Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Face-Lift 359


Guess the Plot

A Cold, Dark Place

1. Painfully shy Norbin Wartly gets a part time job as a custodian in the Coroner's Office. But will his quest for love lead him to . . . A Cold, Dark Place?

2. The coldest, darkest place Lester Hobbs can imagine is the deep freeze in the basement. That’s where he keeps donor sperm samples after he collects them from drugged patients at the Harris Gloams mental hospital. Maybe the deep freeze isn’t the coldest, darkest place after all.

3. When a rival mold colony threatens to destroy their own, Spanky Spore and a ragtag group of misfits embark on a quest to the outer reaches of Hvacia to find help. If they can survive the high winds and lethal UV lighting, Spanky and his companions just might be able to convince the legendary Elder Warriors of the Evaporator Coil to join their cause.

4. A trail of clues has Laurel and Jackie chasing the sick bastard who killed a boy and drained his blood. But as they break down the last door, will they be capturing a killer, or entering the cold, dark lair of a vampire? Also, another vampire.

5. When he’s bad, Tommy has to take his “timeouts” in the old root cellar. His dad thinks spending time in a cold, dark place will make Tommy think before he misbehaves. Maybe so, but Tommy has tunneled to Marcie Stellar’s house next door where they play “doctor” and “house” and “guess the body part in the dark.” Needless to say, Tommy can take all the hard time his old man can dish out.

6. Two mice named Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, trapped in a refrigerator, debate the merits of Swiss Cheese versus Cheddar, whether rats really are as bad as people say, and why it gets very bright for brief periods of time. Also, a fly in the mayonnaise and an elite squad of militant cockroaches.


Original Version

I am looking for representation for my paranormal suspense manuscript which is complete at 118,000 words. A bit on the dark side, with emotionally troubled characters, and a different play on what it means to be a vampire, A Cold, Dark Place should appeal to mystery, suspense, and vampire novel readers alike. I read that you are currently looking for this kind of story.

FBI agent Jackie Rutledge has a dead boy on her hands. Some sick bastard had drained him of his blood. [Let me guess. The conversation goes:

Jackie: The victim has no blood.


C. Chan: Two possibilities. Possibility one: After murdering boy, killer risked discovery by hanging around another hour to drain victim's blood into large bucket through tiny puncture marks on neck.


Jackie: And possibility two?

C. Chan: Vampire.


Jackie: Don't be ridiculous. I'll tell the boys to be on the lookout for a sick bastard carrying a giant bucket of human blood.]


PI Nick Anderson was the sick bastard that Jackie and her psychic partner, Laurel suspected of killing the boy. [Do they suspect him because he's a sick bastard? Or is he a sick bastard only if he's guilty?] [I don't think I've ever received a query letter in which the term "sick bastard" was used so often so early . . . Though I do seem to receive more than my share of personal letters in which the phrase is tossed around more freely than I'd like.] Only, he knows who the real killer is, and knows that the FBI is no match for him. Nick knows because he has the same need of the killer; the need for blood. [We all need blood. The difference is that for some of us it's a life force, carrying oxygen to our brain cells, fighting off infection, supplying nutrients, and disposing of waste. For others it's a refreshing beverage.]

Jackie has spent her ten years in the bureau catching sociopaths, poor substitutes for the one she was never able to catch as a child. Laurel is the only agent who knows her past, and has enabled Jackie to keep it from boiling over into her current life. Nick has been chasing the killer for 140 years now, riddled with guilt over the death of his family and what he allowed himself to become in order to catch him. [Or rather, to not catch him.] [If you've spent 140 years at something with nothing to show for it, perhaps it's time to try a less-demanding task.] He refuses to be the one thing that will allow him to catch [the sick bastard named] Cornelius Drake. [You just said he allowed himself to become something in order to catch him. Now you say he refuses to become what will allow him to catch him.]

When Drake makes Laurel one of his victims, [The psychic gets killed? Shouldn't she have seen that coming? (Sometimes my job is just too easy.)] Jackie’s life begins to fall apart, and despite his best efforts to push her away, Nick finds that he needs her help if Drake is going to be caught. [In the beginning you claim Nick knows the entire FBI is no match for the killer. In the end, you claim he needs the help of only one agent to capture Drake.] Their trust for one another is pushed to the ultimate limit when they are trapped by the killer and only one option for survival remains. He must accept what he is and take them both over to the world of the dead where Drake has even more power than in the realm of the living.

Notes

So for the 140 years Nick has been chasing Drake, he hasn't accepted what he is?

The plot sounds interesting, but it's hard to tell, as the description is too general in places. Give us more specifics.

The plot might be more clear if there were fewer pronouns. Those last two paragraphs have so many his's, her's, him's, he's, she's, their's etc., it becomes work trying to figure out who's who.

Normally a murder isn't enough to bring in the FBI. But with paranormal aspects and a sociopath hunter, this is like The X-Files meets Criminal Minds. Jackie is Dana Sculley and Nick is Jason Gideon. At the beginning of each chapter Nick quotes a famous historical figure he actually knew, and Jackie refuses to believe what is painfully obvious.

30 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

For others it's a refreshing beverage.... Evil, I really want to steal that line and use it somewhere! ROFL!

Author, this may be a decent book, and obviously vampire mysteries are selling these days; but the query letter is all background and description of angst. I would like to know up front what the main plot is and the main character's conflict/relationship with the 'sick bastard' is.

You start off talking about Jackie and her psychic partner, Laurel. Then you make Nick out to be the killer, then switch to telling us that Nick isn't the killer. Whoa. That's just confusing.

It sounds like Nick is the protag, not Jackie. Or maybe the pov switches between the two of them? In either case, you set me up to think Nick is the bad guy and then just start talking about Nick and his background, tossing in the real bad guy/sick bastard as an 'oh by the way' mention.

I think you have the main points necessary to make a good letter, but you need to put them in better order.

Sounds like a workable plot, though.

150 said...

I could live a happy life if I never saw another vampire named some iteration of "Drake"...could just be me though. I think your query will be fine if you address EE's comments. The story seems essentially sound. I automatically question anyone claiming to provide a "different take" on vampires because I've seen about four million versions of them and none of them stand out as particularly novel...Mr. Stoker excepted, of course. If you do have some really unique element, it could only help you to mention it. (Not mentioning like "I have a neat new element"...mentioning like "They have feathers!")

sylvia said...

"Jackie has spent her ten years in the bureau catching sociopaths, poor substitutes for the one she was never able to catch as a child."

I can't help but wonder why they weren't better sociopaths -- just didn't live up to their potential?

Marissa Doyle said...

There you go, writtenwyrd, saying all the good stuff.

Author, to me it felt like you were walking around the plot rather than through it. Were you trying to preserve a sense of mystery? And as a result it does come out convoluted and confusing. You might consider rewriting it straight from the protag's (whoever it is) viewpoint and don't try to twist things around in the query letter. Save that for the actual book.

Bernita said...

And I'd be happy if I never saw another "life falls apart" and riddled with guilt"...
150's right, Author, you have to show the agent you have a different take, not just claim it.

spooge26 said...

"Jackie has spent her ten years in the bureau catching sociopaths, poor substitutes for the one she was never able to catch as a child."

she tried to catch sociopaths as a child?? what?

and all it did was play twister. maybe her game of twister got a little too twisted??

spooge26 said...

ohh, i loved the GTPs! i was hoping the story was 2 or 3. hey, can i write those stories or is everyone already on that bandwagon?

spooge26 said...

hey, why do you keep calling him a sick bastard, anyway?

what's a little blood-letting between friends these days. c'mom, it's all the rage in LA now. or is that just me...

i have to say that despite the twisted up query letter, i'd be tempted to read this. i think it would make a great bedtime story.

Bernita said...

And congratulations, EE, on the 400th Face Lift.
Your minions thank you. They are invaluable.

takoda said...

What's EE editing in the clip art?

ME said...

Hey 150 did you happen to read the S.E. Hinton, "Hawk Harbor" (I think that was the title) vampire book a few years back? I enjoyed it.
Whoever wrote GTPs #3 and #5 should flesh out those story lines and write, write, write. They both sound great. Obviously, Tommy and Marcie enjoy his "hard" times. And "Spanky Spore" heh,heh.

Author --

PI Nick Anderson was the sick bastard that Jackie and her psychic partner, Laurel suspected of killing the boy. -- I think present tense would work better for both verbs.
Only, he knows who the real killer is, and knows that the FBI is no match for him. -- the use of "only" here would be more effective if it were the 2nd clause of a more complex sentence.

Nick knows because he has the same need of the killer... -- the same need as the killer?

Nick has been chasing the killer for 140 years now, riddled with guilt over the death of his family and what he allowed himself to become in order to catch him. Ah, Nick is a vampire! Why didn't you just say that 3 paragraphs ago? Or does Nick just have really, really good longevity genes?

When Drake makes Laurel one of his victims, Jackie’s life begins to fall apart, and despite his best efforts to push her away, Nick finds that he needs her help if Drake is going to be caught. -- it's two, two sentences in one! I'd suggest a "." after "apart" Also, one sentence that contains the names of four characters that I barely know seems a bit much.
And finally: can someone state that plot in one sentence, please?

spooge26 said...

just a few more comments, then i'll shut up.

PI Nick Anderson was the sick bastard that Jackie and her psychic partner, Laurel suspected of killing the boy.

So I guess the psychic didn’t know it was the wrong guy, or that any of these guys are vampires? Is Laurel’s real name Sister Stella – because I think I paid $20 for a reading from her in Austin. It sucked.

Only, he knows who the real killer is, and knows that the FBI is no match for him.

Is no match for whom? Nick? The sick bastard? Or is nick still the sick bastard in the story? Let’s give the sick bastard a name, shall we?


Laurel is the only agent who knows her past, (no comma here) and has enabled Jackie to keep it from boiling over into her current life.
as opposed to her past life? Wait, is she a vampire too? I wanna be a vampire! Wouldn’t you like to be a vampire, too? Is she a toys-r-us kid, too?

Nick has been chasing the killer for 140 years now, (instead of before or later) riddled with guilt over the death of his family and what he allowed himself to become in order to catch him.
Catch who? There are too many pronouns to keep all these sick bastards straight.

He refuses to be the one thing that will allow him (WHO???) to catch Cornelius Drake.

Their trust for one another is pushed to the ultimate limit
As opposed to the semi-soft limit – where EE sits when he has the chance to make a PMS joke about women and doesn’t. chicken.

Anonymous said...

I, too, wrote a GTP about a refrigerator. But #6 puts mine to shame.

-mb

Dave said...

Before I go and cook dinner, I want to make a statement about complex plots.

The most complex plot I know of - - one that has two, very different story lines - vastly different storylines is the movie DIVA. the movie's been showing on cable.

This is the blurb on IMDB:
Young Parisian mail courier is content with his bohemian lifestyle, his circle of friends and listening to opera, particularly one exceptional American diva who refuses to be recorded. So enamored with her, he makes an illegal tape of her at a concert. But when the tape is confused with one implicating a police chief with the mob, he must use all his ingenuity to survive.

So please, take a gander, watch the movie (or read the novel it came from) and then try to improve these few words.

Theo Katz said...

Why do you have to do 100,000 facelifts, EE? Is that the only way you can redeem yourself from the ancient curse that haunts you? Or does the fate of humanity depend upon it?

Robin S. said...

Congrats on #400, EE.

You're on fire again- "refreshing beverage". Yeah. And "I don't think I've ever received a query letter in which the term "sick bastard" was used so often so early".

Author,

It seems like you're trying to make your manuscript sound interesting enough to grab the attention of the reader/agent without giving any key plot details away. I tried that as well.
It didn't work for me.

I think your book sounds interesting- vampires have been fascinating for a long time. I don't ever want to be bitten, by anyone, ever, but somehow reading about someone else's bites doesn't seem to bother me at all. Loved reading Bram Stoker's Dracula. And recently, I read another vampire manuscript that was, well, freaking steamy.

Anyway, I think you may have to tell more of the actual story, to separate yourself from the other vampire books out there. At least, that's what I'm told.

Best of luck.

phoenix said...

I once had two rats named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I would read GTP #6. If it were written by Tom Stoppard.

Woot! #400 EE!

This query could use some focus and tightening. There seems to be a lot here that doesn't need to be here in favor of what does. Main thing missing, as has been pointed out, is what makes your vampire different? 100 years is a long time to be in denial. You hint that Nick somehow allowed himself to be made a vampire simply so he could continue his manhunt for Drake. But is that what makes him different? I'm not feeling it so much.

But here are some things that can go in order to make room for elaborating on the "wow!" stuff that's going to make an agent...um...bite.

The "should appeal to..." sentence can go. You've said what the genre is and acknowledged the agent is looking for just that kind of thing.

The "dark" and "emotionally troubled" character stuff can go to. Call it a dark paranormal suspense and the query reader will get it.

Laurel is a subplot. I don't even know if Laurel is male or female. But s/he's not really doing anything in this query other than taking up space.

Jackie's past can hit the road, too. You don't elaborate on it, so you don't draw us into it. Don't know what it is + you don't tell me = I don't care. At least not in the query.

So, bubbled down and tightened up, something like:

Dear Agent:

I read on your blog you are actively seeking dark paranormal suspense. A COLD, DARK PLACE, complete at 118,000 words, offers a vampire of a different sort: one who [doesn't brood and isn't full of angst - obviously not, so stick in right up front why Nick is different].

When PI Nick Anderson is fingered as the person last seen with a [homeless] boy who just turned up as a blood-drained corpse, FBI agent Jackie Rutledge naturally makes Nick her prime suspect. Nick didn't do it, but he knows who did. And he's been tracking the killer for 140 years. It was then vampire Cornelius Drake massacred Nick's family, leaving Nick barely alive, filled with guilt, and with one goal: revenge. But as the years drew on and he was no closer to his family's killer, he sought in desperation for the one thing that would put him on the same playing field as Drake. He allowed himself to be turned. And he's regretted [what about it] ever since.

But now Jackie's bureau partner winds up dead by Drake's hand, and Jackie's own personal demons have her chasing down the killer - with Nick beside her. When Drake traps the two of them [where], only one option for survival remains. One that failed 140 years ago, but just might work today. Nick must accept what he is, turn Jackie into that self-same nightmare, and take them both over to the world of the dead where Drake has even more power - and only [whatever] can defeat him.

Anonymous said...

Theo,

He has to do 100,000 FaceLifts 'cause he can never go away.

I'd like to think that number is a confirmation of this important fact.

Robin

Evil Editor said...

The question shouldn't be why do I have to do 100,000. It should be, Why are you quitting so soon?

Rei said...

Dave:

I've never seen Diva, but from what I've found about it from searching the web (say, this), its plot doesn't sound nearly as complex as a number of things I've seen. Serial Experiments Lain, for example (even ignoring its length). :) Sounds more of a "Dark City" complexity, perhaps even as much as a "Donnie Darko" (doubtful, but perhaps), but not as much as an "End of Evangelion" (which had a pamphlet released to correspond with the movie (the 'Red Cross Book') to help viewers make sense of it).

But hey, I probably shouldn't judge a movie by a synopsis. :) And your main point still stands, because if I really tried, I could still come up with a hook for those.

Anonymous said...

I've heard rumors that vampire stories have recently proliferated to the ad nauseum point, so agents are now looking for all things "paranormal" without vampires. But that might be wrong.

roger the banana slug said...

Your minions thank you. They are invaluable.

Thank you, Bernita, for the nice plug. Right now, however, I am not in valuable. I am in Minneapolis.

Rodney, Roger the Banana Slug's Brother said...

They have feathers!

Oh, cool. Dracula meets The Birdcage! Not sure I'd read it, but I'd watch the Showtime series.

Anonymous said...

So Nick should be a werewolf?

Anonymous said...

Also, another vampire.

I missed this in the first reading of the GTPs. Brilliant, EE. Simply brilliant.

I am thrilled to learn that someone had two rats named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Dave said...

REI,
There are other examples of oddly complex stories that require "out-of-the-box" hooks and plot descriptions.

It's like describing Dostoyevski's "Crime and Punishment" by its title. It's too pat, too easy. It doesn't do justice to the eloquence of the story.

I once read a critical review of William Styron's "Sophie's Choice" as A southern boy loses his virginity to a survivor of the Nazi death camps. and that, is not what Styron wrote.

These tiny, three or four sentence plot summaries are hard to write. They require a certain imagination and Savoir-Faire. I find it useful to see what others write of plots that I know and understand.

Bernita said...

Dear Roger...bite me.

Twill said...

150 - "feathers" - OMG good thing my chai wasn't ready yet.

phoenix - awesome rewrite!

word ver - tbmwtowr - a famous castle in wales.

Heather said...

I see nothing here that would make this novel stand apart from the 100,000 other vampire novels involving a dead body drained of blood, tortured "I don't wanna be a vampire" vampires, and cops/agents/etc.

With the glut of vampire mysteries on the market, you're going to have to have something outstanding... and this doesn't seem to have that.

Word verification: clotsy

Now that's just funny, given the subject at hand.

JDuncan said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I've had a hell of a time getting this query put together in a non-convoluted manner, and also trying to work in how the vampires in this story aren't your typical gothic sort of vamps. Phoenix, your feedback has been especially helpful, so extra kudos to you. Most of the points everyone made here are valid, and hopefully will help me end up with a more concise and interesting query.

As for the unique bit. When we die, the doorway opens to the other side and one's 'soul' is pulled across to the other side. If the will to live is sufficiently strong, one can prolong this normally instantaneous effect for a few moments, however if one consumes the blood of another during this time, the other side draws the spiritual energy from this and one is able to keep that doorway to the world of the dead open as it were. Keeping the doorway open allows one to draw power from the world of the dead, thus the vampires greater than ordinary powers. Drink enough blood and one can literally cross over to the other side and tap into more energy by consuming the souls that reside there.

Because he's never consumed enough blood to realize this, Nick has never been able to best Cornelius. At the end, Jackie has to let him drink her to the verge of death in order to open up the doorway enough to draw them through and save them from the trap set by Cornelius.

Anyway, thanks again everyone. Now I'll see what I can come up with for a new query.

JDuncan
www.jimnduncan.com