Monday, March 26, 2007

Face-Lift 302

Guess the Plot

Time Slice

1. After months of watching that insipid infomercial, Blake Pinter gives in and orders a set of kitchen knives that can slice through aluminum cans. But when he chops his first vegetable, a rutabaga, he’s transported to the twelfth century. Can Blake find the food that will time slice him back to the present, or will he forever hop through history cursing his lost $39.95.

2. Dragged to the mall by his wife, Roy stumbles upon a metal cylinder that allows him to travel back and forth to different civilizations. Will he use it for his own pleasure, or to assist the tall, gangly creature known as . . . The Traveler?

3. In a San Antonio restaurant, Burt expected lime with his Corona, never noticing that the menu actually said "comes with a slice of time." When the waiter asked him what year he desired, he answered 1836 on a lark. Now how will he survive Santa Anna's attack on the Alamo?

4. Shady realtor Ted Cutter thought he could market vacation time-shares, but business does not take off until he develops the one hour time-slice. Trouble ensues when he merges his company with an escort service and the neighbors start to complain.

5. Nina is a small business owner, Evan is a stay-at-home dad, and Rory is a short-order cook. What do they have in common? Nothing--until a flawed time-space continuum experiment shifts each of them into the life of one of the others.

6. The Great Witch who jellified the year 1532 has decided to slice it up and sell weeks. Who is buying? Scamps, scoundrels, and devil-may-care princelings who screwed up royally the first time and would like another go. But can bonnie Prince Robert meet the witch's price?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Thank you for taking the time to review the query for my 81,000 word science fiction novel, Time Slice.

Even though Roy Washburn has [only] been retired [only] a few months, he's already bored. When he finds a small metal cylinder with odd markings on an all-too-routine trip to the mall with his wife, he can't help but investigate. With just a nudge of the cylinder's triangle shaped pointer, Roy finds he can [focus a beam of light on a nearby wall. Astounded, he calls a press conference to reveal what he calls the most remarkable discovery in the history of mankind. Three reporters show up and laugh him out of the room.] float back and forth in the time stream and learns that countless civilizations inhabit "his" Earth, each occupying their own thin slice of time. Roy also encounters a tall, gangly creature, The Traveler, who knows more than a little about the cylinder, and who needs Roy's help. [Is this the same "Traveler" who appeared three times on Star Trek: The Next Generation? The Traveler whose greatest gift to humanity was taking Wesley Crusher with him to explore the universe, and thus off the series?]

Roy's clandestine experiments with the cylinder continue even after learning that his wife, Emily, is terminally ill. [I've said it before and I'll say it again: when your spouse is terminally ill, common courtesy demands that you suspend all time travel experimentation.] Roy's daughter, Ann, sees her father's inattentiveness to Emily as further proof that he hasn't changed over the years and is self-centered as ever. The chasm between father and daughter widens.

[Emily: Your wife is dying, and you're going where?

Roy: The Etruscan civilization. But don't worry, I'll be back two months ago.]

Faced with his wife's terminal illness, a daughter who resents him, and an alien who needs his help, Roy must decide whether to use the cylinder to satisfy his own wants or to help his family and new friend through their crises. [Why is this an either/or decision? The cylinder can be used only once?] Much to Roy's surprise, the goals are not mutually exclusive.

Thank you for your time.



Where does Roy find the cylinder? In the pocket of a shirt on a rack at Abercrombie and Fitch? Is it a coincidence that he finds it, or was it preordained?

I'd like more information about what happens when Roy uses the cylinder. Also, what it is the Traveler wants from Roy.

On the other hand, less (or no) information about Emily would be fine in the query.


Anonymous said...

This query has what the psychiatric folk call "flat affect". Facts are given in sequence, but emotional content seems to be missing. Is that the tone of the book? If so, you might want to add the occasional joke and unbearable pathos, or something...

Robin S. said...

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: when your spouse is terminally ill, common courtesy demands that you suspend all time travel experimentation".

I haven't had time to think about the query letter, but I laughed out loud at this, which I don't do all that often to most things that are supposed to be funny.

Anonymous said...

Yay, Sharper Image.

I want one of those light beam focusing things. I just know I could find all sorts of uses for one of them. Especially in the dark.

I think EE hit the point very succinctly: the heart seems to be missing from this query. We've got a set up but not really much about what actually happens and why. Need a little more to go on.

EE, did you have to google for that Star Trek site, or was it right there in your favorites?

GutterBall said...

Or is it The Traveler from the original Ghostbusters movie? That was a fun one. Nimble li'l minx, in't she?

As for the query, I've heard that time travel stories are a hard sell, so your query will have to pack that much more punch. It will have to have some kind of spark, not just be a mini-synopsis.

Take whatever is different about your book and put that into the query. If you have a quick-paced tone, make your query follow. If you're pithy, crack a few sarcastic jokes. If there's something special about your type of time travel, bring that out. You'll have to shine among a thousand diamonds, kiddo, so you'd better polish up.

Yikes. I ought to delete that last.

Dave Fragments said...

Wesley Crusher was sighted at that great San Francisco eatery - the Squat and Gobble.

Robin S. said...

All right, yes, the cylinder, time travel, etc., have been done, but what hasn't already been done before?

I really think it depends on who's telling the story, their approach to it, and how well it's told.

I might leave Emily out of the query, as EE mentioned, and include in the query the unique approach of your version of this story. I have no idea you should do this - and I'm not going to pretend I do, or to zap you, author, because you have more work to do.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, author, but I'm just not getting it from this query. Aside from the "OK, so what's different" factor (which is key not just to time travel stories, but ANY story these days), I'm not even getting a clue from the query for what's the same.

Can Roy dial his way to whatever year/civilization he wants? Is he cast willy-nilly through time, happening to wind up in just the right places and times to witness history's greatest events like in "Time Tunnel"? Or does he arrive literally a day late and a dollar short - the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a week after Atlantis went under?

Is Roy a self-centered SOB and Ann is right about him all along? If so, use THAT as a defining trait for him rather than that he's retired and bored. Is Roy profiting from his time jaunts? Is The Traveler the "new friend" in your last paragraph? How/why is he a friend? If he's a friend, is there an antagonist in this story? What's the conflict? Are there consequences to keeping or returning the time cylinder?

The answers to these questions are the things that need to be in your query as attention-getters. The stuff you have in your query now isn't exciting as written. Tighten up what's there considerably and then throw in some good specifics about the plot.

Oh, great, EE. After years of therapy trying to forget there WAS a Wes on ST:TNG, YOU have to bring him up. I was ever indebted to the Traveler. Now it's back to therapy ...

Blogless Troll said...

Wesley was a dweeb. He should've been banished to the black hole of nothingness.

Bernita said...

Give us a reason to giveasweetgoddamn about your protagonist.
Here, he sounds decidedly unattractive.

Kerry said...

Thanks for all of the comments, folks. Everytime I try to write it so it's not a mini-synopsis, someone tells me that I haven't given enough of the plot or enough specifics. I just can't seem to find the right balance.

I guess I basically suck at this, because when I read mine and then compare it to ones which Evil Editor or Miss Snark just loved, I don't see much difference.

But, I'll keep trying.

Thanks again.