Thursday, June 12, 2008

Face-Lift 534

Guess the Plot

One Last Hit

1. After entering a contest to guess when a famous blog will reach one million hits, wannabe author Clyde Parquet becomes obsessed with logging into the site in a desperate attempt to win. His family intervenes, to save him from irreversible geekness, but can they convince Clyde to stop before it's too late? For a blog addict, is there ever . . . One Last Hit?

2. He had missed dinner. He'd bummed quarters from every kid in the place. His hands were a mass of blisters. But after 999 rounds of Whack-a-Mole Matthew knew he was ready for... One Last hit.

3. When Orrie liquidates all of their belongings and heads for the Las Vegas blackjack tables, his wife follows him, figuring it's the best place to divorce him. When she finds Orrie has tripled their money in less than an hour, and has put everything on one hand, ca she talk him out of tking . . . One Last Hit?

4. Benny Band, Yankee slugger, has been accused of cheating with steroids. He didn't care before, but now that his mother is dying and his wife is leaving with their kids, he swears he'll quit. All he wants is . . . One Last Hit.

5. Mafia hitman Jed Undertaker wants nothing more than to retire peacefully after thirty years, move to Mexico, and forget about his past. But not so fast--his boss, Fat Man, wants him for . . . One Last Hit.

6. One-hit-wonder Charlie Maxx has been steadily fading into obscurity when he happens into a Santa Fe diner. A mysterious stranger offers Charlie a sure winner in return for his soul. Hilarity ensues when Charlie trades eternal life for . . . One Last Hit.

Original Version

Dear Malo Redactor:

As a hitman for more than thirty years for the Mafia in Chicago, Jed Undertaker is tired and numb. He's survived a lonely, danger-filled life and now wants nothing more than to retire peacefully to Mexico, where he aims to forget his murderous past and (hopefully) avoid the U.S. authorities.

But his boss, Fat Man, [That's his name? Listen, if your last name is Man, and you name your kid Fat, you're pretty much consigning him to a lifetime of eating donuts.] needs Jed for one last hit. [He wants the manager of the next-door donut shop killed.] There's a loose-lipped preacher with a wicked heroin habit, and he isn't such a good customer anymore. [If you're a preacher with a heroin habit, and you want to keep your job, I don't recommend loose lips. Sermon:

...and so, brothers and sisters, last night I was hanging out and I thought I'd take the edge off with a massive dose of scag. I went to my junk drawer for the dust. Empty. Called my dealer, told him I needed some horse, fast. He sent over some China White, and charged me through the nose. So, if you could see your way to dropping an extra Jackson in the collection plate this morning I'd appreciate it. Moving on, last night God came to me in a vision . . . ]

Plus, he has something Fat Man wants—a twelve-year old kid. The orders to are to kill him and bring back the kid, Gabriel.

Not only does Jed not know what Fat Man wants with the boy, he doesn't know that the hit is intended for him. [When you retire from a job as Mafia hitman, and they tell you they need you for one last hit, it's always intended for you.] When he gets to the church, he finds two men waiting for him and the preacher dead. He survives the hit and takes Gabriel. [Why take Gabriel?] But soon he finds the preacher's ghost is following him, intent on killing both him and the kid.

As old cronies, the ghost of a preacher, and cops chase Jed and Gabriel through the underworld of Chicago, they form a bond that Jed at first resists. But as the danger deepens, he realizes there is no one else he can trust. As he begins to uncover what Fat Man and the preacher want with Gabriel, he sees that he and Gabriel are not just running for their lives, but that they are at the center of a battle that will either save humanity—or end it.

One Last Hit is a fantasy graphic novel approximately 200 pages in length. It is my first book. I am enclosing the first five pages of manuscript and would be happy to send more upon request. Art samples can be found at [web address]. [So the 200 pages don't include art samples? Is this a novel with illustrations, or is it in comic book format? I would think the artwork is at least as important as the text in making a sale, and should be included. Not that I'm an expert, just seems like common sense.]

Thank you!


If Gabriel is so important to Fat Man, why didn't Fat Man have the guys who killed the preacher bring him Gabriel first and then go back to kill Undertaker?

We have a standard mob plot going until the end of the third paragraph, when we discover that ghosts exist, and one paragraph later all of humanity is on the line. The stakes seem to escalate awfully fast; we might want you to hint at why. Or prepare us with a hook-y opening sentence, something like, Hitman Jed Undertaker has been hired for one last job, but little does he know his actions will determine the fate of the universe.

You don't need "as" at the start of the first sentence. Deleting it works, or you could start:

Jed Undertaker is tired and numb. A Mafia hitman for more than thirty years, he's survived a lonely, danger-filled life and . . .


Anonymous said...

if Fat Man is his mob nickname, I'd recommend putting it in quotes. But if it is, it's so cliche! Every mob guy in every book is "Fat Man" or "Slats". I'd try something different so as not to turn off the agent. But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

"As old cronies, the ghost of a preacher, and cops chase Jed and Gabriel through the underworld of Chicago, they form a bond that Jed at first resists."

Does anybody else have trouble understanding that sentence? Apparently EE didn't have any problems with it.

Evil Editor said...

I understand it, though one could argue that it could mean the cronies, cops, ghost, Jed and Gabriel are all forming the bond, rather than just Jed and Gabe.

none said...

Yikes, that murderous ghost came out of nowhere! Talk about apparently switching genre halfway through....

Anonymous said...

Aren't graphic novels generally sold as scripts and assigned to an illustrator, like picture books are?

I'd put the genre, format and page count right at the top.

Anonymous said...

At first I thought it meant that the ghost and the cops were behaving like old cronies during the chase. Then I decided that 'old cronies' had joined the plot unannounced. That's probably it.

Dave Fragments said...

I misread that statement and then went back to read it more closely. It's a tough construction but saying:

As old cronies, the ghost of a preacher, and cops chase Jed and Gabriel through the underworld of Chicago, MAN AND BOY form a bond that Jed at first resists.
sounds too creepy for me.

That was another comment I had - a Roman Catholic Priest with a 12 year old boy? My mind just reels with the implications.

Since the angel Gabriel is the messenger of God the Almighty, I presume this young boy is also a key participant in the End Times. And as we all know, the "End Times," or more to the point, the eschatological writings of three major religions concerning the coming of the Messiah to sit in Judgment, are much more exciting than a simple burned out hit man on his last killing.

The supernatural aspects of the story will sell the novel. You have all the elements - the flawed hero, the villainous Fat Man (lousy name but better than Louis Cypher in Angel Heart), the child-like savior and the ignorant others.
But you have to sell this in the query like the Graphic Novels Constantine or the Sandman series. Sell it on the supernatural elements.
Sell it on eschatology.

EB said...

For the first few sentences of the query I thought you had a pretty good Elmore Leonard thing going on("Pagan Babies" anyone?) and I liked it. But then the sudden appearance of ghosts and -- wait, what? -- the fate of the universe is at stake? As EE says, that threw me.

From a nitpicky standpoint, there are a few sentences with pronoun ambiguity:

"Not only does Jed not know what Fat Man wants with the boy, he doesn't know that the hit is intended for HIM." I know that HIM refers to Jed, but it could refer to Gabe (Dear Lord, please don't be the archangel)

"As old cronies, the ghost of a preacher, and cops chase Jed and Gabriel through the underworld of Chicago, THEY form a bond that Jed at first resists." THEY refers to Jed and the kid, but it could refer to this passel of folks.

The other thing that sticks in my craw a bit is the sentence that immediately follows this one. You've got Jed resisting a bond, then bonding, then trusting nobody all within a few words.

EE points out an obvious question: why didn't the hitmen waiting in the church nab the kid? Corollary, why did Jed grab him.

As for the names. UNDERTAKER? FAT MAN? Seems too cliched or at least a missed opportunity. I shudder to think what the priest's name is.

Overall sounds like a neat story but I think you need to shift the focus a bit more to expose the paranormal to us earlier. Good start though; I'm intrigued.

E.D. Walker said...

Anon 1:05: Now that you mention it "they form a bond that Jed at first resists" is pretty cryptic not to mention borderline squicky depending on how you take it. I'm guessing its meant as father/son or mentor/student type thing but this sentence isn't specific enough.

Author: I'm sorry but as this is written it doesn't sound fresh or new. "One last hit" Fat man the mob boss. *yawn* It's been done. Especially since this is a graphic novel I'm getting "Road to Perdition" with ghosts BIG TIME. I say bring the paranormal stuff more to the front to de-emphasize your use of mobster story cliches. Oh yea, and the saving the world bit needs to be more than a tack-on in the last sentence. More info on that earlier, please.

EE: I loved your sermon! Maybe that can be the next thing you branch out into: Religion.

Anonymous said...

I saw excerpts on the internet. The priest's name is 'Father Sottami.'

Stacy said...

Hello all. Author here.

Change convoluted sentences. Check.

Change Fat Man's name. Check.

Change Undertaker's name. Check.

The only miss is that the preacher is not a priest. Those of you who thought so need to take a closer read. The preacher is of the southern preacher variety, but I didn't think that was something that needed to be pointed out in the query.

I did okay with the criticisms until I got to Benwah's Road to Perdition with a ghost statement, which made me go "FUUUUUUCK MEEEEEEE!" Because the query really does sound like that.

Y'all are probably going to kill me when I say this, but I wrote this query to get my head around the plot. Book isn't done. I've been struggling with the novel for months now and I decided to turn it into a graphic novel so that I could focus strictly on the plot, and the writing is going much faster. I turned in the query because I had never tried a real query before and EE was low. Hopefully the plot won't be as hackneyed and cliched as I've described this.

I hope you don't all think critiquing the query has been a waste of time. This has helped a lot.

Okay. Back to the drawing board (so to speak).

Stacy said...

I assume you're being facetious, Anon 3:22.

Stacy said...

Whoops, not benwah's statement - moth's.

Robin S. said...

Wow - that's a lot of anon stuff, freddie!

You've garnered a lot of anon interest, there. Kinda cool. Wonder who they are???

Anyway - I like your title a lot -
but as I suck at queries, I'm not your best critique agent, honey.

Dave Fragments said...

Something we should all watch. As a catholic when I hear about any "man of religion" I think Priest. And we don't "hire" them or pay them.

All the other Christian faiths think Minister or Reverend and not priest. And those faiths do hire and fire and pay their religious leaders.

I don't do that when I hear Rabbi. This confusion doesn't happen for Rabbi's and Temples.

There's no judgment on any religion or religious belief here. It's just a difference.

It's a little like the British - cots, nappies and torches are bunkbeds, diapers and flashlights.

Stacy said...

Yeah, I know, Dave, but I mentioned it because it seemed to touch off some confusion about another story that's apparently on the Internet.

I did garner a lot of Anonymous comments, didn't I? Apparently I suck at queries, too. Ah well. Practice makes perfect.

talpianna said...

Who wrote #2? I want to order a hit on him (or her).

I assume that Jed took the kid to protect him from the bad guys, and the bond is of protector/foster father and protegé.

Stacy said...

Yep, Tal, that's right. And Jed and Gabriel do form a father/son bond. I guess I'm going to have to be more specific about that in the next draft. Some of the minions have dirty minds.

Stacia said...

I saw it more as 100 Bullets with ghosts, or maybe anything by Howard Chaykin.

Could be cool, though. Good luck!

Whirlochre said...

My main complaint is that it's a little too long, but given Freddie's frank account of how it came to be, I understand why this may be.

Stacy said...

BTW, EE, thanks for this. I love the sermon!

Robin S. said...

Hey, Lyle.

I don't know if I have the guts to pop another one on here. I'm on here - last year - if you wanna chuckle at a bad one.

enya. said...

" 'Not only does Jed not know what Fat Man wants with the boy, he doesn't know that the hit is intended for HIM.' I know that HIM refers to Jed, but it could refer to Gabe."

Not could--DOES. Pronouns refer to the last-written noun. That's the rule.