Monday, January 14, 2013

Bouncer Post #8


Title: BETTER LIVES
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Word Count: 108,000

 Query:

Seventeen year-old prep school student Marc Andrews knows stealing the physics final’s a stupid idea. But when his roommate and self-appointed conscience, Tim, suggests giving the test back is his last chance to do the right thing, Marc laughs in his face. He should have listened.

Soon Marc’s hearing voices in his head, all telling him what he already knows – he’s a shitty person. And only continuous drinking shuts them up. Then he meets hot, badass Bethany, a girl he actually likes, and hopes will make him forget his guilt. But after their first date, he wakes up, committed, after killing her, while driving drunk. When Marc discovers the loony bin’s a fake, he learns a more terrifying reality.

His caretakers are really aliens, disguised as humans, who are slowly taking over Earth. They believe it’s a fair deal for humans, preventing them from destroying their planet. As the future president who starts the nuclear war, the destruction’s Marc’s fault. And he’s forced to experience his victims’ suffering.

Marc’s initially grateful to his captors for preventing him from becoming a monster. That is, until he learns an alien faction which includes the doppelg√§nger who replaced him, want Earth for themselves and are conspiring to kick off Armageddon as previously scheduled. Marc can’t let the horrors he’s experienced happen for real. It’s up to him, with help from unexpected allies, to escape, save the planet, and maybe even become a decent human being in the process.

First 250:

When Gil and Lew came to my dorm room with the idea of stealing the physics final, I normally wouldn’t have considered such a dumbass move. It wasn’t that I had any moral objections to cheating or stealing. An “A” in one class, even Jeffrey Taylor’s, just wasn’t worth the risk of being kicked out of prep school.

But these were special circumstances. I had opportunity, thanks to Gil and Lew. I had motive, thanks to a shitty semester with Mr. Taylor. And I had an ace-in-the-hole, thanks to hooking up with pretty, but already getting on my nerves, fifteen year-old Heather in Mr. Taylor’s classroom.

It was snowing by the time I reached Maple Street with its tidy cottages. The white stuff, powdering the sidewalks and clinging to the branches, sweetened the street’s already cloying charm and made me want to puke.

I slipped to the back of Mr. Taylor’s small Cape Cod. Gil was waiting for me.

“Door’s locked.” His breath was visible in the cold.

“I’ll open it,” I said.

Gil gave me a classic Gilbert and Lewis vacant look. The two of them might as well have been brothers, both with Nordic good looks, several inches over six feet…and not too bright.

I took out my tension wrench and wide-tipped pick.

Gil’s jaw went slack. “I’ve seen this shit on TV, Marc. You’re going to pick it?”

“Yeah, if you shut up and let me concentrate for a minute.”

The doorknob turned loosely in my hand, broken, so, I’d only the deadbolt to deal with.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting premise, but when I read your query, I felt like there was too much to keep track of. Perhaps simplifying your query to a few key ideas would be less over whelming. I liked your 250, I think your voice is there. I wonder if the opening could be stronger if you cut the first two paragraphs and jumped the reader right into action. You could then dribble that information in later in the chapter or book if you felt it was necessary.

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  2. I agree with the previous commenter who said that you have a great sense for voice. Your MC really popped for me. I could tell so much about him just in a few phrases, like "I normally wouldn't have considered such a dumbass move" or "sweetened the street's already cloying charm." But I do think a little fine-tuning would help here.

    Your query is a bit unwieldy. He's stolen a test, been accused of murder, been abducted by aliens, and saves the planet? I think it's great to have all that in your novel, but in your query, consider focusing on just the alien part. Tim and Bethany should not be mentioned by name, even if they end up being long-term characters. There's not enough about them in the query to justify naming them. Consider cutting the whole first paragraph and condensing the second paragraph to something like "When Marc Andrews wakes up in a loony bin after allegedly killing someone in a drunk driving accident, he thinks his life couldn't possibly get any worse. At least until he discovers the hospital's a fake..."

    As for your first 250, I actually like the first two paragraphs (though I do understand and can agree with what the previous commenter said about them). I'd still keep reading if you left them as is, but I'd also be fine with you moving them deeper into the story. I think your voice, like I said, is great. I do find myself wondering why the MC is so disaffected. Some of the prose carries his ennui to extremes, e.g., hooking up with a pretty girl who was already getting on his nerves and the street's cloying charm making him want to puke. It's not that I doubt he feels that way, but it does make me wonder why he cares about risking his tenure at prep school. If he's so annoyed, why does he care about staying? It's a question I can live with for now, but I would want it to be answered somewhere in the first chapter. I would expect there to be some kind of internal damage or conflict for this level of angst, though. Otherwise, he comes off sounding (to me at least) like kind of a jerk sometimes. If he is supposed to be a jerk, and he grows over the course of the novel into someone less jerky, then great! But make sure some of the other characters react to him as if he's kind of a jerk so the reader knows it's intentional. (<--my two cents, take with a grain of salt!)

    Great work so far. I'm really looking forward to seeing this out on shelves someday! We need more alien conspiracy stories! (Says the long-time X-phile...)

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  3. While I can't help being disappointed at not advancing to the agent round, I do feel like a winner here. Thanks so much for the detailed, thoughtful, and useful feedback on both the query and the opening. It is very much appreciated.

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    1. You're so welcome! I'm serious about your story and your voice being very good. I'm super impressed with the level of skill and uniqueness of concept in all the entries I've read so far. Honestly, I thought my job would be a little easier, but it was really tough choosing only three to move forward. I guess query contests have a way of self-moderating in that entrants have to be at a certain level of professionalism to even hear about them. Anyway, you are on the right track for sure. As I told Heather, I was bounced from my first query contest, too, and now that same book is being published next year! It's totally possible. If I can do it, anyone can!

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  4. What could be worse than waking up in a loony bin because you've killed someone? Oh, yeah. Aliens.

    NICE. :)

    I am also terribly impressed with the feedback by the bouncers in this contest. Amazing! (I'm number 11)

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    1. Awwww... *bats eyes at you* I couldn't NOT tell you guys how awesome you are. I want to read all your books, so I had to do what little I could to help get them published! <333

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