Saturday, August 11, 2012
Evil Editor Classics
Guess the Plot
Lair of a Terror-
1. Learn the latest boobytrapping and cave decoration techniques in HGTV's latest addition to their line of interior decorating books.
2. Kareem Akbar Kalib is a terrorist on the run in the United States. With the DHS hot on his trail Kalib turns to the only place he can find safe refuge –the Democratic National Convention.
3. A fresh coat of white paint on the walls and a shiny new national seal on the floor inspires a lone man in a quiet, elliptical room to plot devious schemes.
4. She knew there was something funny about the way he decorated his bachelor pad. But she had no way of knowing that she had stumbled into...The Lair of a Terrorist.
5. The Mullah, a strict fundamentalist, finds that raising his 15-year-old daughter in Miami is a bigger challenge than his day job at the Miami mosque--training recruits for an attack on the American infidels.
6. Fleeing bombs from cave to cave is tough, but Bin Laden's fatal mistake comes when the falafel pizza he orders from the Peshawar Dominos is delivered by a suicide bomber.
LAIR OF A TERRORIST
Dear Mr. Evil:
Which elements foil a terrorist plot: poor planning, inadequate financing, bad luck? [Actually, those are the things that let it succeed.] Jack Vitelli, FBI counterterrorism chief, exploits another possibility--family life.
Jack trails the suspects; they're clever, brilliant perhaps, and their activity is suspicious, [Especially the part where they purchase three tons of fertilizer the day after they arrive in the U.S.] yet he has no evidence against the suspects or intel on the impending attack, only warnings from his clairvoyant aunt of vague threats. [The FBI's chief defense against terrorism is some guy's aunt? Explains a lot.] Jack surveils the suspect's family members to search for an opportunity.
Amir Hassan, leader and mastermind, is handsome, charismatic, a rich, young Saudi, who is Tayssir's son, a devoted mother hiding old secrets. [Someone's son is also someone's mother? Is this one of those tricky riddles?] The attack's success means more to Amir than just a strike against the infidels, world dominance will be within his grasp soon, yet nothing can compare to its most illusive [elusive] prize, his father's approval, or so he thinks. [Until he informs dad that he has attained world dominance and the old man says, What about the rest of the solar system?] [I should know. After I became the world's most famous editor my father said, Yeah, but when are you gonna be on Hollywood Squares?] [Consider utilizing other punctuation marks occasionally, in place of your beloved comma.]
The Mullah, a strict fundamentalist and second-in-command, trains his recruits within the bomb shelter, hidden beneath the Miami mosque. The important work is going well, however, raising a fifteen-year-old daughter outside of Syria proves to be more of a challenge than defeating the infidels. [The Mullah sounds like a great sitcom idea. At work he contends with incompetent underlings who keep accidentally blowing each other up. Then he goes home to find his daughter Fakhriyya is dating a Jewish American girl, has a tattoo of an American flag on her thigh, and wears hot pink miniskirts. At first he's beside himself, but at the end of each episode he throws up his arms and utters his catch phrase: Kids today . . . Whattaya gonna do?]
After careful negotiations, Habib Al Ashari, the faithful Pakistani soldier, is betrothed to Yasmeen, the woman of his dreams. He ignores his wife's [Does his wife know he's betrothed to Yasmeen?] emotional instability, he only sees her beauty, certain she will grow to love him once the attack succeeds, but Yasmeen has other plans. [She wants to be the first Pakistani to make the final three on American Idol.] [This list of characters reads like a fake "Guess the Plot." In fact, I could have taken all six "Guess the Plot" ideas from the actual query, and people still would have sent comments saying "I couldn't believe it was any of those."]
Seth Levi is suspicious of the American's motives--why him? [Why him what?] Jack recruits the veteran Mossad operative for reasons other than Seth's infiltration talents. [Seth also makes the best hummus in Florida.]
Jack sifts through the facts, exploits the suspect's weaknesses--how will he stop the attack in time? [Luckily he has an ace in the hole: Chloe O'Brian.] A SASE is enclosed if you'd like to find out more.
Thanks for the opportunity.
The query does not fill me with confidence that the book is ready for submission. It's basically a list of your characters with little connecting them to one another. We need less about the terrorists and more about the plot. Their plot and your plot.
Then there's the fact that the descriptions of the terrorists strike me as amusing. Is that just me? If the terrorists come across as comical, I doubt the query is going to appeal to a publisher of crime thrillers.
Anonymous said...The query letter isn't very good, in large part because of the punctuation. On the other hand, I think the story sounds really good. It was a nice break from brutal eunuchs and devious shapeshifters, in my opinion. And there wasn't a single person with an apostrophe in their name. I don't dish out many compliments here, especially since my query and story were trashed. I like this one though.
kis said...Another example of an author not being able to distance himself from his work. TMI, and none of it clear enough. As for that sit-com, possible title: Eight Simple Rules For Staying The Hell Away From My Teenage Daughter, You Filthy, Infidel Vermin.
born_liar said...I still can't tell whether the novel is supposed to be serious or comical, and I think that's probably a bad thing in a query. If it's supposed to be serious, these terrorists just don't sound very threatening. I hope that's just a problem with the query, not with the novel itself. Carl Hiassen can get away with comical badguys, but that's because he's Carl Hiassen, and I'm guessing this author isn't.
Anonymous said...To me the best part of the story would be the father-daughter angle. Although honestly, daughter of Mullah would probably not be allowed outside the house without Dad or Bubba along and only if she were modestly dressed. Now, if Dad betrothed daughter to one of the terrorist minions ... or maybe he did and I missed that part of it.
December Quinn said...The "foiling the terrorist plot" isn't nearly as interesting as the mullah with the rebellious daughter. I would totally watch that sitcom. The rest of it isn't uninteresting, though.
Luna said...How many stereotypes can be crammed into one query letter? Geesh. (Although, to be truly 100% cliche, you need to ditch the FBI guy's ethnic-sounding last name and replace it with something like Whiteman, Oldman or Oldwhiteman.)
No offense to the writer, but in the context of the world in which we live, this story seems like a poor choice to query. It reminds me of that movie "True Lies", which was great entertainment when it came out, but post 9/11 and Iraq War just seems grotesque and irrelevant.
Mad Scientist Matt said...I like the idea of a sitcom about a terrorist mullah who can't cope with a rebellious teenage daughter in Miami, too. We haven't had enough farces ridiculing our enemies lately.
Anony Mouse #173 said...A comedy about terrorists would actually be really cool--but would take some serious skill. Failing that, I never thought I'd say this, but ... I think this story would work better if it weren't set in the real world. :-)
Jeb said...The multiplying commas, the occasional subject-object confusion and the extraneous words and phrases - such as "Jack surveils the suspect's family members to search for an opportunity" - wore down my interest, and eventually killed it for me in the third paragraph.
I guess if I'm going to keep snarking about others' query letters, I'd better send in my own clowns.
Feemus said...I could really relate to this query. I, too, have an Aunt of Vague Threats. She is married to my Uncle of Specific Retributions. They complement one another nicely. Or maybe I just made them up. They are illusive.
pacatrue said...I think the main character of Jack was lost in the query. I assume he is the main character, though the father/daughter thing was the most interesting to me as well. So how does the main character grow and change through the novel? If you are more interested in the terrorists, then I'd say switch the novel around and write about one of them instead. That of course will acquire even more research, assuming you aren't Saudi, Pakistani, or Syrian, but could be great if you can pull it off.
Stephen said...The query does certainly sound a bit like "Carl Hiaasen meets 24", which, as a high concept pitch, doesn't quite grab me. As others have said, it would take enormous skill to pull off.
Personally I'd lose the psychic aunt. Maybe it's just me, but this sort of thing screams "plot device", and makes me think that the writer cannot come up with a more sensible idea. Paranormal is fine if it is whole-hearted, but little bits of paranormal to patch over gaps tends to look like patching over gaps with little bits of paranormal. FBI agents always have lots of little scraps of information that would never stand up in court - hunches, rumours, informant networks - they don't need the psychic aunts network.
Posted by Evil Editor at 9:50 AM