Thursday, January 6, 2011

Query Revision 53

Facelift 819: Bent
(Original Title: The Nine Lies of Calliope Druthers)

Flynn Monroe’s life reads like a rap sheet. Steering clear of Coppers and Guild officers when there isn’t a warrant out for his arrest is easy. Unfortunately, at a time when he wants to clean up his past, his biggest mistake waltzes back into his life followed by a hail of bullets and shattered glass. When Calliope Druthers left him for dead with a ticking time bomb in his lap five years ago he hoped their first reunion would give him the chance to pump her full of lead. Now, as the barrels of his revolvers press into her forehead he balks as she tells of the daughter she’s hidden from him.

The girl bears an uncanny resemblance to Flynn and though he can’t be sure that she’s his, Calliope reveals the Guild is after their daughter for medical experimentation. Agreeing to get them out of the space station is one thing, ferrying them across the galaxy into the hands of the resistance is another. Flynn must decipher which of Calliope’s tales are false and find the secrets hidden behind the four-year-old girl’s eyes all the while dodging Guild assassins.

Please consider my science fiction novel, BENT, for consideration. It is complete at 91,000-words. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Comments

At the sentence level, this is well-written. Coming cold into it, though, I had a little trouble keeping up. I do think you made the right move focusing this from Flynn's POV. I kinda liked the original title; Kill Bill, after all, wasn't so much about Bill. Bent kind of lays flat for me. Hopefully others will weigh in. Also, FWIW, the medical experimentation and ferrying and revolvers and Brown Coats (er, the resistance) reminds me a lot of Mal and Firefly and that's the type of story I was thinking of reading this.

Flynn Monroe’s life reads like a rap sheet. Steering clear of Coppers and Guild officers when there isn’t a warrant out for his arrest is easy.

Since the next sentence indicates Flynn is trying to go straight, I think you mean that Flynn finally doesn't have a warrant out for his arrest. However, on first read, it seems like Flynn sometimes has a warrant out on him and sometimes doesn't and you're simply informing the reader it's easier to steer clear when someone's not after him. Which really isn't much of a revelation.

Unfortunately, at a time when he wants to clean up his past, his biggest mistake waltzes back into his life followed by a hail of bullets and shattered glass. When Calliope Druthers left him for dead with a ticking time bomb in his lap five years ago he hoped their first reunion would give him the chance to pump her full of lead.

IMO, that last sentence is a better hook to start with.

Now, as the barrels of his revolvers press into her forehead he balks as she tells of the daughter she’s hidden from him.

The word "tells" really dilutes the impact this sentence could have. I would opt for a more visceral word choice to go with the rest of the tone. Also, I don't think you need the detail that Calliope has hidden the girl since Flynn and Cal haven't connected at all in 5 years.

The girl bears an uncanny resemblance to Flynn and though he can’t be sure that she’s his, Calliope reveals the Guild is after their daughter for medical experimentation.

Using "though" here implies a relationship between Flynn not knowing the kid is his and Calliope letting him know the Guild is after her. I don't think one is really related to the other.

I expect the next sentence to explain why the Guild wants that one particular girl when there are likely orphanages full of kids to choose from. What's special about HER?

Agreeing to get them out of the space station is one thing, ferrying them across the galaxy into the hands of the resistance is another.

I usually like details being dropped in and just letting the context explain them, but the detail of the resistance is one I can't figure out, from there even needing to be a resistance (what are they resisting?) to why Calliope thinks they could be a safe haven.

Flynn must decipher which of Calliope’s tales are false

It sounds like Flynn knows that Calliope is lying about something. Is that the case? From the query, I only get two tales from Cal: the kid is Flynn's and the Guild wants her for some kind of experimentation. From the info here, I can't see how whether she's his child or not matters much since he's already risking his life for her.

and find the secrets hidden behind the four-year-old girl’s eyes all the while dodging Guild assassins.

Please consider my science fiction novel, BENT, for consideration. It is complete at 91,000-words. This is my first novel.

Nix the "my first novel" reference. If you don't mention other works, that's implied. And I think you meant to use "representation" rather than "consideration" above. But since you say "consideration" again below, I would just go with: BENT is a Space Western, complete at 91,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

My Revision

When Calliope Druthers left Flynn Monroe for dead with a ticking time bomb in his lap five years ago, he vowed to pump her full of lead the next time they joined up. Now she's waltzed back into his life amid a hail of bullets and shattered glass and the only thing keeping him from pulling the triggers on the pair of revolvers pressed into her forehead is her wild tale about a daughter he's never met. A daughter with [bene gesserit power so strong] it has the Guild salivating to get hold of her.

And that's a problem because Flynn's been trying to clean up his rap-sheet past, steering clear of Coppers and Guild officers and avoiding any contact with his old friends in the resistance. Even if the girl is his -- and yeah, there is an uncanny resemblance there -- agreeing to get them out of the space station is one thing, ferrying them across the galaxy into the hands of the resistance is quite another.

Besides, Flynn is sure Calliope is lying about something -- she always is -- he just doesn't know what. And with a posse of Guild assassins on their tail, if he can't decipher which of Calliope’s tales this time is false and find the secrets hidden behind the four-year-old’s eyes, [he's going to lose not just his reputation and his freight operation but maybe even the thing he guards the most: his heart].

BENT is a Space Western, complete at 91,000 words. I look forward to sending you the manuscript.

Sincerely,

12 comments:

Lauren K said...

This query seems a lot more interesting than the earlier version of it I saw posted. I actually want to read the book. Personally I agree with Phoenix that the original title was better and more memorable. Was there a reason you changed it?

fairyhedgehog said...

This sounds like a fun story although I had problems sorting out what was going on.

Phoenix has helped to make it read clearly (as well as packing a punch) but I still find that the genre isn't obvious to me at the beginning. A ticking time bomb and pumping full of lead make me think of a 20th century detective/adventure setting rather than a science fiction novel.

Amy said...

Thanks for your help.

When I explain the novel to people a "Firefly meets Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (or Blade Runner if they're not reader types.)

"bene gesserit power so strong" made me laugh. No, that's not why they're after her. There's nothing psychic in my novel (I didn't create another River).

Thanks for your help, Phoenix. I'll get to modigying and check back with you later.

Lauren K, I changed the title because it was leading people to believe she was the protagonist even though she's the antagonist. I know that "Kill Bill" worked, because the whole point of that storyline was that she was going to Kill Bill.... I just think it's too confusing to have that title and then first pages, BAM all about Flynn. I could be entirely wrong about that.

Marissa Doyle said...

What fairyhedgehog said--I was picturing fedoras and pinstripe suits, not helmets and spacesuits. Perhaps a stronger hint of time and place in the beginning of the first paragraph would help ground this a little better.

I also prefer the old title, though that doesn't mean there might not be an even better one out there.

Matt said...

The revision would have me glancing at first pages, which is all it needs to do.

Nine Lies is more interesting than Bent, I think.

Amy said...

another note on the title. There aren't specifically nine lies. Calliope lies a whole heck of a lot, but they're not ennumerated in the novel. I felt that with the title, "The Nine Lies of Calliope Druthers," you'd be looking for those nine lies.

Phoenix said...

Amy, you're doing a lot of arguing against the Nine Lies title but not much arguing FOR Bent ;o) As Marissa says, maybe that isn't THE title, but it's clear most of us aren't feeling the love for Bent. Plus, all you need now is just something interesting that will make an agent look favorably on your submission and that ties into the story somehow. The character name and calling out the lying in the query does that. But with Bent, I don't get a connection between it and what I read in the query. AFTER the book gets picked up you can address your concerns with the agent and brainstorm something else... that would be my two cents. And with the query clearly now in Flynn's POV, I don't think there would be a huge disconnect when the agent moved on to reading pages.

Also, if in your mind there's a strong tie to Do Androids Dream or Bladerunner, then a mention of that should probably be in the query. You really couldn't adequately pitch either of those without some mention of androids or replicants. If the Guild is after the technology that's making the girl tick (is it?), you don't need to spell it out, but you probably do want to hint at it. As it is, we don't even really get a good lie as to why they're after her since experimentation just opens up a floodgate of questions.

Amy said...

I see what you're saying about the questions posed by the vaguness of "medical experimentation" in this query and I'll try to clarify that.

I wasn't arguing for "Bent" because I wasn't that thrilled with it either.

However, in brainstorming I came up with:

The Truth About Madeline Dupree

A different spin, though in the same vein. Madeline is the name of the little girl and I'll have to address that in the query if she's the title character.

Thanks again for your help

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

This is pretty solid, but I feel like you can push it even farther, maybe shorten up the sentences to give it a more urgent feel. My suggestion:

Five years ago, Calliope Druthers left (space pirate?) Flynn for dead with a ticking time bomb in his lap. He'd hoped their reunion would give him the chance to pump her full of lead. But when Calliope waltzes back into his life in a hail of bullets and glass, she's toting a child she swears is his.

Though Flynn can't be sure, the girl does bear an uncanny resemblance to himself. According to Calliope, the (tyrannical ruling elite the) Guild is after their daughter for medical experimentation. (Their only hope is to smuggle the girl) across the galaxy into the hands of the resistance. (But as they dodge Guild assassins, vengeful Coppers, and (space pirates!)), Flynn must decipher which of Calliope’s tales are false and find the secrets hidden behind the four-year-old girl’s eyes. (The entire galaxy may depend on the answer.)

BENT is a science fiction novel complete at 91,000-words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jo-Ann said...

At the risk of sounding really stooopid, reading about "lead" and "bullets and glass" in a space-setting made me wonder why they were using archaic technology. I could just picture a bullet piercing the skin of the space station and triggering a crisis.

However, I'm not a big SF reader, and as nobody else commented on it, maybe it's the norm for the sub-genre of Western SF. But it sounded like an interesting plot - it piqued my interest, which is an axchievement for SF.

AA said...

I was also thrown by the apparent genre-switch in the second paragraph. I started reading sci-fi when I was in sixth grade and I'm an old-school fan. A hint of what's coming in the first paragraph would help.

Now I'm thinking an alternate-future sci-fi, where archaic lead bullets and regular old glass would for some strange reason be used on a space-station. But, yeah, it's a little too much of a surprise.

I don't like any of the titles. You would be looking for nine specific lies, as you said, so I don't like that one. "The truth about..." sounds like YA for girls. "Bent" sounds like it was written by Stephen King as Richard Bachman, like "Thinner."

Sorry I can't give you a better idea for a title but I'd probably have to know more about the book.

Matt said...

You know, the more I see people confused by the genre switch, the more I think it's a good idea -- a way of sticking out from the rest.