Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Face-Lift 1269

Guess the Plot

Antonov's Diamonds

1. Ruthless Russian Colonel Antonov makes off with a fortune in gems from a diamond mine in the Ural Mountains. It's a case too tough for the FBI, so they call in pawnbroker Flynn Christopher to help them devise a plan. Also, a pair of nitwits.

2. Sixteen-year-old Cam has seen a lot as the daughter of an unorthodox archeologist. To keep him out of trouble, she travels with him on his latest quest to find Antonov's Diamonds. Cam is concerned this will turn out like the times when he went searching for those damned yellow moons, pink hearts, orange stars, and green clovers.

3. Joe Singleton is struggling mightily to start his own jewelry shop in St. Louis. His fast-talking brother-in-law points out that every other successful jeweler has an exotic foreign name. Joe googles "Russian boy names" -- and he doesn't even need to search beyond the A's for a new business name. The trouble is, "Antonov's Diamonds" is also the code term for a super-secret remotely-guided nano-weapon that the CIA has been tracking, and Joe is sucked into a world of international intrigue.

4. When four-time World Chess Champion Vladimir Antonov is involved in a fatal car accident, he doesn't think twice about challenging Death to a game with eternal consequences. He couldn't have known that Death would pick bridge instead of chess and partner up with Satan, or that his own partner--a 206-year-old babushka--would promise to make his death a living hell if his incompetence ruins her winning streak.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

For your consideration:

Pawnbroker Flynn Christopher is enlisted by the FBI to help ensnare the cold blooded and ruthless Russian Colonel Alexei Antonov and recover untold millions in stolen diamonds. [On the off chance that the cold blooded and ruthless Russian Colonel Alexei Antonov comes in here to pawn millions in diamonds, we need you to stall him until we get here, okay?]

Flynn's pawnshops are entertaining, you never know what's coming through the door. Stun guns, diamonds, sharks teeth or a pair of nitwits. Hey, it's a job... [Usually it's after describing a crappy job that you make the comment Hey, it's a job. Not after describing a job as wildly entertaining as Flynn's.] 

Flynn meets a mysterious FBI agent while playing golf who asks his help in recovering a diamond once owned by Peter the Great. [Were they playing golf with each other, or was the FBI agent waiting on the 5th tee when Flynn got there?] [Also, you might want to mention why the FBI wants Flynn's help. Was Flynn chosen at random or because he's a pawnbroker or for a reason you're ill-advisedly keeping from us?] Mayhem ensues at Baltimore's Inner Harbor when Flynn comes face to face with the thief. [And? Does he get the diamond?] Meanwhile the FBI is running a sting on Colonel Antonov in Philadelphia that ends with two dead[.] Antonov returns home to his store, Satchels and Sandals, a mecca for ladies shoes and handbags, [You pretty much have to be cold-blooded and ruthless if you're a ladies shoe salesman.] but their [there] is an evil secret in the backroom. Once again the irreverent Flynn is recruited, [Is there no case the FBI can solve without the aid of Flynn the Pawnbroker?] [Also, when did Flynn become "the irreverent Flynn"?] this time it’s more deadly. [This time he must try to get Mrs. van Pilson's size nine feet into a pair of size eight pumps.] Antonov orchestrates the takeover of a secret diamond mine [Secret from whom?] deep in the Ural mountains of Russia. [He orchestrates this from Philadelphia?] He makes off with incredible wealth and the death toll rises. Back in Baltimore, Flynn and the FBI devise a plan to outwit the maniacal Antonov [The FBI agents need a Pawnbroker to help them devise a plan to outwit a maniac?] and recover the diamonds before the unsuspecting Flynn becomes [one] of Antonov's victims.

I managed jewelry stores in the Baltimore Washington area for twenty years before becoming a pawnbroker, owning and operating my own stores for fifteen years. [So this is autobiographical. How much will you give me for my VHS player?] I am a jewelry expert, a certified diamontologist, gemologist and appraiser. [If Flynn is a diamond expert and the FBI needs his expertise to outwit Antonov, say so. I would expect the FBI, if they don't have their own expert, to seek one at a jewelry store rather than a pawn shop (or golf course).]

ANTONOV'S DIAMONDS is a thriller of 95,000 words.

Evil Editor, thank you for your consideration and time, I can be reached at ____________.

Warmest regards,


Not clear why the FBI is involved in recovering diamonds taken from a mine in the Ural Mountains. Or what Flynn brings to the table. Or why Flynn is approached on a golf course. Actually, this is so all-over-the-place that nothing's clear. Maybe you should focus the query on one case, either recovering Antonov's diamonds or Peter the Great's.

No need to waste space with a one-sentence summary of what we're about to read.

Start with a brief setup of Flynn's situation: You never know what's going to come through the door of Flynn Christopher's pawn shop. Stun guns, shark's teeth, banjos . . . But even Flynn is surprised when a pair of nitwits try to pawn a diamond that once belonged to Peter the Great.

Then tell us what happens: Turns out the diamond is the real thing, and the FBI is using it in a sting operation against Ruthless Russian Colonel Alevei Antonov. They want Flynn to take the stolen diamond in hopes that Antonov will be lured into the pawn shop. Antonov has his sights set on bigger game--a fortune in newly mined diamonds--but he can't resist a diamond that's part of his homeland's history.

Then finish with Flynn's decision, the one that determines whether he wins or loses. I'm not sure what he wins or loses, maybe a job as an FBI consultant or the reward money for recovering the diamond.

Focus on Flynn, what he wants, what's keeping him from getting it, how he plans to overcome this, what happens if he screws up.

 Also, I recommend using the details of my plot summary rather than yours.


alaskaRavenclaw said...

"For your consideration" sounds like the summing up at the end of the old Twilight Zone episodes.

"For your consideration-- a pawn shop where Mr. Antonov found a little more than he was looking for. It exists somewhere in... the Twilight Zone."

This all sounds a bit confusing. Pick one character and stick with him in every sentence.

Mister Furkles said...


A few brief comments:

EE is right: “Actually, this is so all-over-the-place that nothing's clear.” You must explain why the FBI asks for help from a pawnshop owner, and why the FBI is involved in a diamond theft in Russia. Also, concentrate on the main conflict not both the PtG diamonds and the secret diamond mines.

The query is about the right size and focuses on the MC, which is good.

I don't think your second paragraph adds anything to the query.

The phrase “you never know what's coming through the door” is taken directly from the History Channel show Pawn Stars. You should not do that.

Get control of your modifiers. Usually a double modifier is weaker than a single modifier:
> cold blooded and ruthless → ruthless, works better.
> mysterious FBI agent → FBI agent, does it matter in the query if the FBI agent is mysterious and if you don't explain how an FBI agent is mysterious, better not to mention it.
>irreverent Flynn “What?” How is the MC irreverent? Was it the FBI or the Vatican that wants his help?

Occasionally you tell the reader what to think. “Mayhem ensues” If you say this, you must support it with specifics. Readers hate being told what to think. And if you provide specifics, you need not summarize.

So Flynn is a pawnbroker but his store is for ladies shoes and handbags. This doesn't make sense.

“...there is an evil secret in the backroom” Huh? You say this and then drop it. If there is an evil secret, spill it in the query. Are you certain it was the back room and not the bathroom?

Evil Editor said...

The shoe store is Antonov's, not Flynn's.

Anonymous said...

I think I see what you're going for: madcap international adventures come to a funny, humble small businessman who has just the right combo of skills and experience to bust a dastardly villain (whose front is also rife with comic possibilities). Of course it's all abrupt and confusing to poor Flynn, but it can't be that way for us, even if there are twists and surprises. You, the author, must be in control of the story, and that has to be conveyed in the query. Like EE, I kept going "huh?" I can't tell whether there's any action in the Ural Mountains or whether our characters are doing all the plotting from their back rooms. I don't know how it ends at Baltimore's Inner Harbor when Flynn comes face to face with the thief. I don't know why Flynn is recruited a second time when the first time resulted in two fatalities. You don't have to answer all these questions in your query; just don't raise them to begin with if you don't have time to explain it all.

Also, you've got some punctuation problems.

Comma splices:
"Flynn's pawnshops are entertaining, you never know what's coming through the door."
"Once again the irreverent Flynn is recruited, this time it’s more deadly."

Also, apostrophes are needed for sharks (owners of teeth) and ladies (prospective owners of shoes).

PLaF said...

I’m with EE & Mr. F:
Why Flynn? What makes him the go-to guy for the FBI?
Also, the sequence you present in the query is confusing.
First, he’s recruited. Then there’s the shop. Then he plays golf. Then mayhem ensues. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia….
Then Flynn’s recruited again – what happened the first time he was recruited?
Then it’s off to the Urals and back to Baltimore.
All this traveling and I’m still not sure what the story is.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Usually, when you have a story about some sort of professionals - FBI agents in this case - bringing a novice onto the job, there's a stated reason why they absolutely have to do this: the novice is is needed to identify something or someone in person, the novice has a very unique skill or knowledge base that the pros don't, the novice has an in with the pros' boss and wants to get an inside look at what they do, and so on. This isn't the only point you haven't explained in the query, but it's the biggest one. I have no clue why the FBI needs or wants Flynn on this case. I also don't know whether Flynn is a willing participant, happily giving up life at the pawn shop for madcap international adventure, or the day the FBI agent shows up to recruit him ends up being one the worst of his life.

The query needs to progress in a logical way, so the reader can see what actions Flynnand re other characters take, why they choose to take those actions, and what happens as a result. Right now, it reads like a series of completely disconnected events.