Sunday, September 17, 2006

Face-Lift 190


Guess the Plot


The Shrimp that Sleeps

1. A book created entirely by matching random nouns with random verbs, and a few articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. Also, a vampire.

2. An ancient evil lurks beneath the mighty deep. Almost as feared as the Kraken, more terrifying than the Loch Ness Monster, it is . . . The Shrimp That Sleeps.

3. A scathing expose of the seafood industry, proving that not everything is as fresh as the consumer would like.

4. Mati is forced to decide whether or not to become a lady of the evening, like the proverbial sleeping shrimp.

5. Okay, Morty Wansch was small for his age, but Mr. Mullally's nickname for him in fourth period civics class was just mean. And when he wakes up, he's determined to get even.

6. A cabal of sinister mages predicts the future by reading malignant omens in restaurant leavings.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Mati is a señorita growing up in a miserable Puerto Plata neighborhood with her mother and a multitude of siblings. [That's a lot of siblings.] The opportunity to leave her predestined life of poverty arises when she is sent to live with her “legitimate” relatives: her father, a wealthy businessman and his arrogant children. [Not sure it counts as an "opportunity" if you have no choice in the matter.] Her distinguished father commits an unforgivable sin against her and she escapes with Anibal, a handsome but violent military officer serving the country’s dictatorship. [It sounds like she and the military officer escape to another place, but wouldn't the officer have to stay wherever he's stationed?] The cruelty Anibal is lauded for as a soldier makes him a vicious husband. [So she married him?] Terrified and now with two small children, [We're skipping right along here.] Mati flees to a new town where Amparo, the madam of a local brothel, offers her work as “lady of the evening.” [Does that come with free child care while on the job?] [Once you say "a madam at a brothel offers her work," we don't need you to tell us what kind.] [Or do we? In a brothel, is there a person whose job it is to change the sheets on all the beds every hour? Or do the ladies take care of that? That would be one seamy job.] Mati must decide; will she continue to let life toss her around from one pain to the next or will she carve out a piece of happiness for herself? [When do we get to the part about the shrimp? The shrimp that sleeps? Does she open a seafood restaurant?] [Aha. The wonders of Google. “A shrimp that sleeps will be taken away by the tide,” is an old Nicaraguan proverb meaning if you don't take action in your life, you'll be swept into a life of prostitution.] [You're supposed to tell EE where your title comes from so he can make up a Guess the Plot without having to Google "Central American proverbs" in faint hopes of coming across one about sleeping shrimp.]

I am seeking representation for my novel, The Shrimp That Sleeps, a multi-cultural family saga spanning from the 1940s to 1960s in the Dominican Republic. My upbringing in the pre-dominantly Dominican community of Washington Heights in New York lends the work an authentic feel for the culture. Mati is based loosely on the life of my Dominican grandmother. [So, is one of your parents the child of the cruel and vicious Anibal?]

I have enclosed the first chapter, as stipulated, of The Shrimp That Sleeps and an SASE for your response. The full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Mati is a señorita growing up in a miserable Puerto Plata neighborhood with her mother and a multitude of siblings. Sent to live with her “legitimate” relatives--her wealthy father and his arrogant children--it seems she has escaped her predestined life of poverty. But when her distinguished father commits an unforgivable sin against her, she runs away with Anibal, a handsome but violent military officer serving the country’s dictatorship.

Mari and Anibal marry and have two children. In time, the cruelty Anibal is lauded for as a soldier consumes their family. Terrified, Mati flees with the children to a new town where Amparo, the madam of a local brothel, offers her work. Mati must decide: will she continue to let life toss her from one torment to the next or will she carve out a piece of happiness for herself?

I am seeking representation for my novel, The Shrimp That Sleeps, the story of a woman’s fight to survive poverty and abuse in the Dominican Republic. (The title comes from a Nicaraguan proverb, "A shrimp that sleeps will be taken away by the tide.") My upbringing in the predominantly Dominican community of Washington Heights in New York lends the work an authentic feel for the culture. Mati is based loosely on the life of my Dominican grandmother.

The novel is complete at 80,000 words. I have enclosed the first chapter and an SASE for your response. The full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

The bothersome part was the way the marriage and children were brought in without warning. I've thrown in the source of the title because it's interesting, and I can see some people wondering what it means.

11 comments:

Mrs. Brain Bomb said...

LOL. Those guess the plot submissions had me cracking up. Then I got to EE's comments and I kept giggling away. At my own expense somewhat but that "free child care" was funny.

Damn, I thought of it after the fact about the proverb. My apologies, EE and I will be sure not to make that error again as the next agent/editor may not take as kindly to googling.

Thank You, EE!

midwife minion said...

I want to read this book! And, yes, include the origin of the title in the query. Good luck!!

Rei said...

Author of Plot #1: If you ever get a humor book published, I'll buy it. :)

Rei said...

I don't like the query, for several reasons.

1) It reads as a cramped synopsis. Cut out plot elements, then play up the human aspects.

2) I agree with EE about the title; with a title like that, we better be given a clue as to why it was chosen.

3) You don't need to mention who a character was based on. A good author will pull bits and pieces out of those that they know to create realistic characters automatically. In fact, if you are basing characters too closely on your friends and family, it would make me wonder whether you can continue to produce original characters.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

You might want to mention where Puerto Plata is. I had no idea it was in the Dominican Republic until you got to the paragraph mentioning your background.

Cathy Writes Romance said...

This story actually sounds rich in emotion, culture and events. Latin American authors and stories are being sought right now, so good luck!

Mrs. Brain Bomb said...

The thought did cross my mind that it felt like a synopsis but I think I'm fine with it, after EE cleaned it up. The agent will know exactly what it's about.

It may sound strange, but the reason I included a little bit about my cultural background and who it was based on is to answer the question, what the heck qualifies me to write this particular story. Notice, no pub credits. Ha!

Thanks to everyone for the feedback. I hope I make a dent with my contribution to Caribbean literature. ;)

Kathleen said...

My only comment is that vague statements like "commits an unforgivable sin against her" kind of grate at me. Why can't you just say what happened?

is that just me?

good luck author, otherwise I think the story sounds interesting.

born_liar said...

The vagueness of the "unforgiveable sin" line bothered me, too. Otherwise, I liked the query and I would probably read the book.

HawkOwl said...

I'd definitely look at sample chapters and synopsis for this and hope it's good. It could really go either way.

BJ Nemeth said...

I'm confused about the timeline in the book. Is this the whole story, or just the setup?

It sounds like the story starts when she's sent to live with relatives. But does the unforgivable sin happen right away, or after a few chapters?

The focus of the book is further blurred when her marriage and two kids are glossed over. Do you just skip ahead with something like "Three years later ..."?

Ultimately, I'd like to know if this is an epic (thoroughly covering key periods of her life in detail), or if most of this backstory, leading to her current situation as a wife with two kids, and key decisions to face?

I'm definitely not in your target demographic, but from a storyteller's perspective, I'm not sure what kind of story you're selling yet.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Oh, and the unnamed "unforgivable sin" annoyed me as well. I assumed it was sexual abuse. If it's more severe than that and you'd rather not describe it out of context, then you might say "an unforgivable sin more severe than incest" or something like that. If it is sexual abuse (or something less severe), just tell us what it is.

General Rule: If it's not a mystery in the book, it shouldn't be a mystery in the query/synopsis.