1. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    The Brazos Formation (Adult Sci-fi)

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by mrieder79, Dec 7, 2018.

    Updated version as of 3/8. All comments are appreciated and yes, I think I'm getting close to arranging deck chairs on the Southern Belle.
    ***

    Richard Ford listens in horror as he receives Southern Belle’s final transmission: a garbled rush of screams, static, then cold, dead silence. Those are his friends out there. That’s not all; without the geological survey data locked in the doomed ship’s lab, Gulfco Oil is going under, taking Rich’s career and thousands of his employees’ jobs with it.

    To keep Gulfco afloat, Rich hires a disaster management consultant who turns out to be his first (and only) love, Anita Morgan. He left her twenty years ago in the biggest mistake of his life. Now he’s got a second chance but at the worst possible time.

    Staving off corporate takeover bids while rekindling a twenty-year old flame is like parkour on roller blades, but Rich pulls it off. Together with Anita and Rich’s right-hand man (and self-proclaimed Larry the Cable Guy soundalike), Vincent Trevoy, Rich organizes a salvage mission to retrieve the lost survey data and save Gulfco.

    They find Southern Belle lying two-hundred miles off the Texas coast beside a mysterious, uncharted chasm. Things get weird when scores of ten-foot-long, winged sea snails emerge from the chasm to feed on the sunken ship’s steel hull.

    The snails seem harmless, so Vince uses a deep-sea diving suit to access Southern Belle’s lab and retrieve the data. Before he can surface, though, something big and enormously strong attacks him, and the data case falls into the chasm.

    While Vince is escaping, Rich and Anita discover that the giant snails aren’t so harmless after all. They’ve migrated from Southern Belle to the salvage ship and are ripping its hull to pieces as they feed. The sun sets, and more creatures appear: giant spider crabs that drag crewmembers overboard to be dismembered and a colossal leviathan that pretty much solves the mystery of what happened to Southern Belle.

    Now Rich has about thirty minutes to do something before Anita, Vince, and what remains of his crew join Southern Belle at the bottom of the Brazos Formation.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2019
  2. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    First para

    - The opening sentence is not linear. [delete 'nothing']1.FORGET IT, people write in different ways
    - There is tense confusion in the second sentence. I can't see it anymore, I must have been cranky this morning :)
    - They might lose their jobs if they do not retrieve the data < Here, you are on the canvas. [cranky]

    Most questions answered in the first paragraph -'nobody knows,' etc...

    Second paragraph

    data repeated, plus an exciting premise presented in a tiresome fashion.

    leading to Brazos Formation which reads like 'math problem.'
    ...

    It has to sparkle. This is a gripping deep underseas adventure involving aliens. It should zing. It will in 2 or 3 hours. All best
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
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  3. Carriage Return

    Carriage Return Member

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    First impression: With the meat of it weighing-in at four paragraphs it’s on the beefy side (long) for a query letter.

    Oh, upon reading it, what you have here is the foundation for a solid one page synopsis (all it’s missing is the end).

    There is a way to distill this into a query. You’ve got an exciting story, and it’s very understandable—just too long.

    You also need a logline! What’s that sentence or two for your movie poster? Lead with that before dipping in to explain your book.

    You also do a good job leaving it with a cliffhanger to intrigue the agent to request a full.

    I’m assuming you’ll add a short bio at the end (just your education and any other pub credits (or omit if none to go with the award) and a personalized hook for the individual agent in a paragraph one.

    Good, but try and get it down from four paragraphs with one of those becoming a logline. The last one can be your teaser paragraph. Just put that stuff from the three into one. Make every word count.
     
  4. Carriage Return

    Carriage Return Member

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    I second this.

    Tighten it up, but also punch it up!
     
  5. Carriage Return

    Carriage Return Member

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    Logline chunk suggestions to get the juices flowing:

    "Some discoveries are best left alone..."
    "Something's lurking at the bottom of the sea..."
    "We found them. Or was it, they found us?"

    I dunno, come up with something cool that encapsulates your story
     
  6. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Rescue the people? Air pocket, are there survivors? That'll turn the page..?
     
  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Loglines are far from necessary. Irrelevant education is... irrelevant.

    I agree that the summary could use a bit of tightening and pepping... fine tuning, though, not dramatic changes.
     
  8. Carriage Return

    Carriage Return Member

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    7
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
  9. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'm not sure... if you're joking? I assume so, I guess...
     
  10. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Thanks for the replies. They have been very helpful. Please keep the feedback coming. Did the query work for you? What did you like, what flopped?
     
  11. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Instead of narrating ABOUT Richard, consider writing it AS Richard sees and hears, at least in the first paragraph. That brings the reader into the scene, not at a distant "hover viewpoint". For example:

    Richard Ford, his heart thudding, punched the playback button. Again, only screams and static issued from the speaker, followed by an even more disturbing silence. One by one, the Southern Belle's deck cams winked out.

    What has happened? The geological survey mission of the Southern Belle is critical to struggling Gulfco's survival...
    There's plenty of time in the story proper to explain Richard's role in the company, and I'd even leave more mystery about the nature of the threat in the subsequent paragraphs. I'd even leave out any reference to the Brazos Formation itself. The title is tantalizing enough.
     
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  12. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Cogito, that is very good advice. Thank you.
     
  13. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Just posted updated version. See OP.
     
  14. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I really like the emotion here, and it gives me a connection with Richard. I would change "blood turns to ice" because it's in cliché territory. I would also remove "worse," because I think most people would say the death of his friends is worse than Richard losing his job. :D

    Very nice. Minor nitpick, but the first sentence makes me think of him as a determined go-getter, and then "cobbles together" kind of contradicts that. Decisive, active protagonists are good, so maybe use a stronger description (even if he does actually cobble it together in the manuscript).

    I find this part less effective because you've been so vague about these "denizens." I can't picture them and I can't feel any fear for Richard and his crew because I don't know what the creatures can do. The other issue is that Richard falls into the chasm, and then somehow he's out of the chasm and has to save his crew.

    Maybe build up the suspense of the chasm more, hinting at the horrors inside, and then end with Richard falling into it and having to get out?
     
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  15. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Thanks Tenderizer. Really appreciate the feedback.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  16. Allan Dyen-Shapiro

    Allan Dyen-Shapiro New Member

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    Okay, having read the previous critiques, I'll concur with the too long, needs the other elements of a query letter appended, and needs a bit of sizzle. So, my comments will include some deletions, rewordings, etc. I'll do it on top of your text, putting the inserts in red.

    Richard Ford’s blood turns to ice when he receives Southern Belle’s final transmission: a A garbled rush of screams, and static, then cold, dead silence from the Southern Bell terrifies Richard Ford. Those are his friends out there. Worse, w His employees are dead, and without the geological survey data locked in the doomed ship’s lab, his company, Gulco Oil will go is going under. , taking Rich’s career and thousands of his employee’s jobs with it.


    Rich isn’t the quitting type, though. He cobbles together a salvage mission and finds the sunken ship off the Texas coast in two thousand feet of water. It’s covered in bizarre markings nobody can identify, and beside the wreck lies a mysterious, uncharted chasm.


    When the sun goes down, ghostly lights, strange sounds, and sightings of hunched, inhuman shapes terrify the crew. Later that night, Rich’s divemaster is attacked while trying to access Southern Belle’s lab. He falls into the chasm, drawing the attention of its inhabitants. They emerge, find Rich’s expedition, and begin to feed.


    Within hours, the ships are sinking, his crew is dying, and Rich must find a way to save them from the denizens of the Brazos formation.
     
  17. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Just posted updated version as of 2/5
     
  18. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm terrible at writing blurbs, so I appreciate seeing how effectively it can be done. This is good. Sometimes it's as simple as asking a simple question (with a question mark) that changes the tone and makes it more personal. I'd certainly keep reading.
     
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  19. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Personally I rather like it, except I do agree with @Tenderiser regarding "it gets worse" - I read that bit twice because I was like, "Really, losing your job is worse than having all your friends die?" I know that's more of a subjective take, because all you mean is "as if that wasn't bad enough, this is the straw that breaks the camel's back" sentiment. I did get that, but it made me do a double take. Not sure if it's worth the risk, but your call.

    My main objection to it is that it sounds like every other horror movie I've heard of out there. There's nothing setting your story apart from the rest of them. In this sense, I'm wondering if there are ways of spicing it up. For example, is there some interesting link between Richard and the Brazos that could heighten the stakes? Sure, your main stake is death, as with most horror - but certainly there are things more terrifying than death, right?

    I can't give you concrete advice without knowing the story, of course, but I'd really try and find something that links Richard and the Brazos. Strengthen it so it's more than a "wrong place, wrong time" scenario that sounds like it's all by chance. Devote a line to setting up why we should fear the Brazos apart from the fact that they eat people. Sharks also eat people. Why not write about sharks? No, Brazos are something else - they're terrifying beyond your wildest dreams and I want to know why. Just one or two adjectives will do, no need for a whole line.

    To give an example, in my own query, I used the line, "an eyeless, mouthless king" - I've used this line in the novel and I like it because it gives a bit of a creepy image. There's no further description of him in the query, but I think it's good enough. (Time will tell if I get any responses, of course) But perhaps you can do something similar for your Brazos. Because "enormous, predatory" are not effective adjectives when you need it really convey their terror and power. Sharks are also enormous and predatory. Show me why the Brazos are far, far worse.

    And a final nitpick - why do you tell us about the strange markings on the side of the sunken ship? It's never mentioned again. The initial static, sudden attack and chasm are enough for atmosphere. Don't waste words, or bring the markings back - are they important? Why?

    ETA: your thread title says this is Sci-Fi. In what way is this sci-fi? I'm not seeing it. I see typical Horror. If this is sci-fi and not horror, then I think you need to completely rewrite this query because it's selling something else.
     
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  20. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think this is really good. I would certainly want to read the manuscript and I'm into nitpicking territory.

    I find the construction of the first sentence weird. Maybe "The last transmission from The Southern Belle leaves Richard Ford reeling. Screams, static, then cold dead silence--and it's his friends on that ship." ?

    I still had a big ol' raised eyebrow at "it gets worse [than all his friends dying]," and the last line felt a bit flat. What about something punchier like, "Now Richard is the only one that can save the crew and get them the hell out of there."
     
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  21. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Thank you. The suggestions are well received and very helpful. Any other critiques are, of course, welcome.
     
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  22. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Updated version, current as of 2/17/19. I've made some significant changes.
     
  23. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter

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    The idea of an underwater creature "shrieking" doesn't sit well with me.

    Horror isn't my thing, and I wouldn't probably pick this book up. But I'm not your audience.
     
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  24. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    That is a good point, JD, and I appreciate the perspective.

    I would like to hear if anyone else finds the idea of aquatic creatures shreiking off-putting.
     
  25. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If I may say, I believe you have gone too far. It sounds too much that it's beginning to sound comical rather than horrific - it's a lot of giant creatures and it sounds like you are exaggerating. Stick with one mysterious creature and really make that ONE creature pop. Don't mention the others. Giant snails also sound well... Not horrific at all because most people's image of snails is they are slow and harmless and annoying. Snails are regularly kept as household pets.

    Why mention Anita and Vince if they basically do nothing in the plot? The key isn't to therefore expand on them necessarily but would the core of the story work without them? I am guessing it would. If you mention a character then they need to be part of the plot and stakes. You don't have enough words for that.

    Final minor note: you repeat that the snails feed on their hull. Cut one mention.

    Shrieking aquatic creatures. I am a bit pedantic so, yeah, it would not sit well with me. It would annoy me and I wouldn't be able to take it seriously if it happened often. But isn't the terror of the ocean in its utter silence? Why aren't you capitalising on the natural horror element of the sea? The darkness and the silence, how you have nowhere to hide and you're not in your element?

    How do you make your book scary? Like, way devices and elements have you used? I am guessing none of that is in your query right now and maybe you should include it.

    The trick is to do all this with just one or two words that are added to a larger sentence that explains the plot/stakes.
     

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