong side of the law is like saying a chef "finds herself" in a kitchen. It's not an accident.] At the risk of losing her brother to the court, she is required to do service [to serve] in an [a] retirement community home, in Biloxi, Mississippi, in the late 90s. [Punishing a thief by making her work in a retirement community is like throwing Br'er Rabbit into the briar patch.] [Also, when the courts start ordering thieves into my retirement home, I start looking for a new retirement home.] Her boyfriend, E.J., is a negative force, drawing Livi deeper into a life of crime. Detective Woodard, whose father is at the home, believes that she’s more than just a caretaker. His logic says she’s one thing, his police intuition casting doubts on Livi, [Is it a secret from the police that she's there because of court-ordered community service?] but his heart says something else as he sees the care she gives his father. Will Sergeant Major, a family of Russian acrobats, a retired entertainer, and a broken-down boxer, the Groundskeeper, [No reason to capitalize "groundskeeper" . . .  unless it's the broken-down boxer's stage name. Which would make more sense if he were a professional wrestler. I wouldn't mind seeing a match between The Undertaker and The Groundskeeper.] [Also, isn't sergeant major a fish?] help Livi change her life? [Actually, I'm more likely to buy that she turns her life around because of a fish than by joining a Russian acrobatic troupe. Have her steal an aquarium from one of the retiree's, and then learn life lessons from watching the sergeant major deal with a broken filter and a pesky Siamese fighting fish.] The duality of emotions and morals is the conflict that Livi has to navigate.


You're not telling us your story. You're telling us the main character's situation and listing your other characters. Basically, this is the setup: When cat burglar Livi is caught in the act, she's given a choice:
perform community service in a retirement home or lose custody the little brother she's raised since their parents died. She makes the obvious decision, but Detective Woodard, whose father lives at the home, is wary . . . until he witnesses the loving care Livi gives his dad.

Now you have plenty of room for a paragraph in which you show us what happens when horrible E.J. enters the scene and how Livi deals with him, and what goes wrong. Then a paragraph in which you show us Livi at the crossroads and tell us what will happen if she takes the left fork or the right.

I don't think Tiffany's would put up with courts ordering convicted jewel thieves to work in their stores. I suppose there's an explanation of why the owner of this retirement home is okay with a convicted thief working there? Seems like a bad business decision.


Anonymous said...

"a Southern woman’s tale mixed with humor and personal grit about becoming someone better."
"The duality of emotions and morals is the conflict that Livi has to navigate."
I'd get closer to the ground (and less repetitive) in your description of the story. We know it's Southern because it takes place in Biloxi. We know there's grit because Livi is an athletic burglar who's determined to maintain custody of her younger brother. Can you show us some humor?

Meh, I don't care about "the duality of emotions and morals." However, if Livi's immediate choice is whether to stay clean and stay broke, or to make the score of her life by doing one last job with E.J., I'm interested.

InkAndPixelClub said...

This is mostly a list of characters, with little or no sense of what they do in the story or how they connect to it. I have no idea whether any of these people are going to help Livi change her life. I don't know why they would. I don't know if Livi wants to change her life or if she needs help to do it. I have no idea why there's a family of Russian acrobats in the story at all.

Keep the focus on Livi as much as possible. She's a very talented cat burglar. is this line of work something she does reluctantly to get by or does she like lifting baubles from rich jerks with more bling than they know what to do with? She gets caught, I think? And she might lose custody of her little brother. This is a good start for stakes, but it' step last we hear about the brother and the rest of the query only offers vague promises of change and dualities. The judge sentences her to community service at an old folks' home, and here you're going to have to add in something about a wacky judge or some misfiled paperwork or other extenuating circumstances to make the premise work. Or change it so Livi hasn't been caught yet, but needs to lay low or look less suspicious and the retirement home is her only option. That's paragraph one of your query.

Paragraph two and three should be what Livi does next. We need to know what Livi wants at this point (To serve her time well so she can keep custody of her brother? To do as little work as possible until she can get back to cat burgling? To rob the seniors blind?) and what is or might be preventing her from achieving that goal. You can still include some of the other characters and the effects they have on Livi, but the question at the end should be about a choice Livi has to make, not whether a bunch of random characters will help her or not.

Finish up with title, genre, word count, and optionally, comparable current titles.

St0n3henge said...

I don't really think a judge would sentence a thief to do community service at a place where people keep their belongings. It's far-fetched. I assume there's one of those sitcom-like circumstances that leads to that.

I agree that you need to focus on the character and choices she must make. Here it seems obvious that she should get through the community service to keep custody of her brother, or forget about custody and just be a thief. But our reasons for doing things are often complicated. Was she stealing for money to support herself and her brother? Where will money come from now? Is she worried that if she stops stealing they won't have enough? I need to know what this character's motivations are.

Detective Woodard's involvement is vague. First of all, he would certainly know she was doing community service. Second, he seems to suspect certain things, but does he do anything about what he suspects? Does he try to help?

The ending should show a more pronounced conflict or choice she has to make.