Friday, October 16, 2009

Face-Lift 686

Guess the Plot

The Trinity Saints

1. Mikey will do anything to make Trinity High School's varsity basketball team - even a little voodoo to ask the loa spirits for their blessing and aid. But as the season ramps up, Mikey finds the spirits increasingly hard to shake. The loa are determined to take Mikey all the way to a championship - whether he wants their help or not.

2. It should have been a dream job for one of Satan's minions: night warden in the eerie and oppressive library at Dublin's Trinity College. And it was--until the Trinity Saints popped up and started witnessing. All night long. Every night. Insanity ensues.

3. A superhero team consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost fight crime in Vatican City. Not a bad gig--until the villain known as the Antichrist sets up shop next to St. Peter's. Can our heroes take him down without causing Armageddon?

4. After eighteen years living with nuns, Hope is finally ready to follow her calling. She joins the Trinity Saints, and begins her training . . . as a ruthless assassin.

5. A boy, a girl and a manatee, living and loving together in Trinity Bay, Florida.

6. The Trinity University Saints haven't had a winning season since 1966. The new coach, Dante "The Inferno" Jones, plans on changing that with a training regimen that makes the seven levels of hell look like an amusement park. Angelo Nicks leads the players in a rebellion.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the faceless mask of a trained killer? [No, but only because I'm not sure I know what you mean by a faceless mask. I Googled it, but most of the images for faceless masks actually looked like faces. This one looks faceless, but he also looks like he would make a really bad trained killer.] What’s revealed when that mask of indifference is removed? Sometimes it’s an evil face of one whose humanity is lost forever and sometimes it’s the innocent face of one who has been betrayed in the worst way.

Hope O'Reilly is an example of a woman caught in a never-ending tangled web of lies, deceit and conspiracy tracing back to her birth. ["Never-ending" is not an adjective to be tossed around lightly. Especially in this case, as I suspect the web ends before the book does.] The only survivor of a viscous car accident [The car went into a skid when it hit a patch of honey.] that claimed the lives of her mother, father and twin sister, Hope is sent to the county orphanage to be raised by nuns. Eighteen years later, she's recruited into The Trinity Saints, a company that trains her to be not only cunning and ruthless, but also emotionless and lethal. For the next five years, she burrows a hole for herself [Not the clearest of metaphors--unless she's become a gopher.] in this new and exotic world; reveling in the excitement that seems to go hand in hand with the danger she faces on a daily basis.

When her current job gets botched by her resentful double and mysterious packages begin to arrive, plaguing her to the truth behind her family's demise, ["Plaguing" isn't the word you want.] Hope returns home to seek the answers she’s so desperate to find. When her bosses, The Trinity Saints, are less than forthcoming, she decides it's time to take a small vacation and only then does she begin to piece together the twenty-five year old puzzle that put her on the path to where she is today.

With the help of a gorgeous assassin next door, Hope uncovers a much deeper sense of humanity within herself [Because when you're seeking a deep sense of humanity, who better to turn to than an assassin?] and a more serious desire for retribution. Her quest for truth leads her to the one person she never suspected, [Of what?] the loving nun who raised her - her maternal grandmother. A woman whose [who's] been grooming Hope to one day take her place in the hierarchy of a secret organization who span the world over. Hope learns her mother was the only one to die in the accident that began the domino effect her life has been. [Consider trying our next bad analogy exercise.] [Is the 18 years between the accident and her recruitment one domino?] She has to decide if having family is worth the misery that seems to accompany them.

Growing up as a girl, surrounded by boys, I became a sassy tomboy with a quick tongue and an affinity for hunting, fishing and shooting. These have allowed me to create both an enjoyable and believable heroine involved in a roller coaster ride of danger, excitement and power. [If anything can prepare you to write about danger, excitement and power, it's trawlin' for catfish down at the ol' fishin' hole.] I’ve recently had a short story published on Celis T. Rono’s Collective Writer’s site.

The Trinity Saints is a 72,000 word chick lit thriller/mystery perfect for today’s woman who wants a witty, yet suspenseful tale of cat versus mouse; a tale where the mouse finally wins. [If you describe your book as cat versus mouse, it should be obvious who the cat and the mouse are. Who's the cat?] [Also, I can't recall a cat versus mouse tale in which the mouse didn't win.] May I send you my completed manuscript for your consideration?


Too many words, without saying what's important. Spell out the plot clearly. The Trinity Saints train assassins? Is Hope a hitman? Do the Saints just kill bad guys, or can anyone hire them? Why was Hope put in an orphanage but not her sister? Assuming her sister is her resentful double, what was she doing for eighteen years? Who's the cat? Grandma? Hope's father?

It appears there's a world-wide network of orphanages run by nuns, from which a group called The Trinity Saints recruits assassins or spies. From the early statement that the face beneath the mask is sometimes that of someone who's been betrayed, I assume the Saints aren't exactly saints. Instead of telling us Hope burrows a hole in her new world, give us some specifics on what she does.

The "Growing up a girl..." paragraph can go.


Aimee States said...

There should be a law banning questions from queries.

Matthew said...

It feels like you're trying too hard instead of letting things come naturally. Just tell the story.

This reminds me of Kill Bill.

The bio paragraph sounds rather self-indulgent. Agents only care about outstanding publishing credits.

Anonymous said...

If it were me, I'd cut out all the extra words so you can see the essence of what you're saying – this can help you realize what's missing. When I tried, it looks as if you've mostly got set-up, but the editor/agent will also want to see the main stakes for the main plot.

Assassin nuns?! Cool. Don't give up on the revising and good luck.

With the wordiness cut:

Hope O'Reilly is caught in a web of deceit and conspiracy. The only survivor of a car accident that claimed the lives of her mother, father and twin sister, Hope was sent to the county orphanage to be raised by nuns. Eighteen years later, she's recruited by The Trinity Saints, a company of assassins, and revels in the excitement of facing danger on a daily basis.

But when a woman who appears to be Hope's double botches one of Hope's jobs and mysterious packages begin to arrive, Hope returns [to the orphanage?] to seek answers. With the help of a gorgeous assassin, Hope discovers that her father and sister are still alive. What's more, the loving nun who raised her - her maternal grandmother – has actually been grooming Hope to one day take her place in the hierarchy of a secret worldwide organization.

[now you fill in the villain, the choice Hope faces, and the stakes for her – death? Losing her family again?]

The Trinity Saints is a 72,000-word chick lit thriller, a suspense-filled tale of cat versus mouse. Thank you for your consideration.

Faceless Minion said...

I'm all about the faceless, however you might want to reconsider the rhetorical questions. At least one agent has expressed his dislike several times. Also consider the following (follow the link for the more complete version) from edittorent:

Using Rhetorical Questions as Hooks.

Hucksters use this kind of Q&A format to try to build bonds with their audience, which they can then exploit to make a sale. One of the keys to this selling technique is picking a question with a predictable and controllable answer.

This techniques simply doesn't translate neatly to fiction queries. It's hard to build that common bond by referencing something unique ... if you do reference something common enough to build a bond, you're in danger of losing what makes your book unique.

It's a hard technique for a query letter, and you're better off avoiding it.

You also might want to double check your manuscript for misused words.

Steve Wright said...

I'm not getting a very clear picture of what's happening in this book... I started forming a mental image of, roughly, "La Femme Nikita" only with nuns, and then you say it's chick-lit, which to me sounds like a whole different genre.

There are things which need to be either elucidated, or left out completely; who is this "resentful double" for example? And how many nuns are also grandmothers? - it does seem unusual, that.

There's misuse of words (like "viscous") and some very awkward-sounding phrases - these things send up warning flags (for me). I think, at the very least, you should proofread this carefully before sending it out.

Anonymous said...

You definitely don't need Paragraph 1.

The viscous accident cracked me up.

Mostly, yes, what EE said.

Also, as someone with Irish Catholic heritage, I'm finding it a bit tedious and offensive to see church institutions and religious workers so stereotypically featured in fiction as fronts for diabolical conspiracies. It's not original and, frankly, it seems prejudicial. I'd be more interested in knowing what background qualifies you to write about nuns and orphanages, than this seemingly irrelevant bit about Tomboyish fishing.

Dave F. said...

One of the things I have to ask "Are the events in your novel linear?" meaning, does your novel start with the car crash that orphans Hope O'Reilly? Or does it start sometime later in her life?

I think the answer is "No." In face, I never having seen the novel and only having read the query, I can say certainly that you do not reveal Hope's life linearly. The reason why is that every mystery, every thriller begins in the unknown past and is slowly revealed in the unknown future. Readers only know the present that exists on the page in front of them.

If this is true, why begin the query with the backstory? Begin the query with the opening of the book. Make the query a miniature version of the entire novel.

Now I understand that certain novels are narratives and linear, Ben Hur, The Thorn Birds, The Source... and they are great stories. They need to be told linearly. But you describe your novel as a mystery/thriller. It follows then, that the car accident that kills Hope's family cannot be fully revealed in the opening chapter. One of the poorest examples of storytelling I ever read was the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when she describes the wizards dropping off the newly orphaned infant Harry at his Aunt and Uncle's house. Although we know nothing, we're told too much.

Take a mystery like Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles. Sir Charles is found dead of a heart attack and Dr Mortimer believes it was supernatural intervention that killed him. A legendary hound of hell is responsible. The reader only finds out about the legend in the middle of the book. Or take Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile. Which has a fantastic amount of backstory from every character. Where does the story begin? It begins on the day of the murder. I picked these books because they are fairly well known and there is a higher probability that you have read them or know the story.

My advice is begin the query with the action that starts the novel and then reveal the main character's struggle and path to the final reveal.

PS - I giggled all morning over viscous. Having used a viscometer, I can truly say it is a vicious instrument.

Eric P. said...

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read a comment that opened with an irrelevant yes or no question? Well, now you know.

"Saints" seems like, shall we say, a rather ironic name for a group that is "cunning, ruthless, emotionless, and lethal." I'd hate to meet the corresponding division of Sinners.

Let's see here--- "Tangled web, faceless mask, burrows a hole, go hand in hand with X, on a daily basis, put her on the path to X, domino effect, roller coaster ride, quest for truth, cat versus mouse".... My cliche-o-meter just overloaded. Try going without the metaphors; they're only hurting you here.

In my experience, chick lit is about spoiled angsty white girls, not about orphans raised by evil nuns and trained to be ruthless assassins. I could be wrong, of course... what would a male know of such things? But I'd double-check if I were you.

Your experience as a tomboy might be relevant if you're writing a chick-lit version of Tom Sawyer. Otherwise not.

I second Steve's advice that you ought to proofread very seriously indeed. "Viscous car accident" is the funniest typo I've seen in a week, and I'm a copy editor for a living.

Anonymous said...

I think something like zombie cows must have been responsible for the viscous car accident.

Dave F. said...

When I was working with oils, asphalts and coal-derived liquids, we used to have vicious problems measuring the viscosity of viscous liquids. (The confusion stoked many a sticky argument.)

Ask Mrs. V to say that three times fast.

Never trust a spellchecker!

Anonymous said...

By definition, if the fatal collision was vicious, it wasn't an accident, because accidents are unintended events, and viciousness is all about action done with evil intentions.

Robin S. said...

Hi Author,

There may be a really good story here, but I worry that you're too worried to tell the reader what it is. I understand how you feel, but I'd say, try and relax a little when you're doing your telling. Also the use of words incorrectly worries me for you. I'd suggest asking someone to read this for you, make sure these are caught before your letter goes out...oh yeah, they just were caught. Good.

Well, anyway, good luck to you!

PS - I'm also Irish heritage, raised Catholic, and I wasn't at all offended with the query. The Catholics deserve all the shit they get. No kidding.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I liked the second paragraph pretty well, but had some problems with the rest. Unfortunately, it reminded me that HOW you say what you say is everything. For example, Book-A-Minute ( or the Reduced Shakespeare Company (, who claim that Shakespeare's tragedies are funnier than his comedies.

It's not that you don't tell the story, it's that I'm hearing it like you're doing a deadpan comedy simplification. I blame some of it on the disconnect between nuns and assassins. I mean, that's just waiting for comedy to happen!

But hey, maybe I'm just crazy.

I didn't understand the double part.