Feb 17, 2010

Query: Mayhem, Inc.

Dear Agent

The end of the world is coming in two weeks. Or so Thaddeus Sinclair would have you believe. He is a member of a covert group of anarchists called Mayhem, Inc. Sinclair has carefully devised a plot to convince the world an asteroid will collide with the earth. He has bribed, manipulated, and murdered people to get all the pieces into their exact positions. After years of meticulous planning, the endgame is set. Society will soon collapse into a quagmire of mayhem and destruction.

There is only one problem with his plan: Archer Quinn.

Quinn, a courier, only eats food he can count, organizes his clothes by color, and polishes every bullet before loading his gun. Mayhem, Inc. hires his courier service to deliver a package that includes the orders: “Kill the messenger”. But they didn’t plan on Quinn’s former Special Forces training. He escapes with their encrypted data and scarce clues on why someone wants him dead. His hunt for the truth leads him to junior reporter, Tamara Bruce. She is investigating a mysterious tip about a cover up of an asteroid strike and is at dead end until Quinn shows up.

Harrowed by strange men in gray suits, and Sinclair’s minions who want the data back, Quinn and Tamara untangle more of the plot and realize someone is manipulating everything—including them. With startling clarity, Archer Quinn realizes the chaos surrounding him is not random chance, but a set of orchestrated events. Quinn’s obsessive compulsive mind rails against the idea of organized chaos, and summarily shuts down.

As society teeters on the edge of bedlam, Tamara helps calm the order/chaos storm raging in Quinn’s head, but a new conundrum takes its place: should he continue his efforts to stop Sinclair and Mayhem, Inc.—or should he be helping them? They are after all, the order behind the chaos.


folksinmt said...

I really like this. The writing is solid and the plot line is intriguing. It's nearly perfect. But I think it's a tad long. Towards the end, it started feeling like a synopsis. Cut it back a little and I think you'll be set!

David F. Weisman said...

Maybe you could trim and bring in the conflict faster - from one point of view or the other. Rather than explain the whole plan and how it came about right at first, maybe just start by telling us that Thad and his Anarchists have a plan to cause a global panic that will kill millions - and only Archer can stop them.

Or else start with the conflict in Archer's POV, how he escapes a fiendish murder attempt and comes to associate it with what he starts hearing on the news about a killer asteroid.

Emily said...

I have to say, the names of the male characters made me giggle. If they aren't intended to be comical, you may have a problem there.

Also the line where you say "There is only one problem with his plan: Archer Quinn." This sounds like the voice-over guy from movie trailers. It comes across as melodramatic. I think you need something else here. Something unexpected.
There is only one problem with his plan: the man with fifty-two M&Ms.

Or something like that. The writing is solid, and I did not notice many mistakes (aside from needing an article before "dead end in paragraph 3). But this comes off a little bit movie-trailer-y. I think a few unique details or character quirks could ground it.

Matt said...

Yeah, I gotta agree with Emily about the names. Thaddeus Sinclair? Archer Quinn? Come on. Those are ridiculous. Show me one real person in the entire world who is either a.) over the age of three or b.) not the child of a Hollywood celebrity who has "Archer" as a first name. It takes away from the legitimacy of your project. I'm thinking when it comes to agents, names are sort of like titles - they're easily interchangeable before publication. But you don't want to risk turning off an agent with bad names.

Sarah N Fisk said...

I agree with David, and Emily's 2nd and 3rd points.

I don't mind the first name Archer or the last name Quinn, but together they sound SOO high-school drama trendy. The name for the 'villain' might be ok, as long as he's as eccentric as his name.

Also, in the paragraph that starts with "Harrowed..." you use "realize" twice in a row.

Personally, I would just take out the "untangle the plot" in the same paragraph and just say they "realize someone is manipulating everything"

Don't like "With startling clarity" phrase or "summarily." In general, your adverbs and adjectives are weakening your sentences.

Interesting story!

RCWriterGirl said...

I'm fine with the names. I didn't see them as problematic, but if others are griping, certainly worth considering if a change is needed.

Second, I think most queries try to start with the main character's POV. Starting with the villain, then shifting to Archer felt very jarring.

Lastly, I'd try to trim the query a little. The plot is obviously fairly complicated and you've done a good job summing it up here. But, it still felt a bit long. I feel like you could simplify this a little bit.

I think if you start with Archer, and don't explain the Mayhem INc. plot first, maybe that can help trim the length.

Finally, while I thought you did a good job of explaining the plot, I didn't understand why these supervillans would want to create mayhem. I mean, what's the point? Is there some financial gain? Mayhem seems pointless, because you become part of the mayhem. You can be killed, maimed, destroyed, etc., just as easily as anyone else once the mayhem starts, unless you've got some leverage to put you in control. So, in the absence of understanding this leverage, I was really at a loss for a motive. I think that might be a problem in getting agents to request pages.

In summation, I think the query would read better if you started with Obsessive compulsive, former Special Forces guy Archer Quinn, finally finding order in his life delivering packages. And then everything going to hell when someone tries to kill him. Escaping with the data, he teams up with junior reporter Tamara Bruce. Then, introduce the Mayhem Inc., a group that hopes to create mayhem so it can achieve XXXX (i.e. global dominance as the only seller of arms).

Sounds like an interesting story. Goodluck.


Jason A. Myers said...

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I appreciate it.
I did originally write the query starting from Archer's POV, but it just didn't have the same punch as starting with the bad guy's.
I wrote it like a movie trailer because I wanted it to appear high concept. I guess I failed in that regard :-)

Stephanie said...

This is a good synopsis but as others have said, it's a bit long for a query. Just hit about four or five plot points and when the agent snaps it up, you'll have this as a synopsis ready to go.