Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Face-Lift 870

Guess the Plot

The Facility

1. Ever since birth, Jojo has heard of a marvelous place where all go when they are old enough. But when Rango returns and says it's not a retirement paradise but a slaughterhouse, will Jojo listen? Or will she board the truck marked HORMEL?

2. When the Parkville basketball team falls behind by 26 points in the homecoming game, the gymnasium bursts an underground pipe that kills 3 starters from the other team. Home-court advantage has never been so deadly as it is in . . . The Facility.

3. After decades of economic ruin, Blue Valley welcomes a new biotech factory. Everyone who wants a job gets a job. But what they're producing is top secret. When Chad Dunford realizes the glowing substance he stirs all week is radioactive, he risks all to discover the horrifying truth about . . . The Facility.

4. When Holly suddenly starts causing anyone who gets within 3.67 feet of her to drop dead, she is placed in a facility where teens with special powers are observed by psychologists. But the facility has sinister plans for the teens, as Holly learns from a time traveler from the future.

5. The Omega Institute is where underperforming sous chefs go for "retraining." Valerie Baker is determined to escape, but her route is impeded by tunnels of mutant sticky buns, pits of mushy pasta, and an obstacle course of Rocky Mountain Oysters.

6. In a bid to raise sufficient funds to realize his ambitions in the chicken & egg trade, farmer Jason Thompson offers tours of his haunted outhouse at a very reasonable rate. All is marvelous -- until the ghost demands a share of the profits.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

On the 20th February 2012 thirteen teenagers living in the south of England suddenly displayed unnatural powers. In the interest of public safety the Government took them into custody, placing them in a medical facility for observation.

Fifteen year old Holly Lawson’s sheltered life is shattered when, after a heated argument with her mother, all living things within a 44 inch radius drop down dead. [That's an awfully precise measurement. I wouldn't want to be the subject of an experiment in which they tell me to get within 46 inches to see if I drop dead, and when I don't, they say, Okay, now try 45...] She is knocked out [by a guy with a 50-inch baseball bat,] and taken to the facility after accidently [sp.] killing her parents, two paramedics and a police officer. [She needs to wear a sign that says Stay back 45 inches; not responsible for death or damaged windshields.] Regaining consciousness she is wracked with guilt, which isn’t helped when the older brother she idolised calls her a murderer and refuses her phone calls, cutting her off from the outside world.

She resigns herself to life inside the facility, slowly learning how to control her new power [Is she trying to increase the 44-inch radius? Decrease it? Does she want to be able to decide which people within 44 inches drop dead, and which don't? It wasn't made clear that this was a useful power rather than an affliction. It's easier to kill someone with a long-range rifle or a grenade than by sending Holly to get within 44 inches.] and finding friendship amongst the other teens. Nate, a seventeen year old fire starter seems to understand her better than the team of psychologists assigned to her case. She begins to trust him, and they look forward to one day being free of the facility [and starting a one-stop assisted suicide and cremation service].

When Holly finds an older and very different Nate in her bedroom one night, she is at first shocked to discover that he can time travel. [Even more shocking is his confession that he started the Great London Fire of 1666 and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.] He tells her that he has come back from the future to warn Holly of the facility’s sinister plans for the teens. The future Nate is completely different from the present one, and Holly finds it difficult to place her trust in someone so cold and calculating.

When the facility’s security is breached, cutting off the systems that keep the teen’s [teens'?] powers in check, Holly must decide where her loyalty lies. Siding with her fellow teens could lead them all to a future where their powers are used for evil. [I would have thought the opposite--not siding with the teens could lead to a bleak future. Didn't future Nate mention whether it was the status quo or a teen revolt that led to the apocalypse?] But the other option means setting loose the devastating power she has vowed never to use again.

THE FACILITY is paranormal YA novel which is complete at 65,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration


You talk about Holly "using" her power. Does using it simply mean purposely getting within 44 inches of someone?

I wouldn't mind knowing what future Nate claims will happen, so we know what's at stake.

I don't see any need for the first paragraph. A few minor tweaks of the 2nd paragraph will take care of whatever dropping the 1st paragraph loses.

Also, if you want the story to be set in the future, you might choose a year further ahead than 2012, as the book may not come out till 2013.

If I were future Nate, coming back with a warning for the teens, I might give that warning to present Nate instead of Holly. Better yet, time travel to when the evil mastermind of the facility was a child and kill him.


Anonymous said...

finding friendship amongst the other teens

Mm, not close friendship, I think.

I picked this one as the real plot because it had the cliches. Special powers. Special school. Time travel. Wicked Government, with capital G.

The real problem I'm having with this is visualizing the logistics of Holly's power. It seems to me that before the Government figured out what it was, a lot more than five people would've died. I'm picturing her walking down the hall on the way to class, for example.

Evil Editor said...

I don't actually see her making it to school. If we assume the argument with Mom is somehow responsible for the power, which perhaps was latent until then, I assume Mom dies, Holly phones 911 and Dad, paramedics come and die, Dad arrives home, phones 911, dies, cops arrive, one dies, other cop says, "I don't know what's going on here, but I'm gone." There's still no one alive who knows that it's getting near the kid that causes death, except the kid, and I'm not sure who would believe her, or that even she would have put 2 and 2 together, so I agree some more people would probably die.

Anonymous said...

It's so difficult to invent new and unique superpowers, because all the obvious and cool ones -- flight, invisibility, x-ray vision, etc -- have already been used a zillion times. Plus, in your case, you were looking for a superpower nobody wants so she could have this dilemma of fearing her loss of control over the dreaded power. Which then makes it difficult for her to decide which side to be on in this teen vs adults battle. Even though her buddy time-travels to warn her.

The mechanics of this particular superpower seem awkward and encumbering, plot-wise, but maybe it works well in the book. Maybe you could clarify the goals etc. since we don't know what the evil scheme is and can't tell which side she should be on. Maybe the time travel dude is the one she ought to kill. I don't know. One fears the plot isn't very clear in the book, either.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Holly's powers are invoked when she gets mad, like the Incredible Hulk. (I see that the facility has "systems" that keep her powers in check; maybe they're mood stabilizers.)

This query could use a few hyphens. Fifteen-year-old, seventeen-year-old, 44-inch radius. A few commas after prepositional phrases wouldn't hurt, either. Yeah, picky, but you got off on the wrong foot with "the 20th February 2012." Is that format okay in the UK, or are you missing an "of"?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

44 inches isn't 3.5 yards, but who am I to quibble with men and the exaggerated way they measure things?

(I think you were extrapolating to the diameter, EE,but it's the radius that kills. And to think
as I was reading the GTPs I was getting all primed for a joke about nobody touching her with a 10-foot pole. Pity.)

My first thought, too, was why Nick didn't visit himself. But then maybe he did and even he didn't believe or trust himself.

after a heated argument with her mother, all living things within a 44 inch radius drop down dead.

As written, things dropping dead is a one-time event, not a recurring one, so I was confused why so many people were standing in her, um, personal space at once.

A bonus side-effect is that she won't get sick -- at least not from bacteria or viruses. Oh, but what about all the beneficial bacteria in her gut? Do they die? Or does her power start, say, within an inch of her life?

As for being useful, scientists can use her power as a standard by which to measure all those protein bits and such to determine if they in fact, should be categorized as life.

she is at first shocked to discover that he can time travel

What does "at first" mean here? She isn't shocked later on? That another emotion replaces the shock? There's a second thing that also shocks her?

When you only have 250 of them, every word is precious and must carry its weight.

Anonymous said...

The query is way too derivative of Xmen. Children with powers they use to destroy, a government fearful of them, a facilty to train them. And other than that she fights with her mother and kills things, we have nothing to latch onto Holly for.

Does it bother anyone else that not only 44 inches is such an awkward and precise measurement, but that it's less than 4 feet? How many living things are within 3 feet 8 inches of your radius at any given time? 1? 2? Maybe 3? Are we talking plants and animals?

Again, when in doubt be specific but be specific with the right things, not things that are going to pull us out of the flow of your query.

What is/are your MC's goal/s? You're not being clever or mysterious by not telling us and without knowing thre's virtually no way for us to identify with your protag.

Adele said...

I assume the 44-inch death ray limit is just the first time, and that she subsequently learns to kill things that are further away. Otherwise all they'd have to do is stick her in solitary confinement and keep her 45 inches or more away from any living thing.

Plus, nothing you've said has me wanting good things for Holly. All I know is she got mad and killed a bunch of people. Her special power means it's not really her fault, but I still want her kept locked up far away from me and mine.

none said...

EE, dear, in England 911 won't bring you police or paramedics. Try 999.

I would have thought it more likely that Holly would be put in prison than in a medical facility. Has she been sectioned? What powers are the government using to sequester her? Is she ranked as a terrorist? Have the coalition done away with habeas corpus?

Funny how these Evil Govt Plots seem less believable when they're set in your own country.

This query read to me more like a synopsis. Focus on Holly's goals, the obstacles, the stakes, etc.

Dave Fragments said...

I don't care about the plot being derivative or reused from HEROES or even being a bit trite.

What concerns me is that the query doesn't make me like or dislike Holly or Nate. That's the key to this story. That's what will make your story better than anything in the past.

Why did anyone remake DRACULA after Bela Lugosi? Because Frank Langella, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman, Leslie Nielsen, and many others had as good a take or a different take on the old story.

Why are Holly and Nate compelling me to read them?

vkw said...

I agree with Dave. Why should I care?

I think EE was a career counselor in a previous job. Perfect small business for Holly and Nate!

Okay here's my take - we have too many details about things not important that open up questions and then we have too little details about things that may be pivotal.

For example, people drop dead around Holly but we never know how and we never know how anyone gets her to the facility.

Holly calls a brother and he increases her guilt? I don't think anything should increase her guilt, but this nevertheless a detail that really is boring.

Nate ends up in her room one night totally changed? Really? How? That sounds cool.

I am not sure what the delimma is. If she escapes with the other teens then . . . what? They don't have control of their powers yet? I suggest learning how to control your powers and then overthrow the evil empire trying to control you.


Ink and Pixel Club said...

The easy solution would be to specify that Holly is taken down by a tranquilizer dart, though it would have to be explained that Holly's death aura shuts off when she's unconscious.

I agree that the first paragraph should go. It's vague and doesn't add anything. This story isn't about thirteen kids; it's primarily about one.

Also agree that the detail about her brother could go. I doubt anything he said or did could make Holly feel much worse than she already does about killing her parents. The facility probably has reason enough to keep the kids isolated from the outside world, so there's no need to bring in the brother who never appears in the query again.

I'd mention the system that keeps the teens' powers in check before it gets shut off.

More specifics all around would be helpful. How does Holly learn to control her death aura? What is she looking forward to about someday leaving the facility if her parents are dead and her brother has pretty much disowned her? What sinister plans does future Nate warn Holly about? Why is Holly's choice between siding with her friends and allowing their powers to be used for evil or using her powers? For that matter, how has she been learning to control her powers if she swore she would never use them again?

Adam Heine said...

I think 44 inches sounds weird because it's so specific, and because there's nothing in the query that explains why it's such a specific length. If I were you, I'd just estimate it for the query. "Everyone within a 4 foot radius..." (or, since it's in England, maybe a meter radius).

The last sentence or two of P.2 felt plodding to me for some reason. Really, all you need to say is she killed people, so they took her away and locked her up from the outside world. The detail about her brother isn't necessary unless he comes back in the query.

And did anyone else feel like the time travel bit felt like a kitchen-sink story? The minions are right: time travel raises all kinds of "Why doesn't he just..." types of questions.

As for the derivativeness, I wouldn't worry about it too much. The X-Men/Heroes/Push trope has been done many times, but it's because people like it. Put awesome characters in it and bring an interesting twist, and you can find a fanbase.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone,

The author of the query here. Wow, it's a lot harder than it looks!

I wasn't trying to be mysterious, just hoping to leave out things that raise more questions. It looks like I did the exact opposite of that!

As a side note, in my work (for a university in the UK) we write dates in that format, I never stopped to think how it would translate to a novel. Thank you for bringing it up.

Yes she is shot with a tranquiliser dart and her power is latent when unconscious. This happens within a very localised area, and the unit running the facility are alerted quickly via the police transmissions. I agree that the brother can go, he is not important enough for the query.

The facility is trying to train Holly to use her ability selectively, using mice as 'guinea pigs'.
Nate's motives are complicated, and I see now that I need to make it clearer what he wants, and what the future may hold for Holly.

Thanks for all your help. It was a painful but necessary exercise!

none said...

So, wait, the facility already exists? Why?