Thursday, March 08, 2007

Face-Lift 290


Guess the Plot

Nothing

1. When private eye Raerdon Smidley is hired to capture a mythical creature, he uncovers a plot he thinks could threaten the very foundation of his life. Or, it could just be nothing.

2.

3. The first book in my Black Hole of Nothingness trilogy, to be followed by Nada and Zilch.

4. Nothing. Seriously: Nothing.

5. There's this guy, see, and he sort of, you know, does stuff.

6. In the vast Sahara desert, a lone philosopher sits at an oasis and ponders, and ponders, and ponders. Finally he is forced to admit: "I got nothing."


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When P.I. Raerdon Smidly is hired to capture a mythical creature, [297 queries without a private eye/mythical creature plot, and now we've had two in three days.] he believes he has found the easiest meal ticket in town, taking advantage of a silly old man's belief in fairy tales. Only after uncovering a murderous plot, one that threatens the very foundation of his life, does the private eye [Call him Smidly. When you come up with a name like Smidly, you have to use it as much as possible.] begin to reconsider the consequences of his actions. In small town Blumooth, blood flows like water, and secrets run deeper than the local river. [This feels like you're starting a new query. It'll feel less abrupt if you earlier say, "the easiest meal ticket in Blumooth." Or if you make this a new paragraph.] The silly old man is not so innocent, the creature is not so mythical, and even local heroes have blood on their hands. If Raerdon [Smidly!] is going to solve this case, [What case? I want more information about what Smidly is trying to solve. Blood flows and secrets run deep and the man isn't innocent: this is all vague. What's going on?] he has to decide how far he is willing to go for answers, and what is truly worth dieing for. [I'm dying--for some specifics.]

"Nothing" is a thriller set in the dark world of Kadith. [Now you tell us we're not on Earth? Smidly didn't believe there was a mythical creature when he got hired. Thus mythical creatures aren't the norm on Kadith. Thus . . . Why is the story set on Kadith? Why not Blumooth Minnesota? Tell us how Kadith is different from Earth.] At about 70,000 words, it is a stand-alone novel in a serialized world. Please use the enclosed, SASE for your reply. Thank you for considering “Nothing.” [Not sure why it's titled Nothing, but you invite rejection slips that read, "Thanks for Nothing, pal."] [Suggested title: Slick Smidly and the Blumooth Conspiracy. You'll have to change his name from Reardon to Slick, of course.]

Sincerely,


Notes

If I wanted to hire someone to capture a mythical creature, I'd probably go with a hunter or a zookeeper or a mercenary. Why a private eye?

What do you mean by "the very foundation of [Smidly's] life"?

These last few queries have been kind of brief in the plot department. You ought to be able to squeeze about ten sentences of plot description into a one-page query letter.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did you leave out a "t"??? Does he have to decide what is worth dieting for?

Evil Fiend: Awright Smidly, you got to decide what's worth dieting for. Gimme a list in two hours or you're toast.

Smidly: Two hours? No! I can't!

Anonymous said...

every. single. one. of those gtp's made me lol. good work, minions!

writtenwyrdd said...

Not sure what I can say that is constructive. There is so little here to discuss re the substance of your book. It might be a cool and marketable story, but like EE said, no plot is showing up in this letter.

My one thought is that the name Smidly sounds like it belongs to an inept and/or smarmy fellow. Does this fit your character?

I'd be interested in seeing the revision of this letter just to see what you do with it.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think I read some chapters of GTP #5 on Critique Circle.

There's glimmers of interesting stuff in this query, such as the PI not hunting very hard for the creature, but it's not very attractive as a whole. The most interesting part is wondering how to pronounce Blumooth.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I'm just stuck on it not being located on Earth. Why the heck not?

It's like writing a romance and then mentioning as an afterthought that the protagonist's ex husband wasn't human. Oh, by the way . . .

I can't remember where I read it but some editor once wrote that if you hadn't ever seen ANYTHING like your novel on the shelves, you may have written something really unique . . . but more likely, you needed to go back to the drawing table.

pjd said...

Wow, GTP #2 wins the award for plot distillation. It even beats out Janice Delaney's legendary query in Q&A #3.

Anonymous said...

1. Why is he hired to capture the mythical creature? Is it dangerous or can it grant wishes or does it poop diamonds? Motivation needed.

2. What's up with the murderous plot? Why does it involve him? Does this have something to do with him going after the mythical creature? Or is there another sub-plot here?

3. Ummm - blood flows like water - secrets run deeper than the local river (of blood?) - are rivers all that deep? Both seem cliched to me."The silly old man is not so innocent, the creature is not so mythical, and even local heroes have blood on their hands," is supposed to clear this up but only makes me ask more questions.

4. How far is he willing to go for answers? I have no idea that he's even done anything yet. How far has he already gone? How is his life threatened? By the mythical creature? The murderous plot?

5. I get it, I get it! The mythical creature is "The Nothing" from The Neverending Story, right? Hence the title.

You very well might have a great story - you just need more of it in your query.

Dave said...

It's a shame about this GTP:
"In the vast Sahara desert, a lone philosopher sits at an oasis and ponders, and ponders, and ponders. Finally he is forced to admit: "I got nothing."

Because many years ago, an Arab sat thinking at an oasis and invented the zero. When he mumlbed his success, His friend asked "What?"

He answered - "oh nothing, nothing."

{an old mathematics joke, yuck, yuck, chuckle, guffaw!}

Rashenbo said...

Isn't Smidley the name of the captain's bumbling fool in Peter Pan?

Evil Editor said...

You may be thinking of Smee.

phoenix said...

I think I have this one figured out. You see, on Kadith, pegasi routinely fly about in large flocks, but a COW -- well, that's a mythical beast. And with all the hints about blood and secrets, there's only one answer: it's a ZOMBIE COW.

Sorry, author. The zombie cow story - already been done...

Author said...

Dear Evil,

Kadith is a world built upon the ashes of the Great Calamity. Now, over eight hundred years later, the inhabitants have learned to live in a reality of both everyday magic and old technology. In a walled up corner, of the only surviving continent, is a land called Wilta, where our story unfolds.

When P.I. Raerdon Smidly is hired to solve some local murders blamed on a mythical creature called Nothing, he believes he has found the easiest meal ticket in town: taking advantage of a silly old man's belief in fairy tales.

His investigation business about to fold, Smidly hopes to either make enough money to assuage the debt collectors or, if this creature really exists, make a name for himself. In the back of his mind though, he knows
things are never as cut and dry as we wish them to be.

In small town Blumooth, where Nothing lurks, blood flows like water and secrets run deeper than the local river. The silly old man is not so innocent, the creature is not so mythical, and even local heroes have blood
on their hands. If Smidly is going to solve this case, he has to decide how far he is willing to go for answers, and what is truly worth dieing for.

The creature is called Nothing because the only people who have ever seen it and survived, swore they saw nothing. An indestructible wight, it can
regenerate severed limbs and birth new followers from its body at will.

Nothing is also a metaphor, in this character driven novel, for that emptiness people oft times feel inside his or her heart, that longing to belong to something greater and to connect to someone else.

"Nothing" is a novel about emptiness and fulfillment, hope and fear. At about 70,000 words, it is a stand-alone novel in a serialized world. Please use the enclosed, SASE for your reply.

Thank you for considering “Nothing.”

Sincerely,

Anonymous said...

dear author, your new version is still vague and long winded. I think you need to paint in bigger strokes in terms of the arcing story, and more specific, smaller strokes in terms of plot action pushing the story forward. I have constrcuted an example of what I mean:

“Nothing” is a fantasy novel that runs 70,000 words.

Eight hundred years after the Great Calamity, the inhabitants of earth have learned to live in a reality of both everyday magic and old technology. The new world is called Kadith.

Kadith P.I., Reardon Smidly believes he’s found the easiest meal ticket in town when he’s hired to find a mythical beast. He soon discovers that the beast is anything but mythical, with its rapacious appetite and unsettling ability to regenerate severed limbs and birth new followers from its body at will.

The beast is called “Nothing” by the only people who have ever seen it and survived, swearing they saw nothing. The clues are vague, but clear enough for Smidly to uncover a disturbing secret about “Nothing”— the government of Kadith, while experimenting with their new particle collider, unleashed the beast and cannot stop it. Smidly thinks he knows how to kill, “Nothing,” but it may cost him his life.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Cut everything else and don't get cute with things like, "it is a stand-alone novel in a serialized world."

And I wouldn't say things like, "Nothing" is a novel about emptiness and fulfillment, hope and fear." Because that indicates you were unable to "show" these attributes in your query.

Best of luck

Robin S. said...

Parts of this new one are interesting, and parts are frustrating.

Frustrations:
"In a walled up corner, of the only surviving continent, is a land called Wilta, where our story unfolds." No comma needed after the word corner. The "story unfolds" also needs to go, in my opinion. I think I'd reconstruct this sentence, or, preferably, include this information in the first two sentences. It reads to me as though it's been "tacked on".

Dieing - should be spelled dying.

I wouldn't end with "thank you for considering "Nothing". Somehow I think (and this is just my opinion, I could very well be wrong, so if you like you sentence, you should keep it)
that put this way, this is an open invitation to rejection.

"Nothing is also a metaphor, in this character driven novel, for that emptiness people oft times feel inside his or her heart, that longing to belong to something greater and to connect to someone else." I think character-driven would be better hyphenated. I don't think you can go from the plural "people" to the "singulars" of his or her. I'm also not so fond of the use here of "oft times". I see what you mean - and I think it could be good, but it needs a very clear rewrite.

Interesting:

I was interested in what you said and the potential for a plot here.
This could be good - the "taking advantage of a silly old man's belief in fairy tales." against
"The creature is called Nothing because the only people who have ever seen it and survived, swore they saw nothing." - so the creature is real, but ephemeral, and finding a way to "find it" is part of the plot.

But then this sentence is included, and I don't know why, as it doesn't "follow" from the previous sentence: "An indestructible wight, it can
regenerate severed limbs and birth new followers from its body at will." You might even consider redoing the paragraph using some of this information FIRST, and then talking about why the creature is called Nothing.


You've described more of what's going on than in the first query- but still - I'd hang on to this one a little while and continue to rewrite for clarity and voice. (Disclaimer: I'm won no prize in the query area myself.)

Hope this helps.

150 said...

Would you consider calling it "The Nothing" rather than just "Nothing"?

sylvia said...

"Nothing is also a metaphor, in this character driven novel, for that emptiness people oft times feel inside his or her heart, that longing to belong to something greater and to connect to someone else."

That line really turns me off. If your story is a metaphor (and you need to tell me that), it may not have a good plot. Then to see "this character driven novel" I really start questioning the plot. The loneliness and emptiness don't tell me any more of the story, other than it is dark (which was already clear).

Anonymous said...

If your novel is truly character driven, your query should reflect that with in-depth portrayals that make the agent care about your characters. The same is true for plot, if it's plot driven. And if it's both (which I hope it is), and you can convey that convincingly and interestingly in the query, well, then you’ve got something.

Anonymous said...

I'd cut that first paragraph and go right to Smidly. You can always add a line at the end that says, "Set in a post-apocalyptic world of everyday magic and old technology, "Nothing" is a fantasy novel of 70,000 words."
mb