Sunday, March 16, 2014
Evil Editor Classics
Guess the Plot
Mysteries and Cemeteries
1. For hundreds of years, people have been reading mysteries, and for hundreds of years, those people have been eventually dying. Coincidence . . . Or curse? This book unravels the mystery of this strange correlation once and for all.
2. Tamara likes to wander through the local cemetery while her husband cavorts with their whore neighbor. But lately Tamara's realized that something beneath the soil is not resting in peace. Could it be . . . ZOMBIES?!
3. Tanya is beyond bored with the life she's chosen as a taxidermist, something her bohemian, Voodoo-practicing mother warned her about. But hilarity ensues when she tries to learn the old ways of her ancestry and finds she has little talent for controlling the dead.
4. When a gravedigger notices the names of the "fictitious" murder victims from the Inspector Jones mysteries he's been reading, on the new headstones in his cemetery, he asks one too many questions. Now he's on the run, and hoping he won't be the victim in the next Inspector Jones book.
5. Detective Bungle has made a remarkable discovery: Everyone in the Eternal Rest cemetery is dead! Now it's up to him to learn the truth: Is there a murderer on the loose? Or is this all part of some bizarre ritual?
6. When all the flowers and other grave decor goes missing, everyone interred in Shadyside is miffed. Dr. Skull is elected as chief inspector by his peers and lurches off in search of culprits. Meanwhile, Tansy Ragwort arranges the slightly wilted roses Bob Murphy gave her and wonders if he'll pop the question tonight.
When ace homicide detective Bob Bungle discovers that everyone in the Eternal Rest cemetery is dead, he knows two things: there must be a crazed serial killer on the loose, and he won't need to stop at the florist shop to bring his wife flowers tonight. Bungle has one clue: the killer is an anal organization freak, having taken the trouble of labeling each corpse, putting their names and dates of death on stone tablets like butterflies in a display box.
In an obvious effort to taunt Bungle, the killer also buried each of his victims under several feet of earth. Bungle hires a night work crew to dig up the bodies and bust open the boxes in which the killer concealed them. Unfortunately, most of the victims have been dead several decades, leaving behind little or no forensic evidence, like when a body is burned and the ashes are thrown into sulfuric acid, but not that bad.
Bob Bungle specializes in digging into cold cases, and this one's spent ages buried in the homicide vaults like pirate booty. But when Bungle discovers that Eternal Rest isn't the only killing field, that they're spread all over town like Starbucks but without WiFi, he realizes he may finally be in over his head.
Mysteries and Cemeteries is the fifth in a series of unpublished Bob Bungle mysteries. Thank you.
[Oops! That wasn't the real query. That was a fake query I wrote as part of a 2010 writing exercise in which the task was to choose a random Face-Lift and write a query based on one of the fake plots. Here's the real query, from 2007:]
Tamara Godfrey likes to wander the local cemetery. [As does Evil Editor, though I'm guessing Tamara doesn't do it in the nude.] It’s a great place to think when trying to get away from the problems of her life – like the job that is giving her high anxiety and the obvious and growing attraction between her husband and the whore next door. ["Whore" is such a strong word. Can't we just call her "the bitch next door who gives her bastard husband blowjobs"?]
But soon, Tamara realizes something in the graveyard is very wrong. Some things beneath the soil are not resting in peace. [It's zombies. It's been a while, but once again we have zombies.] Every night she wanders the graveyard, [Every night? Whether you suspect there are zombies about or not, it's best to limit your graveyard wandering. Either your brains will be eaten or people will talk.] reading the tombstones, hoping for a clue as to who it is that haunts her nights. [What kind of clue is she expecting to find on a tombstone? An epitaph reading,
Someone else knows exactly what she might find, and they are determined to stop her before she manages to solve the mystery she didn’t know existed. [We don't even know it exists. What's the mystery?] And her husband and the whore may be conspiring in more than just the bedroom. [Why am I getting the impression you wrote this book as therapy after your husband ran off with your neighbor?]
Mysteries and Cemeteries is a 92,000 word mystery set in a lonely town on the windy shores of Lake Superior.
Thank you for your time,
Better title: The Whore Next Door. Or tell the story in 1st person, and call it My Disgusting Husband and his Fucking Whore. Be sure to send them a copy.
Is the neighbor an actual prostitute? Or is she just having an affair with Mr. Godfrey? Either way, I'd call her something other than "the whore" in the query letter.
If this is a murder mystery, I'd be interested in knowing who the victim is, who's accused, and who else had motives. It sounds more like a horror novel the way it's described. Possibly some additional detail in that last plot paragraph would do the trick.
Bernita said...The heroine comes across in the query as excessively passive in the Gothic style.
Anonymous said...This sounds like enough plot for a good short story but I'm afraid unless there's more to it than you describe here, the novel version might have a lot of redundant night wandering and husband loathing scenes, giving you a very slow pace. Plus it seems to be taking itself awful seriously for something so thin on significance.
Two Write Hands said...Maybe "the whore" isn't used for name-calling, guys. Maybe she's using it as she would "the butcher next door"--you know it's about occupation, not character.
Evil Editor said...Even if the woman is employed in a legal Nevada brothel, I'm sure she doesn't refer to herself as a whore. If your character was a goat farmer you wouldn't refer to him in your query letter as someone who murders kids.
150 said...More information please! Plot details! Events! Cause/effects and motivations! Also, could you please make a distinction on the "whore" use? I'd like to see either "prostitute next door"--which lends for madcap brothel capers and a heart of gold--or "slut next door"--which lends for dirty comedy and an excuse for Tamara to pursue the hot gravedigger. I'm guessing you chose it because it rhymes with "next door", but that's not so clever that it's worth sacrificing clarity.
AmyB said...Author, I agree with the others. We need more details. Also, the beginning sounds slow, and seems to lack an inciting incident. I'm not going to have much patience for a novel that opens with the protagonist wandering aimlessly around a cemetery, night after night. Hopefully something actually happens while she's out there.
Anonymous said...The cheating husband plotline and the suspicious cemetery plotline don't seem to be connected at all. Probably they are in the book. You need to put that info in the query letter, and also how her job mixes in with all of these things. Tamara just seems to suffer and wander. She needs to be stronger to be appealing as a main character.
whoever said...EE, thanks for "the treatment". A little mocking is good for a writer's ego, LOL.
To clarify, "whore" is used because that is what Tamara constantly calls this woman, until the chip comes off Tamara's shoulder anyway, and I guess I was trying to stay in her voice a little bit. The neighbour is not an actual whore though. So I'll tone it down a bit.
I can see where I have to add more details. When I see it in the cold light of the blog, I realize I haven't really given enough of the story.
Thank everyone for your time in reading and commenting.
blogless_troll said...You gotta change the title. I counted only one cemetery and one mystery, so that would make it Mystery and Cemetery, which, frankly, sounds retarded. You wrote 92,000 words. You can drum up three or four more good ones. Make a list of titles. And not just five or six. I'm talking 50, 100. Don't think about it. Just write shit down until something sounds good. Then write 50 more. That's a few hundred words, which is probably less than your daily word count during the months you spent writing the damn thing. That is all.
Beth said...In this query, we have a husband who's screwing around with the broad next door, and a wife who wanders graveyard at night looking for she-doesn't-know-what.
Need more story.
pjd said...Maybe it's just me, but if you are worried about your husband's growing attraction to the woman next door, I wouldn't think wandering the graveyard every night is the way to shore up your relationship. Maybe his eye wanders because he can never find his wife after sundown? That would put a crimp in my marriage, I would think.
Not much else to add to other people's comments.
writtenwyrdd said...If the woman next door is planning to kill your main character, you need to tell us. You also need to tell us what's up with the cemetery. DO we have zombies or not? Undead needs a mention in a query letter. You spring the undead on someone and you've misled them about the genre. I don't think that will win you points.
I felt like you were trying to hold back the good stuff, and that's not the way to get a request for a partial. The audience for this letter wants to get a general idea of the entire book, including the main plot, the main characters, and the general ending. I imagine you can fudge on these things somewhat, but you cannot leave them all entirely out and just discuss the set up.
Sounds like it's gothic, based on what you shared. And your main character came across as a wimpy little passive creature who probably deserves to get munched by zombies. I suspect that this is not the case at all, so perhaps you might look at concrete things that she does in the story for the revision of the letter.
Good luck with the revisions.
BuffySquirrel said...Whore, slut...anyone got a pejorative name for the (apparently) cheating husband?
jjdebenedictis said...Skanking slime-dog crap-weasel, of course.
phoenix said...Well, Buffy, EE inferred you might just be calling him "dead"! Can't get more perjorative than that. I agree, though, that if the author wanted to call the neighbor a whore to keep in the MC's voice, then we should get the language the MC uses when she thinks about her husband.
Carefully read this sentence again, author: "Every night she wanders the graveyard, reading the tombstones, hoping for a clue as to who it is that haunts her nights." You have a logic loop here. If she's wandering at night, then whoever it is isn't haunting her nights any longer, are they? Or are they haunting her in the cemetery where she's doing her wandering?
You sound like you have an idea where to go with this query now. Would love to see your revision when you're ready to post it!
Posted by Evil Editor at 9:28 AM