Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Face-Lift 390

Guess the Plot

The Consultant

1. Ava Grandler is a troubleshooter: when good contracts go bad, she's the one to call. But when handsome Gray Bradshaw's company begins to flounder, will she be accused of cooking the books?

2. He was brought in to stop the bleeding when Hemodynamics Industries was going down the drain. Now the top executives are turning up dead, drained of blood. Is there a connection between the string of grisly murders and . . . The Consultant?

3. Derek Wilberforce believes he is existent in a highly synergistic lifestyle until an impactful life event incents him to realign his priorities and rediscover his under-utilized assets in a paradigm-shifting circumstance. Also, a hyperinfrastructure.

4. He had a promising consulting career going until he woke up in the psych ward with his memories gone, accused of murder. Can an aging hypnotherapist help recapture the troubled past of . . . The Consultant? Also, ghost hitchhikers.

5. Immortal Loman Morgano was a consultant, offering affordable advice where he could. He was marriage consultant to Henry the Eighth. He advised Russia to sell Alaska to the US. Now, droolingly, he anticipates his most rewarding consultation: advising the American electorate on the 2008 political season.

6. A book of advice written by teenagers, during the years when they know everything, this pithy handbook will act as a personal consultant to clueless parents and guide them along a path carefully calculated to avoid humiliating their teenagers or sullying their reputation beyond repair.

Original version

Dear Mr. Evil:

I’m seeking representation for my new suspense novel, THE CONSULTANT. Set in New England, it's the story of a troubled young MBA on the run, a trio of unearthly hitchhikers, and the incredible road trip they take to save each others’ souls.

Despite the schizophrenia in his bloodline, Thomas Chace has it all: an Ivy League degree, a fast-track consulting career and a terrific woman who loves him. When he finds himself in a psych hospital beaten up, indicted for murder, and with zero recollection why, he must trust an aging hypnotherapist [I once trusted an aging hypnotherapist. Big mistake. I ended up braying like a mule as my brother kissed the bride at his wedding. My sister-in-law didn't find it nearly as amusing as the aging hypnotherapist did.] to help restore his memory. What she finds buried in his mind is beyond what either of them imagined.

The hypnosis takes Thomas back to the day he learns [I'd go with past tense here.] his employer, business icon Philip Kingstone, is involved in a criminal venture capital scheme. When Thomas steals evidence that will expose him, Kingstone comes after him with a vengeance.

Thomas’s escape takes him to a breathtaking Vermont canyon where tourists go to take pictures and desperate souls go to take their own lives.
While there, he loses his precious evidence against Kingstone. As hope vaporizes, he realizes he has company; sitting in his back seat [He's in his car? How did he lose the evidence? It blew out the sunroof and into the gorge?] are three shadows, two men and a woman who perished in the gorge. His strange passengers make him an offer: if he helps them resolve their unfinished business in this world so they can move on to the next, they will help him try to survive his own dire predicament.

With nothing to lose, he teams up with his late hitchhikers and the foursome embarks on a quest that is daring, humorous and romantic, but always on edge. And before it's over, Thomas encounters something even more threatening than Philip Kingstone: the truth about himself. [He died in the gorge three years ago, and it's the hitchhikers who are alive.]

At 95,000 words, THE CONSULTANT blends suspense/thriller with paranormal spine-tingler, a combination I hope will appeal to a large commercial audience. For a taste of my work, please see the enclosed, which need not be returned. The full mss is available; I’ve enclosed an SASE for your response.

With sincere thanks for your consideration,


I can't tell if the part about stealing evidence, going to Vermont, and encountering the hitchhikers is what the aging hypnotherapist unearths or if it happens after Chace visits the aging hypnotherapist. If you put what the aging hypnotherapist discovers in past tense, we'll know when you've switched back to post-hypnosis events.

I assume you do switch back somewhere in there. Usually you want the most interesting part of the story to be told to the readers, not to an aging hypnotherapist.

This is well-written, but isn't the plot the story of how the three lost souls help him, and he helps them? It's buried at he bottom of paragraph four. I think we can lose the hospital and the aging hypnotherapist and get the ghosts as close to the top as possible, not only because they're your plot, but because it feels like you're introducing aliens in chapter 14.

Actually, it's not clear why the aging hypnotherapist is even needed in the book. Man discovers boss is criminal, boss goes after him, ghosts appear in back seat as he tries to make escape. Man helps ghosts, ghosts help man. What is gained by man gets amnesia, aging hypnotherapist cures amnesia? If you get to the ghosts early, you might have room to tell us about their unfinished business.

What she finds buried in his mind is beyond what either of them imagined leads me to believe the aging hypnotherapist finds the ghosts. If she just finds the venture capital scheme, I wouldn't build it up so much. Does she discover who beat Chace up, who he supposedly killed, why he's in the psych ward? I'd rather hear about that than the boss's scheme.

As the book has paranormal aspects anyway, I think the hypnotherapist should be getting younger instead of aging.


Dave Fragments said...

Have you read "The Night Country" by Stewart O'Nan. It's a mystery story with a car full of teenage ghosts. It's quite well written and similar to your plot.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's not clear why the aging hypnotherapist is even needed in the book.

Yeah, that is a worry. With the crims and the ghosts, I think you've got a great paranormal thriller premise.

I hate to tell you this, but add an aging hypnotherapist and tell the story in flashback and I'm afraid you mught end up having to shelve it in Literary.

Anonymous said...

You'd hate to tell them that because, why, literary fiction is lowly?

Adding a hypnotherapist and flashback doesn't make it literary anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'll bite. I have a soft spot for hitchhikers, ghostly or otherwise. Where's the New Beginning for this?

Anonymous said...

Adding a hypnotherapist and flashback doesn't make it literary anyway.

Damn, I just googled it and you're right. Hypnotherapist plus flashback doesn't necessarily make it literary. Thanks, that's great!

Chris Eldin said...

I know Dave will be traveling through here again, so I have an unrelated question (author may work it into story if he/she desires)

Will there be two moons on Aug 27? Is this a hoax? (Moon plus Mars visible in the sky) From all the information you had about "Blue Moons," I figured you might know the answer to this one.

Dave Fragments said...

Takoda, I think that's the old joke email floated a few years ago when Mars made a close approach of about 58 or so million miles. Mars isn't visible this August in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter is. Perhaps there's a rumor about Jupiter.

Anonymous said...

I liked this query, even though it was confusing about the hypnotherapist and when he encounters the ghost. The ghost part is what hooked me, not the other stuff. You should think about moving it up. Is the hypnotherapist important or is she just a tool to move the story along. Cause if she is just a tool, maybe you should take her out of the query as I think it is a distraction. Also to make this more sleeker, you should pare down that second paragraph. Take out the first line about schizophrenia, I don't think you need it in the query. Start with successful MBA wakes up beaten up in a psych ward... Then move quickly through how hypnosis helps him discover the plot sending him on a mission to uncover evidence to clear his name. Then go into the ghosts. This is very interesting and I want to know what happens next.

So.... when are you sending more in?

Xenith said...

I hope all the Anonymouses aren't the same poster ;)

I was starting to worry that EE had run out of queries and had written these last few for something to use. I thought I might have to submit one myself. But I see there are still some waiting to appear. *phew*

Takoda -- hop over to Snopes, it'll still be in the 'What's New' section.

Anonymous said...

The two moons are a hoax. When in doubt, consult

I kind of like the premise of the query, but I'm stuck on a detail. Um, canyons? In Vermont? When I was a young thing in New England, we called them ravines, valleys, or (especially around NH) notches. Wasn't till I moved west of the Rockies that I ran into anybody calling them canyons.

Little things can trip you up. That word tells me you probably ain't from around heah, as they'd say in Vermont.

Sylvia said...

I'm not Dave, but the two moon thing is nonsense (parts of the world won't even see one!):

none said...

Two Moons on 27th August

The ghostly hitchhikers sound fascinating; the hypnotherapy, not so much. I thought the query was clear and to the point, though--despite wondering how much was backstory.

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys! Especially about the Snopes website!


Robin S. said...

This sounds like an interesting book. Hypnotherapist or not, I want to know what truth was buried inside him.

I like the backseat ghosts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks EE, I needed the laughs! As you all can probably tell, Thomas's story is layered and complex. The driving dilemma for him, given the "schizophrenia in his blood", is whether the story he tells while hypnotized was a grand hallucination or something else (i.e. is he gifted or crazy). In the end, the aging (snort) hypnotherapist helps him discover what he really is. But you've all given me major food for thought so I'll go back to the dining table and give some hard thought to simplifying, either the query or the book, or both. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

Dave Fragments said...

The trouble with hypnotherapy and revealing a dream or halluciantion or alternate reality or even remembering a real event, is that you could reveal everything to the reader. In that case, the rest of the book is merely an exercise in writing to script.

There's lots of cheesy Sci Fi on TV that does this. It's the old Star Treck joke about the new (and nameless) ensign or team member who dies as part of the plot. Depictions of the future reality, like prophecies, dreams, visions, or hypnosis, can telegraph the end of the story.

I don't know anything about the novel. This is only a general comment.

Nancy Beck said...

I was confused when I started reading the Vermont paragraph; but, the ghost hitchhikers piqued my interest.

I think EE said it best: I think we can lose the hospital and the aging hypnotherapist and get the ghosts as close to the top as possible.

I'd agree with that. I'm not sure about the MC telling this a la flashbacks to a hypnotherapist (unless my brain is mush on that point), but as I haven't read the actual story, I'm not going to mess with that. Definitely try to bring the ghost hitchhikers as close to the beginning of your query as possible.

This definitely has potential; just needs some cleaning up and tightening. Good luck with it!


Nancy Beck said...

Ooh, I like what ello said: Start with successful MBA wakes up beaten up in a psych ward... Then move quickly through how hypnosis helps him discover the plot sending him on a mission to uncover evidence to clear his name.

Cut to the chase, yes. But I'd still like to see the ghosts well before the 4th paragraph.

Just my 2 cents, naturally. :-)


none said...

My problem with the hypnotherapist is firstly, how can they know whether what they retrieve is memory, dream, hallucination, fantasy, fragments of some tv show or book from the MBA's past, or whatever? The other problem is that what's "recovered" during hypnotherapy bypasses the protections in the brain that enable us to distinguish between real memories of things that have happened to us, and fantasies, dreams, hallucinations, etc. I think the MBA would probably end up more confused, not less.

But then I'm a hypno-cynic.

Anonymous said...

That's the beauty of the hypnosis theme; it's not reliable. In my book, when Thomas comes out of his trance, he and his therapist must determine whether his experiences with the ghosts were real - or the product of inherited paranoid schizophrenia !

Evil Editor said...

I think we can be pretty sure it was real. If your agent or editor gets to the end of your book and discovers the whole thing was a dream, or a schizophrenic hallucination, she'll be wishing she'd read the last chapter first and saved herself 88,000 words.

none said...

Probably I should read the book before arguing any more :). Hurry up and get it published!