Logline Revision Critiques #2

Genre: YA steampunk fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Enne Alfero must find her lost mother in the shadow world before she loses herself in casino royales, hot street lords, and an unbreakable vow to work as an assassin that pits her against the city's politicians in a deadly game for her life.

Logline Revision Critiques #1

Genre: YA
Original critique on MSFV

Seventeen year-old Ivy Chapel is an archangel with amnesia.
William and Lucian, long time enemies, are both sent to retrieve the gift Ivy guards, the healing power for all mankind.
One wants her heart. One wants her soul. Will she be able to survive them both and save the world?

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.
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.

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?

Books I Read: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: MG Fantasy
Published: 2005
My Content Rating: PG for action scenes
Cliffhanger Ending: No

Summer after 6th grade, Percy Jackson learns that the Greek gods are real, alive, and one of them is his father. Oh, and half the Greek pantheon is trying to kill him because they think he stole Zeus's master lightning bolt. So, not the best summer of his life.

What I loved about this book (in list form, cuz I'm feeling lazy today):
  • It's funny.
  • Exciting action.
  • The plot is nice and twisty, even after seeing the movie.
  • Speaking of which, it is much better than the movie.*
  • The world-building is pretty clever.**
The only thing I didn't like so much was the scenes at Camp Half-Blood felt too much like Harry Potter to me (it didn't help that the brave, muggle-raised protagonist befriended the school's camp's smartest girl). But once they got on their quest, that didn't bother me so much.

I'm not a "Greek mythology! Love it!" kind of guy (I prefer Eastern mythology, which I'm less familiar with). But if you are gonna revisit the Greek stories, Rick Riordan figured out a really great way to do it.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

* Seriously, it was like Hollywood used all the boring, irrelevant parts and cut all the interesting stuff that made sense.

** The only problem I had with the world-building was how demigods were all dyslexic because they're "genetically predisposed" to read ancient Greek. It's the language geek in me. Sorry, Rick.

Talking About the Ninjas (Next Big Thing)

I don't do tags very often, but (a) I like talking about my WIPs and (b) I'll do pretty much anything the beloved Authoress asks.

So today I'm talking about ninjas of the post-apocalyptic kind.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

1) What is the working title of your book?
The Word doc is titled The Con of War, but I'm not sure I like it. So on the internet I use the more descriptive Post-Apocalyptic, Dragon-Riding Ninjas (with Mechs!).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I actually had six half-formed ideas and asked people which sounded cooler. Overwhelmingly, the response was, "Do them all!"

3) What genre does your book fall under?
YA Science Fantasy (post-apocalyptic, obvs.)

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I don't know about actual actors, but my wife and I were watching a lot of So You Think You Can Dance when I planned this story. So in my head, the young con-artist is Dominic, his techy sister is Katee, and the ninja is Emo Billy.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An assassin, on the run from his clan, must work with a young con-artist to keep the kingdom from slipping into civil war and anarchy.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent is eagerly waiting for me to finish revising this thing.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?
It took me 4 months, which is the fastest I've ever drafted anything. I'm paying for it in revisions though.

Believe it or not, the story starts with the weather:
It was cloudy the day Kai killed his god. He'd expected earthquakes, blood rain, darkness at the very least, but the day his god died—and the day they would execute Kai for killing him—looked the same as any other. As if it were not a god who had died, but a man.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The world of Catherine Fisher's INCARCERON felt similar to me (far future tech mixed with a fantasy feel). And I learned from Holly Black's WHITE CAT when I was planning the cons.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Honestly, I just threw in as many cool things as I could while still making sense. But the con-artist's struggles to trust and be trusted definitely comes from experiences with my own kids and attachment issues.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Krista Van Dolzer once called it, "A steampunk Inception with ninjas!" She hasn't actually read it yet, but I'm counting that as an official blurb.

The rules demand I tag 5 people, so here are some of the people whose works-in-progress I am most interested in. Some of them have already posted their answers, so check them out:

Krista Van Dolzer
Matthew MacNish
Myrna Foster
Daisy Carter
Melodie Wright

Message for the tagged authors and interested others:

Rules of The Next Big Thing:

*Use this format for your post
*Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
*Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged. Be sure to line up your five people in advance.

First Impact: MG Fantasy from Kristen Wixted

First off, I have to thank Matt MacNish for promoting this feature and single-handedly filling up October with submissions. You should thank him too, because until those submissions came in, there wasn't going to be a prize this month (and it's a good prize; keep reading).

Second, the winner of September's prize -- $10 for Amazon/B&N or a 20-page crit from me -- is PATCHI! Please contact me and let me know which prize you want.

And thank all of you for your thoughts. keep them coming. The authors always tell me how much they appreciate it.

Lastly, I have a special prize for October: a 15-page critique from the amazing and talented Jodi Meadows! To win, leave a critique on any First Impact post this month. Purchasing a copy of Jodi's fantastic INCARNATE won't improve your chances, but it will keep you good company and cure acne (maybe). Plus! Dragons!

Somebody stop me. We have a critique to do.

Disclaimer: This is all just my opinion. Feel free to ignore it. Overall comments at the end.

First Page
I like this opening. But unless kids
do get locked away in this story, I'd
snip that bit. Get to the point.
Not all attics are full of shadows, spider webs, and ugly hatboxes dotted with evidence of unwelcome creatures; those are the kind of attics where children get locked away. Some attics smell like lavender soap, are strewn with treasures, and if the right child should come in at the right moment, are full of possibility.

I was initially confused, as "diaries"
are different from ships' logs.

Love the voice at the end.
The treasures in Aunt Tibby’s attic were mostly old diaries. Crooked, nearly toppling stacks of antique journals and ships’ logs covered the wooden floorboards and wide shelves, because the museum had run out of room and Aunt Tibby wasn’t about to throw them away. Heavens no.

This snipped bit slows things down, I
think. And it's info you can give later.
Somewhere, in one of the piles of antique leather and cloth-covered books was a particular diary that Eve, Aunt Tibby’s grand-niece, couldn’t wait to find. It was the key to her questions, because now that she was eleven she had lots of questions, about her Mama.

Good description (all of this is, btw),
but now that we have a goal (Mama),
I immediately want to know more. I
think some of this could be snipped
to get us there faster.
So for months, every time she visited her great aunt on Martha’s Vineyard, Eve put on her favorite old jeans and sweatshirt—clothes that she would never be allowed to wear at home in New York City—and she scoured. She searched. She investigated, explored, and rummaged around in the attic. She flipped through yellowed books, she tossed aside threadbare scarves and feathered hats so she could get at more old books. One time, to reach a pile of diaries that was off in a corner, she was even forced to pick up, with two reluctant fingers, a ratty, blonde wig and fling it aside.

Adam's Thoughts
I don't have a lot to say except to elaborate on my comments there. The voice, and especially the descriptions, are really good. I get the feeling I'm about to step into a mystery or possibly an adventure.

My only real complaint is at the end, and honestly that could be just because it's cut off as a first page. If the very next line was like, "Her mama had died when she was little . . . " or else, "Then one day she found it," I probably wouldn't have a problem with the length of that last paragraph at all.

So I'm just being nitpicky, really, because I don't know how much longer I have to wait to get to the meat. This first page is enticing (that's why I want the meat!), and though I do see occasional tangents that slow things down, they're not so bad that I wouldn't keep going.

What do the rest of you think?

World-Building and the Problem With Quidditch

On Friday, I talked about making up fictional games for your world: take a real-world game and alter it slightly: to suit your world, to make it unique, and (if you're like me) to make an actual game that might be fun to play.

Today we're looking at an example: Harry Potter's Quidditch.

Quidditch is essentially basketball on broomsticks -- with six goals instead of two, extra balls that hurt/distract the players, and the snitch to determine the end of the game. It's a good concept and it totally suits the world. And it's a testament to the books that even though this central game is fundamentally unbalanced, hardly anybody seems to notice.

But yes, it's unbalanced.

The problem is the point value of the snitch. Every goal in Quidditch is worth 10 points, but whoever grabs the snitch simultaneously ends the game and earns 150 points -- 15 goals. The overall effect is that regular goals don't matter.

Unless one team is down by more than 15 goals, right? Then they wouldn't want to get the snitch. There's tension!

Well, yeah, but when does that ever happen? Have you seen a professional soccer game go 16-0? An NFL game with a 112-point gap? Even in the NBA, all-time comeback records don't go much higher than a 16 goal gap. The best strategy to win Quidditch would be to make everyone a keeper until the snitch shows up. Nobody would do that (because it's boring), but any team that did would always win.*

So why does Quidditch work? For the following reasons:
  • The protagonist is the seeker. Can you imagine if Harry was the one making meaningless goals, while some minor character caught the snitch and won the game?
  • Quidditch wins and losses are not plot critical. If Harry had to win a Quidditch game to save his life, I would be a lot more mad at his team for not being smarter about gaming the system.
  • Something else is almost always going on -- like someone's trying to kill Harry or something, so we're invested in something other than the match.
These are good things to keep in mind if you're making your own fictional game. The more the plot focuses on the game, the more that game has to hold up under scrutiny.

And don't bother playing Quidditch in real life. It's not as interesting as it looks (unless you change the rules, of course).

* Though in the books, Quidditch teams are ranked by points scored, not games won. This fixes the brokenness for a tournament, but it makes individual games less interesting, and makes it almost impossible to have a true championship game.