Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Face-Lift 1184

Guess the Plot

Black, White and Violet

1. Officer Black wants to convict Mr. White of a crime he never committed. Mr. White's daughter decides to investigate on her own and learns that Violet, the head of a mob family, may be involved. Also, the professional equestrian circuit.

2. There's a new detective agency in town. Joe Black, a grizzled old-school detective. Mary White, a trash-talking clairvoyant from the wrong side of the tracks. And Violet, a mysterious six-year-old orphan with psychic powers she's just learning to control. Bad guys, watch out!

3. Margot's fancy apartment building always has free cupcakes out for residents, but tonight she's not sure if the cupcakes have been poisoned. An anonymous note had been slid under her door at 3 PM: Which one will kill you Margot? Chocolate, vanilla, or prune?

4. Violet drives a Black and White cab in the capital while studying Middle Eastern languages at Georgetown. She records backseat conversations for her education and uncovers a plot to destroy the city’s monuments. She wants to expose it. But the recordings are illegal. If the police find out, she goes to prison. If the terrorists find out, they’ll kill her.

5. Violet is a mute 6 year-old chess master. But when bad things start happening to people who get her into check-mate, (such as the therapist found in a locked room with the black king piercing her "jung-ular") Violet's mom starts to worry that the win-at-all-costs mentality might not have given her creepy kid the right message.

6. In the latest edition of the board game Clue, Mrs. White is the only character who isn't spending life in prison, but five new characters have arrived, including Doctor Black and Ms. Violet. New weapons include the mace and the poison dart, and there's a secret passage between the racquetball court and the sauna.

Original Version

Greetings Evil Editor,

The ill-fated cover up of a horse theft turns into a mob war. [I usually prefer that you get into the plot rather than open with a vague log-line. Now if it were more specific, something like: In an alternate universe, where mafia families are Wyoming ranchers, Carlo Gambino steals a horse from John Gotti and then tries to cover up the theft by substituting a sheep for the horse. But the coverup fails to fool Gotti, and a range war breaks out . . .]

Robyn lives on a small island in Spain, which is quickly becoming much too small for her. [I suppose I'm nitpicking if I say that if that sentence read Robyn lives in Spain, on a small island which is quickly becoming too small for her, it would be obvious that it's the island and not Spain that is shrinking.] She is tired of having to please her father, and feels pushed into becoming a professional equestrian athlete. [To all you people who lamented being pushed into the family carpeting business, see? Rich people have it rough too.] But secretly she dreams of a different life. Her father buys a new horse, which is supposed to help her win. However, the horse almost kills her, and Robyn refuses to go near another horse ever again. [Is this one of those gag hoax queries?]

Just when she thought [she's thinking] another life was [is] possible, a police investigation stops her. Her father is under suspicion. The horse he bought was stolen under ominous circumstances. When Robyn’s father is also accused of killing her boyfriend and then disappears, Robyn decides to investigate on her own. [Wait, did her boyfriend just get killed? That should be the lead, not the father being accused. Something like: When Robyn’s boyfriend is murdered, her father is at the top of the suspect list--and when he disappears, Robyn decides to investigate on her own.] [People investigating murders on their own seems to happen a lot more in fiction than in real life.] This leads her to Violet, the head of one of the two most powerful mob families in Los Angeles. [Is Robyn still on an island in Spain? We may need another step between that and Los Angeles.] There seems to be no escape between the mob and Officer Black, who wants to convict Robyn's father, Mr. White, for a crime he never even committed. [No escape for whom? Robyn isn't a suspect. Has Mr. White turned up in Los Angeles? Where did the crime take place?]

Robyn White’s adventurous character is designed to draw in female adult readers. [Originally the main character was a guy, but I didn't think female adults would be drawn in because he wasn't hunky enough.] John Grisham’s The Kid Lawyer [The title of that book is Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.] and Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money are comparable crime mysteries. [If you're looking to draw in female adult readers, why admit that Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, a middle grade book, is comparable?] Both are also told from the perspectives of unlikely, disinterested heroes.

The 100,000-word mystery novel BLACK, WHITE and VIOLET [You named your characters Black, White and Violet just so that title would make sense? Why is that title so important to you?] describes how one girl finds her path by feeling like a fish out of water and overcoming her biggest fears. [I didn't see anything about the path she found (unless she solves the crime and decides to become a detective) or about overcoming her biggest fears (the only fear mentioned is her fear of horses, and she never goes near one again, so I guess she didn't overcome that fear.]

I am a freelance writer, translator and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Highlights have included three science-fiction, fantasy novels, articles for online magazines, and my first short film Black, White and Violet. [That's why you wanted your book to have that title? Is the plot of the film the same as the plot of the novel? Or are you now planning to write a song, paint a picture, and open a restaurant all with the name Black, White and Violet?]

Thank you for your consideration.



Most of what's here has nothing to do with the main plot, which I assume centers around the death of Robyn's boyfriend and how she goes about investigating it. That her father is the main suspect is important. That she refuses to ride horses isn't. Why is her father the suspect? What's the connection with LA? Focus on what Robyn does, who tries to stop her from doing it, what will happen if she fails.

The opening sentence suggests a story much different from the one you tell. I don't know after reading the query who stole the horse, who covered up the theft, or why it started a mob war. So there's no point in opening with that line.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I've probably mentioned this before, but I once read a news article about a (female) private investigator who solved a murder, after the police had decided the death was an accident. So it did happen once.

I want to read GTP #2. Someone please write it.

CavalierdeNuit said...

I think your query is all over the place, but you can organize it. Set aside a few hours for yourself, make a print-out of EE's comments, and the minions' comments, and just focus and meditate on how you could improve everything. Apply this to your novel. I believe if you do this right, progress will be made in at least a month. It will become clearer to you.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, does the query need work, or does the story?? Personally I found characters named Black and White a little too cutesy for my taste. I also had a vision of rising sea levels with the line about an island becoming too small for someone. More to the point, it doesn't seem relevant to the plot, it's just window dressing.

But the concept of the mafia inflitrating the normally sedate world of dressage and show jumping is one out of the box. Hilarious! Most (ok, all) equestrians fail to recoup costs. The prize money hardly buys a round of drinks. The big bucks are in racing, but portraying the mob at the track has been done to death, so I'd love to see the heavies at the pony club. Seriously, the mob's only interest in a non racing horse would be in its strategically placed severed head.
So...if it's a stolen racehorse, why does the clueless theif on-sell it to Mr White for what would be a fraction of its value? Or does Mr White pay full price for something that has no bloodlines or track history?
I'm really not buying the premise, and haven't even touched the left-field plot bout the dead boyfriend.
Start over.
PS, therapist's jung-ular, EE? Pun-ishment.

Komal Verma said...

AlaskaRavenclaw, I agree, GTP #2 is dying to be written!

Veronica Rundell said...

Hi author,
Here are some of my issues:
Why Spain, if we then go to the LA mob scene?
A spoiled rich girl is going to take on the mob?
A spoiled rich girl is the new Nancy Drew?
Why do your characters sound like pawns from The Game of Clue?

See, none of this story sounds plausible the way it is presented in the query. Robyn sounds like a whiny, timid, meek mouse--afraid to tell her rich daddy she doesn't like show jumping, but now she's got the stones to toe up with a female mafioso half the world away from her presumably sheltered life.

Oh, and she's going to solve the mystery of her boyfriend's death/murder.

Not bloody likely, is my thought.

Ditch the log line. I thought we had a Wild West adventure, not a high stakes dressage caper...

In that light, consider your word choices again and avoid clich├ęs. How can a cover-up be 'ill-fated"? People have fates. Cover-ups have no fates....

Best of luck!

khazar-khum said...

Is the horse really the killer? Think about it--a vicious horse is sent to different trainer/riders teams to bring them in line. When someone does manage to get the horse to calm down and behave, that person has to be eliminated.

Anon, the only money in showing horses comes from stud fees--maybe. The rest is pure recreation, and maybe enough to cover the show fees.

Alaska Ravenclaw said...

Writer, I was waiting for someone else to say this. But they haven't, dammit, so I'm going to.

This query is pretty clearly the work of a novice. **There's absolutely nothing wrong with being a novice!** But you need to devote some time to your craft before you're ready to swim in the shark-tank that is publishing.

A few of the things that tag this as the work of a novice:

The awkward language that EE corrected.

The plotholes that Anon, Veronica and k-k mentioned.

Comping your book to red-hot bestsellers.

Mentioning your self-pubbed books. These should be mentioned only if they have sold, say, 10,000 copies in a year, minimum.

I'm not saying this to be mean. I'm saying this because the competition in this business is really, really strong and you've got to hone your skills if you want to get published.

PLaF said...

You had me at “Spain,” but lost me in “LA”.
“Tired of having to please her father” makes her sound like a whiner.
“She dreams of a different life”…doing what? Private investigation?