Friday, April 07, 2017

Face-Lift 1347

Guess the Plot

Worst of Luck

1. When Kennedy starts attending a school for magic users, one of his classmates curses him to body-hop into a new person every day--a person having the . . . worst of luck. Hilarity ensues.

2. When vice agents raid FiFi LaTouche's School for Young Ladies, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things: nice girls don't wear red, and he should have changed his shorts that morning.

3. Mel Richards thought he was joining a gated community with high security, wealthy neighbors, and a 9-hole golf course. It's actually a cult ... with high security, wealthy members, and an 18-hole golf course whose back nine holes are in a province of hell.

4. The pot of gold seemed free for the taking after catching a leprechaun. Yet ever since Lewis started spending it, terrible things have been happening. Now he has to get back all the gold before the world ends. On Monday.

5.  Felix loves sausage beyond all else. Hoping to bring the joy of this cuisine to a small Appalachian town, he sinks his savings into a new venture: The Wurst Restaurant. Weeks go by, but no diners. Felix  joins the Navy and ships out as cook on the USS Indianapolis in July 1945. Felix figures war can’t be as bad as his failed restaurant. 

6. Charlie's favorite days are the regular ones: wake up at sunrise, drink coffee, shower, eat a bagel, get dressed, drive to work in his taupe sedan. But today is not a regular day because the man dressed like Ronald McDonald is waiting for him at the stop sign again.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am submitting WORST OF LUCK (81,000 words), a fast-paced YA fantasy with quirky humor and touches of sarcasm, to you because [some reason I desperately hope will matter to said agent]. [I'd work this information into the paragraph after the plot summary.]

New-guy Kennedy Jacobs finds out exactly why Adina Anteloni doesn’t fit in at school when she sprouts a pair of horns and curses him at the spring dance. Adina is secretly a Zoandrian, a human-animal hybrid with a magical talent, and unfortunately for Kennedy, her talent is Curse Working. Now Kennedy is living through one terrible day after another, body-hopping from person to person [among people] who are experiencing the worst of luck, and Adina faces serious punishment if the Zoandrian Senate finds out she lost her temper … again. [Focus on one character; the punishment Adina risks is connected to Kennedy only tangentially.]

When Kennedy’s body-hopping lands him in the mind of a Zoandrian rebel, Adina isn’t able to hide her mistake any longer. The rebels suspect Kennedy knows their secrets, and the Senate is certain he knows too much about them all. [Why would body hopping into a rebel give Kennedy knowledge about all the senators?] [How do the rebels and the Senate know whose bodies Kennedy has hopped into?] The rebels want Kennedy dead while the Senate plans to strip him of his memories—even the ones he’s beginning to grudgingly cherish of Adina. It will take everything Kennedy and Adina have to remove the curse and turn their bad luck around … and maybe into something more.

WORST OF LUCK is a standalone novel with series potential that will appeal to readers who enjoy unlikely romances and stories featuring schools for magic-users. [If this is a school for magic users, you might mention that earlier. What magic abilities does Kennedy have? Why does Adina sprouting horns and putting a curse on someone show she doesn't fit in at school, if it's a school of people with magical abilities? Even if it does show this, Kennedy, being the new kid, wouldn't know it.] The humor and multiple perspective storytelling may appeal to fans of Anna Bank’s [Banks's] Syrena Legacy Series while the concept of living as a new person each day may appeal to fans of David Levithan’s Every Day.

Professionally, I am a freelance editor, the co-founder of a local critique group, and the lead author on a scientific publication about the endangered Georgetown salamander. Non-professionally, I am a crazy cat lady who loves Disney, dragons, and dessert.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Usually I expect even a paranormal YA book to focus on the relationships among the teens, and issues of a more personal nature than rebels and senators wanting to kill them or erase their memories. Stuff like drugs, bullying, sex, peer pressure. Perhaps putting more emphasis on Kennedy's romantic interest in Adina would help.

It's not clear how the Zoandrian Senate or the rebels get involved in what's happening at a school. Is there some kind of civil war going on? 

Who's running Kennedy's body while he's in someone else's body? Is it a swap?

Why does Adina curse the new-guy? Why is new-guy hyphenated?

I think we can do without the Senate in the query. Tell us who the rebels are, and what they're rebelling against. And why is Kennedy attracted to the student who cursed him? 

An example of a humorous body-hop would be better than just stating that the book has quirky humor.


Anonymous said...

I know there are people/creatures called zoandrians in this book and they have their own government. What I don't know is where this book takes place (other than a school for magic) and what relationship zoandrians have to everyone else. Is this set on earth or some fantasy world? Are zoandrians a normal subdivision of society or a secret society or what?

Also we don't know what Kennedy or Adina are trying to do about their situation.

Anonymous said...

When I read 'body hop', I immediately dismissed this as a fake plot. Maybe it's just me, but 'possess' seems more accurate. Kennedy finds himself inside people's minds, right? To me, it sounded more like he was bumping into people, prior to reading all the way through.

I think the consept has promise, and I like the weirdness of this boy developing feelings towards the... creature(?) that cursed him. If this is intended for teenagers, I don't see a problem with evil adults, especially big shots. I'm pretty sure that's how teenagers see adults anyway, or am I wrong?

My main nitpick is the 'body hop', that would probably be better at a middle school fiction, but again, that's subjective.

I would definitely follow EE's advice on the query, but (DON'T SMITE ME, OH WISE ONE!!!) I don't necessarily agree, that senators and rebels are a bad fit here. I personally witnessed an awesome political debate between some teens at a hospital last year, which seemed much more thought out and informed, than the conversations between adults on that topic. Than again, I may have been a bit high on shrooms...

Either way, good luck author.

CavalierdeNuit said...

I don't read YA, but would advise you to step back from this and really sharpen everything. It is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of your own story, but you've got to get the orchestration right. Answer all the questions and walk away from the book for a week or so. Revisit it with a fresh perspective.

St0n3henge said...

I saw this as more of a Middle Grade story, except for the possible death thing. The tone is so light here.
Body swapping or hopping is almost always considered humorous or played for laughs. It's also frequently parodied. Consider Red Dwarf's appropriately named "Bodyswap," a parody of sci-fi "other body inhabiting" episodes. The episode of Star Trek Voyager in which the hologramatic Doctor is temporarily inhabiting the Borg Seven's mind is also played for camp. And there are quite a few others. Considering this history, it's hard to take the rest of the plot seriously. Maybe there are possible dangerous consequences here, but they're just glanced over in favor of mentioning a schoolboy crush developing, and it's all just too cute.

I'd suggest re-writing this so it doesn't sound like some type of anime fanfiction, tone down the absurdity a bit, and make it clear what the stakes are, or at least that there ARE stakes. The way it's written now it's like a cartoon.

Chelsea P. said...

I really liked your first paragraph, and I didn't have an issue with the body swapping. It sounded fun. I agree that we need more grounding in the world, though, and a bit more about Kennedy and Adina's blossoming relationship. You've got room to do it. If you trim down/combine the paragraphs that aren't describing the contents of the novel, you could add another full paragraph of description if you wanted. Something like this could go at the end of the query:

WORST OF LUCK is an 80,000-word YA fantasy which will appeal to fans of Anna Banks’ Syrena Legacy Series and David Levithan’s Every Day. It is a stand-alone with series potential. I am a freelance editor and the lead author on a scientific publication about the endangered Georgetown salamander.

Be wary of telling us things the query already effectively shows. For example, "quirky humor" and "unlikely romance" don't feel necessary, because you've done such a good job of showing them.

Sounds like an exciting story! :)

Chicory said...

I don't have a whole lot to add, except that when I first read the query I thought it took place in a normal high school, with the main character accidentally getting drawn into the paranormal by ticking off a disguised magical creature. If that's your plot, you may not want to say it takes place in a magic school at the end of your query. If the setting IS someplace like Hogwarts or Professor Xaviar's school for the gifted, you should consider making that clear from the beginning.

Chicory said...

And now that I posted my comment I look back over your query and realize E.E. has already made the same point. (Oops.) But seriously, consider listening to him on this one.

Anonymous said...

I've been listening to some literary agent podcasts lately (as one does), specifically Shipping and Handling. Two things I've gotten from the podcasts are:

1) Specific and vivid is better than vague and ambiguous/ confusing. Adina is a human/animal hybrid: What kind of animal? How are we supposed to imagine her?

2) There is zero market for wizard schools right now. I groaned when I saw this at the end of the query. A normal school with a few supernatural students could be an easier sell. It may also appeal more to teens- "Harry Potter" is middle grade, after all, not YA.
And if everyone at school is magical, why does Adina have to hide her talent?

I don't have any problem with the body swapping. If done well- like any other plot device, from time travel to hypnotism to whatever- it could make for a fun story.