Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Face-Lift 1362

Guess the Plot

The Least of Us

1. We are the ones who care about no one except ourselves. The ones who would sell our souls to the devil for a few dollars or for the opportunity to watch innocents being tortured. The ones with no compassion for the downtrodden. We are the members of the Republican party.

2. A corn grower must decide whether life is really worth living if he must sell his family farm. Yeah, that's it.

3. Decades ago, American leaders built walls separating the wealthy coastal states from the loser interior states. But soon the coastal states will be underwater, so the haves want to tear down the walls and move inland. Will the have-nots forgive and forget?

4. The Zombie--sorry, Living-Impaired--Civil Rights movement has been gaining ground over the past year. Yet Zed and Tibbs have strong objections, even if their current state of life would say otherwise. Plus the usual brains, moaning, and rotting flesh.

5. Samantha, a divorced poet, lives on the picturesque New England shore where she rents her home from Carl, a widowed veterinarian. Just as they begin to forge a relationship, she discovers she has cancer and you've already stopped reading this because it's boring and overdone.

6. When Adilade receives a free curse that will make her obnoxious, over-achieving older brother shrink to the size of a mouse, she implements it without reading the warning label. Now she must work together with her worst enemy (her brother's best friend) to get her brother back to normal before the plague he's now spreading gives everyone in town his worst traits.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In 2060, Jessie lives in [a] world that was long ago divided. The Others – the leaders of the old world – took over all the coastal states and built two Walls to keep the undesirables [deplorables] out, convinced that they would eventually kill each other due to their violent nature. [Not sure whether that means the undesirables will eventually kill each other or the undesirables and the Others will eventually kill each other.] [Also, did the Others make the undesirables pay for the Walls?] Jessie is the third generation living on this side of the Wall, [Which side? Of which wall?] she knows no other way. [Replace comma with period or semicolon. Better yet, delete "she knows no other way." It's vague.] Jessie's smart, but naive. Though she knows that the Others aren't bogeymen, the Others are just stories to her.

In 2016, Matt is a teenager living his life. His [whose] main worry is doing well on the SATs. But, something is changing. The government announces that it’s going to build Walls to separate the coastal states from the rest of the country. Matt writes in his journal, documenting what his life is like, and writing about all the scary changes that are affecting him, his friends, and his family. [Is Matt in a coastal state or an inland state?] [The only specific scary change you mention is the Wall, which you already told us about in the previous paragraph. I'd dump this whole paragraph. You can tell us who Matt is when his journal is found in paragraph 4.]

One day, Jessie and Lucy make a trip to the Wall. [Who's Lucy?] While there, they hear voices. They overhear two men speaking of their plans to tear down the Walls so that the Others can move inland. [Can't they move inland by flying to inland airports? Or building bridges that go over the walls? Or blasting holes in the wall at ground level?] They have to, the coastal states will be under water in a year. Jessie and Lucy are terrified. They have only ever heard the worst of these people. It wasn't so long ago that the Others stole their homes and abandoned them to die. [If you steal my home and abandon me, I'm not gonna just keel over and die. Is there something about the world you haven't told us?] 

Jessie must learn all she can about the Others, as soon as she can. A journal that she finds will tell her a very personal version of the history of how things devolved in the first place, how her group survived it, and where Jessie fits in all of it. [Not clear how a 45-year-old journal written by a teenager can tell Jessie where she fits in "all of it." Possibly because I'm not sure what you mean by "where she fits in all of it."]

Inspired by current events, The Least of Us is a young adult novel, which is complete at 96,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.


Do the undesirables have any interest in getting to the Others' side of the Walls? If so, they might wish to consider these possible methods:

Click strip to enlarge.

Also, grappling hooks, jetpacks, bulldozers and parachuting from hot air balloons.

It's not clear what made the undesirables undesirable. It's not like they were homeless. Not only did they have homes, but they had homes the Others considered worth stealing. Was it their beliefs? Looks? 

We need to know a little more about the world. How is life different on both sides of the Walls than it was before the Walls? More specificity would give us a clearer picture.

When you say the Others abandoned the undesirables to die, did they abandon them on the coasts? If so, how did the undesirables get to the other side of the Walls? Or did the Others transport the undesirables to the interior before closing up the Walls? If so, I wouldn't say they were abandoned to die. Many food crops are grown mainly in the interior states. Also, why do we keep capitalizing "wall"?

Identifying and transporting all the undesirables on the coasts to the interior seems too daunting a task. Plus, with all the undesirables gone, who does all the menial jobs? 

What if you lived in New York but most of your family lived in Chicago? Were they all lost to you? Were the people who lived in the interior but weren't undesirables, like Warren Buffet and LeBron James and John Cusack, forcibly transported to the coasts when the Walls were built? Or were they just abandoned to die?

No way would Californians tolerate being walled out of Las Vegas. 


Anonymous said...

Heads up if you aren't aware: dystopia is a bloated market right now. With this query, this one doesn't sound unique enough to get past that barrier. If you plan on self-publishing and this is your cover blurb, most of the advice will still apply, but you might not want as much detail as for a query letter.

If this world is supposed to be a future version of ours, it would take a lot more than two walls built along the coasts to trap people in the US interior (remember Canada? Mexico? The rest of the world???). Are they curved walls? In addition to logistics like food production, mineral wealth, and safety from hurricanes, 44 years isn't really enough for people to start labeling a whole group as The Others and forgetting what life was like Before. Did tech get blasted down to the stone age when they built the walls? No more radio, tv, or satellites? Everyone who could build or repair such devices was killed or forcibly moved to the coast? How crowded are those coastal states? You have looked at maps of how little of the coast would be under water if all the ice on earth melted, haven't you?

If she's third generation and ~10 years old, her mother and grandmother would need to be an average age of ~17 when each of them gave birth--not completely unreasonable. However if she's 17, they would need to average out at giving birth age ~13 years old. If that's normal in this culture, you need to explain why she doesn't have her own kids. Or is that who Lucy is?

AKA: Your world building looks shoddy. If you've actually thought all this stuff through, it needs to be evident enough in the query that we're not bringing it up. If this isn't our world, that should probably be stated.

All Jessie actually does in this query is a) worry & b) visit the wall (which is paper thin if she can hear people conveniently as-you-know-bob talking on the other side) and c) decide to learn about The Others. Does she actually take action during the book?

Jessie wants what?
What obstacles does she face?
What does she do to get what she wants? Or what is the point of the story? (hint: didactic polemics don't sell, stories sell -- is there a story here?)

davefragments said...

You forgot trebuchets and catapults... Wrap someone in bubble wrap and fire them over the wall.

However, I'm not sure what struggle the protagonist is going to face? Learning from someone's diary/journal? There is nothing personal about it. Matt and Jessie are unrelated and only known through the journal. I don't know what will involve the reader in the story. If all Jessie has to do is read the Matt's journal to help the "others" that people have been separated from for 45 or so years, then why doesn't everyone else living with Jessie do the same? I'm not understanding what the plot is.

Mister Furkles said...

Where does food come from? Did you not know that the middle states provide the vast majority of food consumed on the coasts? The USA is the world's largest grain exporter. Cut that off and tens of millions will starve every year. Then there are the cattle, pork, and chicken farms: mostly in the interior. Of course, there are feed lots on the coasts but the animals are mostly bred in the interior.

Of course, the situation as described could not happen without a massive civil war first. Seems to me that would be a better story background.

khazarkhum said...

So we have the Smugs vs the Deplorables. California might be able to feed some of that population, but not all of it. Massive desalination projects would be needed, as the Colorado will be off-limits.

Is the entire coast involved, or just the extremes, the blue parts? If that's the case the Smugs are in serious trouble in regards to everything else plus food. What's to prevent the Deplorables from flying overhead and bombing the coast into submission? Nothing.

Granted, you didn't explicitly say 'America is divided', but you might as well have. That's certainly how minions are seeing it, and agents/editors/readers will, too.

Anonymous said...

I think the US is the only country that uses the SATs, which makes this being some version of the US the most likely guess.