Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Face-Lift 1462

Guess the Plot

No Alternatives

1. When Bob shows up at the diner five minutes before closing, they're out of everything except the end slice of meatloaf. He was hoping for the chicken and dumplings, but is this worth killing someone over?

2. Tadi just discovered that he isn't unique. There are a dozen more versions of himself, and only the version who is most beneficial to the empire will be allowed to live. Now Tadi has no choice but to do good deeds while avoiding being killed by the Tadis who are bad seeds.

3. The multiverse has been known for a long time. But now, rookie dimension cop Jim, has discovered that in five days time, after a singular event, the multiverse reduces to a singular verse. Can he figure out what caused the event, or will he end up erased? And what will they call this singular verse?

4. Elizabeth Parker feels compelled to go along with the boyfriend she just can't bring herself to dump, even when he decides to commit robbery, then armed robbery, then go on a killing spree. The only thing she can do after that is make murdering him look like suicide and claim to be yet another victim who he intended to murder. But will Hunky (married) cop Frank Hammer believe her?

Original Version

Tadi is a mistake. [I meant to say Tardis.] At least, that’s what the High Magistrate tells Tadi after he’s dragged into a room full of twelve other versions of himself who grew up scattered throughout the country. [One extra Tadi is carelessness; two or three is a mistake; four to seven is a colossal blunder.; any more than that is intentional, and someone's up to no good.]

They’re an accident, and over the course of three months, twelve will have the pleasure of being hurled straight into the jaws of an Underworld monstrosity. Only the version most beneficial to the Empire of Aughtlock will earn the privilege of existing.  [Is the winner the one who's most beneficial over the next three months, or is it going to take three months to decide which one has been most beneficial since they were created?]

But Tadi’s got this contest in the bag. Sure, his day job isn’t exactly heroic—he basically acts as a human lantern for travelers, keeping away the soulless wraiths that haunt the wastelands between villages. [Wait, why is that considered low on the heroism and beneficialness scales? Unless the Avengers are among the other candidates, I've got Tadi leading the field.] Sure, he’s got a grand total of zero kids, since he still hasn’t figured out how to be attracted to anyone despite his childhood best friend Lanlin’s increasingly obvious attempts to court him. And sure, his competition includes a highly decorated paragon knight and a renowned political assassin… [Assuming politicians are deciding which candidates get thrown to the monstrosity, I'm guessing the political assassin will be the first to go.] but Tadi’s dry wit and friendly smile will definitely be enough to tip the scales in his favor.


Jokes aside, Tadi isn’t stupid enough to think he’ll win this competition, but damn it, he’s going to try anyway. [If he can try to win, I'll assume the winner is the one who's most beneficial to the empire over the next three months. But then why would the fact he has zero kids matter?] If Tadi can use his light to reach the Underworld Wells and somehow stop the flow of wraiths up to the surface, it would have to be enough. [I disagree. Once he stops the flow of wraiths to the surface, his day job becomes superfluous. He goes from highly beneficial to no longer needed.] But for that journey, Tadi needs Lanlin’s help to interpret the runes on the Wells, even though she’s determined to move their relationship further than friendship and he hasn’t determined what to do with that. [If he has to hit the sheets with Lanlin to save himself, I don't think it'll kill him.]  And obviously, Tadi will need to figure out the deal with the assassin version of himself. The one who follows Tadi at knifepoint and promises to steal credit for his achievements before immediately injures himself saving Tadi from the zealots who attack Tadi for being an “abomination.” [That sentence is an abomination.]  [If Tadi is an abomination. wouldn't all the other "Tadis" be as well? How is he different from the others?]

And even if Tadi wins and doesn’t end up as a monster’s dinner, all of it will be in favor of  [fealty to?]  a country which shackles Tadi, erases his other selves, and calls him a mistake. [Is he currently shackled while doing his day job?]

NO ALTERNATIVES is a Fantasy novel of 94,000 words, mixing the wasteland adventure vibe of Hana Lee’s Road to Ruin with the smooth approachable prose and twisted social systems of Robert Jackson Bennet’s The Tainted Cup.

I am a second-year MFA fiction candidate at [place], and I served as the managing editor for the [magazine]. My short fiction has appeared in [magazines]. This story is heavily inspired by my own experiences as an asexual man, struggling with the lines between affection and romance and coping with the expectation that men ought to be sex-driven beings. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Do all the Tadis look alike and are they all named Tadi? Are they the same species as the High Magistrate? Are they androids? How do you accidentally end up with 13 of the same  . . . person? And shouldn't you be eliminating the monster instead of feeding it?

I can see throwing the least beneficial Tadis into the jaws of an Underworld monstrosity, but the 2nd, 3rd, & 4th most beneficial Tadis should be allowed to just change their names to Toto, Toodles, and Shemp.

Aughtlock sounds like the noise my neighbor makes when he hacks up phlegm.

Technically, is the one who "follows Tadi at knifepoint" holding the knife, or is someone behind him holding a knife?

If Tadi doesn't win, who's gonna hold the wraiths at bay from now on?

Is this like The Hunger Games or Survivor, with periodic eliminations, or do they just announce the winner after 3 months? 

I have too many questions. Try to describe the plot without inspiring me to ask them.


Saturday, June 22, 2024

Face-Lift 1461

Guess the Plot

I Am Online

1. The harrowing tale of being lured in and then dragged to the surface against your will, as told by a mackerel.

2. The game "I am Online" started as a way to distract Sheila from her dull life. Except now what she thought was an AI in the game has turned out to be something all too real.

3. An anonymous teenager gets sucked into social media, doom scrolling, and sundry other activities, and their parents, siblings, concerned neighbors, and other persons can only watch helplessly as said teenager endures their compulsory education failures, lack of a job or any prospects, and finally no ability to achieve internet.

4. Nigel Werzen is inside the internet in a Philip K. Dick meets Ghost in the Shell sort of way. If he wants to kiss an actual human being before he dies he'll need to find out how, and possibly why, who and what. And his body. He'll need to find his body.

5. A teenager becomes an overnight internet sensation after his erotic encounters are broadcast online without his knowledge. Is this the ultimate humiliation? Or is it the big break he's been waiting for?

Please find my Query below. I hope you can give me feedback as I have not been too successful submitting it. 

Title: I am Online

Lenght: 240,000 words 
[Okay, I think I see your problem. Your book is actually three books. You just haven't figured out where the first two end. If you want to be able to sell a really long book like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, you should first try selling a normal-sized book like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Then make each successive book you write a little longer than the previous one. For instance, your first book could be titled I Am in My Neighborhood. Then you write a book called I Am in Barcelona, followed by I Am in Spain, I Am in Europe, and then this book, I am Online. Eventually you will write I Am in the Universe (Length: 50 billion words).] 

Original Version
Dear Literary Agent,
I am thrilled to present “I am Online,” my debut novel that chronicles the unexpected rise of Sebas, an eighteen-year-old who inadvertently becomes an erotic webcam sensation. [Your title should be italicized. The 2nd half of your first sentence should not.] [Wait, inadvertently? It sounds like he didn't know the erotic stuff he was doing was going out via webcam. If that happened to me, I'd be angry and mortified, but Sebas is apparently thrilled to have finally found purpose in his life.] This narrative explores his journey of self-discovery, the complexities of human relationships, and the dichotomy between virtual fame and real-world anonymity. [That's pretty vague. Work it into paragraph 4 if you must have it, but right now we want to know what happens in your book. Plot specifics.] 
Thirty-eight euros in his pocket, all his life savings, was everything Sebas had on him when he stepped out of the last night train at Barcelona’s central station. Probably Sebas [Maybe he] should have planned his home runaway [getaway] better. But he didn’t. He just could not stand his oppressive home life anymore.  The city, poised to swallow him whole, instead becomes the backdrop for his meteoric rise in the adult industry. 
As the number of his webcam followers grows into the thousands, Sebas grapples with the stark contrast between his online celebrity and his offline struggles.      
“I am Online” weaves through genres, one could say this novel is for “Fifty shades of Grey” what “Pose” is to “Sex and the City”: a kinky story narrated by those whose kinkiness is not mainstream or often understood. It is the antithesis of “Heartstopper,” away from gay-mimicking-straight relationships in a sugar-coated plot, I don’t hold back: Sebas goes through a lot and he gets to see [experiences] the cruelty of human nature and how relationships are often driven by desire and selfishness rather than by love and feelings. Set in the year 2014, this tale also serves as a modern coming-out story, far away from those early-00 cheesy stories, this one reflects a contemporary time when the lines between hetero and homo are more blurred than ever. [2014 was modern and contemporary in 2014. It's now as much ancient history as the early 00's were in 2014.] 
My own experiences as an LGBTQ individual growing up in Barcelona and living across the globe have deeply influenced this work, infusing it with authenticity and a unique perspective.
So far, only few friends have read “I am Online”. [A few have told you they read it. They lied.] Feedback is diverse: “the world is a very f*** up place”, “I am ashamed to admit I wish I had been Sebas” or “this story will make readers disgusted and horny at the same time”. But maybe the best one was “it’s hilarious, it reads itself”. 
I have chosen to query you because your reputation for championing bold, boundary-pushing literature aligns perfectly with the essence of “I am Online.” I believe this novel not only entertains but also opens a dialogue about the evolving landscape of sexuality and identity.

Thank you for considering my submission. I am eager to discuss the potential of “I am Online” and look forward to the possibility of working together.

You must either convert this into a three-book series, or whittle it down to 80,000 words by getting rid of massive amounts of wordiness, repetition, chapters that don't advance the plot, rambling musings about life, etc. Did I say whittle it down? You need an industrial buzz saw.
While I imagine webcams draw far fewer viewers than websites, (Pornhub: 750 million visits per week; Me, Sebas, in my Motel Room: 2000 visits/month), I wouldn't call  a few thousand followers a meteoric rise toward becoming an online celebrity. Maybe you should lie and say he's got half a million followers.
Here's all I know about what happens in your 240,000 words: Guy with oppressive home life catches train to Barcelona, hits the sheets with someone who failed to mention he was broadcasting their activity online, and becomes an overnight sensation. (My version: 29 words.)
Are there any other characters? A close friend, a traitor, a lover, a murderer, a joker, a thief?
What's the most important event in this book? What is Sebas's goal? What's his plan to achieve it? What's standing in his way? What decision must he make to succeed? What if he fails? That's the kind of stuff we want in the query. If you get rid of the red words and my comments, you might have room to answer some of those questions. Even literary fiction needs a story.
On the bright side, it seems like three fourths of all literary agents are desperately looking for books by LGBTQ+ authors, so you have a leg up if you do have a story and characters.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Face-Lift 1460


Guess the Plot

The Dirt Wars

1. It'a about a war. Over dirt.

2. Her kids and husband have been tracking dirt into the house for years. Marge has finally reached her breaking point. She's stockpiling military-grade vacuum cleaners.

3. The world owes their livelihood to the top six inches of soil. Janus has become involved in a war with the neighboring kingdom over who has the better soil. How does it go? The grass is always greener?

4. The mud slinging in an election year has gotten so bad it's become a national sport, with referees, scoreboards, and cheerleaders. Can 2nd grader Winslow Walsh defeat his arch-nemesis the school principal in this battle of the dirty on the school playground? Or will Mx. Roberts Jr. (3rd grade) succeed in getting the ice cream man elected to the school board?

5. The land in the valley separating two mountainous kingdoms is the only place with arable soil. For years this land was shared, but with population growth, both kingdoms now want it all. Can mediator Eleanor Panko find a way to prevent a war that could destroy the valley?


Original Version

Title: The Dirt Wars*
Backstory: It's about a war. Over dirt.
*Hey, it worked for "Star" 

[Presumably that was not part of the query, but as the title isn't revealed anywhere else (nor the word count) I'll assume you're providing us with only the plot summary so you won't get comments like "It's too short (or long)" or "leave the word 'The' off the title."] [That was a pretty long sentence, but nothing compared to your first sentence.] [In any case, thanks for providing me with the real guess-the-plot, as the plot summary below doesn't hint at where the title comes from.]

Newlywed and recent Genesis graduate, Bobby Gallagher lives a life of privilege as a True Born citizen in Centre 3:2:1 (formerly Dallas, Texas) within Section 2 of New Elysian, twenty years after The Final War, at the behest of watchful [thanks to his] benefactor Sectional Ambassador Jeremy Barnes. Ambassador Barnes’ affinity for Bobby is cultivated before the boy takes his first steps. [I don't like "affinity" or "cultivated" in this context. I'd say "his interest in Bobby began . . . " Note that I also think you should use past tense when talking about Bobby's childhood.] Ambitious and cunning, Barnes takes Bobby under his wing and heralds him as a shining example of what The State can produce; someone who might one day rule the world.

Bobby’s life is going to plan [Barnes's plan?] until he meets Gramps, a mysterious old man from the Before Times who also takes an early interest in Bobby, but from the shadows. Equal parts smart and smart-ass, Gramps is well connected both within New Elysian and with those on The Outside, or as The State refers to them, Ticks. Gramps portends [warns] of evil lurking within The State and accuses [declares] Barnes of being a murderous sociopath. He urges Bobby to disregard the poisonous teachings of Genesis and escape [abandon] the trappings of a life given and embrace his destiny on The Outside. Bobby listens to the old man’s sermons but cannot decide if he is mad or prescient.

As Bobby’s allegiance to Barnes wobbles, his wife, Caroline finds herself torn between her loyalty to The State and to her husband. In the end, only one will survive. [I can't tell if you mean only one of her husband and the State or only one of Bobby and Caroline.] [Perhaps dump this paragraph, as Caroline doesn't figure much in the rest of the plot summary.]

Bobby rejects [suspects] Gramps as [is] a traitor but does not report him. Bobby buckles and agrees to go with him on a mission to The Outside where he discovers a world that makes him question everything he has ever known. Section 2 leadership learns of Bobby’s treachery and, with the help of an unlikely ally, unleashes the full force of Section 2 upon Bobby and anyone who stands in their way. [That's the end? While I see no way Bobby can withstand an unleashing of the full force of Section 2, I expect you to provide a glimmer of hope. Instead of that last sentence, give some specifics about what he finds in the Outside. Then say he realizes Gramps was right all along, but it may be too late because he's now being hunted by the all-powerful State.] 


Elysian is an adjective, at least here in the Before Times. Elysium means paradise, and is more likely to be the name of a place.

It's not clear why everyone thinks Bobby is the key to everything. He seems like just an average naive kid. Are Gramps and Barnes the main characters? If Bobby's the MC, focus on what he wants, how he plans to get it, what will happen if he fails.

Why does the State want with Bobby now that he's shown his treachery? They probably don't want him as the ruler of the world anymore, so they should look for a new potential ruler of the world. Not waste time and resources chasing down this kid. I'm surprised Barnes doesn't want the position.

Getting rid of the red words or whichever ones you can do without would leave a little space for some more information. Maybe something about the geography of this world. I can't tell whether the Outside is everything surrounding New Elysian, or if New Elysian is the old USA or the old Texas.

Are the State and the Outside at war? Over dirt? How can there be a war if the last war was the Last War?