Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Face-Lift 268


Guess the Plot

The Aleksandr Conspiracy

1. They made fun of him, with his overbite and learning disability, said he couldn't spell his own name. But Al is going to show the judges of the National Spelling Bee. First, though, he must fill out the application. A-L-E...K? Q? A-L-E-C-K..X?

2. When Dmitriy Ivanovich Aleksandr joins the FBI, he quickly uncovers a corporate conspiracy to take over the presidency. Will he expose the plot, or will the group known as Free Americans Revering Truth in Service convince the public he's a spying, gay-marriage supporting, global-warming-believing, tax-and-spend commie?

3. When hunky CIA agent Bronk Lewis disappears, it's up to his twin brother to take his place and thwart the Aleksandrs, a Cold War-era sleeper cell of terrorists planning to spill anarchy into the streets of America.

4. After the disaster that was his last movie, Colin Farrell sets out to change the title on every existing copy of the film. When Brad Pitt becomes suspicious, the 'Alexander' to 'Aleksandr' Conspiracy may be exposed--and if the movie didn't destroy Farrell's reputation, this revelation will.

5. EE Blog fanatics have always wondered why no continuations except those written by two prominent minions ever reach the desk of Evil Editor. Internet blog hacker Aleksandr "RIL" Thornton knows the reason but as far as she's concerned mum's the word.

6. Ninth grade English teacher Nola Webster is on a crusade--to halt the depredations IM-ing has wrought on standardized spelling. When hunky Russian Internet mogul Aleksandr reveals between shots of iced Stoli that undermining English is his first step toward world domination, will Nola turn him in? Or turn him on?


Original Version

Dear_______,

I came across your name while exploring __________. [I hate fill in the blank tests. Let's start over and make it multiple choice:

Dear Evil Editor,

1. I came across your name while exploring

a. an archaeological dig in Transylvania
b. an al Qaeda website
c. the depths of my soul
d. Charles Manson's MySpace page]
Since your successes and interests appear to be diverse and include complementary genres of commercial fiction, [You've lost me already. Whatever that was, get rid of it.] I thought you might like to review my novel, The ALEKSANDR CONSPIRACY, and consider representing me.

The ALEKSANDRS are a cold war era sleeper cell whose members have woven their way into key corporate and governmental positions. [Woven their way?

Terrorist: The plan is brilliant, Fearless Leader. I have but one question. How am I to attain my position of power in corporate America?

Leader: Weave your way in.]

[Wait a minute, did you say Cold War era? Like the 1950s? It was a brilliant plan they had, except for one thing. By the time the terrorists were finally ready to make their move, they were all using walkers, drooling, and watching Matlock reruns all day.]
Already exerting their influence on the supply of electricity and crude, the ALEKSANDRS are about to push shortages to the point where even the U.S. government becomes vulnerable to outside control. Pace Lewis, a State Department translator whose idea of excitement is a day sailing on the Potomac River, is drawn into the conspiracy by a single phone call. “In two days a meeting will take place. Your brother was to attend.

[2. What will the mysterious caller say next?

a. I'm asking you to take his place.
b. I want you to take his place.
c. I'd like you to take his place.
d. All of the above.]


I want . . . I’d like . . . I’m asking you to take his place. The fate of the free world hinges on this. [Yeah, yeah, but what's in it for me?] You see, [I guarantee that whoever made this phone call did not start this sentence with "You see . . . "] 247 kilograms of weapons grade plutonium—enough to blow something straight to hell—is about to fall into the hands of terrorists.” [Your mission, should you decide to accept it . . . ] The caller is the Deputy Director of the CIA and the motivation behind his odd appeal isn’t just patriotic: Pace’s twin brother Bronk, a decorated combat soldier now employed by the CIA, has disappeared. The Deputy Director contends the only way to find out what has happened to Bronk is for Pace to assume his brothers identity and attend the meeting.

Pace agrees, but from the moment he arrives in the Middle East, finds he is a marked man. Thrust into a dark, upside-down web of his own brothers making, [How does one determine whether a web is upside-down?] Lewis soon discovers that the terrorists are the least of his worries, and to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and learn what has happened to his brother, means becoming more and more like the conspirators themselves. Pitted against an opponent who will go to any length to succeed, Pace,

[3. Who will help Pace save the world?

a. a ravishingly beautiful FBI agent who once dated Pace. Or was it Bronk?
b. a team of trained dolphins

c. Tommy Lee Jones
d. No one, he's on his own.]



with the aid of a pulchritude FBI agent [You meant "pulchritudinous," but if you want the agent to continue reading, go with "attractive."] who happens to have Lewis ties in her past, races to stop the ALEKSANDR’S and prevent anarchy from spilling onto America’s streets.

The ALEKSANDR CONSPIRACY is my first novel, and though I have no formal literary credits, I am an active businessman whose articles have graced trade publications and whose editorials continue to find the print media. I am a voracious reader and in-between, have several other titles under varying states of construction. [Once I finish constructing the titles, I'll start working on the actual books.]

I’d be happy to send sample chapters or a complete copy of the manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

You haven't connected the Aleksandrs with the plutonium. It sounds like the Aleksandrs have a plan in place to bring down the U.S. economy. So are they involved in getting plutonium as well? This feels like two books: the Pace/Bronk/plutonium book, and the Aleksandrs book. Connect them.

I would expect someone at "the meeting" to be responsible for Bronk's disappearance, and to thus know Pace is not Bronk, and to kill him on the spot.

Apostrophe problems: "brothers" needs one (twice) and Aleksandrs doesn't.

4. Which of the following requires the greatest suspension of disbelief?

a. The government entrusts the fate of the free world to a lowly interpreter.
b. A Cold War-era sleeper cell awakens fifty years later.
c. After giving birth to twins, a woman decides to name them Pace and Bronk.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I fear the author's stiltedness as revealed in the style of prose upon which the query letter was constructed may well have woven itself into the manuscript as well.

Rashenbo said...

Hasn't this exact story already been done a couple of times (almost exactly - terrorists, twins...)

Oh wait... maybe it's more like that comedy with Jim Belushi and John Ritter... you know - the one where aliens are coming and they want a glass of water? Maybe the terrorists just need some water. Well, maybe with some fiber stirred in.

Dave said...

wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!
(That's the seven wait brothers and their two bastard cousins...)

247 kilograms of plutonium?

It is impossible for that much plutonium to exist in close proximity to itself. It's so radioactive, it will undergo fission and go critical. Once critical, the resulting radiation will kill anything within a mile or so. You can't even get the stuff near to itself without it going critical. And it does it in silence, no boom, no bang, just deadly radiation pouring through your body, destroying your internal organs in fractions of a second. If you see the cool blue glow, your the walking dead.

And 247 GRAMS of plutonium will not reach criticality, but it will kill.

This is a show stopper of impossiblity.

Dave said...

Frank Zappa (one of my idols) named his kids "Moon Unit" and "Dweezil."

What's wrong with Pace and Bronk?

blogless_troll said...

LOL rashenbo, I love that movie.

"They're gonna shoot at us, aren't they?"

"Probably, Bob. It's what they brought the guns for."

stick and move said...

What I find truly engaging is the unmentioned sub-plot, the Pace and Bronk's mother have cursed them with life-long illnesses by giving them the middle names, Maker and Itis, respectively. See if you can guess their sister Candy's middle name... And her curse...

Anonymous said...

What this story needs is an EVIL MUTANT ATTACK SQUIRREL OF DEATH! (See MS for explaination.)

-V95

Anonymous said...

...dave conifer here...

Wow, I guess I'm in the minority but I think this sounds really cool. Sounds like there might be a problem with the plutonium but Dave can straighten the author out.

I'd definitely read this.

Unfortunately, we're all going to Guantanomo Bay anyway after the NSA reads this thread, which includes:

a. an archaeological dig in Transylvania
b. an al Qaeda website
c. the depths of my soul
d. Charles Manson's MySpace page]

Author, I think the following paragraph has to go because it somehow sounds arrogant, naive and too humble all at the same time. Don't try to impress anybody with big words and cute phrases. The people in the world you're trying to get into always know bigger ones, and more importantly, how not to use them.

"The ALEKSANDR CONSPIRACY is my first novel, and though I have no formal literary credits, I am an active businessman whose articles have graced trade publications and whose editorials continue to find the print media. I am a voracious reader and in-between, have several other titles under varying states of construction."

Anonymous said...

LOL, Stick and Move! I didn't get it the first time I read it, that's hilarious!

...dave conifer

Anonymous said...

Author, read the first comment from anon 9:59. Very important for you!

Anonymous said...

I saw this exact plot on two different cartoon series': "Dexter's Lab" and also "Ed, Edd and Eddy".

Anonymous said...

Pace maker and Bronk Itis are uttering nonsense.

stick and move said...

Also, due to a spelling mishap on Candy's birth certificate, her curse isn't what mom intended, and she can now be seen performing at the Cheetah in Atlanta...

Phoenix said...

Author, anon 9:59 called your style "stilted". S/he was being generous. This query, as is, is going nowhere. Of course, EE and minion comments are all going to help you whip it into decent shape, right? And your actual mss is written in such magnetic, pulse-pounding style that readers won't care or even notice its lapses in credibility, right?

But, before you send your revised query off, PLEASE just nix the whole credentials paragraph. If your published articles and editorials sound anything like this query, then either they're being published for the "snicker factor" (sorry to be so blunt) or they're being heavily edited by an over-worked, under-paid corporate editor who has turned your work into readable prose that even you wouldn't recognize as being your own. A NY editor or agent won't be fooled...

BTW, LOVED the GTPs!

Anonymous said...

A classic critique. The multiple choice model worked really well!

acd said...

I was going to say what anonymous #1 said, but I wouldn't have been as funny.

247 kilograms of plutonium is like, three entire people made of plutonium. Does that much even exist?

There's also a lot in the query that marks you as amateur (which you admit that you are, but you don't need to broadcast). Name your nonfiction creds in one sharp sentence: "My nonfiction articles have appeared in A and B, and C has published my editorial "Why D Is the New E". That's all that should remain of your last paragraph.

In business conversation and communication there's a lot of boilerplate that's there for civility but doesn't mean anything. Agents and editors don't seem to have the time for that.

Include a word count.

blogless_troll said...

I agree with dave conifer. "I am an active businessman whose articles have graced trade publications" cured me of any desire to read this.

Of course, now that your query has graced EE's blog, you may want to add that to your résumé.

author said...

Keep the comments coming.

I'll look carefully at what anonymous 9:59 said.

Dave, you are right about the amount, and though you only need 10-20 kg for what the Aleksandrs intend to do, the rest has been divided and placed on the black market. I just left it out of the query.

stick and move, I never considered this. Would you find it funny to know the FBI dames name is Jazz?

Dave2, thanks for the kind words and advice.

Guess I have some work to do!

Theo Katz said...

How to make beauty sound unappealing? -- call it pulchritude. Is there an uglier Latin-based word, besides "puerperal"?

Author, give your thesaurus a rest.

Anonymous said...

Russian commies are no longer scary. You'd have to make this a comedy in order for it to work. The potential for hilarity is certainly built in, but the query sounds awful serious. You might be able to think of a modern motivation for your bad guys, or try setting it in the Nixon era.

Anonymous said...

"Please represent my book. After all, I wrote a letter to the editor last week. And that letter, because I instilled it with a keen sense of direction, easily found the print media. Also, my articles have shown the ability to grace pages. That takes a lot of writing ability. Finally, I'm good at constructing titles."

Anonymous said...

"Author, give your thesaurus a rest."

Yeah, save it for when Brenda Bradshaw posts more pictures.

Dave said...

I don't worry about the fallen Soviet Union because an author can use Chechnya and the Chechen rebels as the villians. Although, the TV show 24 beat you to the nuclear explosion. You can even write a secret Nazi gang as villians and make them scary and believable. Teh North Koreans are available, too.

It's not the bomb that worries authorities. It's spreading plutonium dioxide around the environment that really is scary. Plutonium is a bone-seeking metal and it is unstable. It is always decaying. Once you touch it, it tried to reach your bones and there it stays destroying your bone marrow.

And a real news item does give this some cedibility no matter how old the woven spy network is warped or how old thier woof, the rotten jackals...

Someone just used Polonium 210 (not even plutonium 239, yet) to poison the Russian Litvinenko. Look up the news stories and see just how much radioactivity they spread around trying to kill him.

stick and move said...

Author, Jazz? The pulchritoid is named Jazz? Wow. Did you pull these names from watching afternoon soap operas? The names we choose for our characters are very important, and if you want to be taken seriously, the names of your characters need to be somewhat believable. We all want our characters to be unique (well, most of the time) and memorable, but giving every one of them unlikely names isn't the way to do it. It sounds like you've written a thriller with some interesting plot elements, but don't shoot your characters in the feet by giving them unusual names that no one takes them seriously.

Dave said...

I had another thought about old plots. Actually, I have a migraine today and I'm kinda woozy with migraine pain. The words that popped into my aching head were: ."Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a ragtag, fugitive fleet, on a lonely quest, for a shining planet known as Earth."

That was the early version - silly, funny, insignificant AND YET - it was RECYCLED into an excellent dramatic series two years ago.

A cold war movel ... why not?

bnxlfcp

Anonymous said...

A sleeper cell of Chechen rebels or North Korean commies or modern Russian mafia types "weaving" itself into American corporations and hanging out for decades waiting to pull a plutonium stunt like this is even more unbelievable than the gang of aging Soviet communists. You need to match your bad guy mission/motivation with the tactics/strategy they use.

As far as I can tell there's so much real life spy vs spy stuff to read every day in the news, it's hard to compete with it in fiction. I think you must have something highly orginal and savvy or otherwise realistic and insightful or at least funny or else you're better off in some other genre.

Saipan Writer said...

Oh, EE, I love and will keep coming back forever. Your comments this time were amusing, but I'm so glad you saved the best for last.
"Which of the following requires the greatest suspension of disbelief?
...
c. After giving birth to twins, a woman decides to name them Pace and Bronk." LOL.

Author,
Yours sounds typical for the spy-thriller genre. Not bad, just not different enough or exciting enough to be a stand-out. I'd probably read it anyway, because I like this kind of story, but please pay attention to EE's comments and the others given here.

Good luck.

GutterBall said...

I wanted GTP#6. In fact, I just may hash a story out on that!

The second multiple choice absolutely slayed me. I'm in pieces on the floor here. Luckily, my fingers still work.

Pace and Bronk. Ouch. Maybe Brock, but where'd the N come from? However, this could be a perfectly legitimate name somewhere, so feel free to ignore the "ouch".

Stick and Move? Dear God, I just hurt myself laughing at that. Kudos to you.

Author, don't fret. There's always a place in the spy genre for another "I'm not a spy but my twin was" novel, so long as it's done well. Lots of times, excellent authors come across as stilted or even grammatically challenged in their queries because they're trying to hard. You might well have a knuckle-biter here, but we wouldn't know it just yet.

But you just need a little reworking. Anyone can guess that the Aleksandrs (did I spell that right? I wasn't looking at the actual query) took the ungodly amount of plutonium (Dave's right; you should really cut that down, even if it's split up and black marketed off), but from the query, you'd never guess. It all needs to connect somehow with just a hint of the drama within.

Easier said than done, I know, but give it another try. Maybe start with, "Pace Maker, a low-level interpreter, just got a phone call that changed his life: his twin brother is missing and so is a metric crapload of plutonium. This wouldn't be a problem if his brother weren't the storied Bronk Itis, CIA agent extraordinaire". Go from there (and axe the snark; sorry, it just sneaks in).

That's your set-up. That's your starting point. Bring up only what you need. I guarantee it will sound much less stilted and you'll probably even get the sense of that knuckle-biter aura I KNOW you've written into the novel.

Good luck!

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Okay, I'm going to stop posting so my photo doesn't show up anymore, or put up some cartoon picture instead.

Author, nothing more I can add that hasn't been said. Remember that you need the "voice" of your query to match the "voice" of the novel. It's very difficult to do, but worth the hard work to get it there. Your novel is action-packed, fast-paced - make your query the same way.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Please tell what's the joke with "stick and move" for those of us who are culturally challenged.

(a sub-minion)

blogless_troll said...

anon, "stick and move" is a boxing term referring to a boxer who stays or "sticks" in one place long enough to throw a punch then "moves" away fast enough to avoid a punch. Thus, stick and move throws his punches or "comments" and is long gone before the author ever knows what "hit him."

Anonymous said...

Sorry BB, that was me. I'll restrain myself from making obnoxious comments in the future.

Anonymous said...

I have this feeling that Pace Maker and Bronk Itis will be starring in many a GTP in the near future.

stick and move said...

Anon 9:49, gosh, I can only hope. Thanks for the kudos Gutterball.

Author, I hope you didn't find my comments too abrasive, there was actually a point in there. Please forgive me for having a little fun at your expense. The thing is, we all learn by participating in this blog. EE's comments are hilarious, but they are constructive at the same time. Sometimes the comments of the minions are funny and constructive, sometimes not. I submitted a query and a new beginning (under a different name, haha) and I took a beating but I put my pride on hold long enough to glean some very instructive information, and use it to become a better writer. I hope my smartass comments were taken in that light. Character names have to be considered. Some of the most memorable characters in literature have commonplace names, like Philip Marlowe, for instance. Could there be brothers named Pace and Bronk, and a FBI agent named Jazz? It's possible, but not likely. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. If someone were writing a novel on college football and named the quarterback of the Texas Longhorns Colt McCoy, I think most editors would probably say "Rethink it." Just my two cents worth. Keep the change.

author said...

Thanks for the feedback and laughs. Perhaps for the query some combination of the EE's Guess the Plot #3 and your suggestions will work and be better.

My pen is already at work.

Dhewco said...

Hate to be negative here, but isn't this really close to the plot of the Anthony Hopkins/Chris Rock movie Bad Company?

CR plays a brother of a CIA agent on the trail of terrorists with a nuke who is killed and CR is enticed to take his place. The similarities don't bode well for me.


David