Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Face-Lift 1302

Guess the Plot

Heartless Joe

1. Joe Hartman fell in love, had a happy marriage, and an unfortunate, but friendly, divorce. Eighteen times. His exes have another name for him. These are their stories.

2. Joe is a zombie and proud of it. Now if only these well-meaning folk would stop trying to "cure" him and just let him eat their brains.

3. Jenna is so upset when she discovers her husband Joe has a mistress (and bought his mistress a goat farm), she dumps Joe and marries one of the many lawyers who've been comforting her. Also, a giant man-eating, pan-dimensional space goat. 

4. The Iron Age has left much to be remembered, and it is coming back with a vengeance. Follow the story of a boy named Joe as he attempts to change the past to save the future.

5. The doctors at St Mary's thought the derelict was just another junkie, but when they take his vitals, they find --no pulse. Horrified, they run a CAT scan, and find that the confused man literally has no heart. Have they found an angel, a demon, or something else?

6. You all know the story of the Tin Woodsman and the lengths he went to to feel love again. Well, this is the tale of his twin brother Joe who didn't mind being... heartless.

Original Version

Title: Heartless Joe

Joe is a smug, 40 year old, happily married successful executive in San Francisco with a taste for remote mountain trips. His most recent trip to Timbuktoo [Remote, yes. But if it's a mountain he wants, he should have stayed home, as Mt. Davidson in San Francisco is higher than Timbuktu.] ends in disaster and his Guardian Angel Michael is forced to exchange Joe's heart for his life. [Literally? He stays alive despite the removal of his heart?] The purchaser is Gretta, fairy godmother to Joe's long-forgotten high school flame Alyssa. Gretta gives Alyssa Joe's heart as a present, which makes Joe fall in love with Alyssa. Alyssa has always been in love with Joe and is now a disheveled, middle-aged, single mother of two young children living near poverty in Baltimore. [There's nothing an impoverished single mother needs from her fairy godmother more than a human heart. Did the FG at least wrap it in a tasteful Valentines Day gift bag?]

Joe recovers from hypothermia in hospital in San Francisco [Hypothermia caused by exposure to the cold temperatures in Timbuktu, on the edge of the Sahara Desert?] with his lovely tall, blonde, lawyer wife, Jenna, sitting next to him stroking his hand, and finds that he can only think of Alyssa. Puzzled, he contacts Alyssa, who he hasn't thought of for two decades, flies to Baltimore, meets her, and despite Alyssa's reservations they become lovers. Joe buys them a farm and visits every month. [There's nothing an impoverished single mother needs from her successful executive lover more than a farm to run.] Alyssa establishes a wildlife refuge on their property, taking in stray horses, goats, cats, dogs, and sheep. [Finally someone's doing something about all the stray horses, goats and sheep wandering around Baltimore.] They spend many hours with the animals and set up a donation center. [Is it for donations of money or unwanted goats?]

Five years later, Jenna finds out about Joe's other life when [she realizes that Baltimore, where her husband's been flying every month for five years, is neither remote nor mountainous.] her friend from Maryland tells her about the "Joe and Alyssa Wildlife Fund". [Does she tell her that the Joe in "Joe and Alyssa" is her husband, or does she just tell her there's a wildlife fund called Joe and Alyssa's, and she better make sure it's not "her" Joe? That would be like phoning her to say, I just passed a restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland called Joe's Crab Shack, so you better get your ass over here.]  She hires a private detective known to her law firm and discovers Joe's double life. [I've got bad news: your husband's been leading a secret life as a shepherd.] Jenna is very upset, but gets comforted by all of the men in her law firm. [They're lining up to comfort her.] She dumps Joe and remarries very quickly.

Meanwhile Gretta and Michael make peace with one another, despite the fact that Gretta confesses to having hired the giant pan-dimensional Space Goat, Gorem, [Thanks. Guess how many people are gonna guess which plot was real now.] to devour Joe's comrades on the trip to Timbuktoo. [Why?] [Wait, you can just hire the Space Goat? How much does it charge?] Michael invites Gretta to join his card-playing group of angels, but she politely declines.

Joe and Alyssa live happily ever after and adopt three hundred cats. [Okay, NOW you've gone too far.]

Heartless Joe is a 70,000 word novel, fantasy romance.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: if there's a giant, man-eating, pan-dimensional space goat in your book, it must be mentioned up front. 

Why is Alyssa's fairy godmother hiring anyone to devour Joe's comrades?   

I don't see why Joe's guardian angel has to pay Gretta anything for Joe's life. What does Gretta have to do with Joe? Was she in Timbuktu? If so, why? I expect my guardian angel to protect me, not to wait till I'm dying and then pay someone else to save me. And if he's gonna give up one of my body parts to save me, my heart is the last next to last one I'd want to do without. 

Why does Alyssa's fairy godmother wait until now to bring her together with Joe? Can't she cast a spell to make Joe love Alyssa instead of hiring a hitgoat to kill a bunch of innocent people so she can save Joe and demand his heart in return? 

If the space goat is mentioned up front, we might think this is a farcical fantasy comedy. As it is, we think it's a disorganized kitchen sink story until we get to the space goat, and then we assume it's a hoax. Whatever it is, I wouldn't call it a romance when Joe was happily married to begin with and is together with Alyssa only because of a magic spell. 


IMHO said...

WTH? Is it NaWiWoMCNoWriMo* or something? First Cassidy and Danny, now Alyssa and Joe?

[*National Wimpy Woman Main Character Novel Writing Month]

Though the pan-dimensional space goat does elevate this story above most NaWiWoMCNoWriMo manuscripts.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Horses, goats, cats, dogs, and sheep are not wildlife.
Unless they are wild ponies, mountain goats, wildcats, coyotes, and Dall sheep.
None of which are found much in Baltimore these days, although I suppose the wild ponies could've commuted up from Chincoteague.

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

Thank you for your comments!
So to respond to these many valid observations with more information:

The comrades are devoured by the goat but climb out of the goats belly unharmed when Gretta is confronted by Michael.

The Space Goat belongs to Gretta's cousin, Lord Yiddlepop, and is paid with giant lumps of grass grown in the hills of Castle someplace in Northern England.

The delay from Alyssa's fairy godmother, Gretta, in helping out Alyssa is due to her fairy godmother being involved in a nasty divorce which left her in pieces, literally, for the first 28 years of Alyssa's life. She has just managed to put herself back together, and wants to give Alyssa a really great present. Also, Gretta's not a witch, so no love-spell option, she's a fairy godmother.

It's a figurative heart, not a physical heart. Like what the country singers go on and on about.

Joe has nine lives (that's complicated), Gretta has eliminated all nine of his lives by arranging "accidents" on his mountain trips. She negotiates with Joe's Guardian Angel to give him a new life in return for his "heart". The offer has been on the table for a while, but Michael refused to do it until he had no choice: Michael doesn't like Alyssa, enjoys Joe's success and status, and really likes Jenna. As for the role of Fairy Godmother versus Guardian Angel: Gretta can give Joe a new life, whereas Guardian Angel Michael can only try to protect and guide him.

Joe genuinely does love Alyssa; just because he has no choice doesn't invalidate it. Also, it's too bad about Joe and Jenna, as they were a nice couple, but that's fate sometimes, not everyone's a winner.

Anonymous said...

What does the MC want? <- Who exactly is your MC here? Alyssa? Joe? Gretta? Michael?

What's standing in their way?
What do they plan on doing about it?
Where's the plot going?

In the query, you don't provide the end of the story. That belongs in the synopsis. Limit the names to the MC & their significant other for a romance.
Romance query structure is usually a paragraph about him (or her), a paragraph about her (or him), and a paragraph about them. You usually want to include why they belong together and what's keeping them apart, both personality-wise and situational difficulties.

Evil Editor said...

I don't see how the comrades can be unharmed, as space goats chew their food before swallowing it, and have some of the most toxic stomach acid in the galaxy.

Whattaya mean, she can't cast a spell because she isn't a witch? Besides witches and warlocks, spells can be cast by mages, sorcerers, Wizards, the Romani, and yes, fairy godmothers, as I confirmed by Googling Can fairy godmothers cast spells? Cinderella and Shrek 2 are two examples given. You may, of course, argue that fairy godmothers in your world can't cast spells, but that's like writing a vampire novel in which the vampires don't drink blood or sleep in the daytime. If the heart is figurative, she might as well just be a plain godmother.

And of course if he has no choice it invalidates it. If she'd given his heart to someone he'd never met, would that still be true love?

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

Thank you for the comments, I treasure every single one.

Baltimore County has horses, goats, etc. There are beautiful farms in Baltimore County; our local multi-billionaire, Kevin Planck, owns a lovely one called Sagamore Farm in Baltimore County. Often abandoned sheep and chickens will turn up at the Defenders for Animal Rights no-kill animal shelter in Phoenix, Maryland.

As for Alyssa being a wimp. She runs an animal refuge while raising two children. Also, Joe has to approach her and convince her that he is serious about her. Otherwise, she can live without him. Yes, she accepts her Fairy Godmother's gift with great joy and never divulges the truth to Joe. Why should she tell him. It'll stress him out. And she proceeds to make a nice life with him. And she discovers her calling to care for abandoned animals. Also, she is fine with him not being around much for the five years that he's still married to Jenna, that shows independence. She's not a wimpy character after all.

If Gretta had given Joe's heart to a person, it would still be true love for Joe. It's about the emotion and not how it gets there. The guy who flatters the girl, gives her lots of flowers to get her heart: when she falls for him it's real for her, even if he doesn't care less and was insincere. I'm surprised no science fiction stories are about robots making women fall in love with them. The brain and body experience all the symptoms which can probably be measured by MRI's, pulsometers, etc... Diagnosis: love.

About spells, they seem so random. Also, remember the genie from Disney's Aladdin: he says that he doesn't make people fall in love, bring back the dead, or can't remember the other one. Gretta has to go to extremes to get what she wants. Also, I like the concept of the location of your "heart" determining who you "love". I also like that it's kind of sad for Joe because he has no choice, slightly tragic. Poor guy, he's in love with this woman who doesn't fit his ideal beauty-type or have the personality traits that he prefers, and he has to leave California, which is much nicer than Maryland. But it works out.

I could answer the other questions, but my comment is way too long at this point.
Thanks for all the input!

Evil Editor said...

We don't ask questions because we want to know the answers. After all, we can't buy the book no matter what the answers are. We ask the questions we suspect the agent you're writing to will ask, except the agent isn't going to ask them of you, she's going to ask them of herself, and if she doesn't like the answer she comes up with, she'll move on to another query. Thus you should consider whether it might be best to answer the questions in the query or reword it so the questions don't come up.

For instance, you have a romance novel in which the heroine is fine with the hero, her lover, being gone most of the time to be with another woman--to whom he's happily married. The agent thinks, No self-respecting woman would put up with this crap, and no reader of romances will stand for it. Jenna is more likable than Alyssa because Jenna lost her happy marriage to this woman who used magic to steal Joe away. She tosses the query without giving you a chance to explain that Alyssa puts up with a two-timing man not because she's a wimp, but because she's so independent.

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

EE, I defer to your expertise. This is not a Romance.

This is the anti-Romance. For those who are fed up with Romance stories with perfect situations and ideal people. Alyssa is the anti-hero who the reader boos, a mousy woman who steals the man from the hero character of Jenna the lawyer, complacently destroys their marriage and saves a lot of cats. (I prefer Alyssa's character, but readers will probably gravitate towards the successful young lawyer, as you do.)

Thanks for the comments!

Evil Editor said...

Losing the romance readers will easily be compensated for when you gain the cat lovers.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Patricia is punking us. At least, that's the most generous assumption I can make.

alaskaRavenclaw said...

I don't doubt Baltimore has LIVESTOCK, but that's not WILDLIFE.

Examples of livestock:

Examples of wildlife:

Now, before you tell me that Baltimore has wildlife, I don't doubt that either. But the animals you've described aren't wildlife.

Chelsea P. said...

Lord Yiddlepop is a big draw for me. More Lord Yiddlepop, please.

Part of me thinks this is a story about how men will always choose the hot woman they're attracted to over the less hot woman they're secretly in love with, unless a fairy godmother and a pan-dimensional goat intervene. But then, maybe it's a spoof of that? I'm leaning toward the former because of your preference for Alyssa, but I could be wrong here.

Also, the reason people might prefer Jenna is because you've listed some positive qualities about her, and most of what we know about Alyssa is that she's manipulative enough to let a man be with her based on magic rather than choice. Hard to root for that. I mean, I've always sort of felt like loving someone and forcing them to love you were . . . mutually exclusive. But if all of this is for the sake of the parody, I think it's fine. It's only your comments defending Alyssa that made me want to address it.

I think it'd be best if you introduce this as a parody up front:

"I'm seeking representation for my 70,000-word romantic parody, Heartless Joe." (If "romantic parody" is an actual genre. Others can jump in if they know better than me.)

I do think you've got some funny stuff here, and I look forward to reading the rewrite! :)

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

Well, it is a real query, perhaps not written with much polish or clarity, but that's the point of this blog, isn't it, to help us struggling writers improve so we can enrich the world with our published prose. Here are the first few scintillating paragraphs.

Friday on top of a remote mountain.

He was on top of the mountain, the group of seven was behind him. A sudden storm came up and pushed them into the shelter of a cave. When his back was turned, a giant goat came and devoured the group, leaving Joe alone.

"Not again," he sighed. This was the seventh trip in a row that he'd been stranded with all of his companions missing. He called out, without much hope, "Harry? Joseph? Brian?" But there was only whooshing of the winds outside. He sat down to wait out the storm, realizing that very soon he would freeze to death.

The angels were playing cards at Starbucks when they heard the tinkling of the bell. "Oh, I say, it's Joe's angel. Again." "Stewie, pass me the cards, my turn to deal," said Mark angel.
Sam angel piped in, Sam had purple wings and was small, "Isn't he done with his nine lives?"
Gerry, a large sturdy angel with predominantly orange wings and a rainbow halo, replied, "Yup."
"Then why are they calling us, let him go," said Mark as he dealt the cards.

The bell rang again. An angel appeared in the doorway, out of breath, with large fluffy white wings. "Hi angels, we need to save Joe, he gets one more life." The angels looked inquiringly at Doug. "Doug, has he satisfied the requirement." "Yea, his angel is ready to do it, now." The angels smirked. "Ready to give up his heart to that Fairy Godmother?" Doug nodded. "Well, that human does deserve a break. I mean, she's now single with two children, a jerk of a husband, yearning for good old Joe." The angels all laughed. "Ha, she'll give him a merry life." Doug shrugged, "It's in the cards guys, she gets him."

Matt said...

Where's the Criss Angel joke. Where is it…

Mister Furkles said...

Why is Alaska obsessing over the words 'wildlife' and 'livestock'. Because she's trying to help and not because she cares all that much about these two words.

In the query, every defect in grammar, usage, and syntax is noted by publishing industry professionals. This includes agents and acquisition editors. Referring to domestic animals as wildlife is a usage error. An editor or agent will stop reading when they reach their limit of tolerance for such flaws. That limit is usually about three but may be as few as two.

A related flaw is referring to a domestic animal rescue facility as a wildlife refuge.

Two such usage errors may be enough to stop an agent from reading the rest of the query. The reason is not because they are persnickety—which they are—but because (1) they don't want to spend time working with careless writers and (2) it costs a publisher thousands of dollars to correct writing flaws. It's a financial decision.

Make your one-page query flawless.

Mister Furkles said...

Maybe it's just me but I would stop reading the novel at paragraph two. “When his back was turned, a giant goat came and devoured the group, leaving Joe alone.” But if I forced myself on to paragraph three, there is: “This was the seventh trip in a row that he'd been stranded with all of his companions missing.”

I go SCUBA diving. If one of my dive buddies died on a trip, I'd quit; it wouldn't take all of them on six consecutive vacations for me to think: Maybe knitting is a better recreation. Who would continue mountain climbing after six consecutive trips where the entire group, except himself, is eaten by a giant goat?

It boggles the mine.

But I don't read novels with angles, faeries, and giant carnivorous goats. So maybe it's okay.

You shouldn't have two or more characters quoted in one paragraph. Paragraphs four and five need to be broken up.

Anonymous said...

If you want opinions on the opening, I'd suggest clicking the sidebar link "Submit to Evil Editor" and scroll down to the part that says "4. How else" or just click on "The Continue an Opening" and submit the first 150-200 words in the comments.

Matt said...

Gotta disagree with Mister Furkles on the mountain climber thing. Hardcore mountain climbers are a different breed. They're absolutely the types to go on six more trips after their buddy died on an expedition.

And I kind of don't see what all the fuss is about when it comes to livestock/wildlife. Sure, it deserves to be pointed out, but it's not going to make or break anything. If an editor or agent is going to toss aside a story based on the misuse of a single word, that story probably wasn't interesting to begin with.

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

To clarify the mountain-climbing/remote expeditions for Mister Furkles: the character Joe signs up for these trips with professional guides, Sherpas, cooks, etc... He's not the leader and only knows the other participants for the duration of the trip. It takes a lot of expertise to do remote activities, most people pay a company to take them, also they have to get flown in by small airplanes/helicopters. I'll maybe clarify that in the query, maybe call the company, Long Life Expeditions.

Anonymous said...

Well, if a giant mutant space goat was good enough for Douglas Adams, then I don't have a problem with one making a cameo in Ms Fine Art Painter's anti-romance, pro-cat novel.

Evil Editor said...

Perhaps you're thinking of an enormous mutant star goat:

"That's not what I was told!" he hissed, "My commanding officer told me that the entire planet was in imminent danger of being eaten by an enormous mutant star goat!"

"Oh really ..." said Ford Prefect.

"Yes! A monstrous creature from the pit of hell with scything teeth ten thousand miles long, breath that would boil oceans, claws that could tear continents from their roots, a thousand eyes that burned like the sun, slavering jaws a million miles across, a monster such as you have never ... never ... ever ..."

Space goats, which look nothing like star goats (and very little like goats). An actual space goat can be found in [the game] Goat City Bay, on top of a crashed UFO. Bringing him a towel is a requirement for unlocking Hitchhiker Goat. Or you may be thinking of the Draenei, from World of Warcraft, which are blue humanoids with tentacles sticking out of them and goat hooves. They traveled from Outland/Draenor to Azeroth on a dimensional spaceship called the Exodar and crash-landed on Azuremyst Isle. So, basically, they are goats from space. Also, on the Australian radio station Triple J during the morning show "Jay and the Doctor" a lonely goat travels the universe and his many adventures parallel and satirize the state of current affairs and politics in Australia."Travelling alone in deep space, with the planets and stars his only friends! More then just a mere goat! He is...Space Goat!"

Patricia Bennett Fine Art Painter said...

Oh, I loooove Douglas Adams. Maybe the enormous mutant star goat and Gorem are related, distant cousins. Mine is a vegetarian though and only has two eyes.

There is something about goats that makes them seem like they belong in space. Maybe it's their weird pupils.