Monday, January 31, 2011

Query 56: Redux

Spirits of the Unknown

Tilvanau is the oldest son of The Family Government which has ruled three quarters of the planet Suvino for generations. The peaceful life style they have established is now in jeopardy when an assassination plot kills his father and younger brother.

His second brother Sanaido flees with his family for the nearest livable planet, Earth, not knowing the murderer is inside the ship. The murderer kills everybody aboard then escapes back to Suvino. On auto-pilot, the ship then takes off for Earth, where the U.S. government has taken possession of the ship, which is haunted by the ghosts of his family who try to disclose the killer to earthlings who don't understand.

Being the only member of the family still alive, Tilvanau must face a brutal civil war devastating his planet, brought on by a new dictator trying to conquer the planet, along with rumors and suspicions that he has killed his own family to gain sole control over the entire planet. Although the woman he loves can help him, he doesn't know if he can trust her, since she also has motive and opportunity being the secretary of state, the only one left to take command if he dies. Due to work and other excuses he never married her, but he always planned to. Now he doesn't know what to think of her.

With the killer still at large, Tilvanau heads for Earth to find clues in his brother's ship. He must find who the murderer is before he becomes the next victim. But will he find the answers there, or will he walk right into the killers trap?


I think the needle is moving in the right direction. However, I also think you're focusing a little too much on the commenters' questions rather than asking yourself if the basic structure of the query is the best way to present your story.

I like that you've come back at the end and let the reader know Til heads for Earth -- it provides a necessary tie to the ghost ship earlier. What I saw as a huge plot hole in the query (I trust it isn't so in the novel) is that it seems Til ditches his responsibilities during a huge period of unrest, civil war and a new dictator in town to go skipping off after clues to find an assassin to save his own life. Putting his life first when his planet is in danger doesn't make him overly sympathetic. I think we need a reason for him to go gallivanting off-planet to look for those clues in the middle of a civil war.

My revision smooths out the logic a bit but still leaves plenty of room for improvement with details only you know and only you can provide.

My Revision

After an assassin kills his father and youngest brother, Tilvanau -- oldest son of his planet's ruling family -- faces a brutal civil war. Amid rumors that he killed his own kin to gain sole control of the government and the rise of a powerful new dictator in the west, Tilvanau gets a grim reminder the assassin is still out there.

Tilvanau's second brother attempts to flee the whole mess with his family, but the assassin hijacks the royal starcruiser, kills everyone aboard, and escapes planet-side. Meanwhile, the ship, haunted by the ghosts of the murdered, jumps to its programmed destination: Earth.

With conspiracies around every corner as the government crumbles, there's only one person Tilvanau might be able to trust to help: the secretary of state, who also happens to be the woman he loves. But she's now next in line to take command. She has motive and opportunity to see him dead, and Tivanau is all too aware empires have fallen before because rulers trusted power-hungry lovers. She could well be his greatest enemy or his greatest ally.

Discovering the assassin's identity has become of paramount importance -- finding him or her may well be the key to suppressing the civil war. Boarding his own starcruiser, he follows his brother's ship to Earth where he'll either find the answers he needs -- or walk right into the assassin's trap.


Matt said...

I may have missed this in one of the earlier iterations, but are these humans or aliens we're talking about here?

If aliens, a snapshot of their culture/homeworld/appearance might help this stand out. It depends on what that information is, though.

If part of Tilvanau's character growth is that he realizes the importance of ruling the nation over pursuing vengeance, that could be a strong arc to build the query around.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

The query is so much tighter and clearer. Secretary of State in caps? Proper noun?

The focus is much sharper.

Phoenix said...

Re: Secretary of State

Style guides may well look differently at whether the term should be capped in all instances. In general, though, when you use it with an article (i.e., the or a secretary of state) it's not capped. When used as a title ("I know Secretary of State Wilkins MacQueen) it is.