Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Query Revision 16

Face-Lift 784: One Man's Treasure

Retry, with thanks to everyone (and Stephen, I've totally ripped off your start, thanks).

Weakened by poison meant for the head of his spy network, Arrax isn't prepared for war. But war is coming--on two fronts. The leader of the ruling elite he defeated 15 years ago is back and wants nothing more than to destroy Arrax and his people, and a local warlord is making a play for Arrax’s lands at the same time.

The last thing he needs is spacers landing in the middle of the war, searching for Callan's legendary treasure.

The enemy ally themselves with the spacers in an attempt to defeat Arrax. In return they promise access to Callan's laboratories and the treasures she produced there.

But Arrax knows that if the spacers get hold of Callan's treasure then he and his people--along with everyone else on his world--are doomed. Suddenly, stopping the spacers is just as important as stopping the war and Arrax is determined to do both. If the poison doesn't kill him first.

Comments

The thing I liked about your first version is that mention of "spacers" came quick after you telling us this is science fiction. The start of this query doesn't get me in the SF frame of mind. I'm not getting a feeling for the world itself. It sounds like a backwater, third-world planet, so when spacers and laboratories are mentioned, I'm feeling like there's some huge disconnect.

Weakened by poison meant for the head of his spy network, Arrax isn't prepared for war.

Maybe let us know what position Arrax holds by giving him a title when he's intro'd? Is he a king, a general, head of the CIA?

But war is coming--on two fronts. The leader of the ruling elite he defeated 15 years ago is back and wants nothing more than to destroy Arrax and his people,

I think this can be tightened by deleting "and wants nothing more than to destroy Arrax and his people" -- revenge can be easily inferred. But maybe you want to clarify that the leader is back with an army rather than coming alone? Or is she coming alone? The "ruling elite" makes it sound like that war was an uprising where the middle class overthrew and ousted the ruling class.

and a local warlord is making a play for Arrax’s lands at the same time.

Just something to think about in how you're presenting this: one leader just wants to kill everyone and doesn't care about the land and another just wants the land? If we're talking "local warlord" it doesn't sound like this is a very large holding Arrax has. How are the two enemies not stepping all over each other? And "at the same time" is redundant after telling us war is coming on two fronts. We presume it's at the same time.

The last thing he needs is spacers landing in the middle of the war, searching for Callan's legendary treasure.

In this version, we have no idea what/who Callan is. Even reading further down, I still don't know if Callan is a who or a what, and if a what whether it's the name of Arrax's holding or the planet.

The enemy ally themselves with the spacers in an attempt to defeat Arrax.

Which enemy? Both factions? And just how many spacers are we talking about here that they can make a difference in the war? We know if it's the Serenity crew they can single-handedly bring down nations -- but the spacers aren't the heroes here. Or is the spacer's technology such that one starship can make a difference?

In return they promise access to Callan's laboratories and the treasures she produced there.

Sorry, but with the title of the book in mind, I have the strains of "One Tin Soldier" in my head now.

But Arrax knows that if the spacers get hold of Callan's treasure then he and his people--along with everyone else on his world--are doomed. Suddenly, stopping the spacers is just as important as stopping the war and Arrax is determined to do both. If the poison doesn't kill him first.

I think this is a really good wrap-up paragraph! I'm still not a fan of "Callan's treasure", but if that's your mystery and hook, then OK. What the query needs, IMO, is a better set up for this last paragraph.

9 comments:

LSimon said...

With the understanding that I am a complete noob...I humbly submit this as as possible way to go...

Fifteen years after spear-heading the coup that made him his people's reluctant leader, Arrax finds himself poisoned and threatened with war on two fronts. The last thing he needs is meddling spacers searching for Callan's legendary treasure.

Arrax focuses his attention on the forces of the deposed government, but when the spacers decide to throw in their lot with the warlord to the West- suddenly, he has more serious enemies than he can handle.

But Arrax knows that if the spacers get hold of Callan's treasure then he and his people--along with everyone else on his world--are doomed. Suddenly, stopping the spacers is just as important as stopping the war and Arrax is determined to do both. If the poison doesn't kill him first.

(Again- total noob, just using this as practice. I know I've made some assumptions about your story. Hope this can be even a little helpful!)

Michelle Massaro said...

Wow. Let me first just say that LSimon's suggestions here sound awesome. LSimon, you don't sound like a noob at all!

My humble little offering had nothing in the way of suggested content but was something I noticed in sentence structure. You'll probably scrap the line altogether anyway, but for future reference you could maybe keep this in mind as example I guess. (Sorry if it's completely useless commentary). Okay, here it is:

In your first paragraph I stumbled a bit on this long sentence:

The leader of the ruling elite he defeated 15 years ago is back and wants nothing more than to destroy Arrax and his people, and a local warlord is making a play for Arrax’s lands at the same time.


I would suggest inserting commas to offer a pause as well as split it into two sentences, like this: The leader of the ruling elite, which he defeated 15 years ago, is back and wants nothing more than to destroy Arrax and his people; at the same time, a local Warlord is making a play for Arrax’s land.

But I like LSimon's version of introducing the war and its background much, much better than this.

I'm not sure if his rewrite is in your voice. if it isn't then you need to make changes. I'm sure you know this but sometimes we like someone else's suggestion so much we want to use it even if the rest of our work sounds completely different and that misleads agents.

Michelle Massaro said...

*correction* HER suggestions. (Sorry LSimon!)

150 said...

The only two words that imply science fiction are "spacers" and "laboratories". Everything else implies a low-tech setting--some aggressively so, with the one-word nonsense-word name of the "leader" of the "people" and a "warlord" after his "lands", and calling Callan's lab results "treasure". Is this a Pern-type scenario, designed to trick fantasy readers into buying sci-fi? Or vice versa?

If that's not your intent, use sci-fi words to set a more accurate scene.

arhooley said...

I find "Weakened by poison meant for the head of his spy network" a long and complex way to go before we get to "Arrax." By the time I'm at the end of the first paragraph, I'm still not sure what Arrax's position is -- are "his people" and "Arrax's lands" "his" in the sense that he leads/owns them, or in the sense that he is of them? Also, you can unclutter by deleting "nothing more than."

And we've got the same problem with Callan's legendary treasure. Wha? Who? Callan? Is Callan dead or alive? When I first saw "treasure" I thought something magical or artistic. It turns out to be a scientific invention.

How is it that only Arrax knows that if the spacers get Callan's treasure then everyone on Arrax's world is doomed? Presumably the local warlord and the leader of the ruling elite live on Arrax's world? So why are they allying with the spacers? They're sealing their own doom. Why doesn't Arrax point this out to them?

Joe G said...

I would leave out the bit about the poison altogether. If he's the protagonist of your story we can be fairly certain he's not going to die of poison any time soon. It simply isn't the hook you think it is. It's like opening with "Dangling off a cliff at the beginning of the story, Arrax must lead his people to war and protect an ancient treasure while searching for true love. If he doesn't fall off that damn cliff in the first chapter."

_*rachel*_ said...

OK, OK, this needs a little tweaking. But it feels right. It's energetic and compact. So do the edits, but keep this as the backbone instead of rewriting from scratch.

AA said...

"Weakened by poison meant for the head of his spy network" bugs me. Was Arrax attempting to poison the head of his own spy network, or was someone else involved? If it was another spy, you'd think he or she would know what a fatal dose is. And how long does poison remain in the system if the person who takes it doesn't die? I think after a matter of hours it would be washed out as waste. That's my uneducated guess. Unless you're suggesting there was organ damage.
I saw right away that the enemy wouldn't really give Callan's treasure to the spacers if the spacers would just use it to destroy everybody on the planet. Unless they're just promising something they won't deliver. For that matter, why doesn't the enemy just use the treasure to destroy Arrax and his army? They obviously have access to it. And why would the spacers destroy everybody? They just hate people in general?
About this guy trying to take Arrax's land: What if he does? Will they automatically lose the war? Or does it just provide another obstacle for the hero to overcome? If it's just an obstacle to be inevitably overcome, it doesn't advance the plot and does not belong in the story. Delaying the ending of the story is not the same as advancing the plot, and this seems a little like an arbitrary obstacle thrown into the way of the MC just so he can overcome it. Assuming this isn't the case, more info is needed about this part of the story and how it fits in.

The author said...

Thanks again for the feedback, people. You've given me a lot to think about.