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message 1: by Alex (last edited Mar 30, 2018 05:46PM) (new)

Alex Geniesse | 12 comments Hey everyone. I could use some help. I feel stuck. Here is a query I'm working on for a Sci Fi about something I started calling the Lun-apocalypse.

In January 2018 a comet of an unknown element destroyed the Moon. The Earth gained rings and a continent sized storm which periodically brews and rains Moon Dust onto the surface. It became the most sought after resource in the world.

By 2032, after wars and Ring Sickness killed more than four billion worldwide, Sylar and Kyra find their home in a forest near a city in the Pacific Northwest, a retrofitted cave harboring a self-sustaining cache of Moon Dust. To keep them fed and understand his father’s mysterious research on the rings, Sylar is forced to trade Moon Dust with gangs like the Silver Sifters for quick cash, and almost never trusts anyone.

Kyra doesn’t know the depth of his life in the black markets, and their isolated lifestyle makes the days lonely. It pushes her to Dean, who has dreamy eyes and more charm than a puppy. Or he did, until he presses the cold metal of a Lightning jack pistol against the back of Sylar’s head, demanding Moon Dust. To survive being hunted, Sylar will have to finish what his father started, and either abandon Kyra or drag her into the constant threat of death.

message 2: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Cirisano | 46 comments This isn't super stuck :) The pieces are there, but I don't think you're saying enough, actually. Here are some of the things I would clarify or elaborate on:

Who is the main character?

Rather, from whose point of view is the story told? Sylar? Kyra? Both? 

It seems like the story focuses on Sylar because the plot goal you present is his goal. (To finish what his father started). 

But since you start with both characters, i.e. “Sylar and Kyra find their home” it’s not immediately clear who the main protagonist is. Instead, I would start with Sylar.

For example, 

“By 2032, wars and Ring Sickness killed more than four billion worldwide. Sylar grew up [hiding from the moon dust gangs?] in a forest near a city in the Pacific Northwest. There, he maintains a retro-fitted cave harboring a self-sustaining cache of Moon Dust with his father and his [best friend?] Kyra. To keep them fed and understand his father’s mysterious research on the rings, Sylar is forced to trade moon dust with gangs like the Silver Shifters.

What is the characters’ relationship to each other?

Are Kyra and Sylar brother and sister? Step-siblings? Friends? Lovers?

Why is moon dust the most sought-after resource in the world?

This seems like it’s a big part of your concept, and not a big mystery in the context of the story. If readers know what moon dust does within the first act, I would state it in your query. In my opinion, it isn’t helping the pitch to keep the function of moon dust a secret. It makes the query weaker because there isn’t a strong construct to hang the stakes on. I don’t know why moon dust is important, and therefore I don’t know why I should care about anything the characters are doing that is related to it. 

Sometimes I see writers leave out these kinds of important details because they believe it leads the agent to want to read further to figure them out. But, I think this is the wrong type of detail to omit because it hurts the story setup, which is ultimately what draws people in to find out what happens NEXT. Though it’s true that you shouldn’t say EVERYTHING in the query, you should make the basic concept loud and clear so there is context on which to build your characters’ problems. Without proper context, the conflict is just floating in a vacuum.

“Dean, who has dreamy eyes and more charm than a puppy.”

This line is jarring to me because I’ve never heard a woman describe an attractive man as a puppy. In fact, I’ve heard the opposite multiple times. As in, “I’d never date him, he’s like a puppy.” I understand that you're trying to say Dean draws Kyra's attention, but puppies don't have charm they way hot guys do. Puppies attract people because they’re helpless, fumbling, and adorable in a babyish way – the opposite of what I’d want in a guy. This is an easy line to change in your query. But, if it’s in the query, stuff like this may also be in the novel. I would do a sweep to make sure your metaphors are appropriate and accurate throughout your book.

“Or he did, until he presses the cold metal of a Lightning jack pistol against the back of Sylar’s head, demanding Moon Dust.”

I think this is where the query feels a little lost. This conflict doesn’t seem all that earth-shattering. Sylar deals a valuable substance to a bunch of gangsters. I’d expect that every one in awhile, someone would try to cut out the middle man. We know that everyone wants moon dust. Cool. Dean wants moon dust. Fine. But I still don’t get why you’ve chosen to start your story here, on THIS person that wants moon dust, over the rest of the entire living population. It sounds more like Dean wants the SECRET to creating self-sustaining moon dust. Not the moon dust itself. Which is much more powerful, to me at least.

I obviously haven’t read your entire story, but I don’t think you’re giving us enough plot in the query to do it justice. Who is the antagonist? What do they want? Why are they hunting Sylar? What does Sylar actually have to DO in this book? How does he have to ACT? You don’t have to give everything away or write 5000 words, but I do think you need to seed us a bit more into what constitutes “finishing what his father started.” 

For example, if I was pitching READY PLAYER ONE, I would probably say, “Wade Watts has to solve a puzzle hidden in a free, world-wide virtual reality, the OASIS. If he wins, he can save the OASIS from a hostile corporation who wants to monetize every piece of it.” If I just said, “Wade Watts has to finish what OASIS started,” it’s too general for the reader to find anything of interest. I don’t understand your protagonist’s goals or the antagonist’s goals clearly, which are both essential to the query. 

Don’t be afraid that adding specifics will “give everything away.” You need specifics to make your story stand out, and well, to make sense. I don’t think your query is in terrible shape! You have an interesting concept that is ripe for a good plot. I just think you need to chisel out your main characters goals a bit more precisely to draw the reader in.

message 3: by Alex (new)

Alex Geniesse | 12 comments Thanks for the help! I appreciate the insight and can make easy changes to fix all that up. This is super helpful.

message 4: by Alex (last edited Apr 04, 2018 10:19AM) (new)

Alex Geniesse | 12 comments Maybe this is more along the lines?

Fourteen years after wars and Ring Sickness take a death toll of near four billion, it still feels like someone took a crap on Sylar’s front porch and lit it on fire. His research on rings-powered technology proves frustrating. And surviving can be hard enough in 2032 without being harassed by one of the largest mobs since before the rings.

Lately the Silver Sifters have been extra aggressive, snatching up all the Moon Dust they can before war breaks out with another Moon Dust syndicate. Yeah, Sylar should be more careful when he deals the energy resource to thugs. But there’s no way the Sifters should know about his self-sustaining cache.

To survive being hunted in a Pacific Northwest city, Sylar will have to abandon his research on the Earth’s rings and the Moon’s destruction. He will have to abandon his best friend, a former Moon Dust harvesting slave named Kyra. He’ll lose everything. Unless he can find a way to leverage the Sifters back.

message 5: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Cirisano | 46 comments I think this is much better! The setting and character goals are more clear, and the story feels a lot bigger. I also get a stronger sense of the character’s voice.

Now that you have the basic pieces in place, I would take a closer look at a couple parts of the writing:

“Feels like someone took crap on Sylar’s front porch and lit it on fire.” 

I understand that this may be in the voice of the character, but it still seems like the wrong analogy for the death of four billion people. Using the character’s voice is great, but when the analogy is so jarring, it feels like the writing is trying too hard to force the voice in there. “Yeah, Sylar should be more careful when he deals the energy resource to thugs” reads as a more natural use of voice to me.

“Without being harassed by one of the largest mobs since before the rings.”

To me “since before the rings” is an awkward phrase grammatically. Also, though this may be true of the story, it weakens the concept in the query. A mob that existed BEFORE the rings doesn’t really pay off the idea that the moon apocalypse CHANGED THE WORLD, which is what the whole book is about. I might say something like “by one of the largest moons dust mobs: the Silver Sifters.” Then go into, “Lately, the Silver Sifters” just as you have.

“When he deals the energy resource to thugs”

I would say “the world’s most valuable energy resource” or something along those lines, since you haven’t stated that elsewhere and it’s kind of a big deal.

Unless he can find a way to “leverage the sifters back.”

I don’t think this phrase is how you would use the word “leverage.”The Silver Sifters aren’t trying to leverage Sylar. Based on what you stated, literally going to hunt his stuff. Leveraging is more in the camp of sneaky manipulation rather than outright hunting and stealing. This last line of the query is ripe for a harder-hitting, action-packed phrase anyway. DROP THE MIC! Haha.

message 6: by Alex (new)

Alex Geniesse | 12 comments Thanks again! I've re-worked it further and have it down to 153 words with more of a bang both in the beginning and in the end.

message 7: by Alex (new)

Alex Geniesse | 12 comments This is the one that got a request. Thanks again for your help.

Sylar spends his life researching the Earth’s rings in the fourteen years since the Moon was destroyed and Ring Sickness claimed four billion. The Silver Sifters don’t care if Sylar finds a more stable future for mankind. The slavers want his self-sustaining cache of Moon Dust, the world’s most precious energy resource.

Rumors are widespread that Sifter leader, Grant Star, faces war. He needs resources before it breaks out. He needs Sylar’s Moon Dust. And he will paint his city with blood to get it. As the hunt begins, Sylar contacts the other Moon Dust syndicate vying for control of the Pacific Northwest.

Their captain gives him an option. Help take down Grant in return for protection along with anything he needs for his research. But there is a price for picking sides. A gruesome one. By the end of the night Sylar will have to choose who dies. His friends, or Sifter slaves.

RELICT is a YA Sci Fi complete at 76000 words.

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