Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Face-Lift 854

Guess the Plot


1. As the only person in the world with eight limbs, 17-year old Spyder Jones has a unique set of talents and abilities that make career planning (and clothes shopping) difficult. Should she continue her education at Dr. Fiero's Academy of Circus Theater, or pursue a career as a runway model? Also, a Hollywood talent scout.

2. Post apocalyptic US: 17 year old Mariel struggles to support her family and avoid death. Then her brother Tristan dies of an unknown cause and the government seizes control of half the population's minds. Mariel vows to destroy the evil power, piloting the "Spyder," a nuclear-powered exoskeleton invented by Tristan.

3. When it's discovered that nuclear secrets are being smuggled out of the country hidden within the DNA-code of a shipment of live poisonous spiders, US Marshal Victor Davis must get them back to CIA headquarters, keep himself alive, and then deal with the venom coursing through his veins.

4. Avery feels cursed by her empathic powers until she meets Sebastian, who recruits her as a spy on his team of "special" people. But he's not the only one who wants her. An evil scientist wants her and the other mutants for his diabolical experiments.

5. When a spider is bitten by an irradiated man, he develops human-like powers and becomes Spyder – the CIA’s most successful operative yet. But when he falls for Russian spider Svetlana, is it true arachnophilia, or is he caught in a web of deceit?

6. The most devious spy in the world threatens the security of Italy and Crete. Who can find this fly-like fiend??? Only Spyder, the most efficient arch nemesis on a string ever seen in Hollywood. At least, that's the way Nigel pitched the screenplay. But after a year of studio rewrites, his work of genius is ruined, ruined! How can he go on?

7. When a British Mahdi issues a fatwah against Rupert and his new Arabian bride after her conversion to Christianity and she turns up dead, Rupert decides that if the law can't get revenge, he will. One problem: his training as an accountant never prepared him for this. But, maybe his ex-con cousin Spyder can help.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Avery Gardener (yes, she was named after the actress, and yes, she’s heard that a million times) is barely coping with the aftermath of her father’s abuse and her strange ability to hear what people are thinking. [Actually, it hadn't occurred to me that she was named after Ava Gardner. The only famous Avery I can think of is Avery Schreiber, and they wouldn't name their daughter after him. In fact, Google reveals that all the "famous" Averys are male. Why didn't they name her Ava? Is this set fifty years ago? I can't believe millions of people today would think of Ava Gardner, especially in her age group. Finally, ignoring all that, this attempt at showing a humorous voice seems misplaced coming directly before "barely coping with the aftermath of her father’s abuse." I'd dump it.] She can’t do anything about the memories of her violent childhood, but she’d give anything to get rid of the abilities she feels cursed with.

Then Sebastian Caldwell comes to town. He’s special, too. [Comma not needed.] He can manipulate energy and he makes Avery light up like a star. Literally. Avery knows Sebastian is the last person she should trust. In fact, she’s quite convinced she should stay far away from him. [Those last two sentences say the same thing.] But he offers her things she’s never even dreamed of. The knowledge that she is an empath, contact with people like her, and… something more. Something special. [Charter membership in a new superhero team known as Sebastian's Squad.]

Soon, she finds herself – and her new friends – threatened by a doctor determined to make them lab rats. She can’t help wondering if she was right to trust Sebastian. Maybe she should have ran [run] at the very beginning. Maybe when she learned to control her power.

But maybe, just maybe, she chose right when she stayed. [The last three sentences all say what was implied by the sentence that precedes them. Replace them with something about what's at stake, what the plan is.]

SPYDER is a YA paranormal romance novel complete at 76,000 words. [Romance? Is that the "something more... Something special" Sebastian offers? Or were we supposed to get romance from the way he makes her light up like a star, literally? I think we need a less subtle indication that there's a Sebastian/Avery romance brewing.] It is a standalone but has potential for a sequel. Thanks for your time and consideration.



To say he makes her light up like a star "literally" (as opposed to figuratively), either means she's as bright as a real star, like the sun, in which case no one could even look at her, or it means she's as bright as a star as seen from Earth, in which case her light is so faint you'd almost need a telescope to see it. Can you explain more clearly what visual effect Sebastian's energy manipulation has on Avery?

I don't see why we need to bring Avery's father into the query if the main plot is Avery falling for the leader of a team of "special" people she's joined.

Why is Sebastian gathering special people together? Is he creating a superhero team? We need some idea of what's going on.


Anonymous said...

Less about the miserable past would be ok, that's backstory. What happens in the book is most important for the query. You revealed it has the basic genre elements of paranormal romance. More about what makes the story unique & special among paranormal romances would be good.

Phoenix said...

From the query, we don't really get any reason Avery is convinced Sebastian is the last person in the world she should trust.

Is it hard for Avery to trust any guy after the abuse? If that's so, then that doesn't single out Sebastian as untrustworthy and "the last person in world she should trust".

So what is it about Sebastian that raises her suspicions and why does she think he and the doc are connected? I mean, if she "hears" Sebastian thinking thoughts of betrayal that's one thing; if it's just a feeling, then we need to know that for some reason she can't "hear" him the same way she hears others.

Also, it would be good to know how the doctor can threaten so many with diverse powers. Can the doc actually make good to turn them into lab rats if he doesn't yet know what makes them tick? Is he capturing them? Baiting them? Bombing them? Or simply calling them silly names?

mb said...

Ooh, I wanted #2.

Anonymous said...

The opening bit about the name left me blinking-rapidly in confusion and feeling a bit assaulted by its rabid defensive tone, because I wasn't think what you instantly defended against.

Definitely would excise that or cut it in half, leaving off the last part; maybe explain who she's named after rather than get nasty about it.

Agree that most people have no idea who Ava Gardner is anymore, and the name isn't even that close.

"Avery knows Sebastian is the last person she should trust."
??? Why?

"she’s quite convinced she should stay far away from him."
By what? Did he murder innocents right in front of her for looking at him wrong, what?

"something more. Something special."
Comes across as deliberate withholding. There's a fine line between interesting us in the story and annoying us by withholding. If revealing this gives away your entire plot, it's probably too thin already.

This is starting to sound like back-of-the-cover copy for its non-specific, inflated description.

"threatened by a doctor determined to make them lab rats."
I think you meant this to be figurative, but you wrote it as literal. "...use them as lab rats" would be the figurative version. Is this doctor actually trying to turn them into little furry mammals with bulging eyes and tails so that he can use them in a lab? That's diabolical.

Course, for about $3 he can go to the local pet store and pick up some actual rats for his lab. Seems a lot less complicated.

BTW, this mistake marks you as an uncareful writer and says to the agent that your manuscript may need significant revision. IOW, red flag.

"YA paranormal romance"
Sounds like superhero romance :P

Ultimately this query fails to do two major things:
1. It's too general with the plot, or gives too little.
2. We cannot derive the genre from you query, and thus are a bit surprised to see "paranormal romance". You've setup Sebastian as a danger figure, not a love interest.

I get the feeling this is Twilight with superpowers :\

What makes your story different?

The Invisible Writer said...

I was really hoping for #3 or #5... Since it wasn't I now have my next book idea!

AA said...

I chose this GTP because it was the most cliche and overused plot of the group, so I figured that made it more likely to be the actual story. There's no law against that, it just means you're going to have to work that much harder to make this something people would want to read.

Okay, there are exactly four maybe's in the last two paragraphs. That alone should tell you how vague you're being.

Here's what I'm getting so far: Avery is seventeen. She was abused by her father. She either ran away or moved away or he died, or maybe she killed him. Who knows. Also, she can hear what people are thinking. Then Sebastian Caldwell shows up. He may be her age, or forty, or eighty, or even four.

He has mysterious powers which seem to amount to lighting people up like light bulbs. She doesn't think she should trust him but there doesn't seem to be any reason why not. She meets some unnamed friends somewhere who somehow might also have some special powers, and a "doctor" (Scientist? M.D.? Pediatrician?) wants to do experiments on them. No explanation as to how this doctor found out about them, and nothing else tangible happens.

See if you can rewrite this and be more specific on every point. Also, be clear about all the characters' motivations. Does the doctor want an army of empaths? Does Sebastian find "special" people to keep them safe, or for some other reason? Does Avery get a new goal besides just leaving her abusive childhood behind her?

Give the characters life and people will care.

arhooley said...

Why does Avery feel cursed by her abilities? Anyone else could think of all kinds of swell things to do with the ability to hear others' thoughts -- such as outrun the evil doctor, avoid an abusive dad, and figure out whether or not they could trust Sebastian. The character who hates his/her super-ability for no apparent reason is not only cliche, it's annoyingly illogical.

M. G. E. said...

@ The Invisible Writer:
#3 is mine, I should never have written it :P That is far too cool an idea to just give away :P


Also, technically, wouldn't she be "telepathic"? To be an "empath" would seem to imply only that she can feel/read other's emotions. Or, can she actually plant emotions in people? That would be, um, cool.

You might even try to update the word and call her "psychopathic" in the same way that "telekinetic" has been transmogrified (great word) into "psychokinetic". :)

Anonymous said...

(Query-writer here.)

I suck at writing queries :P

Anon #2: I wrote a bad query. You really don't need to be so rude.

Everyone else: Thanks for the feedback.

*sigh* Back to the drawing board.

Anonymous said...

empath: Bones falls in love with silent anorectic but Scotty beams them up in time.

But it does not matter because AVARIE
is a telephonic receiver nut who should keep away from but did not keep away from Sparky.

I got very confused. And an abusive male sex determinator. WTheck?

Phoenix said...

Query-writer: We ALL suck at writing our own queries at one point or another. It's a learned skill and one that needs to be practiced, just like any other kind of writing. Your next version will be better. And the one after that (because there WILL need to be one after -- there always does) will be better still. It's all part of the process.

As for Anon #2, they may not have phrased their critique in the most positive way (and they were shooting for funny in some of it, I think), but they took time to point out what they thought as they read it. Don't discount their comments just because they're couched in language that's a little rough. 'K?

Rebecca said...

The biggest problem for me was the whole mind-reading thing, simply because it's been done to death already in some major titles, like the Twilight Saga and the Sookie Stackhouse novels.
I think you should work on explaining why she decides to stick with her love interest (and make it clearer that it is a love interest), if she has the choice to walk away. What's stopping her? What specifically does he offer her that she needs? Honesty? Mutual adversity? Simply desire?

Anonymous said...

Phoenix: It wasn't the language, it was the Twilight comment.

Anonymous said...

As for Anon #2, they may not have phrased their critique in the most positive way (and they were shooting for funny in some of it, I think), but they took time to point out what they thought as they read it. Don't discount their comments just because they're couched in language that's a little rough. 'K?

Ack. Come ON.

A singular noun ("Anon #2") requires a singular pronoun (he, she, s/he, he or she). In English there is no gender-neutral singular pronoun, but that doesn't make it ok for us to pretend "they" fits the bill. It doesn't. "They" and "their" refer to plural nouns, period.

I am surprised at the number of EE posters who get this wrong. Aren't you supposed to be writers?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Anon 2:25, we are indeed writers. Some of us are even professional editors. You may wish to consult Merriam-Webster or Random House Dictionary and/or any number of modern grammar guides on pronoun usage. (Or just enter "they as singular pronoun" in Google and spend the next couple of hours reading why it's OK/okay.)

YOUR particular style guide may not advocate the use of "they" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun in formal writing, but many style guides do. And nearly every up-to-date U.S. style guide I've run across acknowledges its use in informal writing as acceptable.

In a forum where "ack" is an appropriate word choice, I'm guessing you're not thinking this is a "formal writing only" establishment, eh? ;o)