Monday, September 26, 2011

Face-Lift 955


Guess the Plot

Quinn's Law

1. It's a long journey, especially by dogsled, and Quinn is running late as usual, but when he finally gets here, everybody had better jump for joy.

2. Always sterilize your equipment. Do no harm. And don't tell anyone their new doctor is a woman until it's too late to send you back East.

3. Using proven scientific methods to analyze the female, physics genius Albert Quinn publishes a paper explaining his third law: the bigger the hair, the smaller the brain. Outrage ensues.

4. After winning a national elementary-school essay contest, little Quinn gets to make up a new law of her very own. After she comes down with a traumatizing case of cooties, she demands boys be outlawed in the United States. Hilarity ensues.

5. Zebediah Quinn rules his ranch hands with a velvet glove. He has just one iron-clad law: hands off his lovely daughter, Virginia. But when a new ranch hand who comes to the farm has no hands, lost in a tragic combine accident, will Quinn's Law apply to the man's prehensile feet and toes?

6. Hubert Quinn is grubby, foul-mouthed and malodorous. Follow his career as he buys his way to the bench while representing the criminal who set rats free in his chambers and a fat Santa who got stuck up a chimney.

7. In 1887, Eustace Phillipe Quinn decides to go practice law in Dodge City. But kindly old Judge Hooper thinks that the fragile, effeminate Quinn is overmatched. Will he prove them wrong--and catch the eye of Sheriff John McClanahan too?

8. Arizona, 1885. The tough mining town of Burbage has claimed yet another sheriff. That's when Jonas Quinn, half-breed brother of the dead lawman rides into town, vengeance in his heart. Will he finally break Burbage--or will Burbage break him? Also, a Cheyenne medicine woman.

9. Quinn's mother is supposed to be getting rejuvenating treatments from a "doctor,' but the guy is actually draining her life force so he can live longer. But he doesn't know Quinn has special powers, and that she's willing to take the law into her own hands to rescue her mother. Also, a man with no face.

10. Robert Quinn is an outlaw, making a living by robbing banks and holding up tax collectors. But when Alamanno Gulch loses its sheriff and its deputy sheriff in the same week, he sees the chance to take over; unless the residents decide that they prefer their banks unrobbed.


Original Version

Dear Agent:

I recently completed a 60,000 word young adult horror novel, Quinn’s Law, for which I am seeking representation.

Quinn Sage is the only survivor of a crash that killed thirteen of her friends. [I always suspected it was dangerous to cram so many people into one of those clown cars.] She wanted to kill herself and join them but ended up in a psych ward instead. [Nothing gets you over suicidal impulses like being surrounded by other people who want to kill themselves.] When she’s finally sent home, she thinks things are getting back to normal. Until a man with no face starts stalking her. [If a man with no face is able to stalk you, you need to stop talking so much.] Quinn is terrified she’s having another breakdown. Nightmarish winged creatures scrabble at her windows at night, leaving deep claw marks in the concrete window ledge. [Yep. Another breakdown.]

When her mother, a Broadway actress, starts receiving rejuvenating treatments from a slick doctor, Quinn discovers that his great-grandfather was in the same business—until his patients were found drained of their fortunes and their health in a remote estate, insane, skeletal shadows of their former selves. As Quinn delves deeper, she realizes the doctor isn’t the great-grandson after all—he’s the same monstrous man, who has somehow found a way to drain the life force of his victims and maintain his own youth for centuries. [He sounds like a bad guy, but I have to admit that if I could maintain my youth for centuries by draining other people's life forces, I'd give it a shot. Though I'd try to drain the life forces of only bad people. Unless it turned out bad people's life forces caused indigestion, in which case I'd have to go with the weak.]

He’s become obsessed with the idea of restoring scarred, damaged Quinn to her former beauty. [With his rejuvenating elixir? Is he a plastic surgeon? Can he provide testimonials from former patients? Does he at least have an infomercial?] He’ll do anything in his power to get her, including holding her mother hostage and terrorizing Quinn with horrifying creatures of his own creation. Having balanced on the thin edge between life and death has given Quinn powers, and a purpose, she didn’t realize she had. [Commas not needed.] [What powers? Super powers?] She puts them to the test when she follows the monster to his lair to free her mother and put an end to his evil once and for all.

I would be delighted to send you a sample chapter or the complete manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

The YA genre having been overrun with vampires and werewolves and faeries; perhaps a mad scientist is just what it needs.

Let's drop the man with no face from the query.

Creatures capable of digging their claws into concrete oughta be able to get through a window. Unless . . . are they really stupid creatures capable of digging their claws into concrete?

Most teenage girls would want their mother taken hostage and drained of her life force. Maybe you should make it Quinn's BFF.

If the doctor is obsessed with restoring Quinn to her former beauty, he should just tell Quinn's mother he can do so. He can find some other person to hold hostage and drain of her life force so that Quinn's mom trusts him.

Has he met Quinn?

Why is the title Quinn's Law? What is her law? You need a title like The Island of Dr. Moreau. But not exactly that, as I assume his name isn't Moreau and he doesn't have an island. The Laboratory of Dr. Schizoid. Rejuvenation. My Mother Sings on Broadway: Kill Me Now.

The horrifying creatures of his own creation does remind me of Dr. Moreau. Usually the villain doesn't branch out into new fields. Usually if you can drain people's life force, you focus on that and leave creating horrifying creatures to other mad scientists.

15 comments:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

You know, all my adult life I've listened to men who are bemused that their woman done them wrong when she seemed so right. And everyone around the man is thinking "Did you not notice the psychotic gleam in her eye when you first met her? And the thin line of bloody drool running down her chin? And the pentagram tattooed on her forehead? And her obsession with chainsaws?"

Maybe it's not just men. But anyway. Why is Dr. Evil obsessed with returning Quinn to her former beauty? Frankly she doesn't sound like any better relationship material than he is. She's got the nightmarish winged creatures thing going on.

The whole second paragraph doesn't seem related to the story in the rest of the query. Too many different things going on. Focus.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting things here but you need to make it clear that they're connected into a coherent whole, not just stuck together as dueling subplots. I'm not seeing how we get from all the suicidal depression and dead friends to the guy draining mom's life energy and then I don't see why / how he switches his focus to restoring suicide girl to her former beauty.

Also, after reading PG Wodehouse's jokes about novels with plots in which damsels are pursued by faceless fiends, I find it impossible to take such plots seriously, except as comedic elements. But maybe that's just me.

150 said...

There's one thing I really love in this idea: "He’s become obsessed with the idea of restoring scarred, damaged Quinn to her former beauty." I'd lead with it.

A bus (I assume) crash leaves Quinn horribly disfigured, the only survivor at her lunch table...and seeing monsters. Her Broadway-star mother's plastic surgeon, Dr. Bathory (or whoever), thinks he can help with the first one. But Quinn slowly learns that his techniques involve less silicone and more blood-of-virgins, and that his medical license might be a century or two out of date. And the monsters she's seeing might be his.

Quinn [takes action], but [runs into a problem]. If she can't [solve it] [by a deadline, if possible], [there are consequences!].
Genre, word count, amen.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

When she’s finally sent home, she thinks things are getting back to normal. Until a man with no face starts stalking her.

This is one sentence. You've got more problems than this however. I doubt this is marketable in its present form.

Stalking doesn't equal a fear of another breakdown. The logic is off.

When her mother, a Broadway actress, starts receiving rejuvenating treatments from a slick doctor, Quinn discovers that his great-grandfather was in the same business—until his patients were found drained of their fortunes and their health in a remote estate, insane, skeletal shadows of their former selves.

This sentence is too long. Gives new meaning to run on.

You need a fresh look at what you've written. Control. Cut.

You need to figure out how to write sentences that make sense and not put a paragraph in each one.

Quinn discovers that his(I thought Quinn was a girl) great-grandfather was in the same business—until his patients were found drained of their fortunes and their health in a remote estate, insane, skeletal shadows of their former selves. As Quinn delves deeper, she realizes the doctor isn’t the great-grandson after all—he’s the same monstrous man.

Time to figure out how to make this sentence work better than saying the great grandson isn't the great grandson, he's the great grand father. Wrong again - this is one man.

Sorry, this is weak. The book may be stellar but I doubt it from the query.

Better sentence construction would help this along.

Get rid of the confusion. Make everything clear.

debhoag said...

Thanks Alaska and Anon, I was really having trouble pulling the elements together in a cohesive one-paragraph description and this really helps. I'll resub after I clean it up.

debhoag said...

150, you're awesome! I think I'm going to poach a few of your ideas.

Faceless Minion said...

I would suggest keeping the back story/setup short and the cause and effects clear on the re-write.

If the monsters are all sent by the doctor it would make more sense for them to be in the query after he shows up (or if he meets her after he knows about her, hint about why/how). It might be helpful to say up front what Quinn's powers are.

Hope this helps. I'm looking forward to a re-write.

Anonymous said...

...and leave creating horrifying creatures to other mad scientists...

Who Quinn can encounter in future books in the series.

Genius!

Title? How about: Quinn Sage: Life Sucks.

debhoag said...

Hey, Faceless, you're not the one following Quinn, are you? Thanks for your suggestions, very helpful! And Anonymous, I know I'm a genius, but you really didn't have to say so. *blushes modestly* Nice title!

batgirl said...

Minor point - maybe mention Quinn's scarring right after her accident, as something that affects her return to a 'normal life'? Coming later, it surprised and distracted me.

batgirl said...

Faceless Minion - were you the one following Quinn?

Faceless Minion said...

>Faceless Minion - were you the one following Quinn?

Since we faceless minions on occasion share a group identity/memory/clone structure (it's a space-time thing), maybe.

Faceless Minion said...

She dropped an envelope and I was trying to return it. That's all. Really.

BuffySquirrel said...

Recently completed isn't a good thing to say. The agent/publisher hopes you completed it, then spent a few months polishing it.

When Quinn delves deeper, she realises the 'great-grandson' is the same monstrous man.

debhoag said...

Thanks, BuffySquirrel and batgirl - points well taken. Faceless, keep your distance, she's a minor.