Sunday, September 16, 2007

Face-Lift 422

Guess the Plot

Double Star Illusions

1. Unknown to Dak, his twin brother Jak impersonates him on a mission to Froma IV. When the spaceship doesn't return, Dak leads a team to learn what happened, but he doesn't return either, so his son Del heads into space to investigate. Or . . . is it Del's twin brother Mel?

2. Castor and Pollux: are they two innocent twinkling lights in the night sky, or the masterminds behind the nefarious mind-control plot known as The Gemini Project?

3. Astronomer Gus van Brozel is about to go public with a discovery that will rock the cosmos: a mirror-image universe existing slightly to the left of our own. But first he’ll have to deal with his uber-bitch wife, who mocks his life’s work and won’t get off his ass about his constant drinking.

4. They say that when a boxer takes a jab to the head, another star is born. When aspiring welterweight Ivan Borstman takes two hits, a new binary constellation forms and gives form to the evil sorcerer Guanciale, destined to rip planets apart and devour stars whole.

5. Astronaut Hans Tremolo has a hidden drinking problem. When he charts a course for the binary star in the Crab Nebula, he discovers too late that he's seeing Double Star Illusions and his crew is headed for disaster. Can rocket scientist Kiki LeCannes rescue the ship and sober up the drunken captain before they're all space ghosts?

6. Lilith and her twin sister are magicians. Their act has been in Vegas, Chicago, and Buenos Aires. But when a stranger starts stalking them, they realize their cover has been blown, and they'll soon be revealed for what they are: goddesses.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Double Star Illusions is a completed science fiction novel of 185,000 words.

On a perilous StarScout mission to Froma IV, unknown to Dak McCarel, his twin brother Jak, takes his place. [If you're supposed to be at your job at Jiffy Lube at seven A.M., I can see turning off the alarm clock and going back to sleep. But if you're supposed to blast off on a misssion to Froma IV, wouldn't you arrange three wake-up calls, set two alarm clocks, and sleep on a bed of nails? In other words, how can Jak replace Dak without Dak knowing?] Something goes wrong [What?] and “Dak” never returns. Rumors erupt that Dak crossed over to the evil Gadion Faction, allowed his teammates to die, [Allowed them to die? "You guys get out of the spaceship for a while, and then I'll open the hatch and let you back in. No, really, I will."] and stole a great find of Kolobmite ore, the most valuable commodity in explored space. [Why is Dak the team member rumored to have gone bad? Why not Mac or Doc? And why doesn't he just say, "Hey, idiots, it's me, Dak. I missed the flight, I'm still here, so you'll have to find another scapegoat.] With false charges hurled at the once vaunted space explorers, the real Dak assumes Jak’s identity, [I'm just glad they weren't triplets.] and begins a hidden crusade to solve the mystery of his missing brother and regain their honor among the StarScouts.

Eighteen years later, believing that both his father, Dak, and uncle, Jak, are dead, Dak’s son Del begins his own dangerous first steps to become a full-fledged StarScout. However, he does not reveal that he is of the once-renowned McCarel family. Aided by his mentor and four teammates, Del heads “Out There” to battle alien creatures, deadly star world environments, the evil Gadion Faction [Six guys taking on the entire evil Gadion faction? I don't think so.] and hostile extraterrestrials [no need to include both extraterrestrials and alien creatures in your list.] in his quest to prove himself worthy of the title StarScout, and to pursue his own answers to the secrets of Froma IV. [Froma IV sounds like a futuristic soft drink. And the secrets of Froma IV are a dash of Tabasco and a few grains of Kolobmite.]

I welcome the opportunity to send you the complete manuscript and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


If Dak didn't know Jak replaced him, and Dak was supposed to be on the mission, I would expect Dak to have revealed that he wasn't on the mission immediately. Yet enough time passes for rumors of Dak's treason to get started (years, presumably), and Dak still hasn't informed anyone that he never left?

How long does it take to get to Froma IV?

It's a bit short, leaving room to clarify those points that are bothersome.

Are you aware there's a popular video game series called Jak and Daxter?


Anonymous said...

185,000 words is a lot.

Assuming this is not a hoax, some of the names sound kind of... ah... silly. Dak, Jak? Del (short for Derek)?? Kolobmite?

Is this a satire? The humor's not apparent in the query if it is. If it isn't satire, might be worth thinking about putting a harder edge on some of the made up names.

You can get a lot of plot into 185,000 words, but it's not clear to me, from the query, that there's 185,000 words worth of plot.

WouldBe said...

Jak and Del went up the hill
to fetch a pail of kolobmite.
Jak fell down and broke his crown
and Dak said, whaaa happened?

185,000? Hoax.

blogless_troll said...

This sounded hoaxy to me too. But if it's not, wouldn't the StarScouts have a little better security? I mean, I get that they're twins, but wouldn't someone anticipate that the evil Gadion Faction might be working toward cloning technology (if it doesn't exist in this universe already) with which to infiltrate the StarScouts' lax security? Or did GadFac (I'm assuming this is what their called in official reports) figure out that all they needed was to recruit the bad half of rhyming twins? The 185K is what makes this sound like a hoax.

Dave said...

It sounds like the real story begins with Del and his efforts to become a Star-whatever.
Del McCarel is determined to discover the fate of his Uncle and Father, one of whom disgraced his family years before when the other went missing in his place.
or maybe,
Del McCarel hides his family name from all of his friends. When his father went missing 18 years before and his uncle charged wtih treason, they left Del alone on the space station (planet, maybe). Del is determined to clear his famiy's name.

And I think that the defeat of the "gaydion Faction" {did I mispell that name?} at Troma IV and the secrets it holds... {oops, damn my fingers, another mispelling} should be the big climax of the novel and that battle does require a sentence in the query.

I suspect you wrote a delightful backstory of how the Dad/Uncle went missing and that's the first half of the novel. This might sound harsh, but that's a great place to cut the novel by half.

Now as to names - I got picked on for YakMat, HowDoyCloo, GakBlat and Lieutenant Buck.
Del is an Italian name, usually short for Del Verde, Del Tondo, De Belissimo, Dean and Deluca, and last names like that. What did this guy have? An Italian mother and Irish/Scottish father?
I especially like Kiki LeCannes and Guanciale. OJ's love child is named Guanciale Simpson. hahahahaha
Twins should not be named Dak and Jak. Parents who do that should be shot, or at least neutered. No two boys are that alike. Twins doubly so. It's insulting to all identical twins to even make that joke. And as another point, naming a boy "Jack" is really mean when he hits that age of puberty and wants to "Jack"...Besides, it's confusing the readers and spoiling the story.

Church Lady said...

Dak -in-the-box
Dak and Dill
Dak O'Lantern
Dak of all trades
Dak and the Beanstalk
Dak the Ripper
Dackson Five

Instead of Dak and Jak, I'd go with twins named Fuck and Suck.
Or Dick and Prick.

jjdebenedictis said...

I agree with Dave that, as far as I can tell, the query outlines a bunch of backstory and didn't tell us what the actual story is.

That is to say, you don't tell us what any of the conflicts are. Real-Dak tries to do [X], but what gets in his way? What happens, specifically, in the book?

We don't find out because the story suddenly hopscotches over to Del. But again, Del tries to do [Y] and we don't really know what gets in his way. We get a laundry list of cool stuff, but we don't actually know what happens in the novel. The nuts and bolts of the story are left too vague.

185,000 words is two books. If you're a first time author, you'll never get that published as a single novel. It's too expensive for the publisher to bind a book that big.

Consider breaking it into a duology (book 1: Dak's story; book 2: Del's story) or, as Dave suggests, chop out Dak's backstory entirely.

AmyB said...

I agree with dave and jjdebenedictis--the Dak and Jak stuff sounds like backstory, and Del's story sounds like the actual novel. I suggest beginning the novel with Del and having him slowly discover what happened to Dak and Jak. That might give you some cool reveals and twists along the way, especially if Del begins the book believing Dak (or Jak? I get confused) is a traitor and later discovers otherwise. Or maybe he thinks Dak was falsely accused and learns he's actually guilty. You could have some fun with it.

And 185k is too long. I've been led to believe you should aim for 70k to 120k for an SFF novel. I know that can't be strictly true--Scott Lynch's debut fantasy novel was over 700 pages--but I have read agent's blogs that say anything over 120k is an automatic reject for them. My own fantasy novel keeps wanting to creep over 120k, and I keep editing it back down. I don't want my pool of potential agents reduced.

Pete said...

It sounds like the storyline for an old point & click game that LucasArts might have made, back in the 90's. Sometime between the release of Sam & Max Hit the Road and Full Throttle.

I dunno. I guess it feels like a cartoon to me.

And 185k! Holy Creole!

Anonymous said...

Please, oh please - can Dak and Jak come from Hackensack?

Bonnie said...

Sounds like a novel in the picaresque mode, where the point isn't to have a plot, the point is to follow Our Hero on a bunch of adventures. You want to have a quest or something to unify the thing, though. It sounds like focusing on Del's quest to clear his family name might do the trick.

Anonymous said...

When I read the first sentence of your query, my first thought was "Ack!" 185,000 words! You'd have to have the best book ever to get an agent/editor to want to invest the time to read that.

Dave and a few others already mentioned this, but I want to add my voice to theirs. You have too much of a back story at the beginning of your book (or I assume you do from the query). See if you can't start your story later on, and then rewrite your query without mention of the two brothers.

By the way, who's the main character in your story?


Anonymous said...

I would also like to interject that you might want to have a proofreader go over this for you. OR read it aloud to yourself because some of the sentences are phrased awkwardly and/or grammatically incorrect. Case in point-

"Aided by his mentor and four teammates, Del heads “Out There” to battle alien creatures, deadly star world environments, the evil Gadion Faction and hostile extraterrestrials in his quest to prove himself worthy of the title StarScout, and to pursue his own answers to the secrets of Froma IV."

Oy with the run-on. Try splitting this sentence into two- something like this:

"In his quest to prove himself worthy of the title StarScout, Del pursues his own answers to the secrets of Froma IV. Aided by his mentor and four teammates, Del heads “Out There” to battle alien creatures, deadly star world environments, and the evil Gadion Faction."

Same words, same ideas, but now is not a run-on. Also, be wary of throwing out too many sci-fi made-up terms in your query. You don't have too many yet but you are walking the line, my friend.


p.s. No offense but twins named Dak and Jak is a little silly.

~Nancy said...

I agree with others in that I think the first part of your query is backstory; like Dave said, it sounds as if your story starts with Del.

And I also agree that 185,000 words is waaaay too much for one book. Even if you were a bestseller, publishers might be reluctant to touch it. As a first timer, I don't think an agent or publisher would want to come near it, as you're not yet a "name".



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice.