Thursday, March 22, 2012

Face-Lift 1007

Guess the Plot


1. A wafer of unleavened bread drifts in interstellar space, while the long-dead astronauts who would have eaten it moulder in their own soluble fats.

2. A parrot and a police inspector form an unlikely pair as they hunt the man who killed the bird’s owner and cracked his safe. But the killer has other plans for the feathered witness.

3. Xavier thought he was finished with crime. But when the local loan shark comes after his kid brother, Xavier will have to put his gifted fingers to work one last time. But can even he crack the TL30X6 Elite?

4. The search for a cracker that doesn't contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, or even "evaporated cane juice" takes Freida Freelander to the wilds of Inner Mongolia, where she finds love with a yak herder. But still no safe crackers.

5. Zach's regular job is cracking convenience store safes. But now Harry, his partner in crime, wants to move up to high-end targets like jewelry stores. Zach would rather quit his job and become a famous artist. But is it really any easier to make a living in the high-end art world?

6. With all the unavoidable hazardous chemicals and genetically mutated garbage they put in snacks these days, Stan hopes to make a killing by marketing his gentle variety of wholly harmless crisp salty thin biscuits. He plans to decorate the box with inoffensive jokes, and enclose in each package an innocuous pyrotechnic device.

Original Version

Zach Dixon would like to quit his regular job. Cracking safes is beginning to get a little old. [All jobs get a little old when you do them forty hours a week. I would expect a safecracker to have a shorter work week, however.] But his partner and self-titled manager Harry [Nice arrangement. Zach gets the money out of the safes and Harry manages things.] has other ideas: he’s working on getting himself and Zach into Mitch Danaher’s gang. Going from convenience stores to high-end mansions and jewelry stores would be quite a lucrative accomplishment, and Harry is sure they can do it. [I don't see why they need to be in Mitch's gang to rob mansions. One or two guys can claim to be checking the gas main or the cable. It looks more suspicious if a whole gang shows up at a mansion.]

Zach isn’t sure that he wants to do it. His hobby is painting, and he recently met an art dealer who loves his work and might be able to make him famous. Besides, Danaher’s boys play much rougher than pacifist Zach likes. He starts looking for a way out. [The trouble with being a pacifist convenience store robber is that often the people who work in convenience stores aren't pacifists.]

He’s heard the only way out of the Big Leagues is through the morgue. Dying is really low on his agenda right now. But so is betraying Harry, and it’s starting to look as if the only way to quit is to betray Harry and as many of the gang as possible. [He's not betraying the gang if he hasn't joined it. Has he?]

P.S. I beg, I plead, I implore you (or anyone!) for a decent title!


The whole thing is just setting up the situation. If you condense the setup to:

Zach Dixon and his partner Harry make their living robbing convenience store safes. But now Harry wants to graduate to high-end targets like jewelry stores and mansions, while Zach wants to quit the business and become an artist. He's even found an art dealer who loves his work.

. . . there'll be plenty of room to tell us what actually happens in the book. Do they join the gang? Participate in a big heist? What goes wrong? Does the gang target the art dealer's mansion? Give us some of the plot, preferably something that makes this different from all the movies in which the guy who wants to go straight gets stuck working one last heist.

Whether you like your title or not, I assume you know it should be included in the query, along with the word count. "Safecracker" is a word, even if Blogger doesn't think so, so you don't need the hyphen or a space. I don't hate it as a title if Zach is cracking safes throughout the book. If he's a safecracker for three chapters and spends the rest of the book making his way as an artist, however... Hey, has anyone else used The Artist as a title?


Mister Furkles said...

P.S. I beg, I plead, I implore you (or anyone!) for a decent title!

Fingers of the Artist

It applies to both fine oil painting and safe-cracking.

Mister Furkles said...

There is also:

A Portrait of the Artist as a Lowlife

okay then,

A Portrait of the Artist as a Thief

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Donald Westlake type of thing? Try to come up with some kind of pun on the word "Safe". Two words, preferably. Three words max.

khazar-khum said...

The Art of Safecracking.

I think you have a good idea here, if you can avoid the cliche of the tough gang. Otherwise you'll have an Idiot Plot setup where Harry wants in, Zack doesn't, so why doesn't Zack just leave?

Sure, they are long-term friends. So maybe the story should be about how the artist Zack busts his best bud away from the gang.

Here's another title:

Combining Arts

150 said...

Tricky Dix. BOOM. You're welcome.

PLaF said...

1. Artisan Theif
2. Van Gogh Way Out

Here are a few things I noticed in your query:
1. Zach is a thief, an anit-hero if you will. Why do I care if a bad guy has more bad guys after him? In Oceans 11, 12, & 13 (and I dare say 14 if it ever comes around) I cared about George Clooney. He's a bright guy with loyal friends and he's darned fun to watch. He's up to no good but he has a noble cause: win back the love of his life. What does Zach have to oompare with that?

2. What's the bigger issue at stake? There is always danger in the heist - big leagues or no. Does Zach get pulled into something that's more than he bargained for? Does he need the extra dough to score some art supplies but doesn't count on taking hostages at the bank?

3. What kind of painter is he? that will go a long way to describing the kind of guy he is, where he sets up shop, etc. Art is expression. What is he expressing? "His hobby is painting" sounds like he's a paint by numbers kind of guy. "His passion is painting" is what I'm looking for. That will make me want to read on. Why would an artist resort to safe cracking? Where did his passion for painting begin - did he break into a house and see something that inspired him?

Good luck!

Mister Furkles said...

PLaF raises a great question. The query lacks emotional impact. Give us one or two reasons to care about Zach.

And in the same vein:
Just van Gogh Away Harry

sarahhawthorne said...

The Touch
Easy Touch
Midas Touch
Soft Touch
Touch and Go
In Safe Hands
Play it Safe
Safe Bet
The Fine Art

@PLaF: Van Gogh Way Out Hahahaha! Awesome.

Author - You do a good job of laying out the plot. But this seems kind of gentle for a commercial thriller. If this is a life and death situation, starting with a joke about how Zach is bored of his tedious life of crime is starting off on the wrong foot. Plus, you use a lot of hedging language: Zach "isn't sure" what he wants, he "starts looking" for a way out. Be more blunt and you strengthen the character: "Zach wants out."

Jo-Ann said...

I quite liked the premise.
And I would have thought that becoming the art world's Next Big Thing might provide a great cover for somebody wanting to ingratiate himself into the moneyed class - and into their safes. Or he could branch off into the even more lucrative - and less hazardous - world of art forgery.
As for titles, well, I suck at them, too.
Here are my suggestions:
The Fingersmith (a Brit term for both pickpockets and safecrackers), but I think Roald Dahl's used it.
Cracking It.

Whirlochre said...

I always try to imagine the queries submitted here boomed live from a movie theatre speaker by Arnold Schwarzenegger as I jugggle innumerable unspeakables of popcorn with the kisses of equally innumerable back row harridans.

In my mind's eye, Arnie chokes on his words at the painting part. You're sauntering along till this point, pumping query bicep with directed spurt of literary steroid.

As far as I can see, Zach's real motivation is to quit your plot and paint.

Rachel6 said...

Revised query: Zach Dixon and his partner Harry make their living robbing convenience store safes. But now Harry wants to graduate to high-end targets, while Zach wants to quit the business and become an artist. He's even found an art dealer who loves his work. He owes Harry for practically raising him, so though it’s unsatisfying, he makes painting a hobby.

Harry wants to join Mitch Danaher’s gang of bank robbers. Their reputation for violence scares Zach, but for Harry’s sake, he keeps his mouth shut. And then Zach runs into an old friend.

Five years ago, he spent some months at a juvenile detention center. There, he met Detective Scotty Duncan, a cop with a soft spot for troubled youth. Scotty still believes that Zach can go straight. Even better, he likes Zach’s painting.

When a bank robbery ends with the deaths of several guards, Scotty is the first person Zach thinks of. But ratting out Danaher’s gang will get both of them killed…and maybe Harry as well.

I do know to include the title and the word count, but I left them out because it's an unfinished manuscript. I'll look back at these titles as I work on the story and see which one fits best. :)

Dave Fragments said...

You can always end the query with something like this:

Attached is the first chapter of my novel "The Safecracker's Painting" for your consideration. It is 00,000 words and has never been published.

And that would do it. Put the right Title and number of words in, of course.

BuffySquirrel said...

So there's an art dealer who loves Zach's work, but it's the opinion of a policeman that really matters? Eh?

Zach has a way out of crime but chooses to stay in until things get hairy. Then he has to find a way to rat out the people he teamed up with while preserving his own skin.

Hmm, yanno, I don't care about this character. He comes across as a jerk.

BuffySquirrel said...

btw, it was Sarah Waters who used Fingersmith as a title. Slightly different.

Anonymous said...

Zach Dixon wants to quit robbing convenience stores and paint. An art dealer saw his work and offered to arrange a show not knowing how Zach’s paid for his canvasses and paints. Zach’s partner and “manager” has other ideas: he’s working on getting himself and Zach into Mitch Danaher’s gang. Danaher’s boys play rough. Zach doesn’t know if he can extricate himself from his partnership with Harry before being forced into the Danaher gang without getting killed.
It’s starting to look as if the only way to quit crime is to betray his manager/partner and as many of Danaher’s gang as possible. Zach wants his shot at a new life. He’s not sure if he can get it.
The Canvas Man
Author, it would help if you told us what Zach painted and the medium. Oils, water colors, palette knife and acrylics and subject.
This is a resurrection story. I don’t get a strong feeling of hoping Zach succeeds because I can’t make a connection with him. If there was something I could plug into I’d be rooting for him.

Maureen said...

Uhm, how about.... A Safer Art?

I quite like the premise -- though I'd prefer it if they turned into art thiefs rather than bank robbers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,
I think you are going down the wrong road with the re-write. The back story isn't important. That a thief wants to paint makes the mc interesting to me.

Art dealers want to make money. Maybe a couple of paintings were bid up, surprising the dealer and the artist/thief.

This isn't the story of a thief, this is the story of an artist who never had a chance, until now.

The question is can Zach extricate himself and move on.

This has promise. I need something to connect to Zach with. Something that engages me.