Saturday, August 12, 2006

Face-Lift 154

Guess the Plot

No Finish Line

1. Alex enters a race with a 10 million dollar prize, only to discover that the race doesn't end until only one runner is left alive. Will he finish first, or tied for "dead" last?

2. After spending 17 days running circles around Helsinki, Lars begins to suspect there's something fishy about the marathon he's racing in.

3. A veteran bartender and pick-up artist analyzes disadvantages of Scandinavian ice-breakers like, "The tag on your turkis must say 'made in Nuutajärvi' because you are an enkeli."

4. When a jockey develops cancer before the Kentucky Derby, his doctor and his fiancée want him to start chemo, but . . . hey, it's the Kentucky Derby, man.

5. Desert bike racer Rash McGrew pushed his bike to 900 miles per hour on the salt flat course. Unlucky for him there was no finish line, just the Grand Canyon.

6. It is only in the middle of the inaugural 1500 meters at the new Moebius Stadium that the architect and the organizers realize the awful truth.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Smith,

Have you ever wondered just how far a person could go without stopping before they just could not go any further? [Yes. Once at a Nevada brothel Evil Editor was paired with Patience Eternal (probably not her real name). I plopped down four grand in hopes of getting the answer to your question. How far Patience could have gone I never found out, as they had to hit me with defibrillators after ten minutes.] After completing Ironman Florida last year in just over fifteen hours, I did. Then I wondered - What if there was a large prize - say ten million dollars for the person that went the farthest? [Obviously you were suffering from exercise delirium.] [Though I'll admit that after completing my last query face-lift, I wondered, What if I were getting ten million dollars for this?] What if the prize was even greater than that? What if it was their life that was on the line? From this, I was inspired to [draw up the terms of a suicide pact in which the losers of a race have to kill themselves. But I couldn't find anyone else who wanted in, so instead I decided to] write "No Finish Line", a 74,000 word thriller.

All Alex Foreman had ever wanted was the chance to prove himself. A chance to show everyone that he had what it took to be the greatest endurance athlete in the world. [And then he got that chance--he inherited a pharmacy.] A mysterious man wielding an invitation to an exclusive event just gave him that chance. Three hundred athletes competing in three events – each continuing on until they couldn't any longer. It was a triathlete's dream race, and an opportunity to finally prove who the greatest athlete in the world was. [Why can't Alex just enter the Ironman Triathlon World Championships to prove he's the greatest?] And with a ten million dollar prize to the winner, who could resist?

But Alex soon finds out that the race is much more than it appears. Finding himself stuck in a grueling race where only the winner will survive, he struggles to find a way to escape and hopes for a chance at rescue. Meanwhile, he must continue to do what it takes to survive – keep moving on in a race where there is "No Finish Line." [I'm having a hard time envisioning how the organizers can prevent escape or rescue, given the distance spread that would exist among 300 people after more than eight hours. Are there 299 armed guys on jet-skis and motorcycles with huge gas tanks following the racers?]

Per the submission guidelines on your website, I am including a synopsis and the first three chapters of the novel. I would love the opportunity to send the full manuscript for you to review. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Revised Version

Dear Mr. Smith,

Alex Foreman wants to show the world that he's the greatest endurance athlete alive. True, he's won his share of marathons and triathlons, but those are for wimps. He's looking for a competition in which he'll at least have to break a sweat.

And then a mysterious man wielding an invitation to an exclusive race gives Alex the opportunity he's been after. Three events. Three hundred superb athletes, continuing on until they no longer can. It's a triathlete's dream race. And with a ten million dollar prize, who could resist?

But after the event is underway, Alex discovers that there's more at stake than fame and fortune, for if he loses the race, he forfeits his life. Only the winner gets out alive. Seeking a means of escape, hoping for rescue, he does what he must to survive – keep moving, in a race that has No Finish Line."

I was inspired to write No Finish Line, a 74,000-word thriller, after completing Ironman Florida last year. Per the submission guidelines on your website, I am including a synopsis and the first three chapters of the novel. I would love the opportunity to send the full manuscript for you to review. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Since there is an Ironman championship, it's hard to imagine racers believing that winning several of these in a row would not mark them as the world's greatest endurance athlete, that they would need to win a race that went on even longer.

The total distance of a standard ironman course is over 140 miles. Where and how are the 299 losers dying without witnesses?

Alex Foreman is the name of a character in the movie In Good Company, although there it's a she, played by Scarlett Johansson.]


Anonymous said...

This is not so far fetched as it sounds. There was a little Spanish thriller film in 2001 called Intacto co-starring Max von Sydow in which four conscript contestants must compete in various tests of chance until only one of them remains alive to claim victory. Plausibility is all in the details.

Bernita said...

Think it's a fascinating theme.
A variation of The Most Dangerous Game.
Have seen several of these recently, all different.
Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...

Stephen King did this twice in a futuristic setting, didn't he? The Running Man (game show) and The Long Walk. It sounds like a sci-fi sort of extreme sport thing to me. All of these usually have some sort of social commentary in them. However, it sounds as if nobody knows that the 299 losers are going to die, so I have to wonder--why? You should probably explain this, as that would be the point of the book

Anonymous said...

I hate sports (well, except hockey) but for some reason this concept intrigues me. I would read it, especially after the revision. It sounds like it might be a great read!

Anonymous said...

"Have you ever wondered just how far a person could go without stopping before they just could not go any further?"

I think there's some redundancy in that sentence. Given that it's the first in the letter, it might be worth tightening up.

Also, I don't think you've sold your premise well enough. As EE already pointed out, there are already world ironman championships. The only difference from yours is that the stakes aren't as high. That doesn't really enhance the championship, it just make losing less fun.

More importantly, it seems unlikely to me that Foreman would put his life on the line in some shadowy race for some shadowy guy for some shadowy prize money. Especially when that shadowy guy seems nutty.

Maybe it could work but I think it needs a different setup. Maybe it's in the future, or maybe it's in a prison, or some other more controlled atmosphere. Of course, moving it in that direction runs the risk of being too much like King (Bachman)'s classic, "The Long Walk".

I suspect that you wanted to write a story about competing in ironman competitions, which is cool and original. Maybe you should ditch the "run for your life" premise and think of another backdrop for the race. Just an idea...

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

If I weren't currently in a state of triathlon burnout, I think I could find this premise interesting.

But just FTR, there is not only the IM championship in Hawaii, but there's a double-IM and even a deca-IM. Really.

Not to mention the ultramarathons that take place under grueling desert conditions, like Marathon des Sables, etc.

So I'd want to know early on how this particular race (aside from the whole losing=death thing) is different from the other extreme sports out there. Because if long-distance torture is your thing, there's plenty of races to sign up for where it's perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, that you make it out alive.

Anonymous said...

I love this premise. I could never be an Iron Man athlete, but I know some and a few Iron Man wins is never enough. These elite athletes push themselves to the limits. I could see this premise working, with the right setting. If it was written well, I'd buy this book.

Dan Lewis said...

Alex Foreman is in a spinning competition to the death... with no finish line.

How can a race to the death have three events? If each event continues until "they couldn't any longer", how do you get to the second event?

Event 1: Swim back and forth across the Pacific Ocean.

Event 2: Bike from the beginning to the end of Highway 101.

Event 3: Run around in Death Valley.

If the race never ends, how do you know who's winning?

Maybe the competitors should try to kill each other. In fact, this plot was already sounding like a cross between The Quest and Around the World In 80 Days. Just make sure to have a guy doing monkey style and you'll be good to go.

Anonymous said...

I do love this premise. Because I've read it before. Read The Long Walk, author, and then decide whether to shop your novel out or not. If there are too many similarities...well, I don't want you to get sued, or anything like that.

The Premise of the Long Walk is just that; more money than you can imagine for the winner of the competition. the competition doesn't end until there is only one person left. Read it.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you make Alex a brutal eunuch? The final scene could be a staredown between Foreman, a vigilante sorcerer and the Pooka of Leinster.

Man, chills are running down my spine!

Anonymous said...

See also: The Long Walk. My favorite Stephen King story ever.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I understand that the premise of a death race has been covered in a lot of other stories, but that doesn't mean it cant work in my novel.

I also know of the Deca-Triathlon (know someone who did one) but in that race you are allowed to sleep whenever you want. In mine you cant stop to sleep.

The race is held on a private island - hence no witnesses. It is not that Alex did not think he was a great endurance athlete, but when this event is presented to him it is a much greater feat and challenge than just an Ironman distance.

To answer another question - there are 3 events and 300 people, when 100 have been eliminated from the first portion of the race (the swim), they then move on to the second. When 100 more are eliminated they move on to the third, with only the final 100 going to the run.

I think that answers most question. If anyone has any ideas as to how to present these points in my query letter so that these questions do not come up from potential agents, I would be very grateful.

Anonymous said...

Hey Author,

I still think this is a good idea. However, there probably isn't an agent in the world who hasn't already read the long walk. Like yours, nobody is allowed to sleep. In fact, nobody is even allowed to stop walking -- if they do, they are shot immediately.

I think the strength of your story is probably that it incorporates real details about what it's like to be in an ironman competition. That's something that most of us have no clue about, but would be interested in. I would suggest that you play up the realism of the event, and of course mention that the stakes are pretty high.

It's hard to explain why people in your story do what they do in a query letter. I learned that when my own was critiqued a month ago.
I think it's best to stick to bare bones without raising questions that there's no time to answer (like why Foreman would enter this shadowy race, why he thinks it's more of a challenge when the rules are pretty much the same, and a couple other things that I'm skeptical about). They'll get the questions and answers in the ms.

Anonymous said...

Anon author, perhaps something like this:

As 300 of the world's best physical specimens gather on remote Testosterone Island, Alex is both pleased and slightly nervous about the quality of the competition he faces. But when the first of three events ends only after a third of those athletes are literally dead in the water, Alex realizes that the stakes are much higher than ten million dollars.

This introduces the fact that they're on an island away from witnesses, that there are three events, that each event ends with the death of 100 athletes, etc.

Being a huge fan of King, I also thought of The Long Walk and Running Man when I read this. This means you're up against tough competition, but hey, you're an Iron Man so don't let that stop you.

For me, what would make or break this story is the rationale of the guy running the competition. I can buy Alex wanting to push himself (even though I myself am considering putting fridge in my bedroom to avoid trekking to the kitchen for a soda), and money is always a great motivator. If the story is going to work, there needs to be a good reason for the antagonist to want to kill these athletes. Just my $.02.

One final note: if it were me, I'd take a peek at all 300 speedos before hitting the water: spot the brutal eunuch and you stand a better chance of survival.

Anonymous said...

So it's Takeshi's Castle meets Cube?

"A mysterious man wielding an invitation" - I'm envisioning a cloaked figure chasing Alex with invitation. "Take part, dammit! Run, run, run! Mwahahahaha!" Awesome.

Seriously though, why would Alex trust this mysterious man?