Jul 7, 2009

Sample Pages - Quest Support

Click here to read the original query.

Hi all,
I've started sending out query letters for Quest Support, but haven't gotten any partial or full requests yet. I'm happy with the query itself, so I'm wondering if perhaps my sample pages could be the weak link in my submissions. I've posted the first few pages below for critiquing. Thanks!

Chapter One: In Which, Appropriately Enough, the Story Begins

Well, this week could have gone better, thought Gilbert as his head hit the pavement. “Is that any way to treat a veteran employee?” he groaned. Losing his job and possibly dooming the entire world was bad enough, but this was just insulting. The troll who had flung him out into the street only grunted. “Fine, be that way!” Gilbert picked himself up, grabbed his bag and stomped off. His life had been ruined so fast it made his head spin. Yesterday that was me, he thought to himself as he glanced through a window at a man in a cubicle. That had been when this whole mess started….

The magic mirror rang again. Gilbert adjusted his headset and hit the "talk" button on the mirror's frame. "Thank you for calling Quest Support my name is Gilbert how may I help you today?" he said as the image of a wrinkled old wizard appeared in the mirror.
"Is this the, uh, Quest Support place?" the wizard asked.
I just said it was, idiot! thought Gilbert. Out loud he said, "Yes, it is. What can I help you with today?"
"Uh, who are you?"
"My name is Gilbert. What can I help you with today?"
"Uh, I found this ring."
"And?" prompted Gilbert.
"Uh, I found it on a skeleton in a cave."
"Are you trying to find out what it does?"
"Uh, I thought you might know."
"Could you show it to me?"
"Uh?"
Gilbert sighed. "The ring - could you show it to me? Hold it up to your Quest Orb so I can see it."
"Oh. Hold on." The wizard turned away from Gilbert and rummaged through a battered backpack. "Here it is," he said finally, holding up a plain brass ring.
"Okay," said Gilbert. "Does it have any distinguishing features?"
"Like what?"
"Unusual markings, discolorations, inscriptions and so on."
"Hold on." The wizard squinted at the ring. "Uh, no, it hasn't got any."
"All right, let me look this up." With a quill pen, Gilbert scrawled a quick description of the ring on a piece of parchment on his desk in front of him. His writing vanished and the words "Please Wait" appeared as a powerful enchantment searched a list of every magical artifact QuestCo had ever catalogued. Within moments, several matches appeared on the parchment. "All right," said Gilbert, "here's what to do next: throw the ring in a fire. If any strange characters appear on it, it's a ring of invisibility. If not, give us a call back and we'll try to narrow it down further."
"Oh, uh," said the wizard.
"Thanks for calling, goodbye," said Gilbert, cutting him off. He hit the "talk" button again, and the wizard vanished.

Gilbert disentangled his headset from his unkempt straw-colored hair and laid it on his desk. Sure, he'd probably have to put it right back on, but the stupid thing got so uncomfortable after a few hours. Gilbert sighed and returned to the important business at hand. He had been trying to finish his cup of coffee for almost two hours, but kept getting interrupted by calls. These past few weeks had been dreadful, with the forces of Good massing for the final assault on the Citadel of the Dark Lord. With so much battling going on, Quest Support's mirrors were ringing nonstop with every type of caller from jittery apprentices who had forgotten how to activate their shielding robes to orc warlocks wanting clarification on some obscure point of demon-summoning protocol. Fortunately, it would all be over in a matter of days, with Good victorious and the world at peace, at least until the next Dark Lord arose.

7 comments:

Rick Daley said...

I really like the concept. I've spent years in call centers, so this rings true to me. Pun half-intended. Calling through magic mirrors is clever.

I know you are limited in formatting when you post a comment. When you submit, are you italicizing Gilbert's thoughts? If not, you should to help distinguish them from the narrative prose.

Also, the first paragraph should have line breaks before and after the dialogue. Again, I'm not sure if this is a result of posting as a comment.

Some thoughts on the prose. [means add something]; (means delete something); # means I'm moving on to another passage; *means it's just a general comment*

Well, this week could have gone better, thought Gilbert as his head hit the pavement. [Losing his job and possibly dooming the entire world was bad enough, but this was just insulting.]

“Is that any way to treat a veteran employee?” he groaned. (Losing his job and possibly dooming the entire world was bad enough, but this was just insulting.)

The troll who had flung him out into the street only grunted.

#

"Thank you for calling Quest Support[,] my name is Gilbert[.] (h)[H]ow may I help you today?" (h)[H]e said

#

Sure, he'd probably have to put it right back on, but the stupid thing got so uncomfortable after a few hours. *it feels like this should continue, "so uncomfortable that it..."*

#

Quest Support's mirrors were ringing nonstop with every type of caller[,] from jittery apprentices who had forgotten how to activate their shielding robes[,] to orc warlocks wanting clarification on some obscure point of demon-summoning protocol. Fortunately, it would all be over in a matter of days, with Good victorious and the world at peace(,)[.] (a)[A]t least until the next Dark Lord arose.

gj said...

I too like the concept a lot. And I do think it's your pages that are the problem, and could use some serious polishing.

First, consider losing the introductory bit and keep things chronological. The line about the magic mirror ringing again is a MUCH better first line than someone thinking his life sucked. The magic mirror is new and fresh; a week that sucked is something that happens to all of us.

Then, also lose the post-phone-call infodump or get it down to a single line.

Finally, consider reworking the phone call to end on a more dramatic note, with Gilbert having to make some sort of decision that leads him into his journey. Or at least some sort of realization that his life was aobut to go kerflooey. I think you're trying to work around the lack of problem by inserting that little first bit with heads and pavements, but it's better to fix the boring part instead of inserting an exciting part that will only highlight the boredom of the boring part.

Make the phone call matter, as more than just "people, even magical people, can be idiots." As it is, the scene is just a character we don't know too well, frustrated with a clueless person. It's the sort of thing that happens every day, and it's fun that it's in a magical context, but it doesn't really matter to the plot, as far as I can tell, and you're not making me NEED to know what will happen next: will he call back again? Will someone else call back with a more stupid question? Doesn't really matter to Gilbert, so it doesn't really matter to me.

So, see if you can make it relevant to what happens next. As it is, you've got the inanity of call centers down pat (I too used to work in one), but that's just real life. For fiction, you need to go beyond real life and make it matter to what happens next and next and next. So, if this particular magic ring is irrelevant to the rest of the story, find a way to make it relevant, or else have the call be from someone idiotic who does matter. It's the tip of the iceberg somehow. Make the scene do double-duty, not just establishing who/what the protagonist and his job are, but also foreshadowing (through interaction, not introspection) the story's main problem/question.

scott g.f. bailey said...

I agree with gj that you should start with the phone call, and you should make it dramatic. And you should also give us the setup of the good vs evil final battle in either that phone call, or in a series of phone calls. Show me the jittery apprentices and the orc warlocks; don't just tell me about them. All of your conflict is given through telling, and what you show isn't dramatic at all. You're giving us this story all backwards, technique-wise.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Love this concept--seems like a LOTR spoofy tale. I agree that you need to lose the intro. It doesn't add anything, and it's always better to start in the present action. Give us something to be scared or worried about, though.

Paul said...

Interestingly enough, I actually added the first paragraph in an attempt to make the opening more dramatic. Guess that didn't work so well. :)

There's a mirror call that Gilbert takes later on where he's taking to Mr. Big Important hero and neglects to give him an important bit of information because Gilbert's shift is about to end. The Hero gets killed, and that's what gets Gilbert fired and really starts the story moving. I think maybe I should start with that call.

Anyway, good suggestions everyone. I'll tinker around with the opening a bit and see what I can come up with.

Paul said...

BTW, I am italicizing Gilbert's thoughts, but that didn't survive the copy/paste.

Rick Daley said...

I just added the italics for the thoughts...