Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Face-Lift 1430

Guess the Plot

Becoming Lainie

1. After escaping from a cult, Elaine fears that the cult leader is still searching for her. So she cleverly changes her name . . . to Lainie. Problem solved.

2. When Mel's identical twin sister, Lainie, more popular, more talented, more everything, dies in a freak accident, Mel decides to pull the old switcheroo: Let everyone believe she's Lainie and Mel's the dead one. But can she pull it off?

3. Robert's beard stopped growing. Then he noticed his jaw line was changing. When he made that sarcastic comment to what he thought was a dream genie, he didn't think it would count as his third wish! Now he's becoming someone else!

4. Lance is the sexiest guy in the high school. All the girls want to date him. But none of the girls knows Lance has begun transitioning into Lainie. Once he becomes a girl, he figures all the guys will want to date her. She's kind of naive.

5. A morbid coming-of-age story about becoming the you you know you aren't but want to be but can't be. Because. Also, slime molds.

6. In this long-awaited sequel to Being John Malkovich, a ventriloquist finds herself inhabiting the body of singer Lainie Kazan.

Original Version

Artist Elaine Montague is a painter of houses. [The last house painter I hired thought he was an artist too. Namely, Jackson Pollock. The Homeowners Association wasn't impressed.] Houses with roots reaching into rocky earth, houses like circus tents balancing on a corner, windowless houses tumbling through whitewater. [Monet had his water lilies. Montague has her houses. Which are easier to draw than water lilies, especially if they're windowless; all you need is a rectangle with a triangle on top. And another rectangle for the door, unless the houses are also doorless.] Her art is a revelation, even to Elaine; it gives voice to her trauma, tells her where she is in her healing. Five years in a cult, she’s been ten years in hiding and believes Michel, the charismatic leader of the Aum Brotherhood has been searching for her. [If he's been searching for Elaine for ten years, the other members of his cult dispersed long ago.] In Colorado, her fifth state in ten years, she meets and befriends Mary, a purported therapist and the only other person living at 10,000 feet up a long, dirt road. [If Mary is the person who did the purporting, I'd go with "self-proclaimed."] [Also, there's no reason to call her a "purported" therapist unless she isn't a therapist. But it would be odd to meet and befriend someone, and have them lie about being a therapist. Unless it's a ruse to get you to reveal your darkest secrets so they can blackmail you. Hmm, have I stumbled upon your plot?] Elaine may have found the perfect audience to hear her story. Or not. [No need to say both "may have" and "Or not," as one implies the other.] 

When Elaine’s ex-boyfriend, James, locates her after eleven years [Wait, her ex-boyfriend has been trying to locate her for eleven years? I'd be more worried about that guy than the cult leader. He sounds like the worst kind of stalker.] and needs help in retrieving his wife and four-year-old daughter from the Brotherhood, she fears being drawn back in by Michel, the powerful leader. [Okay, I didn't stumble upon your plot, but I stumbled upon a better plot. You can use it, no charge.] [What are the odds that one guy loses his girlfriend when she joins a cult, and years later loses his wife when she joins a cult? And it's the same cult?! This James guy must be a real prize; women keep joining cults just to get away from him.] [Was James ever in the cult, or was it just his wife and daughter? How long has James's wife been in the cult? Long enough that her daughter was born there? Did the Elaine/James relationship end when she joined the cult, or did it start when they were both in the cult?] When she unexpectedly comes face to face with him, Elaine must gather all her resources to resist what she fell so hard for eleven years earlier. [Shouldn't that be fifteen years earlier? Five in the cult plus ten in hiding?] She believed Mary was helping her. Now she's not so sure. [Are you saying she's not sure the free therapy sessions Mary's giving her are helping? Or are you saying she suspects Mary is in cahoots with Michel? Like Michel installed Mary 10,000 feet up a dirt road with orders to report to him if Elaine ever showed up there?] To keep her carefully built foundation from cracking she must dredge up the gems she’d learned at the Brotherhood and leave the rubble behind. [She left the rubble behind ten years ago. Can you provide an example of a gem?] Some days the only safe place to stand is at her [bullet-proof] easel. 

Becoming Lainie, a suspenseful, literary novel complete at 100,000 words told from two perspectives (Elaine’s and Mary’s), 

[Elaine's perspective: I'm a survivor.

Mary's perspective: This chick is wacko.] 

is equal part present and past; Elaine’s life as a teen-to-young woman enthralled with her burgeoning spirituality and the eventual dark intimacy with her teacher. [Her teacher being Mary or Michel? I assume Mary, as otherwise it wouldn't be equal part present, but you do say Elaine learned useful gems from Michel, and don't mention anything Mary taught her.] From beginning to end, Elaine’s haunting paintings [Does she ever paint haunted houses?] depict her inner journey. [Are her paintings going to be in the book? That's worth mentioning, if so.]


In the spirit of My Dark Vanessa, this story is one of obsession and power dynamics. This may also appeal to fans of Evie’s interiority in The Girls, [I didn't realize the interiorities of fictional characters even had fan clubs. Though I will admit I wasn't crazy about The Catcher in the Rye, but I was a big fan of Holden Caulfield's interiority.] and (a much less noir) The Last Housewife. The novel was inspired by stories of people close to me, one who committed suicide after leaving a cult. [For once an author claims to have been inspired by a close friend, and I don't suspect she's really talking about herself.]

I’m a longtime writer whose fiction and poetry have been published in Earth Daughters, Raven’s Perch, and Harbinger magazine. I’ve received an Honorable Mention from the So las Awards-Traveler’s Tales (2020-21) for my short story, The Bathroom. [I'm currently working on a sequel, titled "The Closet."] I participated (2020) in the Community of Writers (formerly Squaw Valley) writer’s conference with Gail Tsukiyama as my instructor. With this novel (and another in its second draft),  I am ready to seek representation. [These credits aren't going to sway an agent either way. Just say you've had several short stories published in literary magazines, and this is your first novel.]

And as a result of my involvement in the writing community and as a successful artist, entrepreneur, and teacher of art retreats around the world, I have an extensive mailing list as well as connections through social media. I understand the value of promotion and look forward to doing that.


I think I need to see a timeline graph covering the last 20 years. It could have dates along the x axis, and places along the y axis, and different-colored lines for Elaine, Mary, James, Michel, and James's wife, so we know who was where, when. In other words, this isn't clear enough.

Is there one main plot to this novel? Something to focus the query on? For instance the attempt to "rescue" James's wife and daughter? With the Michel parts and the running away parts thrown in as backstory? Trying to squeeze five years in a cult and ten on the run and whatever Mary has to do with it and the rescue is a lot for a query.

A standard format of the query would cover who's the main character (Elaine) What's her goal? (Rescuing James's wife? Surviving?) What's her biggest obstacle? (Michel's charisma?) What's at stake? (Her sanity? James's family?)

Did you consider making the two people in whose perspectives you tell the story be Elaine and James? They're connected to each other and to the cult. It's not clear that Mary is connected to them or the cult. She comes across as a hermit who may or may not be important to the story. Connect her or leave her out.