Thursday, April 30, 2009

Face-Lift 627

Guess the Plot

Dark Visions

1. Teenager Brenda Nockworth discovers a pair of shades on a shelf in the bus station bathroom and puts them on to complete her swank rebel look. She soon realizes they reveal the unseen -- dozens of ghosts and ghouls among the weary travelers.

2. Mariana's family are fortune-tellers by trade, but all she sees in the crystal ball are visions of disaster... And the latest one is about her own future! Also, a talking fruitbat.

3. John knew he shouldn't have bought those cursed sunglasses; now he can't get them off, and he has to fight off a zombie invasion while wearing shades that practically blind him. Good thing his geeky best friend Alvin is around to tell him what's going on... if only Alvin can stop being distracted by the hot zombie leader.

4. Tina has been cast in a new TV show about London vampires. Funny thing is, the male lead never comes out of his trailer unless he's on set. Tina's sure he's a real vampire. Can she confront him without getting bitten?

5. When Jasmine has a psychic vision of her rival Marissa dying at the hands of a serial killer, she's tempted to say nothing, but eventually she tells hunky police detective Eric. Now Jasmine's having visions that indicate she should have kept her mouth shut. Has she become the killer's next target?

6. When Ned founded the Dark Visions sunglasses company he didn't expect it to become popular with the dead-doesn't-mean-gone crowd, but if they're not after his blood, he's not going to complain about the extra publicity. Then he finds out what his sunglasses enable the living-impaired to see...

Original Version

Jasmine Winters is psychic. She knows it is not normal to be psychic, but Jasmine likes to pretend she is normal. So, she does life’s normal things: [We're plodding along here like a tortoise. That story where the tortoise beats the hare? Fiction.] enjoying her friends, like Mark; hating her enemies, [How many enemies does she have?] like Mark’s wife Marissa; and ignoring the visions as best she can. She also tries to do the right thing, though she doesn’t always succeed. [Vague.]

When Jasmine's psychic vision shows Marissa murdered by a headline-making serial killer, she wants to ignore the vision and be done with Marissa once and for all. [Nice. What, exactly, did Marissa do to deserve this?] But Jasmine’s conscience won’t let her, and she warns her nemesis. [When my enemy who wouldn't mind seeing me dead tells me she had a vision in which I was murdered, my first thought is that she's planning to kill me. And I'd better kill her first.] [The first two paragraphs can be condensed to: Jasmine Winters tries to be normal--enjoying her friends, hating her enemies, hiding her psychic abilities--but when she "sees" her nemesis Marissa murdered by a serial killer, her conscience won't let her keep quiet.]

With that done, Jasmine is ready to move on. But, in Dark Visions, my 97,000-word thriller, moving on isn’t so easy.

Mark urges Jasmine to discuss her vision with police investigating the serial murders. [Because he knows the cops are always eager to have input from psychics.] Unable to refuse Mark’s request and trying to do the right thing, Jasmine reluctantly meets with handsome police Det. Eric Mathers. While Jasmine likes the close proximity to Det. Mathers, she’s not enamored of her new visions of the serial killer. [Don't be coy. What does she see in her new visions?]

Things get complicated when Jasmine’s involvement in the case makes the news, putting her on the serial killer’s radar. For a psychic who saw [could see] her own future, this might be alright, but Jasmine isn’t that kind of psychic. [She's more like Kreskin. She can tell you what number you're thinking of, assuming she planted you in the audience and told you what number to think of.]
Not liking the idea of a serial killer lurking in the one future she is blind to, Jasmine dedicates herself to helping Det. Mathers find the killer.

[Jasmine: Detective, I've decided to dedicate myself to helping you find the serial killer.

Mathers: Great. For starters, there's someone I need you to interview. He lives in the Australian Outback.]

As Jasmine and Det. Mathers get closer, new, disturbing visions emerge, but not of the serial killer, of Det. Mathers [dressed in a leather thong and holding a whip].

As Jasmine’s visions of Det. Mathers and serial killer increase, she realizes the killer may be closer than she thought. Jasmine must put the pieces together and find the killer, before the killer finds her. [Everything in this paragraph was already implied.]

Dark Visions is my first novel. By training, I am a journalist and have worked as a night general assignment reporter for The Kansas City Star, where I covered crime and spot news. After leaving the newspaper, I worked mainly in trade media, editing several publications, including Campus Crime.

I’d love to send you the complete Dark Visions manuscript. Thank you for your consideration.


Whether Mark's the serial killer or a love interest or neither, he isn't doing anything important in the query.

As Jasmine tries to live like a normal person and ignore her visions, I assume it's not known to Mark and Marissa and the cops that Jasmine's visions always come to pass (if they do). So why would anyone believe her?

Which is more likely when a serial killer learns that the police are using the services of a psychic to track him down?

1. He immediately makes plans to kill the psychic.
2. He celebrates the obvious fact that the police don't have a clue to his identity by going on a new killing spree.


none said...

Ummm. Serial killers don't kill people because they're in their way; they kill people in the course of acting out trivial sexual fantasies. Further, many actively want to be caught. So I don't think Jasmine is in much danger, unless she happens to be the 'type' the killer is looking for.

clarkkers said...

In a story with obvious supernatural elements, is dying all that big of a deal? I ask because the 'serial killer' story is so well-known and overused, I wonder if its even a viable genre.

Perhaps the real danger could transcend mere physical death. I mean, if you're a psychic, you'd probably see spirits or ghosts and have some cognition of the after life. Maybe its not so bad.

Also I'm bit concerned with the premise of the 'rivalry.' You main character is 'friends' with a married man, but apparently wants him for herself? I know so many great relationships that started that way! It seems to me that your 'hero' is actually a villain, who wishes to tear a married apart (or at least has the desire to). I don't know if, as a reader, I could sympathize for a character like that.

batgirl said...

Psychic vs serial killer is a fairly well-used plot. Can you trim the waffling and bring out what makes your story special?

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

The detective is the killer, isn't he?

And I do want to second what clarkkers said - what with the hating and wanting to let people be slaughtered, Jasmine comes off as rather villainous. You might want to rephrase that sentence so Marissa is the aggressor, not Jasmine, i.e.: "spending time with friends, like Mark; avoiding Mark's spiteful, jealous wife, Marissa; and ignoring her visions as best she can."

Khazar said...

Marissa must have done other things, too--maybe stolen Mark, gotten Jasmine fired from a job, something other than merely screwing Mark.

Lauren K said...

I agree with EE that Mark either needs to be out of the query or play a bigger role. The relationship between Jasmine and Mark might be innocent and make sense in the book but in the query it makes me ask too many questions. I'd just say that Marissa and Jasmine are rivals/enemies/whatever and not mention Mark. Also, you probably don't need to say it's your first novel.

Joseph said...

Mark, Marissa, Mathers...

You know, we have more than twenty completely different letters in the alphabet, which could allow for a lot more variety in the names of your main characters.

Author said...

Dear Agent:

Psychic Jasmine Winters is about to find out which is harder: saving a woman she hates from a headline-making serial killer, or learning someone she loves might be that killer.

DARK VISIONS, my 97,000-word mystery, opens with Jasmine’s vision of her nemesis’s murder. While she’d like to let Marissa perish, there’s one problem: Marissa is married to Jasmine’s best friend, Mark. So, she tells Mark, who insists Jasmine meet with police. Jasmine has instant chemistry with Detective Eric Mathers, who, despite ridicule from colleagues, asks Jasmine to help with the investigation.

Eric and Jasmine grow close as she recounts visions of the serial killer’s past and future murders. Things are looking up when one of Jasmine’s visions leads to a breakthrough in the case. But the rosy outlook doesn’t last long. Jasmine witnesses signs of mental instability in Mark and begins having disturbing visions of Eric’s violent past.

When Jasmine sees evidence connecting Mark to the killer’s unique calling card and hears him express great venom toward his wife, she wonders how well she really knows him. She wants to turn to Eric for help, until she has a vision of Eric’s past violence ending in a murder. Jasmine feels certain one of these men is connected to the serial murders. She’d be less concerned if she could see her own future, but those are the visions that never come. So, now Jasmine hast to piece this puzzle together herself before it’s too late.

I have covered crime and spot news for The Kansas City Star and written for Campus Crime, a trade publication focused on crime and policing techniques on college campuses.

I’d love to send you the complete DARK VISIONS manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kool Kat said...

"While she’d like to let Marissa perish, there’s one problem..."

So she's almost as nasty as the serial killer! Gosh and gee whiz, why should I go down her garden path with her? I would cut that. It makes her an unsympathetic character.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

This is definitely better. But the Marissa issue remains. We either need a stellar reason why Jasmine is entitled to feel this way about Marissa (if that's possible) or a change in wording. Something like:

"... and while Jasmine might occasionally fantasize about Marissa being out of the picture, she'd never wish her actual harm."

Something to lighten the implication that Jasmine is cool with murder, ya know, if it suits her.

Anonymous said...

"While she’d like to let Marissa perish, there’s one problem: Marissa is married to Jasmine’s best friend, Mark."

Yes I do agree with the others - that sentence has to change. Wanting someone dead is not good and makes for a bad heroine - actually makes an evil heroine.

Try, "Jasmine knows Marissa personally as a mean-spirited, spiteful woman (or whatever, however she knows her and why she dislikes her) and she is married to her best friend, who convinces her to go to the police."

A heroine can struggle with the idea of not saving an evil person from their demise but they can not wish someone dead.

I like Chelsea's rewrite as well.


Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

While I could understand why she might be okay with letting the woman described as her nemesis perish -- heck, most people don't want their worst enemies alive -- but it would increase the available sympathy for her character if you explained why she doesn't like Marissa. If, say, Marissa killed her dog, then the reader might understand better why Jasmine doesn't like her.

Mame said...

Here are my problems...

Parafraph 2 -

"Mark, who" and "Eric Mathers, who"
The repetition was noticeable to me.

Also, the way you have described her visions of these two men who she undoubtedly cares about, makes her previous judgment of them seem utterly craptastic. I'm not pulled in by her dilemma in the way you are presenting it because it makes her sound naive; which can be endearing in it's own right if done correctly. If it's neither one of them in the long run (which, I hope is the case) you may want to point that out.

Mame said...

Yes, I said Parafraph 2, hand me a beer.

Kathleen said...

I think the revisions are good, except for:
hears him express great venom toward his wife, she wonders how well she really knows him. great venom like wishing a serial killer would kill her?

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

*hands Aimee a beer*

I like this better. But yeah, the wishing somebody dead issue (a gruesome death, no less) remains. Can you rephrase to give Jasmine a little more compassion? It'll make her more sympathetic as a character.

Ooh, or is Jasmine actually the killer?

Mame said...

Aimee *hearts* Sarah.

She is just that internet fickle and ferking thirsty. Sarah rocks.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I thought there were too many names in that first paragraph. I hadn't read your original version but that first paragraph didn't seem easy to grasp on a first reading. As I said too many names.

Is there really a reason to bring the husband into it?

And I have to agree that just wanting a friend to be slaughtered doesn't exactly make a MC sound very appearling.

batgirl said...

"Eric and Jasmine grow close as she recounts visions of the serial killer’s past and future murders."

Cute. So, maybe Eric is the serial killer, and the happy ending is that he and Jasmine bond over their shared enthusiasm?
Seriously, while I understand that you're going for the dark 'n' gritty, flawed characters, antihero sort of story, you might want to include something to engage the reader's sympathies a little?