Monday, February 02, 2009

Face-Lift 598


Guess the Plot

The Aton Project

1. In the drug ring that rules New York City's seedy underworld, there is only one rule: Don't mess with David Orshanksy. But new-to-the-streets cop James Aton disobeys that rule and tries to take the drug lord down for murder. Now, the new Aton Project is recruiting in the underworld. The project objective? Simple. Kill Officer Aton.

2. Thanks to the military's Aton project, the moon has just exploded. What does this mean to Earth? Dawson Boggs has the key--the key to a safe deposit box containing all the secrets of the government. But is the government behind the kidnapping of his true love? And how long before moon rocks the size of Nebraska start plummeting to Earth?

3. Power hungry High Priest Ahlghorsadjufus convinces ancient Egypt their civilization will be doomed by global warming unless drastic action is taken. But when Ahlghorsadjufus unveils his solution (overtaxing the peasants), the Pharaoh steps in with his own plan called the Aton Project (a dubious scheme to extinguish the sun). Now Ra is totally pissed and will release His fury upon the earth unless Ahlghorsadjufus admits the inconvenient truth.

4. The Nota Project failed tragically, or so it seemed. But as the surviving scientists pick through the rubble of their lab, a biologist notices that his heart is beating on his right side. They've been blown into a mirror universe, and their only hope of return is--the Aton Project.

5. When Mr. Simpson assigned the 4th grade "friendly atom" science project, Timmy thought he said "friendly aton" so while the other kids read about hydrogen and oxygen, Timmy dashed through his secret playground portal to Ancient Egypt to try to convince the old god to come back for show-and-tell, never dreaming he might get confused with King Tut. Can Timmy make it home? Or is there a mummy in his future?

6. When a bush pilot announces his discovery of the Aton, the last tribe untouched by the civilized world, five die-hards hurry from separate bases to make first contact. Suzanne of Planned Parenthood, Marlis and Paul of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Norm of Shell Oil and Stefan of Leave Indigenous Peoples Alone! contend with venomous serpents, fire ants and, finally, one another. Pandemonium ensues.

7. Two scientists working in their basement with surplus government equipment discover a simple path to fusion energy and limitless power. But the big oil conglomerates cause their basement sewers to back up and destroy the apparatus. Can the scientists recreate their device or will it be the same excuse of "Fusion is Twenty-Five Years Away."


Original Version

Attn. Evil Editor;

Dawson Boggs is thrown into the fight of his life when the moon explodes, the girl he loves but who knows nothing of his affections, is kidnapped, his little sister vanishes, and his best friend is suspected to be behind both disappearances.

THE ATON PROJECT is a young adult science fiction novel that follows eighteen-year-old Dawson Boggs and his friends as they embark on a perilous journey when the moon suddenly explodes in the year 3011. Only 200 years prior, the world had agreed to divide itself into two no-contact hemispheres as a result of Word War III. [But they couldn't agree on whether those hemispheres should be east/west or north/south, so World War IV broke out.] Since all of Dawson’s and his friend’s [friends'] parents have been killed or disappeared, the four teens have been left to fend for themselves and must try and stop the adversary eastern government from taking their homeland in the western hemisphere. The teens must figure out on their own the reason for the mysterious lunar explosion to prove their hemisphere’s innocence in its explosion. [I don't see why an 18-year-old and his friends have responsibility for figuring out why the moon exploded. There's gotta be someone more qualified to look into it. And why is it up to these four teens to take on the entire eastern hemisphere? How many people were left on Earth after WWIII? 75?] In the process, they discover exactly what the consequences will be to the future of everyone on Earth if they fail. [Those are the stakes. What happens to everyone on Earth if they fail? If you tell us that we'll probably be more worried.]

Dawson realizes his father, a key member in the western government’s highly classified intelligence sector, has information on the cause for [of] the explosion but is killed before releasing the secrets. When Dawson receives a pre-programmed message from his deceased father, requesting he retrieve a safety deposit box that contains a journal with the secrets to the explosion. Dawson and his friends immediately set out and discover it is essential to their lives to find a man named Dr. Grendell. [Find out from the journal? How do they find out?] To their surprise, it appears that the rival eastern government is trying to find the same man and will stop at nothing to find him, even if it means kidnapping innocent teens upon hearing them merely say Dr. Grendell’s name. [In fact, thousands of English majors are kidnapped just for discussing Beowulf.]

When Dawson loses his family, two best friends, country, and self-confidence, he must learn to find the determination within himself to carry on and rescue his friends. From there, he must recover Dr. Grendell’s electronic files from the nearly destroyed moon [Nearly destroyed? The moon exploded. You had me thinking it was millions of rocks and a lot of dust. What makes them think there are salvageable files?] that will provide life or death for everyone else on Earth. ["Provide" is a lousy choice of words there. Instead of "that will provide life or death" try "that could save the lives of."]

The manuscript is complete at 90,000 words and available at your request. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Lose the sister and the girlfriend and the suspected best friend. They're just clutter.

Apparently, even before Dawson realizes his father was in on the moon explosion and before Dawson receives the safe deposit box key, the Earth's survival is in the hands of Dawson. There's got to be a reason Dawson has this responsibility. Who is he?

Concentrate on what Dawson has to do to prevent the end of humanity and who wants him to fail.

How do they know where to find the safe deposit box or Grendell?

Who suspects Dawson's best friend of being behind the kidnapping/disappearance? Is the best friend one of the four teens on whom the world is depending?

Has the moon's explosion had any effects on the Earth? I would assume there'd be massive tidal and gravitational consequences.

25 comments:

150 said...

I'd read #6.

blogless troll said...

This sounds fun, but it kind of goes along with the Q&A post on believability in fiction:

The moon suddenly explodes in an SF novel? No problem.

WWIII doesn't occur until 2811?! You totally lost me.

Unless we switched to a different world war numbering system in the intervening 800 years. Like we started naming world wars after NHL hockey franchises or something or we went to decimals--WWII.XIV--I could see that.

I guess WWIII could've lasted 800 years, but that's stretching it too I think.

batgirl said...

I'm wondering about the date for the story. In a thousand years, will there be banks and safe deposit boxes? Will people have names like Dawson Boggs, and titles like Dr? If you look at the differences in society between 1011 and now, and extrapolate, it seems questionable that so little will have changed societally or politically.
Which is a roundabout way of asking whether the story needs to be set that far ahead, or whether something like 50 years to WWIII would do it (putting the story into the 2260s or thereabout).
If the tidal and other catastrophes caused by the destroyed moon are what killed most of the responsible adults, you might want to say so.
What can the Eastern hemisphere do that's worse than the disasters and deaths that have already resulted from the destruction of the moon? You might want to clarify that aspect.

Dawson's dad had real faith in the banking system. Good thing the bank wasn't smashed by a chunk of moon rock, or flooded when the tides went wonky.

chelsea said...

"I would assume there'd be massive tidal and gravitational consequences."

Not to mention it'd wreak havoc on every earth woman's menstrual cycle. But I digress.

The constant mention of kidnapping has me confused. First Dawson's lady friend is kidnapped. Then his parents. Then any teen who mentions Grendell's name. Are all these kidnappings connected?

Basically, I narrowed down my confusion to these questions: why are people being kidnapped? Why was Dawson's father killed? Why does the eastern government assume the west is responsible for the lunar explosion? Why does a no-contact government seem to be contacting the people in the west All The Time? And how does a moon go from exploded to nearly destroyed?

Jessie said...

Thanks everyone for your comments! They're really really helpful! I plan on using a lot of them to develop my story and query.

And just in case you were interested, I'll answer some of your questions!

- You all are right about the year issue. The way I was using it is because space travel is a normal, everyday thing so it couldn't be too soon. Of course, it's fiction, so whatever I say goes...

- The safety deposit box isn't like ours today. They require everything from voice to blood recognition. It'd be too much to put all that in my query, wouldn't it? And the building has been destroyed. They find it all in the rubble.

- Scientifically, yes, the tides would stop and the moon would rain fragments down on us. That all happens in the story. It's just not important to my plot so I didn't think I should put it in the query. Should I? I've researched the moon and what would happen to it if it were to explode. All the NASA scientists said what I wrote would work. Those things (such as the tides) wouldn't happen for several months to years after the initial explosion. My story is only the span of a week. It's not hard science fiction, so it doesn't have to be spot on, right?

Thank you all again! I LOVE the feedback! It's all excellent!! I appreciate anything you can give me.

Anonymous said...

Plausibility issues galore. The moon exploded and chunks are falling? Hmm. How far off can The End be? Hours? Days? Better thicken the character development, so we care.

Evil Editor said...

If the tides wouldn't be affected for months and the story is a week, I'm not sure why the tides is in the book. Unless it's just that they're worried about it.

If debris is raining down on the Earth, how can they be sure the electronic files aren't raining down?

BuffySquirrel said...

If the safety deposit box requires voice and blood recognition, how can the kids open it?

This query has a lot of plausibility issues, I'm afraid. But at the same time, it sounds like fun.

Dave F. said...

I moved the important part to the top of the comment
However, huge chunks of moon falling to earth give me the CHICKEN LITTLE syndrome. It's hard to run away from gazillion ton rocks the size of a national park landing on your head.

And the earth's gravity is pulling all that stuff down, all of it. Nothing gets away. It all fall down like the nursery rhyme. All those chunks have insufficient velocity to escape and the lower the fall, the greater the drag from the air. Some of those chunks were blasted towards the earth. Not so long but very predictable orbits ending in spectacular explosions.

Quite a deadly accident.

----The rest follows. It's just science----

Mister Science here:
The current thought is that the tectonic plates move around because of the lunar gravity. Since they are already in motion, I would guess that if the moon blew apart and its gravity weakened, then eventually the tectonic plates would grind to a halt. Considering we're talking whole continents here, it won't happen too fast.

As for the oceans, the oceanic tides would weaken and that might cause ocean circulation problems. There is a huge heat engine that sweeps cold water from the poles to the equator. It would change but not in a week. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. Think of bathwater and how it keeps bouncing up and down when you get out, or the outspreading ripples on a pond.
Also, the oceans would still be wavy thanks to the wind.

So the loss of the moon's gravity doesn't bother me for this story.

Dave F. said...

I saved my original post for a time when I see those two words: loses everything...

Adam Heine said...

"All the NASA scientists said what I wrote would work."

What, all of them?

"It's not hard science fiction, so it doesn't have to be spot on, right?"

The thing is, it sounds like hard SF. I think it's because when you deal with something as big as the moon exploding, you are presenting a scientific "what-if". If you answer it with soft science, or gloss over details, you'll lose a lot of the audience that you picked up when you said, "In my book, the moon explodes."

I'm talking about me, I guess. The moon exploding is what hooked me in your first sentence, but if you dealt with it unscientifically, I'd get upset pretty quick. I wanna know what would happen.

Adam Heine said...

Also, what about the werewolves? Did you think about how this would affect them?

I didn't think so.

talpianna said...

Adam, do you have a really personal interest in this issue?

Adam Heine said...

What? No! I mean - wait, what? No. No, absolutely not. No. I mean...

Why, did you hear something?

Jessie said...

Thanks again for everyones feedback. I love reading it! I have a quick question: aren't queries supposed to leave the reader wanting the manuscript to find out the answers? Isn't a synopsis supposed to be the one answering all the in-depth questions that you're asking and not the query? Thanks!

Evil Editor said...

aren't queries supposed to leave the reader wanting the manuscript to find out the answers?

Obviously you don't know Evil Editor very well if you think he's going to read 90,000 words to find out the answer to a question inspired by your plot description.

The query is your chance to demonstrate that you write well and that you have a story people will want to read.

We're asking questions because the plot sounds like it has a few holes. We're probably wrong, but it's often better to remove what's leading to these questions than to answer them.

For instance, we question whether Dawson would be able to locate and open his father's secret safe deposit box. Instead of explaining how in the query, you can just say, While reading his deceased father's journal, Dawson discovers that the explosion was the result of a diabolical plan . . .

Presto, no safe deposit box, therefor no questions about it. We need to know the moon explosion was caused by people; we don't need to know dad's journal was in a box. Stick to the main plot thread. Details are for the longer synopsis . . . or for the book.

Megoblocks said...

"- Scientifically, yes, the tides would stop and the moon would rain fragments down on us. That all happens in the story. It's just not important to my plot"

O.o

The earth also loses its stability for in regards to spinning on its axis as well as a few other things. Life on earth would be lucky to survive. Especially when it starts raining asteroids the size of Texas.

Even if we assume that somehow people are still around after the biggest extinction event ever (Texas rocks in mass number), I don't think they would be playign politics and worrying about safe deposit boxes. They'd be worrying about how they are going to survive the rest of the catastrophes.

150 said...

aren't queries supposed to leave the reader wanting the manuscript to find out the answers?

IMHO, it's more important that your query show that you have answers, and that the answers are worth finding out. Maybe to put it another way--we should only be wondering about the questions you present, not coming up with our own.

Re: plausibility: I have a few doubts that Earth will be all right even if Dawson succeeds, for various moon-explosion-related reasons. So your query needs to make me trust that you know what you're talking about, that you'll address it in a satisfying way. Trust (especially for unpublished books) is not the default.

Jessie said...

For instance, we question whether Dawson would be able to locate and open his father's secret safe deposit box. Instead of explaining how in the query, you can just say, While reading his deceased father's journal, Dawson discovers that the explosion was the result of a diabolical plan . . .

Brilliant! That's exactly the input I needed. Thank you!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Ahlghorsadjufus

LOL You're killing me here.

BuffySquirrel said...

Another aspect that puzzles me is that Dawson seems to lose his father three times over.

"Since all of Dawson’s and his friend’s [friends'] parents have been killed or disappeared...."

"Dawson realizes his father, a key member in the western government’s highly classified intelligence sector, has information on the cause for [of] the explosion but is killed before releasing the secrets." (I'm assuming it's the father who gets killed, although this reads as if it's Dawson)

"When Dawson loses his family, two best friends, country, and self-confidence, he must learn to find the determination within himself to carry on and rescue his friends."

That aside, I think the moon exploding and all the consequences thereof should be the focus of the novel, not a subplot. It's too big to ignore.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, the blockbuster movies Armageddon and Deep Impact completely screwed up the physics of planetary orbits and falling bodies and yet, they made fortunes at the box office.

BuffySquirrel said...

Most movie-goers are in the 15-25 age range. Most book readers are older. The markets aren't really comparable.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, the hottest genre is YA -- Potter, Inkheart, Lemony, twilight, Coraline, Graveyard Book...

_*Rachel*_ said...

I would read #6 in a heartbeat. Please, somebody write it! I would, but it wouldn't be as funny and I'm not good at writing humor.

What would the werebeasts do without the full moon!? Not that I care....

Ahlghorsadjufus? I just got it! And his acolyte, Ahmwidsyuupid.