Friday, November 19, 2010

Query Revision 40

Face-Lift 839: Given the Shaft

There are 2 Face-Lift 839s over at Evil Editor's. This is the first one that appeared on EE's site. And in one of those paradoxical moments, Monday's query will be the second one that appeared there. Just in case you are as confused as I was... [UPDATE: EE has kindly rectified.]

Jordan Bale is a normal college student, if normal means spending her free time doing an extra research project and running her own proofreading business. She stumbles into the world of detecting by way of an administrative conspiracy, the murder of her favorite professor, and a serial rapist targeting campus. And one of these criminals is stalking her.

A student is killed in an elevator in her dorm and campus police are quick to rule it an accident. Jordan knows the student was pushed, so she takes the story to the school’s newspaper. John Schmidt, a university administrator, hires a seemingly professional woman to protect the university’s reputation and prevent more humiliation from Jordan Bale. He didn’t realize he had loosed a monster, and firing this woman only fuels her rage.

Jordan’s favorite professor – the only person who treated Jordan as more than just one of Ohio State's fifty thousand students – is murdered less than a week later. Jordan is determined to do what the police can’t: solve the case. Even if it entails breaking into her professor’s office and stealing her research to look for clues. Between misrepresenting herself as a detective to a potential suspect and hassling the lead detective on the case, Jordan discovers a secret worth killing to keep.

Then the Columbus Police Department starts turning away rape victims. Jordan conducts her own investigation of three bizarre yet related attacks, but she can’t solve one single case. And the rapist is escalating.

Can Jordan solve these crimes before she becomes the next victim?

Given the Shaft is a complete 80,000-word mystery that could be expanded into a series. I was named an up-and-coming star of flash fiction by the 6S Review, and my short stories have appeared in 6S2, MicroHorror, Blink Ink, FlashShot, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, and Long Story Short.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Comments

Jordan Bale is a normal college student, if normal means spending her free time doing an extra research project and running her own proofreading business.

This is good in that it gives us an idea about Jordan and has voice that suggests a nice cozy mystery.

She stumbles into the world of detecting by way of an administrative conspiracy, the murder of her favorite professor, and a serial rapist targeting campus. And one of these criminals is stalking her.

Well, this suggests a story that's maybe a little more raw and much less cozy unless these crimes are somehow all connected. Since we're going to learn about each of these crimes and that maybe someone is stalking her later, this is a bit redundant. I think it can be deleted.

A student is killed in an elevator in her dorm and campus police are quick to rule it an accident. Jordan knows the student was pushed, so she takes the story to the school’s newspaper.

The question this raises is how she knows? Did she see it happen? Can she describe who did the pushing? And I'm assuming if the student was pushed, they were pushed down the shaft and not in an elevator car. Just saying "an elevator" makes it sound like it happened in a car (or whatever the proper term is that everyone just shortens to "elevator").

John Schmidt, a university administrator, hires a seemingly professional woman to protect the university’s reputation and prevent more humiliation from Jordan Bale. He didn’t realize he had loosed a monster, and firing this woman only fuels her rage.

This seems like a subplot since the query doesn't tie this "monster" (what makes her a monster before her firing?) to anything else happening. So she's either a red herring -- in which case she probably belongs in the synopsis but not in the query -- or she's the one who kills the prof to take revenge on John and the school. In which case we need to see a clearer connection or else leave her out altogether for now and focus just on Jordan's perspective.

Jordan’s favorite professor – the only person who treated Jordan as more than just one of Ohio State's fifty thousand students – is murdered less than a week later. Jordan is determined to do what the police can’t: solve the case. Even if it entails breaking into her professor’s office and stealing her research to look for clues. Between misrepresenting herself as a detective to a potential suspect and hassling the lead detective on the case, Jordan discovers a secret worth killing to keep.

Is there more motivation here? There's a suspect and the lead detective is on the case, is it just taking too long to solve? Why does she think she can solve it?

Then the Columbus Police Department starts turning away rape victims.

This is a very bizarre statement. If you're going to use it, I think it needs to be explained or else bringing in what appears to be a wholly unrelated series of crimes and the police acting in a decidedly un-police-like manner will likely turn off potential agents.

Jordan conducts her own investigation of three bizarre yet related attacks,

I'm going to have to say, nicely, that Jordan is starting to seem a bit delusional about being a detective and the Columbus PD are looking like hacks.

This is starting to feel like story overload, and the nice cozy mystery that seemed promised by the voice in that first sentence has taken a sharp turn. Mainly because I'm not seeing any connection to any of the events.

but she can’t solve one single case.

Actually, on reread, I'm not quite sure if the three bizarre attacks refer to three rapes she's investigating and if the "one single case" refers to one case from among three rapes or one case from the cover-up murder, professor murder and serial killer.

And the rapist is escalating.

How is the rapist escalating? His number of attacks can escalate. His mode of attack could escalate from unarmed to armed, but I don't think the rapist himself can escalate.

Can Jordan solve these crimes before she becomes the next victim?

The next victim of rape? Of murder? There are 50K students in the university and 700K people in the city -- the query hasn't given us any reason to believe she's being stalked so why should she become the next victim?

Given the Shaft is a complete 80,000-word mystery that could be expanded into a series. I was named an up-and-coming star of flash fiction by the 6S Review, and my short stories have appeared in 6S2, MicroHorror, Blink Ink, FlashShot, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, and Long Story Short.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

I would cap the title. I won't discourage you from listing your credits because I know listing them makes YOU feel good, but non-pro credits really aren't going to be very helpful. What a pro market is varies, but most agree that it's a market that pays at least U.S. 5 cents/word.

My Revision

When Jordan Bale half-sees a shadowed figure push a student down an elevator shaft in her college dorm, she figures it's a slam-dunk the campus police will find the perp and serve out justice. Instead, since she can provide neither concrete proof nor more than a vague description, they rule the death an accident and close the case. Outraged, she takes the story to the school newspaper, hoping to shame the university into a more thorough investigation. The administration's response: to hire a PR professional to hush up both the incident -- and her -- to protect the school's reputation.

Still reeling from the incident, Jordan is shocked to learn a week later that her favorite professor has been murdered. Determined not to let this crime get swept under the carpet, too, she breaks into her professor's office and steals her research, looking for clues the police won't be able to refute or dismiss. Between misrepresenting herself as a detective to a potential suspect and hassling the lead detective on the case, Jordan discovers a secret worth killing to keep. Now she has a motive; she just needs to dig up the proof.

Then a serial rapist targets the campus and Jordan sees a pattern emerge that connects to her dead professor and to the student killed in the shaft. It may be if she can solve one crime, she can solve them all. Only she'll have to work fast -- the pattern clearly points to her being the next victim.

GIVEN THE SHAFT is a complete 80,000-word mystery that could be expanded into a series. I was named an up-and-coming star of flash fiction by the 6S Review, and my short stories have appeared in 6S2; MicroHorror; Blink Ink; FlashShot; Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers; and Long Story Short.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

8 comments:

fairyhedgehog said...

Phoenix's revision reveals what could be a really fun story here. I'd go for it!

vkw said...

Phoenix version is much better. She noted the same thing I did about your story over at EE's blog: there's too many really bad things going on to sound "real".

Here is the realy ripple in the water: if a student is killed on a large campus, that's big state/local news, if a professor gets killed that big state/local news, if a serial killer targets a campus that big state/local news.


When all three happens during one semester, the TODAY shows up and does an entire broadcast from the campus library, that serial killer expert chimes in, that expert lawyer chimes in and they have a special on self-defense and using mace.

Jordan won't have to worry about solving the murder there will be CSI Ohio and the Law and Order detectives will get it done.

she may get interviewed on the TODAY show.

Erica said...

YAY! Finally, another NA (new adult) writer! I was starting to think I was all alone out here. I think this sounds interesting, I'd read it. Though, it does seem like a possible case of plot overload. Unless what seems like many plots are actually just a few, this could be from convoluted writing. I think if that is the case, putting some names with these victims would streamline it.
I'm also an advocate (like a crisis interventionist) for rape and DV victims, so this subject is right up my ally. And I know from experience that the police DO act like that. So do the prosecutors. It's disturbing, but it's true.

Matt said...

CSI Ohio

Horatio: What do we have here?

Coroner: The vic fell from the top floor of this here empty elevator shaft, suffered multiple contusions and bone breakage. I can't be sure until I get her back to the lab, but COD looks to be blunt force trauma to the head.

Horatio (removes sunglasses): It looks like this young woman was...given the shaft.

YYEEEAAAAHHHH

no-bull-steve said...

Nice revision!
only suggestion is in chance the --and her-- to ---and Jordan---

Also, this title needs to be changed. Seriously, author.

AA said...

Phoenix's version of this is much better, but that only counts if it accurately represents the story. The book itself might not follow that plot exactly, but it's a good model to follow for a rewrite, anyway.

Seriously, though- the title?

Glynis said...

Great revision of query, not a fan of the title I am afraid. Sorry. :/

To me it sounds as if you are going for the shock factor with the title. Your storyline is a good one and does not need a gimmicky title. IMHO.

Tiger said...

Never, ever going to go with you on this story with that title. Sorry. It's really tasteless.