Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Face-Lift 611

Guess the Plot

Just Cause

1. Why little Billy tipped over the milk, pulled the cat's tail, set the washing machine on fire, and drove a bulldozer through the neighbor's house.

2. OK, maybe smearing his carpet with vaseline and then strewing birdseed all over the room was a somewhat passive-agressive response to his cheating on her, but she firmly believed that she had . . . Just Cause.

3. Pedophile Priests were bad enough, but when Katherine discovers her son was brutalized and murdered by members of the local Convent, she knows she has Just Cause to seek revenge. But can she kill them all before the FBI gets her?

4. Nobody loves a lawyer . . . but in spite of that, Ben Lawrence loves his job, championing the downtrodden and oppressed. When he meets fiery redhead Kirsten, she is on the other side of the courtroom, and Ben finds himself questioning every principle he holds dear. Will he give in to love? Or will he hold on to his "Just Cause?"

5. He isn't seeking the office of President of the United States to save the world. He is out to destroy the US government, and he knows it has to be an inside job. He isn't worried about the ramifications if he fails. In his mind, he has . . . Just Cause.

6. When Jessica realizes she's the reincarnated Jesse James, she goes back to robbing banks. But can her new gang of teenage valley girls stop the reincarnated Wyatt Earp, who turns out to be her mother? Jessica thinks she's got Just Cause to take out her old foe.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I'm seeking representation for my 98,000 word crime novel, JUST CAUSE.

After discovering chilling similarities between her son's brutal murder and her brother's unsolved slaying twenty-five years earlier, [most notably the two puncture wounds on both of their necks,] Katherine Rice sets out to uncover the truth. But the search for answers puts her in danger when she learns the killer is part of a network of pedophiles called The Convent.

Unwilling to trust the justice system that has failed her twice, [If her brother's murder went unsolved, I wouldn't say it was the justice system that failed.] she vows to stop The Convent before they hurt more children. With the help of another parent who also lost a child to The Convent, she eradicates members of the group. But when Katherine's thirst for retribution lands her on the FBI's Most Wanted list, she must stay one step ahead of a tenacious lawman out to stop her. [What she doesn't know is that she's not on the Most Wanted Criminals list; she's on the Most Wanted Prospective Agents list.] With the help of a few sympathizers she manages to outsmart the FBI, but unbeknownst to her, the leader of The Convent is on her trail and looking for a little revenge of his own.

[Pedophile 1: We're getting too much bad press. Hell, even our priests get no respect.

Pedophile 2: We need to elect a new leader.]


At what point do pedophiles decide they need a leader? Is it a highly sought after position, with election campaigns? Does the pedophile leader give orders to the other pedophiles, like in the army, or are his duties more along the lines of organizing their rallies?

When you're filling out a job application and it asks for leadership experience, it's probably not a good idea to put down that you're the leader of a network of pedophiles.

Katherine, unlike the police, seems to know the identities of the Convent members. And she outsmarts the FBI. Meanwhile the FBI can't catch her, but the pedophile leader is hot on her trail. Who are the authorities, the Keystone Cops?

It ends a bit abruptly. Maybe just putting the first sentence at the end would give it a feeling of closure.

What are the similarities between the two murders? Does she point them out to the police? How does she locate the Convent members? How does she eradicate them? A few specific details would draw us in more.


Anonymous said...

I think if I was part of a covert sex-and-murder syndicate, I'd go out of my way not to pick two victims from the same family.

Dave Fragments said...

My impression as I read was that Katherine Rice was twenty-something. Looking back, I seen to think that she has to be mid 30's to mid 40's because this crime occurred 25 years prior. I'm guessing Katherine Rice was more than 10 years old at the time of her brother's death. So what we have is not a young person bent on hot-blooded revenge or retribution but an middle aged person who is possibly married with kids seeking vigilante justice.

I hope I'm wrong because that scenario creates too many questions in the mind of the person reading the query. Questions that don't sell your book.

Katherine Rice discovers a link between her brother's unsolved murder and a recent case. The police (do not, will not, don't care, are crooked, have not evidence, see star below*) to reopen the cold case so Katherine Rice investigates on her own and discovers a ring of pedophiles hiding in plain sight.

What she does with that information and how she deals with bringing her brother's killers to justice is the story. Describe that story in the query. The way you add the FBI to the story seems to say that Katherine Rice plays Charlie Bronson and Dirty Harry and starts blowing away pedophiles. The emotionally exciting part is the bringing to justice of the killer of her brother.

The name "Convent" is screwing with my mind, too. It sounds like a group of religious women pedophiles. Please clarify that with other words.

*my experience is that once detectives and prosecutors get wind of pedophiles, they almost never let go. Yet your police and FBI seems not to care.

Anonymous said...

vaseline and birdseed! :o freaky...

Whirlochre said...

Brutal murder and unsolved slaying aside, I'd say the most chilling similarity between the deaths is that they both involve members of KR's family.

As I read this opening line, apologies, but I presume you're setting me up for a farce.

Also, I'm not grabbed by The Convent. Allying evil forces to religion — angels of death and so forth — is something of a cliche, surely.

That said, anything involving paedophiles and tenacious lawmen has the potential to grip (maybe, even like Grisham), but you only give us a paragraph on this.

It could be a goer, but on the basis of this evidence, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Too slow a pace, unless there's some really good reason for that let's-grow-old-together quarter-century span which you forgot to mention. Try 25 days if you want to do a regular murder mystery that might become a detective series, 25 hours if you want to make it seem urgent, or 25 minutes if you want us to think it's a real can't-put-it-down page-turner.

Anonymous said...

I think the key to this query is going to be your main character. You've got an interesting story idea and I thought this was really well constructed in terms of the plot. But there are many people in the world who have suffered tragic and traumatic losses. The vast majority of them don't go on killing sprees.

What makes Katherine different? Who is this soccer mom who can hunt down a secret society of abusers while holding off the Feds? Furthermore, you seem to be talking about cold blooded murder. That's got to be working some kind of change on Katherine's soul - either she's getting tougher or it's destroying her.

Anonymous said...

While it's true that in Shakespeare's time nunneries had a reputation for housing prostitutes and fallen women, I still can't see why a group of pedophile priests would call themselves "the Convent". That would be like a bunch of gangsters calling themselves "the Knitting Circle". Not exactly a name to strike fear in the hearts of others.

Is there any chance you meant "the Covenant"?

Anonymous said...

Oh... whoops! I just realized I;ve jumped to the conclusion that the "Convent" is a bunch of priests. But there's nothing in the actual query that says that, besides the name of their organization.

However, "Convent" is definitely a word that brings to mind organized religion. Something else to be aware of.

Adam Heine said...

I like the basic story idea. There's already some good advice here in the comments.

I just want to say that - and it may just be me - everytime I see the word "unbeknownst", my mind adds "unbeknownst to her, but knownst to us" and I start laughing hysterically.

batgirl said...

The query seems competently written (with EE's amendments taken in account) but as a reader I'd have trouble getting excited about the plot, because it seems to be taking the easy route. Of course the villains are utterly evil - pedos are the witches of today (heck, there's even that satanism-child abuse link); of course the authorities are helpless or corrupt; of course the heroine goes it almost completely alone; of course there's one good cop trying to stop her but, hm, torn between his duty and his admiration for her aims?
I avoid bestsellers for the same reasons that I wouldn't read this - so the author probably has a potential bestseller here.

Rick Daley said...

There are many layers to the story, which is good when expanded into the novel. The mystery of the past murder; the present murder; the vigilante mom; the FBI chasing her; and the Convent chasing her.

The challenge I see is choosing what to keep in the query and what to leave out. Which of these is the main component of the plot: her continued revenge, or her need to evade the FBI and Convent? Also, how important is the other parent that helps her, and the rest of the sympathizers? Is the Convent after them, too?

I understand that all apsects of the plot drive the story, but one is primary. Focus on that. When the query tries to address all minor elements of the plot it raises more questions than it answers.

Julie Weathers said...

I hate to say it, but pedophile priests have almost gotten cliche. Yes, it happens and it makes news, but it's still a fairly common vehicle.

I'm assuming from the two puncture marks in the necks, the pedophile priests are really vampires.

Adding in the Convent just makes me think the writer has a deep hatred for the Catholic church and the story is agenda fueled.

I avoid agendas if I even get a hint of them.

Evil Editor said...

Have some coffee Julie. There are no pedophile priests or vampires or puncture marks in the query.

About Me said...

Hi All,

Thanks for your feedback on my query for Just Cause. I’ve tried to rewrite the query to address the following questions from Evil Editor:

“It ends a bit abruptly. Maybe just putting the first sentence at the end would give it a feeling of closure.

What are the similarities between the two murders? Does she point them out to the police? How does she locate the Convent members? How does she eradicate them? A few specific details would draw us in more.”

(note to Rick: I don't know, seems like the shorter my query gets the more questions people have about the story.

(Julie, the story isn't about pedophile priests).

Again thanks so much for your feedback and let me know if I’m on the right track. Query to follow in separate post since this one is so long already :)

About Me said...

Revised Query:

When the brutal murder of Katherine’s son triggers a long buried memory of her brother’s slaying twenty-five years earlier, she probes into the past and discovers that her brother had been mutilated in the same way as her son. Convinced that the perpetrator is the same man, she goes to the authorities, but even with new evidence, the killer continues to elude police.

Her search for answers puts her in contact with Jon, who presents damning evidence that the man who killed her son and brother and the man responsible for his daughter’s suicide are part of a network of pedophiles called The Convent. Unwilling to trust a system that has failed her twice, she bypasses the police and vows to help Jon stop The Convent before they hurt more children.

Together, Katherine and Jon stalk and gun down members of the group. But when their thirst for retribution lands them on the FBI's Most Wanted list, they must stay one step ahead of a tenacious lawman out to stop them. With the help of a few sympathizers they manage to outsmart the FBI but soon they find out that a member of The Convent is on their trail and looking for a little revenge of his own. If the FBI agent doesn’t catch Katherine and Jon, they stand the chance of losing their lives to one of the very men they are hunting.
(233 words)

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Hi Crimogenic,

I like this second version a lot. The last two paragraphs are especially effective. My only issue is with the first paragraph, and the phrase, "discovers that her brother had been mutilated in the same way as her son". I feel like she would already know how her brother had been mutilated, and I wonder if there's a way to combine the separate thoughts in that paragraph. Something to the effect of, "When Katherine's son is mutilated and killed in the exact same fashion as her brother, she becomes convinced that the perpetrator is the same man". Obviously, my attempt could use some work, but you get the gist.

I am still curious about the choice of "Convent". Would you be willing to shed some light on that?

Also, perhaps adding "temporarily" to "outsmart the FBI" might curb some people's concerns that the feds are written farcically.

As for the idea of someone going after pedophiles, I'm on board :)

Unknown said...

The revised query is much cleaner.

The name the "Convent" isn't working for me either. It brings up nun connotations which seems at odds with the group's most likely members and purpose.

Questions that struck me from this vesion:
Who is Jon? How does Katherine meet him? Are they in a victim support group? What damning evidence? If it's damning evidence why NOT take it to the police?

This line - "her brother had been mutilated in the same way as her son" - bothers me. Either tell me how they were mutilated or just that the M.O. is suspiciously similar. But then, the annoyance at that line could just me.

My bigger problem is somehow I'm suppose to care for Katherine. I'm all for her trying to find the evidence to stop the killings. The next step - refusing to take it to the police and becoming a murderer herself - takes her quest for justice too far for me. I'm not the audience for the movie "The Last House on the Left." And if the story is in that vein, I wouldn't read it. But that just means I'm not your target audience.

There's no hint that she has any angst about becoming a cold-blooded killer. If the story is about her psychological change from a "normal every day" kinda girl to a murderer some hint of that should be in the query. Seems to me the only way the story can end is either: (1) she's killed, or (2) she's arrested.

About Me said...

Thanks Chelsea,

The name "The Convent" developed out of a internal joke with the characters (pedophiles) within the group. Of course if an agent or editor wanted me to change it, I would in a heartbeat.

none said...

Get with the program, Julie! These are paedophile nuns!


Dave Fragments said...

In regards to "Convent," don't count on an editor or an agent to change anything in your story. I do short stories rather than novels and after a whole mess of rejections and a few acceptances, I send the best and expect no changes from an editor. Generally, they are so busy that they don't have the time to ask for changes.

I also do not edit a story when it is sitting with an editor or publisher or reader. They don't want to see a story change if they accept it. Why, because it forces an editor or an agent to read it again and that takes time. I learned this years ago with technical articles (science stuff). Once the set of experiments made a point or reached a result, then that was what the paper was about. To get the paper accepted and then augment the text with stuff the editor hadn't seen usually worked against the author. Maybe not on that particular paper but the editor treated the next technical paper poorly. My world of technical journals was small and I knew the editors. More than once my colleagues and I submitted two papers at the request of the editor where a subsequent data set augmented the results of the first. What happens in an edit is that you change the plot and if the editor wants "male ennui" and you change it to "rejected lover's isolation" that's a different theme, different story.

Now this doesn't mean don't fix those pesky punctuation and obvious textual errors. Those things creep in and hide like cockroaches.

Dave Fragments said...

I should add that the revised query is much better.

none said...

Editors with no time to edit? Almost sounds like the build-up to a joke.

At GUD, we take two copy-editing passes and two (at least) proof-reading passes. If you're submitting to 'zines that don't bother editing at all, perhaps it's time to submit to a higher class of 'zine.

talpianna said...

I think that "the Convent" may owe something to the history of London's Covent Garden:

"Convent Garden" (later becoming Covent Garden as we know it today) was the name given, during the reign of King John (1199–1216), to a 40-acre (16 ha) patch in the county of Middlesex, bordered west and east by what is now St. Martin's Lane and Drury Lane, and north and south by Floral Street and a line drawn from Chandos Place, along Maiden Lane and Exeter Street to the Aldwych.

In this quadrangle the Abbey or Convent of St. Peter, Westminster, maintained a large kitchen garden throughout the Middle Ages to provide its daily food. Over the next three centuries, the monks' old "convent garden" became a major source of fruit and vegetables in London and was managed by a succession of leaseholders by grant from the Abbot of Westminster.

Covent Garden was a well-known redlight district in the 18th Century. The activities in Covent Garden were documented in Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, a titillating list providing the addresses of prostitutes and whore houses, as well as details of their “specialities”. During its heyday (1757 to 1795) Harris’s List was the "essential guide and accessory for any serious gentleman of pleasure". (Wikipedia)

It was the presence of the Royal Opera House--and the Drury Lane Theatre--that made it a popular venue for ladies of the evening, who were nicknamed "Covent Garden nuns," playing on the original meaning of the place name.

none said...

And if you stand in the middle of Covent Garden, you can have one foot in Camden and the other in Westminster.


Dave Fragments said...

Editors with no time to edit? Almost sounds like the build-up to a joke.

That's not what I meant. I thought I was being obvious but I guess I was mistaken in that. The small technical journal I referred to is published by Elsevier but the editor was chairman of a University research department and had many duties.

My point to fiction writers was not to expect that service from an agent or an editor. (And in no way did I imply that Chelsea was doing that or was in any way wrong.) My point was that a author should not depend on an editor or an agent to find mistakes or uncertainties in their manuscript. An author should spend the time and get all that work out and present a finished product.

The reward would be when you see your story published word for word and it's the best it can be.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Twasn't me, twas a response to me. :)

Dave Fragments said...

oh, Whoever said it, I didn't mean to imply was doing something wrong.
That's what I get for typing a comment too fast when I'm late getting out of the house. Who said Haste Makes Waste?

_*rachel*_ said...

FYI, I saw a book today with your title; it's the title of a novel and a film.

Don't shoot the messenger.