Friday, May 11, 2007

Face-Lift 335

Guess the Plot

Turning 51

1. All the kids know that Arnie pasted Miss June's Playboy photos to pages 52 through 61 of the school library's copy of Huckleberry Finn. When the principal starts to read the book to the seventh grade honors English class, hilarity ensues.

2. After his wife is strangled, 50-year-old Bruce finds a million dollars in her suitcase. Should he mention this to police detective Mort Meeker? Or will it give the suspicious Meeker the motive he's been looking for, assuring that Bruce will never be . . . Turning 51?

3. Etta Morble gets a windfall from Social Security when her real age is revealed. But 90-year-old Etta uses it for an Extreme Makeover, so once again she can claim to be . . . Turning 51.

4. Carlotta needs one more trick for a set of steak knives and membership in the exclusive 51 Club. But her pimp, Tully Del Monte, wants her to move to the lower east side, where there are no steak knives, no hip hooker clubs, and where Turning 51 is just another night on your back.

5. "OK, double or nothing again that THIS one is the Ace of Spades!" So spoke Monte MacIntosh just before he lost the family fortune to Ace Johnson, professional card shark and amateur magician. I'm Monte's sister, and I'm going to get our fortune back . . . one way or another.

6. The eternally youthful Queen Calaffa has a secret--she drinks the blood of women over fifty. If she doesn't she will lose her beauty . . . and her crown. But an underground movement is starting to fudge birth records to save women from the terror of . . . Turning 51.

Original Version

Dear EE,

Inspired by a real story, TURNING 51 is a finished 100,000 word mystery set in Big Woods, North Carolina where two conspiracies collide. One prevents the solving of a 16-year-old cold case of a murdered cop. The other seeks to put a husband accused of murder behind bars for life, or worse.

Heather Neumanski is dead. Acerbic Detective Mort Meeker accuses Bruce, her resourceful, but perplexed husband, of strangling her. The District Attorney forces reluctant Lieutenant Tony Dobson to arrest Bruce. When inexperienced public defender Chad Ratcliffe gets Bruce released the same day, the DA is irate. But freedom without vindication traps Bruce emotionally between mounting a defense and mourning his wife. [That's a lot of characters already. If you just said, Heather Neumanski has been strangled, and her husband Bruce is the chief suspect, you'd eliminate the information overload, and leave more space for important stuff.] [Just to make sure everyone's been paying attention, here's a quiz. No looking back. Match each character with the correct adjective.

a. Tony Dobson.....................1. resourceful
b. Mort Meeker....................2. acerbic
c. Chad Radcliffe...................3. reluctant
d. Heather Neumanski........4. inexperienced
e. Bruce Neumanski.............5. irate
f. The DA...............................6. dead
g. The Wizard........................7. perplexed

When Bruce finds nearly a million dollars and a handgun in Heather's locked suitcase in the attic, he can't tell the cops. [Not without embarrassing the cop who searched the attic, anyway.] The money fits their motive for her murder. The IRS claims Heather wasn't who she pretended to be. When the police don't seem to care who she really was, [The police are claiming Bruce killed her for money, yet they don't care what the IRS has to say?] Bruce investigates Heather's past regardless of the results and unaware of the one person who will do anything to ensure the past stays buried forever. [The gun is the one that was used to kill the cop. The money is blackmail. The cop killer killed Heather. I watched enough episodes of Perry Mason to know that blackmail is always the motive. By the way, we're much more likely to believe someone can solve a case if his name is Perry Mason than if it's Mort Meeker. Did you ever wonder why 007 is so famous, and 008 you never hear about? "James Bond" sounds cool. Babes aren't impressed when you say, "Meeker. Mort Meeker."]

[Title origination: The story starts the morning after Bruce Neumanski turns 50 and most everything ends shortly before he's to turn fifty-one. At some point in the middle of the story he laments that he hopes that when he turns 51 things will get better.]


It seems that if two conspiracies collide, you might talk about each of them a bit. There's not much here about the cop killing or how it's connected to the other conspiracy. In fact, there's not much about why it's considered a conspiracy against Bruce. I mean, when your wife gets strangled, you're bound to be a suspect. Didn't you see The Fugitive? Is there evidence upon which Meeker bases his accusation of Bruce?

If you conspire to frame a guy for murder, shouldn't you plant enough evidence to assure that he won't be released the same day he's arrested? These are some ham-handed bunglers involved in this conspiracy.

If Meeker's the detective, and he's accusing Bruce, why doesn't he arrest him?

Is this the kind of mystery that has several suspects? If so, who else wanted Heather dead?

We might become more emotionally involved if we know there's a ton of evidence, that Bruce is possibly being held on trumped-up charges. Releasing him immediately releases me from worrying about his problem.


Dhewco said...

Radcliffe is inexperienced, not the wife.

Dhewco said...

Never mind, I'm such a dunce, I read too fast to get what you asked. sorry.

Anonymous said...

Is "inspired" by a real story the same as "based on," and does it require any sort of permission? Just curious about that. Can you answer that, EE?

Evil Editor said...

Nah, I can't imagine whose permission you would need to tell a story inspired by some event.

Now if you declare what event inspired you, and it's obvious who (involved in that event) your characters are based on, you might want to avoid turning them into child molesters.

phoenix said...

Well, darn. I failed the quiz. And I thought I was paying attention. In fact up to "...Meeker accuses Bruce" I was quite thinking I was going to get drawn into this hook.

But then the names started coming. I guess I checked out, then BAM, got caught by the pop quiz.

Then the IRS unexpectedly appears, the police aren't doing their job, Bruce becomes a sleuth, and I've lost track of who and what's going on. Then I remember the cold case mentioned in the first 'graph and wonder where it went.

If Bruce is let go, he isn't under arrest, right? Why should he be mounting a defense? Is he afraid he's going to be arrested again? Why? Doesn't he have an alibi?

If he "investigates Heather's past regardless of the results" then why can't he tell the cops he found the money and gun? Or the FBI or State Troopers, if he's concerned about the local police and DA -- and what tips him that there might even be a conspiracy he needs to worry about? Or the IRS? Who's he going to tell the results of his investigation to, especially if he doesn't turn up anything and HE's still being implicated?

You don't have to go into detail, of course, but some hint that your novel answers these questions and ties everything together nicely might be good.

GTPs: Where do people get the ideas for these GTPs? I'm always amazed by the diversity and creativity. Good job, all Guess the Plotters who have contributed to 335 of these things!

BuffySquirrel said...

Oh come on, there wasn't a Wizard. Was there?

Dave said...

Does everyone remember that Walter Peck is dickless. That much we know is true. Walter Peck has no dick.

But seriously folks, the plot is OK, perhaps a bit too simple and not complex enough. However it will do. You have to describe this as a mystery, a puzzle.

Heather is dead and Bruce stands as the prime suspect. The incompetent or crooked police move to arrest and convict him. But an adept public defender, his wife's hidden past and (I hope) several double-crosses later, Bruce proves to the world that he really is innocent and (name the killer) did it. Can he clear his dead wife's name? Can he inherit the million? Or is he destined to be Bubba's butt boy before he dies in the gas chamber.

I adore Scott Turow's ending in "Presumed Innocent." Now that is a wicked twist. And my favorite movie mysteries are "Witness for the Prosecution" and "Usual Suspects" both of which have neato, keeno, brilliant twists as their endings.

writtenwyrdd said...

For me this was too dense with names and information. In this hash of information, you didn't explain what is going on in a way that I could follow properly. Maybe follow the K.I.S.S. rule with the rewrite, and focus on the main plot (the What) rather than the Who (the names.)

AmyB said...

Just to make sure everyone's been paying attention, here's a quiz. No looking back. Match each character with the correct adjective.


Author, this query isn't that long, but I couldn't follow it at all. I have to work really, really hard to keep my eyes from glazing over when so many names are thrown at me at once. I agree with EE's advice on trimming that paragraph down to just the essentials.

The story seems like it could be an intriguing one (though it may have plausibility problems). But I want need fewer character names and more story details to find out.

When you say "inspired by a real story," do you mean a true story? Aren't all stories real?

Also, this:

...two conspiracies collide. One prevents the solving of a 16-year-old cold case of a murdered cop. The other seeks to put a husband accused of murder behind bars for life, or worse.

...reads awkwardly and needs a rephrase.

The author said...

Thanks for all the comments, and the Wizard is in the next novel.

EE...Della Street is going to have Paul Drake take you to the woodshed. If three out of your four assumptions (gun, money, killer, Meeker) are wrong, does that I mean I may have written a good mystery novel, but a lousy query letter? My bad...he's released on a "technicality," but is warned that the grand jury is sure to indict him. (The grand jury meets once a month, as in most counties in NC.) I suppose I should add the word. Back to the salt mines. Writing queries are the dregs.

Robin S. said...

"Babes aren't impressed when you say, "Meeker. Mort Meeker".

Sounds sort of like Walter Mitty in mystery mode - but hey, looks can be deceiving, so maybe names can, too. We live in hope.