Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Face-Lift 385


Guess the Plot

Shift

1. Performance artist Tanya Wickinish is thrilled to find an old typewriter to play as a musical instrument in her project for MOMA. But when she fixes the sticky shift key and types MM to test it, she frees the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, who insists they must solve a murder mystery.

2. Australian Christina Margolin is the world's only known weredingo, a fact she has kept hidden, until she involuntarily "Shifts" into dingo form in the presence of Special Agent Donovan Moreno – who himself is a Shifter– a werepussy.

3. When the Earth's magnetic poles shift, suddenly it's freezing at the equator and millions of people move to Antarctica and Siberia, where it's tropical. But there isn't enough food for everyone once the penguins have been eaten, so mankind teeters on the brink of World War III.

4. On a trip to Portland, Anne's car breaks down and she has to borrow her friend's Maserati, but she's always used cars with automatic transmission before, and her failure to shift correctly causes a wreck. Is this the worst day of her life or will the hunk who rear-ended her become her one true love?

5. Hot-blooded boiler mechanic Norm Leech leaves work every morning at seven A.M., just before steamy receptionist Gladys Palmo arrives at seven fifteen. They are fated to be together in a passionate eternal love, but it takes a serious time clock malfunction before they even meet. Will they ever find happiness? Or are they doomed to each always be on a different . . . Shift?

6. Minor celebrity socialite London Marriot knows it's only a dress. But every time she puts on that vintage Chanel shift, she gets an irresistible urge to wash her face, put on gloves and keep her knees together. She loves it, but boyfriend Justin has other plans for the . . . Shift.



Original Version

Attn. [Agent/Editor],

When the only known weredingo in the world is found out, her neighbor is endangered. [You had me at weredingo.] [But you lost me at neighbor. The threat should be to the entire community. No one is safe when a weredingo is on the prowl.]

The police want private investigator Christina Margolin to liaise with the International Supernatural Board, a.k.a. Internature. [Why? Since when do the police want a private investigator working one of their cases?] Chris's ability to Shift into a dingo is secret, until she involuntarily Shifts in the presence of Special Agent Donovan Moreno – who himself is a Shifter of the feline variety. [Is he a special agent of the police or Internature or the Cat Fanciers Association?] [Does the fact that one guy knows you're a weredingo make you a "known" weredingo? Or does Moreno blab it to the press?]

But when Chris finds out her neighbor is missing, she discovers the case links with Internature in a bad way. Paired with Moreno to investigate, Chris's loyalty to her live-in lover, Scot, [the world's only known werekangaroo,] wanes. It takes a Shifter to understand a Shifter, but to find a supernatural abductor Chris must revisit her past and explore the present. [Those sentences aren't connecting well, and are pretty vague anyway. How do they know the neighbor was abducted by a supernatural being? Tell us how the case links with Internature, rather than say "in a bad way." "Explore the present" tells me nothing. Any investigation of a missing person would involve exploring the present.]

Shift, complete at approximately 69,000 words, is an urban fantasy novel. Written under the penname of Tez Miller, it may appeal to readers of Kelley Armstrong's Bitten, Rachel Vincent's Stray, and Sparkle Hayter's Naked Brunch. The weredingo and Australian setting will interest international readers [(people who read while on planes flying between countries)] wanting a different kind of Shifter and paranormal location.

[Agent: I'm sick and tired of books about people turning into wolves. I'm looking for something fresh.
Author: I have a book about people turning into dingos.
Agent: Now you're talking my language.]

I have written columns and reviews for the ACHQ and The Northern Sound, both international websites [(websites read by people who surf the Internet while traveling between countries)]. Two of my short stories won second prize in the Eastern Regional Libraries Short Story Writing Competition (2000 and 2003), with a third receiving an honorable mention (2003). Another short story won the October Writing Challenge (2006), administrated by the international Otherworld Writing Group. [That's three "internationals" in four sentences, and while "international" sounds more impressive than "foreign," even more impressive would be "world-renowned," "universally recognized," or "exalted."] [On the other hand, you've used the word "weredingo" only twice; see if you can work it in again.]

A synopsis, partial or full manuscript will be sent at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

The transitions between sentences in the plot paragraphs are weak. You need to connect some ideas, not just list facts. This wouldn't sound much different if the sentences were rearranged.

Possibly the problem is that the events are in the wrong order. This order seems logical:

Neighbor disappears.
Private eye Chris investigates.
Chris discovers supernatural aspects.
Police ask her to infiltrate Internature.
Moreno discovers that Chris is a weredingo.
Dingodoll and Manxman have wild animal sex.
Neighbor saved from world's only known wereplatypus.

That may not be the actual order, but it seems unlikely the police would ask a private eye to look into anything if she didn't already have a personal interest in the case.

24 comments:

Bernita said...

"Manxman?"
~chokes~

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for an agent to sell pub rights in the USA, your book should appeal to readers in the USA. If you are pitching to an Australian agent, you need to be attractive to Australian readers. Etc. Any appeal the book might have to a market outside the agent's country of doing business would be of secondary interest. Weredingo paranormal romance mystery kind of sounds like a niche market to me.

Also, you don't seem very savvy about what a private investigator is.

Dave said...

James Bond forever claimed my psyche when he dealt with Pussy Galore. If I had to be a were-anything-feline, I think panther-man or cougar-boy would do.

Doug Adams uses "worthless as a dingo's kidneys" to good effect.

I guess the point is, get over the "dingo" fixation. Canis lupus dingo is a dog. So the heroine is associated wtih dogs and the hero is associated with cats. Interesting switch.

This is a murder mystery / romance / paranormal story. That's confusing. You have to decide what it is. Either Christina Margolin has to solve a muder by paranormal forces that threaten the warp and woof of society. [ARGH! that PUN!]
or Christina, a shapeshifter finds her true love in Donovan as they work together to solve the murder of her neighbor. they live happily ever with mixed breed offspring.
or Shapeshifter Christine discovers a mellow yellow plot to destroy society and along with Donovan the hurdy gurdy man. Together they journey to Atlantis and save the world from the season of the witch.

Joking aside, you need to condense your plot into an exciting one or two sentences. That will focus your query letter.

150 said...

Do they call the regular humans "shiftless?"

Anonymous said...

Mink-boi is the gay version of Manx-man

ME said...

Dave! Superman and Green Lantern got nothing on you. Couldn't manage to work in jumpin Juniper named Jennifer into that,eh?

jjdebenedictis said...

Neighbor saved from world's only known wereplatypus.

Ow. Tea up the nose. Ow.

December/Stacia said...

Actully, Dave, murder mystery/romance/paranormal stories are pretty common these days.

We need more here about what's at stake, and what happens. What is so sinister about Internature? What's their evil plan? What happens if the mystery isn't solved?

writtenwyrdd said...

I have to say that just because a book is set in Australia doesn't mean it won't sell in the US. A 4-book paranormal romance series just came out this past year, and it was about werecritters and vampires in Australia. (Can't think of the titles offhand; but if someone really cares I can look them up tonight.)

I wouldn't have been too interested in this idea, based on the letter, because it's a bit schizophrenic. But I think that if you 1) clarify the genre (see Dave's to-the-point comments) and 2) give us a clear main plot to focus on (the mystery or the love story, not both) it will work for you much better.

I liked the cat vs dog dynamic, because you have a built in tension we all will get without your having to expound on it. I think that leads more to the romantic plot, however; so if you play up that dynamic in the letter, it might mean you are selling the book as a romance.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. I thought everyone was a criminal in Australia? Like, you can solve a crime just by nodding 'morning' to your neighbor and saying, "It was you!" Chances are you'd be right, right?

the antipodean said...

OK, now if the Manxman dumped Dingodoll and went on to have several times a night rampant, semi-domesticated animal sex with the Wereplatypus... Would it then be a fuck-filled platypus?

ello said...

Oh 150! You always crack me up!

So did a dingo eat the neighbor? Reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld, "a dingo ate your baby..."

I have to be honest, I wasn't sure if this was a real query letter or a hoax. Was confused by your query from the get go. Not sure what the first sentence means. I think you are trying to be a little too mysterious. A little more plot please.

DIdn't really like the paragraph on who it would appeal to, felt sort of forced, do you really need that? I'm not so into your protagonist, seems a little too shifty... HAAAA - I know - bad pun. But seriously, you use the word shift or shifter 7 times in this letter. It kind of was distracting. But your writing creds were quite impressive.

Author said...

Attn. [Agent/Editor],

Who wants to work with a clich馘 paranormal crime-fighting team? Not the only weredingo in the world葉his bitch would rather eat a baby.

The overworked police don't want to deal with supernatural nutcases, so they refer the International Supernatural Board ( a.k.a. Internature) onto private investigator Christina Margolin. Chris's weredingo status has never been known, until she involuntarily shape-shifts in the presence of Internature's Special Agent Donovan Moreno, an unexpected werecat.

Finding non-dingo animal hairs in Chris's yard is suspicious enough. But is it just coincidental that her neighbor disappears, leaving behind a newspaper scrap featuring an Internature ad? Only the ad was not placed by officials, so Chris and Moreno team up to track down Chris's neighbor and identify the Internature wannabe.

Shift, complete at approximately 69,000 words, is a suburban fantasy novel. Written under the penname of Tez Miller, it may appeal to readers of Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Vincent, and Sparkle Hayter. The weredingo will interest readers wanting a different kind of Shifter.

I have written columns and reviews for the websites ACHQ and The Northern Sound. Two of my short stories won second prize in the Eastern Regional Libraries Short Story Writing Competition (2000 and 2003), with a third receiving an honorable mention (2003). Another short story won the October Writing Challenge (2006), administrated by the Otherworld Writing Group.

A synopsis, partial or full manuscript will be sent at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Anonymous said...

Smarter people than I will be able to pinpoint any specific problems. For me, something still falls flat here. Tone? Content? The overarching impression I get from reading this query is that you're pitching a satire/comedy a la Pratchett or Adams, not a serious fantasy. It almost strikes me as a blurb for a low budget TV series....

Sorry can't be helpful with how to sharpen it -- I'll leave that to the experts.

writtenwyrdd said...

This is much better, but you omit telling us what is at stake. This research has to matter to these characters, so let us know WHY it matters. That is the thing that will make people want to know more, IMO.

Dave said...

There's some funky font stuff happening here:

Who wants to work with a clich馘 paranormal crime-fighting team? Not the only weredingo in the world葉his bitch would rather eat a baby.

(that's like a taking a two-by to the forehead, ain't no way you can ignore that opening line.)
oh please insert a name here, as in baby seal, baby mole, baby hamster or something other than just BABY because I'm thinking of cute, little Suzy at 2 months and 10 pounds, SHUDDER!)


Delete - overworked, supernatural, unexpected

The {overworked} police don't want to deal with {supernatural} nutcases, so they refer the CRIME to the International Supernatural Board ( a.k.a. Internature) onto private investigator Christina Margolin. Chris's weredingo status has never been known, until she involuntarily shape-shifts in the presence of Internature's Special Agent Donovan Moreno, an {unexpected} werecat.

Finding non-dingo animal hairs in Chris's yard is suspicious enough. {But is it just coincidental that} WHEN her neighbor disappears, leaving behind a newspaper scrap featuring an Internature ad; {? Only the ad was} AN AD not placed by officials, {so} Chris and Moreno team up to track down {Chris's} THE neighbor and identify the Internature wannabe. (Imposter, pretender, fake, might be a stronger word than wannabee)

phoenix said...

I'm sorry. Maybe I'm tired, but I'm just not getting it at all. Not the tone or the story. Is the first paragraph supposed to be funny or sick? I'm supposed to think about that Meryl Streep movie based on the mother who claimed her baby was carried off by a dingo, right? Humor is very personal, and I personally didn't find the reference funny.

I really like the name "Internature," but I'm clueless why the police refer them to Chris and what consequence revealing her were status has and how her outing affects anything.

Who finds animal hairs in Chris' yard, and why was anyone looking? Is she a suspect of some sort? What did I miss? Since this bit comes right after the werecat revelation, I initially thought it must be Donovan's hair and that he and Chris were, well, "tussling" in the front yard, but then who would care?

What is the ad the neighbor left? A want ad or a "need help, call us" ad? Or did someone else leave the newspaper scrap (I'm not clear)? On purpose? If not, that's rather convenient, isn't it?

The only thing I took away from my reading is that Chris is a weredingo, her neighbor is missing, and someone in Internature is a werecat. That's it. I have no idea how any of these things tie together or what's happening. Like I said, maybe I'm tired and just not seeing something obvious. Sorry. I LIKE paranormals. And I want to like this. I'm just not getting it at all.

sylvia said...

The first sentence lost me ... I dunno, who? Then I get a negative answer and the confusing information that there is only one weredingo in the world with no context. Immediately followed by what I think is a repeat but I had to circle round myself: the police don't want to either, so they give the job to Chris ... a weredingo. Er, but there's only one weredingo .... OH, so it's Chris who would rather eat a baby, right. Um, so what's the deal with the fur?

I desperately want to be drawn into this but I think I need more basic information about what is happening.

In your new version, I never understand what the crime is, nor why Chris is trying to solve it instead of eating babies. The advert seems to be important, but it isn't from an agency that I don't know and I haven't a clue what it says.

Xenith said...

>Attn. [Agent/Editor],

Cutesy.

>Who wants to work with a clich馘 paranormal crime-
>fighting team? Not the only weredingo in the world葉his
>bitch would rather eat a baby.

Tacky, at best.

>Finding non-dingo animal hairs in Chris's yard is
>suspicious enough.

Uh oh. I have non-dingo animal hairs in my yard.

I was going to take a stab at rewriting this but I can't work out what is happening. Do CM & DM team up to investigate the missing neighbour before her dingoness is revealed? Is that the event that causes the overworked police to refer ISB to CM? If not, these's probably a bit of plot you need to mention.

How about just saying what happens, and see if that works?

ello said...

I thought this was better than your first one, but your first paragraph is still not working for you. Alot of agents have said to try not to start out with a question so I would scratch that. I liked your previous first paragraph better, although it was also a little confusing. IF you can just nail your first paragraph, and give us a little more plot detail, I think your query would be really interesting.

Author said...

A cliché paranormal crime-fighting team is not necessarily the ideal workplace for the only weredingo in the world.

The police don't want to deal with nutcases, so they refer the International Supernatural Board (a.k.a. Internature) onto private investigator Christina Margolin. Chris's weredingo status has never been known, until she involuntarily shape-shifts in the presence of Internature's Special Agent Donovan Moreno, a werecat.

Finding non-dingo animal hairs in Chris's yard is suspicious enough. But then her neighbor disappears, leaving behind an Internature ad - one not placed by officials. So a renegade imposter - a Shifter - is holding an innocent hostage for reasons only the Shifter knows. But to capture the Shifter, Chris must become bait.

Evil Editor said...

It's still not clear enough for me. Does Internature go to the police asking them to investigate something, and the police pass it off to the PI? Or are the police investigating Internature, but pass it off because they decide they're nutcases?

This may not be your plot, but it maintains a story line:

When the International Supernatural Board (a.k.a. Internature) demand that the police investigate the possible existence of a weredingo, the police don't want to deal with nutcases, so they refer Internature to private investigator Christina Margolin, not realizing that she's the weredingo. Chris starts by questioning Internature's Special Agent Donovan Moreno . . . not realizing that he's actually a werecat.

(New title suggestion: The Truth About Werecats and Weredingos)

The two fight like cats and dogs, until Chris's neighbor disappears. Now they must work together to find a renegade Shifter and free its hostage. With Chris acting as bait, they lure the Shifter etc. etc.


You have seven sentences. I think you should go for ten, and not by adding new stuff, but by developing what you already have to make it more clear.

writtenwyrdd said...

The wording is still awkward and you do not tell us what is at stake nor where you are heading with the plot.

phoenix said...

I'm going to step through the query from start to end, noting where I had questions or issues.

A cliché paranormal crime-fighting team

Not sure what this is but do you really want to lead off with something being cliche in your query? Is the team made up of paranormals or do they fight paranormal crimes? If the former, it seems a weredingo would indeed find it an ideal workplace,so I'm already scratching my head reading this.

EE's dealt well with the first sentence of your 2nd 'graph.

If Internature is not the ideal workplace for a weredingo, is it the ideal place for a werecat? And I'm still not getting the consequences of her shifting. Internature now knows she's a weredingo. So what?

Still not getting who finds non-dingo hair in Chris' yard or why anyone's looking. Why But then? Is that meant to imply something? Like Chris is under suspicion? Still not clear what the ad is, and are the "officials" who didn't place the ad Internature folk? Why are they "officials"?

Starting the next sentence with "So" makes me think there was some sort of cause and effect that I seem to have missed out on. The evidence of the ad leads to the conclusion a renegade imposter has kidnapped the neighbor? Huh?

What's a "renegade imposter"? Isn't that an oxymoron? You could have a "renegade team member," but if the imposter has never been an Internature member, how can they be renegade?

How does the team know the hostage is innocent? Is "innocent" necessary here, or don't use the term and keep 'em guessing?

Why lead off the last sentence with "But"? It doesn't seem to follow from anything.

Sorry. But I am still confused about the storyline here, and even confused about whether Chris and Don are an item.