Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Face-Lift 1220

Guess the Plot


1. In the sequel to the award-winning Drifter, Dustin Leahry finally settles down and gets a job.

2. HVAC technician Cinna is the only person who can fix the capital city's broken heat source. But if the heat isn't repaired, residents of the capital will freeze to death and then Cinna can make the repairs and move to the capital. Tough decision.

3. Luigi is a brilliant businessman in Providence. He owns a seven-bedroom house overlooking the marina, has an Olympic pool, and buys a new Cadillac every year. All this from a small automotive repair shop. Whenever he returns from a business trip, he brings everybody gifts. Nobody can figure out how he does it until Tommy Gambino stops to say “Hi” one afternoon.

4. They told him opening a medical practice on a space station was an idiotic idea. No one would put their life in the hands of an android doctor. But the way Clink figured it, machines had human mechanics, and weren't humans just another type of machine?

5. Don't know what to do with that MA in Modern Literary Poetry? This handy booklet is all you need to get out of that fast-food uniform and into a paying career!

6. By day he's a mechanic, rebuilding Volvo engines for fifteen dollars an hour. By night he's the Mechanic, the superhero who can fix any machine, and the mortal enemy of the villain known as Rustman.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Cinna is a mechanic. Born with dragon's blood, she's the only one in her village who can repair the dragonstone that's their sole source of heat. She has plenty of talent, but with so few resources it's a struggle keeping the deadly Ice of her frozen world in check.

Then Prince Skye comes to her village. The stones in the capital are dying and he wants Cinna to fix them. He can give her people everything she never could: food, supplies. Life. All she has to do is go with him. To save the capital that's never lifted a finger to help the villages. [But which now offers to provide food, supplies. Life. What's the problem? Have the villages done anything for the capital in the past? Did Cinna ever offer the capital a dragonstone maintenance program in return for resources for her village?]

But the massive city isn't the evil incarnate she first thought. Neither is Prince Skye. His fight to keep his people from freezing is disturbingly similar to her own. When Cinna finds a way to fix the stones, she's faced with a choice: save the capital and hundreds of lives, or turn her back on them and give the villages a chance to rise. Because in her world, heat means power, and it's all in her hands. [If heat means power, why hasn't Cinna's village already risen? Heat's the one thing they have.]

MECHANIC is my 83,000 word young adult novel. It's a standalone with series potential, and will appeal to readers of the Graceling series.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



While your story is probably nothing like The Hunger Games, you have a main character who lives in the hinterlands and who agrees to journey to a capital city that never does anything to help the villages. Thus I recommend not naming your main character Cinna, which is the name of the Hunger Games character who "fixes" Katniss so that she'll appeal to the populace. I suppose the name Prince Skye won't evoke President Snow--though if people are already thinking Hunger Games, it might. What I'm saying is, if your story opens with a tornado that knocks out the main character, you don't name her Glinda. Or The Great and Powerful Oz.

Here's how commerce works. You have something I want, like all of your oil. I have something you want, like all of my money. We make a trade and everyone's happy. Win - win. Here Cinna needs resources and Skye needs stonework. That Cinna even considers letting hundreds of people die when there's a win - win offer on the table doesn't make her a sympathetic character. I don't see that her village will rise anyway, as they still won't have resources, unless her plan is for everyone in the capital to die so her people can move there.

Are these dragonstones mechanisms? With parts that need repairing? If they're just some sort of magical stones, you'd think there'd be a better term than "mechanic." Like "thermal engineer" or "Stonemage."

I think you need to make it clear how the capital has been keeping the villages down (if they have). Canada is richer than Uruguay, but without evidence that Canada is responsible for Uruguay's poverty, you're unlikely to see Uruguayans bad-mouthing Canadians or letting them die unnecessarily. How does it help Cinna's village if a few hundred capital city people -- people she's now discovered aren't so bad after all -- freeze to death? Make that clear, or her decision is easy. It's pretty easy anyway, if she has a shred of decency.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, count me as one of those who didn't choose #2 because I thought it was Hunger Games fanfic.

I do love the premise here. It sounds like it would be a lot of fun. But of course we'd need to know why this is such a big deal.

Good luck with this, author!

IMHO said...

The query itself is well written. EE has pointed out the plot issues (which of course will affect the query's success)-- but the style of the query seems fine to me.

Cil said...

Hi Author, the query is good, and then we hit a bit of a non-choice, which is odd. You will have to set up why she would consider letting the hundreds of people die so she could gain power for the villages. This is an inherently evil act. Even deciding to allow some people to die to save hundreds or thousands more, will cause most people emotional trauma. So set up the political situation more, and make us understand why she doesn't like the prince and the capital. Currently the prince sounds like a good guy and she sounds like a villian.

However, when I first read this I thought you were detailing the rise of a villian. Honestly I would read that, the story of a 17 year old girl becomes a brutal dictator. This would be especially interesting if the character starts off as a sympathetic heroic pacifist and slowly becomes more morally dubious throughout the book. Then you can write the rest of the series about the righteous character trying to take her down. It would be fantastic, and I would buy the book. It is essentially the plot of star wars had it been told in order.

InkAndPixelClub said...

The description of Cinna as "born with dragon's blood" is also making it feel out of place to call her a mechanic. If it's an ability she's born with, even if she then has to hone her skills, that runs counter to what we understand a mechanic to be.

For that matter, if being born with dragon's blood is a rare and random occur acne, why isn't Cinna at the capital already? If the capital is big on hoarding resources, wouldn't people born with dragon's blood be on the top of their list? I can by a village having a resident who has trained herself to fix dragonstones out of necessity slipping under the capital's radar, but not a child born with the rare ability to fix those stones.

Give a more detailed description of the state of Cinna's village at the start. The first paragraph makes it sound like the main problem facing the village is keeping the Ice at bay. The need for resources that don't directly relate to that problem comes out of nowhere. "Supplies" is too vague to tell us anything.

Set up the relationship between the capital and the villages. All we know right now is that the capital has the same problem with the Ice and malfunctioning dragonstones and hasn't been sharing their resources with the villages before now. Cinna clearly started with the notion that the capital is bad, but I'm not sure why.

Explain what Cinna discovers that makes her change her mind about the capital. I'm guessing it's more than the realization that the Ice threatens them too, since Cinna would have realized that as soon as Prince Skye came seeking her help to fix the dragonstones.

Does the capital's dragonstone have a particularly difficult problem that requires more work on Cinna's part to solve it? Has the capital dragonstone never had any malfunctions before, or is Cinna just more talented than the capital's mechanics who haven't been able to fix it? Does Cinna discover a way to fix the dragonstone forever or will the capital always need her services?

Does Cinna have any family or friends? Right now the only other person in the query is Prince Skye and since he's in the capital, it makes it extra unsympathetic that Cinna considers letting the capital freeze. If we don't know anyone in the village besides Cinna, it's hard to care what happens to it.

The missing part of your "either/or" conundrum for Cinna is the downside to helping the capital and saving it's people. What is so bad about the current system for the villages? Won't saving the capital give Cinna some leeway to bargain for more resources for her village and maybe other villages? If we're to believe that a course of action that will cost hundreds of lives is really on the table, we need to know that the situation for the villages is equally dire.

The concept sounds interesting and it's different enough from The Hunger Games that once you tweak a few names (and maybe give the capital one), it shouldn't seem overly similar. But the query leave too many question that aren't "what will Cinna decide to do?" unanswered.

khazarkhum said...

Are there dragons? It sounds like there are. If she's part dragon, that would explain her apparent ability to be heartless and ruthless.

SB said...

I, too, am confused about what the conflict is. It says she realizes these people aren't evil, but then she's still thinking about letting them all die just so her village can... what, get higher on the pecking order? Also, what kind of 'massive city' has only a few hundred people in it? Or would only a few hundred of the people in the capital die? If that's it, why so few? Yeah, I'd say you need to clarify the conflict here.

EK said...

Hello everyone. This is the author. Thank you so much for all of your great comments. I'll definitely focus more on clarifying the stakes and the political situation of the world itself in the next version.

I'm also going to change Cinna's name. I've only ever read the first Hunger Games book and I only read it once, so I forgot about that character.

Brenda Sanders said...

Oh how I have missed thee...

K Hutton said...

I'd like to see more of the "mechanic" part matter to the plot. To start with having dragon's blood sounds pretty standard fantasy, but then you call her a mechanic without explaining what kind of mechanical things she can do or how it saves the day. The query could just as easily read as she's a dragon's blood mage and with a whisper in Dragonese all will be well (or something else non-mechanical).

I love the idea that she uses skills she LEARNS as a mechanic to save the day and not just a generic fantasy power bestowed upon her as The Chosen One (the dragon's blood). I hope that's how it is in the story! And if it is, that should be hinted at more strongly in the query.

This also reminded of Cinder by Marissa Meyer, except with the mechanic MC part-cyborg instead of part-dragon. (Also with a capitol and a Prince Kai. Name changes would be your friend for sure.)

Good luck!

Jeff Boulier said...

Not to be blasé about human suffering, but in this world, is a few hundred people freezing to death in the capital that significant to the balance of power? Are these particularly important people, or is the population quite small to begin with?