Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Face-Lift 761


Guess the Plot

The Eraser

1. Has Pencil Man finally met his match in The Sharpener? Or will his new girlfriend turn out to be someone who can make all his mistakes disappear?

2. A bitter story of rejection and disappointment from inside the pencil case when little Timmy starts writing in ink.

3. Jason has his heart set on an NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but when no team drafts him it looks like he'll be selling used cars. Then a professional wrestling promoter spots him and offers him a contract to wrestle as . . . The Eraser.

4. Nina struggles to teach her 4th grade students to love writing but her arch nemesis, The Eraser, destroys their papers with smudge marks and tears. The final, epic showdown comes during the state achievement tests.

5. It starts when Freddie throws his lucky eraser at Magda. She ducks, the eraser hits Mrs. Pomerantz, and Freddie gets sent to the principal's office. So begins a long streak of misfortune that will end only if Freddie, through keen detective work, is able to recover . . . The Eraser.

6. High school student Clara falls for her classmate Edgar, but romance takes a back seat when Clara dredges up repressed memories of when she was three years old: going to the park with her mommy; playing horsie with her daddy; and the day her parents were kidnapped by a brutal Chilean police torture squad charged with erasing all opponents of the Pinochet dictatorship and all evidence of its massive human rights violations.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Pretty, popular [, punctual] and privileged, fifteen-year-old Clara Vargas Leighton is the picture of young, aristocratic, propriety in Chile during the 1980s. [Remove "young, aristocratic" so the "p" alliteration is continued: the picture of propriety in President Pinochet's . . . ] [In fact, why not change the country to Peru and change Clara's name to Pepper Papanicolaou?]

But Clara was born with a questioning nature that defies the authoritarian traditions of her adoptive parents and of Chilean society during [under?] Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Coupled with [Haunted by? Troubled by?] traumatic, reoccurring memories of her early childhood, she embarks on an investigative journey. Her classmate Edwin, the black sheep son of one of Chile’s most prominent families, serves as her guide. Clara and Edwin grow closer to each other as they explore the world outside their exclusive enclave of Santiago’s Vitacura neighborhood. Clara’s hunger for the truth about her country is satiated as she hears too many stories of police brutality and crippling poverty, only a few of the many terrible side effects produced by the dictatorship, unknown to her until now. [I don't think "satiated" is the best word, and "side-effects" doesn't seem strong enough. How about: As Clara seeks the truth about her country, she hears too many stories of police brutality and crippling poverty.]

Clara pieces together her foggy memories with her newfound macabre knowledge. [I tend to think of "macabre" as referring to supernatural horrors. In any case, it's not the knowledge that's macabre.] She concludes that her biological parents did not die in a car accident, like [as] her adoptive parents tell [told] her. Instead, they were both left-wing opponents of the dictatorship who disappeared when Clara was three years old. [That's a pretty elaborate conclusion to reach from a foggy memory.]

Inspired by her latest discovery, Clara juggles her detective work with the mind-numbing obligations of her starchy, Catholic high school. She attempts to learn the definitive fate of her parents and how exactly she got into the hands of a colonel and his socialite wife. As Clara investigates further, she grows increasingly sickened by her patrician surroundings and their indifference to and not so tacit support for the horrors committed by the dictatorship.

THE ERASER is a 74,000 word novel for a mature young adult audience.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Fifteen-year-old Clara Vargas Leighton is the picture of young, aristocratic propriety in Chile during the 1980s. But Clara was born with a questioning nature that defies the authoritarian traditions of her adoptive parents and of Chilean society under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Puzzled by traumatic memories of her early childhood, she embarks on an investigative journey.

Exploring the world outside her exclusive Santiago neighborhood, Clara hears stories of police brutality, torture and unexplained disappearances. Soon her foggy memories crystallize. She realizes that her biological parents did not die in a car accident as her adoptive parents told her; they were kidnapped.

As Clara tries to learn the definitive fate of her parents and how exactly she got into the hands of a colonel and his socialite wife, she grows increasingly sickened by her patrician surroundings and by her adoptive parents' indifference to the horrors committed by the dictatorship.

THE ERASER is a 74,000 word novel for a mature young adult audience.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

That's shorter, but it's mostly the same info in the same voice. Edwin is obviously important in the book, but not so much in the query. Same with juggling her school obligations.There's still room for a sentence or two telling us what eventually happens. Does she run away? Lead a coup? Devote her life to helping the poor?

There's no need to use complex vocabulary; simple and clear will get you where you're going without potholes.

8 comments:

Matthew said...

Sounds like something I would read after the kinks are worked out.

Steve Wright said...

Is it just me, or does anyone else think Edwin doesn't sound a very Chilean sort of name? I mean, it's about as Anglo-Saxon as you can get... well, short of Beowulf, I suppose.

Joanna Hoyt said...

I'd read it. I liked both versions of the query, the shorter one better.
The only thing that bothers me is that I'm not getting a sense of whether there's anything besides the comforts of privilege binding her to her adoptive parents and the world she seems poised to leave. Some more sense of her character, and theirs, would be welcome. As far as plot goes, this one strikes me as hard to beat.

_*rachel*_ said...

This feels like it's going to be a very preachy novel. If you use terms like "patrician surroundings" and "macabre knowledge" in the novel, take a look at why you wrote it. Which is more important to you, the story or the message? If it's the latter, you might want to rework the novel before you send it out.

Simplify. Lose some of the more convoluted sentences, long words, and information about Chilean society. Give us just enough to know Clara's background, the world she's in, and the world she finds. Then tell us in more detail about her (mis)adventures with Edwin.

I can deal with books that are heavy on the message--after all, my favorite author is C.S. Lewis--but I don't like books that stress the message more than the story. It feels either like reading nonfiction or like getting punched by someone I thought was a friend.

Joe G said...

I was fine with the vocabulary, but that's because this query immediately evoked things for me. It's sort of a cross between Junot Diaz's Oscar Wao and the fiction of Roberto Bolano, both heralded recent authors whose work deals with the cross between politics, cruel regimes, and art/society. It's a very Latin American story you have here, about a young girl who lives a nice life that is facilitated by her school's compliance with the cruel government, jumping around in time to tell a complex story.

The one thing I'd say is that it sounds like an introspective novel. The "action" story is set in the past with a predetermined outcome, while the actual story is more about how the main character feels about things and the conclusions she reaches. This is fine, but hard to do. If your story ISN'T that you might want to convey in the query that more happens to her than uncovering the motives behind her parents' disappearance by the government and her feeling things about this new information.

Also, it's always more exciting for a character to have to ACTUALLY uncover information via talking to people, letters, searching for clues, than just remembering on her own. It's not very dramatic. Instead of "her foggy memories crystallize" or whatever, say "she learns from such and such source..."

I would be interested in reading this on the basis that you evoked several of my favorite authors without even saying it,

_*rachel*_ said...

Sorry if I sounded nasty in my comment. Bear in mind that I'm not big on literary fiction, and this felt more literary than historical.

Tom said...

Edwin is fine as a Latino name. I knew a kid named Vladimir, and another named Nixon.

GutterBall said...

I so wanted it to be GTP#3. Two of my favorite things in the same tagline. *sigh*