Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Face-Lift 1158

Guess the Plot


1. Poodle Millie, Labrador Duke and Pug Willie stage a daring escape from the vet when they learn that they aren't there to be tutored.

2. Average guy Daniel Travers is abducted and taken to a secret military facility in New Mexico where his life becomes a nightmare of pain and fear as a mad doctor performs unethical experiments on him and the Taliban.

3. A mysterious talisman gives Renee the ability to go back in time by one minute and alter very recent history. She now always has the wittiest come-back, and the casino is her oyster... but who'd have thought creating so many alternative histories would upset the fabric of time-space so badly that the universe is now unstable?

4. Broadway seamstress Pippa was sure she'd hidden every unseemly detail. But when a wardrobe malfunction in Charlie Buckles' costume reveals his gill plates, the audience--and the world--learn the shocking truth.

5. After a magical accident gives the dogs of Menifee County, Kentucky advanced cognitive skills, opposable thumbs, and a thirst for revenge, veterinarian Frank Wallace must run for his life. Or, not his life, exactly, but...

6. Detective John Bostic knew his faith was being tested when the Captain assigned him to his third religious murder in as many weeks. In every case the corpse was butchered, reassembled to look like a cubist Picasso painting and left on an altar. The pastor of the Tenth Church of Christ has blood on his hands and Bostic must prove his guilt before someone else is . . . altered.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

A military facility hidden away in New Mexico is doing some highly unethical research on POW's from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

[Sergeant: We've captured so many Taliban we're running out of places to put them, sir. Should we kill them and bury them in a mass grave?

Captain: No, we're also running out of places to put mass graves. Besides, I've just received word that a facility in New Mexico doing highly unethical research needs subjects for their experiments. How many troop transport planes can we commandeer?]

Things go from bad to much worse when the doctor heading up the research arranges to have a US citizen abducted. [Bad: Highly unethical research on Iraqi and Afghan subjects. Much worse: Abducting one US citizen.]

Daniel Travers is just your average guy trying to provide for his family until he unknowingly lands on the radar of the wrong people. Somewhere deep in his genetic code Daniel is blessed with the ability to heal faster and more completely than humanly possible [Either it is humanly possible, or Daniel isn't human.] and that's exactly what Dr. Steven Reynolds needed to be able to take the next step in his research. [If what you need to take the next step in your research is someone who heals faster than humanly possible, and such a person suddenly turns up, I suggest you immediately buy a lottery ticket.]

Willing to sacrifice anyone for the success of his project, Dr. Reynolds arranges for the abduction of Daniel. [He arranged this in the 2nd sentence. Two paragraphs later he's still arranging it?] From that point Daniel's life becomes a nightmare of pain and fear.

Daniel desperately tries to escape and get back to his family but the cost is more than he can bear. [What is the cost?] Because of that, when he is later offered help, he almost turns it down in fear of what would happen if things go wrong again. [This is our hero? Afraid to try to escape because things might go wrong?]

Altered is a suspense thriller, with a science fiction twist, complete at 70,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration


Apparently you don't care to reveal the nature of Dr. Reynolds' project, but without that information it's impossible for us to get even mildly interested in the story.

It's all setup and it's mostly vague. We can condense the entire query into: Daniel Travers, blessed with superhuman healing genes, is abducted by a doctor who needs Daniel in order to complete a secret project. If you expand on that by telling us what the doctor is up to, what happens if he succeeds, and what Daniel plans to do about it, you might interest us. Right now, the main character is doing nothing and you don't tell us what the villain is doing.

If Reynolds is willing to sacrifice anyone, wouldn't it be easier to abduct a few illegal aliens from Santa Fe than to have the military transport POWs from Iraq and Afghanistan to New Mexico?

How does Reynolds know Travers heals really fast?


Veronica Rundell said...

Hi author,
So...evil scientist doing evil experiments on poor human captives. Disclaimer : I am a scientist. I do human research. I am not nefarious or blood thirsty or in league with corrupt shadow forces in the military. For your sake I hope your science is dead on, because the millions of scientists, like myself, who HATE the mad scientist trope will likely flay your work if it isn't.


For the query, EE's spot on. It says virtually nothing. Reads like a bad movie trailer without the whiz-bang explosions that would draw us in. Cut the sweeping statements and add the details that help the reader connect to poor Daniel's plight.

How is he discovered? Whilst rescuing puppies from a burning shelter he's burned, yet walks away unscathed? Did he break his neck saving people from a train wreck and have his miraculous healing captured on the nightly newscast? Right now it sounds a bit like UNBREAKABLE, but with a mad scientist instead of a nemesis.

What is Dr. Reynolds purpose? And why does he need Daniel to achieve it? How can Daniel's ultra healing even be harnessed by the bad doc? He's like Magneto--trying to make perfect mutant supersoldiers, right? Gene therapy is pretty tricky stuff. Again science needs to be tight.

Good luck. We eggheads aren't all evil... Not like some editors.

khazar-khum said...

I'm guessing Reynolds started as an altruist and has gradually descended into insanity. Or Tucumcare, whichever is worse.

Was Daniel a patient of a colleague? A janitor at the place? Mad Slasher of Tucumcare? We need to have some idea of how he came to Reynolds' attention.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Writer, put your hands in the air and step away from the cliches.

The trouble with cliches is that not only can they be misleading (as pointed out in EE's blue comments) but they're very uninformative.

For example:

Daniel Travers is just your average guy trying to provide for his family...

You've wasted ten words there. They tell us nothing. My next door neighbor would probably describe himself as just your average guy trying to provide for his family. Whereas the truth is he's really a vile, certifiable fiend from the eighth circle of Hell, which is much more interesting.

Try again. Show us that Daniel is worth spending time with. If he's not, fire him and replace him with someone who is.

By the way, writer friends who have tried to sell novels involving our little wars in Iraq and Afghanistan report that nobody, but nobody, is interested. We don't want to read about those wars in the newspapers, we don't want to see them on CNN (and CNN obliges) and we don't want to read about them in novels.

Easy edit, though, as it sounds like the wars are peripheral to your story.

Mister Furkles said...

Two things to watch for in your query are modifiers and metaphors.

Because you have only 250 words, modifiers must tell and not be redundant with the other information. First, “…just your average guy” gains nothing from the adverb “just” meaning “merely”. But it also contradicts the fact that he heals better and faster than 7 billion other people. That’s not average.

Then after telling us of his pain and fear, you say that he “desperately tries”. Well, if he is in such pain and fear we can guess he’s desperate. A third useless word is in “later offered help”. And of course, we know it must be “later”. Tighten you prose.

As Alaska points out, be mindful of your metaphors. If you use them try to create your own. But do not use clichés, mixed metaphors, or inappropriate ones. So: “bad to much worse” is over used.

And “lands on the radar of the wrong people.” Really? Lands on a RADAR. Was he hang gliding or in a hot air balloon? I work with people who develop and use radar and if you land on one, you’re going to think they’re the wrong people. There’s the cliché “under the radar” but I don’t know about landing on one. I just hope it wasn’t the front end of a cruise missile; you’d likely activate the impact fuze and get yourself all blowed up.

If the bad doctor is sacrificing people is it a black mass? How is it a sacrifice on Reynolds’ part? Sounds like he’s killing people. Check every word – there’s fewer than 200 of them. Be certain that you can’t find better words. And consider replacing phrases or two or three words with one really good one.