Thursday, July 14, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the query most recently featured here would like your opinion of this version:

Mr. Evil Editor

Leah Chase is a single mother of an eleven year old girl and has only one close friend. [Do we need to know how many friends she has?] After working as a police detective for a year, she finds she hates her job and still hasn’t found a place in the unit. She’s assigned a low profile case: Matthew James, who had no relatives and no friends. [It's not necessary to provide each character's exact number of friends.] A man who was released on a technicality after being charged with manslaughter. [What is her assignment with regard to Matthew James? Find him? Follow him? Probably neither, as, according to the previous version, he's dead. It's more important to tell us he's been murdered than that he has no friends.]

Harry Finch’s son was killed by a drunk driver who was set free because of a minor legal error. Harry [, who has four friends,] wanted justice for his son, so the man responsible, Matthew James, had to die. In that man’s death, he finds solace, but he also finds the excitement and joy of knowing that a wrong was righted. He imagines a future where those who persecuted were punished, where victims received the justice they so desired. There were so many more innocents whose malefactor still walked free. How could Harry stop now? [I don't like "persecuted" (transgressed/killed/broke the law?) Matthew didn't persecute Harry's son. I also don't like "malefactor." (assailants?) Stay out of the thesaurus.]

Leah interviews Harry during the investigation. The following week Harry asks her to dinner. Though Harry is still technically a suspect, Leah accepts. As weeks go by, the friendship they have grows to something more.

More are killed. Leah sees a pattern forming that encompasses the recent murders as well as the case assigned to her. She believes these similarities tie all the murders together. Then the killer changes tactics. Leah’s best friend is almost killed by the murderer, barely saved by Leah. No longer is he targeting criminals, instead he's killing random people at random locations. [I'm not sure I'd call Leah's best friend a random person. Didn't he know she was Leah's friend when he attacked her? And if all his murders take place where there are no witnesses around to identify him, that isn't random either.] He’s more dangerous, more frightening, and still leaving no clues as to who he might be. [If he's targeting different people and leaving no clues, how do they know it's the same killer/] 

The stories of Leah and Harry intertwine, weaving together and apart. [Things don't weave apart, and intertwine is the same as weave together. You're wasting words. By the end of the query you've shown that their stories intertwine, so why tell us?] Leah struggles to catch a ruthless serial killer; Harry meticulously plans and executes murders. And Leah and Harry fall in love.

When one family fights back, Harry leaves evidence behind — evidence that leads Leah to Harry, the man she loves.

JUSTICE BETRAYED is complete at 81,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration. A partial or full manuscript is available on request.



You should be able to summarize your plot in ten sentences. You have about twenty-five. Perhaps the following could be used as a template for a more concise version.

Harry Finch’s son was killed by a drunk driver who was freed on a legal technicality. Harry believes in an eye for an eye, and kills the man responsible, Matthew James. Righting that one wrong proves an addictive thrill for Harry. How many more killers are walking free?

A chief suspect in the Matthew James murder, Harry is interviewed by detective Leah Chase. He manages to satisfy her that he's not the killer, and later asks her out to dinner. It's against department policy, but she accepts, and an unexpected romance takes root.

As a series of vigilante killings hits the city, Leah sees similarities between those crimes and the one she's still investigating. Apparently she's not just after the killer of Matthew James; she's after a serial killer. And then evidence turns up at the latest crime scene, evidence that seems to point at Harry Finch, the man Leah loves.


Sean said...

You don't know how much I hate the fact that you popped out a decent synopsis of what I have been struggling over for weeks now. Sigh.

No, Harry doesn't know he was shooting at Leah's friend, not until well after it happens.

Police can identify that bullets came from the same gun, but still not know who was shooting that gun, so yeah, they can know the murders are related without knowing anything about who.

Anonymous said...

You need to focus more on what's happening and why it's happening then on the minutia of your characters' lives.

You can leave out details (like the daughter and number of friends) that don't impact the action of the plot. If you happen to have extra room, you can put a few details back in, but go sparingly.

One way that might help you focus:
Any time you find yourself using the same words (or words that fall in the same thesaurus entry), double check to see if you are describing the same event or the same detail. If you are describing the same thing in different ways, merge the two or cut one. If it's just parts of the same thing, take the sentences apart and put them back together so that they're not talking about parts of the same thing, they're giving New/Exciting/Important information.

I agree with EE in moving the paragraph about Harry first. It flows better instead of jumping back and forth.

Evil Editor said...

So in a city of 800,000 people, a killer whose new MO is to attack random people in random locations, happens to attack the only friend of the detective hunting him? Pretty big coincidence.

Does Harry still feel justified when he starts killing randomly?

Sean said...

Harry shoots Leah's friend in a public location, along with killing four others. Granted, it is a relatively big coincidence, but I think it works in context. (None of my beta readers mentioned that as a problem.)

Does he feel justified? Yes. His logic about the whole situation isn't very good to begin with, and he finds a way to justify killing random people. It kinda boils down to "none of us are born without sin".

SB said...

If Harry goes from vigilante killer to murderer of random and presumably innocent strangers, you've just lost all sympathy I had for him and all tension in the romance aspect. Because now that I know that he's gone psycho evil, I know that obviously Leah is going to end up turning on him rather than deciding to leave her job and/or let him go because she loves him and, after all, he was taking actual killers off the street. So, it doesn't really work as a romance and is really a straight-up thriller.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

You're giving out way too much info. It is a query not a synopsis.

Where's the intrigue? You handed out the farm before the for sale sign is up.

Can you please make we want to read this instead of giving me a report?

Try again.

Leah Chase, lowly newbie Constable on Patrol, is assigned a low profile murder case on Matthew James.

Leah interviews a suspect, named Harry during the investigation. Harry asks her to dinner after her thorough investigation. Though Harry remains a suspect, Leah accepts. She wants to solve the case. As time passes, the friendship they have grows to something grand and inspiring and wonderful.

Leah struggles to catch a ruthless serial killer but that points to Harry, the man she has come to care for leading to more questioning – about herself.

Good luck. Read the archives, will help you sharpen it.

AA said...

Note: I wrote this before I read the other comments, so some of these are covered already. But it does show that people are in agreement on what the problems seem to be.

The fact that Leah's the mother of an eleven-year-old girl never comes into it. Neither does that fact that kid dislikes Harry. Why would a tween like the guy her Mom's dating?

As EE pointed out, how many friends or relatives a character has doesn't seem to affect the plot, so we don't need that. The only exception would be Leah's best friend, an unnamed character that has not been introduced, but we're supposed to care that he/she is almost killed.
I also find it hard to care about "random people" (whoever they may be), since I can't seem to picture a random person. It doesn't have the same impact as, say, "terrorists are targeting preschools." That makes my heart race. Use words and phrases that have impact, not just descriptive ones.

You do wax grandiloquent about victims, persecution, justice, etc. It shows Harry's grandiose frame of mind. However, this would probably be best left in the MS, since it comes across as strange without the context.

You're also redundant, tending to waste words. If I "see a pattern forming" and I "believe similarities tie incidents together," I've just done the same thing twice.

Again, you have the problem of drawing toward an inevitable sad conclusion. Unless Leah suddenly decides to throw caution to the wind and run away with Harry, leaving her child behind, there isn't much that can happen in this story. The romance is doomed. I can't root for a psycho, but if Leah continues this case she'll learn the truth and be emotionally destroyed. If it's going to leave me feeling depressed, why would I choose this book?

Anyway, I know it's hard, but keep working at it. You only fail if you stop trying! Or something like that, I'm tired.