Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Face-Lift 1009


Guess the Plot

Bound

1. When police sgt. Jim Mallory's therapist suggests he try BDSM to work on his trust issues, he agrees. Now there's a dead man in a gimp suit, another tied up with six bullets in him, and the Master is nowhere to be found. Looks like Jim is gonna need that therapist some more.

2. 1864. Frederick Douglas, President of the Grand Alliance of the Negro States of America, has ordered the enslavement of all white people. Terrified, people begin the long, dangerous journey to Canada. Can Louisa and her brothers make it to safety?

3. Wanda Wallaby dreams of competing in the Marsupial Olympics. Standing in her way is champion hurdler Kate Kangaroo. With help from her zany friends Eric Emu and Nelly Numbat, Wanda proves it ‘aint size that matters, it’s how far you can . . . Bound.

4. Bound together by chains, high school students Emma and Daniel are hurled back to a time without modern conveniences and can return only if they save a young woman from being murdered by her fiance.

5. Librarian Priscilla Lezer loves books too much. Her only family: biographies; her only dates: romances. When the county cuts spending, she’s laid off. Going home she buys a book: Demon’s Wish. She opens it and a demon grants her one wish. She wishes to return to the library. Priscilla awakens as a leather-bound book in the stacks.

6. As Josh Booth camps in the north woods, vampires capture him, binding him to a tree. He escapes and warns authorities but Detective Abby Lincoln says he’s crazy. When bodies--drained of blood--are found bound to other trees in the woods, Lincoln thinks Booth is the serial killer.



Original Version

Dear EvilEditor:

High school senior, Emma Harris, [Get rid of those commas.] is going crazy—at least, that’s what she thinks. Seeing a ghost that looks like a long-lost twin isn’t in her definition of “normal”. [Not clear whether she actually has a long-lost twin. If not, don't say "twin," just say she looks like Emma; if so, say "her" long-lost twin.] Already dealing with her stalker specter, Emma has to cope with the unwelcome (and dangerously welcome) [That's not working.] attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt. She knows she should stay away like a good girlfriend, [Girlfriend of whom?] but is it really her fault when they keep bumping into each other? It has to be fate, right? [It feels like you've dropped the ghost thread in favor of the Daniel thread.]

Emma is about to learn that she and Daniel are bound together by chains much stronger—and harder to break— then [than] fate’s.

On the night of a high school dance, the ghost appears to Emma again. [On the one hand, you report in paragraph 1 that Emma sees a ghost, and now you report that she sees the ghost again. That makes me think she's seen the ghost twice. On the other hand, you call the ghost her stalker. How often is she seeing the ghost?] But, this time, [Get rid of those commas.] everything is different. Blood stains her dress like spilled ink, and she is scared. Very, very scared. [Wasted sentence.] Overcome with a compulsion so great, [No comma.] she has to fight for breath; [Change semicolon to comma.] Emma chases the bleeding ghost to the local cemetery. The very place where she first saw the specter. [The ghost and the specter are the same, right?]

There, she runs into Daniel, visiting his parents’ grave. [Both parents are in one grave?] The compulsion hits Emma again, just as the ghost appears. Desperate to be free of the compulsion, Emma reaches out and takes the ghost’s proffered hand. The last thing she hears is Daniel’s cry and his arms wrapping around her waist. Then, [No comma.] everything goes white.

Emma wakes up in an entirely different time and in an entirely different body. The ghost who had been stalking her is no longer a spirit, but a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton. [Not clear if you mean Emma is in Lucinda's body or some other girl's body.] [If it is Lucinda's body, I wouldn't call it an "entirely" different body; you did say they looked like twins.]

But Emma wasn’t the only one hurled back in time, Daniel was too. [Is he in a different body too? Wait, are they both in Lucinda's body?] They both realize that the only hope they have of getting home is bringing Lucinda and her forbidden lover together. [Not clear how they realize this, or how they know anything about Lucinda.] But Lucinda is already engaged. Engaged to the very man who may have been her killer.

Unless Emma can overcome Lucinda's treacherous suitor, a lack of modern day conveniences, [If everyone else in this time is surviving without TV remote controls, I don't see why we should sympathize with Emma on that count.] and a forbidden romance of her own...she may be stuck in the past forever. [Not clear how the inability to overcome a lack of conveniences and her own forbidden lover will affect whether she's stuck in the past forever.]

Complete at 69,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.


Notes

I find it odd that Daniel would be in a cemetery at night.

This was too long and disorganized. This version has more clarity:

Dear Evil Editor:

High school senior Emma Harris has somehow attracted the attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt. She knows she should stay away, but is it her fault they keep bumping into each other? It has to be fate, right? Emma is about to learn that she and Daniel are bound together by chains much stronger than fate’s.

On the night of a high school dance, a ghost appears to Emma, blood staining her dress like spilled ink. Emma follows the ghost to the local cemetery where she runs into Daniel, visiting his parents’ graves. When Emma takes the ghost’s proffered hand, Daniel tries to pull her away. And everything goes white.

Emma and Daniel find themselves in a different time and place. The ghost is no longer a spirit, but a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton. Emma and Daniel realize that their only hope of getting home is bringing Lucinda and her forbidden lover together. But Lucinda is already engaged--to the very man who may have been her killer.

Complete at 69,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.


You might want to go further, and combine the first two paragraphs of my version into>

On the night of the senior prom, a ghost appears to Emma Harris, blood staining her dress like spilled ink. Emma follows the ghost to the local cemetery where her crush, Daniel Wyatt, just happens to be visiting his parents’ graves. When Emma takes the ghost’s proffered hand, Daniel tries to pull her away. And everything goes white.

That shortens the setup to one paragraph, allowing more room to tell us what happens in Lucinda's time. Do Emma and Daniel speak to Lucinda? If Emma is in Lucinda, does Lucinda have any consciousness? Do they know how to get home once they've united Lucinda and her true love? Is someone trying to prevent them from getting home?

What are Emma and Daniel supposed to do? Two people no one's ever seen before show up in town and no one's gonna object when they start butting into other people's business?

The title is too generic.

The story of the ghost of a murdered person who wants closure is pretty common. I think it happens once or twice a year on Supernatural. Usually the person was murdered recently and just wants the killer punished. If Emma and Daniel go back in time and prevent the murder, won't that alter history? Lucinda could hook up with her true love and they have a child who turns out to be a serial killer who murders Emma's great great great great grandparents.


It appears the following revised version was sent before (but received after) I posted the critique. Presumably it's the version the author would like feedback on.


Dear Evil Editor:

If you'd be so wonderful as to accept this edited query of mine, it'd be fantastic. Here it is:

Emma Harris knows ghosts don’t exist, but that doesn’t explain why she’s seeing one. One that looks like she could be Emma’s twin. To complicate matters, Emma has to cope with the equally undesirable attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt.

On the night of the school dance, the ghost hurls Emma and Daniel back in time to 19th Century America, where the spirit is a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton.

After catching Lucinda kissing the stable hand, Emma and Daniel realize the ghost took them back in time for one reason: to help Lucinda and her lover get married. But there’s a catch. Lucinda is engaged to another man. The very man who may have been her killer.

Unless Emma can overcome Lucinda's treacherous suitor, a lack of modern day conveniences, and a forbidden romance of her own... She may be stuck in the past forever.

Complete at 6
9,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.


This clears up many of my questions, and reads more clearly. Possibly some of my original comments will still apply.--EE

11 comments:

Author said...

Dear Evil Editor:

Emma Harris knows ghosts don’t exist, but that doesn’t explain why she’s seeing one. One that looks like she could be Emma’s twin. To complicate matters, Emma has to cope with the equally undesirable attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt.

On the night of the school dance, the ghost hurls Emma and Daniel back in time to 19th Century America, where the spirit is a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton.

After catching Lucinda kissing the stable hand, Emma and Daniel realize the ghost took them back in time for one reason: to help Lucinda and her lover get married. But there’s a catch. Lucinda is engaged to another man. The very man who may have been her killer.

Unless Emma can overcome Lucinda's treacherous suitor, a lack of modern day conveniences, and a forbidden romance of her own... She may be stuck in the past forever.

Complete at 6
9,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.

BuffySquirrel said...

So do Lucinda and Emma look alike by coincidence, or because they're related? If they're related, isn't Emma risking wiping herself out of history if she changes the past? With the further risk of a paradox.

The query makes it feel as if the plot doesn't hang together. Also, what is Daniel's role in the past? Is it in any way tied up with him being this bad boy? If not, why is he a bad boy? Is Emma's forbidden romance with him or someone else?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Dear writer, I'm assuming you're still in high school or have only recently escaped. Your teacher may have told you some things about commas that aren't true. The internet certainly has. Commas are not our friends. They should be used sparingly and with great respeect.

You also seem to have a tendency toward the echoing sentence pair:

Emma Harris knows ghosts don’t exist, but that doesn’t explain why she’s seeing one. One that looks like she could be Emma’s twin.

Lucinda is engaged to another man. The very man who may have been her killer.


Too much of this gets old. Old in a way that might make one stop reading.

Your revised query is much more manageable, but it still feels a little hither-and-yon. Try reducing your whole story to a single sentence. Is the ghost in that sentence? If not, consider leaving him/her out of the query.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

ps-- wheen I say respeect I meean reespect of coursee.

BuffySquirrel said...

I don't like the 'knows ghosts don't exist but that doesn't explain' line, mainly because I can't see why or how it would explain it.

Emma Harris is so convinced ghosts don't exist that she can't understand why she keeps seeing one. Nor why the ghost looks to be her identical twin, despite wearing clothes that are hopelessly out of fashion.

On the night of the school dance, the ghost spills blood on Emma, frightening her so much that she flees. But there's no escape from fate, and the ghost drags Emma and unwitting bystander Daniel Wyatt into the past.

Emma's always resisted her attraction to bad-boy Daniel, but in nineteenth-century America he's the only familiar object to cling to. For now Emma finds herself taking on the life of her ghost, Lucinda Sutton.

Soon Emma and Daniel realise their only hope of returning to their own time lies in enabling Lucinda to marry her true love. But Lucinda is already engaged--and to a man who may soon kill her.

How will she be stuck in the past forever? If she's Lucinda, and Lucinda's going to die, then that's a pretty short date. I think having to resolve the love triangle before being brutally murdered makes for a stronger dilemma.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I guess the info that's really missing from the query is why Emma has to save Lucinda. I remember a middle grade novel I adored as a kid that was called Ghosts, in which the two kids had to go back and save two children from burning up in a house fire and the reason was that these were their own great-great grandparents or something.

It was patchy, but it was a reason. Give us a reason, writer.

sarahhawthorne said...

I'm wondering - in one of these versions, it seems like you're hinting that the reason Emma and Daniel have to stop this murder is because otherwise they are doomed to replay Lucinda's circumstances in their own lives. If that's the case, I'd go ahead and say it. Right now, I'm missing a bigger picture that explains why Lucinda's ghost has turned to Emma for help after so long.

Also, just a personal preference, may I recommend finding a more specific way to describe Daniel than "bad boy"? That can mean anything from the class outcast who sets houses on fire to the football star who parties and drinks every weekend with his friends.

PLaF said...

How about: “Emma Harris is certain ghosts don’t exist until she meets one.”
How does the bad boy complicate matters? (And I’m with sarahhawthorne that “bad boy” is too vague.)
Is the school dance crucial to the story? If so, which school dance and why that particular one? If not, leave it out.
Does Emma find out anything about the ghost before she’s hurled back in time? (i.e. unsolved murder, love triangle, the stable hand got hung out to dry.) Anything that might help solve the riddle of why she’s been hurled?
A lack of modern day conveniences…does this mean they need a microwave to get home again? I’m not sure you want to list an inconvenience as a crucial plot element. If there is some specific modern convenience you have in mind, tell me. It might be a little more compelling.
The forbidden romance is a little abrupt. Do you mean Lucinda’s forbidden romance with the stable hand? Between Daniel and Emma, or does Emma take a liking to someone in the past?
Why is it so important for Emma to get back to the future? Why couldn’t she and Daniel save Lucinda and then live happily ever after where they are?
I think you have an interesting story idea.

batgirl said...

Is it really relevant that Emma doesn't believe in ghosts? Most people don't, or at least claim not to. The important thing is that she's seen one.

You might want to consider whether it's relevant that the ghost looks just like Emma. Because that started me wondering whether the ghost was Emma's self, come to warn her or whatever, rather than the ghost of someone who looked just like her. I'm sure it's important in the plot, but I think it distracts in the query.

Minor point - in the revision, do you mean 'undesirable attention of' or 'undesired attraction to'? Because the first makes Daniel seem kind of creepy.

Sarah said...

I second sarahhawthorne's suggestion. I think there needs to be something bigger at play than just help the ghost or get stuck in the past. As is, it reads like an episode synopsis for Quantum Leap. Don't get me wrong, I loved Quantum Leap, but those plots weren't enough to carry a book. If there IS something bigger going on, the query needs to hit it.

Rashad Pharaon said...

At first I didn't understand what was going on. After a smoke, it all came together.