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)
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.