Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Face-Lift 1415

Guess the Plot

The Counterfeit Girl

1. While building a wild-west theme park, Mindy Lou discovers her deceased grandfather's deed to an abandoned silver mine is an old forgery. She must outwit collectors, pawnbrokers, and museum curators to discover who bilked whom out of what so she can finally bring back the shoot-em-up days.

2. Sitting in a stifling room at the back of a fake shoe store shuffling rubles, dollars, riyals, euros, yen, and yuan is no way to live. Svetlana is bored out of her mind and stuck in a financial rut she'll never escape as the Black Market Currency Exchange Girl. She'd kill to be The Counterfeit Girl -- glamor, opportunity, and a clean restroom.

3. Mindy drew her first perfect fifty dollar bill when she was twelve. Six years later, on the lam from the mob, the FBI, and various world-wide spy agencies, can she fake it as a budding artist in a retro-hippie commune long enough to forge herself a new identity?

4. She was made of yarn and string, a hopeful thing. But at what point does she become real? Dolly sets out to become a real girl, and Pinocchio has nothing on this determined kid.

5. Anniziq was created by the Spanner Corporation to be the ultimate female companion. But what happens when serial number RML-10038291 begins to sense its soul is that of a man?

6. Lela was the cutest Pomeranian in the world until she got caught in the cross-fire between a witchy stepmother and a fairy godfather. Now she's a human girl trying to survive on the streets. Fortunately, she still has the amazing ability to smell like a dog. Unfortunately, she also still smells like a dog.

7. Mary Joan Oswald reinvents herself as Instagram starlet Marisa Oz, hiding her identity as a coding bootcamp student. Her developing feelings for classmate Noel leave her at a crossroads. Down one road is the unrequited true love of a dweeb, down the other a posh NYC dream.

8. After 18 years in Oregon, Trina discovers that her entire life has been spent in China, in a town constructed as a replica of an American town. It's either some kind of experiment or a Chinese plot to destroy the world. Does Trina have what it takes to save us all?

9. Sasha is the criminal underground’s premier go-to for counterfeit bills. These days, she’s printing a revenge plan against her ex-boyfriend, master thief and wanker Darby Kingsley for shafting her on his last score.

Original Version 

Dear Agent 

The Counterfeit Girl is a 95K suspense novel, [Inconsequential nitpick: "K" is an abbreviation for "thousand," not "thousand-word." It's also an abbreviation for strikeout, kicker, Kelvin, and Potassium.] in which a girl who shouldn’t be alive, raised in a town that shouldn’t exist, must save the world in a way her kidnappers never intended. [Does that mean her kidnappers intended for her to save the world, but in some other way?]

Biomed company Nyquest has revitalized Castor, a remote town in Oregon. They provide the internet, support the police force, and offer free medical care and counseling as often as they think you need. [I prefer to get my medical care and counseling as often as I think I need.] With Nyquest’s juicy scholarship approaching, life is good for eighteen-year-old Trina Radu, the oldest kid in the safest town in America. [That makes sense if the scholarship goes to the oldest kid. Is she guaranteed to win the scholarship?] 

Then her boyfriend hints about a mysterious place called China. China isn’t in her geography class and doesn’t appear on the Internet. [I think the boyfriend should get the scholarship. He can at least find China on a map.] [In world maps in Trina's book and on the Internet, is there a blank space where China is? Or does it just have a different name?] 

Map of Asia in Trina's geography book

She badgers him for details but he’s killed before they can meet. [If I happen to mention a place my girlfriend never heard of and she starts badgering me, I start looking for a girlfriend who's less passionate about geography.] In her parents’ bedroom she discovers a stuffed animal with a tag labeled Made in China [tag]. Tucked inside is a photo bringing back dreams [memories?] of a twin sister no one else remembers. Convinced her sister is held outside town, she tries to escape only to find impregnable forest and maze-like trails. Every call outside Castor’s area code leads to a recorded message. And none of the kids who’ve left for college are ever heard from again. 

Suddenly, those police cars patrolling her street don’t seem so comforting. [I never find police cars patrolling my street comforting. And I'm white.] College is approaching, but Trina’s final exam is escaping a town that’s monitoring her every move and her graduation party a quest for [finding] a sister no one believes in. A reunion that will either save a world Trina has never known—or tear it to pieces. [There's no evidence in your plot summary that the world needs to be saved, or that Trina is the one for the job. She can't even find her way out of town.]

 The Counterfeit Girl’s inspiration reaches back to Twin Peaks and The X-files. [To me, it sounds like The Prisoner meets The Truman Show.] It would appeal to fans of Blake Crouch, Peter Clines, and Patrick Lee. 

My title comes from a young woman who discovers her entire life has been a fake and she’s been raised in China, not small town America. [The fact that she grew up surrounded by 1.4 billion Chinese people should've been a dead giveaway.]


Twenty years ago, China constructed a town that could pass as a remote Oregon town, then kidnapped people to populate the town, and took great pains to convince these people that the country China doesn't even exist. As the children in this town reach college age, they are put to use in a plot to destroy the world, a plot that will fail if one of these children, Trina Radu, ever meets her twin sister.

That wouldn't be a great way to start the query. But it's probably not a great impression to give as a pitch for the book, either.

Some questions I have that you might be able to keep me from having, either by answering them or by getting rid of the parts of the query that inspired them:

1. Why shouldn't Trina be alive?
2. What's gained by keeping China's existence secret from people who can't travel anywhere? 
3. Was the twin also kidnapped? How old were they when kidnapped? Was everyone in town kidnapped, or are most of them in on the plot?
4. Is there something special about Trina that makes her the only one whose actions will save or tear apart the world? Like does she have super powers?

The information in your note about the title belongs in the query, possibly up front:

When 18-year-old Trina Radu discovers that she has grown up not in remote Castor Oregon, but in China, she has a lot of questions, starting with WTF?

No wait, starting with, Who built a replica of a small Oregon town in China, and then populated it with people who would never complain that they couldn't leave? And why?

Starting the query after Trina becomes suspicious saves a lot of space that's being spent on Nyquest and the boyfriend and the scholarship and geography class. Space that can be used to talk about what's at stake and what Trina can do about it.

Friday, March 12, 2021

New Beginning 1094

Patti followed her abductor’s instructions and forced her gaze back to the clear night sky. Jagged edges of pine tree tops scalloped the mural of stars in the night sky. Beside her, Carol screamed through her cloth gag. Patti dared to look away from the sky again. Carol writhed on the ground, trying to free her wrists from the zip ties that bound them beneath her. She kicked her heels uselessly against the grass.  Patti knew she should be trying to escape too, but her body was clenched with fear. She couldn’t move, could only alternate darting glances between her friend and the man who stood with his arms raised, palms out. 

“Yes!’ he shouted and pointed at the sky. “There! Amhaodhrah chases her prey!” 

Patti couldn’t help but look. A shooting star flashed, high and distant. Then Amhaodhrah appeared. 

More like a low flying plane coming in for landing than a shooting star, it looked like the sun was streaking through the sky toward them. Its face seemed to stare, impartial as it fell.  It lit up the forest in a fast forward of dawn through afternoon.

Finally a humanoid shape began to resolve, an indistinct shadow behind the glare. "I found you," it said. "I have come a long way." The light danced across the man, and the two women on the ground. "Your timing is perfect."

The man dropped to his knees. "What do you have for me, Amhaodhrah?"

"I bring you the light," was the reply. "Because you bought zip ties, duct tape, extra large Tuf-T bags, a shovel and our special Hiding Things in the Wilderness Where They'll Never be Found guide book, you get one of these nifty extra bright bluetooth GPS head lights as our gift to you.

"And it's Amanda. The name is Amanda. It's on my badge."

Patti's body tensed; she wanted to kick and scream through her bonds: On her last trip to Home Depot she spent over a thousand bucks and only got a measly apple corer for free.

Opening: Amanda Barrett .....Continuation: ril

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Q & A 197

As I'm revising the rough draft of my novel, I see that I need practice in narrative structure. I am thinking of practicing structure by writing some short stories. Rather than come up with a bunch of new ideas, I was going to rework scenes from the novel into short stories.

If I wanted to submit any of these stories to magazines, would it be a problem if I eventually complete the novel and submit it for publication? Do I need to alter the stories enough to separate them from the novel? I thought it happened sometimes that characters or ideas first appear in short story format but I don't know if that's a bygone practice or part of a marketing scheme, or what. 

If you're Stephen King, and you wrote the novel first, and it's going to be published, then this is a marketing ploy. (Though marketing ploys are usually sample chapters or novel excerpts rather than short stories.) If you are Stephen King and you wrote the short story first, then this is your way of getting another novel published without having to come up with an original idea. All you have to do is surround the short story with 70,000 words of filler (description of stuff, scenes that don't further the plot, etc.).

However, you are not Stephen King (at least I assume you aren't, though it occurs to me that Stephen King would use an alias when writing to Evil Editor for advice), and you would be thrilled to have a short story published in a magazine. Anyone can self-publish their novel, but only a few can get a short story in The New Yorker. You would buy lots of copies of the magazine. It would give you something relevant to add to your bio when trying to attract an agent. So go for it. Odds are that by the time the novel gets published, the magazine will have gone out of business anyway.