Friday, December 20, 2013

Face-Lift 1176

Guess the Plot

A Crimson Stain

1. GV Black knew his world was coming to an end. The wunderkind of the dental superheroes was aging and ill. A disease was upon him and eventually it would turn him to worm food. If only he could remember the name of the cure; the unspoken, dental "F" word. If he doesn't invoke the cure he will die and his legacy shall always contain . . . A Crimson Stain.

2. Nothing hurts business at a brothel like a crimson stain on the sheets, especially when it's the result of one of the girls having her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces. Now it's up to Wayward Russell to figure out if the place is haunted, and if so, by what.

3. Vivacious duchesse Louise la Fontaine is mad for the gallant dandy Louis la Vaux. But he's the bastard son of the prince, and the King has forbidden him to marry. Can she use her wiles to convince the King to change his mind?

4. When meek housewife Holly finds a stain on the collar of her husband's dress shirt, she immediately recognizes the crimson lipstick of the bimbo next door. Drama, tears, and midlife soul-searching ensue.

5. When DJ Shazam enters his apartment he learns two things. First, he should have stayed in Aruba. Second, the body in his bathtub is going to leave...A Crimson Stain.

6. Crimson McStainian is a professional pimple-popper, leaving calling cards on the faces of bathroom mirrors. Business is booming until Acne McFacecleaner moves into town. His own self-worth threatened, Crimson must either find new meaning in life, or stain the streets with crimson from more than just bad acne.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

London, 1860. Wayward Russell has spent his entire life running from monsters. Ghosts, demons, werebeasts—he knows about all of them, the creatures hiding in the shadows and watching for their next victim. Every night he draws protective wards around his room, every day he moves on to a new place, [Every day? Moving is a pain if you do it every few years, and a guy who moves every day has long since run out of friends he can ask to help him move.] [If protective wards work, why does he have to move?] constantly looking over his shoulder to try and escape the horrors he knows are there. [If you're trying to set a scene in which monsters exist, you're overdoing it. I'm starting to think the monsters aren't there and Wayward is nuts.]

Then one night he meets Jenny, a young prostitute at Madam’s Cat knocking shop. [Is that where you take your cat to get it knocked up?] There is something haunting Madam Cat’s, and Jenny wants Wayward’s help in getting rid of it. But Wayward has made a career out of never sticking his neck out for anyone, [So why does Jenny go to him for help?] so he sends Jenny away with a bagged exorcism and instructions not to bother him again. Wayward thinks that’s the end of it—until a week later, he’s dragged into Madam Cat’s and told that Jenny’s dead, [What? Jenny was the only character I liked.] her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces. The fiery Madam Cat demands that Wayward fix the mess he’s created, and, shaken by Jenny’s violent death, Wayward reluctantly agrees. [Have you considered having Madam Cat's throat get ripped out and Jenny, who of course has a heart of gold, seeking Wayward's help?]

But his investigation reveals something far more dangerous than the simple haunting he expected. There’s something else in the brothel, something that creaks the floorboards in empty rooms and makes lamps explode, something that tears the girls’ clothes in the night and leaves bloody claw marks on the walls. [Lemme get this straight. Jenny has her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces, but it's only when Wayward hears creaking floorboards and sees torn clothing that he realizes this is far more dangerous than a simple haunting? This list is stuff I would expect if it is a simple haunting.] Something old and wild and vicious that greatly resents being interfered with. Creatures like this are exactly why Wayward never gets involved, but this time he has no choice—Madam Cat won’t let him leave until her house is safe, and she has enough thugs to make his life very unpleasant if things don’t work out to her satisfaction. And Jenny’s ghost has returned, terrorising Wayward every night and insisting he save the other girls from what killed her. [Does she tell him what that was?]

For once in his life, Wayward may end up doing the right thing, but will it cost him the very safety and anonymity he has worked so hard to protect?

A CRIMSON STAIN is historical fantasy of 60,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


The protective wards and bagged exorcism hint that Wayward has useful knowledge, but you haven't convinced me he's any more qualified to handle this than the thugs are. If he hails from a family of ghostbusters you might mention that when you introduce him. Introducing him as someone who's been living in fear of monsters his whole life leaves us wondering why anyone consults him in such matters. Who is he?

The list of things that prove this isn't a simple haunting needs to be shorter and scarier.

This is mostly setup. One paragraph setting up the situation (Lily-livered Wayward Russell has been charged with investigating strange goings-on and murder in Madam Cat's brothel) would leave more space to tell us what his plan is and what goes wrong when he puts it into action.


Unknown said...

Do what EE says. It took me five minutes to read this--and the only stakes are a reclusive paranormal exterminator *might* have to give up his anonymity....

Not the page-turning premise I'm sure you've written--yet that's what the query states.

Take your one sentence of setup, then give us the real stakes. The real conflict. A bit more of the flavor, but keep it short. 200 words, or so.

Good luck!

J.M. said...

Does Jenny's ghost terrorize Russell, or terrify him? It's not nice to terrorize, but sometimes you can't help terrifying. Also, you accidentally said "Madam’s Cat" in the first paragraph instead of "Madam Cat's."

I'd like to know about Russell's obsession with anonymity since, as VR notes, it's the big stake. Has Russell busted ghosts and monsters who've taken out contracts on him? Is he a target simply because of his skills and knowledge? I can't get worked up over your key question -- "will it cost him the very safety and anonymity he has worked so hard to protect?" -- since I don't know what will happen if he loses them.

I detect a cute story under there, but I'd like to know more about Russell -- his flaws, his wants (besides anonymity, which seems like a shield), his ability to hide from monsters while Jenny the Common Streetwalker can sniff him out.

Anonymous said...

Because you said Wayward spends his life running from monsters, I was quite taken aback that anyone would ask him to get rid of a monster. Wouldn't his advice be simple: "Run away, it works for me?"

So I think it would help to introduce Wayward in a different way. He spends his life exorcising ghosts?

By the end of the query (and on third read) I'm guessing there are both ghosts and monsters, monsters are worse, W only deals with ghosts? But the first paragraph describes them all as equivalent, which is confusing.

I also think you should delete the part about never staying in the same place twice. It only confused me in p. 2 when he told Jenny not to bother him again (how could she if he'll never show up in that place again) and that he gets dragged back a week later (how could they possibly find him?).

Like the others I have no idea why anonymity is important to W. Is this one of those universes where people who know your name have power over you?

I really like the name Wayward.

Kelsey said...

I second EE's call to switch the characters so that Madam Cat dies and Jenny is the one helping/demanding a resolution. Then you could develop her character into something a little less cliche.

Actually, I think that's overall a big issue for me with this query. Neat premise, I like the setting, but none of the characters grab me. None of them seem like people I want to spend 200+ pages with.

Good luck!

khazar-khum said...

Wayward's very name makes me wonder if he's somehow escaped the supernatural world and become 'the man who knows too much'. Otherwise, why would he be on the run?

CavalierdeNuit said...

What is a knocking shop? I would rather Jenny live and the mean Madam Cat die. An old madam ghost is way scarier than a young prostitute ghost. Jenny and Wayward could fall in love and ghost hunt together. That would be a fun (adult?) story.

The title makes me think of menstrual stains.

Evil Editor said...

PLaF said...

I think you need a better reason for Wayward’s involvement with the knocking shop and anyone from it. Example: Jenny helped him in his hour of need and figured out what he was (i.e. ghostbuster, a hanging offence) and instead of turning him in, asks for his help.
So…I don’t think it’s a good idea to kill her off. Maybe a friend of hers instead.
Fiery Madam Cat can be a double-edged threat: she can threaten to feed Jenny to the haunting spirit and still might turn Wayward in for reward money after he fixes her shop.
And there must be something in his past he’s running from, which ups the ante.