Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Face-Lift 1332

Guess the Plot

The Supernatural

1. Yet another house in which people were murdered. Yet another family willing to move in because the price is right and ghosts aren't real. Why should this one turn out any different?

2. Since people believe ghosts aren't real, it's incredibly easy for John and Shirley--who are ghosts--to go about their daily lives. Until those meddling kids show up.

3. Between the panhandlers, the drug dealers, and the wanted criminals, there's no room for ghosts or poltergeists in the subways of New York, and it's about time they did something about the situation. Also, a plague of rats.

4. Organic superheroes Kale Man and Flax Woman range freely until GMOnster teams with Gluten Beast in a diabolical scheme to sabotage free trade agreements throughout the world. The ensuing battle will determine whether Earth is transformed into a syndrome-free paradise or is plunged into a black hole under the weight of 16 billion obese people.

5. Haunted houses and ghosts aren't real, Martin reminds himself again while watching the half-transparent woman in the blue dress drink tea in the old family room. And he's not seeing her male companion, their maid, or their black Poodle either.

6. Blair purchases a book on how to summon the dead online so she can berate her girlfriend for dying so young. After seeing the thousand-page length, she decides to use the CliffsNotes version. Things go very wrong, and that's only in the first twenty pages.

Original Version


Twenty-five years ago, a woman brutally murdered her cheating husband, his mistress, and her two kids, before killing herself in her home. Flash forward to the 1990s, [No need to flash forward; twenty-five years ago was the 1990s.] Waxahachie, Texas, a new family has moved in.  [That sentence is two sentences with a comma between them. Also, when you say "Flash forward to the 1990s, Waxahachie, Texas," a reader could get the impression we weren't in Waxahachie to begin with. How about: Waxahachie, Texas, 1970: a woman brutally murders her cheating husband, his mistress, and her two kids, before killing herself. Flash forward to the 1990s. A new family moves into the murder house.]

Paula Harris is determined to start a new life with her family in the town [Waxahachie], after fleeing her cruel mother before the poisonous relationship harms her husband and children. The realtor and neighbors warn Paula and her husband of the tragedy and rumored hauntings, but the couple pegs [write off? discount?] the stories as small-town gossip and moves in anyway. [Deciding whether to treat "the couple" as singular or plural can depend on the context or even the country you're in. I usually decide based on what pronoun I would use to replace the noun. Since I would use "they" rather than "it" for couple in this sentence, I would use "discount" and "move" rather than "discounts" and "moves." Does that make me British?] 

Weeks later, evil spirits torment them. It starts with voices, footsteps, shadows, and the actual apparitions themselves [progresses to apparitions of the murder victims]. The family is [are] horrified when the evil spirits try to kill them in their home. The matriarch of the spirit family transports Paula to 1970 to witness the long-ago murders. Paula is appalled and determines to exorcise the evil spirits. [Are there five evil spirits? Or do only those who were evil in life become evil spirits in death?] 

Through painstaking research, Paula learns that every family who has ever lived in the home has either fled in terror or mysteriously disappeared [Or were killed by Mom.] During the day, the home sits quiet and peaceful, but at night the evil spirits possess one of their kids [Paula's children]. Unable to leave because the evil spirits attached themselves to her family, Paula desperately tries to destroy them because if she doesn't find a way to do so, [If she fails,] her family will die. [Is the possessed child still possessed in the daytime? If not, why don't they run for it?]

Complete at 70,000 words THE SUPERNATURAL is a Paranormal/Thriller Adult novel.


While it's good that you have a strong female lead taking charge of the situation, it's hard to believe Dad is sitting idly by. Is he arguing that there's no such thing as ghosts? Or is this a team effort?

Do they try leaving the house in hopes that the spirits just want them gone, and the ones that possessed a child will stay behind with the other spirits when Paula's family leave? Worth a try. Staying in a house where evil spirits try to kill you at night seems kind of stupid. In fact, after a visit to Waxahachie's Facebook page, I've decided that I'd be scrambling to get out even if my house weren't haunted.

This is mostly setting up the situation. I would replace the last sentence of paragraph 3 with the line about one of the spirits possessing one of the children. Then dump the rest of paragraph 4 and use it to tell us what Paula plans to do to destroy the spirits, what goes wrong, what decision she must make (abandon her possessed child to save the rest of the family?)

Transporting Paula to 1970 to witness the murders seems like something the spirit would do to make a point or to show Paula how to free the spirits from their earthly prison. Here it sounds like it's just to torment Paula. Is it supposed to accomplish something?

I don't know about books, but this plot's been done dozens of times on screen, so if there's something that sets this apart from all the others, emphasize it in the query.


Anonymous said...

First thing I thought of reading this was that it's a very common movie plot. On the plus side, that means there's probably an audience. On the minus side, publishers tend to want to know why someone will buy this book to read as opposed to go see the latest variation in a theater (which has the draw of favorite actors, special effects, etc). Personally, I'd also be worried there's enough plot to fill out the story since most of the movies tend to be a bit shy on story (it could be that I've just been watching the wrong ones).

Try to condense the setup to one paragraph. As familiar as the situation is, that shouldn't be too difficult.

A few more details would help. What prevents the rest of the family from leaving? I'd think it more responsible of the parents to try to get the other children out of danger even if one/both of them stay behind with the one possessed. What exactly does the MC try to destroy the spirits? etc.

Good luck

Mister Furkles said...

An alternative approach would be to write the story from the point of view of the spirits. That's much less common. And just because the POV is from an evil perspective does not mean championing the spirits.

Another thing to consider is a reason why the family must remain in the haunted home. If it were an old castle, you could have Paula receive a large inheritance conditioned on her family living in the castle. Don’t know how you might make that work in Wieldahatchet Texas.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Amityville Horror, which may or may not be the first modern iteration of this trope, was a book before it was a movie. Amazon has it listed in both fiction and non-fiction categories; it was supposed to be based on a true story. (The murders really happened. The family who bought the house in Amityville did move out very quickly.)

Interestingly, the Fox sisters, mid-19th century spiritualists who started out as kids playing a trick on relatives and neighbors, also claimed that the house they lived in was the site of an unsolved and undetected murder. So I guess the trope goes way back. Certainly realtors find it hard to sell or rent houses in which murders have occurred, and in some states they are required to tell the prospective buyer/renter about the crime.

As to the query though, it needs to acknowledge that the trope exists, and deal with that in some way (eg by showing how this story is different). Otherwise it looks like just another version of the same old same old.