Friday, September 04, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of Antonov's Diamonds (most recently queried here) requests feedback on this new version:

Dear Evil Editor,

Former FBI consultant turned pawnbroker Flynn Christopher is asked by an old friend at the bureau to lend his brick and mortar store to run a sting involving fake credit cards. [That's more information than I care to deal with in the first sentence. Dividing the info into two parts with a colon, semicolon or period makes it less overwhelming.

Former FBI consultant Flynn Christopher is asked by a friend at the Bureau for a favor: let the FBI use Flynn's pawn shop for a sting operation involving fake credit cards.]

Their target is Alexei Antonov, an ex-Russian Colonel gone rogue. [Somehow when I read the phrase "ex-Russian Colonel gone rogue," I imagine him running a paramilitary operation, not a credit card scam.] [Possibly calling him a former Russian colonel would be better, as "ex-Russian makes us wonder what nationality he is now.] [In any case, that sentence belongs at the end of the first paragraph.] It should be a simple operation, but instead Antonov has something much bigger and deadlier on the horizon [in mind? in the works?]. At the meet and greet Antonov tells Flynn he plans to takeover [take over] a mine deep in the Ural mountain wilderness and steal millions in diamonds. [When the FBI asks to use your store for a sting, wouldn't they insert their own personnel into the store instead of giving you a major role?] The kicker is, he wants to use Flynn’s connection to the over five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association to fence the stolen goods. [It still sounds like we're talking about stealing uncut diamonds fresh out of the mine. I don't see why pawnbrokers would be interested in that, nor am I convinced that many pawnbrokers would know who would be interested in that.] He leaves out that he is going to double cross and murder his partners in Russia. Flynn is in over his head when the FBI uses him as the bait to draw out Antonov and recover the stolen diamonds. [Still not clear why the FBI cares about diamonds stolen from a Ural Mountains mine. Is there a bigger threat to America than the possibility Antonov will make money selling stolen goods here?] The operation falls apart when Antonov decides he can’t trust Flynn and he has to die too.


Does Antonov have any scheme involving credit cards, and if not, why does the FBI think he does?

You got rid of Peter the Great, but other than that, this sounds pretty similar to the previous incarnation. The plot elements you're choosing to include are inspiring questions. You can leave out those elements or answer those questions.  


Anonymous said...

I actually think this is better, but this sentence coming near the end:

Flynn is in over his head when the FBI uses him as the bait to draw out Antonov and recover the stolen diamonds.

is a sudden flip. The FBI was setting up a credit card sting, wasn't it? Now they know about Antonov's diamonds. (I guess Flynn ran and told them, or they overheard the whole thing with their bugs.)

Now that you've carefully answered questions and restructured this, I'd say you need to sprinkle it with some humor or slyness or whatever the overall tone of your book is. And show us what endearing qualities of Flynn make us want him to succeed.

Matt said...

My gut feeling is that this book lacks the compelling plot points needed to make a good story.

We need a reason to care about Flynn, which is something I haven't seen in any of the revisions so far.

What if he is the sole provider for his family, but his pawn shop is about to go under? He becomes a fence for stolen goods to make ends meet, and that's how he eventually crosses paths with Antonov. And in this scenario Flynn would fear the FBI instead of rely on them.

Turning to crime is something a lot of people fantasize about or consider in their darker hours. People are interested in stories like that. That's why Breaking Bad was so popular. But a criminal walking into a well-established pawnshop is something only a pawnbroker would fantasize about.

Author, you don't need to use my idea. But I suggest revising your story so that Flynn is more relatable to readers. If you truly believe that Flynn is already relatable, then you need to show us in the first paragraph of the query.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Even with the first sentence, there's nothing in this daft of the query that is as horrendous as the second sentence of the previous one. So that's an improvement. The writing could still use some tweaking in places ("a rogue ex-colonel from Russia" would probably solve your recurring issues with implying that Antonov is a former Russian rather than a former colonel), but I'm not struggling to figure out what you're trying to say. So that's an improvement.

Unfortunately, you still have two major problems, and I'm not sure if they're issues with the query or issues with the book itself.

The first is the plot. Even at the short summary query level, there are just too many things in here I'm not buying. I'll accept that an FBI agent calls up an old buddy ask if the Bureau can use his pawn shop in a sting operation. But Flynn suddenly being on his own with no FBI agents in sight for no clear reason, Antonov explaining his entire scheme to a relative stranger, and Antonov's diamond fencing scheme just don't make sense. If the diamond scheme is just a means to an end of a lot of exciting action scenes, then you might want to consider a simpler setup. If the scheme is the meat of the book, then you need make sure that both sides' choices make sense. Why is selling these stolen raw diamonds through pawn shops such a great and ingenious scheme that the FBI can't crack it? Why is the FBI making a former agent take the lead on this investigation instead of relegating him to a background role or handling it entirely themselves?

The second issue in Flynn, in that I do no care about him at all. When you end the query with the possibility that the main character might be killed and my response is "okay, whatever," that's a problem. I still have no clue what kind of person Flynn is and what he brings to the table aside from an FBI background and a pawn shop. Flynn doesn't actually do anything in the query; we don't even see him agreeing to let the FBI use his pawn shop. The query is way more about Antonov than it is about Flynn, which makes me wonder if you really wanted to write a book about the rogue Russian colonel stealing diamonds and Flynn is just a way to tell that story. Whether that's true or not, I don't want to read however many thousands of pages your book is about a guy who is dragged into very exciting events but never seems to do anything himself.

If Flynn is actually an engaging character in the novel, then you need to get what he does and what makes him interesting or sympathetic into the query. If he's not, put the query aside and go revise your manuscript until you have a hero that readers will care about.

alaskaRavenclaw said...

I think this is a lot clearer. The first sentence may be long, but it does put into context much of what confused us before.

But this query makes me think the pawnbroker isn't the most interesting character in the story.

Mister Furkles said...

It's only 160 words. Mostly, you're summarizing events. It needs more specifics and you have space for nearly 100 words of specifics. I recommend, in the query, that you leave out the part about pawnbrokers. Just say Flynn is a diamond market expert.

It could go something like this:

Flynn, a diamond market expert, it approached by the FBI to help catch Colonel Antonov, a former GRU operative. Antonov is attempting to smuggle stolen diamonds into the US.

Now what happens? Give specifics.