Monday, March 21, 2011

Face-Lift 880

Guess the Plot

Bad Thing Coming

1. It’s 2012. the world has plummeted into chaos. Japan has been destroyed by a tsunami and nuclear meltdown. A bloody civil war has erupted in Libya and is spreading throughout the continent of Africa. Gas has become the new currency; instead of wallets, men and women carry five gallon gas cans to the store. Two presidential candidates square off and argue over whether Russia can actually be seen from Alaska. A nonfictional account of the upcoming presidential election.

2. A family starting over in their own personal Eden: thousands of acres of unspoiled forest in a remote mountain community in Arizona. What could go wrong? I mean besides a mob syndicate deciding they want the land, forcing them to flee to Mexico.

3. Harvey Hookem, compulsive gambler, never walks under ladders, steps on cracks, or lets black cats get the best of him. So why has his lucky streak of thirteen years deserted him?

4. Oh, she looks innocent. She's five feet tall, she teaches history, and she's seen a lot of it first hand. But Eric and Jenny are hiding in the supply closet one day when Mrs. Sprill transforms. Can they convince the principal that she's actually a brain-sucking demon before she eats them?

5. The beer truck’s late. The bar’s only damn toilet is busted. And to make matters even worse, some city gal with flashy jewelry and long nails that ain’t never seen an honest day’s work had her car break down right in front of his bar. Things just ain’t going Jake’s way.

6. Betsy was never known as the toughest girl in her school until Claudia messed with her in the girls' locker room. When Claudia winds up in the hospital with a toilet seat around her neck, Betsy's reputation changes forever. Now, when people see her walking to the locker room, they know there's a . . . Bad Thing Coming. But will Betsy's longtime crush be impressed?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Lindsey Hunt and Daniel Burke are two people starting over together at mid-life. They, along with Daniel's daughter, Gabby, and her boyfriend, Trent, live in the remote mountain community of Luna Lake, Arizona.

The family’s peaceful existence is shattered when a mob syndicate tries to kill Lindsey in order to seize the thousands of acres of unspoiled forest she has inherited. [Does the syndicate inherit the land if Lindsey dies? If not, what's the point of killing her?] [What does the mob want with unspoiled forest in Arizona? A Miller's Crossing type place for executions?] When the FBI fails to protect them from the ongoing threat, Lindsey and Daniel are forced to flee protective custody [Who is providing protective custody?] and fend for themselves. Gabby, who has always had a sixth sense about “bad things” as she calls them, [As she calls what? Oh, right, bad things.] leads them on a perilous journey of survival. [How old is Gabby? Calling stuff "bad things" makes her sound like a kid. But she has a boyfriend who lives with them, so . . . ]

Always watching over their shoulders, never feeling safe, Lindsey and Daniel assume new identities and lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where ultimately their journey ends and they learn the true identity of those who have betrayed them. [In what way were they betrayed? What about the thousand-acre wood? Does the mob get it?]

I am seeking representation for my suspense/thriller entitled Bad Thing Coming. I would like the opportunity to send you a copy of the manuscript, which is complete at approximately 105,000 words. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.



Whattaya mean their journey ends? That's it? The mob threatens them, they flee to Mexico, the end? Where does the suspense/thriller come in? What's this perilous journey of survival that's barely mentioned? Do they head for Mexico on foot with Al Capone hot on their trail?


Anonymous said...

Having been to Arizona I was a little startled by the idea of it containing forests, but teh google indicates that indeed it does. Huh.

Is Gabby's sixth sense important to the story? Is this a paranormal? If so, say more about it.

And yeah, it sounds like they go to Cabo San Lucas and get offed. You need to say a little more about it than that their journey ends there.

Adele said...

I can't figure out what's going on from the query letter. Plus, as EE points out, your inciting incident (the mob wanting to kill Lindsey to get her land) sounds like a plot hole.

You have written 105,000 words but all I've got is people want to kill her so Lindsey runs away. In fact she abandons the land she's running away to avoid having to give it up - why doesn't she just hand it over? Once she and her family reach the place where no one will ever find them - and oddly enough they've chosen an internationally famous tourist destination - they figure out what happened. The End.

There is no real resolution to the original conflict. Presumably the mob gets her land after all, and I'm guessing she finds out the family member she inherited the land from was a mobster. That is a poor payoff for readers who invest their emotions in reading a fairly long book.

I applaud you for not wanting to put *everything* in the query letter, but you've left out some important stuff. The agent must be able to see from your letter that your plot hangs together and the climax is worth the read.

PS: And Trent's really an FBI agent, right?

Anonymous said...

I agree. This sounds like an interesting premise, but the query needs work to present it. Merely moving to Mexico would not be that thrilling to me, unless I ran out of bottled water. Joseph Bonanno and his son Bill lived in Arizona, and Sam Gravano moved there to start his drug business, so Arizona is a credible place to find the Mafia, but the query needs to make this clear. The author could call this YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING TO MEET THE MOB, or THEY WERE OUT IN THE STICKS BUT NOT OUT OF THE WOODS. I like plot premise #4 better, with one change. The way I would say it, not only is the bar's one toilet busted, but the bartender has been spiking the drinks with prune juice. Not THAT would be a suspenseful story.

Khazar-khum said...

This sounds like all set-up with no payoff.

What happens when they reach Mexico? Is this the Mob, or drug cartels? What's so special about the land?

Right now all I see is: People moving to Mexico.

Joe G said...

Yeah, I don't get it either. They must not care about the land that much if they go to Mexico. Doesn't the mob get it anyway then? Why don't they just give the mob the land and move into a rent controlled apartment? Why isn't the FBI protecting them? Surely the property taxes on that sucker must be worth the time.

Anonymous said...

Khazar-khum, not just people moving to Mexico. Arizonans moving to Mexico.

Let's just hope their paperwork is in order.

flibgibbet said...

Hopefully, this query doesn't do the story justice. There's so much missing here, it's impossible to say whether this story is either suspenseful or thrilling.

In a nutshell, this is what I know from the query:

Set up: Lindsey owns thousands of acres in Arizona and the mob wants it (But why? Antagonists need as much motivation as Protagonists to make a story work. And if the mob wants it so bad, why doesn't Lindsey just sell it to them and retire in Mexico?)

First Plot Point: When the FBI fails to protect Lindsey and her family, step-daughter Gabby uses her sixth sense to lead the family on a perilous journey of survival. (This is so vauge, it's meaningless. All stories in this genre include peril and survival).

The End: Lindsey and her husband flee to Mexico, and learn who betrayed them. (I'm guessing it isn't the mob. And what happened to sixth-sense-Gabby and the boyfriend?)

Beyond having no clue what actually happens in this story or why, a query is not the place to give away the ending (however vague). A query should make an agent/reader think, "I can't wait to see how this turns out".

Ryan Mueller said...

"Lindsey Hunt and Daniel Burke are two people starting over together at mid-life. They, along with Daniel's daughter, Gabby, and her boyfriend, Trent, live in the remote mountain community of Luna Lake, Arizona."

The beginning of your query letter is supposed to generate reader interest. Right now, all I know is a family lives in Arizona. I feel no desire to read a book about a family starting over in Arizona.

Maybe try something like this:

Lindsey Hunt and Daniel Burke think they've found a quiet life in remote Luna Lake Arizona. That is, until the mob orders a hit on Lindsey in order to seize the thousands of acres of unspoiled forest she has inherited.

Obviously, don't use this word for word. Right it in your own voice. In fact, this still isn't all that great.

You can also leave the daughter and boyfriend out of the first paragraph. In fact, I'd leave Trent out in general unless he actually does something important.

vkw said...

The plot seems to be odd. I doubt the mob would want a pristine wilderness far from civilization. What financial advantage would that bring?

There is plenty of isolated desert land far from civilization in Arizona.

Perhaps they tried to scare them off by trying to kill them . . . but still. . . rather odd thing for professional criminals to do.

And, then the FBI can't keep them safe so they run, following Gabby's bad vibes?

To Mexico?

There is some major holes in this query.

Tell us about the secret identities of the mob members. Start there.

Anonymous said...

There's gotta be something on the land that the mob wants.

My suggestions:

1. The legendary loot of some wild west outlaw is rumored to be stowed there, a la Holes.

2. There's a big ol' uranium lode. Meh, would that fly now? Diamond lode. Whatever.

3. The Havasupai Indians have a clear claim to the land, but have never bothered to go after it due to court costs, but they might be persuaded to make a try for the land in order to build the world's biggest casino on it if the mob-- persuaded them.

4. The land contains a portal into multiple universes.

5. Whatever it is, better tell us.

Anonymous said...


Start over. The main thing hinting at interest here is Gabby and her "bad things" hunches. Take the set up here and condense it into a sentence as a lead in to that. And then....ummmm....tell us what it's about.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

You've given us a generic overview. The plot as presented doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

If G is the mc start with her. If she's a complication start with L. G reads like an add on. If she saw bad things coming at the beginning of the story, that should be in the first part of the query.