Friday, October 05, 2012

Face-Lift 1074 (and post # 6000)


Guess the Plot

The Apocalypse Arcade

1. After a catastrophe, Rick Henderson, his son Jimmy, and their faithful Pit Bull Bosco load their supplies into a shopping basket and set off in search of a new Walmart.

2. When Jez decides to put his last quarter in the dusty looking game in the corner, little does he realize that not only is it his last quarter, it's everyone's last quarter...

3. Robbie and his friends find a cool new gaming arcade at the mall. It's called The Apocalypse and the games are totally awesome – the kids get to be bombers, arsonists and murderers. But when the events in the games start happening all over town, can Robbie and his big sister Raven figure out how to stop it?

4. Elvis Zimmerman is skipping school, hanging out at the mall, bored but hey, it beats being in school. He drops a few quarters into the new game machine and finds himself faced with a choice between "Natural Disasters", "Meteor Impact", "Zombie Plague" and "Global Thermonuclear War." He picks choice 3 and pushes the 'Start' button. Outside in the Food Court, the screaming starts.

5. As an alien race is making good on its threat to destroy humanity, the run-down video arcade on Main Street unexpectedly reopens. Coincidence? Halley Maxwell doesn't know, but she must find out before the aliens take over Earth and she has to go live on the moon.

6. When Jenna discovers that everyone on Earth is a character in a video game called Sim-Planet, being played by a teenaged entity light years away, she tries to warn us that we must keep doing interesting stuff or the entity will grow bored and shut us down. But most of us decide to drop everything and just worship the entity.

7. Trevor doesn't know what he'll do all day in an arcade that's so old it only has pinball machines. The graphics are wild, though, especially on the game called "The Four Horsemen," so he tries it. In retrospect, "The Whore of Babylon" might have been a better choice.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

It’s the end of the world as we know it – but seventeen-year-old Halley Maxwell feels anything but fine. An alien species is making good on its decades-old threat to destroy humanity, and what’s worse, the apocalypse is scheduled to happen on Halley’s eighteenth birthday. [It's comforting to know that when aliens come to destroy humanity, they'll be benevolent enough to provide us with a schedule of events.] All Halley wants is to graduate high school, move away from her middle-of-nowhere town, and begin her real life alongside Ham, her best friend, roommate, and partner-in-cynicism. Unfortunately, the aliens failed to take Halley’s plans into account when they formulated their own itinerary for annihilating the human race. [I think the opening works better if you start with sentence 3.]

Then ["Then" isn't a good word to use unless you've told us something that just happened. So far you've just provided the situation.] Halley meets Andrew Stanton, a sixty-something British scientist, who’s more accomplished at punning and inventing crazy stories than even Halley herself. Halley can’t figure out why Andrew is wasting his time in August, Texas… until he offers her a slot among twenty thousand other people selected to colonize the moon and escape the apocalypse. Why is Andrew giving Halley this opportunity, when so many other people deserve it more? Why is everyone, from Halley’s estranged father to the ditziest girl in the history of high school, trying to stop her from going? And what’s the significance of the sudden reopening of the run-down video arcade on Main Street? [Lists of questions quickly become boring. Drop the first question.] Halley must answer these questions before the shuttle leaves for the moon or the aliens take over Earth, whichever comes first. [Not clear why she must answer these questions. Or why, if she needs the answers, she doesn't just ask Andrew and her father and the ditzy girl and the arcade manager.]

THE APOCALYPSE ARCADE is a 96,000-word YA alternate history novel. It is set in a near future Space Age that branched off from our reality in 1986, when the Challenger mission, instead of ending in disaster, made contact with an alien species.

[Astronauts: What the!? Uh, greetings. Welcome to our solar system.

Aliens: Thanks. We're here to destroy humanity. But we're not barbarians; we'll give you a couple decades to get your affairs in order.]

This manuscript functions as a stand-alone novel but is planned as the first book of a trilogy. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Notes

I'm intrigued by the fact that the reopening of the video arcade is significant.

Getting twenty thousand people off of Earth is going to require a lot of lift-offs. For them and the food and water etc. they'll need on the moon. How much time do they have? Also, are they aware that when you're on the moon you can't breathe?

If the goal of the aliens is to destroy humanity, and they've made it to Earth, are we really safe on the moon?

Is there a reason the Challenger crew makes first contact, as opposed to the crew of a space mission in 2025?

You can do without "alongside Ham, her best friend, roommate, and partner-in-cynicism." Ham isn't mentioned in the plot (Is Ham among the everyone trying to stop Hallie from going to the moon?), and the phrase just makes me wonder why a high school student has a roommate and whether Ham is a male or female.

14 comments:

Whirlochre said...

Congratulations on your 6000th post.

A lesser editor would have added his own zeroes — as it is, the zeroes queue up to submit on a daily basis...

150 said...

I like the Challenger aspect, actually. I hope you carried through the alt-history into other unexpected results.

khazar-khum said...

My Dad was a rocket scientist. His specialty was propulsion. It takes 63 pounds of fuel to put one pound into orbit.

Maybe the old scientist is really an alien with a more efficient lift system. Otherwise it's gonna take a lot of rocket fuel that we don't have to get all those things to the moon.

Dave Fragments said...

I think that your query is more suited to selling the book as an advertisement than as a query to get an agent interested.

As a reader I would read this and make a decision to pick up the book (or download the e-book) but if I had to sell this to other people, then I'd want to know how the arcade and the aliens fit together.

BuffySquirrel said...

Sorry, I got distracted wondering if you were an REM fan or just liked Independence Day. Either way, you probably don't want to start your query with something derivative.

AA said...

Sorry for the poor response, author, but we Americans are busy trying to figure out what Mitt Romney has against Big Bird.
Yeah, I'm trying to figure out what use it would be to go to the moon if these aliens can take over Earth. They could just take over the moon, too. How do we know they're not on the moon already?
If the whole thing is a trap, (the people sent to the moon will end up slaves on the alien moon colony) you need to say so or at least strongly hint at it. Or, if it's a huge mass hallucination and some conspiracy is afoot, say that. Otherwise, the agent will think you just don't know how to write a story.
Stylistic hint: Try to avoid phrases like "and what's worse" (and sisters/cousins "even worse," "just when she thought it couldn't get any worse," "things go from bad to worse").

Jo Antareau said...

6000 posts! You rock, EE!

To the author...As I was reading, I couldn't help wondering whether there had already been a secret base constructed on the moon, ready for such a continengecy.

I guess the advantage of only 20,000 people on such a colony is that it may concievably remain secret from those blood thirsty aliens (provided they blinked at the time a suspiciously large fleet of spacecraft escaped the earth). Perhaps you could provide a brief explanation in order to deflect the questions about why the moon is any safer than the earth.

Now, if you could just explain why the aliens want to slaughter every human (just humans? or does their wrath extend to dolphins and millipedes, too?), and why the scientist chose Halley without making him sound like an old sleaze (he's in his sixties and she's 17!?! Eeooouuw!) you might have a really interesting query.
Good luck!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

AA, the Facelift below this only has three comments. It could use a lil more luv too. (As for Big Bird, he's lucky Romney didn't strap him to his car roof and drive him to Quebec.)

Writer, it seems like the heart of the situation is that Halley (named for the comet) must decide whether to go to the moon for questionable safety or stay on earth while it gets attacked by aliens. Focus on that. Take out anything extraneous. The choice itself raises enough questions, as per the comments above.

Anonymous said...

Author here, with a revision attempting to take some of your comments into account. Any further comments/criticisms welcome. Thanks!


Dear Evil Editor,

All seventeen-year-old Halley Maxwell wants is to graduate from high school, move away from her irritatingly conformist family and cookie-cutter classmates, and start her real life far from dull, dusty August, Texas. Unfortunately, some vengeful space aliens failed to take Halley’s plans into account when they formulated their own itinerary for annihilating the human race – a long-feared event now scheduled to take place on Halley’s eighteenth birthday.

The same day the president announces the imminent apocalypse, Halley meets Andrew Stanton, a British scientist who is part of a top-secret coalition that constructed a settlement on the moon in anticipation of the aliens making good on their promise to eliminate the human species from the Earth but leave the moon as a condolence prize. Without explanation, Andrew offers Halley a slot among twenty thousand other people selected to colonize the moon and escape the apocalypse. Meanwhile, the defunct video arcade on Main Street suddenly reopens, and its eccentric purveyor can’t seem to stop giving Halley cryptic, disconcerting information about Andrew, Moon Settlement, and Halley herself. With just six months left before the end of the world, Halley’s life on Earth has finally gotten interesting . . . but now she must decide whether to leave that life behind for an uncharted future on the moon. And sometime before the shuttle leaves for Moon Settlement, she’d like to figure out why she was chosen in the first place.

THE APOCALYPSE ARCADE is a 96,000-word YA alternate history novel. It is set in a near future Space Age that branched off from our reality in 1986, when the Challenger mission, instead of ending in disaster, made contact with an alien species. This manuscript functions as a stand-alone novel but is planned as the first book of a trilogy. Thank you for your time and consideration.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This is clearer, but has way too many adjectives.

I'm serious. Adjectives used sparingly can add life to a story. Adjectives poured on thick just bog things down.

The opening is okay except that I lose sympathy for Halley when she describes her classmates as "cookie-cutter". It's okay if she sees them that way in the manuscript, but in the query, you have no space to show us that she learns better.

She does learn better, doesn't she? (Rhetorical question.)

Now, I have some logic quibbles. Again, don't answer them, but just think about whether it makes sense in the manuscript, and about how you can rewrite the query so it doesn't raise the question.

Why do the aliens give a warning of the precise date they're going to destroy the human race?

Why do they offer to leave the moon as a consolation prize? Who will there be left to console? How much of a consolation will it really be, when all that's being destroyed is human life and the moon hasn't got any anyway?

If there were a known apocalypse date (Mayans aside) and it was known that the moon was going to be spared, the feasability of a moon colony would suddenly become a focus of considerable international attention. So how could anyone build a secret colony up there without the world at large noticing?

Essentially: make sure everyone is doing what they do because it's what people would do, rather than because they have to for the story to work.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think one much larger logic problem is how the heck the British managed to get into space, never mind build an entire colony on the moon, without apparently being noticed or getting any help from countries that have, yanno, those things, what're they called? Oh, space programs.

Evil Editor said...

The Brits are nothing if not resourceful.

Like Alaska I assume you meant consolation prize. But you wrote condolence prize.

Calling the aliens vengeful suggests they are destroying us because we did something to them.

I wouldn't use the word "purveyor" to describe a guy who runs an arcade.

If you're taking twenty people to the moon, you might want to carefully vet them. For 20,000, there isn't time to come up with an explanation for why you're offering a spot to each one. Isn't the fact that young fertile women will be vital to rebuilding the human species explanation enough for why Stanton offers Halley a spot after meeting her?

150 said...

I assumed the British have a space program because the discovery of alien life in 1986 would compel pretty much every developed nation to throw money at science.

I was concerned about the line now she must decide whether to leave that life behind. She's got six months to live. Most people would take an uncharted lunar future over no future at all. Kind of a no-brainer. Unless...the apocalypse might be a lie used to convince 20,000 people to leave Earth for a moon base? That might be a twist worth hinting at in the query.

AA said...

This still has those problem that Alaska brings up: Why leave the moon intact, and why tell the Earthers that's what they're going to do? Because that has to be in place in order for the story to happen, that's why. And that's the wrong answer.

If there is no really good reason for them to do so, the aliens wouldn't leave the moon for mankind's escape. You might think nobody will notice this, but in fact EVERYONE will.

Here's what I see:

Why do the aliens bother to tell the humans about their plans? So the main characters can get away in time.

Why would the aliens leave earth's moon intact? So Andrew can build a settlement on it.

Why would Halley hesitate to leave when she will definitely die if she stays? Because she has to figure out some plot point having to do with an arcade.

And yeah, as EE pointed out, she's a presumably fertile female, so no big mystery about being chosen.

Seems to me, everything happens because the author needs it to happen in order to get to the next plot point. That's not good.

If this is NOT the case, you need to at least strongly hint at what's really going on.