Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Guess the Plot
Raise the Bar
1. It's the worst thing to happen on the Isle of Fergus since Cromwell leveled the church. Lenny's Barge, the only pub, sank. The secret agent MI5 sent from London is determined to find out why, but he can't get any cooperation -- the locals only want to raise the wreckage and refurbish the bar in time for Fiona's birthday.
2. With the world limbo championships fast approaching, all star Javier Rios suffers a horrific back injury. Can physiotherapist Nola Green get Javier back in shape before the contest with her unorthodox and highly erotic techniques? Also a grilled cheese sandwich spirit guide.
3. Disgusted by the smut his minions submit to his blog on a daily basis, Evil Editor decides to take a stand. He bans openings featuring blow jobs and flatulent mechanics, and restricts the blog to literary fiction . . . unaware that one mild mannered minion doubles as TrashMan, vigilante against good taste.
4. Understudy Natalie wants the lead role in Giselle, so she secretly raises the ballet bar an inch every day, hoping Vera will become flustered and quit. But Vera, convinced that she's shrinking, commits suicide. So it all works out for the best.
5. Helen Androvsky, the most ruthless defense attorney in the bar association, specializes in getting off parents accused of child abuse. But when Helen is herself accused of child abuse, she must decide whether to fight in court to keep her baby or drown her sorrows in another kind of bar.
6. Kent's dream has long been to win the all-around gymnastics gold medal. But ever since he belly-flopped the dismount on his high bar routine, he's been afraid to practice his signature double twisting triple somersault release. Will he have the guts to try it in the finals?
I am submitting my query for a thriller, RAISE THE BAR. [As you provide the title and genre at the end, no need for this sentence.]
There are two kinds of bars Helen Androvsky is familiar with. As a star defence lawyer for parents accused of abuse or neglect of their children, she has a formidable reputation for utterly decimating the Child Welfare case in court.
But she has a fondness for the other type of bar, silencing her conscience [A lawyer with a conscience? Are you sure this is a thriller and not high fantasy?] with single malt whiskey. [As the topic sentence of the previous paragraph states that there are two kinds, I see no reason both kinds shouldn't be named in that paragraph. And because we're listing the two kinds, "and" is the conjunction we want, not "but." Also, I would change "silencing her conscience with" to "the type that serves."] [Okay, that's a big improvement, but I still don't like it. First of all, everyone's familiar with those two kinds of bar, so the first plot sentence is wasted. Assuming you are in love with the idea of spelling out the two kinds of bar for those readers who don't notice the clever dual meaning in the title, I think we want something like the following, which also allows you to keep your "but":
Helen Androvsky, a specialist in defending parents accused of child abuse, has earned a reputation as the most ruthless defence attorney in the bar association. But there's another kind of bar Helen has been known to frequent, the kind that serves single malt whiskey.]
[Note that I spelled "defence" with a "c" as you did, making the assumption this is intended for someone in the British empire.]
When she wins a high profile case returning a child to a fallen celebrity once accused of using child pornography, she starts to receive [Helen receives] threats and fears for her own infant daughter’s safety.
The welfare agency accuses her of child neglect on the strength of a babysitter’s false evidence, ["She's an effing lawyer and she pays me less than minimum wage! Obviously she's an unfit mother."] and footage of her stumbling around drunkenly is made public. [There's no transition into this paragraph. First add some specific elaboration to the previous paragraph to give it some closure. What kind of threats? Then you can open this paragraph with some cliche-ish phrase like "Just when Helen thinks circumstances can't get any worse..." or "Things go from bad to worse when..."]
Helen must fight to clear her own name and win custody of [her] baby, while her stalker seems to be getting closer and more threatening. [She has a stalker? Maybe that could be worked into the paragraph where she's getting threats.]
RAISE THE BAR is a 70,000-word thriller. I have a background in Child Welfare services.
Was the footage of Helen stumbling around drunkenly taken long ago, before she was a mother? If so, say so, so we don't suspect she is neglectful.
One assumes from the comment about Helen's conscience that some of the clients she gets off are guilty. This makes her a highly unsympathetic character, and I suspect that even if her baby were kidnapped readers would be thinking, Good, serves her right, maybe she'll learn her lesson the hard way. Unless you want readers cheering for the stalker, maybe Helen's clients should all be falsely accused. Do something to make us like her.
It doesn't feel like a thriller. It's the threats and the stalker that make it a thriller, but we don't know what the threats are, and saying the stalker "seems" to be getting closer and more threatening only makes me suspect that he isn't.
The summary needs to progress logically, just as the book does. All these one-sentence paragraphs make it sound like you're just listing a few events rather than telling a story. And each paragraph needs internal cohesion, with information building on other information, not so easy with one-sentence paragraphs.
I feel like the story arc would seem more logical (and salable) and the query would feel better organized if it went in this order: Helen, who normally defends people she thinks are innocent gets off someone she thinks is guilty. She goes to a bar to soothe her conscience; someone films her stumbling out drunk. Child Protective Services accuse her of neglect when the film goes public and the babysitter comes forward. Then the threats/stalker stuff starts.