Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Face-Lift 865

Guess the Plot

Hit or Missus

1. When agent Zack Martinez gets an offer to go over to the dark side and work as a contract killer for the Zamboni crime family, he has to think long and hard.

2. A college baseball rivalry heats up when a married couple on the brink of divorce (and with a trustfund on the line) are hired as coaches for the two teams.

3. The members of one-hit-wonder rap group Hit or Missus are out of rehab, converted to born-again Christianity, and recording a gospel CD. But is their transformation genuine or a publicity stunt for reality TV?

4. Hollywood director Cece's rom-coms have been successful, but not the megahits the studio execs want. Enter handsome Jack Miller, the actor she has to have for her new movie. When she meets him at the set he rocks her world. Can she get the hit she desperately needs . . . and Jack?

5. Private investigator Peri and her detective boyfriend Skip discover that the cases they're working are about to collide head-on. And the fact that a young female officer is after Skip isn't helping. Also, a guy who's obsessed with Dean Martin.

6. Baseball star Milo Strong has been in a slump ever since he got engaged to rock star Keri James. The team won't make the playoffs if Milo doesn't turn it around, and his teammates are only too happy to let him know Keri must go. What a pickle to be in.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor; [Percentage of agents/editors who would notice that you used a semicolon instead of a comma or colon after the salutation: 36. Percentage of that 36% who would use that as an excuse to read no further: 25.]

Private investigator Peri Minneopa [Anagram: Minneapolis pimp] thinks she's taking a typical case: a rich businessman suspects his wife of cheating. Snapping pictures and collecting hotel receipts should be easy money. So color her surprised when her life is being threatened, possibly by the cheating wife herself, along with her gang of wealthy BFFs. [While it's possible to have a gang of FFs, I'm thinking only one of them can be your BFF.] [I'm not sure there's such a strong connection between a job being easy money and not being dangerous that I would color Peri surprised. I mean, if I handed you a gun and said I'd give you a million dollars to kill a complete stranger, that's easy money, but if you did it, you wouldn't be surprised to get arrested.] ["Possibly by the cheating wife" leads us to wonder if the threat might be totally unrelated to this case. Is the threat "Stay away from Mrs. Businessman or else," or is it "Prepare to die, private eye."?]

Her boyfriend, Skip, is worried, but as a detective in the Placentia Police Department, [Look, I know there's a real place called Placentia, but if you use Placentia in a novel people will think you made it up and go Ewwww. No doubt Placentia gets its share of ribbing, what with that extra "i" being almost invisible. In fact, it is invisible here. And that site has even higher search engine ratings than the placenta recipe sites.] he has his own case to handle. Peri's elderly neighbor died of a heart attack, which wouldn't be unusual if her husband hadn't died of the same thing two weeks earlier. Skip doesn't believe in coincidences, and his suspicions prove correct. [Actually, there's evidence to support that spouses dying close together is more than a coincidence.]

Peri's cheating wife case soon collides with his murder case, and Peri finds it hard to keep her nose out of everything. The deeper she investigates, the more dangers she encounters. She's willing to ignore the threats on her life to get to the truth, until the bodies start piling up…

Skip's concern for her safety has led to constant fighting, leaving Peri feeling insecure about their relationship. Her self-doubts couldn't have come at a worse time, as a younger female officer in the department is pursuing him. [I can see adding this paragraph if the book is a romance. This being a mystery, I'd rather have a hint at how these cases are colliding.]

And in the middle of completing her case, defending herself against a vengeful wife, and protecting her relationship turf, her former client Benny Needles comes to her for help. The needy little man who's obsessed with Dean Martin needs a job. [Benny Needles needs a job is the big finish? Get Benny outta here.]

Peri must decide what's worth keeping, her boyfriend, her career, or her sanity. Can't she have it all, with a dirty martini on the side?

Hit or Missus, a mystery, is complete at 75,000 words.



In order to make this sound like a mystery you might want to fill us in on whose bodies are piling up and how they are connected to the cheating wife case. If the mystery is Who's the murderer, we might want to know that there are several suspects. Right now I think there's too much mystery in the query.

I feel like it should be Peri who suspects the neighbors were murdered. She's your main character; don't you want her to be responsible for spotting the crucial clue that causes her case to collide with the deaths?


Anonymous said...

Too much like a list of disconnected plots in a collection of short stories. Individually these subplots are not especially innovative or gripping. Collectively, it sounds like a mess.

Start over. Focus on the main plot and organize the information so we know how the various elements of your novel connect to create a cleverly constructed story greater than the sum of its parts. No need to mention every little subplot and intrigue.

Angela Robbins said...

not much to add to anon's. focus on the meat, the little potatoes and carrot arcs can be enjoyed later.

Anonymous said...

Benny Needles is the killer.

Adele said...

The title made me think of "John and the Missus" even before you started talking about Placentia. So I suspect this is set in Newfoundland; if it isn't, you might want to change the title and/or the name of the town.

Just an observation: Skip & Peri sound a lot like Jake & Leslie in "Republic of Doyle". I don't know if that's a problem, but maybe Newfoundland is just too small to have two sets of romantically-inclined-but-feuding PI & Cop.

You need to focus on the main action. What's Peri's problem, how does it get worse, and how does she solve it.

You've said it's a mystery, but then you talk about Skip & Peri's relationship issues, which suggests it might be a romance. You don't want an agent wondering whether or not you know what genre you're writing, so downplay Skip & Peri's relationship in the query letter.

Khazar-khum said...

Is this set in Placentia, California? It's the kind of little city that would harbor all sorts of freaks.

vkw said...

"color her surprised" Really? Was that necessary?

Please don't use that line. I know you did it to add voice but . . . I get this vision of a short, fat, grey-haired southern snob having tea with her snobby frieds. Not the type of heroine I typically like. Same with the gang of BFFs - no, no, just don't do it. I think there is a rule somewhere that you don't have BFF if you reached the age of 30 or you have graduated from high school, maybe it's junior high. Even if I'm wrong, it's distracting.

Skip? Really? Maybe we are in high school.

P3 and P4 collide. In P3 we have adequate voice and teasing hints with nothing specific and in P4 we have too much information and boring. A man named Skip is not boring. If you're going to make him boring name him Robert. We also need better suspicions than an elderly couple dying of a common ailment within a few weeks of one another. Why is that suspicious? If they were 98 and died, well that's what happens when you get old sometimes; your heart fails. The additional stress of losing your spouse and paying for a funeral and living without that second Social Security check may mean the spouse's heart gives out too in a few weeks.

Drop the add-ins. I am reading the Millennium Trilogy now. Keeping up with the number of women throwing themselves at Blomkvist has become annoying, (otherwise three excellent books). His love interests would not be in a query letter, nor his marital/couple problem unless has something to do with the plot.

Worrying about a new hot officer going after your man because he's worried about you too much - makes your character sound like she is southern belle snob, insecure and childish. If she has any doubt about Skippy, a true heroine would dump him and move on - and still solve the case.


P.S. The murderer is the hot police officer going after Skippy. That's why and only why she is mentioned in the query

no-bull-steve said...

Yeah. There are a lot of issues here. This is one of those queries that I almost can't see being a well-written or interesting read. I don't say that to sound rude, but your whole intent with the query is to make it a story that an agent MUST READ. You've gone the other direction.

Elderly people die of heart attacks all the time. Were they two obese couch potatoes in their 90s who took up watching horror flicks? What reasons other than "a hunch" would a police detective be assigned to two heart attack cases? If there's some physical evidence...MAKE THAT A PLOT POINT and QUERY FOCUS POINT.

"An elderly man dies of a heart attack--no big deal--but when his younger wife dies from the same thing the following week, Skip discovers not only were they sole heirs to Bill Gates' fortune, but both had needle marks between their toes!"

And in an effort to sound cute, I think you're not thinking through the terms and actions of your characters and how they come across. So Skip is concerned that his GF is in danger (grave danger? -- is there any other kind???) but decides his case of two old heart attack victims is more important? huh?

Start over. Establish your main character, who she is and why we should care about her. What are her obsticles? What are the stakes if she doesn't solve the case?

arhooley said...

Author, if you're counting opinions, I'm in the Trim It Down camp, not the Start Over one. I also agree that the spine of this thing needs an adjustment. Is it the story of Peri's most dangerous case, an episode in the rollercoaster romance of Peri and Skip, or Peri's late-20s crisis?

Anonymous said...

Skip - not the best choice in names. Color me, I'd change that.

batgirl said...

If you want to hit the romance aspect, maybe just have Peri uncertain about how Skip feels? The catfight suggestion of the female officer muscling in on Peri's guy is kind of distracting. It made me wonder why Skip was fussing about Peri doing dangerous things if he was also interested in a woman cop, who'd presumably be doing things just as dangerous or more.