Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Love Triangle Entry #3

Title: I'M GAME
Genre: YA sci-fi thriller
Word count: 72,000


Seventeen-year-old Dodge Tellman would do anything to win the Game, but his competitors have an advantage he can't afford: enhanced senses and extra, mechanical limbs.

Dodge lives in the slums of a high-tech megalopolis. The crime rate is higher than the graduation rate, his underpaid parents take pills to stay awake for 60-hour work shifts, and his four-person family lives in a three-room apartment. If Dodge's team wins the Game, his family will finally have their ticket out. The team of Gamers who conquer the objectives of all seven levels win a new life for themselves and their families, a life aboard a luxury space cruiser headed to colonize a distant planet.

Most of the Game's previous winners have had advanced surgery, but Dodge only has enough money for a Chancer, a cheap and risky roulette. He won't know what the operators have done to his body until he walks into the Game, where the implants will activate. Though there's no guarantee of getting his money's worth, he figures it's better than nothing - going in without any surgery would be like asking for elimination.

When Dodge and his team first enter the Gamescape, he thinks he's come face to face with his worst case scenario: zero difference in his body. But he's wrong. His metamorphosis, unlike any he's ever seen or even read about, is gradual, uncontrollable, and inexorable. Little by little, level by level, he's transforming into something without a conscience. Something with the capacity - with the sick desire - to slaughter his teammates, his closest friends.

He can still win the Game, if he's willing to stay in the Gamescape and fight what he's becoming.

But if he can't keep control, he'll lose everything. His family's future. His best friends. His humanity.

And there's no going back.

I have short fiction in Bad Austen, an anthology published November 2011 by Adams Media. I also attended the Backspace Writers Conference in New York in November 2011. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

First 250:

The com on my wall buzzes, spitting out the voice of my best friend Tag. “Dodge, you there?”

I don’t want to untangle myself from my bunk’s covers to answer. The heating in our apartment shell is broken for the second time this winter, and besides this bundle of blankets, there’s no way to ward off the chill leaking in around my bedroom window.

Despite my lack of response, Tag keeps talking. “I know you’re there, bud. Sitting in your bunk and trying to ignore me. Don’t think you’re getting away with it – I’m gonna keep talking until you answer.” A pause. “Yes, that was a threat.”

I roll my eyes. Tag’s not kidding. He’ll go on for hours if I don’t shut him up.

With a sigh, I slide out of my bunk, the icy air calling the hair on the back of my neck to attention. As I rub the goosebumps away, my fingers trail over the microchip beneath my hair. The rectangular chunk of circuiting is cold to the touch.

I kick my way through the clutter on my floor and slap my hand onto the wall-com. “Yeah. What’s going on?”

“There you are.” Tag’s voice vibrates in the old silver disk. “The guys wanna go out. You coming?”

I’m tempted to say no. If I go, they’ll ask me what I’m going to pitch.

Tag pitched Army. I knew he’d do it – it’s a rich kid thing. When they pitch, they get their extras plugged under their natural-born arms, one more arm on each side.


  1. Wow! Loved your query. I wanted to read your book from that alone. And then your 250 words. Just awesome!

    Good luck! I really do want to read the rest someday :)

  2. This has a bit of darkness to it which I love. The fact that he doesn't know what has been done to his body and then it turns out it's making him lose his conscience is creepy (good creepy) and makes me want to find out what happens. Great concept!

  3. What a great concept! I love the societal and internal struggle he's going to have to go through, all in a gaming atmosphere, brilliant :) Good luck!

  4. Really cool start! The writing flows well and I love the concept. I'm a little confused by the last sentence in your excerpt, but I'm assuming that's explained in the next para!

    I'd love to read this one :)

  5. I got goosebumps from that icy air! Totally great and you really pull me into the moment. :)

  6. I think this concept is wonderful. I think it sort of gets lost in the query though because it's very long. (I did read the whole query though...so that's a VERY good thing).

    I think you could cut the query off right at where he goes in for an operation that he knows nothing about. Let the agent wonder how he will come out and beg to have your manuscript to find out.

    I would describe your MC a little, describe the game and then tell about his operation. Leave it at that.

    The first words are great!

  7. Your query could be tightened up.

    Your hook is the fourth paragraph: "When Dodge enters the Gamescape". Most of the first and second paragraph could be eliminated from the query. It's necessary for your novel, but most isn't necesssary for the query. I recommend that you replace it with a slimmed down version of the same information and move it after the hook.

    The first paragraph could be summerized: "Disadvantaged, seventeen-year-old Dodge Tellman would do anything to win." Second paragraph could be summerized: "Winning means an escape from the slums and poverty and sixty hour work shifts that are killing his parents. Winning means a trip to a distant colony, a chance to start over and build a better life."

    (and so on)

    What is the game? Do people fight? Are there puzzles? Is it like the olympics? Do people die? What are the stakes? What happens in a normal game if you lose? (I don't understand what the stakes are in a normal game, so I don't know how much worse it is for Dodge to start feeling homicidal-- on a personal level, I get how that's horrible for Dodge, but what's the alternative?)

    Who are the team? Who are his friends? Why does he care? Why should I care? (The brief treatment in your query gives me the impression that the extras are going to receive "Hunger Games" treatment-- that is, they're going to die fairly quickly, so don't get invested.)

    You end with the proposition that the choice is to keep the Chancer (and the homicidal tendancies) in hopes of winning, but winning might be worse than losing. (If he wins by killing his friends, that's not much of a win is it?) That's a great conflict.

    But back to the point about the normal stakes of the game: Why can't he forfeit and re-enter the game later when he's less of a homicidal Frankenstein?

    Your Query seemed longer than your "First 250 words" so I word-counted them (pasted them in to a Word doc and got the word count). The word count for the Query 301 (not counting the final "about the author" paragraph). That probably fine by itself, but when measured against the "first 250 words" it seems a little long.

    Your story opens:
    The wall buzzes, a friend is calling. Why? To invite him out. What's the initial conflict in the story?

    As the story progresses, I don't understand what you mean by "pitch", it seems like a word that is supposed to have subtext, but all I can think of when I see it is baseball--and that's not helpful. You give an example of Tag pitching extra arms, but the standard definition of the word doesn't attach to the meaning you're giving it. (When I reach the end of the first-250 I get that "pitch" means some kind of enhancement, but since I don't know much about enhancements in your story I'm left confused.)

    Your first-250 introduces a potential conflict, but it's introduced in such a way that it doesn't seem like much of a conflict. Dodge is poor and comes from the slums, but Tag is rich. Why are these two friends? (I'm not saying they can't be, but they'd run in different socio-economic circles.) How'd they meet? What makes them compatible? If they're really friends, and if Tag is really rich, why wouldn't Tag be willing to help Dodge get what he needed?

    The real conflict in your first-250 happens near the end of your 250 words: Tag doesn't want to talk about what he's "going to pitch." He already knows what Tag is pitching (apparently extra arms.) I would recommend re-writing the scene and starting with Dodge emotionally reacting to Tag calling. Bring up the point about avoiding Tag to avoid revealing Dodge's pitch earlier. Give us more details. Then get in to Tag's persistance. Give (show) me a reason for why Dodge is avoiding Tag, and why Tag won't leave Dodge alone. That's your initial conflict in this scene.

    It has the potential to entice me, but it needs work.

  8. Love the query - definitely makes me want to read the rest. And you've got an awesome voice going in the first page. GOOD LUCK :)

  9. Thanks for your help, everyone!

  10. I really enjoy this one. I've seen it before and enjoyed it then, too! I really think this will get you somewhere. Great job! :)