Thursday, June 19, 2014

Face-Lift 1206

Guess the Plot

The Nexus

1. Time, spirit, space, and temperature have no meaning in . . . The Nexus! Neither do characterization, voice, grammar or spelling.

2. In this multiversial scifi literary romance thriller, a man falls out of a spaceship and is sucked into . . . the Nexus.

3. Only teenager Cole can prevent the genocide of all unintelligent humans. All he has going for him is his own intelligence and a secret weapon known as . . . The Nexus!

4. All across the land, human beings of all stripes are being drawn inexorably from their dwellings to transfer points where they're shifted to other realms. Yes, it's the History of Railroad Stations, but nobody'd buy a book with that title.

5. Seemingly random online strangers find themselves on a serial killer’s potential victim list. Will they discover in time that the  killer is a Grammar Nazi trying to eliminate the biggest online offenders of the English language?

6. Mick and the other sales staff place bets on how many times the jargon-spewing Communications Manager will babble "the nexus" in her weekly seminar. After the seminar, controversy breaks out over whether her use of nexus as a verb counted, and what the hell nexus means anyway.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Seventeen-year-old Cole has a rare gift—intelligence. The Malkum, a former think tank gone rogue, jealously guards their position of power by killing those who might pose a challenge. Cole avoids detection by living among the unintelligent humans, the Indignis. [Over whom do the Malkum have power? What kind of power?]

Cole narrowly escapes death when the Malkum targets him and murders his people. [Who are his people? His family? The people he's hiding among?] He learns of a clandestine rebellion seeking to overthrow the Malkum, and discovers that his intelligence was not an accident of evolution. The rebellion bred him to lead their army against the enemy, sending him to live among the Indignis so he could learn to love those he must later fight to protect. [If the rebellion were intelligent enough to figure out how to breed one really intelligent person, why not breed thousands?]

Resolved to prevent the genocide of the Indignis, [He was originally trying to keep from being killed by hiding among the Indignis. Which makes little sense if there's a genocide of Indignis underway.] [Wait, the Malkum are trying to kill all the intelligent humans and all the unintelligent humans?

Malkum 1: Anyone smart enough to challenge our power must be killed.

Malkum 2: Yes. Then it'll be just us and all the idiots.

Malkum 1: Yes, the idiots . . . The idiots can be so annoying.] he must overcome his self-doubt, escape the crosshairs of the enemy, and convince an unwilling army [If he's counting on the Iraqi army, he's in trouble.] to follow him to the enemy’s gate. [Is only thing protecting this former think tank from the rebellion army a gate? Lucky for them the rebel army are all idiots.]

The rebellion has given Cole a secret weapon, the scope of which must remain hidden from even Cole—the Nexus, a psychological weapon that hides one’s memories from one’s self.

Complete at 95,000 words, THE NEXUS (Science Fiction) combines the empathetic leadership of Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggin with mind-altering weaponry reminiscent of Total Recall.


The Malkum is sort of stuck between the intelligent and the unintelligent. Maybe you should call the book Malkum in the Middle.

Have they been waiting 17 years for Cole to be ready to take down the Malkum?

What is the setting? A planet? A country? A city? One former think tank is going to have a limited area it can control, I would think. Do they have an army of their own, or secret weapons?

So this secret weapon will rob the enemy of their memories? And once they forget they're trying to kill everyone, all will be well?

Is Cole's intelligence greater than that of the Malkum? Is he like a superhero, and his superpower is intelligence? Most of the super brains choose to be criminals: Moriarty, Doctor Doom, Brainiac, Lex Luthor, Goldfinger.

Maybe we should lose the setup and start: Seventeen-year-old Cole has been bred as the savior of the Indignis, idiots ruled by the super-intelligent Malkum. That leaves plenty of room to tell us what Cole's plan is, what obstacles cause his plan to go awry, what he does about it, what will happen if he fails. In other words, we want the story, not the situation.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like why I stopped reading science fiction.

So much of it seemed to be based on the idea of intelligent people (who tended to bear a strong resemblance to the author) being forced to both tolerate and protect unintelligent people (who tended to bear a strong resemblance to those unlike the author.

Cil said...

I would go much more into the mind altering weaponry, so far I am not following the concept or interested by it.

Are the main characters and the thought tank super geniuses or are they regular people and everyone else is just a dummy. I am not sure I could handle reading a book where all of the side characters were morons, but I am not such a fan of the other concept where all of the side characters are normal and looked down upon for being stupid.

I would try a rewrite and explain it in terms that follows better. The rogue think tank is hard to believe. Also the word Indignis is too close to indigenous, I would change it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cil. It would help if there was more about the mind altering weapon. Given that you titled your book after it, I'm guessing it's central to the story but we know nothing about it's use or misuse. It also sounds like your point-of-difference from other stories featuring a hero saving a downtrodden race.
And, yeah, a little more sensitivity when naming races would not go astray.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah. I was also struck by the name Indignis. I wondered if maybe the writer was making a play on "indignity" but I also thought it too close to "indigenous". Or to "indigenas" which is what Native Americans are often called in Spanish.

The I'm-smart-and-everybody's-stupid motif sounds like a turnoff. People who believe this--and they're not all teenagers, alas-- are usually not very good company. Would readers want to spend a whole book with one?

Unknown said...

I was OK with the MC's power being super-intelligence UNTIL it was coupled with him being the unintelligent's destined saviour, especially with the sickly-sweet "sending him to live among the Indignis so he could learn to love those he must later fight to protect."

This concept doesn't come off as moving or emotional, it comes off condescending and like a "white saviour" trope.

Do the Indignis (also agree, change the name) provide actual help to the MC? If so, I would recommend bringing those elements out more in the query. Also, I admit this may fully be a personal preference so salt and all that, but I don't think you should make the MC a saviour unless he's actually Indignis himself.

Think about it -- what has more inherent tension, an underdog fighting for his own people's survival against a mighty corporation, or an outsider with inherent advantages fighting against a mighty corporation?

What are the problems being super-intelligent causes the MC? That can create his internal conflict. "Self-doubt" seems a strange internal struggle to have when you're obviously superior to the people you grew up around, and is difficult to write without the MC coming off whiny.

Best of luck with query v.2.

InkAndPixelClub said...

How is Cole intelligent? It's kind of a vague word and I think that vagueness is contributing to the feeling of "guy tasked with saving the helpless, stupid people" and not helping your query any. Between the lack of description of Cole's abilities and the fact that he has magic amnesia powers that are also not well defined, it feels like the story could just as easily be about a guy who has four arms when everyone else has two.

Finish this sentence: "Cole is able to _____, but no one else he knows can." A few specific fill-ins for that blank will give us a better idea of what abilities Cole has and what he might actually do in the story.

If the Indiginis are important to Cole, to the point where he would risk his own safety to save them, that needs to be party of the query. Who was killed when Cole made his escape? Who is at risk from the genocide that Cole is most worried about? Telling me that Cole cares about the fate of his people doesn't accomplish as much as tellng me about his three best friends and members of his family who have been killed or will die if Cole fails.

And add me to the chorus of voices wanting more about the Nexus. If it's important enough to be the title of your book, it's important enough to devote more than one line of query to. Right now, the Nexus could almost be anything and do anything, so it seems inevitable that Cole will succeed in saving the world y using it. Lay out what it does, what Cole could do with it to stop the Malkum, and why it's not the simple solution to all his problems.

CavalierdeNuit said...

Indigins sounds too much like Indians to me. And why would anyone want to save unintelligent humans?

Here are some thoughts:

The Nexus will make the unintelligent humans smart thus allowing them to figure a way to fight the Malkum.

The Malkum want Cole on their side, and have offered him supreme power if he joins their evil force.

Cole is torn between making the kindhearted Indigins smart and independent of the Malkum, and joining the Malkum to become an evil, supreme ruler.

The Malkum want to establish an empire of Cole's intelligent offspring, and use the Indigins to build it.

Cole is presented with a beautiful, intelligent girl to breed with courtesy of the Malkum.

Does Cole escape with this girl, make the Indigins intelligent, and overthrow the Malkum, or use her as his broodmare, and rule the Malkum's evil kingdom?