Jan 10, 2012

QUERY – Merm-8 (Revision)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear Agent,

Gene, an ex-boxer, has made the most out of life on an Earth almost completely covered with water--salvage, smuggling, and avoiding the mafia he owes a debt to. Until he got himself a mermaid.

He didn't want her – the damn thing swam up his ship's vent. She only speaks gibberish, so there's no telling where she came from or how she could exist.

It's bad enough he has to eke out a living on the ocean with only his portable AI assistant, Stitch. Fortunately, there's a sea station nearby where Gene's scientist friend works. Could be a lot of money in it. Meanwhile, Gene could lay low, scrounge for jobs, and fix his spit-and-chewing-gum boat.

But he keeps finding reasons to visit the mermaid. Something draws him to her – a need to know what she keeps gesturing about. A need to protect. Especially when the general populace learns about her. Everyone wants to know if she's a fantasy come true or the bad omen sailors believe she is, especially the scientist who grows more obsessed.

Just as they discover the secret of her existence, a mysterious silver ship attacks the station. Gene attempts to escape in the chaos, like everyone else, and rescues the mermaid on his way. But his scientist friend won't let him through to his ship, accusing him of stealing his find. Gene has an instant to decide whether he will betray his friend or save himself before the station collapses.

MERM-8 is a 86,000 word science-fiction novel in the vein of "The Little Mermaid" meets "Waterworld". I have been previously published in Electric Spec, Flash Me, The Dunesteef, and received an honorable mention in the 2010 Writers of the Future contest.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Me

9 comments:

Dominique said...

For the most part, this appears solid. Just a few hinky bits.

"Gene attempts to escape in the chaos, like everyone else, and rescues the mermaid on his way. But his scientist friend won't let him through to his ship, accusing him of stealing his find. Gene has an instant to decide whether he will betray his friend or save himself before the station collapses." This bit seems too specific to a certain moment, not about the book at large.

Also, this says she can't tell him how she exists. This seems like a ridiculous thing to ask a magical creature, because honestly how is it likely to know where it came from than a regular person knows about how he or she got there.

Anonymous said...

I think this needs another go-through. There are a lot of dangling bits that should be cut.

For example, why not simply "salvage, smuggling and avoiding the mob" ? (especially since the mafia doesn't come up again in the query).

You don't need the "it's bad enough..." bit, because that's already implied in the first para.

"Could be a lot of money in it." -- makes absolutely no sense. And we don't care what Gene "could" do -- we want to know what he does do. Cut this whole paragraph. Find a better way to introduce the scientist friend/foe.

And why does he need to keep visiting the mermaid when she's already in his ship? This paragraph would work better if it starts with the action: "When people learn about the existence of the mermaid, Gene feels compelled to protect her."

But then, why do I get the feeling that all of this is backstory for the attack of the silver ship?

I do believe there's an interesting tale in this one, but I think this query's a huge mess. It makes me wonder if the novel is written like this.

I keep stumbling over such clunkers as "Gene attempts to escape in the chaos, like everyone else" and "rescues the mermaid on his way" (which makes no sense since he's already compelled to protect her).

Or the whole "Everyone wants to know... especially the scientist..." sentence. Ack!

Anonymous Author said...

Can you put something in to distinguish the mermaid from, say, a sea bass? Because I'm seeing nothing here that does. Gene has the urge to protect her and I'm feeling the urge to kick Gene somewhere sensitive. Presumably she didn't need "protecting" till he came along and sucked her up in his, um, vent? She was doing fine. Now she's speaking "gibberish" because he's not smart enough to figure out her language.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is this query could read a teensy bit sexist.

Also, review diff btwn "lie" and "lay".

I know I suggested Waterworld as a comp in your earlier version, but I was joking. The movie was one of history's great flops.

Yvonne Osborne said...

This is too long. The hook is good, getting himself a mermaid and all, but the sentence structure is a little clunky. Fix that opener and you have a great hook.

Narrow your query down to 2-3 paragraphs and you'll have a great letter too. I don't read much sci-fi but this would intrigue me.

Eric Juneau said...

@Anonymous Author: I actually always intended to make the comparison to Waterworld, I just left that part out of the original query. Perhaps there's a better movie I can use?

Rick Daley said...

I would avoid the comparison and try to focus on making your work stand out on its own. Every word counts.

Anonymous Author said...

Yeah, I agree with Rick. Don't compare. There's no reason to. The Comparison, like the Log Line, is a Query Myth.

And particularly, don't compare to a movie that is synonymous with "flop" in the public imagination.

Unfortunately as your query's written right now the comparison is inevitable whether you make it or not: This is Waterworld meets Splash, as I said before. If that's what it really is, well... mm. Time to sit down and think about why Waterworld flopped.

(IMHO: because the main character was unlikable-- in fact only the villain was engaging-- and the premise was poorly explained and poorly executed. Oh, and also because it opened with the protag drinking his own urine, but I dont think you've done that.)

If there is something that makes your story different, then yes, as Rick said, try to bring it out.

Eric Juneau said...

It is my pleasure to say I have a urine-free book.

Anonymous said...

I really like the premise. That being said, I also think the query needs to be trimmed down a little bit. It's a bit long, and there are definitely parts that can be cut.


"Gene, an ex-boxer, has made..."
Do we need to know he's a boxer for the query?

"avoiding the mafia he owes a debt to."
Does it matter to us that he owes a debt to them? Or just the idea that he's constantly ducking authorities?


"He didn't want her – the damn thing swam up his ship's vent. She only speaks gibberish, so there's no telling where she came from or how she could exist."
I like this paragraph. It introduces the mermaid pretty well, and her importance to the plot, but the paragraph doesn't flow well into the next one. I'd rewrite the next paragraph somehow so that it fits into this one. maybe "He brings her to a nearby sea station..." etc.

"But he keeps finding reasons to visit the mermaid. Something draws him to her – a need to know what she keeps gesturing about. A need to protect. Especially when the general populace learns about her. Everyone wants to know if she's a fantasy come true or the bad omen sailors believe she is, especially the scientist who grows more obsessed."

Good plot elements in this paragraph, but it repeats the same ideas a few too many times. Cut this down to two or three sentences.

"Just as they discover the secret of her existence, a mysterious silver ship attacks the station."
Awesome. Love it. Action and mystery at last.

"Gene attempts to escape in the chaos, like everyone else, and rescues the mermaid on his way. But his scientist friend won't let him through to his ship, accusing him of stealing his find. Gene has an instant to decide whether he will betray his friend or save himself before the station collapses."

Now I'm kind of confused. This is the point of the book? Betraying the scientist friend? What about the mermaid? I'm not sure what's going on anymore.

"MERM-8 is a 86,000 word science-fiction novel in the vein of "The Little Mermaid" meets "Waterworld". I have been previously published in Electric Spec, Flash Me, The Dunesteef, and received an honorable mention in the 2010 Writers of the Future contest."
Awesome, congrats! I would get rid of the comparison though. The story setting is described pretty clearly, and I don't have very fond images in my head when you mention those two works.