Monday, October 15, 2012

Face-Lift 1078

Guess the Plot

Door Number 4

1. Carol was the consummate professional. When Monty announced the door number, she was ready with limber arms and a winning smile - until the day he called for Door Number Four. She didn't want to get near Door Number Four. She could hear whispered voices behind the painted cardboard, and she once imagined she heard the word "kill" as she passed by late one night. And didn't that woman in the Peter Pan costume bear a striking resemblance to Monty's ex-wife?

2. Is lore a bore, perhaps a chore? Does it make you snore? Not anymore! This book will soar! For fun galore, open Door Number Four! A whore, a roar, some gore on a distant shore, and more in store!

3. The US government has found a way to power the nation's electrical grid on people's fear. The plan is to torture millions of people and use their resultant fear to run air conditioners and toasters. Only 16-year-old Dot Parker can stop them, but if she does, will her curling iron still work?

4. Janet works for an old law firm. Each night the three partners' offices are open for cleaning but the fourth door on mahogany row is always locked. One night she returns for something forgotten. The cleaning crew has left and the fourth door is open. Suddenly, a man in a cape steps out, grabs her, and sinks his teeth into her neck. No doubt Janet's last living thought was So they really are bloodsuckers.

5. When TV game show host Louden Wallett is found murdered behind Door Number Four, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Somebody didn’t like their deal, and the show’s glamorous model won’t give him the time of day.

6. Gary wants more than anything to attend his daughter's upcoming wedding. Unfortunately, he's dead. But when he's picked to debut on Hell's newest game show, he's given a chance to win a trip back to Earth. If he loses, however, he'll land in Beelzebub's bedroom.

Original Version

Sixteen-year-old Dot Parker has forty-eight hours before the government kills her dad. [Everyone has 48 hours before the government kills Dot's dad. What would be interesting would be to know what Dot plans to do with her 48 hours. For instance, Dot has 48 hours to stop the government from killing her dad. Or Dot has 48 hours till she inherits her dad's munitions factory.]

Her father invented the cube, an electrical system that harvests energy from emotions. Thanks to Dot’s dad, for the last ten years the country has been powered by love. [You stole that idea from Huey Lewis. 

The power of love 
is a curious thing
Make a vacuum suck, 

and alarm clock ring

Or Celine Dion.

We're heading for something
Somewhere I've never been
We're making a daiquiri, and I'm ready to blend
With the power of love ]

But the system is failing, and now the government wants to switch to a more efficient and controllable emotion: fear. A shift that can only be activated with a password.

And the password only exists in Dot’s head.
[It's dparker96.]

Alone, broke, and on the run from the same agents who took her dad, Dot has two days to scramble from her home in Alabama to the government facility in California. [If she's on the run, what was she doing at her home in Alabama? That's the first place the agents would have looked for her.] [Does she have credit cards? A car? I don't think she's gonna make it.] The string of numbers in her brain is the only thing keeping her dad alive, and she has no intention of turning it over. [It's 0112358.] Not until she sees her dad in one piece. And definitely not until she learns how to destroy the cube system. [Wait, the password is 0112358 cubed.]

Because Dot has been behind Door Number Four. [No need for the word "Because."] She’s experienced how the government plans to illicit [elicit] fear, and she has the torture scars to prove it. [This idea of running the electrical system by eliciting fear sounds illicit.] Her dad knows the system, Dot knows the password, and only together can they stop the switch—and the torment of millions of innocent people. [Has anyone suggested running the electrical system on lust? It wouldn't be hard to find millions of volunteers to watch porn eight hours a day.] [If the government kills Dot's dad in 48 hours, doesn't that eliminate any chance of getting what they want from him?] [Torturing millions of people would require a lot more torture chambers than just the one behind door number 4.] [Telling a teenager to memorize a string of numbers that will be known to no one else is a recipe for disaster. Especially a teenage girl, as girls aren't that good at math.] [Ba dum ching!] If the agents catch her first, though, Dot’s going back behind Door Number Four, and this time there will be no escape. [Did they let her escape last time? If not, how can they be sure she won't escape this time? They haven't exactly shown that they know what they're doing.]

[Dad: Remember ten years ago when you were 6 and I invented the cube and I gave you that long string of numbers to memorize in case the day ever came when we needed to prevent the torture of millions?

Dot: No.]

DOOR NUMBER FOUR is a 60,000 word YA Speculative Thriller.


It's hard to imagine Americans putting up with torturing millions of people just so our appliances will work. Unless . . . are we just going to torture prisoners, homeless guys and Europeans?

Presumably nuclear and coal and petroleum and wind and solar power aren't cutting it for various reasons. But I still think we'd go with anger or sorrow or hatred or lust before we'd go with the one that requires torturing millions of people. We're not North Korea. Maybe you should set it in North Korea.

It's a fairly original idea, compared with the many ideas that have been done to death in YA, but maybe you should leave the parts that are hard to swallow out of the query, secure in the knowledge they are totally believable in the book.


khazar-khum said...

This sounds a lot like the plotline of "Monsters Inc".

Things I don't understand:

Is there no way to restart the old infrastructure of gas, coal, nuclear etc plants?

Why kill the guy who can make it work?

Why torture your daughter to prove a theory? Yes, lots of people experimented on their own kids, but you want me to believe she loves her Dad.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, I feel like we're dealing with plausibility issues here.

Regretfully, I've come to realize in the last twenty years (or twenty-one, to be exact) that Americans en masse can be gotten to do and believe and feel just about anything you want them to. Er, want us to.

You want millions of Americans scared? You don't have to torture anybody. Just:

1. Announce that the Threat Level has been moved to Red.

2. Suddenly proclaim that we have an Immigration Problem.

3. Tell us that six people in three different states have die from a previously unknown virus.

4. Tell us that some tyrant or other has Weapons of Mass Destruction, honest to God, they're just invisible is all.

5. Set us down in front of a tv tuned to Fox News for a couple hours.

Seriously, this is the land of the free and the home of the scared. Your story would work better if there was some other reason why your girl was being tortured.



Chelsea Pitcher said...

This is a really great query, and I think you'll definitely get some bites on this. I'd read it.

I do have a few questions though:

Since the cube was invented, why is America the only one using it? Surely other counties would want it, and if the US didn't want to share it, they'd probably try to take it. And then America would obliterate them by using the power of love.

Now that's ironic.

Is that what happened? Or has America become a superpower because they have the cube and everyone else is dependent on now-archaic methods of energy?

For the record, I had no trouble believing Americans wouldn't go back to using oil after they'd had the cube. Why would they, if the cube worked so much better? And if the government was like, "We're only tormenting Really Bad Guys, and if you fight us on this, we'll have to go overseas to get oil again, and that'll kill millions"...

Well, anyway, I buy it.

Which brings us to the word "millions" in your query. Where are these millions coming from? And if fear is such a reliable energy source, why do they need that many victims? These kind of questions can be avoided by taking "millions" out of the query. "The torment of innocent people" is still a very high stake, and we'll empathize with Dot's desire to stop it.

I just have one more question: is Dot running toward her dad, in the California facility, and at the same time running from the agents, who want to take her to the California facility?

"It's hard to imagine Americans putting up with torturing millions of people just so our appliances will work."

...........Like cars?

Evil Editor said...

Yes, like cars. Maybe the author isn't the only one who shouldn't use the word "millions."

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, so, presumably using emotions for power consumes them. Would you want to be in the room with someone you've been torturing once they cease to feel any fear at all? Cos I wouldn't.

Dave Fragments said...

[It's 0112358.]


That's so very cruel of you. Mathematically speaking.

1123581321 would be artistically crueler.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Right. Much more believable that we would torture just a few people. Perhaps by carting them off to a US military base in Cuba, holding them for years sans court proceedings, and waterboarding them. Or we might ship them off to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Uzbekistan to be tortured by people with more experience.

Just wildly imagining dystopia here.


khazar-khum said...

erostru 1072To me, torture connotes pain, not fear. Fear is much more subjective. You could probably run the world on the common netizen fear of clowns.

A. M. Perkins said...

Is it just me, or is this the basic premise of Monsters, Inc. except in reverse?

(energy from fear vs. energy from joy/love)

150 said...

Can I presume her full name is Dorothy? Dorothy Parker?

I, too, had trouble understanding why the nation's roller coasters, haunted houses and movie theaters can't be retrofit as local power suppliers. Or maybe brothels, churches, or sports stadiums. Aside from not being objectively evil, that just seems easier.

In a second read, I'm also curious how Dot ended up behind Door Number Four if she's the creator's daughter and an important person to keep alive. Maybe describing those circumstances would make everything clearer.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Per my earlier comment: being blown to bits + having ones limbs shot off = things that are torturous.

I do hope the author shows up and will give us a rewrite.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I wasn't trying to be offensive before, btw. Your comment just took me by surprise me. But now I think it comes down to a difference in definition of torture, rather than perception.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Author here. Sorry it took me so long to respond. Thanks for posting EE and for all your comments!

You've given me a lot to think about. I'm going to chew on this a while and see what I come up with, but some aspects of the story as well as the query are definitely shifting and some different world-building is going down to address plausibility.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Hey! I just wanted to check in and say thanks to EE and to everyone who took the time to comment on this query. I got an agent!!