Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Query Revision 56

Face-Lift 861: Spirits of the Unknown 

Tilvanau's family governs three quarters of the planet Suvino. After a murder plot to kill every member in his family, he doesn't know who to trust, and grief may be clouding his judgment.

His brother with his family attempts to escape in a ship with the murderer hidden inside. Before he is killed he sets a course for the nearest livable planet, earth. The murderer leaves the ship using an escape pod.

The U.S. government has 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 their language.

Being the only member of the family alive, Tilvanau must face a brutal civil war which devastates his 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 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.

As he struggles to find the murderer before the murderer kills him, he finds that his own people suspect he has betrayed them by killing his own family to gain sole control over the entire planet.

SPIRITS OF THE UNKNOWN is a science fiction with a twist, complete at 95,250 words.

Comments

I'm afraid this still comes across as sounding like two separate stories. As written, there is really nothing here to tie the brother's escape, the murderer and the family ghosts to Til's struggle with civil war on Suvino. If the twist in the story is the thing that eventually unites the story lines, the reader will need to know what it is; otherwise, no one's going to want to take a chance on a novel with two distinct personalities like this.

Tilvanau's family governs three quarters of the planet Suvino. After a murder plot to kill every member in his family,

The original version of this query led us to believe everyone in Til's family was murdered, which wasn't quite the case. Phrased this way, though, the reader has no idea if the plot was ever even carried out. So when we're told in the next sentence there is indeed a murderer, we're taken by surprise. At this point, has anyone been murdered?

he doesn't know who to trust, and grief may be clouding his judgment.

The "grief" phrase works only if we see him actually trusting someone -- or at least thinking about trusting them. Since he seems to not be trusting anyone at this point, that bit can be deleted.

His brother with his family

Does the second "his" refer to the brother or to Til? The "he" pronouns in this paragraph are a little confusing; you'll want to be sure the reader understands this whole paragraph is about the brother not Til.

attempts to escape in a ship with the murderer hidden inside. Before he is killed he sets a course for the nearest livable planet, earth. The murderer leaves the ship using an escape pod.

It took me a couple of reads, but I think I understand that the family and the murderer board the ship, the brother sets the course, but before the ship gets underway, the murderer kills everybody aboard and escapes back down to Suvino, which they're still orbiting. On auto-pilot, the ship then takes off for Earth (capitalized).

On a first read, this comes across that the murderer is off-planet and no longer a threat to Til.

The U.S. government has 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 their language.

So now we need a little world-building. Does Til's world have FTL technology? How long does it take for the ship to reach Earth and, when it gets there, is this the Earth of today or of the future? If there's a ship just waiting around for someone to program for the nearest inhabitable planet, the assumption is that earlier ships have been there already. And do Suvinian ghosts typically carry on conversations? Are ghosts normal in their world?

Being the only member of the family alive, Tilvanau must face a brutal civil war which devastates his planet.

What's the cause-and-effect here? Did the civil war break out BECAUSE the rest of the ruling family has been murdered? If so, you probably want to mention that upfront. Or has the civil war been going on and now that Til is the last of his family, he has to face uniting the planet on his own now. Also, by using "devastates" you imply the war has already devastated the planet. If it's still going on, you'll want to say "which is devastating".

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 only one left to take command if he dies. Due to work and other excuses he never married her, but he always planned to.

"The only one"? If that's the case, then the planet really is in trouble. Do you mean that she's next in line to take command? Is this from a military or political perspective? Most concubines don't stand to inherit the throne if the king dies. Or is she like a brigadier general in the army?

Now he doesn't know what to think of her.

As he struggles to find the murderer before the murderer kills him, he finds that his own people suspect he has betrayed them by killing his own family to gain sole control over the entire planet.

I think the reader needs a more solid understanding of why the planet is embroiled in civil war to understand why the populace would think this.

SPIRITS OF THE UNKNOWN is a science fiction with a twist, complete at 95,250 words.

What's the twist? I haven't read anything in this query that sounds like a twist. Nothing has been alluded to that is twist-like. If the twist is in one of the loose ends here, then that connection should be made. You don't have to TELL us what the twist is, but you should hint pretty strongly at what it is, otherwise it just falls flat.

Round your word count to the nearest thousand and delete the "a".

Overall, I think you're too close to your story. Coming into this cold, I have no idea how the ghosts and the U.S. government figure into any of this. Without some sort of tie-back at the end, I'm left thinking maybe a spaceship was grafted into this novel just to make it "different". Show us why it's important to the plot.

Also -- and I could be entirely wrong about this, it's just the impression I'm getting -- the writing here sounds like it isn't written by a native speaker. It's just a little too stilted, a little too "off". Adding a little passion and emotion to the writing itself would do wonders for how it comes across. Help us to feel Til's fear and uncertainty.

7 comments:

no-bull-steve said...

Okay Author,
I feel for you. This sounds like a book with many connected stories that is hard to explain. I relate. At least this description gives us a little more clarity (although still not full clarity) on what you're trying to say. Beware of being unclear and vague. You know what you're trying to say, but you're not doing a good job of expressing it.

It took me 5 minutes to construct this. I'm not saying to use it, but note how I'm being specific with the who's where's and what's. Read a lot of book jackets and DVD backs and see how they describe plot in interesting "hooky" terms.


The Rilcoco family has ruled most of the planet Suvino for generations. But all that they’ve built is now in jeopardy. When an assassination plot kills crown prince Tilvanau's mother, father and two sisters, he and his brother Stefano must find out who’s behind it—before they become the next victims.

Stefano flees with his family for the nearest livable planet, earth not knowing the murderer is still inside the ship.Ghosts of the murdered royal family who try to disclose the killer’s identity...but to no avail.

Meanwhile back on Suvino (don’t actually use that) Tilvanau must face a brutal civil war and rumors by his enemies that *he* killed his family. The woman Tilvanau loves can help him, but with motive and opportunity to take command if he dies, can he trust her?

With the war ripping his planet to shreds and his family’s killer still at large, can he trust anyone?

fairyhedgehog said...

Steve's version is much better. Naming the brother really helps to sort out who is who and the whole thing is much clearer despite the odd typo. I'd base your next attempt on that!

MIchelle4Laughs said...

The description of the plot had me confused as to what actually happened. Who is on the ship and who is dead? How did the U.S. Government get involved? The mention of a current government in a Science Fiction story had me scratching my head about the time frame. Is this happening in our time or the future?

A bigger problem, to me, was the lack of information about the MC. We're not shown anything about his personality. It might be better to focus only on Tilvaneu and his problems. Leaving out Stefano gives you room to expand on Tilvaneu.

Chicory said...

would it be easier if you just called the murderer `the assassin'? That would take care of referring to a murderer who has not yet killed anyone.

Orlando said...

Thank you "no-bull-steve" your advice was very helpful. Thank you Phoenix for your advice as well. I put these two together and hopeful have fixed the problems in my query. I will send a revision soon.

Joe G said...

Please indulge me. With A motive and THE opportunity.

batgirl said...

I find myself wondering if this really needs to be science fiction? Like one of the previous queries, this story uses planets (consider for a moment just how big Earth is) where the plot would be as easily covered by islands. The spaceship could be a seagoing yacht - would anything important change if this was a story about two island countries?
The thing is that the bureaucracy needed to rule most of a planet - well, look at the bureaucracy needed to run the States, or the Roman Empire - is a massive structure that could probably function without any of the 'ruling family' needing to do more than pose for the pictures on the currency.
Phoenix notes the FTL question, which is another point that an sf-savvy agent or publisher is likely to catch.
This might be better marketed as fantasy.