Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Ms. Martindale:

Seventeen-year-old Dodge Tellman would do anything to win the Game, but his competitors have an advantage he can't afford: enhanced senses and extra, mechanical limbs.

Dodge lives in the slums of a high-tech megalopolis. The crime rate is higher than the graduation rate, his underpaid parents take pills to stay awake for 60-hour work shifts, and his four-person family lives in a three-room apartment. But if Dodge's team wins the Game, they'll finally have a ticket out. The team of Gamers who conquer the objectives of all seven levels win a new life for themselves and their families, a life aboard a luxury space cruiser headed to colonize a distant planet. And whether the objective is Dare, which means forcing yourself to take insane risks, or something more vicious, like the fight-oriented Dispatch, the number-one asset a Gamer can have is a good operation.

Most of the Game's previous winners have had advanced surgery, but the only operation Dodge can afford is a Chancer. A roulette. He won't know what the operators have done to his body until he walks into the Game, where the implants will activate. There's no guarantee of getting his money's worth, but going in without any surgery at all would be like asking to lose. In the ten years of the Game, no one's won without physical enhancements.

When Dodge and his team first enter the Gamescape, he comes face to face with his worst case scenario: zero difference in his body. No operation. But he's changing, all right. Little by little, level by level, he's transforming into something without a conscience. Something with the capacity--with the sick desire--to slaughter his teammates, his closest friends.

He can still win the Game, if he's willing to stay in the Gamescape and fight the metamorphosis.

But if he can't keep control, he'll lose everything. His family's future. His best friends. His humanity.

And there's no going back.

I'M GAME (72,000 words) is a sci-fi thriller for young adults. I have short fiction in Bad Austen, an anthology to be published November 2011 by Adams Media. I've enclosed my first 250 words below--thank you so much for your time and consideration, and for judging the Agent's Inbox contest!



The com on my wall buzzes, spitting out the voice of my best friend Tag. “Dodge, you there?”

I don’t want to extract myself from my bunk’s covers to answer. The heating in our apartment shell is broken for the second time this winter, and besides this bundle of blankets, there’s no way to ward off the chill leaking in around my bedroom window.

Despite my lack of response, Tag keeps talking. “I know you’re there, bud. Sitting in your bunk and trying to ignore me. Don’t think you’re getting away with it--I’m gonna keep talking until you answer.” A pause. “Yes, that was a threat.”

I roll my eyes. Tag’s not kidding, either. He’ll go on for hours if I don’t shut him up.

I slide out of my bunk, the icy air calling the hair on the back of my neck to attention. As I rub the goosebumps away, my fingers trail over the microchip beneath my hair. The rectangular chunk of circuiting is cold to the touch.

I kick my way through the clutter on my floor and slap my hand onto the wall-com. “Yeah. What’s going on?”

“There you are.” Tag’s voice vibrates in the old silver disk. “The guys wanna go out. You coming?”

I’m tempted to say no. If I go, they’ll ask me what I’m going to pitch.

Tag pitched Army. I knew he’d do it--it’s a rich kid thing. When they pitch, they get their extras plugged under their natural-born arms, one more arm on each side.


Ru said...

I love your concept. One suggestion I would make is removing the following from your query:

"And whether the objective is Dare, which means forcing yourself to take insane risks, or something more vicious, like the fight-oriented Dispatch, the number-one asset a Gamer can have is a good operation."

I don't think it's necessary information at the moment, and especially since the most interesting thing about your concept (to me, anyway) is that Dodge's operation has gone so horribly wrong, maybe it would be better to get to that info as quickly as possible.

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I think your premise is awesome. However, at first I thought, "this sounds just like Hunger Games." I started to become intrigued when I read the bit about the surgery, so I would cut some of the details before that. For example, do we need to know about Dare and Dispatch? You mention they have to fight, but instead maybe mention an aspect of The Game that makes it distinct from the Hunger Games.

I really enjoyed your pages, but I wasn't sure what you meant by "pitch." Hopefully that gets explain in the next few paragraphs.

Karen Akins said...

Premise is very interesting. I agree with Liz that you need to change up your query so it doesn't sound as much like Hunger Games.

I remember your first page from somewhere (WriteOnCon, MSFV?), and I like your hook with the arms. Very different. :)

Robin Weeks said...

I actually think this sounds like Hunger Games crossed with Uglies. :) And I don't think that's a bad thing, really. Your kids aren't trying to slaughter each other, are they? Just win the objective. That's a pretty key difference.

I agree with the comments above that you probably have more information than you absolutely need--you don't need to explain everything, just get the agent to want to read more.

And I was confused by what pitching means, but trust you'll make it clear soon, so I'd definitely read on.

Very cool concept!

Krista V. said...

The query definitely caught my attention. I love the idea of the Game and these bionic enhancements. Very video-game-meets-real-life. As several others have mentioned, I'd cut the last sentence from the second paragraph entirely and maybe add a phrase like "The problem is" to the start of the third, just to smooth out that transition.

Also, I found myself skipping over the short, choppy paragraphs at the end of the pitch. I'm not sure how necessary they are (or maybe it was just the format that bugged me).

As for the excerpt, I really liked it. I only have a few small suggestions. First, you might give us a hint as to why Dodge is just sitting in bed. Did he just wake up (I'm guessing not), or is he trying to conserve body heat? A small detail like that might tell us something about Dodge's world right away. Also, the last paragraph felt a little too tell-y to me, especially since I still have no idea what pitching is after reading it. But I really liked that Dodge and Tag are from two different social classes. Made me want to read on, to learn more about their friendship.

Good luck with this! I'M GAME sounds like something I'd love to read someday:)

Gloria Darlene said...

I’m already entranced with your world. Futuristic dystopian novels are my absolute favorite!!

One thing that was a little vague was the mention of “levels.” Levels of what? Of the Games? Maybe provide a brief description, something that we can latch onto.

I agree with taking out the thing about the Dare. It’s not expounded on and I think it would be a nice surprise for the novel itself.

I also LOVE your title, it’s something that would really suck me in if I were browsing shelves.

I wanted to keep reading about the extra arms at the end of the 250. No fair, the suspense!! Great job, keep up the good work!!

Taylor Martindale said...

This query was intriguing. I was somewhat lost with terminology, and would recommend clarifying some more, but overall it worked. One thing that isn’t clear – the change he’s going through, it is because of the game, or did the operation actually do something unseen to him? The first page was also good, though I was still a little confused by terminology. I would keep reading, though, because I’m interested in the concept. My one caveat is that I’d have to read with the obvious comparison of THE HUNGER GAMES in mind, because every editor will as well. Following pages would really need to stand apart from comparable titles like that, but I’d be interested to see how you do that.
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary

An Agent Intern said...

I thought this was really great. I saw the parallels to THE HUNGER GAMES only because of the "games" and how Dodge is trying to use it to better his life. On the flip side, I totally saw ENDER'S GAME in this, and perhaps a bit of LORD OF THE FLIES. I would've continued reading in hopes that the rest kept my attention.