Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Guess the Plot
Below the Thermocline
1. It came from the Deep, and now the northern city of Eureka is covered with orange slime. Where will it spew next? San Francisco? Monterey? LA? Only the monstrous Gastropod knows. Tanya Moonbeam, marine biologist, slings off her bikini to think in the hot tub. Only her ex -- scuba expert and bastard son of Jacques Cousteau, Bud Winkerstein -- can save California from this scourge. But where is he?
2. Thirty years ago Jeremy caused Arthur's death by drowning. Now some woman has published a novel Arthur wrote, and Jeremy is worried. Is she the reincarnation of Arthur? Or . . . did she discover Arthur's body, preserved in the cold depths below the thermocline, and re-animate him?
3. An obsessive compulsive writer, in his haste to have an evil blog editor review his query, submits relentlessly, over and over the same damn material, slightly changed, but sadly still lurking . . . below the thermocline.
4. When Judy Clamsworth asks Chad Perkins how he managed to crawl up from below the themocline, he knows their first date isn't going well. Can this romance be saved? Only his assistant, the winged pixie Amanda Trueheart, knows for sure.
5. For Fred's birthday, Janie bought him the new Thermocline recliner from La-Z-Boy. When Fred disappears, though, can homicide detective Zack Martinez identify the sticky, gooey pool of slime bubbling up from the carpet below the new chair?
6. When decades of relentless tourism threaten the fish stocks of Loch Ness, environmentalist Jock MacTavish strikes a deal with Nessie: he'll ferry the tourists to the middle of the lake, and Nessie can eat them instead.
Below the Thermocline (mainstream mystery-67,000 words)
How can young author Annie Logan prove she didn’t steal another writer’s work? Annie is promoting her third novel when she is accused of plagiarism. What she doesn’t know is that the work in question is actually her own—from a previous life. [That gives me an idea. I think I'll publish The Da Vinci Code, and put my own name on it. Then I'll claim I wrote it in a previous life and sue Dan Brown for plagiarizing it. Hell, in my previous lives I wrote Valley of the Dolls, Catch 22, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Bible. And I'm ready to start collecting my royalties.] Arthur Brensen, a once promising writer, drowned thirty years earlier, his work safeguarded by his younger brother, Jeremy. [Too many commas in that sentence. Put a period after "earlier."] [Also, you might put this information, in another form, after the first sentence of the next paragraph.]
Jeremy Brensen is Annie’s accuser. He sees an opportunity to establish a literary award in Arthur’s name using the money from a settlement against Annie’s publisher. But his strong feeling of responsibility to preserve Arthur’s work goes deeper than sibling love—Jeremy caused his brother’s death, a secret that has corroded his spirit, leaving him troubled, angry, and ashamed.
Annie suspects that Jeremy is delusional from his drinking, or [is] trying to scam her publisher, while Jeremy, in jeopardy of losing his professorship at SIU because of his drug and alcohol abuse, holds a strange fascination for Annie, his feelings caught between loathing and desire, made more confusing by the fact that he’s married. [Too many commas. Break into two sentences (eliminate "while".] [Not sure, but I think "Jeremy holds a fascination for Annie" means the opposite of what you're trying to say. Maybe "develops" a fascination, or "finds himself fascinated by . . . "]
Annie and Jeremy are both convinced the other is guilty of some deception, when a diary arrives in the mail from a woman who has read Annie’s latest novel. [Break that into two sentences.] The diary’s entries, while disturbing, shed new light on Arthur’s death, and new insight into Annie’s life.
My novella Turnback Creek won the 2006 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize and will be published by Texas Review Press in the summer of 2007. Short stories of mine have appeared or are forthcoming in such publications as Southwest Review, The Minnesota Review, The Baltimore Review, Roanoke Review, The Southeast Review, Flint Hills Review, Talking River, The Iconoclast, Pisgah Review, MoonShine Review and others. Thank you for your time and consideration. [Three or four titles would be plenty.]
In a large body of water the thermocline is the moment of sudden change. Above the thermocline life flourishes. Below, decay and frigid temperatures prevail—a harsh environment where only the most tenacious life survive. [Good of you to provide the definition, though for GTP purposes, I'd have been more interested in why it's the title.]
There's nothing wrong with combining ideas into one sentence, but only if the ideas belong together. In the cases I point out, better transition is needed if you want the ideas in one sentence. For instance, Arthur Brensen, a once promising writer, drowned thirty years earlier, and ever since, his work has been safeguarded by his younger brother, Jeremy works fine. As does Annie and Jeremy are each convinced the other is guilty of some deception--until a diary arrives in the mail from a woman who has read Annie’s latest novel.
In these cases, the meaning becomes more clear.
The story sounds interesting, and you've done a good job of condensing a complicated plot so that it's clear--once those minor problems are fixed.