Friday, May 14, 2010

Face-Lift 769

Guess the Plot

Beyond the Dreams

1. For generations the women of Tili Aramir's family have been dreamweavers, holding the kingdom together through their all-powerful magic. But what Tili really wants to do is dance...

2. Mazie would have preferred Peter Pan kidnap her than face "Growing Up". When she's kidnaped by Pan (not Peter) she begins to think even reality might be better than monotonous pipe music and running from half-goats.

3. Kimberly is going to be Miss America. She is ONLY Miss Wisconsin right now. As she drives to the Miss America Pageant HQ, she gets into an accident and loses an ear. Surely Miss America can't be one-eared . . . or can she?

4. Axia never dreamed she would one day have her freedom. She thought she'd spend her whole life doing the one thing she knew: fighting to the death. Can this killing machine find love and acceptance outside the gladiator ring?

5. Tara is haunted by dreams of battles between supernatural beings. But when she tries to wake herself up, she becomes caught in a never ending lucid dream war between the giant moth people and the fish with hands.

6. Since he was little, Jojo wanted it all: the big salary, the big house, the big car and the Barbie wife. Now at 40, he finally has it . . . or does he? When the pay cuts come through, the car gets repossessed and his wife runs off with his boss, Jojo needs more than dreams, he needs revenge!

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking your representation for BEYOND THE DREAMS, a completed science-fiction novel of 55,000 words.

Life or death, it’s all part of the show. [If you're gonna start with a one-sentence hook, it's usually better to make it the first sentence of the query. In this case, I'd just drop it, as the next sentence says the same thing, but with specificity.]

In a world where death is entertainment, Axia is meant to die for the pleasure of others. A genetically and physically enhanced gladiator, she has been trained since birth to survive as many fights as possible. [Aren't all gladiators motivated to survive as many fights as possible?] [Also, how do you train someone who was just born to survive fights?] When her master, Malit, betrays her, sending her to an arranged death, the needles and blades implanted in her limbs barely save her. [What's gained by arranging the death of your meal ticket?]

In the wake of the emotional betrayal, several new abilities atypical to her race surface, stemming from dormant genes no one knew she had.

Axia is now illegal in the arena ["Illegal" makes it sound like Axia is a criminal act or a performance-enhancing drug rather than a person. She's barred/banned from the arena.] and could cause Malit’s death as well as her own if discovered. [If discovered doing what? Fighting in the arena? Why would Malit risk death by sending a banned gladiator into the arena? Besides, wouldn't she be recognized?] Malit doesn't know who tampered with Axia's genes and only has one solution; one she never even dreamed was possible: he will set her free. [What is this the only solution to? Can't he just make her his bodyguard or mistress or laundress?]

Away from the arena and from calculated death, Axia learns about the world. Love and acceptance help her deal with emotions she had been taught to repress.

But her freedom is short-lived. Her creator comes after her, wanting to revive the illegal project to which she is the key; and in the outside world, she is fair game. [I'd rather be fair game in the outside world than literal game in the gladiator ring.]

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


It seems to me that Axia's creator and his project are the main plot, but they're barely mentioned. You could condense most of your summary to: On a world where death is entertainment, Axia has survived the gladiator arena and been granted her freedom. That leaves lots of room to tell us about the real plot.

If it's legal to genetically and physically enhance gladiators, why is Axia banned? It's like making steroids legal in the Olympics, and then blackballing anyone who uses them.

It could be argued that fighting, not death, is the entertainment. Otherwise, why spend so much time training people to survive? Just kill 'em.

Didn't her creator know she had these dormant genes? I ask only because you said no one knew.

If Axia's the key to her creator's project, how did Malit get her?

Are deaths in the arena really "arranged" and "calculated"? This makes me think they're rigged, but it would be hard to get a gladiator to throw a fight in which the loser dies.


Sarah Ahiers said...

i was confused as to why Malit betrays her and then later goes on to help her.
I assume he had good reasons to try and get her killed. Wouldn't ge be angry that she didn't die?

Anonymous said...

When her master, Malit, betrays her, sending her to an arranged death, the needles and blades implanted in her limbs barely save her.

What the heck does that mean? Maybe I'm dumb, so don't take it personally. Bibi

Anonymous said...

Please read the Evil comments carefully. I wish he was wrong once in a while but darn it, never is. Work on the query, the story is cool, just needs better presentation - Queen of Hideous Queries who took her shellacking and is still alive and kicking, Best, Bibi

Joe G said...

One would think that in a world where death is entertainment, and one has been reared for that purpose, Axia wouldn't be all that concerned about dying or being "emotionally betrayed". Isn't it her job? You're not getting the central conceit across convincingly.

I think your concept is fun but your writing is super confusing and it makes me think the book is filled with clunky "Huh?" lines as well. Gotta be careful about that in a query.

I want to read the one about the one eared beauty pageant contestant. That sounds high-larious. I mean, really.

Dave Fragments said...

As for arranged deaths, the Showtime series Spartacus: Blood and Sand has an episode where the gladiators are turned over to the teenage son of a Senator for his coming of age party.

One of the women staying at the house of the owner of the gladiators seduces the boy and convinces him to "thumbs down" (give a death signal) to one of the gladiators when they fight for his party after dinner. What teen boy could resist and the fight that was to be bloodless, ends in death.

That's how you rig a gladiatorial fight.

PS - Spartacus: Blood and Sand is violent, sexually explicit and has lots of nudity. Be warned.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I think you're getting too caught up in extraneous details like needles under the skin and all Malit's schemes. If you boil this down to just plot, you get:

1. In a distopian world, Axia is a slave and a gladiator genetically engineered to fight.
2. But there's something hinky going on with her genetic engineering and she unexpectedly develops special abilities.
3. Unable to use her anymore, her master sets her free and she finds love and acceptance in the outside world until...
4. Her creator comes after her to reclaim her for whatever she was meant to do in the first place.

That's not a bad plot at all, but it doesn't have much of a hook. It seems to me the key questions are:
- What exactly is it that Axia can do?
- How does she transition from being a professional killer to... whatever it is she becomes?
- And what is her creator's master plan for her and why does she have to fight it?

Good luck on the rewrite!

Chicory said...

I was hoping for the story about the moth people and the fish with hands.

By illegal in the arena, do you mean since she was supposed to die, her continued existence is illegal? I could be way off, but that's what I got from the sentence, and I thought it sounded like a cool plot twist.

Rebecca Christiansen said...

I'd like to know more about Axia's personality. Is she a cold, calculating killer? Or is she much softer than her job forces her to be? Does she maybe rebel a bit against Malit? That would explain his betrayal. By the way, Axia is a really top-notch name, especially for your genre and world (:

Stephen Prosapio said...

Um okay, maybe it's just me but is anyone else concerned with the length of this manuscript? In commercial genres 55k words isn't considered a true novel. In sci-fi, I believe the word they use for works of this length is "pamphlet."

Good concept. Keep going with it. Something tells me the manuscript is going to need some work to better explain complex issues and situations that may be clear in the author's head but someone on the outside isn't going to really understand fully.

Evil Editor said...

Actually, it's more a matter of the publisher than the genre. The Science Fiction Writers of America considers 40,000 words sufficient to be nominated for the Nebula Award for best sf/f novel.

And while it's true most publishers do want more than 40,000 words, e-book publishers tend to accept shorter lengths in any genre.

_*rachel*_ said...

Use EE's condensation, and go from there. It's nicely ironic that she's most in danger when she's not in the arena, and you might point that out.

I'm also interested to know what sort of changes have been made to her. Is it just genetic? Because she's starting to sound a bit like Wolverine or Inspector Gadget. You may or may not want to include this in the query, but I am interested.

Remember, we haven't read this yet. It can be hard to tell someone what your story's about because you know it so well. Try to distance yourself from the book, like you would if a friend asked you what it was about.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Joe G - central conceit, am I getting this, thanks.

Dave - so that's what you watch! Chuckles lapse dissolve to belly laughs.


Stephen Prosapio said...

Okay. I stand corrected on length. Learn something new every weekend.