Monday, January 04, 2016

Face-Lift 1292

Guess the Plot


1. Kia not only bottles up her emotions, she sells the bottles on the black market. But selling emotions is as illegal as selling heroin. The government nabs her and agrees to pardon her if she'll become a spy for them. Also, wicked creatures.

2. How the bottling industry managed to stay relevant through the 20th century by transitioning from ceramic to glass to plastic. Also, drink boxes.

3. Escaped convicts and eighth-grade boys on a field trip collide in a hostile bottle rocket stand-off. Plus, ships in bottles.

4. A non-fiction guide to canning everything--from cherries, to pickles, to whole chicken, to Aunt Midge's fruit cake--in artistic landscape scenes that will make your pantry worthy of Pinterest. Includes an appendix of mixes for baked goods.

5. Vin shouldn't have gotten drunk at the frat party, opened the bottle he found on the beach, or made a bet with a djiin, but he did. Now he must sober up in time to escape the harem of Ghaddar before he becomes a eunuch.

6. One man, one goat, one convoluted metaphor involving the blood of saints and diaphanous interstellar nebulae, or perhaps the bloody rivers of Earth and a heavenly saint. And rum. 

7. A genie tricks Mary-Lou into swapping places, so she gets stuck in that damned bottle for about 150 years. As it happens, this provides excellent shelter from nuclear war and fallout. She escapes as nuclear winter is ending. Now it's up to her to restart humanity. Luckily, she has one wish left! 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Kia [Sorento] is one of the Gifted: she can create emotions out of thin air. And with people desperate to feel something strong and real, she’s providing for herself by bottling the feelings she creates and selling them on the black market. [I'll take one bottle of lust and a bottle of . . . lust. In fact, make it a case.]

But when one of her dealers, [Customers? Okay, it could be a huge operation, and she has lots of underling dealers, but she's a 17-year-old providing for herself, not a corporation with shareholders. One billionaire customer like Mr. Burns would be plenty to finance her mall shopping sprees.] Tamas, turns out to be a government spy in disguise[Just because you're not wearing a suit and sunglasses doesn't mean you're in disguise. It's not like emotion dealers have a specific uniform.] and also totally unaffected by her Gift [She offered him a bottle of guilt, but he wasn't thirsty.] —everything Kia worked for is destroyed. [By "everything Kia worked for" you mean her business dealing illegal drugs?] To avoid rotting in a cold cell, Kia is forced to accept the government’s offer: her crimes will be pardoned [Is her crime selling love potions, or not collecting sales tax for the government?] [Is it a crime to feel emotions, or just to help others feel emotions?] if she agrees to use her abilities to travel to the Kingdom of Driend, [She needs to use her ability to create emotions to travel to another kingdom? Can't she just use a horse?] joining Tamas as an undercover spy, [as opposed to a spy who wears a spy costume and announces his presence and mission to the enemy.] and find the source of its king’s black magic. [Apparently the ability to create emotions out of thin air is useful in finding someone's source of black magic? Otherwise, I don't see why the govt. would entrust this mission to a 17-year-old drug dealer.] [You'd think the government would have a few Gifted on their payroll instead of having to recruit a teenage criminal for this job. ] And for a girl who’s used her gift to manipulate her way through life, working with someone immune is torture. [Her Gift may not work on him, but no seventeen-year-old needs a Gift to arouse emotions in an adult. Just by acting normal she should have no trouble making him feel confused, horrified, shocked, uncomfortable, exasperated, confused, frustrated . . . ]

With wicked creatures following their every move, [Are we talking witches and vampires or alien and predator or lions and tigers and bears?] Kia soon realizes that this mission might be more than what she bargained for. Failing is not an option if she wants to be free, but once Kia walks through the palace doors she discovers that her Gift is mere child’s play compared to the black magic that threatens their lives with every step they take. [It sounded like child's play to begin with. What made the government think her Gift was up to defeating powerful black magic?]

Complete at 80,000 words, BOTTLED is a standalone novel with series potential that will appeal to readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Is there more at stake than whether Kia ends up in a cold cell? For instance, is the king using black magic as a weapon against Kia's country? Are we supposed to be rooting against the king or against the government? 

How come we know the king's kingdom is called Driend but we don't know what country's government Kia lives under? 

What percentage of the population are Gifted, and what percentage are immune? If the answers are close to zero, rather than three, I can see why the government settles for Kia. But it still seems like invisibility or mind reading would be more useful than creating emotions for this task. 

If a guy with no magical powers can be immune to Kia's Gift, why can't this king with powerful black magic make all his subjects immune? 

Why do people need help to feel something strong and real? Was that ability removed from everyone, or did they never have it? Even Vulcans are able to feel emotions; they simply choose to bottle them up. Is this set on planet Earth?

If you condense this plot summary into three or four sentences, including one that reveals what the bad guy is doing that's so bad, you'll have room to tell us how Kia plans to use her Gift to overcome the obstacles in her way, and what goes wrong. 


Anonymous said...

This mostly sounds like setup. If most of the plot takes place in Driend, you need to tell us what kind of things are going to be happening there. Diplomatic fencing? Infiltrating the palace as kitchen help? There are a lot of options and this will be a different kind of story depending on which one's correct, which is why the agent/editor needs to know.

I'd suggest adjusting the explanation of her ability. Saying Kia can create emotions out of thin air doesn't bring to mind 'emotion' as a separate quantity for the individual feeling it, which leads to needing to reread the whole part about sticking it in bottles. The chances are slim you'll get a reread from a tired intern sorting through the slush pile as fast as they can reject you.

Motivations aren't clear. I'm not getting a good sense from this of why the government needs Kia as a spy as opposed to someone they could trust. I also don't see why Kia doesn't escape and set up shop in the next kingdom over, or betray Tamas and go to work for the king with the black magic. Is freedom what Kia really wants?

By 'torture' are you using hyperbole or does Kia actually experience some kind of pain-causing backlash?

Wicked creatures following them doesn't sound like a problem. Are the wicked creatures reporting on them to other people? Spreading rumors about them? Framing them for spoiling the village crop? Sabotaging their supplies? Attacking them?

An explanation of what the black magic is/does would help us to better understand the stakes.

Hope this helps

Tk said...

Seems to me that the power to create emotions is perfect for a 17-year-old and can make a great coming of age story. But all other questions aside, the one thing I think you really need to answer is how she uses it, which is key to the plot. The checks and balances on her powers are going to be really important to avoid plot holes.

I'd like to understand how Kia manipulates people, how she commits crimes and how her power makes her a good spy. For example, does she make strangers compassionate so they give her money? Can she make people-in-the-know trusting or panicky so they spill secrets?

And then I'd think you'd also need to cover the corollary, as Anon mentions - why can't she make her jailers gullible (is that an emotion? Maybe indifferent?) enough to let her go regardless, without making this spy-for-freedom bargain?

Tk said...

P.S. Curious - could Tamar just take a few of Kia's bottles on his mission instead of taking Kia?

InkAndPixelClub said...

The opening doesn't grab me. Saying Kia "can create emotions out of thin air" doesn't make it clear how she's unique. You need to find a way to to explain that Kia can create consumable items that make people feel varying emotions that is both interesting and easy to understand. I'd drop the part about her being one of the Gifted. We don't meet any other Gifted in the query, so we don't need to know that there's a name for a person with those abilities. Better to spend the space explaining the features and limits of Kia's power. Do people have to invest the emotions to feel them, or breathe them in? Are they solid, liquid, gaseous? Do they come in varying amount that determine the intensity of the emotion, or the duration?

Is the setting more high fantasy or urban fantasy? I'm not clear on whether Kia and Tamas are more like to travel to Driend by horse, dragon, car, or teleporter.

The "wicked creatures" and the other threats to Kia and Tamas are too vague to be interesting. We need to know what Kia will be up against, how her unique abilities will help, and what's at stake beyond Kia's freedom. Why should we or anyone else care about the source of the king's black magic?