Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Face-Lift 1066 (revised)
You guys are One.Tough.Crowd.
How deep to go into detail in a query seems to be a universal conundrum. People who follow Noah Lukeman’s advice to keep it minimal (“Robin Hood steals King John’s gold. Period.”) seemed to get slammed for not revealing causalities or motives, etc., essential or not. [How many people are going to fall for this Lukeman guy's spiel? Go to any other agent's site and click on "Books" and you get a listing of books by authors the agent represents. Do the same at Lukeman's site and you get a list of books written by Lukeman. Go to another agent's site and click on "News" and you get news about the agent's authors' books. At Lukeman's site you get news about Lukeman. "Robin Hood steals King John’s gold. Period." That's all I need to know. I'm phoning the Coen brothers to see if they want the film rights.] Those who let it all hang out get hooted for writing a synopsis instead of a query. Myself, I thought a query was supposed to pique sufficient interest so that the editor/agent/golum would want to read more, not that it was to answer every story question or reveal every motive or explain every setup. [How to pique my interest: Ten sentences that fit on one page and focus on the main character. Who he is, what he wants, what's stopping him from getting it, what he plans to do about it.]
FWIW, below is a revision. The issues raised in the critique comments are addressed in the full narrative; frankly, I did a clumsy job of selecting the story beats to reveal. [Aha! So it's not all our fault.] I hope the revision delves deep enough to satisfy without raising yet more questions. Query critiques really only work the first time around, but If anyone has a moment, please check it out and let me know what you think.
Thanks to everyone—and most humbly to Evil, the Editor!—for your time and willingness to comment; It’s been valuable. What I take away is, I should maybe write about vampires. (Is there an app for that?)
Of Time and Chance is an 80,000-word thriller.
Jack Prior is a biker, recovering alcoholic, and PTSD victim; when he’s diagnosed with Margolin’s ulcer, he falls off the wagon, wrecks his Harley, and lands in a drunk tank. The CIA bails him out; they know who he is.
Decades ago in the Sahara oil fields, Jack was imprisoned for selling explosives to a Berber separatist. Police Captain Kareem al-Barasa tortured Jack mercilessly. At length, fueled by fear and desperation, Jack attacked Barasa with scissors, blinding him in one eye. The American consul spirited Jack out of the country. Barasa swore vengeance.
Now the CIA wants Jack’s help. Sheik Zuwari, a valuable Western asset, is being held in Libya’s Abu Salim prison. The commandant—Colonel Barasa—will sell Zuwari’s freedom for a million dollars cash—to be delivered by Jack Pryor. The CIA assures Jack that this will be a quick, low-risk mission; he’ll be well guarded, and well compensated.
Desperate for money, Jack accepts the CIA’s offer and travels to Tripoli, a city wracked by rebellion. Within hours of Jack’s arrival, a suicide bomber sent by Barasa wipes out the CIA team. Jack realizes that Barasa’s true prize is Jack himself, and that in this lawless country, unable even to radio for help, he must struggle alone to defeat his nemesis—if he is to save Zuwari and end the lifelong torment in his soul.
Thank you for your time.
That answers a lot of the questions. Except how Jack got out of the prison and into the American Consulate after stabbing Barasa in the eye. (Apparently there was no one else around to stop him, or the other police were afraid they might get stabbed with scissors too.) Although the plot's a little long, you make up for that by not wasting space telling me the book is like Tom Clancy's stuff but better. On the other hand, it's Jack's past with Barasa that's relevant, so we could probably do without his falling off the Harley and the wagon.
If Jack is "well-guarded" by the CIA team, and the bomb kills all of them and not him, presumably that was arranged by Barasa so he could be alone with Jack? Poor suicide bomber, probably was told he was acting for Allah, turns out he was just helping his boss exact revenge for the scissors incident. Reminds me of how Churchill talked Roosevelt into entering WWII claiming Germany had to be stopped, when it was really because Hitler once called Churchill a pussy.
Rugen's Rules for Torture Chamber Success, #7: Never give the torturee scissors. Actually, that seems so obvious that I'm inclined to believe Barasa was injured while running with scissors, and blamed Jack because he was too embarrassed to admit the truth.