Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Face-Lift 1147

Guess the Plot

The Value of a Life

1. 243 Euro. That's what Carmen sold for in the auction. Her Master, billionaire Storm Thunderson, has so much to teach the nubile Carmen. Firstly, never to launder his wool suits. Secondly, that closet ain't gonna clean itself!

2. $1.28. That's what video game hero George the Skateboarding Panda collects every time he adorably knocks over a pedestrian in his popular arcade game. But now George has become obsessed with wondering what he would be worth were anyone ever to knock him down. And so begins a downward spiral of increasingly risky stunts and sex addiction.

3. $72.96. That's what Bob Bradley left in the locker at the airport. Not the $25000  Bradley paid a hit man to take out his wife. And that's a shame because Roman Pedowsky, aka the Bat, will get paid...one way or another.

4. A plugged nickel. That's what broadcaster Anders Norton's life isn't worth after he receives a file proving that someone has been forging government transmissions sent to the Vesta Terraforming Colony. Now he just needs to figure out what's going on and stop it unless it doesn't need stopping.

5. $2,000,000. That's the size of the advance Bill's 253k-word first novel lands him, three weeks before his penthouse terrace trampoline sends him down to the street. Was it his wife who moved it closer to the edge? Or her lover?

6. Less than the cost of a latte at Starbucks. That's the answer Johnny comes up with when his philosophy professor ask what the value of a life is, and Johnny takes the question as an assignment and renders a homeless man into his molecular elements.

7. It's kind of a weird assignment, thought Harold after getting "The Value of a Life" for homework in Dr Felsner's Calculus class. When he goes to turn it in, though, no one in the Math Department has ever heard of Dr Felsner. And the classrooms all look different.

8. Vampire Joann runs an auction house auctioning orphaned children to vampires. They feed on the children’s blood. But new government regulations require daycare. It’s expensive. Then Dr. Vlad opens a phlebotomy lab across the street, selling cheap biohazard blood. Bids for children plummet. Can Joann make ends meet by taking a night job at the convenience store?

9. When the headless, handless body of a young black man is found in a burning car on MLK Blvd, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, those tattoos identify him as local wannabe rapper Mea Nea. Two, considering how easy it was to identify the body, maybe he should tell his slacker nephew to get that stupid anime tat he's been after.

10. Evan suffers an existential crisis when his wife leaves him for his brother. Soggy with booze, he's fired from his job. After he's evicted he meets Shayla, the new tenant, and something clicks. Can he convince her to take a chance on love, or will she think he's just looking for a place to crash?

Original Version

[Dear Evil Editor,

Below is a query for analysis and all around destruction on your website. The title is based on the colony's government system, which assigns a numeric value to each citizen that reflects their contribution and social worth]

Anders B. Norton never planned to start a revolution. Sure, he knows life on the Vesta Terraforming Colony isn't fair. [Even if this is an homage to Andre Norton, consider changing the character's name.] But when he sweated his way up to a job at the Colonial Broadcast Network Anders thought all that unfairness would finally tip in his favor.

Then someone fed him a file proving the government had been forging transmissions supposedly from Earth. Now the Council of Tens [So named because they're trying to get the Colony to switch to the decimal system.] is working to make sure Anders doesn't stay free, or alive, long enough to find out why. [He works for the Colonial Broadcast Network. If they report that the government is forging transmissions, a swarm of reporters will start looking into the "why" and the Council will have no motive to eliminate Norton.] [Unless the Council somehow know that neither Norton nor the person who sent him the file has sent copies to anyone else, hunting down Norton seems futile. It's like if Mrs. Varmighan put a nude photo of Evil Editor on her web site and I made her take it down, it would still be on TMZ tomorrow.]

Anders cuts his ID chip and flees to the lower districts. He’s got a plan that could win him both revenge and redemption. [Does it involve sending the file to someone who isn't on the run so they can discover the secrets behind the Earth Transmissions?] All he needs is to discover the secrets behind the Earth Transmissions. [They call him Lone Wolf Norton.] Problem is his new allies: a young idealist, an aging hacker, and a former agent of the Council all have very different ideas of what to do with the information once it’s uncovered. Some of those plans could mean unraveling the systems that keep the colony running.

[Idealist: We should send the info to WikiLeaks.
Hacker: We should extort millions from the Council.
Ex-agent of Council: We should destroy the file and forget this ever happened and I should kill all of you so you don't talk about it in your sleep.

This ex-agent doesn't already know why his employers were forging transmissions? I thought sure the ex-agent was either the one who was doing the forging or the one who sent Norton the file.]

Cornered and uncertain who to trust, [Aging hackers are always trustworthy. Never trust an idealist or an ex-agent. Or a youthful hacker.] Anders has to decide how far he’s willing to go to get his revenge. [That's the second time you've mentioned revenge. Usually you seek revenge after you've been wronged. He's basically trying to be a whistleblower (although, as he hasn't yet discovered why the Council was forging transmissions, he can't even be sure whether they're heroes or villains). He wants revenge on the Council for . . . trying to stop him from finding out what they're up to? That he also wants redemption suggests they've unjustly discredited him as a broadcaster. If true, it's something you ought to include so the revenge and redemption ideas make more sense.]

THE VALUE OF A LIFE is a 90,000 word Science Fiction novel with series potential. I have included [that stuff the agent asked for].

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Now that the ex-agent, the hacker and the idealist all know about the file (along with everyone they've told and everyone who reads their blogs and Twitter feeds), is the Council still trying to just eliminate Norton?

I think I would like this better if Norton already knew the motivation for sending the forged transmissions or if you told us what was in the transmissions so we could infer what's at stake. Are they forged letters from home, designed to trick the colonists into believing Earth still exists when in fact it was destroyed months ago? Everything centers around those transmissions, and we don't know who's receiving them or what's in them. 

That they assign everyone a numeric value apparently isn't important enough to be mentioned in the query? Is it the job of the Council of Tens to assign values from 1 to 10? I assume it's not 0 to 10; if you had enough initiative to go all the way to the Vesta Terraforming Colony only to be told the value of your contribution and social worth was 0, you'd be too depressed to live.


Veronica Rundell said...

Right now, the title and plot description are too generic to pique my interest. It sounds like ENEMY OF THE STATE meets Ah-Nold's TOTAL RECALL.

Often we get too many details, but here I feel like it's all log lines and there's some dude blaring these sentences out in movie-trailer format.

I got the basics. Newscaster gets hot info, government cronies want to wipe him out, he enlists plucky band to help him get even/stay alive...but really, I like stories about folks I can care about, and this query hasn't hit that note.

Tk said...

Hullo writer. I wish your query would say what’s so important about forged transmissions from Earth. (I realize it matters to Anders, since someone presumably tries to arrest or assassinate him and he has to go on the run.) But from the point of view of trying to understand the book, I can’t tell whether you have a political plot (faking approval ratings to get re-elected), a thriller plot (psychopath fails to pass on warnings to get out of the way of a planned hyperspace bypass), a social commentary plot (the unfairness is not actually determined by offworlders-in-the-sky) or all or none of the above.

About Anders, why is revenge his first thought once he finds out his cushy job is not so cushy after all? Seems extreme and unsympathetic. And that makes your last line sound like he’d be willing to turn off everyone’s life support to get back at his boss which... action of the villain, not the hero.

The numeric concept is chilling and intriguing; why not wrap it into the plot/query as a selling point?

Anonymous said...

Hello EE (and minions),

Author here.

Thanks for the comments. I've been staring cross-eyed at this query for a week and my efforts to pare it down below the 250 mark have left some pretty glaring plot holes. I probably shouldn't count on an agents ability to psychically guess my plot.

Future versions will include more info about the value system and the Earth Transmissions (which as EE guessed have stopped due to terrible things happening on Earth).

Also, thanks for the fantastic guess-the-plots. Good stuff.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Your query needs more detail. Maybe there's a good story in there, but it feels generic. Are there any Vestal Virgins amongst his new allies?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

If you're trying to pare it down to 250 words you're working from the wrong direction.

Reduce the whole novel to a sentence under 20 words in length. Build your query from there.

I say that so often I oughta make a macro for it.

And do lose the Anders Norton.

sarahhawthorne said...

Hi Author!

SOmething that might help is really narrowing down what makes Norton an interesting hero we'll want to spend time with.

From your first paragraph, I thought the hook was going to be that Norton's the guy who's got everything to lose - will he risk his privileged position for the good of the colony? But then one sentence later you tell us, yep, he does and now he's on the run with an assorted cast of characters.

So... is the hook that Norton's got his hands on information that can bring down his government - now how is he going to actually use it?