Monday, April 15, 2013

Face-Lift 1117

Guess the Plot

Clockwork Hearts

1. Tick, tick, tick--Shondra's biological clock has launched into overdrive. Can she find a man before her last oocyte ejects? Also, a nagging mother.

2. After Alexis, a bored hipster living in the near dystopian future, is arrested at a student debt protest, the feds use her as a guinea pig for the controversial Ludditico Technique, which trains her to fear gizmos and gadgets of any kind. But can she survive without her iPhone?

3. When Sun Moon, owner of Koreatown dating service "Clockwork Hearts" is found hanging in her bathroom, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, she didn't shoot herself in the head before hanging in the shower, and two, there's that new Korean place that just opened, so maybe he should take the family out for a change.

4. An automaton runs away with a velocipede in 1889 Paris. When her crush develops an infatuation for la belle tour Eiffel, the angry two-wheeler sets out to loosen every screw in the momument. Will 18,038 iron parts crash down onto the crowds at the Exposition?

5. Famed for creating clockwork creatures to serve the wealthy, Victor wants a new challenge. He finds it when the Newmans ask him to fix their dying daughter Lenore. But can his talent with mechanics save a life? And if not, can he create a clockwork Lenore realistic enough to fool the Newmans?

6. The main problem with the new artificial heart, the Tiktok2, is that it has to be rewound every 24 hours-- and the key is in the patient's back. After a 7.9 earthquake hits Clockwork City, Tiktok2 recipient Jason Walker finds himself trapped in rubble... with his worst enemy.

7. A madman is digging up graves and attempting to build part human, part cyborg creatures out of human corpses. But when two of his creations fall in love, he must decide whether or not to silence their clockwork hearts.

8. Graham's timing is catastrophic. Late to his wedding, his fiance leaves him at the altar. Alone on his honeymoon, he rescues Julia, his soulmate, on a scuba diving excursion. Unfortunately, Julia is about to tie the knot. Can Graham win her heart in time?

Original Version

Dear EvilEditor

Victor Roussel is a man driven by curiosity.

His experiments in Paris satisfied some of his burning questions on the limits of human mortality, [Are you saying his experiments showed how long a human can live? Because I don't see how you can get good data on that. If all your test subjects die before they're 80, that doesn't prove 80 is the limit of human mortality. Plus, what if you die before they do? You spend 30 years monitoring a bunch of old people, and 12 of them are still alive when you get run over by a truck. And the whole experiment is down the drain.] but four years later in London, the hunger for new knowledge has again begun to rear its head. Although he is rapidly becoming known for creating Clockwork Charlies—almost sentient creatures made of clockwork who serve London’s rich and fashionable [women]—Victor is bored with the predictability of it all, and longs for something new and daring with which to satisfy his curiosity. So [he comes up with Clockwork Charlotte, satisfying both his curiosity and that of the heretofore untapped male market.] when the Newmans approach him and ask if he can somehow fix their dying daughter Lenore, he eagerly accepts the challenge.

Although he is initially enthusiastic, the family dynamics within the Newman household [Newman!] begin to trouble his never-very-active moral compass, and force him to question whether or not the experiment should go ahead. [Vague. What's bugging him?]

In the midst of all this, Victor is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Mercy, and their growing romance begins to conflict with his commitment to Lenore. [Commitment? A sentence ago he was ready to let her die just because he was bothered by the Newman family dynamics.] Mercy’s moral strength could give Victor the courage he needs to make the right choice, but where does his heart truly lie—with love or science? [What's the choice? Save the girl or get it on with Mercy? The mention of Mercy's moral strength suggests that she isn't annoyed that Victor is helping Lenore when he could be taking Mercy to the opera every night.]

CLOCKWORK HEARTS is historical science fiction [Steampunk romance?], complete at 60,000 words. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


The first long paragraph stresses Victor's hunger for new knowledge, his longing for something new and daring with which to satisfy his curiosity, his eagerness to accept a new challenge. If you expect us to believe he's going to abandon the project, you need to provide a better reason than the troubling family dynamics of the Newman household.

Why is it a choice anyway? Can't a scientist have romance in his life? I wouldn't bother mentioning a choice unless there's one that's a true dilemma.

This is all setup. You can set up the situation in one paragraph: Although he is renowned for creating Clockwork Charlies—almost sentient creatures made of clockwork who serve London’s rich and fashionable—Victor Roussel longs for something new and daring with which to satisfy his curiosity. So when the Newmans ask if he can somehow fix their dying daughter Lenore, he eagerly accepts the challenge.

That leaves lots of room to tell us what he's doing for Lenore, what specifically gums up the works, what role Mercy plays in driving the plot forward. We want to know what happens.

That opening one-sentence paragraph is a waste of space.

Is the name "Victor" supposed to clue the reader in to the similarities to Victor Frankenstein? We would get that, even if he were named Bob. Whether readers will be annoyed that you feel they need to have this driven home to them is a question for the minions.  

Frankenstein and "Lenore." It's obvious you just finished studying early 19th-century literature.

Not clear what is meant by "almost sentient creatures." To me, they're either sentient or they aren't. There was a courtroom proceeding to decide whether Commander Data was sentient, but even there, it came down to a choice between He is or He isn't. There was no middle ground of He is . . . almost.]


Veronica Rundell said...

I don't understand why Victor has trouble deciding to help Lenore, or why his moral compass is involved, at all. Seems perfectly in kind with the medical/scientific persons of the period. It was an age of great ingenuity and experimentation in medicine, if Victor wouldn't do the job probably ten other dudes would have jumped on it.

And, while I detest the 'evil scientist' trope, it's probably because I haven't been able fully embrace my own evilness and develop a successful blog celebrating it. Still, he seems (to me) to be more of an inventor.

The choice of a relationship or saving the girl is a false choice, and both, logically, can be made with little to no harm to Victor, so I'd delineate the reasons why he's conflicted. For example, Lenore's dying following an apoplexy after witnessing Mom's dalliance with the butler, so mom's grieving and dad needs a witness, but either way Lenore's vegetable soup? Give us something tangible, a reason to reanimate at all cost, and a reason to let nature take it's course, so we can see both sides and understand how either outcome will affect Victor.

This feels very steam punk romance, although if the Clockwork Charlies are 'servicing' the ladies...there's gotta be room in the erotica market for that!

CavalierdeNuit said...

This sounds like a fascinating read. I would definitely hone the query and use the Evil Editor advice so you can get it published! I am also partial to any story with a woman named Lenore, especially a clockwork one. You could go so many places with this book. It looks like a great first novel, and you should never be tempted to put it in a drawer.

CavalierdeNuit said...

To add to my comment. I am not all sunshine and lollipops. I am about to get butchered myself on here so let's party. Feel free to retaliate.
Aside from what Evil Editor said, and I agree with all of it, here's my tuppence:

His experiments in Paris satisfied some of his burning questions on the limits of human mortality.
What kind of experiments. I really want to know, but without too much detail. But I think you should just cut the paragraph. rear its head.
Too cliche, just cut it.
(the hunger for new knowledge has begun again)

Clockwork Charlies
are these valets or sex slaves, or both. Either would be incredible. Do they have souls? Almost sentient does not make sense. They are or they aren't.

So who is hotter, Lenore or Mercy? Can he not just have both of them. That would rock.

I agree with Veronica. I don't see a moral issue here. Victor sounds like a troubled genius in love with two women, one about to become a machine.

The plot is vague. He must choose between Lenore and Mercy, but why? It's really ok to have to 2 lovers, if that is the dilemma. A power hungry benefactor with who wants to destroy his love triangle would be a suitable antagonist. And he wears prismatic spectacles.

Perhaps Mr. Newman is a closet evil clockwork? A rogue Charlie? Adds to the family dynamics.

Kelsey said...

As it stands, we know almost nothing about what Mercy and Lenore's characters, and to me this makes them feel like plot devices rather than real people I can care about. It doesn't have to be much information, but especially in a romance(ish) query I want some of the critical details of why I should root for these people.

Also, this is a personal preference so take it with a grain of salt, but I really hate the "sweet, supportive girlfriend" trope that Mercy *seems* to fill. All we know about Mercy is that she coincidentally re-entered Victor's life at this critical moment and that she has "moral strength." Does this mean she campaigns against work factories that force 'fallen' women into indentured labour for the rest of their lives? That kind of moral strength I could root for. But if Mercy's just a sweet, nice person who would never do the kind of evil things Victor's contemplating... well, that sounds boring to me. And we don't know anything about Lenore's character except that she's dying.

I agree with EE that naming the MC "Victor" is too heavy-handed, especially because of the recent "Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein" novels by Kenneth Oppel which may make even teenager readers familiar with the first name Victor.

Good luck with the revision!

Tk said...

Hi author, just adding another call for more specifics. What experiments? What burning questions? If they were nefarious, why not say. Also, how do the creatures serve, what troubles him about the Newmans, what is his plan for Lenore and what is the right choice? The setting sounds fun. Victor doesn't bother me as it does others, but I don't read much in this genre.

BuffySquirrel said...

The dilemma at the end is a non-choice. Not helping Lenore doesn't mean giving up science. If a surgeon declines to operate, they don't become instantly shut out from medicine for all time.

Unless Mercy is demanding he abjure anything remotely scientific for ever more or she'll dump him, he can be a scientist and married to her as well.

If the dilemma's stronger than that, show how it's strong in the query. If not, FTN.