Monday, August 10, 2009

Face-Lift 662

Guess the Plot

The Resurrection

1. Murdered by aliens they ruled over ruthlessly, Captain Sabine and the Emperor have come back to life! It's revenge time, but can two zombies wipe out the entire alien fleet?

2. Joe Bob, necromancer, runs a small business selling undead slaves. When one of his subjects comes back to life instead of un-life, he needs to find the non-corpse to prove he's not responsible before zealots, grieving families and a pantheon of demigods turn him into one of his usual subjects.

3. You will need:
- shovel
- car battery
- jump leads
- copy of Necronomicon
- air freshener (optional)

4. As the Siberian mystery deepens, Tabasco Jones prepares for her meeting with Bleu Flambei, the internationally renowned graffiti artist and superspy. They deciphered the Weatherman Code too late to save New Orleans, but the latest message says Vladavostok will be destroyed with heat rays on Tuesday.

5. When Roger discovers the powers of Viagra, his wife of 32 years says no way and files for divorce. Single again, Roger goes wild and the rest of the story -- is porn.

6. When Lenny the Cockroach is found six legs up, the Band of Merry Dust Mites goes into mourning. Their god is dead. But three days later, Lenny is up and running about. Was he faking it, or did these dust mites witness . . . The Resurrection?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I see that you’ve represented John Miller (FATE OF THE JEDI) and Troy Denning (LOST TRIBE OF THE SITH), whose books fall into the same category as THE RESURRECTION. [My research indicates that John Jackson Miller is the author of some short stories in a series called Lost Tribe of the Sith and that Troy Denning is the author of a book called Abyss, which is one book in a series called Fate of the Jedi. So unless these guys both write for both series, you've mixed them up. Also, these are Star Wars fiction. There's no indication below that yours is a Star Wars novel, and if it isn't, to say that it falls into the same category is going to misrepresent it, at least to this particular agent. If it is set in the Star Wars world, say so.] I would love for my debut 150,000-word science fiction novel to be taken on by an agent of your stature. [And to say a 150,000-word novel falls into the same category as a short story is a stretch.]

Ambitious twenty-year-old Captain Sabine is a human resurrection with a big chore left over from her past life: she has to convince the other resurrection—her emperor—to stop [eating people's brains and to stop] seeking revenge against the aliens they ruled ruthlessly and were murdered by in their past life. [How can convincing the emperor to stop seeking revenge on the aliens be a chore left over from her past life? In her past life she wasn't doing this chore, so it's new to her current life.] But when she has the cabal plotting his assassination wrapped around her finger, [The emperor's assassination? How long has he been alive again? One day you're dead, the next day you're alive again, only to discover there's already a cabal plotting your assassination?

I'm forming a cabal to assassinate the emperor. You in?

I thought the emperor was dead.

He was, but he came back to life.

What's the point of assassinating him if he can come back to life?

Hmm. I'll get back to you on that. Any other questions?

Yeah. What's a cabal?]

and the weapon to crush the alien fleet at her disposal, she finds herself thinking that revenge might be a good idea after all—right alongside flying solo. [That's the whole plot? One zombie tries to convince another not to wipe out a fleet of aliens, and then decides to start her own firm?]

(is it worth mentioning that I used to author a column in a local paper in which I reviewed dance mix CD’s? [No.] I didn’t think so. And I take it membership in local writers’ organizations don’t mean shit either?) [Correct.]

I appreciate your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,


If you call them zombies instead of human resurrections, you'll triple your sales.

While I admire your ability to condense your 150,000-word plot into two sentences, another five or six would be useful in conveying to us what happens in your book.

Why are there only two human resurrections?

How can the emperor ruthlessly rule aliens who have a fleet? It seems to me that if someone is ruthlessly ruling you and you have a fleet, you'll either use it to go to war or use it to fly away, depending on how well you think you'll fare in a war. You're not gonna just put up with someone ruthlessly ruling you.


Steve Wright said...

I hadn't done anything worthy of assassination when I was twenty. I feel like such an under-achiever.

Surely "resurrection" is the word for the process of coming back to life, not the person who's doing it? Shouldn't she be a resurrectee, or (more properly) a zombie?

... And I think that's all I've got, since there's virtually nothing to go on here. 150,000 words? There's got to be more to the story than what you've described here. At least, I sincerly hope so.

Anonymous said...

Dear Author, you condensed a 190,000 word novel into three sentences? Now that is a marketable skill, but whether or not your book is marketable I have no idea because you didn't tell us much about it.

I have been told that novels are more likely to be published if the word count comes in close to 100,000 - especially first time writers. Your book may need some serious editing.

As for the guess the plots - I am either in a real good mood or all the continuations were great. #3 and #5 made me laugh out loud, #6 made me think of several Disney animated films, especially Bug's Life.


Maria said...

First, thanks for the feedback. It’s really helpful. (BTW, EE, are you British? Not that it means anything, just curious)

Okay, I guess I’ll need a few more sentences in the query. I was trying to stick to three in the plot section.

You’re right about Troy Denning and John Miller and the word count, I just threw those names in there since I will research on PW and find an agent who represents similar stuff (is PW worth the money? They have this deal where you pay $20 and you get to cruise their databases with scores of deals and other important stuff; is this the best way to find who’s dealing what and who the best agent would be?).

Right about “chore,” I need to change that word.

There are only two resurrections because most of the others were slaughtered by the aliens when they rebelled against their masters. The remainder were scattered about the galaxies. Sabine and the emperor are the only two she knows about. The others are in limbo.

The emperor isn’t currently ruling the aliens. He and Sabine ruled them ruthlessly in their past life (in the first sentence of the query), and were murdered by them. At her execution, Sabine knows that he is determined to return to revenge their deaths, and she sees it could result in another bloodshed. So she resurrects herself to return and stop him. But after she came back, she grew power hungry and decided “well if I can crush the aliens then why not. And while I’m at it let me kill this guy too so I can be the leader.” I guess that’s not apparent? The reason she has the cabal wrapped around her finger is because she is able to manipulate these people mentally (which I did not mention).

So she’s back and the emperor’s back, and they are the only two people who know who they were in the past life. The aliens have discovered that these two are alive again and know who they are despite their human form. So they are now sending ships to find and kill them. No one else in the human worlds knows why the aliens are attacking them except for Sabine and the emperor. But the senior crew see that the aliens are attacking only the empire (and no other human systems) and figure something’s up. And then here’s Sabine who’s able to get past alien ships unharmed, and she’s successful in all her other missions and they are really looking now for another leader and they are desperate to save themselves from the alien attacks, and so they choose her. Then Sabine finds the weapon to crush the alien attacks, and as she’s become really arrogant, she decides to off the emperor, kill off the aliens and become empress.

The emperor has been alive for a while, a little bit longer than Sabine. And she is the only one who knows he’s a resurrection. According to resurrection legend, when your soul passes into a new body, you are born as a baby and grow up just like anyone else. So you have an old soul and sometimes you may remember your past life.

I’m not making Sabine and the emperor into zombies, everyone and their mother has a book with zombies. It’s been done and then some.

Title will be changed, it's very cliche.

any suggestions for word count? it is in fact 150K.

Once again, thanks for the critique. If you have any more ideas after reading this long post, I’d love to know. I am hoping to do a rewrite but I don’t know if I can do it before you go to the next query.

_*rachel*_ said...

Rewrite. The stuff in this comment is much more like what you need. I think it's reccommended that you use about 10 sentences, right? Also, I'm not sure I'd bother mentioning the similar authors. I mean, yeah, it shows you've done a bit of research, but I dunno....

Hey, it all depends on what you consider being worthy of assassination. I haven't ruthlessly ruled anything, but I'm sure I've done some things that would offend your average Al-Queida member.

Maria said...

I appreciate the note, Rachel. Noah Lukeman suggests adding the research part in his free ebook about good queries:

pacatrue said...

It seems like "Sabine raises her self from the dead in order to prevent a resurrected Emperor from slaughtering the people that she once helped the Emperor rule," or something in better English, is your one sentence elevator plot. Start right there and then move into what she can do.

Try to make it clear if Sabine is actually a good person, a heroine, or something of an anti-hero(ine). She seems really mixed right now. Making it clear that she's come back to try to save other beings makes it more clear she's not just evil. Is the Emperor simply evil? Seems like it.

Oh, and re-name Sabine to Anakin Skywalker and the aliens are the Ewoks. People will love a plot where Darth Vader comes back from the dead to stop Sidious from offing the Ewoks, but then says, "screw it" and starts blasting them with force lightening. And then your PW research becomes more relevant.

pacatrue said...

To save room for the plot, Maria, why not reduce it to "you have represented science fiction authors such as X and Y". Then more room for the plot. Besides, I assume you will have to query more than one agent, so spending any time worrying about that sentence seems less useful than everything else in the query.

Evil Editor said...

It's best when submitting a query to Noah Lukeman, to read his article. Unfortunately, according to AgentQuery, the author of How to Write a Great Query Letter doesn't accept them.

When submitting to Evil Editor, read some of the hundreds of Face-Lifts, as some of the ideas in the article seem odd to me.

The idea of naming no characters, so that the characters are referred to as The Protagonist, The Antagonist, The Protagonist's sister-in-law, etc. doesn't appeal.

Nor does devoting a maximum of three sentences of a one-page letter to the book's plot. If a writer has something more important than the plot to include, fine, but few do.

Dave Fragments said...

Reading this and your post in the comment trail, I gather that this is a novel about what a person would do if given a second chance at life. In this case, the emperor, and he could be a despotic emperor, who the aliens overthrew and his chief hench-woman, Sabine, are reincarnated and at least the emperor returns to take revenge on the alien over-throwers. Sabine is less revenge oriented but equally as power-hungry and figures that she can kill the reincarnated emperor and conquer the aliens all by herself. This will let mankind return to its hegemony (I love that word because it sends everyone to the dictionary and PO's my political adversaries.), let's say, restore the galactic Empire and return to its domination of the aliens.

You don't say if Sabine succeeds. That is unfortunate, because Sabine is your story. Your story is about Sabine. I say that because she's the only character you gave a name in the original query. The way I see it, Sabine repents being a stooge of the Emperor in her past life and sets out to prevent him from gaining power again. Then she gets a case of the "ultimate power corrupts" and tries to become emperor so she can do it so much better than he did. I'm not clear as to why the once governed aliens took over as rulers of the empire. That's like Sitting Bull claiming to be president after the Little Big Horn. Plus, the aliens forced a human diaspora. It is possible Sabine wants to restore humanity to one world but you don't make that clear. I am also don't know if Sabine was a man or a woman in the previous life. You make the comment: Sabine knows that he is determined to return to revenge their deaths... that is ambiguous as to Sabine's role in the empire and her sexuality in the previous life.

Somewhere in that mélange is your query. I think that your story is about Sabine going from oppressing aliens to saving mankind from extinction by diaspora.

By the way credits only count if you're a) published, or b) illustrative of going through an editorial process. I say that I've published technical research papers merely for the second reason. Agents and Editors will come at you with changes. It is a tough process.

Maria said...


You had it right until Sitting Bull. The aliens are not in control of the empire, they’re light-years away. The alien leader is busy building an invasion fleet and in the meanwhile he’s sending whatever he can to try and kill Sabine and the emperor.

Sabine is a woman. She resurrected herself with the intention of stopping the emperor from going after the aliens. But she’s not really aware of this in the beginning as her past-life mems are fuzzy. She gathers this information from bits and pieces of dreams and a couple of confrontations she has with the aliens. While she’s doing that she’s slowly going power-crazy and meanwhile she has the senior officers in the navy who are impressed with the way she leads fleets to success (lots and lots of battle scenes there). The cabal is scared shitless about the alien attacks and they are desperate to find someone who can “save” them and Sabine looks like she can, and so they massage her ego and let her think she’ll be great at being leader. They also have an ulterior motive—they want someone who can save them from the aliens who’s also someone they can control.

Anyhow, right before she gives the go-ahead for the emperor’s assassination and during a crucial attack mission of a neighboring kingdom, Sabine realizes she’s becoming a megalomaniac and relents. She finally gets to see the horrible things she did while she ruled the aliens in her past life and realizes she’s doing the exact same thing by following her ego, and decides to give up her arrogant plans. Then more shit happens i.e. she decides to hide her daughter from the emperor so she won’t grow up and become like him (Sabine and he become lovers somewhere between the scheming and battles; they were lovers in the past life too) but that’s all subplot.


Good point about Noah’s ideas working if querying to him. Better take off my blinders.

Thanks everyone for commenting and I want to see more.

Steve Wright said...

Well, that lot at least gives us a bit more to go on ... Is this resurrection process normal, in your universe? Do the aliens know, when they kill off Sabine and the Emperor the first time around, that they might be back?

Sabine sounds a little charmless - looks like she goes from power-mad despot's sidekick, to corpse, to vengeful revenant, to power-mad despot in her own right. I wouldn't care to have any of those round for dinner, myself. Does she have any redeeming qualities?

Dave, if your opponents run at the sight of a simple word like "hegemony", you need to get a better class of opponent! Me, I don't reach for the bookshelves for anything less than a thalassocracy ...

Anonymous said...

Maria –

Sorry about the word count – I was told by an agent that 130,000 words was too long and my research indicated that most publishers want a word count around 100,000 give or take a few 10,000. Once I started editing, it was easy to do this.

I have perused 100s of sites and talked to one agent about queries and am more than satisfied that EE’s advice is sound and his advice is in the majority. (He's been more helpful to me and I like his humor). I suggest looking at other advice other than one or two.

I don’t think there is anything wrong showing you did some research and have chosen an agent for a particular reason – I kind of see it as a cover letter for a job application – "I want to work for your wonderful company because . . . . . ." but just sending it to the right agent or publisher who represents the type of novel you wrote is half the battle – from what I understand.

It seems everyone and their dog has advice on how to get published – (I am beginning to suspect that the most common nonfiction book after "how to get a man" or "save a relationship" is how to get published.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was this – (and its applicable to just about everything) – take what you can use and leave the rest. Life is good when you no longer have any reason to be offended or defensive to feedback.

You can go to your public library for free and peruse their reference books on publishers and literary agents. (I will go so far to even say - it may be more correct and useful)

Now to your query –

Who are all the “others”? They can’t be humans and they are not aliens. I am wondering how someone decides to resurrect themselves. If anyone can do this – why is not everyone doing it? Why are not all the "others" doin it. It sounds like she’s pretty fed up with the bloodshed and decided to go good – and this is the reason why she wants to stop the emperor today. But then she changes and says – I’m going to stop him and I am going to be Queen – and I am going to kill a lot of people to get what I want. How do the aliens know they were resurrected? Why does the emperor and Sabine both know their pasts, since really they should basically only know pieces of it and have just an old soul?


Maria said...

VKW—thanks for the helpful comments. Not everyone can resurrect themselves. Sabine and the emperor and their race can, but most of them got slaughtered in the alien rebellion and the only ones who resurrected themselves are these two, who were the kingpins. The emperor came back so he could get revenge, and Sabine returned to stop him (see my earlier comment in the trail). The aliens have the ability to sense their former “masters” and that’s how they know the big two are back. As to the word count I will probably do some pruning.

Steve—yes, Sabine is mixed up but who isn’t. You take apart any personality and you’ll find some crazy shit there, it’s just that no one ever talks about those things. These schisms and conflicts are laid wide open in famous personalities but they remain deeply hidden in people like us. Just look around you and you’ll see that everyone has some psychotic thing going on, everyone has a vice, everyone has an addiction, everyone is a nut job in some way. If you examine the thoughts that go through your head each day, the emotions we all go through in this crazy stress-filled world—that’ll show you just how mixed up and charmless all of us are at times. With just the right amount of pushing and coercing and flattery anyone with talent can end up like Sabine, rise like her and fall like her. It’s what our psyche is about.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Wow. These GTPs were exceptionally good. Bravo.

Mame said...

This about summed it up for me...

"I thought the emperor was dead."

"He was, but he came back to life."

"What's the point of assassinating him if he can come back to life?"

Be very careful with what you say in your query. Every single word has a job to do.

Ruth said...

Maria - re being mixed up: Sure, most people/characters are. BUT they are still either a hero, anti-hero or villain-type character in a book. How do you want your readers to perceive Sabine? Most good (modern) books have very flawed heroes or likeable anti-heroes. Do you want us to like Sabine? Then you need her to be a hero (basically good) or anti-hero (bad but still likeable). It sounds like Sabine should be an anti-hero to me, but that's your call.

Figure this out or your book, as well as your character, may end up "mixed up".

Why does no-one else resurrect themselves? Slaughtered or not, if I'm one of a race who can resurrect themselves on death, that's what I'm doing.

"Sabine and the emperor and their race can, but most of them got slaughtered in the alien rebellion and the only ones who resurrected themselves are these two, who were the kingpins. The emperor came back so he could get revenge, and Sabine returned to stop him."

...and everyone else would return so they would continue to, y'know, live. Unless you actively want death, I don't understand why you'd just accept it when you have an alternative.

Also: Sabine retured to stop her emperor from taking revenge on her murderers? Why does she care about their fates? Why does Sabine (alone in her [slaughtered] race) not just happily die? Geez, if someone killed all mankind except for me and my boss, I'd be pretty annoyed. For that matter, why doesn't the rest of the (slaughtered) race resurrect themselves to take revenge? I don't get this AT ALL.

Adam Heine said...

With regard to word count, VKW is about right, Maria. For debut sci-fi, you'll generally be told 80k-100k is good. I think 120k might be okay, but pushing it. And everyone will say that if the story is fantastic, then it doesn't matter.

With regard to query length, you get one printed page. Aim for something like 200-300 words, but that's including everything between "Dear Whoever" and "Sincerely". So, like EE says, if you don't have anything for credentials, that's space you can use for plot.

Joseph said...


Like some of the other commenters here, I found Sabine neither likeable nor compelling (no one likes Anakin Skywalker).

And I also don't understand the politics of stopping your undead emperor from taking revenge on the people who killed you, or why no one else can resurrect themselves.

What is the theme? Fall of a heroine?