Thursday, April 09, 2015

Face-Lift 1254

Guess the Plot


1. A complete history of the most recent .002% of planet Earth's existence up until the invention of the Internet.

2. Chancellor Hister plots to dominate the European Empire, by preventing the 12-year-old heir to the throne from aging, thus allowing Hister to remain regent forever. Question for discussion: is it the kid who never ages or the evil chancellor who has lost his . . . humanity?

3. When Tech Barons succeed in getting everything but cheerleading and STEM banned from Stanford, Dr Franzil Shcott decides to wage Internet war to take back her school, one gender studies program at a time.

4. A time traveler visits the great disasters of history to record them on film, adding to each his own voice-over saying "Oh, the humanity!"

5. Inside the building, where thousands had engaged in all acts of sexual depravity, hung the meaty odor of bodily secretions. It wasn’t offensive, but it wasn’t sweet. Is this where Wally, the 43-year-old virgin, finally loses his innocence? 

Original Version

Dear agent,

Edgar Lewis is an heir to the [throne of the] European Empire, a successor state to the European Union. It is 2169 and the Empire’s chancellor, named Hister, has plans to eliminate the people in between Edgar and the throne and dominate the boy’s regency. [The guy who wants to rule Europe is named Hister? Are you aware that with a minor change the name "Hister" becomes . . . Hipster?] Edgar’s stepfather murders his mother and then makes plans to destroy Edgar’s self-esteem in anticipation of a sale to Hister. [A sale of what?] [Also, any good salesman ought to be able to close a deal without destroying a child's self-esteem.] [Also, if your wife gets murdered, you are always suspect #1, so you should be fleeing the empire, not hanging around trying to destroy your stepson's self-esteem.] The Chancellor has a scientist in his pocket that [who] has created nanites to halt aging and plans to use them to keep Edgar from achieving adulthood. By the laws of the Empire, the head[-]of[-]government position will remain open until such time as the heir is physically able to withstand the stress of governing. [Hey, kids handle stress a lot better than most adults. It's more the complexities of governing kids don't get, especially how to use corruption and bribery and blackmail to your advantage.]

After the treatment, Edgar manages to escape to the Empire’s space colonies and is pursued by Marshal Grummer. Unbeknownst to both of them, the Marshal is the boy’s biological father. [Science fiction in which the villain turns out to be the hero's father? Do you reveal this in a sequel called The Empire Strikes Back?] Pursued by the Marshal’s fleet command, Edgar struggles to deal with his new situation and the deep depression the thought that he may never age brings upon him. The chancellor let’s slip information that turns Edgar’s pursuer into an ally, prompting the two to fight their way across the solar system to prevent the chancellor’s assassination attempt. Can they depend on the military to support the rightful heir? Can they, in spite of the law, convince Parliament to accept an [a] juvenile-looking Emperor? Finally, how does a 12 year old who will never age come to terms with the fact he may never marry, never have children?

HUMANITY is a 90,000 word scifi novel that explores issues such as what humanity is and do you lose yours if you can never die of old age. I see series potential with this novel, but I have other universes to explore as well.

I thank you for your time and consideration


I feel that the intriguing issue of immortality's drawbacks may get pushed aside when the main characters start fighting their way across the solar system. Feels like two different kinds of science fiction competing for attention. Possibly that's just me.

It seems to me that if Hister simply offered Edgar a treatment that would prevent him from getting old and dying, Edgar would go along instead of escaping into space. Or tell him the treatment prevents disease. Why tell him whatever he tells him that makes Edgar feel he must escape? Is Edgar a prisoner when he escapes? If so, how is the chancellor getting away with holding the heir prisoner?

If Edgar's biological father is not who they thought was his biological father, is Edgar still the rightful heir? I mean, would Henry VIII have succeeded Henry VII if Henry VIII's biological father were actually Marshal Grummer? Who knows that Grummer is the father? Where does this Grummer dude get off hitting the sheets with the queen?

Who is Hister trying to assassinate? I don't see what he gains by assassinating Edgar or Grummer. Besides, a trip across the solar system and back would take so long, the political situation on Earth would probably have changed drastically when you got back. Like, you chase Edgar to Neptune, assassinate him, and return to Earth to find that the European Empire is now part of the 3rd Ming Dynasty. 

If I've got a scientist in my pocket who has cured aging, the first thing he's doing is treating me. Then we're marketing the treatment to billionaires until I've cornered the world market on money. Then I'll buy Europe, evict the French, and make the whole empire my summer home.


IMHO said...

To me, this reads more like a synopsis than a query.

Are you sure Edgar's the protagonist? He doesn't seem to do much. He "manages" to escape and "struggles" to deal with the situation. The other characters sound more interesting and are certainly more active.

What audience are you aiming for?
12-year-old protags usually mean a middle-grade book. (Yes, there's Ender's Game, but still).

Finally, if Edgar doesn't age, it means his brain stays the same -- and a 12-year-old brain isn't capable of adult reasoning. Time alone won't bring maturity. I don't think many 12-year-old boys stress about the prospect of never marrying.

Evil Editor said...

I thought the question Can they, in spite of the law, convince Parliament to accept a juvenile-looking Emperor? was suggesting that the kid would only look like a kid when he got older. Even if that's true, we're talking about another decade before he's got any idea how to rule an empire.

SB said...

It seems unrealistic to me to have him already stressing about not aging or getting married before enough time has passed for him to even really recognize that he's not aging. If a significant amount of time passes after his treatment and he's a guy in his 20s or later who's trying to get the throne despite looking like a kid and trying to come to terms with maybe never being able to have a family, that would be a much more realistic and interesting story.

T. K. Marnell said...

Ditto IMHO. This reads like a synopsis, not a query. Instead of trying to tweak it, the author would save time by scrapping it and starting fresh.

First, identify your protagonist. Is it Edgar? Then write the query focusing on Edgar. You don't need to detail the back stories and motivations of the villains.

Then identify your story conflicts and pivotal plot points. Leave out the nonessential stuff like the play-by-play of Hister's nefarious plans. An agent needs to be able to skim this quickly and get the gist of it without getting mired in details.


"It's 2169, and in six years the young Edgar Lewis will ascend to the throne of the European Empire. But the Empire's power-hungry chancellor, Hister, has other plans.

With the help of Edgar's abusive stepfather, Hister imprisons Edgar and forces him to undergo a medical treatment that halts aging. Trapped in a permanently twelve-year-old body, Edgar has little hope of taking his rightful place as heir.

When Edgar discovers that his stepfather and Hister murdered his mother, he fears they plan to assassinate him too. Edgar escapes from the Empire's space colonies, pursued by a ruthless bounty hunter named Marshal Grummer. To save the Empire from Hister's clutches, Edgar must evade capture, rally the military to his side, and convince Parliament to accept him as Emperor despite his juvenile appearance."

Anonymous said...

Author here. Thanks for the responses so far. You bring up excellent points. I feel that the age of the protagonist, along with some of the ideas make this an adult story. We're talking about outward appearances, not brain chemistry. The brain will continue to develop for awhile.

At beginning of the story, Edgar is several steps behind in the line of succession. His mother is the 12th in line and his biological father is even further down that line. And yes, I realize it can sound cliche about the 'heir'. I'm hoping the story reads unique. I'm just not sure how to get that across. I was trying to tell some of the things that happen without making it too long.

I realize that kids handle stress pretty well, it's the adults in the government that would have trouble recognizing his ability to rule.

BTW, Hister is an allusion to Nostradamus' second anti-christ.

Anonymous said...

Author here again. I wanted to marry and become a father when I was eleven. I have a journal entry from 29 years ago. I wasn't sure about this whole sex thing, but I knew I wanted to have a wife and family.

Boys might not admit it, but they do think of such things. I don't think I'm unique.

Anonymous said...

SB, he's told before the procedure begins that he'll never age after it. He doesn't need 'time'.

khazarkhum said...

I made the Hister/Nostradamus connection, and if I did so, that means agents, editors, and readers will, too. So is the connection a real thing? You deliberately made it, so I would have to guess yes, but--to what end?

AA said...

I don't believe that a twelve-year-old would ever go into a deep depression over the thought of not aging. When I was twelve, the idea of being an adult was somewhere in the future and a little fuzzy. What it did mean was responsibility- you always heard adults going on about that, and it produced some anxiety about being an adult. The thought of not aging would actually be a bit of a relief, especially to someone who was heir to any throne. It would be a big weight off, at least at first.

You say the brain would continue to develop for a while...Um, how long? I'm still not sure a college age kid running an empire is such a great idea.

"At beginning of the story, Edgar is several steps behind in the line of succession. His mother is the 12th in line and his biological father is even further down that line."
And nobody finds it suspicious that they're all being killed off systematically? One way to stop your story from ever starting is if somebody notices this is happening and looks into who's behind it.
I'm afraid that in trying to make your story less cliche you have succeeded in making it ridiculous.

Besides, who cares about the twelfth or thirteenth successor to the throne? Did you know that the twelfth successor to the throne of England is Peter Phillips? Do you care?

The last thing: Everybody knows that nanites are not permanent. Get them out of your body and they're gone. It seems like a type of radiation to certain glands would bring about the permanent change your antagonist is looking for. I'm assuming you're using nanites so you can reverse the condition at the end. But if I see that coming a mile away, so does everybody else.

I, also, suggest you start over from the beginning.

dhewco said...

Toward the end of the book, I set up series potential by having the Chancellor flee to the North American Alliance. Hister is shown conspiring to seize control through Edgar's stepfather, the commander of the NAA's version of the CIA. A behind the scenes control, to be sure, but one that will allow him to manipulate the other continental governments (Asia is divided into three, with Australia in the Chinese led Asian Cooperative) into combining against Europe.

dhewco said...

To answer the question, they care because the Chancellor has plans to kill everybody in between. I have to write what I know. I have journal entries from the age of 11 to college that prove that I was thinking about future, about family, about being an adult. I was looking forward to it. I was a very unhappy kid. I had very few friends, I was sexually confused, I had parents who weren't easy to talk to. At that age, if I'd been told I would never grow up, I'd have been crushed. Hell, my journal from the age of 13 was written as a letter to my future son. Adulthood was my escape. If no one else is that way, I'm a freak and my characters are going to be freaks.

You keep forgetting these nanites are 150 years from now. They have self-replicating capabilities. They're able to stay within the blood stream and able to derive power from fat.

And I agree, I need to start over. The query is apparently causing a lot of questions.

To be clear, I wrote this novel in 2005. I shopped it around and got a few partial requests from agents but no takers. It was a different query.

I recently decided to revamp the book and try again...hence the new query.

Thanks to everyone who commented.

dhewco said...

Also, ridiculous? You seem to think this is going to happen in a short span of time. The first murder happens 6 years before the procedure and is declared to be an accidental drowning. That's one down. And yes, it does seem suspicious...but most of the rest happen at a family function where a terrorist plants a bomb. The plan for the Emperor is similar, but our two heroes stop that from happening, arrest Hister in the end only to have him escape.

It's not ridiculous to have something like the above happen.

In the 1500s, Portugal lost at least 3 heirs within a few years...people die and people get away with murder. Yes, suspicions are raised...but not strong enough to stop him until the end.

Evil Editor said...

Best to use the helpful comments and ignore the rest. Unless "the rest" are Evil Editor's, in which case you need to explore why you just aren't getting it.

dhewco said...

Hey, EE, I intend to use everything possible. There are some really good comments here. Some things I hadn't thought of. I thought I had a decent query here. Instead, it's led to questions that only the book can answer and the querying doesn't seem to answer questions in itself.

I'll rewrite and maybe resubmit down the road...maybe I can get my point across down the road and also incorporate some of the suggestions/tips/comments others have made here.

Off to work on another query, lol.

Thanks minions!


AA said...

All nanites are in the future. Nanites became a "thing" around the 1980's, and were used to the point that they showed up in parody TV shows such as Red Dwarf and during host sketches on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The protocol is that they are recallable or can be somehow removed.
If your nanites are different, that's great, but people won't assume they're different unless it's pointed out explicitly (like you did to me).

"Has plans to eliminate the people in between Edgar and the throne and dominate the boy’s regency." I assumed he'd be doing this one by one, therefore giving them plenty of time to figure out who's doing it. Granted it doesn't say this, but it also didn't say they were together in one place all at the same time, giving someone a chance to use something like a bomb to remove them.

As far as your childhood is concerned, yes, I believe it was unusual. You might put something in about Edgar being an unhappy child who wants to grow up and thinks being King (or whatever- you didn't specify a title did you?) would actually be a great thing. This would explain the later depression. I do feel most children would assume future technology would eventually fix the problem and in the meantime they have gotten out of many adult responsibilities and pressures. Children are naturally optimistic and tend to live in the "now" rather than the future, as you seem to have done.

I'd like to point out that this seems to be a bit of a therapy novel for you and if so, that's great. However, it may make you a bit emotionally reactive to criticism, so bear that in mind.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Something you'll want to keep in mind in the next version of the query is making sure that your reader has a reason to root for Edgar. I can work up some sympathy for his not aging any more plight, but I don't see much reason to care whether he ends up in charge of the European Empire or not. A lot of these stories where the throne is at stake seem to assume that we'll want the successor to win simply because they're the next in line. If you've got some reason that Edgar should be king beyond the fact that he didn't inject anyone with anti-aging nannies, that should be in the query.

The law feels a bit like a narrative convenience, at least if it's that easy for someone to mess with the heir to the point where they're unable to demonstrate sufficient fitness to rule and the bad guy reaps the benefits. There seem to be an extremely long line of potential heirs to the throne. Why wouldn't the EE simply move on to the next heir rather than leaving the country rulerless?

Keep the next draft focused on Edgar, what happens to him, and what he does. The current version jumps around too much and it's hard to get a handle on what's important or much sense of your main character.

SB said...

Something to keep in mind is that just because something is true doesn't make it believable. I was in a writers' group once where someone had a story with a main character based on herself as a teen. This didn't make her character any more believable to me, but it did make her incredibly sensitive when it came to taking feedback. So yes, your boy character is unusual. Expect the reader to find him unusual and explain why he's that way in a way the reader will believe. Because if your reader doesn't believe the central conflict of your story, they're not going to want to read it. "Based on true events" or not.

dhewco said...

I realize I'm sensitive and I do appreciate the feedback. However, I remember (admittedly vaguely) talking to my best friend about his dreams about the future. Wife and kids were among them. I can't say how serious he was or whether or not he was just humoring me, but it made me feel better to know I wasn't the only one.

That said, you have to realize how my character's self-esteem and image of self-worth have been lowered if not crushed. Escapist fantasy is a big part of surviving. And sometimes, dreaming of a future without stepdads and someone to love is so important to you that if something crushes the fantasy it can lead to severe depressive emotions. Even in a kid.

I'm going to rewrite the query a couple times and use other sites to test it out, but I probably won't shop this novel much anymore. I might, maybe, self-publish it. I just don't know. I feel the story deserves publication, despite my query-writing skills and sensitivity.

PS. I am writing a 'therapy' novel strictly for the purpose to work out my demons. However, that won't see the light of day. (It involves being sent back to the protag's childhood to begin again...but not able to act on future knowledge to change his family's financial situation or save the life of anyone he knows who dies. He can only change his own personal decisions)


AA said...

If you ask most kids what their future is going to be like, they'll probably imagine being married and having kids and a job they like. Most don't dwell on it, however. A kid's time is now. They spend much of their time trying to keep from getting in trouble, get passing grades, and do as much of what they consider fun as possible. I'd say you were severely depressed as a kid and no one recognized this or helped you.

If I had been there I wouldn't have been able to help because I was just a depressed kid myself. But at least you would have had someone to talk to who did understand and wasn't just humoring you.

That said, there are ways to make your story and query more believable. For instance, Edgar is depressed and overly pressured and often dreams of being king in order to take control of his own life, and now it looks like that is actually going to happen.

That makes your story stronger, too, because then when the scientist ruins his chances of maturing he feels this chance has just been given to him only to be taken away.

By the way, it is OK to be upset about feedback. I used to be super sensitive and would actually cry if I thought someone didn't like me. I would get extremely angry for small reasons as well. One day a guy said he saw me crossing the street against the light, which I hadn't, and I was angry about that all day.

Sometimes the best thing to do is take your time to absorb the feedback, think about it, and see how they could see things the way they do. Take a couple of days if you need to. We'll wait.

dhewco said...

The problem is that Edgar doesn't know he's an heir until after he's sent to the Chancellor. His mother never told him about being the daughter of the nephew of the Emperor of Europe. He's lived in the North American Alliance all his life. So, he can't dream of an inheritance. Besides There's the Crown Prince, CP's family, CP's brother and his family standing between his being the direct heir. At the time he meets the Chancellor, he doesn't know the man is planning over the course of the next few months to take out the people before him in the succession with a series of terrorist attacks.

Anyway, some good points. I will consider them. Thanks again.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Author, is English your first language?