Oct 21, 2009

Query - Intelligent Design

A man falls to his death from the seventh floor of a London building. The third Sunday in a row this has happened.

Coincidence? Or is there a serial killer on the loose with a liking for high places and an aversion to Sundays?

David doesn't care. He's a journalist and it makes great copy. Until he interviews a witness and she also dies. Perhaps there really is something more sinister behind the deaths?

Detective Inspector Lane doesn't think so. And neither does her Chief Inspector. He has given her until next Sunday to prove they were just accidents and quell the rising public anxiety.

Her colleague, however, Detective Sergeant Small, thinks there is more to the deaths than just coincidence.

David is continuing to make things worse. He has piqued public interest with a series of articles, designed to convince his readers a vicious killer really is stalking the streets of London.

All the press interest is proving much more difficult for DI Lane to deal with than the investigation itself. It seems there is very little she can do to convince the public the deaths were nothing more than tragic accidents.

But now, she too is having her doubts.

Intelligent Design is a completed 110,000 word crime novel set in contemporary London.
This is my third novel, but the first I have tried to publish.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Best wishes,
Julian Gilbert


L. T. Host said...

Hi Julian;

I love your premise and your voice here. Here are my nitpicks:

"The third Sunday in a row this has happened." Should be: "This is the..."

The switch between the journalist and the detective inspector paragraphs feels abrupt. See if you can smooth out the DI's introduction a little.

DEFINITELY leave out "this is my third novel but the first I have tried to publish". You don't need it and it won't help you.

I love the line about "a serial killer on the loose with a liking for high places and an aversion to Sundays?" by the way!

Intriguing :)

dolorah said...

Oh, how refreshing! An original idea for a query. Nicely done, with all the main characters, setting, and tone. Love the witty tone.

It could use some tightening, however. There's starting to be too many names on both sides of the argument. I think you could cut out the two paragraphs that begin "Her colleague . ." and end " . . stalking the streets of London.

Even before reading the phrase "all the press . ." I realized this was a case largely being built by the media. If you added that to the end of the fourth paragraph, or left it as a final, fifth paragraph all by itself, I think this would be perfect.

The sentence "It seems there is very little she can do" kills the action.

Paragraphs 1,2,3, and 4 tell the whole story.

It's ok not to have publishing credentials. Your ending with the word count and thanks seems enough to me.

Sounds like an awesome read. Good Luck.


gj said...

Who's the protagonist?

Generally, the reader of a query will assume that the first person mentioned is the protagonist. For the first person, you've got: "A man falls to his death"

Okay, so in theory someone dying ought to be a hook, but it's not. (And think of query-readers as stopping at the first sentence that doesn't fascinate them.) We don't really care if an unknown person dies. We care if either a) we know the person, or b) the protagonist cares about the death. An anonymous man dying -- nothing fascinating about that, so if I were an overworked agent, I'd stop reading right there.

(I do like the idea of the series of falling deaths establishing a pattern of serial killing, but I still need a protagonist who's involved with the situation, and who needs to solve the murders or avoid being murdered or something.)

Anyway, back to the search for a protagonist. It's not the guy falling off the building. Next paragraph has no person, so that doesn't help me find someone to bond with.

Next paragraph: David. Who the heck is David? And if he doesn't care, then why should the reader?

Next paragraph: DI Lane. Aha! She cares, because it's her job, and for some reason she has a deadline (will she lose her job?). That's good, and probably where the query should start.

Oh, but wait, there's another cop, Sgt Small, who cares about the investigation, too, and since it took so long to get to the other possible protagonist, I'm not sure wheter maybe Lane was a false start, and this guy is the protagonist.

And then we're back to David, so maybe he's more important than I initially thought. And then we jump back to Lane, so I'm totally confused.

Start with the protagonist, which I assume, really, is Lane (but I had to work at figuring that out, and an agent is unlikely to give you that kind of leeway; if it isn't clear, it's a rejection).

Start with Lane and her problem: the media, in the form of a third-rate sensation-stirring-upper journalist, Dave, is scaring people over purported homicides, when it's just a matter of people falling off buildings. Accidents happen. Sure, three in three weeks, all on Sunday at the exact same time, is a bit of a coincidence, but that's all it is. And she's going to prove it, or else her boss will demote her. But then Dave tells her that a witness to the fallings has also fallen off a building, and she starts to wonder if the local high-rise buildings are coming to life and killing people.

And so on. Keep it all from the viewpoint of the protagonist, mentioning the others only insofar as they complicate her pursuit of her goal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone for the incredibly useful feedback. I wasn't sure myself about starting with a character that dies; I've read somewhere it's a real put-off for agents. In fact the book itself also starts this way, so that may have to change. I know the protagonist POV is the key here. The book also is deliberately from the POV of the different characters, but now I'm having second thoughts. I might rewrite the whole thing just from the POV of one character. I can see I'm going to have to think about this a lot more....
Thanks again for taking the time to comment,

gj said...

The book can be written from multiple POVs, but at its most fundamental, it's about ONE person's journey, and all the other POVs' journeys are subplots.

For the query, it's really best to stick to one POV, and mention the others only insofar as they make the situation more difficult for the protagonist.