Monday, April 09, 2007

Face-Lift 312


Guess the Plot

The Lies That Bind

1. Pinocchio was just getting used to that little problem with his nose when he started having issues with regularity that not even lots of fiber would help.

2. Incarcerated bank robber Joe Johnson tells his cellmate, extortionist "Thumper Tom," that if Thumper protects Joe from harm in the joint, when they get out he'll split his take from his last robbery. Thumper agrees. But who's sincere and who's lying?

3. Liz survived years of lies and deception from her oppressive husband, but now that he's dead, she wonders if he's the man haunting her. Good news: it's not her husband's ghost; it's just some guy who's been hired to kill her. And, he's pretty good looking.

4. Evelyn told her mother-in-law that she wears a size 12, when a 16 is closer to the truth. With the family reunion drawing near, will Evelyn resign herself to wearing the ill-fitting gifts her mother-in-law sent her for Christmas, or will she find a way to escape. . . The Lies that Bind?

5. The letter was simple: Pastor Bob wasn't an ordained minister, so her marriage to Jason was false. But should she tell Jason, or should she say nothing, and let the lie keep them bound together forever?

6. It started as a fib--she was just going to the store, she said. But fib upon fib now has Cara so wrapped up in lies that she can't remember who she is or where she lives.


Original Version

A name whispered in the dark, ghostly appearances taunting her, and the betrayal of her dearest friend leave Elizabeth Cooper with no one to trust save for one man: the one hired to kill her.

["Trust" Rankings of Everyone Elizabeth Knows (Last Week):

1. Her dearest friend.
2. Everyone else.
3. The hitman hired to kill her.

[Current "Trust" Rankings of Everyone Elizabeth Knows:

1. The hitman hired to kill her.
2. Everyone else.
3. Her dearest friend.]

Now flourishing on her own in her Texas hometown, inner determination fuels Liz to rebuild her life after years with an oppressive husband who controlled her with heinous lies and seemingly insurmountable deceptions. [Only odds and obstacles can be described as "seemingly insurmountable." It's a rule, and a good one.] Liz finds her world begin to collapse once again as her friend tries to save her from herself with quick wit, undying devotion, and rational explanations to the bizarre happenings around her. [That sentence must go.] Is she slowly slipping into the world of the insane, or is her estranged husband, now deceased, truly haunting her?

Thousands of miles away, Victor Scofield [Assuming "thousands" means at least two thousand, my check of the mileage from Texas to Portland, Maine, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Panama shows that none is thousands of miles away. Thus I assume Victor is in Honolulu, Buenos Aires, or Casablanca.] is adamant that the bastard child his father now seeks will prove to be nothing but a mockery to the family traditions, family name, and most importantly to him, the family wealth. He attempts to cover up his father's unfaithful indiscretions of years ago by defying the family and decides this child, now grown, is better off buried in the ground than risk her being brought into the fold. [That sentence must go.] As sadistic obsession overcomes Victor, he sacrifices one sister to prevent this new one from surfacing. [Explain.]

When Alex Clevenger, (anagram: clever ex-angel) the man hired to murder Liz, begins to speak, she realizes this is the man "haunting her," the one causing old doubts and fears and insecurities to reign once again. Her best friend, Elle, has a secret she has never shared with Liz. [What secret?] With Elle suddenly and uncharacteristically leaving town, Alex has Liz questioning all she has believed in regard to her best friend. [Apparently there's an Alex-Elle connection you haven't mentioned? Either leave Elle out of this paragraph, or tell us what she did that's so bad.] Liz must now lean on Alex and pray he does not decide to fulfill the contract on her life as she lays her trust, and ultimately her heart, at his feet. Liz knows she must release all perceptions she has about herself, her adoption, and her friend in order to stay alive, as well as deal with the scars of deception that still linger in her heart. [That paragraph must go.]

THE LIES THAT BIND is romantic suspense, complete at 90,000 words. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely


Revised Version

A name whispered in the dark, and betrayal by her dearest friend leave Liz Cooper with no one to trust--other than the man hired to kill her--in my romantic suspense novel, The Ties that Bind.

Rebuilding her life after years with an oppressive husband who controlled her with heinous lies and deceptions, Liz seeks rational explanations for the ghostly apparitions and bizarre happenings that have been tormenting her. Is she slowly slipping into the world of the insane? Or is she truly being haunted by her deceased husband?

Victor Scofield is convinced that the bastard child his father now seeks will tarnish the family name--and reduce his share of the family wealth. He would rather see this child, now grown, buried in the ground than risk her being brought into the fold. As sadistic obsession overcomes Victor, he makes the necessary arrangements.

When Alex Clevenger, the man Victor hired to murder Liz, begins to speak, she realizes this is the man "haunting" her, the one bringing her old doubts and fears to the surface once again. She appeals to his kinder nature; and Alex quickly comes to see that Liz is the one woman with whom he can find a lifetime of happiness--though only if he doesn't put a bullet in her brain. So they kill Victor and live happily ever after. Right?

THE LIES THAT BIND is romantic suspense, complete at 90,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

Okay, everything I know about hitmen I learned from Grosse Pointe Blank and Day of the Jackal, so I could be wrong about this, but I'm thinking once a hitman takes a job to kill you, it's kill or be killed. You ain't talkin' him out of it.

My ending probably isn't the real one, but at least it's not vague. That third plot paragraph needs to tie the other two together and it needs concrete details. I wasn't even sure the hitman was hired by Victor, as you seem to say Victor eliminates his other sister, thereby preventing Liz from surfacing. Why does Victor have to sacrifice another sister if he's hired someone to kill Liz?

Your ending brings in Elle's secret without explanation, implies that Elle leaving town is a betrayal without explanation, brings up adoption as an issue, when it hadn't been mentioned that she was adopted . . . If a statement leads to questions you aren't going to answer, best not to make it in the first place.

It's not clear why Liz has no one she can trust except a guy I assume she's never met until he shows up with a gun in his hand. Does she know him? If so, that's worth mentioning, as it'll make it easier to swallow him not killing her.

14 comments:

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Ugh, it's painful to read. This was my first ever attempt at a query letter. The date on it is July 2004. I've learned a lot since then, but thought it would be neat to see it again from an editor's viewpoint.

As for Alex's job: According to my CIA source, the way it's set-up is umm... dead on. If she's killed, it's investigated. If there's an "accident", it's investigated. If she's slowly losing her mind and her friends question her mental stability, well, a suicide isn't shocking when it comes. Not only that, but Alex has to get access to her computer for confirmation on the accusations against her, and ya can't get to a dead chick's stuff after she's dead. Plus, well, if the accusations aren't true (which they aren't, he finds out), then he's killed someone for no reason. Alex has a tight moral code, although slightly bent, and he doesn't DO personal, which this hit ends up being about.

Thanks, EE. ~smoochas~

Brenda Bradshaw said...

This sums it up nicely, btw:

["Trust" Rankings of Everyone Elizabeth Knows (Last Week):

1. Her dearest friend.
2. Everyone else.
3. The hitman hired to kill her.

[Current "Trust" Rankings of Everyone Elizabeth Knows:

1. The hitman hired to kill her.
2. Everyone else.
3. Her dearest friend.]

Talia, Centre for Emotional Well-Being said...

I loved the GTP
Liz survived years of lies and deception from her oppressive husband, but now that he's dead, she wonders if he's the man haunting her. Good news: it's not her husband's ghost; it's just some guy who's been hired to kill her. And, he's pretty good looking.

I found that more intriguing than the query which I found confusing.

Anonymous said...

The rewrite is much better. I had to read several of the original sentences more than once to figure out what the author was trying to say.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that original version was full of overwrought but uninformative verbage. I assume the book is for readers who aren't too keen on logic or realism so those flaws won't matter, but I think you'll do better using simple declarative sentences in the query. All you need to do is introduce the main characters and their biggest problem. Swirling mystery is not good for queries. Save that for the book.

Anonymous said...

Loved the "Trust" rankings.

Anonymous said...

Umm...there are a lot of language and word usage issues here that not only cloud your meaning but make me wonder if the rest of your writing has the same problems. Don't use a word unless you're *exactly* sure of its subtleties of meaning and how it's used.

blogless_troll said...

I had to read EE's revision twice before I finally understood the plot. But now that I get it, it sounds like it could be fun. The problem with the query is it's written as if we already know what's going on and you're trying to make it mysterious for us. That's because you already know what's going on and you're trying to make it mysterious for us. Just tell us what happens without all the convolution.

Also, you need to tell us how her marriage ended, or don't mention it at all. Did they divorce? Did she kill him? Or did he choke on a Vienna sausage? The first few times I read it I thought the husband was the one trying to kill her.

And I don't know how professional this Alex guy is, but this could work if he's not all that into the hitman gig. Like he's an aspiring writer just trying to pay the rent kind of thing.

Dave said...

One of my problems and I see it in other query letters is writing advertising copy rather than good solid descrption of a novel. Don't take me wrong, a query letter is to sell a novel to an agent, but, but, but, it doesn't require the hyperbole and adjectival orgasmia that advertising copy does. (Florid, purply, over ambitious prose)

I guess that we shouldn't write the query letter in any more florid an English style than we actually write the novel.

And one last thing - unrelated to the above statements - a hired killer is just that. The notion that anyone taking money in a murder for hire scheme can be dissuaded isn't convincing to me.

You see, to fire a gun at a target or a game animal takes intent. To pick up a gun and defend yourself in your house requires that you make the decision NOW to pull the trigger. YOu can't make the decision when the burgler or rapist or whoever is in your house. If you do that, you're dead and the villian takes your gun. No, when you defend yourself, you make the decision in advance to kill at the hint of a threat. There are no second thoughts involved. No other coniderations. The main thought in your mind when you pick up a gun to defend your house and home is just that -- no one will harm me or mine. That's the way I was taught to shoot a gun.

A hired killer has already made the decision to kill his victim and does his best to dehumanize the victim to keep his conscience from griping.

Murder for Hire is not murder in a rage or in the throws of passion. It is truly, totally, and amazingly preplanned and coldblooded. The victim is no longer human in the eyes of the hired killer.

It takes a lot to overcome that decision.

ello said...

The Victor Scofield paragraph is really confusing. I'm assuming she is the bastard child now grown, but the transition is real rough and I almost think you should just keep him out of it entirely, or start with him and state right from the get go that she is the bastard child and doesn't know why she is being attacked.

phoenix said...

Ah, dearest Dave, I take the utmost umbrage at the merest hint that I might, in truth, have placed on paper the purplest of prose when I lovingly crafted copy for not one, but TWO! retailers hawking their wares with 0% down and 0 payments for 12 months!

blogless_troll, consider me dancing around and singing your praises (praise! praise!), and not doing anything to get on your bored side. Like he's an aspiring writer just trying to pay the rent kind of thing indeed!

Brenda, glad you've learned a few lessons between then and now. I shudder to think about some of the stuff I've queried with in ages past! So when are you going to submit something fresh that we can snicker at before we slash it to bits?

Dave said...

Whenever I read my writing and see finely crafted words that I perceive as so great and wonderful, I know it's crap and delete it. If it thrills me, it's gone.

When I see a passage that still requires work and has taken hours and while most of the words are in their proper place but not all of them, then, I don't touch it. That's my good stuff.

gramMar Grandma said...

"Throes," dear Dave, not "throws."

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Phoenix, not sure. I'm thinking of working the query now for my current WIP before I continue along with the actual novel. One of the hardest things I had when writing this horrible query was trying to get all the crap I knew out of my brain and carve it down to the core. If I write the premise of the current novel in a query now, that keeps all the extra stuff outta my brain and away from the paper, too. The one I'm working on now is the Adult Shop one that I submitted as a New Beginning.

LIES was completed in June 2004 and I queried in July 2004. At the end of 2004, I attended my first ever RWA National Conference, and quickly learned that what I had here was trash.