Monday, February 27, 2017

Face-Lift 1343

Guess the Plot

In the Shadow of Lies

1. When your mother's a politician and your father's the White House press secretary, there's no way around it. You just grow up . . . in the shadow of lies.

2. An earnest young West Wing intern fights to uncover the nefarious connections between a new US President and the President of Russia.

3. Lady Gaga's exotic mascara closet is raided by a jealous vampire. Craving a life in the spotlight, he makes with the slap, discovers ultimate hubris in the mirror — and DIES. Includes footnotes.

4. Marla is captured by enemy forces on her home planet and sentenced to the worst possible punishment: she's forced into a mind prison that gives the illusion she's living on Earth.

5. In his latest caper, ace detective Zack Martinez pursues a weird-looking rabbit from the Sunshine of Truth, through the Labyrinth of Deceit, around the Carousel of Confusion, under the Domicile of Despair, and into... the Shadow of Lies.

6. The woman Olga always knew as her mother was actually born male. Her Dad is her actual father, but is really an alien accidentally stranded on Earth. Or was he exiled here? For what crime? Her real mother, whom she never knew, is alive in a psychiatric ward, unable to bear the weight of her own dark secret - that she's Donald Trump's love child. So many secrets, so many lies. How can Olga get the attention of that cute guy in her Geography class?

7. Alicia is an exotic pole dancer and also a vampire. Dillon is a gay Las Vegas homicide detective. He suspects Alicia of involvement in a string of bizarre murders. As he tracks her movements, he finds himself falling in love with her. He seeks out Alphonse, a police therapist, to help him deal with his new lust. But the psychiatrist is also secretly in love with Alicia without knowing she is a vampire. Hilarity ensues.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Marla’s life on Earth is a lie. She was sent on a mission for Somret, hidden city and sanctuary on [her] home planet Ilah. Captured by a power-hungry government and forced into a mind prison, she lives a faux life on Earth while her body suffers experimentation on Ilah. Rescued after a year, she returns to Somret. Accusations trail her: Spy. Traitor. Murderer. All because she is the sole survivor of that damning mission. [Are these accusations coming from her own people? If they consider her a spy, traitor, murderer, why was she rescued? I mean, if Jeffrey Dahmer took a trip to Russia and got imprisoned there, I don't think we'd send in SEAL team 6 to rescue him.] [Also, if she were a spy, she'd have been in Somret the past year, spying.] [Who got murdered?] 

Marla doesn’t know where she belongs. Earth is fresh in her mind, [but centuries away at the speed of light,] whereas her memories of Ilah’s metal forests and lightning-fueled cities are gone. Worse, she discovers the mind prison woke in her the power to cross to other worlds and enter people’s minds. [As an observer, or a controller? Our justice system would crumble if "someone from another planet entered my mind and made me do it" became a  valid defense.] Viewed with fear and subjected to manipulation, she is a weapon. [We need you to enter the mind of Earth's most powerful leader and make him destroy the planet before we invade.]

A botched supply run and a dying messenger lead Marla to the truth of that fateful mission a year ago. She no longer knows who the enemy is: the government that imprisoned her, the city she calls home, or herself. [Given those choices, I predict she'll go with the government that imprisoned her.] Somret is her only sanctuary, but staying means risking her freedom, her friends, and her life. [Calling this place a sanctuary is like calling Fox News news.]

IN THE SHADOW OF LIES is YA science fiction with elements of fantasy. Complete at 117,000 words, it has series potential and will appeal to fans of Rick Yancey’s THE 5TH WAVE and Victoria Aveyard’s RED QUEEN.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Marla's age should be up front so we don't read the whole thing thinking she's an elite special forces commando only to discover she's a high school sophomore. 

Why was this kid sent on an important mission, what was the mission, and what is the truth of that fateful mission?

Is there a good reason this mind prison is creating the illusion Marla's on Earth, as opposed to any other planet in the universe? How do they even know what life on Earth is like? 

Who wants to use Marla as a weapon, and why?

It's all pretty vague. What was she sent to do, and what do her captors want from her? Who rescues her, and what do they want from her? What will happen if she gives them what they want? What will happen if she doesn't?


InevitablePlotTwist said...

GTP 7 could be an urban fantasy best-seller. Just saying. :-)

As to the actual query, a couple parts confused me (or maybe I just need more coffee). I had to read through this twice to understand that Marla's faux life on Earth was all in her mind. I thought somehow her mind was living on the real Earth while her body stayed back on her home planet.

Also, does she have the ability to physically travel to other worlds, or just to remotely occupy the minds of people on other worlds?

Anonymous said...

If the mind prison bestows the power to cross to other worlds, one would think the guys in charge wouldn't be using it as a mind prison. Was this thing tested before they actually started using it? Was it the experimentation her body was undergoing that conferred the ability? Both? Usually the bad guys want the person being experimented on to suffer, so I'm not sure why the whole mind prison thing to begin with. You might want to work on clarifying motivations. Also, you might want to clarify how this impacts the main story.

If Marla's main goal in life is to figure out what happened on a fateful mission, I would suggest centering the query on that. State what (Marla thinks) happened on the mission and her current situation due to the outcome, list what happens to change her mind/prove her wrong, what she's doing about it, what she's up against, & why it matters.

Good Luck

St0n3henge said...

This is vague. And a bit confusing.

It would make more sense if you said something like:

"Marla is an Ilian captured while on a secret mission (to do.....?). Her captors use her as an experimental subject. While her body suffers the experiments, her mind exists in an induced hallucination of Earth.

Rescued after a year she returns to her home city of Somret but can't remember her previous life on Ilah. Earth is all she remembers, and those memories are false. Viewed with suspicion for being the sole survivor of her mission and feeling like a foreigner in her own home town, Marla considers taking her own life. That's when strange things start happening. Marla discovers she now has the ability to read people's minds- even those on other worlds.

What has happened to Marla? Is this a side effect, or the purpose of the experiments? And who is circulating vicious rumors that Marla 'sold out' the rest of her crew members to save her own life?"

That's an example of a more organized presentation.

There's more you need here. For instance, "Viewed with fear and subjected to manipulation, she is a weapon." By whom? Who did she tell about this? What makes her a weapon? Can she manipulate thoughts?

As others mentioned, motivation is important. First of all, what is Marla's foremost motivation? To find her missing crew members? To clear her own name? She needs a "drive."

What is the motivation for her commander? Her enemies? You never really mention who these people are.

Anonymous said...

There's a kind of frantic tone to this query. It tries to make us feel that the situation is desperate. But before we can feel that, we have to actually know what's going on. Rewrite it in clear, simple statements so that we know exactly what the stakes are.

khazar-khum said...

In other words, she gets sent to Hell, in the general neighborhood of Purgatory, then is saved and brought back to the comforts of home. But Hell stays with her, haunting her for the rest of her life.

Unknown said...

Hello, author here!

Much thanks to Evil Editor and co. for your feedback and questions! It really helps to have input from other people so that I know what’s confusing. (Apparently a lot of stuff is confusing. I’m sorry.) I’ll be working on another draft this week! Before replying to the questions that have been brought up, I have one big question:

Should I reveal the ‘truth’ of the mission?

It is not the only plot twist, but it is a major spoiler. Not having read the books of other queries I’ve come across, I don’t know if it’s okay to reveal this completely. Should I hint at what the truth is in the query, or just say it outright?


1) Why was Marla sent on this mission?

Marla ~believes~ it was a routine information-exchange mission. She was just a random on the scene, like a bodyguard. She believes no one truly knows what happened, as she’s the sole survivor and she’s lost her memories.

2) Why use a mind prison? How does the mind prison impact the main story?

Marla ~believes~ she was used in a neural decoding experiment, a process that can glimpse into her every past thought and memory. Arrental (the ‘power-hungry government) did this in order to glean the secrets of Somret. The process required the mind to be vacated from the brain, therefore her mind was sent to Earth.

For the second question, see *spoilers* in question 4.

3) Why Earth? Can Marla physically travel to Earth?

Some Ilanns have the innate ability to travel to other worlds (with their mind; more explanation further on), whereas others can do so with the aid of technology. ‘Earthlings’ are beings that most physically resemble Ilanns, therefore Ilanns are most comfortable traveling to Earth.

Marla (and everyone else) cannot physically travel to Earth, but when her mind goes to other worlds it maintains the ability to manipulate bioelectricity. This manipulation creates a ‘projection’ of her in the eyes of those who see and interact with her. She DID live a life on Earth. It wasn’t an illusion.

But in previous versions of the query on Query Tracker, stating that she lived on Earth raised a lot of questions that aren’t easily explained. I’m okay with people/agents thinking it’s all an illusion because that’s much easier to accept without further explanation.

4) The truth of the mission?


The truth is there was no mission. Marla developed her powers before ever being put into the mind prison, but she was both dangerous and too uncontrolled to be of use. To protect others from her and stabilize her powers (this is something the mind prison can do), the Council forced her into a mind prison in Somret (during this process she fries the mind of her ‘teammate’), but a spy in the city sells out the city’s location and the presence of a potential weapon to the King of Arrental (the ‘power-hungry government’), which is why she was snatched and taken to an Arrenth lab.

5) Who rescued her?

The Council of Somret sanctions a rescue mission to be carried out by her friends.

6) If the people of Somret are suspicious of her, why would they want to rescue her?

This is supposed to be an odd point, because the Council only cares about her power. Why else would they risk the lives of three people just to save one person?

Unknown said...

Continued from the last post because I typed too much...

7) Who got murdered? Who accuses her and why?

Marla teammate died on the mission. Many people in Somret are suspicious, because she escaped unscathed whereas her teammate was killed. Why was she left alive? What did the neural decoding experiment do to her mind? Was she brainwashed by the government? Was she the reason her teammate died?

8) As for Marla’s powers, does she just observe or can she control others’ minds?

She begins with experiencing the emotions of other people. It doesn’t happen (yet), but eventually she will be able to possess others. In addition, she can only do this to people near her (aka people she can see). So unfortunately she can’t infiltrate an Earthling government.

9) What happens to make her realize the truth is being withheld from her? What does she do to search for the truth?

The accusations leveled at her make her wonder if she indeed is responsible for her teammate’s death. When she finds his autopsy file, she realizes the truth is indeed hidden from her and begins searching for answer.

10) What does the Council of Somret want with her? (Why and how do they manipulate her?)

The Council wants to use her as a weapon. Some on the Council would rather get rid of this potential threat. Towards the end of the story she is also led into a mission leading her into (MORE SPOILERS) a trap set by the King of Arrental.

11) What will happen if she chooses to leave? What will happen if she chooses to stay?


If she abandons Somret, she will be allowing an ambassador to die, allowing his country to be conquered by Arrental. She would also be alone and friendless. If she stays and succumbs to the Counsel’s wishes, she will be utilizing powers she is reluctant to use—powers which are dangerous and may harm her friends. In addition, if it seems she won’t be capable of controlling her powers, there’s a long line of people who’d rather see her dead than risk her killing someone else.

12) What is Marla’s goal?

Her goal is to figure out where she belongs. But faced with accusations and fear, she has to find out the truth and understand why the people of Somret fear and hate her so before she can belong.

Anonymous said...

From what you've said about your main plot, you can leave Earth completely out of the query without a problem.

You can tell the truth of the mission and probably should since that's what the plot centers around. Your second set of spoilers looks like the final stakes of the plot. Those are the questions/choices that should be mentioned at the end of the query.

Your query is not the same as the blurb that would go on the back of the book. You want to tell the agent/editor all the juicy secrets that make your book sound awesome.

St0n3henge said...

I read all that and I'm still confused.

She was in a mind prison in Somret. Put there by her own people to control her powers. Then, a spy discloses her location and she is taken by Arrenth to an Arrenth lab? Now Somret has to rescue her so the king of Arrental can't use her as a weapon?

Is any of that correct?

You use 12 points, but this information isn't organized in any way. It might help to organize it first before you rewrite the query. And yes, you can spoil the book. It is a query. The readers won't see it.

Unknown said...

Yeah I considered doing that before, because bringing up Earth is just searching for trouble... But the thing is my first pages start on Earth and I think reading a query where Earth isn't mentioned at all and then going on to the sample pages would be quite disorienting.

Thanks for the advice! I think I'll definitely be adding the 'truth' of the mission, I'll just have to condense and make it less wordy.

Unknown said...

To AA:

Yes. What you wrote is correct.

Sorry you found it confusing, but I did my best to arrange it in chronological order. Sent on mission, put in mind prison, why Earth, her rescue, the accusations, how she searches for the truth. I just put in the 'truth' of the mission near the beginning because it would make the rest easier to understand.

Thanks for the advice!

St0n3henge said...

Yeah, I can see that now. It's just a lot of information I guess. Keep working on it. It's hard to condense this much plot into a query.