Thursday, June 11, 2020

Face-Lift 1402

Guess the Plot


1. Tinker, tailor, beggar-man, thief. In Actorburg, no one is quite who they seem, because, well, they're all actors.

2. When the Republican-led US government bans acting, actress Jenny Davis is confined to an actors re-education institute. Is this the end of her dream to be the next Sandra Bullock? Or will the Democrats regain power? 

3. It started as a social experiment, but now it's gotten out of hand. How can Julia Starling (real name Beth Smith) live life if everyone else in town is also acting their parts?

4. What happens when a bunch of wannabe actors take over an old ghost town set and start a Youtube reality series? Not what they hoped. At least the silver screen ghosts whose graves they disturbed are willing to fight the aliens who were looking to take on a population weakened by a pandemic.

5. The names have been changed. So have the dates, places, and most of the details. It's still the inside skinny on the most famous scandals of golden-age Hollywood.

6. When male actors turn 50, and  females turn 30, the roles dry up. That's when these thespians head for Actorburg, a town where their every action is scripted, "directors" order them around, and the reviews are always glowing.

7. Struggling thespian Titus Lemonjello asks his twin brother, who happens to be the mayor of Los Angeles, for cash to fund his next crappy movie. Things get heated when the request is refused, and Titus accidentally murders him. Seeing an opportunity, Titus assumes his twin's identity, and decides his first order of business will be to rename the city to better represent the kind of people who actually live there.

Original Version

Dear Sir or Madam:

What would America be like without actors? [It would be like Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale (though admittedly all I know about Gilead is what was portrayed in the TV series by actors).] [On the bright side, we wouldn't be subjected to any more Nicholas Cage and Keanu Reeves performances.] That’s the bold premise of Actorburg, my latest literary novel (complete at 127,573 words). [Actorburg sounds like a place devoted to acting, like a movie studio or Hollywood. Not a country without actors.] Because of your interest in a diverse range of literary fiction, I hope that this will be a good fit for us [and by "us" I mean "you," as it's already a good fit for me]. Comparable titles include Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk and Campusland by Scott Johnston. I discovered you in the Poets and Writers Literary Agencies Database. [If you condense that paragraph to one sentence: My book Actorburg is exactly 127,573 words of literary fiction set in America . . . but without actors! you'll save the agent a lot of time. By which I mean she can delete your letter that much faster.]

Actorburg is set in a world in which the Republican-led American government has banned acting and classified the desire to act as a mental illness. 

The novel follows former actor (and teacher) Jenny Davis as she navigates the titular institute (otherwise known as the Southern California Actors Re-Education Institute, or SCARI). There, she must confront many challenges to her liberal beliefs—from the Actorburg staff, her fellow “inmates”, and the quickly-changing outside world. Can she forget about her past and forge a new future for herself, or will her old dreams always have a hold on her heart? [This is the only paragraph that has any information about what happens in your book, and it's all vague. Jenny navigates an institute, confronts challenges, and tries to forge a new future. That's the plot of every Harry Potter book.] [In fact, depending on your definition of "institute," it's the plot of every novel.]

As an “Army brat”, I grew up all over the country, with my favorite state being Alaska. [Sure, take the biggest one. I assume your favorite ocean is the Pacific, your  favorite planet is Jupiter and your favorite rodent is the capybara. Feel free to work those into the query letter too.] In my spare time, I am a freelance magazine editor--most recently for Shannon Media—and editor of the website Adventures in Videoland. My latest novel is The Burgeoning Heart of Bambi Bazooms, published in August 2018. [That's not impressive enough to risk that it'll convince the agent your query is a hoax.] [Also, never use both "titular" and "bazooms" in the same business letter.]

I hope you enjoy reading my novel just as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I look forward to your reply.



Scrap the whole thing. Put together a three-paragraph summary of the plot in which you tell us, with specific information, Jenny's situation, how she plans to change it, and what will happen if she fails. Then tack on a closing paragraph that includes the title, word count, genre. Comparable titles are okay if they're requested and comparable in more ways than genre. Your favorite state can be omitted. The agent won't care about your credits unless they suggest you will put money in her wallet; for example, I have published numerous novels under my pen name, Stephen King. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Round your word count up or down as applicable. 128K is too high for a first novel if you're aiming for literary fiction. It's too high even for dystopian fantasy, which is the other market this might fall under.

I hope this is well thought through: there are lots of other countries that have actors, and the history of such goes back several thousand years. Try to provide enough plot that the book doesn't sound like a polemic.