Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #91


JANE DOE
near-future sci-fi
90,000

Query:

There are three things you never discuss at the dinner table: sex, religion, and politics. The clone issue manages to encompass all three, making clones the number one hot button topic when the countries of North America vote to form a commonwealth in an effort to forestall WWIII. Under the new laws, how human are clones?

Since escaping her mother’s political ambitions for a career in the FBI, rookie agent Samantha Rose has only handled the business end of the cloning industry. Clone deaths are routine, and she’s used to handing out the fines. The murdered Jane Doe found on the side of the road looks like another open and shut hate crime, until it ties into a government-funded lab.

She tracks down the hate group responsible and find people who not only want to end the clone debate, but who want to drag the North American Commonwealth back in time to war, oppression, and the brink of war.

First 150 words:


Something ran across the counter. "If you take one more step, I'll kill you. I mean it!" Sam's voice hit a note even dogs would find painful as she shook with rage. She edged out of the apartment’s tiny bathroom clutching her towel to her chest.
The cockroach continued its casual saunter towards her open makeup case. Smashing it was out of the question; she'd wind up with bug guts all over the place.
The insect hopped into her open jar of luxury face cream. It fluttered its dark brown wings and settled into the seventy-five dollar lotion like it was a spa bath.
Screaming in rage Sam threw the bottle across the room. It thunked against the apartment's asthmatic swamp cooler. The roach limped away from the wreckage. "Go away. Just die already!" She rolled up the landlord's renewal notice and tried clubbing the pest. She could have been fanning it for all the good it did her.

11 comments:

Liana Brooks said...

Yes, there's a missing S... I realized it about 5 minutes after I sent the query out. >.<

Sorry.
- L

Nicole Zoltack said...

I'm not sure the first paragraph is necessary. It feels like backstory. I would start with the second paragraph. I want to know a little more about Samantha. What makes her tick? Why does she go into the FBI? Also, you use war twice in the last line of the query. It would be better to say back in time to oppression and the brink of war.

Hope this helps some!

Michael McDuffee said...

I agree with Nicole. The setting paragraph is interesting, but it shouldn't be first. Also, I've read a handful of agents discussing queries that say asking the "what if" style questions is rarely good ("How human are the clones?")

Make the query about Sam, not the world. Sam is interesting, and the world is something that we see through her eyes and get to know, and that's how it becomes interesting to us.

This was a pretty strong letter and beginning though.

PS - The war/brink of war thing bugged me too.

Jessica Peterson said...

I agree with the others, I like your first sentence but the rest of the first paragraph just confuses me. I feel like your query really starts in the second paragraph and was pretty good from there. Maybe you could expand a bit on the third paragraph. And war/brink of war are the same, unless I'm missing something... Best of luck :)

Meagan said...

There are three things you never discuss at the dinner table: sex, religion, and politics. --> this is not going to appeal to a lot of people, and I feel that readers might be one of them. It's also got nothing to do with your plot.

The clone issue manages to encompass all three, making clones the number one hot button topic when the countries of North America vote to form a commonwealth in an effort to forestall WWIII. --> this reads like textbook history stuff, not a novel.

Under the new laws, how human are clones? --> This is where I'd suggest you start, if you are into using a tagline sort of start to the query. Shake it up to make it relevant to your story, even. "Under the new laws in the commonwealth of North America, how human are clones?"

Since escaping her mother’s political ambitions for a career in the FBI, rookie agent Samantha Rose has only handled the business end of the cloning industry. --> "has only handled the business end" sounds dirty, and that's not a good thing. I might consider "rookie agent Samantha Rose only handles the business with the cloning industry"

Clone deaths are routine, and she’s used to handing out the fines. --> I'm confused about the place for this.

The murdered Jane Doe found on the side of the road looks like another open and shut hate crime, until it ties into a government-funded lab. --> how does it tie in? one or two words on the link would be put to good use, especially if she's the one who figures it out.

She tracks down the hate group responsible and find(s) people who not only want to end the clone debate, but who want to drag the North American Commonwealth back in time to war, oppression, and the brink of war. --> yikes, this is a long sentence. But it's also making me wonder: where does the story start? what IS the story? From what it sounds like, this is what I've picked out to build from:


There are three things you never discuss at the dinner table: sex, religion, and politics. The clone issue manages to encompass all three, making clones the number one hot button topic when the countries of North America vote to form a commonwealth in an effort to forestall WWIII. Under the new laws, how human are clones?

Since escaping her mother’s political ambitions for a career in the FBI, rookie agent Samantha Rose has only handled the business end of the cloning industry. Clone deaths are routine, and she’s used to handing out the fines. The murdered Jane Doe found on the side of the road looks like another open and shut hate crime, until it ties into a government-funded lab.

She tracks down the hate group responsible and find people who not only want to end the clone debate, but who want to drag the North American Commonwealth back in time to war, oppression, and the brink of war.


Under the new laws in the commonwealth of North America, how human are clones?

For rookie FBI agent Samantha Rose, clone deaths are routine. [how are they routine here]

The murdered Jane Doe found on the side of the road looks like another open and shut hate crime until [she] ties it to a government-funded lab with [how she ties it].

Samantha tracks down the hate group responsible, finding people who not only want to end the clone debate, but push the North American Commonwealth to the brink of war. [Here's a good place for her individual stakes in the matter, if you don't work it in earlier]

Tim Barzyk said...

I probably discuss all three of those topics at the dinner table, so might be careful there. :-)

I think the pitch could be more succinct, "Rookie FBI Agent Samantha Rose uncovers a human-clone hate gang that's about to drag the North American coalition to the brink of World War III." (or something like that). Then just dive into -- When Samantha finds Jane Doe, a dead clone lying on the side of the road, she suspects that Jane is the victim of a typical clone hate crime, but when her investigation uncovers a secret government lab that ... and a radical extremist anti-clone organization intent on cleansing the human race of clones with a new world war, she has to [conflict, conflict, conflict]. Can she do it before the bomb explodes/gas goes off/infestation begins/[insert world-ending event here]?

Side note: Aren't there only two countries in North America (USA and Canada)? Correct me if I'm missing something there.

Confusion on last sentence in query -- how does one drag something back to war and the brink of war at the same time?

Not sure what the question "How human are clones?" has to do with the storyline presented in the query. The whole first paragraph of the query kind of confused my brain -- clones are hot topics when countries form a commonwealth to forestall WWIII? How human are clones? -- felt like a lot of separate topics were mashed together. I realize they're related, but the paragraph doesn't really tie them together for me. IMHO if you dive right into Agent Samantha Rose and her situation, you could opt to omit this first paragraph altogether.

My humble critique for your query! Wish you all the best with it and the story! It sounds like a really cool character and storyline. Keep us informed on how it goes.

All the best,
Tim, @timbarzyk
scienceforfiction.com

Liana Brooks said...

Nicole - I put the first paragraph in because my last query received the response "I don't rep dystopian novels." And it isn't dystopian so I was trying to set up the history.

No, this isn't the USA, it isn't Canada or Mexico, it's a new country with teething problems that Sam has to face.

Tim - Technically, by continent, if it isn't South America it's North America. Panama on up belongs on the North American continent.

BPatterson said...

Hi Liana!

I think you've gotten some good comments on the query, and I agree with all of them, so I'll just address the first 150. :D

Your word use could use some attention. The cockroach goes from "ran across the counter" to a "casual saunter". Why is she yelling at some unknown 'thing' running across the counter. Does she know it's a cockroach? If so, tell us too. Otherwise it's confusing. The jar of face cream turns into a bottle which gets hurled across the room. (This stopped me because I thought she was throwing a bottle AT the jar.) You use the word rage twice. Swamp cooler is a neat touch, but only for readers who know what it is, and I'm not sure how the whole mechanism can be considered asthmatic, though the fan part, sure. Also, your verbs are passive, past-tense, so we don't really feel the frantic stress you want us to feel. You might try rewriting the opener from Sam's point of view, and try to really put the reader into her position.

Just some thoughts which you can discard if you want. :)

Heather M Bryant said...

I too agree that the first paragraph of your query is confusing. I think you DO need a little something to give us the kind of world this is but I think you could easily do this without devoting the first paragraph to it.

Sam seems to be a character you have devoted a lot of time to. Just to the first 150 words she has a very clear image and your voice seems pretty consistent.

Heather (#60)

Jayme said...

Hi, Liana! I really like the concept here, but I agree that the first paragraph of your query drags things down a bit. I understand you’re trying to differentiate yourself from dystopian, so maybe just shorten that paragraph into something a little more bite-sized. Maybe something like:

In the North American Commonwealth of [whatever year], clone rights are the hot button topic. Rookie agent Samantha Rose has never really understood politics. That was more her mom’s thing. For her, clone deaths are part of the job. So when she finds yet another Jane Doe on the side of the road, she assumes it’s just another open and shut hate crime.

Then she uncovers ties to a government-funded lab. And the hate group responsible for Jane’s murder? These people don’t just want to end the clone debate. They want to drag the North American Commonwealth back to the brink of the war that led to its creation [however many years ago].

That’s a little rough, but the idea is to focus on Sam and her story first so that (hopefully) by the time agents see ‘war’ their minds don’t go straight to ‘dystopian.’ As for your 150, I love your voice, especially the descriptiveness of the scene. But, personally, I was turned off by the cockroach. Maybe I’m more squeamish than agents, but if the first thing I see is a cockroach, I don’t want to see more. Not sure if that’s an easy fix or if the cockroach is essential. Just a thought.

I really like what you’ve got here. Even if you don’t use my suggestions, I hope they give you some ideas. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my revised query (in the comments of #5)

Liana Brooks said...

You all are amazing! Thank you so much!

This isn't stopping at the agent pitches here on #GUTGAA, I also have a request for JANE DOE from the #PitMad contest on Twitter Thursday. I'm fixing up my query as suggested and sending it to both (hopefully it gets in the GUTGAA one).

Thank you!
Liana