Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Face-Lift 476

Guess the Plot

True Fiction

1. Everyone said Gloria Bigler's novel about the village mayor and his shameless hussies was a riot -- until it turned out to be true! Now the lawyers are working overtime, Gloria's on the lam in China, and ace homicide detective Zack Martinez is waiting for divers to finish searching Lake Pleasant for the rest of Mayor Bob.

2. Although she was initially praised for her story about the government's cover-up of the weredingo invasion of Melbourne, journalist Tamilla Saopopo's facts are questioned, and boom! She's fired. Homeless and friendless, she goes on a road trip, runs out of gas in the bush, and falls in love with a guy who lives under a eucalyptus. He is actually, yes, the manliest weredingo in West Australia.

3. Struggling author Trudy Carr is at her wit's end after her 33rd novel is rejected. In desperation she decides to take on a false identity and re-invents herself as Tru Fiction, avenger of wronged authors everywhere. Soon the publishing world is in a frenzy as Tru exposes the corruption behind the glamour. But when she sets her sights on the Frankfurt Book Fair, all bets are off...

4. When Milton wins the Middletown Sentinel's "Coin A Tongue-Twister contest" with the entry "True Fiction," Eunice cries foul play. When she demands to know why her entry ("Save Sherry's Shaver") didn't win, she uncovers a web of corruption and deception leading all the way to the White House.

5. After nurse Stella Hart finds two dead bodies and survives a murder attempt (and the detective investigating the murders is killed), she decides to quit her job and hunt down the killer. Why not? Nursing is dullsville, and it's not like her love life was going anywhere. Too silly for even fiction? Maybe, but this is . . . True Fiction.

6. Author Ed Charles finds that the stories he writes become real. Immediately he creates stories of himself winning the lottery and having dozens of buxom, open-minded girlfriends. But when his ex-wife Traci clamors for more alimony, Ed begins working on a story involving Traci, a broken down safari Jeep, and a dozen hungry lions.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Famous Agent ( name spelled correctly),

The high point of Stella Hart's Sunday morning was her quiet run in the park. You can imagine how annoyed she must have been when this weekly ritual was ruined by an encounter with a dead body--or precisely two dead bodies, [or, even more precisely, three dead bodies, two wolfmen and a three-legged horse.] both with bullet holes in their foreheads. [It's a special person whose emotional reaction to two corpses is annoyance.]

As a part-time nurse in a busy trauma unit, Stella's life consists of meeting people on the worst day of their lives. After twenty years, she is tired of bad knees and fourteen-hour days. Besides, her love life was in the toilet; the only men she ever met were either drug addicts or in a coma, and her nights were beyond boring. [Why have we switched to past tense?]

When there is an ill-fated attempt on her life, Stella begins to wonder if there may be a tie between the violent murders in the park and her injuries. [I doubt Stella would characterize the attempt on her life as "ill-fated," as she seems to have lived through it.] But when the lead detective suddenly dies, [He just suddenly dies?] the investigation of the three crimes appears to come to a halt

[Police commissioner: How's that case with the two executed guys in the park coming?

Police captain: Not so great; the detective working the case has been killed.

Police commissioner: Hmm. We'd better halt the investigation of both crimes. Maybe we can cut our losses.]

and there are many questions left unanswered. Haunted by the unsolved murders and her near death experience, Stella leaves her job in search for the killer. [To search for or in search of. What is she planning to do when she finds the killer who put bullets in the foreheads of two people?]

As she begins to look into the pasts of the two murder victims, she is surprised to find a pattern--an ever-growing list of familial deaths that appear unique. [All deaths are unique in one way or another. The identity of the dead person, for starters.] Lawrence McCarty, a rich, powerful, retired Senator is not only the father of one of the victims, he also appears to be at the heart of the entire investigation. [The heart of the halted investigation, or Stella's investigation?] A man that considers vengeance a personal attribute, [Not sure what that means.] he has deep hidden family secrets and no intention of sharing them. [With Stella?

Stella: I'd like an appointment t see Senator McCarty.

Secretary: What's this regarding?

Stella: I'm investigating some murders, including that of his son.

Secretary: Ah, you're the police?

Stella: No, I'm an unemployed nurse. Look, I just need the senator to tell me his deep hidden family secrets, and then I'll be out of his hair.


Following leads to Pittsburgh and St. Louis, Stella is unaware a determined assassin continues to stalk her. As she begins to peel back layers of the senator's life, she not only uncovers the heartbreaking link between the two murder victims, but a family whose roots are tied to evil. For the first time in her life Stella Hart is filled with a riveting fear and she yearns for a return to her boring life as a nurse in Austin, Texas.

TRUE FICTION, a completed 70,000-word mystery, is the first of a three-part series. The second novel, TRUE DETECTIVE, is nearing finalization. [It will be followed by the third novel, OKAY, OKAY, IT WAS ALL LIES.] Interwoven with scenes in a fast-paced trauma unit, [Is Stella in these scenes? She left her job. Does she have a new job in a trauma unit?] this story begins with one woman's attempt to change her life and ends with a brutal confrontation on a Texas seashore. [Or gulf coast.]

I'm the published author of a large number of medical articles, (Critical Care Nurse, Heartbeat, International Society of Pharmacology) and my short story, THE SHOUTER, was included in the 2005 anthology, Writing Austin Lives: A Community Portrait. [No need to shout the title of a short story, even if it's "The Shouter."]

Enclosed in this email are the first three pages of this novel. I look forward to your request for my completed manuscript.


If the detective's death was a crime, I find it hard to believe that investigation has come to a halt.

Not every nurse has the skills needed to investigate murders. How is it that this one does?

It's a pretty inept "determined assassin" who can't kill someone who doesn't know there's a determined assassin after her. Is this the same assassin who screwed up killing her the first time? He's gonna get a reputation as a bungler if this keeps up.

It's too long, but fortunately you don't need much of what's in the first two paragraphs. If you start something like: When part-time nurse Stella Hart stumbles over two dead bodies while jogging, she calls the police and tries to forget about it. But when an attempt is made on her life, and the detective investigating the murders is killed in a suspicious backhoe incident, Stella realizes she may still be in danger. Now you'll have no trouble getting it all onto one page.


Beth said...

For the first time in her life Stella Hart is filled with a riveting fear

What did she think was going to happen when she started tracking a killer? Why is she only afraid now?

Dave Fragments said...

The only True Fiction in Pittsburgh is that cheesy casino deal the politicians are shoving down the throats of citizens on the North Side.

This query is unfocused. It bounces between subjects. I hope that the ER figures into the mystery other than being Stella Hart's employment. The ER might make for exciting episodes but those episodes have to relate to the mystery.

Anonymous said...

Besides, her love life was in the toilet...

Hold on... Wasn't that George Michael?

talpianna said...

The only True Fiction in Pittsburgh is that cheesy casino deal

Is that the famous Pitt cheese stake?

Anonymous said...

Here's what we see in this query: you are bored with writing those medical articles. And you love mystery/thriller novels. So you wrote one.

You moshed together common elements of mystery and thriller genres, which makes for a rather complicated plot, which you outline in detail here. Perhaps too much detail. Except that you also hold back crucial plot points. So we can't actually figure what the heck's going on. We need less about why there's no sexy subplot [wha? no? !!???] and more about things like what happened to the detective.

EE expressed skepticism about the cops just snoozing on a double murder case after the detective investigating it got killed, making it a triple murder[?]. I agree. Maybe everything is handled more plausibly in the novel, but my general impression is you need to do a lot more research.

This might be a good time to take a deep breath and review the turkey city lexicon.


PJD said...

As EE's GTP entry points out, the motivations are a little weak as presented in the query. It's unclear why Stella quits her job to investigate the killings. I guess we can surmise that the attempt on her life sent her over the edge and that she can't live without some sort of closure. But for her to get so obsessive that she travels to Pittsburgh and St. Louis to follow leads after the police have dropped the investigation... dunno, I'm not really buying it.

I'm not a nurse and I've not played one on TV (though I know a few), but if a "part-time nurse" puts in "fourteen hour days" then I've just gained a huge measure of respect for full-time nurses.

It's also unclear (as EE's GTP points out) why her love life being in the toilet would motivate her to research murders. I guess eHarmony and match.com haven't panned out, so she figures might as well try this?

I do like the underlying mystery involving the Senator and a cover-up of multiple killings, and I hope you use the nurse/trauma center angle in the plot and not just as character backstory.

Oh, and I want to hear more about the three-legged horse and the suspicious backhoe.

Dave Fragments said...

No! Philadelphia (or as I affectionately refer to it Filthydelphia) is known for the cheese steak and Head Cheese. One of which is real cheese and the other is pigs head in aspic.
They also invented nose hair.
By contrast, Pittsburgh has Heinz pickles, Heinz ketchup, and (let's see) the Big Mac, The Ferris Wheel (not a foodstuff), Primanti's Sandwich wraps. I grew up on Pierogies and Isaly's chipped chopped ham and Klondike bars... Also Wedding Soup is a Pittsburgh recipe.

You ought to try something like this:
"When Stella Hart stumbles onto a gangland slaying, and the detective investigating the murders dies, Stella begins investigating on her own and finds that the three murders lead to a US Senator."

That's a run on sentence if there ever was one, but it focuses on Stella and her plight and how she solves the mystery.

Blogless Troll said...

I have nothing constructive to add here. But I would like to say I'd buy something called The Novel Formerly Known As True Fiction, before I would True Fiction. Maybe I'd buy a non-fiction book called True Fiction, but I'd need a few beers to keep the contradictions straight. I try not to rip on the titles here, but c'mon man, how bout a little effort? It's like a musician calling a song Inaudible Hip Hop.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Well, there was that movie True Lies. What appeal there may be in this title seems to be that it's an oxymoron. With the second book titled the non-oxymoronish True Detective, I would question the author's overall vision a bit. Still, it's just a title and likely to change anyway.

From the initial setup in the query, it seems like this is a cozy, but then it turns a bit dark for a cozy toward the end of the query. What audience are you trying to reach? I think you want to keep your tone consistent and targeted throughout.

Lots of great advice on tying up the loose ends, inconsistencies, and seeming boo-boo's in police procedural in the plot portion of the query, so I won't rehash.

Sounds like a middle-aged heroine having a mid-life crisis and using the murders as an excuse to put some pizzazz into her life. I like that as motivation, I think you just need to find a way to make it a bit more plausible in your query.

Stacia said...

I don't mean to nitpick or imply that the author knows nothing about nursing (obviously that's not the case), but I've never heard of an ER where part-time nurses work fourteen-hour shifts; full-time shifts are twelve hours. The part-timers in the ERs I've known work 4-8 hour shifts, generally.

Also, ER nurses don't meet only druggies or guys in comas. They meet cops and firemen/fire rescue guys. My Mom's an ER nurse (has been for over twenty years) and I've almost lost count of the number of cops and firemen she and her friends have dated over the years.

It might be different on the floors, but there's a lot of men in the ER.

Aside from that, I think it sounds like a fun story. The query needs some tightening, sure, and I don't get why she quit her job, but I like mysteries.

talpianna said...

Dave: I know about Pittsburgh. My mother graduated from Pitt. I was making a pun (casino--stake, get it? Even though you don't want it?)