Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Face-Lift 663


Guess the Plot

Futurality

1. It's 2079, and the English language has been taken over by a band of rogue suffixes. Armed only with a bootlegged copy of Strunk & White, 5th grade Language Arts teacher Henrietta Fowler must go back in time to the early 20th century and kill Warren G. Harding, the man who coined the word "normalcy" and started it all.

2. As Rasbaum's new illustrated dictionary unfurls, he invents new words, based on novel combinations of Latin and whimsy -- but his crush, Georgette the editor, is not amused.

3. First "Pastitude", then "Presentocity" ... now, at last, the amazeriffic conclusion to the "Silly Neologisms" trilogy!

4. This uniquing referencely book will teachicize and instructify all studentites in the artisticism of constructivizing originalized vocabularity from suffixions applicationed not quite correctfully.

5. Zavier Williams discovers that the hot new video game called Futurality is actually a mind-control weapon developed by the government to help an alien race take over the world. Can Zavier and his cab-driver girlfriend save humanity?

6. Sent to explore the 22nd century, experts in medicine, military strategy, and international finance find a world dominated by crocodiles, rodents, and giant beetles. The "trade" mission quickly becomes a desperate search to find out what went wrong -- before it's too late to change.

7. Frank River is the host of "Futurality", a game show where people try to predict fashion trends. But he has a secret identity: he's really Francisco Rivera, the Mexican wrestler known as "El Lobo". Will he be unmasked?

8. In 20 B.C., flying cars, moon colonies and time travel tours are all the rage. When Dylan Sten tries to fix his bad credit with investment funds in the past, he finds that even though the present can't be altered it can be pushed forward.


Original Version

Ms. XXXX,

My novel, Futurality, is a YA science fiction novel of 82,104 words. The protagonist, Zavier Williams, is a sarcastic orphan who has survived for years by hacking and stealing enough to make rent on a tiny apartment in the Philadelphia Underground District. The District is a housing development for people too poor to buy air purifiers and live aboveground. [Hard to believe unpurified air underground is better than unpurified air above ground. Where does the underground air come from?] Despite his expertise in hacking, Zavier bites off more than he can chew when he steals the code for a new videogame called Futurality, and tries to sell the game on the black market – his buyer turns out to be an NSA agent with orders to arrest him. To get away he jumps from a building [A building on the surface? So his home is underground because the surface air is too dangerous to breathe, but he does his hacking aboveground?] and is unexpectedly rescued by Jayde, a beautiful black hovercab driver and former pilot.

The two of them escape, and soon learn that Futurality is no game; it is a government developed mind control weapon with mysterious extraterrestrial origins. Zavier and Jayde are forced to go on a planet-hopping adventure [Can anybody book a planet-hopping adventure?] to stop Futurality from being unleashed, and to prevent the invasion of an alien race called Seekers. [I don't see why preventing a video game from being unleashed on Earth requires an exploration of Uranus.] As the two unlikely heroes learn more about Futurality and its creators, Zavier discovers a latent link between himself and the code – a hidden psychic power that allow him to see and touch emotion. His mastery of this power, as well his resourcefulness, and love for Jayde will determine his unexpected destiny as the boy who holds the humanity’s fate in the palm of his hand.

The style and subject matter of Futurality make it marketable to young adults. The plot can be thought of as a combination of Star Wars and Snow Crash. [Other possible combinations would be High Noon and Ender's Game or Spartacus and The Da Vinci Code.] The protagonist’s age of eighteen, and his circumstance of being on his own will appeal to high schoolers, and be familiar to young adults. [His occupation of criminal hacker will appeal to the ever-growing identity thief demographic.] The emphasis on video games in the story will draw in young adult and middle grade videogamers, which is a large demographic. [Unless you're writing to someone who has no idea what she's doing, there's no need to explain to whom your YA science fiction book will appeal.]

I have had two articles published in The Sun, a newspaper of Moorestown, New Jersey. I am currently a junior at the University of the Arts. My major is Communication with concentrations in professional writing and screenwriting.

If you are interested, I have a complete manuscript and a six-page synopsis of Futurality you can receive by email or find in PDF form at my website, ___________ (this is a self promotion website, and is used in no way for self-publication).

Thank-you for your time and consideration,


Notes

Is it just a coincidence that the one person who has this latent link with the game's code is the one person who happened to steal the code?

I don't see the usefulness of seeing and touching emotions. I wouldn't want to think that the key to defeating an alien invasion is the ability to see emotions, and Zavier, who has never had this ability, suddenly develops it.

Maybe it's just me, but I would find it more intriguing if the brilliant kid managed to thwart an alien takeover with just his resourcefulness. When he starts planet hopping and turns out to be the chosen one with fantastical abilities, I start to lose interest. It's like when Superman defeats his enemies and I think, well, yeah, if I had super strangth and x-ray vision and heat vision and telescopic vision and super speed and invulnerability and could fly, I could defeat criminals too. In fact, considering how powerful Superman is, it's embarrassing how long it takes him to defeat most of his enemies. If I were Superman, my comic book adventures would be over on page 1.

I'd leave out the sentence about the air purifiers. In fact, I'd leave out the planet hopping and the emotion touching. We don't need to know Zavier has super powers and the means to go to other planets, just that Jayde and Zavier use their ingenuity to thwart the conspiracy.

What talents does Jayde have that are useful in saving humanity? Why does she help Zavier escape?

Nothing after the plot paragraphs is going to improve your chances of getting a request for the manuscript.

21 comments:

blogless troll said...

I was guessing Star Wars and The Fifth Element because of the hovercab escape scene, but you flipped it around with Jayde as Bruce Willis and Xavier as Milla Jovovich. Clever.

The superpowers thing took me right out of it too. It was sounding fun until then.

~Aimee States said...

HOLY Jeebus. I instantly thought of The Fifth Element, too. Maybe not such a good sign.

Sophia said...

Is a "black hovercab" the future equivalent of a London black cab? Perhaps Jayde assists in the novel through her use of The Knowledge.

Unless you mean Jayde is black - but then, why mention it? You don't say that Zavier is greeny blue (isn't Zombie everyone's automatic assumption?). Is her race important to the plot in some way?

I liked the air purifier mention because it helped me imagine the setting, but I found it hard to picture the society. How old is Zavier? Where did he get his education in hacking? Wherever he studied, did he not also pick up enough other knowledge to get legal jobs, too? I like the images the query paints, but the world and story logic don't come across as solid, which makes me doubt that the story will be a satisfying read.

Anonymous said...

What I like about this is the lack of attachment to real world limitations, combined with an actual plot line.

The logic of the air pollution leading to cheap underground housing is problematic, perhaps you can just leave out the causal link and have these phenomena simply co-exist without explanation. We can certainly believe they co-exist, but your posed causality [bad air causes underground living to be cheaper] is distracting because it seems both dubious and extraneous to the plot.

You don't need the paragraph about who the readers will be.

150 said...

With novels, round to the nearest thousand.

Now that Anonymous mentions it, it does seem more likely that the poor would have to wear around ultra-cheap mass-produced gas masks, and the rich would be able to afford underground digs where they don't have to.

No need to mention Jayde's race unless it directly causes a conflict that will be directly addressed in the query.

Remove the marketing paragraph. Do not mention your website. Then go to Miss Snark's blog and read the entire archive. Go on, we'll wait.

We'll take another look at this if you put a rewrite in the comments. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

You wrote "I have a complete manuscript and a six-page synopsis of Futurality you can receive by email or find in PDF form at my website."

Are you saying the ENTIRE manuscript is on your website? If so, why would a publisher or agent be interested when people can get it for free on your website?

Uninvoked said...

It can be very difficult to write a good query letter, especially one that reflects the true nature of the story. Evil Editor has made some great suggestions for improvement, and after thinking it over I may have a couple of suggestions too.

The query letter mentions the MC is snarky and sarcastic...right? (My memory is not good and this may not be the case. I can't go back and double check in this style of comment form.)

Why not make the narrative snarky and sarcastic too? Feed the personality of your MC into the letter itself. I've seen it done before for characters with similar personalities, and I have to admit, it has always worked for me.

Good luck, and do take all this kind advice into consideration. Query letters aren't easy.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Maybe if you mentioned that he's a dormant empath earlier, it would help. You could also do with more plot and less scene.

The "sarcastic orphan" bit just sounded weird.

Isn't a six-page synopsis unusually long? There may be agents who want one that long, but I don't think most do. The Rejecter has a recent article on the synopsis.

This isn't horrible, but it's not grabbing my attention.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

This is really strong, it just needs a few tweaks.

I for one did buy the idea of the poor people living underground where it's safe and the rich enjoying the expensive sunshine.

I'm with Rachel, though - there's something odd about the "sarcastic orphan" clause.

The only thing I'd like to know that you don't mention is why Jayde teams up with the punk hacker instead of kicking his butt to the curb.

Anonymous said...

anon 3:16. Yes. Per google.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, oops. Making the whole manuscript available free on the web maybe screwed up the value of your copyright. Could be a good idea to take that down.

Anonymous said...

Sure enough, there it is in all its glory.

anon 3:16

Anonymous said...

EE can you weigh in on the ENTIRE manuscript being posted online?

Evil Editor said...

Most publishers wouldn't want it there once the book was published. At least one publisher puts their books online, so it's not necessarily the kiss of death, especially if it's not the final version. I would think a major publisher would be less concerned that your novel was online before it was published than would a small press, which doesn't have print runs in five figures, and may, just to break even, count on twenty or so sales to your friends and family, some of whom won't buy it because they already read it online.

I'm not sure what the point is of putting an entire book you're trying to sell online. Just to prove it exists? Agents and editors won't want to read it off your website.

Kathleen said...

hilarious guess the plot entries!

Khazar-khum said...

The Fifth Element ripped off Harry Canyon from the original Heavy Metal movie. It didn't really seem fresh or original then, either. What saved it was Harry's narration.

Hadean Dragon said...

In general, I have to agree with most of the comments (especially Fifth Element?!). To have teens feel more connected with the main character, I'd suggest cutting down on the super powers a bit (or upping their ingenuity quotient). Of course, I haven't been a teen in decades, so what do I know?

Also, the NSA does not have the power to arrest people, so you might want to double check your story on that one (or they might be able to in your world, but I'd be worried having an agent think I didn't know my facts...).

Anonymous said...

Might want to check that synopsis/story for spelling and grammar errors before putting it up for all to see (and especially before submitting to agents!). I noticed many errors in just a few seconds... (e.g. "The eyes approached me, and the siloehette of an enormous create – maybe seven feet tall – materialized.")

(EE, I know this isn't a comment on the query, but it's still important to know that if I were an agent, I would probably not read much further)

BuffySquirrel said...

Do none of you anonymice have at least the ingenuity to give yourselves a screen name? Nobody knows which is who.

Fifth Element meets Existenz? Try to make the story sound more original, even if it isn't :).

rachelhestondavis said...

Seems like it could be a strong story idea.

I'd make the query shorter and tighter, though. This one feels a bit all-over-the-place. You don't have to explain the progression of the entire plot in a query, just enough to let us know what the premise and main conflict are. I think you can do that in a little less space that what you used here.

Rachel Heston Davis
www.rachelhestondavis.wordpress.com

jessielights said...

The term "Seeker" has been really used in popular books that your target audience has probably read like Harry Potter and Stephanie Meyer's ya scifi novel The Host. Might want to consider a new name.