Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Face-Lift 233

Guess the Plot


1. The Big Chill meets Friday the 13th, as Josh and his friends gather at the funeral of the latest victim of the sledgehammer serial killer, who always kills the firstborn child of his previous victim.

2. Abandoned as infants and raised by a disgraced proctologist, these psychic albino Siamese twin brothers have only each other--until a question of seniority tears them apart.

3. In exchange for the fame and fortune of bestselling novels, two starving artists promise their firstborn child to the devil. Thus is brought into being . . . the Evil Editor.

4. A man bores his wife to death with a dismal endless monologue. Only their eldest son realizes it was truly murder and not an accident. But can he prove it?

5. Birth rates among college educated women skyrocket when the government starts a new student loan forgiveness program, wherein healthy infants are accepted in lieu of cash repayment.

6. Grisham meets Ali Baba, as this dude drops dead and his quadruplets argue over which of them gets the inheritance.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

FIRSTBORN is a 95,000-word horror thriller of the "co-ed splatter flick" variety. In it, eight college friends must survive the fall-out from their parents' reckless youth.

After the gruesome murder of a friend, Josh Parker and his fellow college students retreat to his parent's lake house to regroup. The close-knit troop plan to drink, weep, and reminisce--an Irish wake without the body, so to speak. After all, the funeral hadn't been closed-casket by choice.

Even out of the comfortable college town, however, Josh finds that he can't put the murder out of his mind. [If your goal is to put the murder out of your mind, drinking, weeping and reminiscing at an Irish wake, so to speak, is an odd way to go about it.] Who kills someone by beating them to death with a sledge hammer? [Someone too stupid to realize a regular hammer will do the job just as well, and will be a lot easier to swing.] What kind of rage breeds that kind of intent? ["Intent?" I'd go with "savagery," "brutality," or "cruelty."] He pesters the lead detective on the case and discovers that his friend wasn't the only victim of a sledge hammer bludgeoning in the past year. In fact, she was the fourth,

[Josh: She was killed by a sledgehammer? Bet you don't see that too often.

Detective: You'd be surprised. I've worked four sledge hammer cases this year alone.

Josh: Don't you find that odd?

Detective: Nah. There've been half a dozen wrench killings in the same period. Not to mention several knives, lead pipes, and a candlestick.

Josh: A candlestick?

Detective: In the conservatory. I booked Colonel Mustard for that one.]

and the third was her father, [You'd think if his friend's father was recently bludgeoned to death with a sledge hammer, Josh would already know about it.] a long-forgotten chum from his own father's glory days.

The body count rises as Josh's friends and their fathers fall under the murderer's sledge. [If the killer's next victim is always the previous victim's father or firstborn, seems like the cops would have no trouble figuring out where he'll strike next.] A nameless shape [A nameless shape? Who's the killer, The Blob?] stalks them with juggernaut intensity until Josh's own father reveals an impossible identity [suggests an impossible suspect?] --a victim of accidentally lethal hazing whose pregnant fiancé miscarried from the grief and shock of her lover's death. Unfortunately, the knowledge is more curse than cure. How do you kill what's already dead? [Whoa, you're saying the killer is . . . a ZOMBIE?!! Why didn't you say so in the first place? Serial-killer-with-a-sledgehammer books are a dime a dozen. Zombie-serial-killer-with-a-sledgehammer books are the next wave. We've got to get this book published before Anne Rice comes out with Interview with the Zombie:

"You weren't always a zombie, were you?" the boy began.
"Nnngh," answered the zombie. "Ozza tayfie yeeromun wencame zombie, enthyeers senteenitywun."]

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I don't think comparing it to "co-ed spatter flicks" is helpful. You may be hoping they'll make a co-ed spatter flick from it some day, but for now you want people to think it has literary value. Cutting the first paragraph off at "thriller" might do the trick.


Anonymous said...

Now you've done it, EE!

I'm having visions of the candle-stick murder, in a way that wouldn't work in a conservatory.

Strangely, it works in a lavatory though. Hmmm. Conservatory, lavatory. Oh, horror, that rhimes!

And I'm only half way reading...

Now look what you've done.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, EE!

You've finally proven, once and for all, just how evil you are.

That zombie story... Ouch. I've bashed my head so hard on the desk, in my hysterical fits of... hysteria(can't even call that laughter). I think I cracked my scull open...

I'm off to an emergency room.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm back. What? My doctor is a mole, that lives in a nearby hall in the ground. He sais I might have a light concussion, with a pinch of a nervous breakdown, but all can be cured with a litre of coffee... So no lawsuit.

Author, I'd cut out "After the gruesome murder of a friend,". Most murders are described that way, or so it seems. I like the rest of the paragraph, cause it would draw me in (I agree my opinion doesn't mean much at this point, but here it is anyway).

Next, I'd read EE's advice very carefully, and implement it to a dot.

Especially the part about the zombies.

Okay, I'm off to the library for some Anne Rice books.

Anonymous said...

[A nameless shape? Who's the killer, The Blob?]

First eunuch, now the blob?
Will this senceless prosecution of innocent souls ever end?

My twin was a psychotic albino. Then mum got rid of him. Sad but true... or, maybe it was my own reflection.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you don't mean you're off for some Rice Pudding?

Kate Thornton said...

A sledgehammer is really overkill, unless there is a question of pounding the victim into jelly for a reason, say to fit the residue into a small container or something. Even then, I'm thinking woodchipper. More Fargo meets All Those Kids Doomed on an Island flicks.

And unless these kids are particularly charming or smart, I might not care if they are targeted for death by the Hulk or Superman or whoever has that sledgehammer.

Change the murder weapon (maybe have a different method for each killing) and *still* have Josh figure it out and you've got something. This could be a good suspense mystery with some work.

Bernita said...

Be more blunt with your query, and perhaps less with your instrument.

Anonymous said...

Just rename it to "The Sledgehammer Wielding Blob" and you're all set.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or are we having a murder theme going?

pacatrue said...

If the author is really going for teen gore fest, I think some entirely impractical but gross murder weapon is exactly what he wants. I mean, the author seems to have a zombie with a sledgehammer taking out teens in a dark cabin (I assume right after they start to engage in sex, since that is when all teens die). This isn't P.D. James. I don't think they are going for a great murder mystery where secrets are revealed due to the cleverness or tenacity of the protagonist. Instead, the protagonist is going to solve the murder by being the last one with his head attached, maybe with his girlfriend (in lingerie, I assume) and the funny sidekick hanging on. If this is indeed the goal, where the enjoyment is the sheer gruesomeness, then keep the sledge.

Now, I say all this, because I get the feeling this is the author's target. I can offer absolutely no advice on whether or not such an item would sell. I don't read or watch horror and have zero knowledge. The author should be able to figure this out to some degree by seeing if there are book parallels to Friday the 13th and I Know what you did last summer that came out before the movie.

Author, have you tried writing the screenplay instead?

magz said...

Ow, I was swinging a sledgehammer today building fences, and I agree with EE!
Waaaay too heavy to make a handy murder weapon. Also prone to whacking yer own legs if ya swing too wildly..

And it couldn't have been the Blob, as his viscous psuedopods are much to weak and slippery to hold a sledge handle.
Author? It's an interesting idea, but the query has it sounding pretty generic and possibly unbelievable, I'm betting you can rework the query to make us all sit up and take notice! Good luck with it,

Anonymous said...

I assume right after they start to engage in sex, since that is when all teens die...

Well, at least now I know how I managed to survive so long...

GutterBall said...

Sorry it took me so long to join in, guys! I have a good excuse: I was at the Chiefs game! Woot!

Anyway, this is my query, and Pacatrue is right: it's supposed to be campy.

I have no delusions that this one will ever have a booming market (and probably won't get published because of it), but I had to give it a try. I wanted to see if I could take all the stuff I love from cheesy horror movies and put it into a book. Some of the impact of those movies is so visual that I knew it would be a challenge to put it into words. Had to try, ya know.

The sledge hammer is just because it's fun and over the top. Strength isn't an issue for this guy. And he prefers the term "undead". "Zombie" sounds so...messy.

Anyway, thanks so much for the ideas and suggestions! This one would be a tricky sell at the best of times, but I realize now that I haven't quite explained the camp factor enough that the reader won't think this is a serious thriller. Hm. Definitely needs work!

Anonymous said...

"Chiefs tear up Broncos, november 24"... etc.

Well, what do you know, gutterball WAS telling the truth, that time behind the podium.

Anonymous said...

I'm on my way to the bookshop, to buy 'Crack-up that Kills', the new best selling series by Gutterbal de Wicked.

But where's 'The Shifty Eye', Zombie-Alien parahillarious romance?

Gutterball books. Sure they'll kill you, but you'll die laughing.

You go, gutterball.

GutterBall said...

You guys crack me up. If I had any voice at all today after 3 1/2 hours of screaming yesterday, I'd be laughing my butt off. Since I don't, I'm making this weird braying, rasping, ululating noise that scared a stray cat outside.


Anonymous said...

"The Sledgehammer of Undead."

You'll have the teenagers grabbing books like they were candies.

Don't forget to ask EE to use one of his blurbs for the book!

Anonymous said...

I warned you people, that gutterball was evil, but does anyone listen to me?

Just throw in psychic albino Siamese twins, and you got a best seller.

pacatrue said...

Congrats to the Chiefs, Gutterball, even though the Titans fans are clearly the best around....

Making the campiness clearer might be as "easy" as a title change. While "firstborn" has a creepiness factor to it, it doesn't scream teen horror flick. You might try to spice it up. We had a query on here a few months back about "My Undead High School Reunion." Maybe you need a title like that for this.

Sledgehammer of Death (Death Without End perhaps)
Mangled Flesh in the Dark

OK, those are lamo, but you get the idea.

GutterBall said...

I originally wrote in some psychic albino Siamese cats. Think they'll do the trick?

GutterBall said...

Now why'd you have to go say a thing like that, Pac-Man? We Chiefs fans are the epitome of good sportsmanship and outrageous loyalty.

Case in point: we in the "cool" section of Arrowhead Stadium only called that Donkeys fan wearing a foam horse head for a cap an Ass Hat like twenty times. Maybe twenty-five. He'd have gotten worse if he'd worn that thing into Wal-Mart. It was...well, ridiculous is the only word that comes to mind.

And Firstborn is just a working title. I am definitely open to suggestion, there. I was thinking of just calling it Sledge Hammer, but I figured that might drum up some unwelcome musical connotations. Heh.

Don't worry. I'm still working on it. Nothing's set in stone. You guys have been great to get into the spirit of the thing and help out. I can't tell you how much I appreciate both the candor and the amusement.

Anonymous said...

That depends. We know the cats can see the future, but do they speak human?

If there's a non-psychic dog, that can speak cat and human, then we've got something.

Also, there's a possibility of the cats that try to warn humans of an impending doom, but humans never listen.

Cat1: "Look out Sam, a sledgehammer!"

Sam is too busy making out with May and June.

Cat2: "Sam, May, June! Behind you!"

Bash! Smash! Crash!

Cat1 and Cat2: "Oh, well."

Anonymous said...

Football fans are scary.


Especially the ones that write.

Anonymous said...

So are eunuchs, nuts and all minions in general.