Monday, March 15, 2010

Face-Lift 741


Guess the Plot

Beast of Burden

1. I work for Burden and Son Refrigeration Ltd., moving coolers all day. The "and Son" is almost funny. The son moves his coffee cup around his desk all day as he instructs us, the beasts, on what needs to go where. He is eighteen, I am nearly thirty. He dines on pickled eggs all day and blames his dog for his own farts.

2. Kat's new boyfriend carries a terrible burden: he's a werewolf. Kat has her own burden: a phobia of dogs. Their families hate each other. It's like Romeo and Juliet, only with werewolves.

3. Loki escaped Ragnarok through a technicality. When the Beast of Revelations shows up on his doorstep, he's determined to prevent the apocalypse by addicting the Beast to freedom.

4. Eddie Pringle, convicted of petty theft, faces a choice: six months in juvenile detention, or being a roadie for the next Rolling Stones tour. Hilarity ensues.

5. Morris's camel, Al, is his only companion as he faces off against marauding hordes, killer insects, desert heat and an irate ex-wife. As water runs low and supplies dwindle, will Morris have to eat his faithful friend, Al, his trusted . . . Beast of Burden?

6. A blind man receives a guide dog as a gift from one of his two sons. This leads to jealousy and fighting between the brothers, but when the dog leads his master into one precarious situation after another, the jealous son begins to question what the dog was really trained for.



Original Version

Dear Glorious, Omniscient Agent or Editor,

Ever since Kat Baset slapped popular jock, Malcolm Kennett, for grabbing her butt at a seventh grade dance she has been cast out and ridiculed as a loser. [Seventh grade is what, twelve years old? That seems a bit young for a school to have jocks. What sport do they play? Tag? Hide and seek?] Subject to name calling and various pranks from the “it crowd,” Kat just wants to scratch through her last year of high school and get the hell out of Dodge- otherwise known as Alpine Ridge, Colorado.

First day senior year: total disaster. Malcolm tosses Kat’s book bag into the boy’s [boys'] locker room just minutes before her first class starts. With a burst of courage and her nose plugged, Kat storms in the midst of sweaty socks and half-dressed jocks. She is taunted and teased by the usual suspects, but one boy comes to her rescue. Her hero is new kid in town, Remi Gere, the same sweet hunk with whom Kat happened to share the best day of summer vacation. The unexpected rematch ["Rematch" doesn't mean that. "Reconnection" might, but you don't really need a "re" word. "Appearance" or "arrival" would do.] with Remi catapults the two teens into a friendship and proves to be the needed distraction from Kat’s personal hell in the hallways of Alpine Ridge High.

While their relationship buds, Kat learns her new love interest bears a supernatural secret. Remi Gere is a werewolf. [How does she learn this? Surely she would never believe anyone who told her.] [When you're describing a book you've written, it's usually a mistake to wait until paragraph three to mention that one of your main characters is a werewolf. Suddenly it's a completely different book. In one book Remi beats Malcolm up after school, and in the other he rips Malcolm's throat out.] Head over heels for him, Kat wonders if she will be able to handle the heat and overcome her greatest fears- falling in love and her phobia of dogs. [I'm guessing she's afraid of dogs, not of her phobia of dogs?] [When you find out your boyfriend's a werewolf, is your first concern really going to be whether you can get over your fear of dogs?]

Knowing the burden of harboring such a secret, Kat opens up to Remi and shares a little mystic of her own. [I would say she shares a secret of her own, not a little mystic.] The amulet around Kat’s neck contains the powers of her personal beast, a mountain lion- the very thing Remi and his family of wolves hates. [In case anyone's interested, my personal beast is the proboscis monkey.]
[Needless to say, I'm highly annoyed that there are no were-proboscis monkey books or movies.]

As if being a teenager wasn’t difficult enough.

Toss out the iambic pentameter, poison and dagger and throw in the daily tortures of teenage humiliation and some Weres, BEAST OF BURDEN is a 64,000 word YA paranormal, akin to Romeo and Juliet. [Every book is akin to Romeo and Juliet if you're allowed to toss out a few things and throw in a few others.] [For instance, toss out the star-crossed lovers and the feuding families, and throw in a cannibalistic serial killer and a green female FBI agent, and The Silence of the Lambs is a thriller akin to Romeo and Juliet.] [Just for laughs, minions may submit their own "akin to R & J" examples as comments. One per customer, please.] It explores the journey of young love pitted against the adversity of prejudice [Prejudice against werewolves? This is the third book we've done in about a year that dealt with werewolf prejudice, the others being Hybreed Rising and Wolves and Walls. How come we don't have any books dealing with weredingo prejudice?] and long-harbored fears.

This is my first novel. I thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Can Kat turn into a mountain lion? If so, say so. If not, what does the amulet do for her?

It's the first day of school and the first class hasn't yet started, yet the locker room is full of sweaty half-dressed boys? Even if this school has athletic practices before school on the first day of school, the boys should be dressed and gone if their first classes start in a few minutes.

23 comments:

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Yes, EE, in seventh grade there *are* jocks, but why are we wasting a whole paragraph there? Unless it is to set up up for the "scratch" pun? (At least I hope that was intentional and answers EE's question about whether Kat (ha, ha) really does turn into a mountain lion! Just insert "long-time nemesis" or something into the 2nd graph along with a mention of the setting, and you can ditch the whole 1st graph to get us to the story faster. (Hopefully, you don't start the story in seventh grade, right?)

Nose plugged? Really?

And "storms in the midst of sweaty socks and half-dressed jocks." Really?

Does the relationship bud? Or bloom? Cliche either way.

Also, what are the rules for this world? If the amulet governs the shape-shifting, then Kat's magic is external. Does Remi also wear an amulet? If so, that might explain why the two kids don't smell the dog and cat on each other. Otherwise, I hope you explain this somewhere in the book. On the other hand, handled subtly, having the two of them recognize each other as weres on some level might explain away the seeming coincidence of their reunion. At least as it reads so far in the query, that seems a little pat.

Good luck with this!

Marissa Doyle said...

Number 6 was delightfully evil.

Hmm. Toss out Romeo and the monk and add in shoes and Bridget Jones's Diary is chick-lit akin to R&J?

Yes to everything EE said (not sure why she would have been ostracized for defending herself against what is for all intents sexual harassment. In my kids' middle school, she'd have no problems and the jock would get a suspension.) This query felt sort of inside-out--I think the author needs to lead with (or at least move up) the supernatural elements, otherwise they jar when you get to them because you've already built up a different picture of the story.

And watch your word use and narrative. "The journey of young love pitted against the adversity of prejudice and long-harbored fears" verges on incomprehensibility. Keep it clean and simple.

Good luck!!

150 said...

Oh yeah, there are seventh-grade jocks. There are jocks as early as second grade. They look a little funny standing beside fully-grown jocks but there's little doubt what they're going to become.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Take out the flowery language and epic love story, then add in some computers, guns, and a lot of "Whoas", and really The Matrix is a lot like Romeo + Juliet.

Author, I agree that the structure of the query needs work. Personally, I would recommend leading with the info that Kat can turn into a mountain lion and use that as your explanation why she's unpopular, i.e.: "High school is hell, especially when you've got a secret as big as Kat's."

But I really like the voice that comes through. I would want to read your book based on this.

Matthew said...

You might want to avoid cliche lines like "Get out of dodge" and "As if being a teenager wasn't difficult enough"

Maybe you could lead off with Kat's amulet powers instead of the werewolf guy. If you start off with a teen in love with a werewolf, people might write it off as a Twilight clone.

I won't lie. I was hoping for a story about oxen...I don't know why. I just like them, I guess.

pulp said...

Some agents don't care about language if they think the project will sell, and if they want to pre-edit your MS. Some agents care very much about language and will toss you out on your virtual ear for instances of illiteracy.

You've misused several words in this query. Your dictionary will be helpful to you.

word verification: gunbow. Overkill?

Anonymous said...

Does Kat's amulet allow her to become a mountain lion, or something? If not... "Hey, Remi, there's a bit of problem... we can't really be together because I have a necklace with this animal you don't really like on it. Sorry."

vkw said...

Add some ogres, a ring, short people take Romeo and Juliet out of Italy, put them in fantasy land. Add a few swords and shake not stir and thus the Lord of the Rings is Romeo and Juliet (Elf and Human love story) without teenage suicide and warring families. (the extended epic fantasy version)

Author - this query sounds a bit cliche. Is there something about your characters and/or your plot that makes it an unique Romeo and Juliet story? Play up what makes this story unique and special and different.

Also, I am not sure about the personality of your character but I know some teenagers would march right into the shower room and find the book bag all the while leering at the naked flesh.

Then they would be hailed as a hero.

Smelly boys do not overcome institionalized meldew.

Also, I don't believe a 7th grader would be osterized for life for slapping a jock that had it coming. Teenagers have memories that are 2.5 seconds - long ask any high school or junior high school teenager or parent.

She probably was never popular and never will be. Had nothing to with the slap.

Enough with the werewolves already, (I can't believe I said that), we need a good witch story or ghost story.

Why is her greatest fear falling in love? I am not sure dog and werewolf is synonyms. For example, just because I love dogs and have three of them, does not mean I am going to love a man that changes into a supernatural being at every full moon who can and has ripped out people's throats.

I would ditch the "afraid of dogs" and tell us why she's afraid of love instead.

Anonymous said...

If Kat can change into a mountain lion, she should devour Malcolm in that form. That takes care of that problem.

chelsea said...

I have no problem believing an unpopular girl gets ostracized for slapping a popular boy. He could've done much worse and the outcome would still be the same in a lot of cases.

However, I agree that we don't need that much information about him in the query. A single line or two will probably be sufficient. Maybe something to the effect of, "When Kat Baset slaps all-star quarterback (or whatever) Malcolm Kennett, the only boy who comes to her defense is sweet but strange Remi." Obviously my version could use some work, but it contains all the elements of your set-up in one sentence.

It sounds like you have the pieces for something really interesting here, and I'd definitely like to know what happens next.

150 said...

Also, I don't believe a 7th grader would be osterized for life for slapping a jock that had it coming.

*hysterical laughter*

Steve Wright said...

"Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"

Toss out all of the characters and the plot, throw in the searching light of Reason and the ever-elusive shifting essence of Meaning, and Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is a dissertation akin to Romeo and Juliet. (Go on, top that. I dare you. I double-dog dare you.)

Nice photo, EE. You been working out? You're looking good, man.

... Oh, right, the query. I think we do need to know, right up front, that this is a paranormal thing - as things stand, there's all this stuff about high school, and then it's "oh, by the way, did I mention my characters are werewolves and werecougars?" You need to deal that particular card face up.

The misused words are a bad sign - but catching things like that is why we put up queries on blogs like this... and, actually, once we're out of the high-school stuff, the stakes and the essential conflict of the story are laid out pretty neatly. I'm not getting any sense of the resolution, though - can a teenaged werewolf and a werecougar with a dog phobia find true happiness in the world of today? Or is it going to be a downer ending?

(As an aside, are American high schools really as bad as all these queries make out? I mean, I remember my own schooldays, and they weren't exactly fun - but these books make the upper grades sound like the court of the Medicis. Surely it can;t be all drama all the time... can it?)

Dave F. said...

At first I thought this was a teen angst story about dating and popularity. Then Richard Gere became a werewolf (sorry Remi Gere) and I though it was a story like TWILIGHT or those Teen Vampire shows on TV. That's still OK. Then all of a sudden Kitty Kat Basket became an anthropomorphic lion and I thought Furries but that has such a negative sexual connotation that I drew back from it. Then I remembered UNDERWORLD with the fights between Vampires and Lycans -- like I cared, yeah, uh-huh, woo-hoo!

There's a couple ways to go with this. First would bet to write the query with both as outcasts that find true love and then battle their parents. The second would be to cast the story as how Werewolves versus were-lions ended their centuries long war with the help of two kids falling in love. (The big question is puppies or kittens or both and is the couple registered at Macy's or Bloomingdales? And does happily-ever-after spell veterinary college and animal husbandry?)

There might be the third but I feel way too bad and guilty for picking on the poor author this way and having fun over a dish of spaghetti and a good glass of wine.

I think the query has to start something like:
When exceptional young teens with secret backgrounds, one a werewolf and the other a were-lion, discover each other the first day of Senior year, love blooms.
or perhaps,
The age long battle between were-lions and were-wolves comes to a climax when girl meets boy and falls in love.
or perhaps
Kat didn't believe in love at first sight until she met Remi but that was before she discovered he's a werewolf and she has to admit that she's a were-lion, his blood enemy sworn to kill all werewolfs.

Robin S. said...

I have a daughter who's a senior in high school.(And I had one before her, now in college overseas.) High school sucks. Most of the teachers suck. (A very few are amazing and wonderful.) Most of the kids are people you don't want to know later - which works out well, since you won't know them later, if you plan on moving on and having a life. It's a crap time. (And this is in one of the top 10 counties in the country, in terms of average household income.)

Anyway, author, I really like this line you wrote: Kat just wants to scratch through her last year of high school and get the hell out of Dodge- otherwise known as Alpine Ridge, Colorado.

You need to work on your query, apparently, but you've got a lot of good stuff in here as well, and YA is selling like hotcakes, so have at it, and best of luck!

Min Yin said...

I agree with 150.

Jeb said...

YA is indeed selling like - probably better than - hotcakes. When I judged the Crime Writers of Canada YA award 6-ish years ago, there were only 12 books nominated. This year there were over 30. It's a booming field, especially in the paranormals, although, with adolescent attention spans, that fad might be dust before any books bought now see print.

Anonymous said...

"Toss out the swords and long dramatic speeches, and then toss in a stubborn sailor and giant white whale and..."

I can't believe there weren't more of those.

As for the query: too many cliches as noted. I also had a big problem with the 7th grade slap that seemed well deserved branding her for life (5 years later???). If anything that girl would have been respected/feared or respected/thought cool. Outside of the YA film cliches, it shouldn't surprise anyone that not all jocks like each other...in fact some immensely dislike each other. For anyone the slap offended, there would have been a number that it would have endeared....c'mon, especially in 7th grade.

Then there was the "new boy" cliche and their amazing meeting during the summer. What's this Grease meets I was a teenage werewolf?

_*rachel*_ said...

Is it just me, or have we seen a lot of novels about middle school outcasts recently?

The 7th grade slap wouldn't doom her for all that long; she'd be a loner for her own reasons. Also, nobody has gym class on the first day of school--even the first week, sometimes. It could be different if, say, it's boys' swimming/track/whatever getting changed after pre-school practice; some sports (or at least marching band) start in the summer.

Is high school such a sea of drama and hormones? Yeah, probably. I can be pretty oblivious sometimes (I like to think of it as sensible), so I missed most of it.

ACP's comment about amulet vs. nature really stuck with me. That point may get passed over in the query, but it'll ring hollow in the full.

This query is a mixed bag: some good bits, some confusing. I like the Dodge bit, as well as the bit about scratching. Pay attention to the comments and send us your revision when it's done.

------
Take out the balcony. Keep the daggers, poison, torches, romance, poetry, dying for someone you love, and death bringing peace to warring families. Surprisingly enough, R&J has a lot in common with the Bible.

WV: ingsta: Grammar Gangsta

Angie said...

You guys are terrible, but I guess the author set him/herself up for saying it was akin to R&J.

Author said...

Revision:


Subject to name calling and various pranks from the “it crowd,” Kat Baset just wants to scratch through her last year of high school and get out of Dodge- otherwise known as Alpine Ridge, Colorado. But high school is hell, especially when you harbor a secret like Kat Baset's.

Around Kat’s neck is an amulet that conceals her inner beast- a mountain lion. Equipped with the power of tiger’s eye and her grandmother’s magic, no one- or no thing- will ever have to know that limp noodle Kat is a stealth fierce beast. She’s killed before, and with the help of her amulet, she hopes to never kill again.

Even when Kat is continuously pushed to her limits by popular jock, Malcolm Kennett, her killing instincts are kept in check. Kat’s restraint may come from within, or by chance her hippie grandma’s magic really does work. Or maybe Kat’s strength comes in the form of new found friend, Remi Gere, whom she finds is just the right distraction from her personal battles in the hallways of Alpine Ridge High.

Just when it seems Kat may survive senior year, and actually have one of those things other girls call boyfriends, she discovers Remi bears his own supernatural secret. Remi Gere is a werewolf. The irony: she’s afraid of canines, especially the wolf variety. The tragedy: her father was killed by a werewolf.

Oh, yes, there’s a centuries long feud between the species. So it comes as no surprise that grandma threw in a little extra masking magic to ensure Kat would never experience the pain of knowing when she was in the presence of those god forsaken beasts. And it’s no wonder grandma’s claws were out when Remi showed up on their doorstep to take Kat on their first date.

Now head over heels for Remi, Kat knows she will have to overcome her fears and go against everything her family believes in to find happiness. But if she decides to plunge into forbidden love, she will first have to make a giant leap of faith and reveal her secret to Remi.

BEAST OF BURDEN is a 64,000 word YA paranormal, a slice of hell called high school accompanied by the joys and pains of first love. And it just may explain why some people fight like cats and dogs.

This is my first novel. I thank you for your time and consideration.

Dave F. said...

That sounds so much better. I always seem to see too many words and I might reduce it to this because I think you lose some of the tension that you create. So think about this version:

Subject to name calling and various pranks from the “it crowd,” Kat Baset just wants to scratch through her last year of high school {...}. But high school is hell, especially when you harbor a secret {...}.

Around Kat’s neck is an amulet that conceals her inner beast- a mountain lion. {...} She’s killed before, and with the help of her amulet, she hopes to never kill again.

{...} Kat’s restraint {...} comes in the form of new found boyfriend, Remi Gere, whom she finds is just the right distraction from her personal battles in the hallways of Alpine Ridge High.

Just when it seems Kat may survive senior year, {...} she discovers Remi {...} Gere is a werewolf. {...} Her father was killed by a werewolf.

{...}

Now head over heels for Remi, Kat knows she will have to overcome her fears and go against everything her family believes in to find happiness. But if she decides to plunge into forbidden love, she will first have to make a giant leap of faith and reveal her secret to Remi.


And then the boilerplate stuff about the word count, genre and thanks.

I'd love to see a version where you open with the fights between cats and dogs because that lightens the tone. It's really sets up the entire story and it's a shame it comes at the end rather than the beginning. I Can't think of a non-cheesy way to open with that line about cats and dogs without looking silly.

Tom said...

Just a question, Kat's worst enemy is male, right? I sorta thought girls were usually other girl's worst enemies, their barbs cut deeper. Why would Malcolm bother? Is he secretly in love with her?

_*rachel*_ said...

Dave's version is a pretty drastic cut, but a pretty good one. I was going to try a less drastic one, but found I was cutting everything he was.

The great thing about this revision is it's good enough that a cutting is easy. Congrats!

The final thing I might change is making the dashes into em dashes.

Good luck!