Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Guess the Plot
The Opposite of Bob
1. Bob is a pimply, poor-mouthed nerd, but when Satan comes calling, Bob sells his soul in order to become his opposite in every way. When his silver-tongued opposite brings the world to the brink of destruction, can Bob overcome laws of physics to save humanity . . . and the only girl who liked him as a nerd?
2. Everything goes wrong for Bob, from getting crapped on by geese to getting attacked by a rickshaw driver to losing his pants. Ultimately Bob decides he must take control of his life or he will never find happiness. So he packs up his belongings and moves to Cleveland.
3. Bob Smith vows to change everything. Not just a little, but a lot: do the opposite. He changes his name to Varthurthra, gets a new religion, starts recycling, sells the house and divorces Nancy, moves onto a sailboat with two parrots, Ted and Todd, and embarks for the Falkland Islands.
4. For the last three months, whoever sat across from Bob Starking at the Senior Center's weekly Pinochle Night died within a week of natural causes. When Charlotte is scheduled to be the next one to sit opposite "The Card-game Kevorkian," can she find a way to change Bob's luck?
5. Wendy goes to work as usual on Monday morning but where is her boss, Bob White Cloud? He had a little accident in the top secret anti-matter booth in the basement. Can she bring him back? Or is it more like time to take over the world?
6. The deranged Dr. Stippleton has created a lurching anti-Bob spy robot to replace Bob, the lowlife scumbag who stole the heart of show-stopping dancer Teresa Underworld. The mad doctor stands poised in the alley, ready to make the switch. But Secret Agent Ted Rugovich watches with binoculars, mafia hit man Bruno Villi waits around the corner, and Teresa removes her stage makeup, wondering if it's time to reveal she's really -- a vampire.
Dear Mr. Agent,
Does God play favorites? Are some people blessed and others magnets for misfortune?
The main character in my comic noir novel, Bob, believes so. The Opposite of Bob takes the down-on-his-luck accountant on a roller coaster ride of mishaps, adventure, self-discovery, and love. In the end, Bob escapes his past and embraces a bright future.
I chose to query you because in an interview with The Writer you said, “The one thing that gets me every time is a great black comedy… I’ll read anything involving a road trip.” And, as it happens, my comic noir novel [now] involves the main character making two epic journeys to find what he has lost: himself.
I believe my novel will appeal to fans of Garrison Keillor and Richard Russo. Although I wrote this novel to entertain readers, I believe it also conveys a message of hope. If Bob can overcome his problems, anyone can. [Anything a fictional character can do, any real person can do too.]
I have traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. [If the book is set in these places, say so.] I am passionate about ethnic cuisine and music. I speak five languages and have a Master’s degree in English. I am currently teaching English at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain, the U.A.E.
Thank you for your time and consideration. Please find my novel’s synopsis and sample chapter below. May I send you The Opposite of Bob?
The Opposite of Bob
Comic Noir Novel of 95,000 words
Middle-aged man encounters surreal mishaps until he stops blaming others for his troubles and takes control of his life.
Bob Seidenbusch still puts flowers by his ex-wife Caroline’s photo on her birthday, though she left him fifteen years ago to find herself in India. [Going to India to try to find someone--even yourself--can take at least fifteen years. The place is crawling with people. It would be like going to a convention of gay black interior decorators and searching for a Republican.] He hasn’t been on a date since Clinton was in office. The tiny house he lives in is a cave, his car is a rust-bucket, and he is balding and twenty-pounds overweight. [A list within a list. Impressive. But can you do a list within a list within a list?] He has not been promoted in eighteen years. The highpoint of his week is the meatloaf special at a local greasy spoon and the chance to talk to waitress/classical pianist, Mercury Jones. His family, his best friend, Smitty, and Lamentation, the grey cat he feeds, are all disappointed with him. Bob wonders if God is out to get him; even his petitions to the Almighty are answered with form letters.
The Divine Creator regrets that the volume of correspondence He receives leaves Him unable to respond individually to all inquiries. Hey, I'm just three people, I can't be everywhere at once. Know ye that we readeth all supplications and implorations and consider them carefully.
In the worst twenty-four hours of his life, Bob is passed over for promotion again, his dumpster explodes showering him with liquid refuse, and a flock of Southbound geese rain feces upon him. Fed up, he escapes to his father’s cabin only to find it has burned down. In the next three days, his luck goes from bad to cataclysmic: [So that was only the worst twenty-four hours of his life so far.] he is shot by deer hunters, his car dies, he is drugged by weirdoes, he is assaulted by a minister, he is involved in a car accident, he is stranded at a bus station, and he catches a ride with a cursed trucker who crashes into a herd of deer. [We get it, we get it. He's going through a rough period. No need to list every little thing. I mean, who hasn't had a car die on them, or been assaulted by a minister?] [The next day Bob's life goes from cataclysmic to catastrophic as he loses his remote control, gets a paper cut, spills mustard on his favorite t-shirt, gets stuck in traffic, and plunges off a cliff to his death.]
Happy to be alive and resolved to better his life, Bob returns to Minneapolis. [Not a good start.] Things look up, when he, with prodding from Smitty, asks Mercury out. Just as their relationship blossoms, she receives a job offer in Cleveland and Caroline contacts him for the first time in ten years. Torn between the two women, he decides to travel to India and see Caroline, costing him his job and jeopardizing his romance with Mercury. [Jeopardizing? If you ditch your sweetie to visit your ex-wife whom you haven't seen in fifteen years, in India, it's over. Believe me, it's over.]
Bob’s weeklong journey to the Subcontinent is disastrous. The airline loses his luggage and denies his existence. He meets Sundeep: driver, tour guide, legal and cultural advisor, and friend. With his help and lots of cash, Bob sees many of India’s tarnished wonders and survives being arrested for killing a prostitute, [You're allowed to kill prostitutes in India. It's expected.] catching Delhi Belly, losing his pants in a crowded bazaar, and being attacked by an auto-rickshaw driver with a cricket bat. His rendezvous with Caroline never materializes. After a mental “falldown,” he consults an enlightened Swami who tells him, “It’s all your fault.” He leaves India angry, tired, broke, and confused. [An entire list of layered lists. We have the overall list of Subcontinent disasters, which includes lost luggage, failure to meet Caroline, Swami's incisive analysis. Layered in there we have the list of Sundeep's roles. Presumably it's Sundeep's role of tour guide that leads to the list of amusing incidents (loss of pants, Delhi Belly, rickshaw, murder of prostitute), and we close with a list describing Bob's situation upon leaving India.]
In a final twist, Bob runs into Caroline in the Dubai International Airport to discover that she wants him back. [They say if you hang around the Dubai airport long enough, you'll eventually see someone you know. Though not necessarily your ex-wife.] But, he no longer wants her. After mumbling a half-hearted promise to keep in touch, he boards the plane that leads him back to where his journey began. When he arrives home, Bob has to choose between a promotion from his former employer and an uncertain future in Cleveland with Mercury. He chooses Mercury, [but thanks to a clerical error, he ends up on the planet Mercury; Bob just can't get a break.] packs up his cat and belongings, and drives off to meet his destiny.
Obviously you missed the post where we declared one list per query, three items per list. You want to give the impression that the book is funny, so list the geese, the dumpster, and the rickshaw driver. Then get to the important stuff. If you wanted to give the impression it was tragic, you could list the meat loaf, the prostitute, and missing the Caroline connection. Then get to the important stuff. The agent is being exposed to your writing for the first time. She would rather see your ability to elaborate on two or three important ideas than to list twenty-five tangential events.
The query could easily give the impression the book is a series of unfortunate events, with little in the way of character development.
So the "two epic journeys" Bob takes to find himself are to India and Cleveland?
Not sure I'd call his experiences a roller coaster ride, unless I'm going to discuss its ups and downs. Also, not sure about the term "comic noir." Though you seem to mean it as a translation of black comedy, my research of the term (which consists entirely of Google) brings up graphic novels of dark detective stories.
This is probably going to remind people of the Seinfeld's in which George does the opposite of everything, in which Kramer burns down George's fiancee's father's cabin, in which they all go to India, in which Kramer starts a rickshaw business, in which Jerry gets away with murdering a prostitute.
The cover letter was of little value. I'd dump most of it and condense the synopsis into something that'll fit on one page.