Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. On the eve of the release of their latest video game, a company's chief game developer is murdered. Only Elliot Finch, game programmer, can solve the case--although some detective wants in on the glory. Also, a kid who speaks only in code.
2. He strangled, shot, stabbed, poisoned, ran over, drowned, burned, crushed, and hung the cat. But it was still alive because the witch next door had given it . . . extra lives.
3. Jason Liebenkrantz escapes his despair over mortality by playing video games day and night until his soul is drawn into his Xbox. The quality of life in there is pretty low, and the women are all 2D, but at least he gets plenty of . . . extra lives.
4. Computer games mean everything to Bob: escape from his nagging mother, and a chance to prove his father wrong about being a dumb nobody. When an anonymous contact offers Bob the code for unlimited lives in Roger Bopping IV, it could make Bob the world champion - or get him banned forever from competitive gaming.
5. Mortally wounded in a battle between Good and Evil, Morvin discovers he can recover and continue the fight by shoving two quarters up his ass. Can he defeat the spawn of Satan before running out of coins or developing piles?
6. Morris the Cat meets the zombies in this action packed thriller of kitty redemption. Does Morris have enough lives left to defeat the zombie master?
Elliot Finch isn't a detective. [I'm hooked already. You don't know how sick I am of mysteries in which the main character is a detective. I mean, if Miss Marple can solve a murder, the average plumber or flight attendant or video game developer ought to be able to handle it.] He's a programmer for Advirture, a video game development company on the verge of releasing Talent, a major breakthrough. But the company's chief developer has been found dead in the back halls of E3, the largest video-game exposition in the country, and Finch is the only one with enough inside knowledge to unravel the tangle of back-office deals, lies and double-crosses surrounding the murder.
In the world of video games, one hit can make a company and one miss can destroy it. It's populated by [What's populated by? The world of videogames? A company? Or the book?] people like the thirteen-year-old prodigy who refuses to speak in anything but code, the CEO so afraid of other people that he's hired an actor for personal appearances, and the motion-capture model trying to hide her addiction to on-line role playing games. Each of them has a stake in the success or failure of Talent, and every company on the E3 floor has a motive for seeing Advirture collapse. [I would think that if they're on the verge of releasing the game, it must be in production, as they'd have to make huge numbers of them before they could release it. I don't see this murder stopping the game from coming out.]
Someone is willing to kill to either steal the new technology or prevent it from ever reaching the shelves. With the help of a veteran detective, Finch has to find out who is responsible before their plan to destroy Advirture requires the death of Finch himself.
Extra Lives is a 90,000 word mystery. My short fiction has appeared in X and Y.
Thank-you for your time.
You seem to have what you need for a mystery. A dead person, some suspects, and a detective. Unfortunately, your crime apparently will be solved by Finch, who is less likely than the detective to find new murders to solve in future books in the series. Just thinking ahead.
If everyone on the floor of the biggest video game exposition has a motive, I don't see how unraveling the tangle of deals, lies and double-crosses gets us anywhere. There's a reason most murder mysteries have five to eight suspects. 30,000 suspects is unwieldy.
Spoiler Alert: I think it would be an enlightening exercise to see how an experienced editor reads between the lines to solve a murder mystery. If you plan to read the book, stop reading now.
Okay, who are the suspects?
1. The 13-year-old kid.
2. The CEO.
3. The model.
4. The actor.
6. The dead person's heir(s).
7. Lord Mountbatten.
8. Someone so insignificant he wasn't even worthy of being mentioned in the query because he barely appears in the book until it's revealed at the end that he had a long-standing grudge with the deceased.
We immediately eliminate Finch. Even though he isn't a detective, he might be needed for a sequel if the book takes off.
The kid is out. There'd be no satisfaction in having a kid get the chair. Plus, the final confession would be in code, so we wouldn't understand it.
The heirs are out. You don't set the book in a gaming expo if the spouse or kid did it. You set it in an English manor.
The actor is out. No motive unless he's fallen in love with the CEO. But the CEO is afraid of people, and probably hasn't even met the actor.
Already we've cut the field in half.
The CEO is too obvious. If it turns out to be the CEO everyone's gonna say, I knew it was the CEO. They'll be disappointed. If it's the CEO, I suggest you change the ending before sending the manuscript off. If this were your sixth Elliot Finch mystery, you could make it the CEO, because by now everyone trusts that you wouldn't make it the obvious person.
So we've narrowed it down to the motion capture model, the person who was never mentioned, and Lord Mountbatten. This is where it gets tough. We need to think about motive. The victim was a major player in the design of the game. The model wouldn't have had much contact with the victim unless they had something going on the side. A crime of passion? I don't buy it. I think the motive had something to do with the breakthrough technology. Also, being addicted to games, the model would want the game to be released so she could play it. Killing the developer just delays that.
Now you're thinking you see the brilliance of having included Lord Mountbatten on the list, because we can easily eliminate him on the grounds he died in 1979, when the video game industry was dominated by Ms. Pacman. But not so fast! For the insignificant character never mentioned in the query turns out to be . . . Lord Mountbatten Jr., international adventurer, video game executive, heir to the Mountbatten fortune, and . . . cold-blooded killer. An interesting twist, but . . . having had no trouble determining whodunnit, I of course wouldn't request this manuscript.