Sunday, March 25, 2012

Face-Lift 1008

Guess the Plot

The Final Clue

1. At last it is revealed: Colonel Mustard did it on the billiard table with Miss Scarlett.

2. First it was just Mr. Boddy. But now Mrs. White's disappeared, Professor Plum's got a nasty lump on his head, and Mrs. Peacock's been reduced to a quivering lump of terror. This is no game.

3. Nancy Drew has solved over 5,000 cases in her life. At age 79 she’s been retired for a decade, but when she receives a mysterious letter she’s on the case again. If the letter is real she may finally one-up her nemeses’, the Hardy Boys.

4. In the final showdown, it's Bugs Meany vs. Encyclopedia Brown, and this time Sally isn't there to save the random-fact-spouter's bacon.

5. Someone is leaving death-threat poems on Gina's front door. Is it the serial killer known as . . . "The Rhymester"? Maybe, but Gina hasn't rejected the possibility she has a secret admirer.

6. What really happened to Bob's pet chicken? Well, the bloody hatchet in the dishwasher is the first thing that got Bob to thinking. But the discovery of his wife's shopping list, which included eleven herbs and spices, is what gave him . . . the final clue.

7. Jeremy and Rachel are this close to winning the house of their dreams from magazine "Cedar Rapids Today". They've solved all the puzzles, met all the requirements, and jumped through all the hoops. Now all they need is . . . The Final Clue.

8. Jim is convinced he's cracked a code hidden in the Old Testament for centuries, namely that the saga of Abraham isn't really about him, but is instead the story of Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh who tried to install monotheism. Now Mossad, al Qaeda and the Vatican are after him.

9. Detective Clavoue knows cases remain unsolved until the final clue is found. So he ignores all the early clues in a desperate search for the final one. Will the "Clavoue Method" revolutionize criminology?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

FBI agent Gina Russo: A tenacious investigator, but a woman so scorned, she swore off men.

A career criminal presumed dead, devastated over his brother’s life incarceration: Ignites revenge.

[An aspiring author: submits query letters that don't have actual sentences/ Overconfident; invites rejection.]

An egotistical agent assigned to assist Gina, wonders what the hell he ever did that karma would bite him in the ass: Frustrated; dealing with her is more than he ever signed on for.

[An editor so evil he'd rather watch TV than read oddly punctuated fragments and run-ons: New shredder needs breaking in; works fine, just in time for Mad Men.]

She’s fueled like never before when she’s challenged to solve clues [Technically, you solve puzzles, mysteries, crimes; clues are what you gather in order to do the solving.] in the bizarre poems arriving at her front door. It’s imperative that she learns the man’s identity [What man? The career criminal? The poet? Are the poems signed? If not, how does she know it's a man?] to bring his ass down [When I write poetry to a woman, I'm generally hoping for a different reaction out of her than trying to bring my ass down.] for not only threatening her life, but also for causing Joey Zicara, the agent assigned as her partner, to enter and disrupt her comfort zone. [There are plenty of women who wouldn't mind Joey Zicara entering their . . . comfort zone.]

Gina and Joey scramble to unravel the mystery of the rhymester’s twisted vendetta against her, before time runs out. [Are you calling him a rhymester instead of a poet because you think his poems have no literary value? If so, do you feel they have no literary value because they rhyme? Because they include death threats? What makes you an authority on poetry? Here's a little test. One of the following death threat poems has the potential to become a literary classic. Which one?

Death. It cometh to us all,
Bringing grief and sorrow.
And yours will surely cast a pall,
For it's happening tomorrow.

I've got some bad news to impart,
So you'd better sit down, Gina.
I'm planning to rip out your heart,
And feed it to my hyena.

Not as easy as you thought, is it? Show us one of his works so we can judge for ourselves.]
[Also, if you're gonna call him a rhymester, call him The Rhymester. All killers with gimmicks have cool names. Think The Joker, The Riddler, Polka Dot Man. Frankly, I think "The Poet" sounds more villainous than "The Rhymester."]

THE FINAL CLUE is a 100,000-word, character-driven suspense novel set in New York City.

I was born and raised in New Jersey then relocated to South Florida where I’ve been working in law enforcement for 23 years to present time.


I find it interesting that the query mentions both Joey Zicara's ass and the villain's ass. You might want to work in Gina's ass too, by changing "before time runs out" to "before Gina's ass is grass." In fact, you could even say: I was born and raised in New Jersey then moved my ass to South Florida.

If this is romantic suspense, in which Gina and Joey fall in love in the end, say so.

Does anyone get killed? Is the main plot thread two FBI agents race to determine who's writing poems to one of them? I think there should be a stronger hint that lives are on the line. As it stands, the poems could be a practical joke from a fourteen-year-old.

Those first three paragraphs must go. Maybe you could open with one of the poems if they're short. Then you say: So reads the poem FBI agent Gina Russo finds nailed to her front door. She's about to write it off as a prank when she sees that it's signed by the serial killer known as . . . The Rhymester.

Now that you've set up the situation, show us that The Rhymester means business, and what Gina plans to do about it.


none said...

You're in fine form today, EE. I'm guessing you don't fear traffic tickets from the author's irritated colleagues?

Author, I think you need to review the rules on using semi-colons, or simply to stop using them.

This could be a cool story. I like the idea of feeling threatened by poetry. Not so keen on opening with a female character who's defined by her relationships with men.

(EE, don't give up the day job to become a poet; author, consider using the 'ass is grass' line)

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Not just semicolons: Colons, too.

Speaking of colons, EE, I am LOLing. But as for the query:

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Writer, a query has two jobs. The first one, and the biggest, is to entice the agent or editor to want to read the story. You haven't done that because we're not quite sure what the story is.

The second is to convince the agent and editor that you can write in English and that you're not some kind of whack job. Now, you don't come across as a whack job, but you're making a fairly common mistake with the writing-in-English thing. You're trying to impress. You're trying to impress someone who's probably spoken to two National Book Award winners and a Nobel laureate so far this morning.

IOW, you're not going to impress her with your dazzling style. So write simple, ordinary prose. That's all you have to do.

That, and make us want to read the story.

Anonymous said...

What EE said. If the book is written in the same kind of puzzling prose as this letter, you should consider revising the text to boost the clarity.

PLaF said...

Dear EE
I barely managed to keep from spewing when I read your death poetry but you got me on the “moved my ass to South Florida” line.
I like the idea of a poetic killer. It calls to mind a villain from the old TV series The Profiler who killed a woman’s husband and then sent her roses. It’s inherently disturbing to be “courted” by such a whacko. I’m concerned that we’ll never see the emotional turmoil the MC will experience. That would be fine if the killer targeted another person and the MC is the dispassionate investigator, but it would be tragic if the MC darts unfeelingly from one clue to the next.
It was impossible to tell what was going on in the first three character introductions. Worse, nothing sparked my interest until you brought up the bizarre poems threatening her life. Definitely lead with that – it’s what sets your story apart.
The MC’s relationship with her partner needs a little more clarification. What’s really fueling their dislike for one another? Does it get in the way of solving the mystery? And why should I care? If this is a character driven story, I’ll have to care
Lastly, I would rethink calling the villain the “Rhymester”. I kept reading it as the Rhy-mester, which is not even a little scary. EE’s suggestion of “The Poet” gave me chills.

none said...

Maybe the villain is the Rhymer. As in Thomas of that ilk.

sarahhawthorne said...

Oh man. Coffee all over the keyboard. Thanks, EE, I needed that to start my Monday. Especially since now I don't have any more coffee.

Author - we need more of the plot, and more of a hook. If all the bad guy does is leave threats on Gina's door, I don't understand why she has to solve clues in the message when it seems like just staking out the house for a week ought to reveal her bad guy. Scary, but something that ought to be pretty straightforward for a law enforcement professional to handle.

I'm also wondering why she doesn't seem to be getting more support from the FBI. Is it just her and Joey working on this? I would think the FBI would come down a lot harder on threats against one of their own.

150 said...

That your story incorporates poetry, but the query doesn't give any examples of it, makes me leery. Sturgeon's Law holds true across the board, but poetry is one of those things with the potential to go especially wrong.

batgirl said...

I dunno, 150, it probably wouldn't hurt the story any if the poetry was bad - Jack the Ripper's poetry wasn't that good either.
This plot sounded vaguely familiar, and a little googling turned it up on Query Shark in 2009.
Author, I hope this doesn't sound mean, but you have been working on a second book in the meantime, right? Sometimes one's first book isn't the one that will sell.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Good point, Buffster: -ster is actually a feminine ending, as in Brewster (female brewer) or Baxter (female baker). So unless the villain is female, Rhymer.

Evil Editor said...

Don't forget mister (female man) and monster (female Jamaican guy).

Anonymous said...



AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm pretty sure missster is actually female miss.

Anonymous said...

"Rhymester" looks like it should rhyme with "trimester".

Sra said...

Those fake plots are beautiful.