Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Face-Lift 1050

Guess the Plot

Murder and Mayhem

1. Rescuing two pit bull pups from certain death in the shelter was one of Angela's proudest moments. She was equally proud of the clever names she gave the littermates. But when someone or something starts terrorizing small children and domestic pets in her urban neighborhood, she begins to wonder if taking in Murder and Mayhem might have been a big mistake.

2. Little Joey DeGriff used to pull the legs off insects. Now all grown up, he goes on a crime spree, leaving murder and mayhem in his wake. That’s about it.

3. Two writers' group members specializing in romance, Dwight and Barbara, secretly start dating. They love gossiping about the other writers, whom they give code names. It all seems delightfully witty and hilarious until an email goes wrong, inspiring Ms. Murder and Mr. Mayhem to bring shotguns to the next critique session.

4. What are the odds that TWO writers' conventions would both want the same hotel the same weekend? Not high enough to make sales manager Susie Hernandez suspicious until both show up - and she realizes she's double booked CozyMurderCon and Hard Boiled Books into the same rooms.

5. In the quaint Cotswolds village of Mayhem, the biggest worry is usually whose dahlias will win the prize at the church fete. That is, until the vicar turns up dead, stabbed in the narthex with a pair of gardening shears, and Miss Higginbotham finds herself the main suspect. Well, he was the one who said her roses looked "tatty".

6. The Prime Minister's been murdered. The only witness has just become a target, and needs help to disappear. That's where I come in. I'm the magical superhero/quasi-crook known as . . . Delete Key!

Original Version

[This was declared to be a practice query; not sure if it's for a work in progress or a work that doesn't exist.]

Dear Evil Editor and all the Malicious Minions,

I make things disappear. Not in a magicky kind of way (though I can do that too), but in a problems-aren’t-there-anymore kind of way. Those two arrests for drunk-and-disorderly that’ll cost you your job? Gone. That super-creepy chick stalking you because she likes your hair? Gone. [Not clear what the distinction is between what you do and the magicky way unless you specify how you do it.] That guy who witnessed a murder and needs to hide? Um…yeah, gone.

Except after I make the witness disappear, all of his problems come to me. His ex-girlfriend, who trashes my place in lieu of his. His incredibly beautiful sister, who doesn’t believe that I don’t know where he is. [This is a problem? String her along; as long as she thinks you know something, you get to hang out with her.] And, oh yeah, the murderers. The murderers who want to find the witness and make him disappear a little more permanently. And make me disappear next, because I know about the murder.

The murder of the Prime Minister.

But I’m not going down easily. Cops aren’t going to help a quasi-crook like me, so I’ll have to do it my way: with my own private arsenal and a lot of luck. [Why can't you do it your usual way? Or the magicky way?]

Yours faithfully,


The list of things you make disappear lacks symmetry. With the drunk and disorderly arrests and the creepy chick, you make the client's problem disappear. With the murder, you make the client disappear. If you had made the client's problems (ex-girlfriend, sister, murderers) disappear, you wouldn't be in this mess.

Of course, as making problems disappear is your talent, why not make these problems disappear now?

A query written in the POV of one of the characters is not always well-received. Assuming this character has a name in the book, I see no reason not to switch to third person. An added advantage being that we'll know whether the MC is a man or woman.

One could get the impression from paragraph 2/sentence 1 (especially with the mention of magic being real), that every time you make someone's problem disappear, it comes back on you. But it seems this may be the case only with the murder. Maybe we can do without the examples of problems you erase and just say:

I'm what's known in the trade as an eliminator. I make problems disappear. So when Joe Blow witnessed a murder and needed to vanish, he came to me. Now Joe's tucked away, safe and sound . . . and I'm the one with a problem.


BuffySquirrel said...

So just make them disappear, right? This feels like an idiot plot.

Also, Prime Ministers are assassinated, not murdered. It's a status thing.

GillyB said...

I was going to mention "assassinate" vs "murder" as well.

I can't help but find first person queries really gimmicky. Every now and then someone writes one that's SO amazing it works, but generally I would avoid them.

Anonymous said...

This was so odd I thought it must be the last of those fake queries. Query letters don't exist only to give an impression of the book. They're also meant to instill confidence in your professionalism and sanity.

Anonymous said...

I think if the PM's wife (or husband) struck him/her over the head with an axe, then it's murder.

If a stranger did the same thing for political purposes, it's assasination.

BuffySquirrel said...

There are some PMs where you just can't understand why nobody ever *did* hit them over the head with an axe.