An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Query Workshop 12--The Refugee

Title:  The Refugee
Genre:  Sci-Fi Thriller

Ross Chambers is used to dodging bullets.  All kinds, too, from musket balls to machine-gun fire.

For years he has been the top agent at Hourglass, an underground organization dedicated to "Protecting the Present by Preserving the Past," as its motto goes.  Its teams of highly trained time travelers police history, making sure that it unfolds naturally -- without interference from the skilled terrorists who wish alternate outcomes upon certain events.

But when his fiancé perishes in a fire, Ross will do anything to get her back -- even if it means becoming a so-called terrorist himself.  That is, changing the past.

Which wouldn't be too difficult, were his memory of the tragedy not as black as smoke.  Every time he tries to return, he spirals to a completely different time and place.  Like Paris, 1793, where he is mistaken for a long-awaited hero with a knack for depriving the guillotine of its victims.  A Scarlet Pimpernel in Nikes and blue jeans.

Rescuing his fiancé is one matter, but saving total strangers is a whole 'nother -- a sure-fire way to get himself killed, that's what.  Not to mention he spent half his life working to maintain history's established melody.  But when he sees firsthand that he has power over life and death, he's not so sure if altering the bloodstained past is necessarily a bad thing.  It might, in fact, lead to a better world, one person at a time.

Worth a shot, in his eyes.

But it doesn't take long for his work to gain him unwanted attention from people like Robespierre, and Hitler, and Torquemada -- all of whom want him dead.  Though not as much as Dr. Lorraine Field, his former boss and the director of Hourglass.  She wants to feed his heart to Aztec gods and strap his corpse to the hull of the Titanic.  To her, his daring adventures through time pose a threat to modern society, or so she tells her agents.  Changing history is a dangerous game, and the world's timeline cannot depend on the whims of one man -- even one like Ross Chambers.  Especially one like Ross Chambers.

That's why she'll stop at nothing to make sure he's the Most Wanted Man of All Time.  Literally.

THE REFUGEE is a sci-fi thriller complete at 100,000 words.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

8 comments:

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Great hook line! The musket balls to machine guns totally grabbed me, and gave me a clue to the genre. Good job!

I noticed at the top of the query the voice is pretty formal, and then about half-way through it takes on a more casual feel. Maybe it would be better to have the same voice throughout?

There seems to be good structure, but if there was a little less detail it might make it read smoother. I know that's hard because the detail is what makes it interesting and gives it voice, but for me, at least, I would get a little lost and have to reread sections. Could just be me, though!

I really love the idea! I love time travel stories.

Charity Bradford said...

The first thing I noticed is this is too long to all fit on my screen. Just means we need to tighten up a bit.

1. love the first paragraph.

2. drop "as its motto goes". Suggestion: Its teams of highly trained time travelers police history, protecting it from interference by the skilled terrorists wishing to alternate it.

3. This feels like it should go right after "For years he has been the top agent..." If you rearrange a bit you can combine paragraph 2 and 3. And I would drop "That is, changing the past" it states the obvious.

4-8 is all too much information for a query. All we need to know is who Ross is (covered in the first two), what the conflict is (a bit shaky because there's a lot. What's the most important? Not changing the timeline?), and the choice (to change history or not).

Suggestion for condensing those paragraphs:
(I need some kind of clarification of where he's trying to return to, but otherwise something like this.)
Bouncing through time, Ross discovers how powerful it feels to alter history one person at a time in spite of his growing list of enemies. Changing history is a dangerous game, and the world's timeline cannot depend on the whims of one man -- even one like Ross Chambers. Especially one like Ross Chambers.

Mark Koopmans said...

Hi,

I seriously would read this book. You have a great idea and though I think the query does bounce around a bit, especially in the last third, I believe you are onto a winner - beginning with a tighter query.

One thing that did stick out (and I haven't read the other comments is how would Robespierre, Hitler and Torquemada independently know who Chambers is - does he stick out so much to the local heavies/tyrants?

Anyway, great concept and wish you all the best.

Huntress said...

Great hook! It tells me he is adult, an adventurer, and in trouble a lot.

Fantastic premise. This is another MS I want to read.

But ya gotta cut the words! Here is an example:

But his former boss, Lorraine Field, wants him dead in the worst way. To her, he is a threat to modern society. Changing history is a dangerous game and she can’t risk the world’s timeline on the whims of one man. Especially one like Ross Chambers. (46 words vs 111 in the original)

He’s the Most Wanted Man of All Time. Literally. (9 words vs 18)
***
Now tell me, seriously, did I get the gist of the original? Do you miss any of the words I cut? Take out a scalpel and give it a go. Just keep the Kleenex handy :)

Sam F. said...

Thank you for all the wonderful advice! I'll start revising right away!

Ink in the Book said...

I was hoked right away. The title brought me here, so please don't change that!

I find this is to long for a query. Knowing what to cut is the hardest job. I know. But if you can pin pint your main conflict, you will find it easier to know what to cut.

Great story idea and right now, I am wishing it were published so I could read it:)

mshatch said...

Yup. Definitely too long at 393 words albeit entertaining :)
Anyway, here’s what I might do to cut it down:


Ross Chambers is used to dodging bullets, from musket balls to machine-guns. For years he has been the top agent at Hourglass, an underground organization dedicated to "Protecting the Present by Preserving the Past." Its teams police history, making sure it unfolds naturally -- without interference from those who wish alter (you had the ward alternate which means switch back and forth, or take turns. I think you meant alter) the outcome of certain events.

But when his fiancé perishes in a fire, Ross will do anything to get her back -- even if it means becoming a so-called terrorist himself. That is, changing the past. The trouble is every time he tries, he spirals to a completely different time and place. Like Paris, 1793, where he is mistaken for a long-awaited hero with a knack for depriving the guillotine of its victims.

At first saving total strangers is a whole other thing – and a sure-fire way to get himself killed. But when he sees firsthand that he has power over life and death, he's not so sure if altering the bloodstained past is necessarily a bad thing. It might, in fact, lead to a better world, one person at a time.

Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for his work to gain unwanted attention from people like Robespierre, Hitler, and Torquemada -- all of whom want him dead. Though not as much as Dr. Lorraine Field, his former boss and the director of Hourglass. She wants to feed his heart to Aztec gods and strap his corpse to the hull of the Titanic. According to her, changing history is a dangerous game, and the world's timeline cannot depend on the whims of one man -- even one like Ross Chambers.

That's why she'll stop at nothing to make sure he's the Most Wanted Man of All Time. Literally.

THE REFUGEE is a sci-fi thriller complete at 100,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


- Got it down to 339. I’ll wager you could probably trim it down a bit more but this is definitely more streamlined and keeps the flavor of the original – I hope. Oh, and let me add I would definitely buy this :)

Sam F. said...

You guys are AWESOME. Thanks so much for the help and encouragement!