Thursday, May 28, 2015

Face-Lift 1259


Guess the Plot

A Fearful Brew

1. Was it a heart attack that killed that dinner party guest? Or was it poison in his soup? Inspector Snow is on the case, but can his scientific investigation reveal the truth before the society ladies' gossip destroys lives? Also, women's suffrage.

2. When amateur microbrewer Joe Bona creates what may well be the best beer in the world he's ecstatic - until he realizes that his creation is sentient . . . and it's got stage fright.

3. John Longstein has had a good run as a serial killer. Now it's time to toss back a few brewskies. Just one last step. His last victim-to-be watches him prepare a batch of home-made brew with those "special" ingredients still to come.

4. Celebrity, actress, chef, writer, model and lifestyle guru Gwen Patronal has a new beverage for the health-happy Hamptons set: a gluten-free, GMO-free, sodium-free, cruelty-free, fat-free, calorie-free, cholestoral-free, free range, organic, vegan beer she calls "Good". Will she clean up at the Sag Harbor Brew Fest, or will she fall to a *gasp* traditional ale? Also, hipsters.

5. High school student Taylor inherits her late grandmother's recipe collection and it includes a recipe for witch's brew. Is this the secret to getting that new boy Josh to finally notice her? Or will the concoction kill everyone who drinks it? Only one way to find out.


Original Version

A Fearful Brew

Inspector Snow thinks there is more to the death of Sir Atwood than the hasty verdict of heart attack. ["Hasty" because Atwood was a young man, and an athlete, and his head is missing.] [Assuming Atwood isn't the guy's first name, that should be Sir John or Sir John Atwood, but not Sir Atwood. I know this because on golf telecasts they always refer to Nick Faldo as Sir Nick.] ["Heart attack" sounds more like a diagnosis than a verdict. Has there been an inquest or was Atwood merely examined at the scene by a doctor?]

The hostess of the fatal dinner party fears the gossip will damage her social position. [Already there are whisperings that Sir Atwood's heart attack was caused by the Clams Casino.] Her guests, obligate [obligated] to attend, find their secrets at risk. 

[Guests: He had a heart attack. What do you want from us?

Inspector Snow: I want to know all of your secrets.]

Charlotte Magnolia, observes sagely from her husband's side, [Observes what?] with a flask of bourbon to keep her warm. [Is Charlotte Magnolia the hostess? A randomly chosen guest? I was convinced we were in London; now I'm thinking Mississippi.]

Jane Bradford, [no comma needed there.] fights her fear. She convinces her widowed sister, Lady Harrington, to help her start a suffrage group, [What is this "fear" Jane is fighting? I can't think of any fears that can be overcome by starting a suffrage group.] despite Aunt Edith's warning that it will ruin their chances of marriage. [Wait, are we in the same book?]

With only three recruits, her sister wavering, and Aunt Edith's smug reaction to their lack of members, Jane makes the radical decision to include the household servants in their group. The only one to object [decline?] is the cook, to everyone's surprise. [The surprise isn't that the cook didn't want in; it's that the butler did.] 

When news of the death of Sir Atwood reaches the group, the servants prove to be more than mere prop . The cook's knowledge of herbs, Maisy's determination to help a sacked maid, [Who is Maisy?] and tidbits of gossip from the society ladies, spark a transformation in an era that demand [demands] social correctness. 


Notes

What does Sir Atwood's death have to do with the servants in Jane Bradford's home?

Characters named in query: Inspector Snow, Sir Atwood, Charlotte Magnolia, Jane Bradford, Lady Harrington, Aunt Edith, Maisy. Add to that the hostess, the guests, Charlotte's husband, the cook, Jane's other household servants, and the society ladies, and we have a cast bigger than Downton Abbey. Which is okay for a novel, but way too many for a query letter.

Stating the title at the top isn't enough. We want a couple sentences in which you give the title, genre, word count, and anything else that might convince the reader to request your manuscript.

The first name mentioned is Inspector Snow, but he's never mentioned again. If Jane's cook solves the murder, we don't need the inspector in the query. 

You need to decide whether the main plot is Inspector Snow's murder investigation or Jane Bradford's quest for suffrage. The latter seems to get more attention, but as the suffrage group comprises only Jane and her sister (maybe) and her household staff, maybe the suffrage group is a subplot.

If the investigation is the main plot, tell us why Snow thinks there's more to Atwood's death than a heart attack, and name some suspects and their possible motives.

If women's suffrage is the main plot, open the query with Jane, tell us about her struggles to interest others in the cause, and mention Atwood's death only if you can explain how it's connected to the cause.

Don't name characters without also telling us who they are.


13 comments:

Kat33 said...

Thank you for your help. Would the the introduction of six characters be an acceptable amount in a query letter or is that still too many?

Evil Editor said...

There's no rule set in stone. Often you can get by with just the main character and the person making her life miserable. Maybe add in the MC's friend/ally. A murder mystery query might require a victim, a detective and three or four suspects. Clearly Charlotte, her husband and Snow do nothing in your query (though Snow may be the MC of your revised version). If you focus on the MC and their goal and what will happen if they fail, you may find you don't need as many characters as you thought to convince us you have a compelling story.

khazar-khum said...

Is Atwood involved with the suffragettes in any way?

Kat33 said...

Yes, Atwood and Charlotte are guests at the same dinner party. When she tells the suffrage group, which she is a member of, about Atwood's drunken, scandalous behavior at the party, it sets off a chain reaction through the whole book.

AA said...

Maybe I should do a line-by-line on this. It's short enough.

"Inspector Snow thinks there is more to the death of Sir Atwood than the hasty verdict of heart attack." Why does the inspector believe this?

"Charlotte Magnolia, observes sagely from her husband's side, with a flask of bourbon to keep her warm." What does bourbon have to do with anything?

"Jane Bradford, fights her fear." I'd also like to know what she's afraid of. Did she kill him?

"She convinces her widowed sister, Lady Harrington, to help her start a suffrage group, despite Aunt Edith's warning that it will ruin their chances of marriage." Suddenly we are no longer talking about the murder. This doesn't seem to have anything to do with it.


"With only three recruits, her sister wavering, and Aunt Edith's smug reaction to their lack of members, Jane makes the radical decision to include the household servants in their group. The only one to object [decline?] is the cook, to everyone's surprise." Why is everyone surprised the cook isn't interested? Not all women supported suffrage.
Does it matter that her sister is wavering and aunt Edith is smug? What happened to the murder?


"When news of the death of Sir Atwood reaches the group, the servants prove to be more than mere prop ." It's the end of the query and they're just now hearing about the murder? Does the murder happen first in the story?

"The cook's knowledge of herbs, Maisy's determination to help a sacked maid, and tidbits of gossip from the society ladies, spark a transformation in an era that demand [demands] social correctness." This is vague. Who is Maisy? What maid? Was Sir Atwood killed with an herb? What transformation, specifically?

You really overuse commas. I counted four extra commas. The real problem seems to be the way you like to string clauses together to make sentences.

For instance: "With only three recruits, her sister wavering, and Aunt Edith's smug reaction to their lack of members, Jane makes the radical decision to include the household servants in their group."
The subject is Jane, but you wouldn't know it. She's buried in the middle.
You could say something like: "Jane resents Aunt Edith's smug reaction to the their lack of members, so she makes the radical decision to include the household servants in the group."

In other words, it isn't just a string of clauses that are dependent on a subject that's somewhere in the middle.

Rewrite this with better focus and re-post it.

Kat33 said...

Sir Richard Atwood is found dead after a lavished dinner party in his honor.

The chief inspector is under pressure from his superiors to restore the order now that women are taking to the streets in protest.

He takes a gamble that the young, inexperienced Inspector Snow is the best man for the high profile case.

Inspector Snow is educated and polished. He also just solved a jewel robbery in the fashionable Mayfair district to everyone's satisfaction.

Charlotte Thornhill was also a guest at the dinner party. She shares the scandalous news of Sir Richard's drunken behavior at the party with her suffrage group. Tidbits of information about the event lead the members to suspect a poisoning.

When Sir Richard is found dead the suffrage group feel they are on the right track. They set out to solve the mystery, before the police, to prove that they are logical and worthy of the vote.

InkAndPixelClub said...

You're still not making it clear who the main character it is, or focusing on the person who (I think) is the main character. A good half of your new query is about how and why Inspector Snow was assigned to the case, which wouldn't be interesting even if Inspector Snow was the main character. Though you've reduced the number of characters, you still have a query that sees to start off being about one character, then completely abandons that character for someone else without a clear reason.

Your query needs to present ideas in a logical order where it makes sense why one follows the other. I don't understand why the women are protesting in the streets after Sir Richard's death. I assume that you mean that Charlotte and Sir Richard both attended the party where Sir Richard was being honored, but since Sir Richard hasn't been mentioned since sentence one, it sounds like Charlotte and Inspector Snow were at a party together. I have no idea why Charlotte and the suffragettes thought Sir Richard (or someone at the party) was poisoned, especially since they seem to have been thinking this before Sir Richard's body was found. And I buy that the suffragettes decide that racing the police to solve the murder is the best way to convince people that women should be allowed to vote.

Don't rush to post or send a query out before you've proofread, multiple times if necessary. "Lavished" should be "lavish." The word "the" before "order" is unnecessary. No comma in front of "before the police."

Start with Charlotte, either at the party observing Sir Richard's strange behavior or when she first hears that he has died. Then show why she and her suffragette group are the right people to solve this mystery. What skills do they have? What are they finding out that the police are overlooking? Reveal some of the evidence they turn up and the suspects it leads to. Finish up with the stakes. What happens if Charlotte and the suffragettes solve the mystery. What happens if they don't?

AA said...

This is already better. It doesn't have tons of extra characters in it.

It still doesn't follow chronological order. Inspector Snow is assigned to the death of Sir Atwood, but Sir Atwood is found dead at the end of the query as well. No way he died twice.

"The chief inspector is under pressure from his superiors to restore the order now that women are taking to the streets in protest." I assume you just mean the suffrage movement in general is taking up the chief's time so he is too busy to deal with a death he thinks is not a murder, so he sends Snow instead. If that's it you should probably say so. This makes it seem like they're protesting Sir Atwood's death. That's because the only major event you've mentioned so far that anyone would want to protest is Sir Atwood's death. (Suffrage has not yet been mentioned.)

"Tidbits of information about the event lead the members to suspect a poisoning. When Sir Richard is found dead the suffrage group feel they are on the right track." They suspect poisoning before they learn about the death? I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.

I'm assuming your story is told in chronological order, so find a way to write your query that way. You may have to write a numbered list of what happens first, second and third in your story and write it from that.






Evil Editor said...

I actually thought this comment was an attempt to answer questions posed by other commenters because it doesn't include the expected paragraph stating the title of the book, word count, etc.

The original version left the impression that it's Jane's suffrage group who tackle the investigation. This version suggests it's Charlotte's suffrage group.

It's better to say the case is handed to Snow because of his recent success, and not to imply that it's because the chief inspector is under pressure to deal with women taking to the streets in protest. Street protests would be handled by officers who work the streets, not by the experienced detectives who work murder cases.

This query is almost all setup. Limit yourself to one paragraph of setup. Something like:

When Sir Richard Atwood is found dead after a lavish dinner party, Charlotte Thornhill, who attended the party, shares the news with her suffrage group. Tidbits of information lead the members to suspect poisoning. They set out to solve the mystery before the police do, to prove that women are as intelligent and insightful as men . . . and thus worthy of the vote.


That pretty much covers everything you've told us, except that I haven't mentioned Inspector Snow. If the case is ultimately solved by the suffrage group, you may not need Snow in the query at all. You can just tell us how the women go about gathering information about the suspects, what obstacles they encounter in their investigation because they are women, how they overcome them.

If the case is solved by Inspector Snow and the suffrage group working together, you can introduce Snow in paragraph 2:

Meanwhile, the case is assigned to the young and inexperienced Inspector Snow, who recently solved a jewel theft in the Mayfair district. Snow isn't convinced Atwood's death was murder--until he gets around to questioning Charlotte. Now he needs foot soldiers to aid in his investigation, but all of the officers are tied up dealing with the suffrage movement, who've taken their protest to the streets.

Now a short paragraph showing how Snow and the women each bring something to the table that will help them solve the crime. Perhaps a sentence stating that Snow has a new respect for women's abilities (assuming he was skeptical at first)

Then finish with:

A Fearful Brew is a [??,000]-word murder mystery set in [year] London. The first chapter is pasted below. Thank you.


You'll of course do some research to learn if the recipient wants you to provide sample pages with the letter.

Kat33 said...

Thank you all for your help. This site has been a fantastic help to me. I would recommend it to anyone who truly wants to turn their story into a book. I did rush to post. I was so excited every time I got reply. Evil Editor, your great.

Kat33 said...

Thank you all for your help. This site has been a fantastic help to me. I would recommend it to anyone who truly wants to turn their story into a book. I did rush to post. I was so excited every time I got reply. Evil Editor, your great.

khazar-khum said...

Was the party in support of the suffragettes?

Kat33 said...

No. The dinner was a retirement party for Sir Richard. Charlotte and her husband were guests at the party. Sir Richard caused a scandal with his drunken behavior at the party. Charlotte told the suffrage group about it at the meeting the next day. They all thought it was odd and out of character.

Thanks for your help with the title. I changed it a little.