Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Face-Lift 1197

Guess the Plot


1. His name is Mallet. Duke Mallet. Follow the adventures of the baddest parking inspector along the mean streets of Hicksville.

2. He's  tough, a loner, a PI who doesn't play by the rules. Criminals and other bad guys fear him. Men admire him. Women desire him. He's not just an action hero, he's...Mallet.

3. Parolee John Mallet sets out for Manitoba to hunt down his ex-wife and reconnect with his daughter. Of course, Sandy's remarried, and her new husband, Mark Hammer, has convinced Shelly that her dad is a tool. Can he find redemption, and a place in Shelly's life?

4. Johnny fishes all day, everyday, in the brackish waters of Florida'a estuaries. Oh, sure, he's caught Chinook and Tarpon, but Johnny just throws them back. He's after the elusive Mallet. He's tried worms, shrimp, minnows and every jig ever made, but no Mallets. Until one day, when a weathered old man walks up and whispers the secret word to catch Mallet. "Mullet." Confusion ensues.

5. Murder by polo mallet is all too common among the British upper crust. So when billionaire polo fanatic John Rouge gets a craving for fish and chips and flies his plane into town for take-out, and disappears, the worst is feared. But if he was bludgeoned to death with a polo mallet, where's the body?

6. When Josh shows up with an ironic mullet at his company's annual party, the CEO shows up with one too, and instantly gives Josh the promotion he deserves. But will the mallet-wielding intern Josh just fired ruin his chances with Kate, the hot executive assistant?

7. It’s 1923 and Hank Mallet is a private investigator in San Francisco. He’s hired by a Chinese lady, Madame Mu Chu, to find her missing daughter. But she isn’t. Hank digs deeper and discovers a sex slavery ring and an opium smuggling rival gang. Several attempts are made on Hank’s life as he unravels each layer of these criminal organizations.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Amanda’s best friend Dionne and her millionaire boyfriend John Rouge disappear while taking a float plane to get fish and chips, Amanda wants to be concerned. But she’s more worried about staying alive.

Dionne invites Amanda to a charity polo match, where she meets John’s dysfunctional family. His brother Adrian is a money pit, losing John’s loan money in bad bets and investments. Daughter Lilian won’t get a job, but has no trouble spending her daddy’s money. Old army buddy Barry Morgan hangs onto his past as a British rock star, and won’t accept the fact he’s a dried up has-been [and not even British]. [In my neck of the woods, it's "washed-up"; "dried-up" refers to a face so wrinkled it looks like a prune. Except when it refers to a source of money that is no longer gushing forth.] [In any case, if you call him a has-been, we will assume he's washed-up.] This doesn’t stop him from vying for Lilian’s affections.

Amanda also meets Connor West. At first, she takes him for a groom, but he is a polo star, and John’s protégé.

When a real groom turns up dead at the polo tournament, the police immediately suspect Connor, since he was found unconscious on the scene. [The most likely suspect is a guy who wasn't conscious? That's like someone asking who won the swim meet, and you say, "I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, it was the guy who drowned."] As the investigation drags on, Amanda is invited to accompany the group to John’s remote lake island. A series of strange events [Such as?] result in accidental – or possibly deliberate – deaths. 

[Detective 1: The victim was bludgeoned to death with a polo mallet.

Detective 2: Deliberately?]

By the end of the weekend, Amanda is forced to match wits with two members of the group who will do anything to grab John Rouge’s fortune. [Which two? Are the two collaborating? You can't just grab someone's fortune. Explain how they can get the fortune. And why is Amanda matching wits with them? She has nothing to do with John's fortune.]

MALLET is complete at 65,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,


If you want to call it Mallet, but want it to be accessible to more people, change it from the cutthroat world of high-level polo to the cutthroat world of high-level croquet.

We have a list of suspects, which is good for a murder mystery, but what they're suspected of is a bit nebulous. Did the death of the groom bring anyone closer to John Rouge's fortune? Who is dying on the island, and who is closer to the fortune because of it? To grab the fortune, do you have to be mentioned in John's will? Were the victims in the will? Why is Amanda worried about staying alive? She's not standing between anyone and the fortune.

When do John and Dionne disappear? Before or after the group go to the island? You'd think a billionaire would have a kitchen staff on call and ready to whip up some fish and chips at a moment's notice, and wouldn't have to fly into town for some take-out fish and chips. If he wanted to disappear, taking Dionne sightseeing in the plane is a better excuse than picking up some fish and chips. Unless . . . was he flying to this place, winner of the best fish and chips award three years running? (Of course they won; their fish cakes are always 50% fish.)

This needs to focus more on Amanda. Why is she involved? Why is she in danger? What's her plan? Have any authorities been summoned to deal with the numerous deaths and disappearances?

Your best friend invites you to join her and her boyfriend and his dysfunctional family on a remote island, and then leaves the island with the boyfriend, leaving you alone with his family who are complete strangers to you? Shouldn't that be former best friend?


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

/natural reluctance to jump in and then be told "April Fool's!"

Seven named characters in a query is roughly three times as many named characters as you want.

Veronica Rundell said...

Well, assuming this is a real query, I'd actually forgotten that Amanda was in the book until she meets the groom, which, silly me, I first read as in wedding dude, not horse-brusher.

The whole second paragraph is a nightmare.

Why does Amanda, or anybody, assume foul play when the float plane isn't back straightaway from the chippy? If a wealthy polo star has a plane to go find a bite, well, I'd assume he was odd enough to begin some 80 Days adventure.

I can't imagine any of these shady people being beneficiaries, except perhaps the daughter. Still her motive seems thin. And why are we discussing so many potential murderers in specific? Generalize.

Also, the whole thing is setup. We learn more about the Ruge's then about what Amanda Super-Sleuth does to save the day.

In the immortal words form Galaxy Quest, "that's not right!"

Revise, Good luck. It gets better!

Mister Furkles said...


This query reads like a trailer to the mid-70s movie “Murder by Death”. That is not what you want in a query. The first 180 words or so are setup. You need to cut that to only 50 or 60 words to leave room for plot. You mention several characters but only two are relevant to the query.

In your plot description, give specifics and don’t vague statements. Tell the reader who the bad guy is, the risks the MC faces, the choice the MC makes, the consequences to her of that choice, and what obstacles she faces.

Check EE’s archives. Go to Query Shark and read the queries that work. Then revise and resubmit. If it is a spoof on mysteries, try to bring the humor out in the query.

Evil Editor said...

If it's a murder mystery, you need not tell us who the bad guy is. You can just reveal obvious suspects and their motives. It would be nice if we knew whether the main focus was on who killed the groom or what happened to Rouge or who is killing the guests. Presumably these are all major plot lines, but based on your first paragraph, the MC is focused on the guest murders, so the query should as well.

Your plot description could begin at the island: Invited to join her best friend at a party on a billionaire's remote island retreat, Amanda is more than a little annoyed when her friend and the billionaire leave the island in a float plane and don't return. Turns out most of the people at the party (who haven't already been murdered) are hoping the plane crashed.

K Hutton said...

Piggy-backing on other comments on cutting down the number of characters you name, you should give us a sense of who the characters we should actually root for. Right now Amanda is a total non-entity; even if she's the straight char set against all these crazies, we should probably like her. The other characters seem obnoxious or similarly unknowns.

Your novel may be more plot-driven than character driven, but we should still want to spend 250 pages with these people.

Best of luck!

SB said...

Personally, I instantly got lost in the list of characters. And then when it came back to the plot, it seemed so generic and vague that I couldn't ever care.

Sandra Cormier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandra Cormier said...

Thanks guys! It's obvious my query is a hot mess and I'll start over again.

BTW the fish'n chips place is based on a real restaurant in our cottage country. It's only accessible by float plane or boat, and it's very popular.

Onward and forward!