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  1. #1
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    Query: Simulated Murder

    We're far enough into the story over in the Writing Critique forum that everyone should have a pretty good idea about the basic plot of the book. I think it's time to get serious about drafting a query, so I get the long and agonizing process of finding an agent rolling along in parallel.

    We actually started this whole journey with a sort of a query, which John rightly chewed up and spat out for me. I think I have a better idea now of what's expected, so let's give this another try. As many others have noted, it's often harder to write a good query than the actual novel. How does one condense a magnum opus into 200 to 250 concise and intriguing words?

    Here's what I have so far. I've tried to touch on the key plot points, and played up the consipracy aspects as well. I'm not completely enamored with the result, but it should give us a decent starting point:




    Detective Jennia Bennett’s first murder investigation appears to be nothing more than a simple case of revenge: the victim, Dr. Gennar Leszek, abruptly removed the suspect, Kieran Dennison, from his graduate studies program, ultimately leading to Dennison’s dismissal from the university in disgrace. Leszek’s murder was meant to look like an accident, but Dennison failed to cover his tracks. All Jen has to do is find him.

    But as Jen digs deeper into the circumstances surrounding Leszek’s death, she soon discovers that the truth may not be quite so straightforward. Leszek was analyzing the mathematics that govern the behavior of simulated humans, realistic holographic projections working as clerks and receptionists and servants at all levels of society. The most advanced sims, the Class A “Angels”, are virtually indistinguishable from physical humans, and serve as companions to select individuals throughout the world. Jen’s own Angel, Elise, is closer to her than her own sister.

    Dr. Arno Marchand, the respected creator of the sims, and Representative Bram Halsey, the powerful politician who sponsored the introduction of the Angels into society, become involved in the case, and Jen is under pressure to conclude her investigation quickly. But Leszek’s research may have uncovered a fundamental flaw in the Angels, a flaw that someone would kill to conceal …

    Simulated Murder is a 116,00 word science fiction novel.
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 03-07-2013 at 08:09 PM.



  2. #2
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    Gil,

    It looks pretty good to me, but this is more a long John's area of expertise than mine.

    I might say something about Jen and Elise pairing up in the investigation though. They not only make a good team, but this aspect enhances your story.

  3. #3
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Yeah, Jen's pretty darn attached to Elise, that's for sure. Here, I Oberonized it so you can maybe add a little more about Jen/Elise. It's not too bad otherwise.

    Detective Jennia Bennett’s first murder investigation appears to be a case of simple revenge: the victim, Dr. Gennar Leszek, removed the suspect, Kieran Dennison, from his graduate studies program, ultimately leading to Dennison’s dismissal from the university in disgrace. Leszek’s murder was meant to look like an accident, but Dennison failed to cover his tracks. Jen just needs to find him.

    But as Jen digs deeper, she soon discovers the truth may not be so simple. Leszek was analyzing mathematics governing the behavior of sims, realistic holographic projections of humans working in jobs at all levels of society. The most advanced sims, the Class A “Angels”, serve as companions to humans. Jen’s own Angel, Elise, is closer to her than her own sister.

    Dr. Arno Marchand, who created the sims, and Representative Bram Halsey, who sponsored the introduction of the Angels into society, become involved in the case, and Jen is under pressure to conclude her investigation quickly. But Leszek’s research may have uncovered a fundamental flaw in the Angels...a flaw that someone might kill to conceal.

    Simulated Murder is a 116,000 word science fiction novel.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    Thanks, I'm glad I'm not too far off the mark. It's been tricky to lay out the key points in some sensible order: Jen is the MC, so she needs to come first. The murder is the main plot line, so that has to come second. Then I have to introduce the sims to hint at a larger conspiracy beyond the murder, after which I finally get to introduce Elise and the other players. I tried it a few other ways, but this seemed to build the tension most effectively.

    I did want to mention Elise's involvement in the investigation, but I wasn't sure how to present that. Let's take John's version and expand Elise's role just a bit:



    Detective Jennia Bennett’s first murder investigation appears to be a case of simple revenge: the victim, Dr. Gennar Leszek, removed the suspect, Kieran Dennison, from his graduate studies program, ultimately leading to Dennison’s dismissal from the university in disgrace. Leszek’s murder was meant to look like an accident, but Dennison failed to cover his tracks. Jen just needs to find him.

    But as Jen digs deeper, she soon discovers the truth may not be so simple. Leszek was analyzing the mathematics governing the behavior of sims, realistic holographic projections of humans working in jobs at all levels of society. The most advanced sims, the Class A “Angels”, serve as companions to humans. Jen’s own Angel, Elise, is closer to her than her own sister, and teams up with Jen as the case delves deeper into the world of the sims.

    Dr. Arno Marchand, who created the sims, and Representative Bram Halsey, who sponsored the introduction of the Angels into society, become involved in the case, and Jen is under pressure to conclude her investigation quickly. But Leszek’s research may have uncovered a fundamental flaw in the Angels...a flaw that someone might kill to conceal.

    Simulated Murder is a 116,000 word science fiction novel.



    Incidentally, John, I prefer "the mathematics" here, since it's the specific set of equations relating to the Angels that are central to his research, not the field of mathematics in general. I may modify it to "the equations". but mathematics sounds more professorial.
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 03-08-2013 at 04:53 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    I did a bit more work on this, polishing the mention of Elise and the sims. I've also added a first take on the rest of the actual letter. Let me know what you think.



    Dear [Agent], I would like to offer my novel, Simulated Murder, for your consideration.

    Detective Jennia Bennett’s first murder investigation appears to be a case of simple revenge: the victim, Dr. Gennar Leszek, removed the suspect, Kieran Dennison, from his graduate studies program, ultimately leading to Dennison’s dismissal from the university in disgrace. Leszek’s murder was meant to look like an accident, but Dennison failed to cover his tracks. Jen just needs to find him.

    But as Jen digs deeper, she soon discovers the truth may not be so simple. Before his death, Leszek analyzed the mathematics governing the behavior of simulated humans, realistic holographic projections working in all levels of society. The most advanced Class A "sims", called “Angels”, serve as companions to humans; Jen’s own Angel, Elise, is closer to her than her own sister.

    Jen and Elise team up as they delve into the world of the sims and their creators. Dr. Arno Marchand, who designed the sims, and Representative Bram Halsey, who sponsored the introduction of the Angels into society, become involved in the case, and Jen is under pressure to conclude her investigation quickly. But Leszek had expressed doubts about the stability of the sims, and his research may have uncovered a fundamental flaw in the Angels ... a flaw that someone might kill to conceal.

    Simulated Murder is a completed 116,000 word science fiction novel, the first in a potential series. I believe it would appeal to fans of Isaac Asimov’s Elijah Baley novels (The Caves of Steel) and Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict stories (A Talent for War), where futuristic societies serve as the backdrop for mystery and intrigue.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon. Regards,
    [The Author]
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 03-08-2013 at 07:41 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    Still fiddling. Here's a slight variation.



    Dear [Agent], I would like to offer my novel, Simulated Murder, for your consideration.

    Detective Jennia Bennett’s first murder investigation appears to be a case of simple revenge: the victim, Dr. Gennar Leszek, removed the suspect, Kieran Dennison, from his graduate studies program, ultimately leading to Dennison’s dismissal from the university in disgrace. Leszek’s murder was meant to look like an accident, but Dennison failed to cover his tracks. Jen just needs to find him.

    But as Jen digs deeper, she soon discovers the truth may not be so simple. Before his death, Leszek analyzed the mathematics governing the behavior of simulated humans, realistic holographic projections working in all levels of society. The most advanced Class A “sims”, called “Angels”, serve as companions to humans; Jen’s own Angel, Elise, is closer to her than her own sister.

    Jen enlists Elise’s help to delve into the world of the sims and their creators. Dr. Arno Marchand, who designed the sims, and Representative Bram Halsey, who sponsored the introduction of the Angels into society, become involved in the case. Jen is under pressure to conclude her investigation quickly, but Leszek doubted the stability of the sims. His research may have uncovered a fundamental flaw in the Angels ... a flaw that someone might kill to conceal.

    Simulated Murder is a completed 116,000 word science fiction novel, the first in a potential series. I believe it would appeal to fans of Isaac Asimov’s Elijah Baley novels (The Caves of Steel) and Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict stories (A Talent for War), where futuristic societies serve as the backdrop for mystery and intrigue.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon. Regards,
    [The Author]
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 03-08-2013 at 07:52 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Well, I like it a little, but think it needs more of a hook, something grabby. It's well written and clearly informs the agent about the book, but I don't think it really sells it too well. That "flaw that someone might kill to conceal" is a little hooky...but in my opinion, the query needs more conflict. Right now, it's just Leszek got murdered, and Jen and her sidekick need to find the murderer, which is probably Dennison. Is there someone or something in the story to threaten Jen or Elise? And what happens if they fail to deal with it successfully? Could THEY be next on the hit list? See what I mean?

    That's what it needs...conflict. Clear and present danger.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    A very valid observation, and a tough one to address, especially since you guys haven't seen the last half of the story yet. Without giving too much away, there are several possible points I might be able to use to help sell the story. In no particular order:

    - Marchand knows more about the sims than anyone; they're his legacy and he is fiercely protective of them. If there's truly a flaw in the Angels, he would know about it, and he would be highly incented to suppress that information.
    - Halsey's direct involvement in the case is suspicious. You already know about his relationship with Kieran, but there's more going on, secrets he would rather not be revealed.
    - Additional evidence will reveal that Kieran could not have murdered Leszek on his own. There is at least one more individual involved, someone who is highly motivated to stop Leszek's research.
    - We'll be meeting some of the original Angels, and they hold secrets that may destroy the future of the Angels.
    - The Angels are not as harmless and helpless as they might seem, and Jen's life is in danger.

    I'll toss these ideas around in my head for a bit and see what appeals.
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 03-08-2013 at 08:52 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    Putting my theatrical trailer copy hat on, I've taken another crack at this. (Cue announcer: "In a world where sims are a ubiquitous facet of society....") This version has the same basic elements, but I've tried to play up the key dramatic aspects. It's a bit wordy, but hopefully we can scrub it down to something tight and exciting.



    Dear [Agent], I would like to offer my novel, Simulated Murder, for your consideration.

    Detective Jennia Bennett’s first murder investigation appears to be a case of simple revenge: the victim, Dr. Gennar Leszek, removed the suspect, Kieran Dennison, from his graduate studies program, ultimately leading to Dennison’s dismissal from the university in disgrace. Leszek’s murder was meant to look like an accident, but Dennison failed to cover his tracks. Jen just needs to find him.

    But she quickly discovers the truth may not be so simple. Before his death, Leszek analyzed the mathematics governing the behavior of simulated humans, realistic holographic projections working in all levels of society. The most advanced Class A “sims”, called “Angels”, serve as companions to humans; Jen’s own Angel, Elise, is closer to her than her own sister. But Leszek doubted the stability of the sims, and his research may have revealed a fundamental flaw in the Angels….

    Jen enlists Elise’s help as the clues lead her deeper into the world of the sims and their creators. Dennison is not the only one with the means and the motive to silence Leszek: Dr. Arno Marchand, the original designer the sims, is fiercely protective of his legacy, and Bram Halsey, who sponsored the introduction of the Angels into society, relies on their success to support his rise to power. But are there other players in the shadows, watching closely as Jen and Elise draw near?

    With so much at stake, Jen is under pressure to conclude her investigation quickly. She and Elise race against time to uncover the truth about the Angels, before Jen herself becomes the next victim.

    Simulated Murder is a completed 116,000 word science fiction novel, the first in a potential series. I believe it would appeal to fans of Isaac Asimov’s Elijah Baley novels (The Caves of Steel) and Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict stories (A Talent for War), where futuristic societies serve as the backdrop for mystery and intrigue.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon. Regards,
    [The Author]

  10. #10
    Rogue Mutt
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    That first paragraph wouldn't grab my attention. When is an investigation in a book ever simple? Mostly your story sounds like a knock-off of "Surrogates" and "I, Robot"--the movie at least. And that last paragraph needs to go. Don't bother telling them who it'll appeal to; they're the experts on that stuff.

    Anyway, you need to slow down and actually give these things some thought before you just wing off another draft and post it. Maybe you and John are buddies, but you'll try even his patience if you keep chucking these out there.

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