Thursday, April 16, 2015

Face-Lift 1255

Guess the Plot

Red Skies Take Warning

1. Six years after the last bomb fell, survivors slowly exit their hideaways to see if it's safe to come out. It probably isn't, but in this latest dystopian kid's book, it won't matter . . . if you can prove it was all just an illusion or game or some other BS.

2. For the denizens of Club Nitro, morning brings pain, revulsion, and the ugly reality of another day teaching at Jackson High.

3. On a water-covered planet, the dread pirate Solokov attacks a ship and kills everyone aboard except one seamstress, who he needs to repair his sails. Will he fall in love with her or will she lead his crew in mutiny?

4. They say "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning." And this was never so true as it is for the crew of the Bluster when they come on deck in the morning to find themselves under attack by millions of cardinals.

5. On a planet where the sky is red and the oceans are yellow . . . Wait, it's Earth! After a nuclear war! Help! We're all gonna die!

6. As the sun sets over the ocean, Marge tells her husband Bob to check out the gorgeous red sky. He glances up, then goes back to his newspaper. And it dawns on Marge that a divorce would have been a better solution to her troubles than a Hawaii vacation.

Original Version

Dear Agent X,

The morning Serafina Berenofsky [Anagram: baroness faery knife] spots the Crimson Orchid’s flag on the horizon, [Italicize ship names.] a slaughter is promised to follow—at least if the tales hold any truth. [Wait, do the tales mention a baroness who acquires a faery knife with which she slaughters people? Because if so, that's either an incredible coincidence or I should have given a spoiler alert.] [I don't like "promised." You could just say "certain" since that's what the tales say. Or you could go with "prophesied." Also, you could change "at least if the tales hold any truth" to "if the tales are true." You could even stick an adjective in front of "tales" like "witch's" or "ancient" or "fortune-telling goose's."]

She thought she’d left trouble behind the day she abandoned sub-life for a chance to feel the sun on her skin and glimpse what little land remained after the Great Thaw. [Not sure what sub-life means. Was she living underground? Underwater? On a submarine? Or is sub-life what they call the lower classes?] Even if it meant signing up to [for] a lifetime of servitude aboard an elite-owned ship. [Hard to believe anyone signing up for a lifetime of servitude would think she was leaving trouble behind.] After she spent seven years holding her tongue and avoiding the Madame’s temper, the Crimson Orchid, commandeered by the pirate king Solokov, [Do you mean "commanded" by? "Commandeered" is okay if he attacked it and decided he liked it better than his own, so now sails it, while "commanded" would mean it's his ship. If commandeered is right, I'd go with "recently commandeered." If he commandeered it years ago, it's pretty much his ship now.] sets sights on her home. [What home are we talking about? The one she abandoned? The elite-owned ship?] [Has she now been on the elite-owned ship for seven years or is that how long she was in sub-life? Who is the Madame? Is it a bordello ship? Or is the Madame the captain? Or was the Madame her boss in sub-life?] [You probably think the answers to my questions are obvious, and I'm a total idiot for even asking them. You aren't the first.]

Blood stains the decks, but what haunts her memories more is the echo of Solokov’s executioner’s sword as he sentences every single elite on board. [Is "he" the executioner or Solokov?] As for the servants, most meet the deep. Survival comes first, and though she might sail under his pirate flag, she will remember the day he [Solokov] massacred her makeshift family. [Her "makeshift family" meaning the elites who agreed to give her a glimpse of some land in return for a lifetime of servitude? The way I see it, the dread pirate Solokov rescued her.] Solokov made his greatest mistake in keeping her alive, because even though Serafina Berenovsky’s a mere seamstress, [I see her last name is now spelled with a "v" instead of an "f." That totally screws up my original anagram, but now we can make "brave sea-air inferno." Which actually makes sense considering that "red skies" is part of the title. Spoiler alert: To defeat Solokov, Serafina must brave a sea-air inferno. Possibly she's thinking sub-life wasn't so bad after all.] she won’t stop training and learning every trick they’ll teach until she wields a sword as well as she does a needle. [Why are they teaching her any tricks? That's like a warden equipping his prison with a firing range.] And when that day comes, she will claim her revenge. [You took me from a life of servitude, slaughtered my oppressors, gave me room and board and a job, and trained me in swordsmanship. DIE!]

Red Skies Take Warning is a 90,000 word dystopian science fiction, and the first of a planned series. Thank you for your time and consideration.



This map of what Earth would look like if all the ice above sea level melted indicates that the phrase "what little land remained after the Great Thaw" isn't totally accurate. Coastal areas would be underwater, but it wouldn't be anything like Waterworld. Which can only mean the book is set on a planet other than Earth. 

If little land remains, and Serafina isn't somewhere where she can get a glimpse of it, how does she sign on as a seamstress on the elite ship? Were they recruiting servants in some underwater cave? Where was she that she couldn't feel the sun on her skin, but could board a ship?

We don't have much plot here. Basically, we have: When the pirate Solokov massacres most of her crewmates, and takes seamstress Serafina Berenofsky aboard his ship, she vows to one day get revenge. Treating this as a pirate story, you could open like this:

Serafina Berenofsky thought she’d left her troubles behind when she signed on as a seamstress aboard an elite-owned ship. But the day she sees the Crimson Orchid’s flag on the horizon, she realizes her troubles are just beginning. The pirate king Solokov doesn't take prisoners.

Blood soon stains the decks as Solokov’s executioner dispatches every elite on board. As for the servants, most meet the deep, but Serafina is inexplicably spared and taken aboard the Crimson Orchid.

That leaves plenty of room to tell us how she plans to avenge her makeshift family by leading Solokov's crew in mutiny and then finding the Himalayan Islands, and what goes wrong, and what happens if she fails. I've left out the fact that this is Waterworld, but the original version didn't really show that as relevant. Many pirate stories take place mainly on the water, even on a planet that has lots of land. Plus, if there's little land, how do they find enough fresh water to drink? Or wood for the ship-building industry to replace sunken ships? Or places to trade your pirate booty for eye patches and hooks and peg legs? You don't have room to answer all my questions, so maybe it's best to leave the lack of land out of the query.


Anonymous said...

IMHO plus for pirates, minus for dystopia, another minus if the word 'stokholm' comes up anywhere in the text

Also, I'm really hoping for some of the tech (or beyond) that modern day pirates use (sonic weapons, anyone?)

A bit more on what kind of revenge she wants (kill the captain? And the crew? take over the ship?) might help. Also the problem with revenge stories is they usually end up about as hollow as revenge tends to be. Does she have a further goal?

A lot of the language is awkward. The flow of ideas seem a bit disjointed.

As EE pointed out, you're using terms that could have multiple meanings (e.g. her home, Madame, sub-life) without defining them.

Strive for clarity. Short yourself on sleep for a week, and then give yourself twenty seconds to read your query. What jumps out? What takes more than one reading to make sense?

Good luck with this. If you do a re-write, please post back ^^

Cil said...

I got lost really quickly on this one. One of the problems is as EE pointed out I am unsure of the difference between her life before and after the pirate attack. She was an enslaved seamstress and then the pirates capture her and turn her into... an enslaved seamstress. Hmmm, but they do train her to fight with swords.

You need to tell us about the main character and her plight, currently I don't care about any of it. Focus on her and shorten the rest as EE suggested.

InkAndPixelClub said...

The revenge plot isn't going to work unless we feel like she's lost something of importance. We only know that the people who died were her "makeshift family" after they're dead. Before that, there's just the temperamental Madame and whoever requires her to hold her tongue. It sounds like she'd be happy to be free of them rather than plotting to avenge their deaths.

I agree with Anonymous about the awkward language. Too many overly long sentence, too many passive sentences, dangling modifiers, etc. Try at least one draft that is as simple as possible, even if you never show it to anyone. Once you have it pared down to the bare essentials, you can go back in and add a little more flourish and character, as long as it's not killing the clarity.

St0n3henge said...

I honestly don't see what's science fiction about this. It's exactly like stories of pirates and the high seas. Does it matter that it's set in the future? I don't see anything different about this and a straightforward pirate story. Maybe all the ice in the world has melted, or whatever, but there's not a hint of sci fi.

As far as dystopian is concerned, I see that a little more, mainly because there is an elite society and an oppressed society. Technically, though, there have always been the haves and the have nots. If the story was set in the past and the seamstress was just a seamstress, would it make a difference to the plot? It's hard to tell.

What I'm trying to say is, the way the query is written now, the whole takes-place-in-the-future thing seems like a gimmick. Does it really make much difference to the story?

I agree with the others that it's hard to tell why she needs revenge. Vengeance is generally reserved for the six-fingered man who killed your father, not the pirates who commandeered the ship you were on.

Anonymous said...

There was a science show about disasters that posited an ice moon or large enough comet striking the moon and falling into orbit around earth. If that happened, you could have a 'Waterworld' type flood. You might want to think about that for your backstory. Several reputable scientist contributed to the show. It's plausible, but EE is right...our current ice levels aren't enough.