Thursday, July 23, 2009

Face-Lift 657

Guess the Plot

Mendelve's Daughter

1. An aspiring novelist in Edwardian London writes a juicy romance, but is nearly undone by indecision about the heroine's name -- until she finds a brilliant way to write around it!

2. Convicted of sixteen murders by the age of thirteen, the world's youngest serial killer, waits on death row. And if you think Mendelve's daughter Sarah was bad, wait'll I tell you about Mendelve.

3. One roll in the hay with Fixdwarve and wham, Mendelve the maid is pregnant. Worse yet, a prophecy, a golden spatula and a cabbage-shaped birthmark on baby Patchmix's butt mean trouble from the jealous castle kitchen staff.

4. When Gustavo Mendelve died in 1724, he left behind an impressive array of lifelike automatons that delighted Royal Courts everywhere. Historian Jeff Hunter has found them. But as he restores them, he discovers something strange about the little harpist called Mendelve's Daughter. Is she really just a machine, or did the old inventor find the secret of creating life?

5. Jack John James quit his job after being required to spend a week in purgatory. His new job is to keep the boss's daughter happy. The problem? She wants items from the hells of all the world's religions.

6. Shouldn't that be Mendeleev, like the chemistry guy? The tragic true story of Tiffany Mendelve, and how the 13,121st repetition of that question drove her to begin the bloodiest killing spree in the history of Ogden Dunes, Indiana.

Original Version

Title: Mendelve’s Daughter
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller
Lengths: 90,000 words

Five years ago Joyce Wherret was an ordinary housewife living in one of Seattle’s wealthiest suburbs with her husband, Daniel and only daughter, Satiety. [Satiety? That's her name? Did they decide what to name their kid right after hitting an all-you-can-eat buffet?] But all that changed after Joyce’s husband was caught steeling money from her father’s company. [Which was U.S. Steel.] Disowned by her parents and siblings, [Her entire family disowns her because the guy she married turned out to be a crook?] Joyce followed Daniel into a run down apartment, and took a job as a maid. [When you move into a run-down apartment, it's always nice when someone follows you in looking for work as a maid.] Less than a year later, Satiety is kidnapped from her new school. [Or did she run away because of all the teasing about her name?] Now Joyce lives in East Tennessee with Daniel, struggling to make ends meet and her marriage work. [When you stick your kid with a name like Satiety, you deserve whatever misery befalls you.] Everything changes when a letter, arrives containing details about Satiety’s abduction only the kidnapper could know. The author is Sarah Mendelve, the world’s youngest serial killer. [So far; you can bet there are a few eleven- and twelve-year-olds hoping to break that record.] Convicted of sixteen murders at age thirteen, Sarah has spent the last five years on death row. Sarah will tell everything, all Joyce has to do is stop the serial killer’s execution. Joyce is more than willing. For one thing, she doesn’t believe in the death penalty. But mostly she’ll do anything for her daughter. There’s one problem: her husband. [And there's a second problem: she's not the governor. In fact, she's a maid with no political clout whatsoever.]

Daniel doesn’t want Joyce anywhere near Sarah Mendelve and he tries to stop his wife with violence. Joyce doesn’t know, but Sarah’s grandfather, Gerhardt Mendelve, is the man who kidnapped Satiety. [That's why Sarah is known as . . . Mendelve's Granddaughter.] And he’s been using Satiety to blackmail Daniel. When, Joyce starts digging deeper into the case against Sarah Mendelve, she uncovers a corrupt detective, [who framed an innocent thirteen-year-old for sixteen murders.] and discovers the FBI have classified her husband as a “person of interest,” but refuse to tell her why. ["No specific reason. We just find him extremely interesting."] Then people start dying [Does anyone finish dying?] and all the clues point toward Daniel. [Immediately the FBI swing into action, upgrading Daniel's status to "person of fascination."] In the end Joyce will learn the truth, but it comes with a steep price; to herself and everyone she knows.

I graduated from redacted in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I am currently an English Teacher [I'm betting "satiety" was one of your vocabulary words while you were writing the novel.] living in redacted. [And that was another one.] Mendelve’s Daughter is my first completed work of fiction. I have attached sample pages. I look forward to further communication.


When you're offered an opportunity to get your kidnapped child back, whether you believe in the death penalty isn't among your considerations.

Nor is it worth stating that Joyce would do anything for her child. It's not like other parents of kidnapped children would say, "Sorry, I'll do anything for my child except stop an execution."

When did they put Sarah on death row? Surely not when she was thirteen. That would never happen. They have special facilities for serial killers who are thirteen-year-old girls.

If your principal sees those commas after "letter" and "When," your English-teacher gig is in serious jeopardy.

Did Gramps kidnap Satiety just to blackmail Daniel, or to try to get the execution stopped? Either way, I see no reason the kidnapper chose Satiety. Why not kidnap the child of someone who's wealthy or who has clout? The authorities will reason similarly and assume she was kidnapped by a relative. Her grandfather. Meaning Daniel is Mendelve. They'll realize they should have known all along, because of the book's title. They'll realize that Mendelve conspired with a police detective to have his thirteen-year-old daughter charged with the sixteen murders he committed, and then moved to Seattle and married Joyce after changing his name to Daniel Wherret.

Not clear what Joyce is expected to do to stop the execution. Her husband doesn't want her anywhere near Sarah Mendelve, but how was she going to get near her anyway? They don't let just anyone visit death row inmates.

Why hasn't Daniel told Joyce about the blackmail? Why hasn't Joyce told the authorities about the letter from Sarah?

I'm not buying the plot. If it all makes sense in the book, you need to get the stuff that's bothersome out of the query.


150 said...

Looking at this a second time, I think you're trying to go for a "what if Hannibal Lecter was a twelve-year-old girl?" high concept. Get that in as early as you can! Right now it's hidden in the paragraph about a disgraced housewife.

Not a fan of the name "Satiety", and I recommend changing it to something that doesn't start with S. While you're at it, my brain kept trying to make the last name Mendeleev, so you might want to change that too.

The SPAG errors are damning. Don't send the manuscript anywhere until you run it past a great beta reader.

We'll take another look if you put a rewrite in the comments. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Too convoluted. Serious plot creep. A critical "fact" is wrong: 13 year olds are not subject to death penalty in the USA and no, you can't just wait until they're 18 and then kill them, even in Kentucky. What's the word count?

First half is a soap opera that establishes your protagonist is an idiotic slave to her hormones -- or why follow scumbag? Second half is a triller and we're supposed to believe this bimbo can outsmart the FBI and foil a syndicate of diabolical murderers?

Maybe you can split this project into two books, and sub each under a different alias because the soap/romance and the thriller will appeal to different audiences. I'd say start with the romance, since a convincing thriller will require you to do a huge amount of research.

benwah said...

Plot chasms aside, you lost me at Satiety.

"Eat your vegetables, young lady."
"But Mom, I'm fuuuuull."

Steve said...

I don't see what the "five years ago" stuff has to do with the immediate situation - does it need to be in the query at all? Or does it explain the major sticking point in the plot? (Namely, how is Joyce supposed to stop an execution?) If the background stuff does explain this, I think we should be told.

I can't get past the names either. Mendelve? That one's odd enough, but ... Satiety Wherret? The poor kid must be praying for death.

But I think the baffling stuff in the plot description is the biggest problem. We need that plot hole filled in.

150 said...

LOL @benwah!

Dave F. said...

I know a few guys who graduated from Redacted College. They have a great program in {expletive deleted} and {censored}, not to mention extensive dealings with the CIA's {secret} Division.

Eric P. said...

You probably should review the relevant sections in your English Teaching resources about the proper uses of commas and semicolons. Sure, most people are sloppy these days, but you're an English teacher, for Fowler's sake! Take a stand!

Also, if this was inspired by the old assignment "Write a story based on the word 'Satiety'"... good marks, but you can change it now. Really.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I can see a novel about an evil little girl ("there's something wrong with Sarah Mendelve!") but dear author, the rest of your plot doesn't hang together. Unless on the last page Joyce wakes up and it was all a dream.

You can solve one big credibility problems if you bump Sarah's age up to 17 at the time of her conviction. I did a quick google for "youngest person executed" and found the case of Douglas Christopher Thomas and Jessica Wiseman, who killed Wiseman's parents together. Wiseman, age 14, served time and was let go, even though she was considered the mastermind. Thomas, age 17, was tried as an adult and executed.

Debbie said...

I work in prison ministry, and I've met a fair number inmates who murdered while under the age of 18. They have all been sentenced to life without parole.

Unless Joyce is a lawyer, she's of no use to Satiety. Lawyers can postpone death sentences indefinitely...or, at least, until the Death Row inmate gets tired of living caged and tells the lawyer to back off and let them die (and sometimes the lawyer won't back off even then).

The other option is to get the governor to grant clemency, which is difficult for any inmate. As EE said, Joyce would have to have a lot of political clout or some underhanded method of persuasion to convince a governor to jeopardize his political career by letting Satiety go.

So this set-up sounds unrealistic to me.

benwah said...

Satiety might be the very definition of a passive character: she's always satisfied and never wants more.

Come to think of it, she sounds like a cheap (and very uninteresting) date.

Anonymous said...

The most cursory research effort would inform you the death penalty for crimes committed while a juvenile is unconstitutional in the USA. It doesn't matter how old the person is when arrested or convicted, their age when the crime happened is what matters. A few states have manipulated the definition of adult to include 17 and sometimes 16 year olds, but almost no juries have ever found it necessary to kill such a young person. Under age 16, no, the death penalty is not a modern possibility.

So when your "13 year old serial killer" is going to be executed, that tells me you wanted to write some kind of legal thriller but didn't care enough about plausibility to do any research at all. If I was an agent, I wouldn't read past that.

Evil Editor said...

Possibly Sarah killed sixteen people by the age of thirteen, and killed a couple more over the next seven years (including at least one after she turned eighteen), and only then was captured.

Unlikely, but I see nothing to contradict it. It would explain the death sentence and the five years on death row.

blogless troll said...

I agree with 150. Hannibal Lecter as a 12 year-old girl was the first thing I thought of. That's the most interesting part of this, not the housewife. And Mendelve is too periodic table-y. And Satiety is way over the top. I'd go with something more subtle, like Surfeitia.

Dave, is Prof. Confidential still there? He was always my favorite.

Matthew said...

Satiety Wherret isn't so weird when you compare it to real life names like Kal-El Cage, Tillulabell Willis and Moon Unit Zappa.

But I am very curious as to how the author arrived at Satiety for a name. It's just too strange to be random.

Gina said...

EE, you are one funny mofo.

_*Rachel*_ said...

This doesn't make sense, it doesn't flow, and it's got punctuation problems. Sorry.

There's something about the sentences and the way they flow that makes it feel choppy to me. Granted, the funny blue text breaks it up a bit, but that's only a little of the problem.

In the last plot paragraph, do you need that ; ? I'm guessing you don't. Same goes for the credits paragraph.

You might want to work on another piece and come back to this. Or you might want to give everything another round of editing and revision. Or both.

150's got a good point; your hook is the 13-year-old serial killer. If you can make it sound serious, of course.

Hey, the names could be worse. I heard tale last night of a certain Holden Groin. Hope he's not on the blogosphere.

Forget Daniel as the serial killer--I'm betting on Satiety Wherret. Her next victim? You can guess.

Kings Falcon said...

A HUGE plausibility problem for me is that the US Supreme Court has banned the death penalty for minors. So, you need to tell me this isn't contemporary or make Sarah over 18 when she's convicted for a murder that also occurred when she was over 18, and sentanced to death.

I also don't see how some MAID is going to stop an execution. Unless the family that disowned her contains the governer who's suddenly willing to accept her back into the fold.

Also, why blackmail the bum? What use could that be?

The plausibilty questions the query rises kill you. If the book has reasonable answers, you may want to reshape the query to show it. And pick one genre.

BuffySquirrel said...

Ohhh, I get what's going on. EE's running a Sikrit Contest for most implausible fictional serial killer.


I'd be much more interested in the story of how such a young woman became a serial killer than in any of this. And an English teacher who doesn't know the difference between steel and steal? oh, the shame.

Steve said...

Satiety Wherret isn't so weird when you compare it to real life names like Kal-El Cage, Tillulabell Willis and Moon Unit Zappa.

- True, but their parents can afford the therapy bills.

The name thing blinded me to another problem - I'm not quite clear on the time scales here. You say "five years ago Joyce Wherret was an ordinary housewife" ... then, later, "less than a year later, Satiety is kidnapped" ... does this mean the kid has been in Grandpa Mendelve's clutches for over four years? (A better man than me would resist the temptation to say "she must be getting awfully fed up" at this point.)

If so, I'm not entirely following Grandpa's reasoning here. Has he kidnapped a child so that, on the off chance that Sarah runs out of appeals four years later, he can blackmail some random person into doing ... something ... to stop the execution? Or am I hopelessly confused?

Dave F. said...

Don't worry about the serial killer plotline or the age of the children involved. Hannibal Lechter's three novels had dozens of plot holes but the story was well told and compelling.

If the audience knows what you are doing, the people who are willing to read it, will read it. the people who won't ever read it because it's too horrible, will know and stay away.

Consider the horrific events in the opening of "Saving Private Ryan" or certain sequences in "Schindler's List" or torture in "The Passion of the Christ." The audiences knew what they were going to see.

It's when you shock an audience without warning that you get in trouble.

~Aimee States said...

I have a serious problem buying that a 13 year would ever get away with 16 murders. Really? Not in today's world.

Craig Price and Jesse Pomeroy. Google.

Adam Heine said...

GTP #4 isn't funny. It actually sounds... good.

BuffySquirrel said...

No, DO worry about them. This is a first novel by an unknown. Different rules apply.

Ruth said...

@Dave F: Were the Hannibal books' plot holes this large, though?

To me, the whole thing, from start to finish, just sounds either boring or way too unlikely to believe in any context (unless it's way in the past/future/other country).

Also, English Teacher: learn to spell and use punctuation. Otherwise that's just a really bad look. If you can't learn, get someone who knows English a bit better to go through and fix it for you. (I don't understand by what rationale you thought there would be commas there. It utterly baffles me.)

@150: SPAG? Not a term I've heard before, but I'm assuming - spelling, punctuation and grammar? I'll have to remember that one. :)

Anonymous said...

#4 is brilliant!

Anonymous said...

I know I'm coming late in the game, but Mary Bell was 10 when she killed two little boys.