First Impact: The Legacy of the Eye, by Patricia Moussatche

Before we get to our First Impact critique, I need to announce that on Friday, Author's Echo is hosting revised versions of Authoress's Round One Logline Critiques. That means two things for you:
  1. More chances to win this month's First Impact prize. All critiques offered to these logline revisions will be entered for the monthly prize.
  2. There will be a deluge of posts on Friday (e-mail subscribers, I'm so, so sorry).
Remember, anyone who shares their thoughts in the comments of this post, and the logline revisions on Friday, will be eligible to win a 15-page critique from Jodi Meadows, author of INCARNATE. Each post you critique is another chance to win.

We always need more stuff to critique, so if you would like to submit your query/first page/etc, send it to firstimpactAE@gmail.com. Details here.



This week we have a sci-fi query from Patricia Moussatche. My inline comments are to the side, with overall thoughts at the end. And remember, this is just one guy's opinion. Your mileage may vary.

This is a lot of setup. I think you can
just put "they're a team" after the
first sentence and cut all but the last.

"Diligence to write down ideas" feels
like a lame ability next to David's.
Query
David and Catrine, top graduates from the Academy of Demia, are more than friends and schoolmates. David has brilliant ideas and Catrine has the diligence to write them down. Catrine is shy, so David gives their thoughts a strong voice. When David’s temper flares, it is always Catrine who calms him down. They are a team. At least until the day he kisses her.
Woah, this paragraph raises a lot of
world-building questions. How does
the throne have authority if it doesn't
exist? What has David accomplished?
How does the throne represent
hypocrisy? What kind of hypocrisy?

That day, David notices a tiny tattoo hidden beneath her hair that marks Catrine as next in line for a hereditary throne that should not even exist on their planet. Will his own accomplishments count for naught when the next ruler is chosen? And how can he love her if she represents the hypocrisy of the utopian society he always believed in?

More questions: What turmoil? How
is his gov't deceitful? Why is David
the only one who can make Demia
prosper? Where's home and who's
luring him there? And most
importantly: what's the bait?
When David discovers his parents are conspiring to make him king of Demia--a position that does not exist--by marrying him to Catrine, he is sure his leadership skills can be better employed bringing peace to the turmoil at the other end of the galaxy. He does not want to be part of a deceitful government, but can Demia prosper without him? And how long can he evade those who are determined to lure him home? The bait might just be more than he can resist.

I'm betting your work deals with
science fact, not fiction ;-)
THE LEGACY OF THE EYE, complete at 85,000 words, is science fiction with romantic elements and was inspired by Plato’s Republic. I also work with science fiction in test tubes at [where I work].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Patricia Moussatche


Adam's Thoughts
World-building is so, so, so, so, so hard to get across clearly -- decuply so in a query. The trick in a query is to stay 100% focused on what matters: the main character, his goal, his conflict, and what terrible choice he must make. Don't hint at anything you can't explain, and don't explain anything you don't absolutely have to.

This query actually does feel focused on the main storyline, but it hints at a bunch of things we don't understand. You either need to explain things, or even better, cut the bits that raise questions.

For example, instead of saying "a hereditary throne that should not exist," go straight to what's sinister about it. "She's marked as the next Queen Poobah. The Poobahs were supposed to have been removed from power centuries ago, but they've been ruling the utopian Demia from the shadows. Now David's parents are conspiring to make him the next King."

Or instead of explaining it, skip his relationship with Catrine and the tattoo, and go straight to David's parents conspiring to marry him to Demia's next shadow ruler. Then explain why this is a bad thing (stakes) and why just saying no is not an option (sadistic choice).

Anyway, that's just my idea. What do the rest of you think?

11 comments:

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Excellent advice.

Matthew MacNish said...

Hmm. I did this query the other week, so it's a little difficult to separate my thoughts today from my thoughts then.

I still think "until the day he kisses her," is a pretty good hook, and I agree with Adam that you should get to that quicker. In fact, I think the query that was sent to me did get to it quicker. I'd have to check.

And I still agree about the science fact thing too. I know I told Patricia to change that.

Otherwise, Adam's main point, about focusing more on the main conflict, and less on subplots, is a very solid one, I think. It's hard to say for certain what it is, not having read the manuscript, but I suspect that (since he needs to be lured home) he actually takes off to bring peace to the other end of the galaxy. Is that backstory? Or the main plot?

Patchi said...

First of all, thank you Adam for taking the time to critique my query. If anyone is interested in Matt's comments on the previous version, here is the link:

http://theqqqe.blogspot.com/2012/09/patricia-moussatches-current-query.html

Both critiques were very helpful, most of all to point out how much personal opinions are involved. I won't pull my hair out yet.

On a side note, if you guys think I work with fact, then you haven't met my boss. Until I run across a living organism with a 6-base genetic code, I'll keep calling my work fiction ;)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I want to work where Patricia does!

And points to Adam for teaching me a new word. I'll be striving to find a way to use it all week.

This feels like a romance to me, and I'm wondering if it's told in two voices - which is hinted at by the back-n-forth in the first paragraph (which I agree could also be trimmed). Regardless, it does feel like there's two major conflicts - the "whose going to be the ruler of what" conflict and the "whose going to marry who" conflict. I would pick one of those to be the major one (in the query), with the second being the "sadistic choice." And show us how your two protags are on opposite sides of that choice.

Good luck!

Sarah Ahiers said...

I agree with eveything Adam said. I also feel like there's very little in this query that tells us it's science fiction. That ties in with Adam's "lack of worldbuilding" comment, but if you hadn't told me the genre, i don't know that i would read this and say "sci-fi", which can be a problem. And i know there are agents who want to be able to get a good grasp on the world in the query (i know this, because i've had at least one come out and blatantly say it to me).

So. I think the conflict is there, though i think the query can be tightened so the conflict is clarified and really shines through. And then i think you should really try to add more world-building and sci-fi elements in the query, so we come away know what kind of world it is they live in.

Super good luck!

Victoria Dixon said...

I think this query's biggest problem is, it's trying to do too much. As Adam said, hone it down. For instance, we don't need to know there's hypocrisy in the utopian system he believes in. That confused me because hypocrisy is usually frowned upon, but it sounds like he believes in it. I got whiplash. Keep it simple. Others' suggestions here are superb. The simplicity issue has bearing on the last paragraph, too and your comment backs up my point: No, we the reader DON'T know about your work, so we can't possibly understand how your work could be slightly fictional. I would leave work out of it altogether UNLESS you're working with the theoretical physics application you've extrapolated into your novel's plot.

KayC said...

I read the logline for this over on Miss Snark yesterday and thought the same thing that struck me about the query - how can you have some ascend to a throne that 'should not exist'? This is were both the logline and the query lost me.

I'd take the advise offered above and cut most of the backstory and try to centre on the conflict and choices.

Jack said...

Queries are hard, so even writing one is a good start. I agree with Adam though about most of it. I did get a bit lost, though the main plot interested me. I think if it is more straight forward the general plot would draw the reader in, as well as knowing the main character better and sympathizing with him.

To Adam, Yes, I agree about the Eragon movie. Sometimes they need to just not make movies...the world would be better off without some of them.

Allons-y

xC0000005 said...

There's quite a bit of waiting at the start of this for the payoff line of "At least until the day he kisses her."

Then, I kept thinking "The throne should not exist? Thrones should not exist, or that particular throne? And should it not exist on that planet because it's supposed to exist somewhere else?"

Also, which is a more powerful lure - Catrine, or ? I'd expect Catrine, at least for a young man.

Patchi said...

Here is an updated version, in case I draw more comments:

David and Catrine, top graduates with degrees in Governance, are more than friends and schoolmates--they are a team. At least until the day he kisses her.

That day, David notices the tiny tattoo hidden beneath her hair. He recognizes the symbol from a book that implied a single family had been ruling Demia since colonization. But David had never believed the book before. It contradicted the core principles on which the planet was founded. Demia is the center of knowledge in the galaxy. It is supposed to value merit, not birthright.

Now David is certain Catrine is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not even exist on their academic planet. Will his own accomplishments count for naught when the next headmaster is chosen? And how can he love her if she represents the hypocrisy of the utopian society he has always believed in?

When David discovers his parents are conspiring to make him king of Demia by marrying him to Catrine, he is sure his skills can be better employed teaching at the other end of the galaxy. He does not want to be part of a deceitful government, but can Demia prosper without him? And how long can he evade those who are determined to lure him back to Demia? The bait might just be more than he can resist.

Adam Heine said...

This new version is definitely clearer. Personally, I still want to know what the bait is, so I can understand what horrible choice he has to make, but that might just be me :-)