Thursday, October 21, 2010

Query 27

Duality

Dear Agent:

Subject Thirty-one wants her life back; if only she could remember it.

The Humani Project’s latest success believes she's human, but her sleek black fur, claws, and tail make that seem...unlikely. Her only clue to an existence before she had panther DNA spliced to hers is a name—“Janelle”—uttered by a scientist with tear rolling down her cheek.

Imprisoned in a sinister Phoenix, Arizona lab where failure equals termination, Janelle's must balance her warring human and animal halves to survive. But she doesn’t know the first thing about taming a wild animal—especially when it’s a part of her.

After Lorenzo Fernandez, the lead scientist, breaks protocol to save her life and calls her by name, the woman she was rises up in a determined hunt for the truth. Why does the one person she should hate above all others love her? Why does she feel the same? As time runs out, her only hope is to harness the animal within to protect herself and the man she loves.

Good thing cats have nine lives—she’ll need every one of them to uncover the truth.

DUALITY is a science fiction novel complete at 114,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Me.

Comments
 
Overall, I'm not sure what the true conflict is. The choice of panther is likely not an overdone were-type creature, but what I see here doesn't really seem to be the full story. Or if it is the story, maybe it's not hooky enough. Did you see Wolverine? His time imprisoned as a scientific experiment was only about half the movie. There was plot beyond that -- mainly to answer the question why the experiment to begin with.
 
It feels like there's a big evil here beyond Janelle's struggle to come to terms with her beast that isn't showing up in the query, not even as a real hint or tease. I made up a behind-the-scenes evil in my revision below as an example of giving the reader a taste for how Janelle's internal struggle is reflected in the bigger picture.
 
Subject Thirty-one wants her life back; if only she could remember it.
 
Is it really a spelled-out "thirty-one" in the ms? Aren't most scientific subjects labeled using numerals: 31? (Or are you just going by the Chicago Manual of Style here?) If she can't remember her life, how does she know she wants it back?
 
The Humani Project’s latest success believes she's human, but her sleek black fur, claws, and tail make that seem...unlikely.
 
Having "success" here makes the "failure" reference in the next 'graph seem a bit odd.
 
Her only clue to an existence before she had panther DNA spliced to hers is a name—“Janelle”—uttered by a scientist with tear rolling down her cheek.
 
The tear is nice detail, but it doesn't give us quite the needed information, which is why the scientist weeps. Also, since this scientist is referred to as "her", when Lorenzo breaks protocol by calling her by name, it makes it seem like he must have been the one referred to here and that the female pronoun is a mistake.
 
Imprisoned in a sinister Phoenix, Arizona lab where failure equals termination, Janelle's must balance her warring human and animal halves to survive.
 
I'm not getting a sense that there's much of a war going on. What's the struggle? What kind of balance is needed?
 
But she doesn’t know the first thing about taming a wild animal—especially when it’s a part of her.
 
This is good.
 
After Lorenzo Fernandez, the lead scientist, breaks protocol to save her life and calls her by name, the woman she was rises up in a determined hunt for the truth.
 
Why doesn't she hunt the truth when the female scientist above calls her by name? Of course, we don't why her life was in danger or why calling her name was enough to save it, so a little something around that would be good.
 
Why does the one person she should hate above all others love her?
 
So, since you mentioned the first scientist calling her name, I keep looking back to that to see why name-calling is a sign of love. My suggestion is to delete the reference to the woman scientist as it confuses the later conflict.
 
Why does she feel the same? As time runs out, her only hope is to harness the animal within to protect herself and the man she loves.
 
I sort of get the protecting herself part, but what's with the man she loves? Is his fate somehow wrapped up in hers? I don't understand why he's in danger.
 
Good thing cats have nine lives—she’ll need every one of them to uncover the truth.
 
Clever, but it makes me wonder how her life is endangered. I thought she was just trying to come to terms with the beast within.

DUALITY is a science fiction novel complete at 114,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

My Revision

If Subject 31 could only remember her old life, she's pretty damn sure she'd want it back.

The Humani Project’s latest experiment believes she's human, but her sleek black fur, claws, and tail make that seem...unlikely. Her only clue to an existence before she had panther DNA spliced to hers is a fragment of a memory and a name--Janelle.

Whoever it is keeping her imprisoned in the lab in Phoenix, Arizona, wants to turn her into the ultimate peacekeeper. She resists the training, but the demands, the headaches, the urge to kill, it's all wearing her down. She's having trouble enough trying to tame the wild animal that wants to take over without having to figure out what she should--or shouldn't--be doing with her talents.

When a training accident puts her life in danger and the lead geneticist on her project breaks protocol to save her, the woman she was rises up in a determined hunt for the truth. But Janelle has another problem: her feelings for Lorenzo, the geneticist who made her into the thing she is, are clouding her good sense.

Now whoever is controlling the strings is ready to unleash her skills. Her first target: the traitor Lorenzo. If Janelle is to save her humanity and protect the man she loves, her only hope is to embrace the animal within and become what she was created to be.

DUALITY is a science fiction novel complete at 114,000 words. I look forward to sending you the manuscript.

4 comments:

fairyhedgehog said...

I found this a bit confusing. I assumed that the female scientist in the second paragraph was in fact Lorenzo and the the "her" was a mistake. Or did Janelle have a tear rolling down her cheek?

I also initially read that she was imprisoned in a Phoenix, then realised what you meant. Our Phoenix seems to have cleared that up in her rewrite.

I liked this: The Humani Project’s latest success believes she's human, but her sleek black fur, claws, and tail make that seem...unlikely.

I wasn't clear what she had to do to avoid failure and termination, or what was involved in protecting herself and the man she loves.

I think it could be an interesting read but I'm not fully getting the sense of it at the moment.

lexcade said...

Thanks, phoenix. I've had so much trouble with this because there's a lot going on in it that I wasn't sure how to fit in without the query becoming a monster itself. With some minor tweaking to your suggestions I'll have a much stronger query. Thank you!

Matt said...

I'm intrigued by the premise.

Although it's not your intention, when the plot is buried in generalities, people assume the author doesn't have confidence in his or her storytelling. Remember to use specifics.

General: Bonita must act to save her beloved.

Specific: Bonita must disarm the bomb tied to Rodrigo's chest.

See how little generalities tell us about the situation?

I liked the tear/Janelle paragraph, and I love having a main character named Subject 31. Now tell us where this story is going.

vkw said...

Here are my thoughts:

The Humani Project’s latest success believes she's human, but her sleek black fur, claws, and tail make that seem...unlikely. (to whom? Who doesn't believe she's human. Janelle?)

Her only clue to an existence before she had panther DNA spliced to hers is a name—“Janelle”—uttered by a scientist with tear rolling down her cheek. (a tear)

(delete that)

P2-(failure equals termination) What is trying to be achieved? Failure at doing what? Fill in the yadas. . . Janelle must balance her human and animal halves to yada, yada, yada. Failure means termination. (and later there is a time limit, if this is the case)
If she doesn't succeed by . . .. she will be terminated.

After Lorenzo Fernandes, the lead scientist, breaks protocol to save her life and calls her by her real name, (the woman she was rises up in a determined hunt for the truth). What? What does that mean? (maybe . . . just guessing, vision of who she was floods her memory, making her determined to learn the truth of who she was).

Why does. . . love her? (reads akward to me, and I don't know who you are talking about. If it is Lorenzo then why should he hate her? Should he not be distant with his subject? Like she was a rat?)

Why is time running out? Who is she protecting herself from because the only danger mentioned was mastering her abilities or getting the ax, literally.

vkw