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.


Anonymous said...

Probably not helpful, but for some reason I read "biomed" as an attempt to verbify "biome" instead of an abbreviation for "biomedical." "Killed before they can meet" made no sense since she obviously met him if he's her boyfriend, or have they not met in real life and it's an internet relationship ... then I realized you meant "meet up," I think. Other than that, what the brilliant EE said.

Anonymous said...

Hi author, congratulations on finishing your book.

97K is a lot of words to hang on what looks like random clue after random clue being discovered that essentially adds up to All Is Not As It seems.

We need some indication it does actually add up to something sensible. What the character plans to do and what gives them a chance of succeeding would also help.

Other than that,
I can see the point for a writer, but as an internal story action, I don't see any reason for removing the knowledge of the country of China, either.
And it was very careless of someone to have missed that tag.

Good Luck

Anonymous said...

Hi, Author

I was generally having a hard time figuring out what Trina's initial experience is, what and how much-all she's up against. To what purpose is China engaging in this lengthy, elaborate deception, and as EE asks of the Castorites, "are most of them in on the plot?"

Maybe you have something else in mind, but it seems like her parents are deceiving her, too -- someone secretly (and carelessly!) brought that stuffed toy into the home. (Or did they innocently buy it at a Castor store and not notice the tag, which was someone else's fault?) Curious why her boyfriend would "hint" at the existence of China; if he's going to say anything at all about it, why not everything? By the way, I guess she's older than he is, since she's the oldest kid in town.

That's some fake internet the Chinese provide for this project. What do they do, simulate an entire world minus China for decades on end? Again, my mind boggles at the depth of this deception and I'd like to know what it's for, i.e., who/what the antagonist is, what Trina must defeat.

Mandakinz said...

Premises like these are exciting, but tough to pull off, so kudos to you if you've managed it!

I agree with EE about starting the query further into the story. It seems your letter might be a little over balanced on the details leading to the discovery of the mystery rather than explaining the overall scope of the plot.

The impression I get from the query is that Nyquest is an evil corporation and the whole town was built to hide/safeguard/imprison Trina and her sister. Or Nyquest is an evil corporation that's harvesting the college-age kids. So maybe the plot is to stop Nyquest? Maybe by exposing them?

I can sort of see a scenario in which Nyquest bases its operation in China, but wants the citizens of the town to believe they're in the US so they build a fake town. Even in this scenario though, I still don't connect why they would lead people to believe China doesn't exist as opposed to letting them think they live in America and China is just another faraway country.

My guesses at your plot aren't meant to be critical. I hope that comes across. My intention is to bounce back to you the impression the query gives me, so you can adjust it if it differs from your novel.

I hope this is helpful and I sincerely wish you good luck.

Mandakinz said...

I meant to say I liked your title by the way.