Pitch For Bloodless - Mystery

Hello there! Super super happy to find this thread as a amateur (and aspiring) novelist/storywriter. It’s a little daunting to start out without much help, so I need as much feedback as possible.

Here’s my pitch. My book is strongly character driven, so I’m constructing it a little differently.

Summary: [names and places fictional]

After her younger brother’s body (Chen Xin Feng) washes up on the Arburn beach with a bullet wound, Chen Rui En sets out to pursue the killer. She ends up on the doorstep of Quinn Harry David: a former criminal investigator’s son and her childhood friend with whom she struggles to reconcile, due to the part she and her family played in the major tragedies of his life.

Her brother, Chen Jun Lee, seems to be an unintentional catalyst for Quinn’s brother, Gilbert’s suicide, and they both have deep regrets and guilt that made them avoid contact for years. He seems to be apparently tormented by guilt, and guards himself from the past.

Quinn Harry David has also been trying to forget his past and move on: his brother, GIlbert’s suicide was sudden, and his mother’s death had been categorized as suicide even though it was cold-blooded murder. When Rui En arrives, Quinn initially feels that he was being used for her advantage and nothing else: he was, after all, a former investigator’s son. But things become muddier when the strange circumstances of Xin Feng’s murder aligns with his mother’s and brother’s death, and this stirs him to dig deeper – and realise that the one responsible for the murder is someone closer to both families than they can ever imagine.

Douglas Henry Richard takes up the case as an investigator, and he has secrets to guard: his father had tortured Gilbert into confessing for peddling drugs for a gang, and had wrongly assigned various cases as suicide in order to take up big-hit cases, causing eternal shame to him and his family. Suffering from Quinn’s hate, he dedicates himself to the case, trying to undo the mistakes his father had made. A shocking revelation hits him – there isn’t one, but two conspirators in this murder who bridged the gap between the two families and played with everyone’s lives.

But dig deeper, Douglas, and you’re dead.

Joseph David is a schizophrenic. He had already had an onset from young, but the death of his brother and mother blurred the lines between life and death for him, unable to discern right from wrong and dead from alive. He is volatile, moldable, and the perfect pawn for anyone’s nefarious intentions.

One man knows this, and he will do anything to mold Joseph to guard his secrets from the people around him.

The time is ticking, and the killer is charging: with every piece Quinn finds, his life is shortening. Leave it and live, the sinner messages Quinn one night, but Quinn refuses. And with his head on the chopping board one day, Quinn finds himself trapped in his own attic with Jun Lee beside him.

Joseph is holding a syringe of chemicals, ready to kill on the order of the ‘voices in his head’.

But the man who played with Joseph as a pawn is Jun Lee. To avenge for his former love’s killing by Gilbert and his gang members, Jun Lee psychologically manipulates and pressurizes Gilbert to commit suicide. His lies have holes and his plans are weak, but he needs to ensure that his hands stay clean.

But death raises questions: Jun Lee swiftly manipulates Joseph, guiding him down the wrong path to murder to protect himself when Quinn’s mother starts to suspect, and then manipulates Joseph to kill Xin Feng after he stumbles on Lee’s secrets, and lastly kills Douglas the same way.

But when his plans take a sharp turn, he plants himself as the victim, and Joseph gets all the blame.

Lee destroys every evidence of what he had planned and done, and the case is closed without any other clue.

Intended Audience/Genre/Length: YA, Mystery, aim for 50K words (16K into it)

Character Arcs:
Rui En – positive arc: has to find a way to push aside her guilt and remorse, and come to terms with her feelings for Quinn.

Quinn – positive arc: in order to piece the puzzle, he has to put aside his differences and grudges with the Chen family and accept his feelings for Rui En.

Joseph – negative arc: his outlook in life gets bleaker and his arrest at the end of the book reinforces the idea that he can never, ever be understood by the world for the disorder he has.

Jun Lee – flat arc: an apparently silent and thoughtful personality, Lee does not develop and keeps his emotions under wraps in the guise that he ‘isn’t good with words.’

Douglas – flat arc: his stubborness to not repeat his father’s mistakes makes him stick to his only goal: find the killer. And he doesn’t change in his ambition – that makes his path even more deadly.

Things to highlight:

This is a very backstory-heavy book, and also very character driven, as every character is interlinked with each other in many ways, having a ‘cause-and-effect’ for all their actions.

And also, it is a very family and relationship based plot: hard to interweave with the mystery, but doable nonetheless.

3 Likes

First, appreciate a plotline featuring east asian characters that has nothing to do with east asian culture, history, or fantasy. Everyone can have a small town murder.

Second, this doesn’t appear to be a summary. It’s almost a reverse of my usual issue, in that it is exclusively character with no plot. It sets up 5 characters, each getting their own paragraph and mini backstory, which could probably be a sentence or two for each of them at most, but then it lacks in exactly what happens. I genuinely don’t know, to be honest.

Someone killed someone else’s younger brother. She wants to find out who, bringing in the help of the investigator’s son who doesn’t like her family. And then somebody is that killer, Rui doesn’t appear to get mentioned again after her character intro, it all becomes about Jun Lee, Quinn, and Joseph, which is confusing since Rui got the first introduction and appeared to have the general relation bring it all together. Otherwise, I cannot follow what happens with Joseph, who has a syringe, and then Jun is manipulating him into killing his own brother (I guess this is before the narrative starts?) and then kills Douglas (I guess this is in the present part?) and then Joseph takes the blame.

I’m very, very confused on what’s happening here. The sister has no part in this plot, Quinn doesn’t really either, actually, he’s in an attic and then also disappears from the plot.

This needs to go into an A then B then C type of format so that I can understand the flow and the logic. It also needs to be clear who the main character actually is, and their plotline needs to run all the way through the story and have a conclusion. Nobody should be disappearing without explanation.

Last thing, I don’t normally comment on titles much because they can be whatever people want. But Drowned Dead is redundant, nobody who drowns isn’t also dead. Plus the brother was shot and dumped in the water so they weren’t technically drowned either. Probably needs a different title.

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@nick
Thank you so much for the feedback! Now that I look back, I do see the major gaps in my presentation, and I guess I’ll then tweak my pitch structure. I’ll start from the happenings of the past and work my way up.

About the title: thank you! thank you for pointing it out, i surely have to change it. i also thought a lot about the redundancy but went ahead. And i forgot to add that he was’t shot and dumped: the plan was to drown him, but a struggle ensued, causing the accidental shot.

now i think about it, the main theme of the book revolves around familial relations and such, so maybe a title along ‘Blood Ties’ or ‘Blood Bonds’ might work?

Revised (and a little detailed) Pitch:

The story’s roots starts six years from the present happenings. Gilbert David, who had embroiled himself with the wrong crowd, is instigated by his fellow gang member, Terrell, to hunt down Gilbert’s ex-girlfriend, Jenna’s current lover. What they don’t know is that it is Jun Lee, and Gilbert mistakenly shoots Jenna down. Jun Lee escapes with the information that Gilbert is plotting to kill him, and is absolutely enraged about his lover’s death. Vowing to end Gilbert’s life, he starts to stalk Gilbert and finds out that Terrell is involved in drug peddling – and when Terrell hands unsuspecting Gilbert a packet, Jun Lee starts his plan and involves Joseph from the very beginning, manipulating him to open the packet and then calling the police under the guise of ‘honesty’. Gilbert gets arrested as a result, and is questioned.

In the questioning, he is wrongly forced to admit guilty to peddling even though Terrell had never explicitly told him about his plans, and the investigator, Mr Richard, is fired much later due to unlawful practices. But Gilbert has now been arrested, bailed out, and awaiting his trials for his involvement. The whole gang is now nabbed.

Jun Lee starts his next move. Slowly and steadily, he feeds Gilbert the wrong information through phone calls and text, telling him that he will be sentenced to death and his fellow gang members have already been sent to the gallows, causing psychological pressure for Gilbert. Unable to bear the idea of being shamed, Gilbert shoots himself. Jun Lee thinks his work is done – but he fails to erase every evidence linked to his actions.

Forward to roughly one month after Gilbert dies. The Chen family and David family are neighbors and have close contact, hence allowing Jun Lee to know their activities. He overhears Suzanne David (mother of Gilbert, Quinn and Joseph) talking about how Gilbert had told her that Terrell was dead, but he had called Gilbert a week after his death to tell him he had been bailed. Mr David, the father of the boys, is an criminal investigator and Suzanne comments that she ‘didn’t feel good about it’ to her husband. Jun Lee panics: he’ll be caught.

After finding out about Joseph’s deteriorating mental health, Jun Lee takes a gamble: he poses as Gilbert and feeds off the idea that it was one of his psychotic episodes. Joseph’s intellectual ability has always been high, and that is of advantage to Lee as well, instructing in detail to Joseph to steal chemicals to aid his plans. Joseph then follows, spiralling out of hand, and Lee instructs to shoot his mother at the dead of night and pose it as suicide.

Amidst all this, Mr David has a terrible stroke that affects his abilities to physically exert himself and therefore, he is unable to follow any case at all. He is forced to hand his wife’s case to Mr Richard (not yet fired as of now) who assigns it as suicide after a more promising case shows up. The unsolved case hurts Quinn the most, as he was the most affectionate towards his mother. He find Mr Richard and pleads to him to re-open the case, but to no avail, and hate grows in Quinn’s heart for this.

Jun Lee manages to steal Gilbert’s phone and erase the evidence, but he knew his secret was safe.

But not for long.

Fast forward six years. His younger brother, Chen Xin Feng, had grown to become a seventeen year-old bashful teenager. He stumbles upon five SIM cards in Lee’s room, and thinking that his brother had some juicy secrets i.e. he was cheating on someone, Xin Feng hunts down Lee’s diary. But Lee figures out that he had been discovered, and panic settles in him again: he will be caught.

Jun Lee starts to find himself searching for a way to get rid of Xin Feng: and his only outlet was Joseph.Even though the David family had moved away suddenly, Lee had found out their whereabouts, and contacts Joseph again, knowing that he was still very affected by his mental disorder. Lee manipulates Joseph into kidnapping Xin Feng in his attic and instructs him to drown him in the beach at midnight, but Joseph seems to confuse it with the previous murder’s instructions: he ends up bringing a gun. Stealing a yacht, Joseph panics after Xin Feng wakes up and tries to shoot, but the struggle causes him to be accidentally shot in the torso. Panicking, Joseph pushes him into the water, moors the yacht after Lee calls him to tell him to escape, and leaves town for a week.

[all this is backstory and will not be reflected, and Lee would be a side character to mask his actions and thoughts until everything unravels.]

The story starts when Xin Feng’s body washes up, and the Chens initially think of it as suicide: something Lee intended. But when the bullet in the torso is found after establishing that the drowning is the major cause, the case turns suspicious. When the post-mortem arrives, Rui En finds herself needing answers for her brother’s death. She ends up finding Quinn David, a boy whom she had hurt in her younger days by questioning his morality after Gilbert’s drug encounter. She had then regretted it and had tried to find Quinn’s whereabouts in the six years, only finding the courage and the excuse to face him at this situation. She pleads to him to ask his father to take the case, without the knowledge that Mr David did not want to.

Quinn, feeling a little used but understanding her pain, tries to persuade his father but to no avail. The case lands in Douglas Richard’s hands, and Quinn is enraged: he felt that like his father, Douglas had little morality and would not justify the case. However, Douglas vows to not leave the case, and starts to pursue leads.

After collecting evidence, Douglas finds Terrell, and starts to interrogate him. The killer seems to have found that out: he starts sending threats through Quinn to stop the investigation. Douglas is informed, and they try to track the number, which veers them away from the investigation. Once Douglas ditches the red herring, the killer starts to stalk Quinn and Rui En, whose relationship is developing. With various other leads, Douglas realizes that more than one person is involved in the murder.

He is then killed as it was too dangerous for the perpetrator. This makes the case cold, and Rui En is enraged. She and Quinn go down the path of their own investigation, in which Quinn (a third-year computer science student) manages to hack into his father’s database to find evidence. Many lead to dead ends until Quinn find many of his files erased – the killer was closer than they imagined.

Lee (whose actions are masked now in the story) then manipulates Joseph into kidnapping both him and Quinn. He had already sent threats to Quinn and to himself, making him a victim. After that happens, he plants evidence to lead Rui En to find them captive in the attic with Joseph being the explicit criminal. The DNA evidence Douglas found in the yacht during his investigation matches Joseph’s, and Joseph is arrested and sentenced.

In the end, as Rui En and Quinn muse with extreme shock on what had happened, Jun Lee’s thoughts are finally revealed and he destroys all evidence. There is still a hint of doubt that both Quinn and Rui En carry – would they try to chase it?

**
I personally see Rui En as the driver and Quinn as the executor. That makes me question if this is dual-protag. Or does it in the end depend on how much they impact the story respectively?

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sorry for the length, I myself was trying to see if my plot had a correct flow. Once again, I thank you profusely for your help: An amateur writer, with necessary help, will flourish, and I am grateful.

I like the passion but you can’t go past the 500 words, the intention is to summarize the story down to the pure elements and simplify, if you have to go to 1200+ words to explain the plot, it’s too convoluted (or at least isn’t fair to those who stay under the limit for their pitches)

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@nick I guess I’ll try again.

The story takes its roots six years from the present setting of the book. The Chens and the Davids are neighbours and have amicable ties.

At 18, Gilbert David (the middle son) mixes with gangs terrorizing Arburn. He is spurred by the gang leader, Terrell, to kill his ex-girlfriend Jenna’s lover, Chen Jun Lee (oldest son), to get her back. They instead kill Jenna and vowing revenge, Chen Jun Lee stalks Gilbert, finding that Terrell is peddling drugs to members without their knowledge.

To ruin Gilbert, he sets up a situation where Lee, Joseph David (oldest son), Quinn David (youngest son) and Chen Rui En (middle daughter) find cocaine in the David’s house, and Lee calls the police under the guise of honesty. After Gilbert gets arrested, bailed out and waits for his trial, Lee calls and psychologically manipulates him under the guise of various gang members, telling him that they would all go to the gallows if he stood for trials. Gilbert shoots himself dead.

Suzanne David, their mother, finds it suspicious after Terrell gets out of jail and contacts Gilbert. Lee panics until he finds out that Joseph David’s mental health has deteriorated: he has an onset of schizophrenia. Lee starts his psychological manipulation again. Speaking as his dead brother Gilbert to sway Joseph, he instructs Joseph to shoot Suzanne and feign it as suicide. Suzanne’s death gets assigned as suicide due to lack of evidence and internal mishandling of the case. Lee gets hold of Gilbert’s phone and destroys it. The David family moves away.

Six years later, Chen Xin Feng (youngest son) finds five SIM cards and disturbing evidence in his brother’s diary, all of which were used in the crime and forgotten in his closet. Lee is conflicted but decides to save his reputation. Tracing down Joseph, the psychological manipulation starts again under the disguise that Lee was Gilbert. He instructs him to drug Xin Feng, kidnap him, and dump his body in the sea. But Joseph, confusing this murder with his mother’s, brings a gun. Xin Feng is conscious, and in a struggle he gets shot in the torso. Joseph dumps his body and runs, all the while on the phone with Lee instructing him closely.

Lee realises that this might not be overlooked as suicide.

The body is found two days later and Chen Rui En, agonised, finds Quinn David so that his father (a criminal investigator) can handle this case. The father, hiding something in his knowledge, instead hands the case to Detective Douglas Richard. As Douglas conducts questioning with every individual, Quinn realises that the evidence that appears matches Suzanne’s death. This makes Quinn, a third-year programmer, try and hack into his father’s computer, with numerous unsuccessful attempts.

Douglas’ investigation finally reaches Terrell, and Douglas gets killed – Lee manipulates Joseph to poison his cigarettes after realising that he will be in trouble.

After Douglas’ death, Quinn starts getting threats (which are all done by Lee) to stop analyzing the case, but he doesn’t give it up. He succeeds in hacking and realises his brother is the culprit – but by then, Lee had realised that Quinn will succeed. Therefore, he had positioned himself as a victim and had manipulated Joseph to kidnap Lee and Quinn.

Before everything happens, Lee messages Rui En with betraying messages that plant evidence sealing the fact that Joseph is the killer. Rui En manages to reach Quinn’s attic and Joseph is arrested.

Lee destroys all evidence, but Quinn and Rui En still have an indescribable doubt in their hearts.

**
told from Quinn, Rui En and Douglas POVs until the end, where Lee gets his POV to finish the story, with clues from his portrayal as the secondary character.
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thank you!

Okay so this is shorter but I’m still not able to follow it. There are way too many characters coming in and out with a lot of motivations, all doing a lot of actions with no major connective tissue.

Put another way, this isn’t story so much as it is a collection of events. Since there’s no narrative, it makes it hard for my mind to comprehend all of it, like trying to memorize random facts from different periods of history.

Who is the main character? What is their personal conflict and dilemma? What will challenge them and how will they overcome it? There’s so many characters coming in and out and doing different things I have no idea what the closure is for anyone by the end or who I am supposed to be tracking. This has to simplify down into just answering those core questions.

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oh well, guess I have to re-work on this plot extensively – it’s a little too broken. Thank you so much for the help, Nick. Really appreciate it – I’ve learnt a lot!