Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Face-Lift 1313

Guess the Plot

The Empire

1. It was a Darth and stormy Knight.... BB-8 reveals little known secrets in his tell-all about the early days of the Empire.

2. There's an Empire. So of course there are Rebels. And there's an asexual main character. But this is totally different from Star Wars, because it has star soldiers instead of storm troopers and instead of Yoda it's Pablo.

3. Business guru Sam Daster works in the mail room of the biggest financial empire in the world. Watch as he works his way up the ladder to the top rung before finding out that there is more to life than ruling an empire. 

4. They're big! They're mean! Tremble before them and don't be late on your taxes! See head goon Schultz for a good paying job with lots of room for advancement! Don't mind the dissidents attacking you, send them to your boss so you can be promoted. 

5. She was the duchess of a duchy in the empire, and he was a prince attending Princeton. If they ever meet, we might actually get some real names.

6. Village idiot Joe Bob trips over a rock, eats some moldy cheese, makes friends with three very strange women . . . and rises up to build the greatest empire the world has ever seen.

7. If he calls you out, you'd best not argue. If he doesn't, stay where you are or advance at your own risk. Later buy him a beer and a dog and maybe, just maybe, he'll treat you right next time. He's called the Empire, and he's blind as a bat. 

8. A funny, soul-stirring look at the trials and travails of being a foot soldier in service with the Byzantine Empire through the ages until its demise in 1453.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Wolf, a teenage soldier of Māori descent, struggles with his asexual identity as he fights to protect the Empire from the Rebels. Their forces are growing stronger, fuelled by every wrongful death at the hands of the Emperor. They have to be stopped, before everything Wolf has ever known is destroyed.

Once a scamp on the streets, and now a star soldier in the Army, Wolf is still as alone as ever. [Meaning he has no friends?] Loyalty to the Empire is crucial, and so he must stand by as all troublemakers are executed, [I'd go with dissidents or agitators or rabble-rousers. The death penalty seems a bit harsh for troublemaking. They'd be executing ten-year-olds.] [Wait, are they executing ten-year-olds?] despite his growing misgivings about the Empire's methods. Questioning orders is not an option.

After discovering a traitor amongst his fellow soldiers, and watching his friend die in a Rebel ambush, [Now he has no friends.] Wolf can't tell who to trust. [The Rebels ambushed and killed my only friend; I can't tell if I should trust them.] One by one, lies, secrets, and betrayals are unveiled. He starts to suspect Pablo, a Training Instructor, of working with the Rebels, but when Wolf reports his suspicions, attention is drawn to him and his sympathy for the scamps. [It never pays to be the whistleblower.] As even his own mind turns against him, Wolf struggles to cope with the responsibility the Emperor has given him. [Teenage soldiers aren't given responsibility by emperors; they're used as cannon fodder.]

The Emperor has a plan to defeat the Rebels. Wolf is forced to make a decision [decide] between listening to his conscience and losing everything he's worked for, or agreeing to set [setting] a trap for the Rebels, using his own people as bait. [He's always been alone, but he has people? Are his people the Māori? The scamps? His fellow soldiers?] This could be their one chance to win the war. [The Empire's one chance or the Rebels' one chance?] But Wolf is no longer sure about what he's fighting for.

Set in a post-apocalyptic New Zealand, [Maybe this should be made clear earlier. I spent the whole query thinking it was set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.] [You can argue that someone of Māori descent wouldn't have been in another galaxy long ago, but can you be sure the Māori didn't come to Earth from another galaxy, eons ago? No, you can't.] THE EMPIRE is a young adult dystopian novel of 85,000 words featuring a diverse LGBT+ cast. It's a stand-alone book with series potential.

Thanks for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,


This would be better if Wolf were an actual wolf. 

As war rages between the rebels and the Empire, one asexual soldier named Wolf is torn between his conscience and his loyalty to the ruthless emperor. That's about all I'm taking from this because there's a lot of vagueness. Specificity would make it more interesting. What is the emperor's plan to win the war? What lies and secrets and betrayals are unveiled?  What do you mean by his mind turns against him? Did the emperor himself single Wolf out for some crucial responsibility? If so, what is it, and why Wolf? 

Wolf's sexuality obviously plays a part in the book, but unless you show us how, it's not worth mentioning in the query.

Tell us the story with interesting details. Phrases like "before everything Wolf has ever known is destroyed," don't tell us anything, as we don't know what he's known. "Losing everything he's worked for?" I guess that means losing his job, though considering his age, I can't imagine he's had it long.


Anonymous said...

Agree on needs more details. Possible examples:

Is there one particular execution that bothers him more than others or starts him down the path of doubt? Give details.

What happens to people who question orders?

Why does he suspect Pablo?

Is the emperor getting personally involved here or are orders being carried out in his name by prominently featured minions? Does the emperor have a name?

What lies, betrayals, and secrets are unveiled?

You can answer the questions if it makes you feel better, but it would be more useful to rewrite the query so they don't come up.

One of the main purposes of a query letter is to prove you have a plot. Giving the plot away is the obvious way to do that. You don't need to spill the ending, although hints as to the direction the book is going is a good idea.

If you're going to include details like him being asexual and Maori, it would be a good idea to show how that's relevant to the plot.

Also, the first paragraph looks like a summary of the rest of the query. It's wasting space.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Scamp is such a cute little world. When you say "scamp" I picture a little scottie-dog puppy that chews your slippers and, when you yell at him, wags his taill furiously and scampers away. It's possible the adorable doggy is even named Scamp.

I'd look for another word than "scamp".

davefragments said...

Blues for Pablo

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Oops. I mean "word", not "world."

PLaF said...

I’m curious about the character arc of your hero, Wolf.
Does the story begin with his life on the streets and progress to his life as a soldier, where his feelings of loyalty to the Emperor grow conflicted or is he a soldier as the story opens?

And is he a star soldier as in “one of the best,” or a star soldier as in “goes into space?”
You say “Wolf can’t tell who to trust,” but if he’s “as alone as ever” it seems to me that he never trusts anyone to begin with so why is it important now and is his loneliness the product of his identity struggle?

Your query doesn’t give me enough to judge if Wolf’s story is one I’m willing to pursue.