Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Ms. Nelson,

The world’s first virtual reality game is under attack by a virus: a nameless non-player character who offers fake quests, loots players’ treasure chests, and has triggered a massive orc-human war between two cities.

Unknown to the players, the rogue NPC is actually Natalie Peijing Cai, a Chinese-American scholarship student. After losing every cent in her bank account to an online thief, she enters a massive multi-player virtual reality game with monetary rewards. There, she is accidentally categorized as a non-player character when she makes her username her initials, NPC.

In the real world, Natalie struggles with impatient landlords, incompetent TAs, and a handsome classmate who seems determined to catch her stealing food from the school cafeteria. In the virtual world, she’s hunted by the same classmate, genius inventor of virtual reality Erik Cederstrom, who believes her to be a dangerous AI.

When Natalie’s family spirals into financial difficulties, she tackles a high-level quest to loot a dragon’s hoard. Her only recourse is to trick other players into fighting her battles by handing out fake quests. With thousands of dollars at stake, she’ll end up in serious legal trouble if anyone finds out she’s not a real non-player character.

My 72,000 word young adult novel NPC: Non-Player Character explores a virtual fantasy world with real world consequences.

I have had fiction published in the Whortleberry Press anthology Strange Changes, Short-Story.Me and Short Fiction Break, and I have stories forthcoming in Abyss & Apex Magazine and Every Day Fiction. While studying for my economics PhD, I have coauthored eight nonfiction research papers and four blog posts.

I submitted this novel for your consideration because your interest in young adult fiction with strong heroines and diverse characters. Upon your request, I am prepared to send the complete manuscript.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work.



I’m not proud of it, but late at night after everyone had left the virtual reality center, I snuck back in. A thousand excuses sat easy on my lips as I stood before the white door, fumbling with my key: I forgot my cell phone; I accidentally walked out with the check-in clipboard; I thought I saw a light and just went in to turn it off like a good employee. Admittedly, if anyone caught me inside a VR capsule, I had no idea what I would say.

Once inside, I let my flashlight trail across the concrete floor, white-grey walls, and the receptionist’s desk in the middle. Finding another key on the ring, I opened the door to the capsule room.

The ceiling was high, my flashlight lighting up exposed pipes and beams overhead. Six hundred dentist-style horizontal chairs covered by glass capsules were packed together in twenty rows.

Keeping the flashlight tucked under my arm, I fiddled with the control panel and got the glass capsule to slide open. After placing the shiny silver helmet over my head, I lay back on the reclining chair. The blood pressure cuff around my wrist would alert the machine if I started moving while in the trance state. A button on the chair’s arm closed the capsule. The helmet covered my face and a screen lit up in front of my eyes.

My solitary voice sounded weak and embarrassed as I spoke into the deserted building: “Activate the Game.”


Unknown said...

Holy Moses, I love this so much! Do you need a CP?! :)
Admittedly I've played a few computer games in my life. This sounds a lot like Ready Player One which I adored.
While I loved your concept and sped through your first page grinning, the query is a bit of a mess. I think it stems from setting up the mystery of the npc character and then trying to get us to sympathize with her. It was a bit jarring. Focus on the girl first. She loses her money online. She risks all to win it back in World of Warcraft? Why? When you say "worlds first virtual reality game" I'm thinking, aren't there tons of those? Isn't this supposed to be set in the future? You can show that she has to pretend to be an AI as we go. And I didn't get the stakes very well. What happens if she's caught? Will she go to jail? Legal trouble doesn't sound very scary. Especially since they feed you in jail and it sounds like she's flat broke. Query Shark helped me get to the meat of the query. (Queries are HARD.) but it sounds like your writing and plot are there! (And I wasn't kidding about wanting to read and give you feedback. Email me at rchancock if you're interested. (Gmail.)

gretchenwrites said...

This sounds really interesting, and I love your first 250...the way you set up the character and her almost addictive need to get back into the game. I am less informed about virtual gaming than the previous poster and so it took me a minute to understand the significance of NPC. I don't know if you would be able to explain that more, perhaps just with a single sentence that would open up the query to those who are not familiar with the vocabulary. Your excerpt was accessible, I didn't feel like I needed any special knowledge. It may be a question of selecting a few solid elements to elaborate on in the query. For example, are there really orcs, or is that an element of the virtual reality? How does handing out fake quests help her? How does it mean the game is under attack?

Leslie S. Rose said...

With VR and gaming in general looming so large in our lives, this story feels super timely and relevant. There's such a rich landscape to explore with this concept, I'm exciting your story is taking us there.

Janice Sperry said...

This sounds so fun. I hope it gets published so I can read it, although I may have to hide it from my kids. They are notorious book thieves, bless their little hearts.

The thing that stood out to me in the query was the vague reference of the handsome classmate. Does he matter? Could you leave that line out? Is she really stealing food?

My main concern with your plot is that her trouble started when her money was stolen. Most banks nowadays have protocols that protect your money and will refund anything stolen. This is in the future, so I hope the theft is believable.

Patricia Nelson said...

Great concept, great voice - I really enjoyed this one. I am a bit concerned about whether this is true YA, though: landlords and TAs make it seem like the protagonist is in college, which would make for a tough YA sale. (FANGIRL and GENA/FINN are the exception, not the rule - YA set in college is very hard to place in the current market.) That said, I would probably request more pages on this to see, if not for the fact that some key elements of this premise are a bit too close to a client book that is currently in development, and I try not to have direct competition within my list. But this is a case where I might include a note with the pass asking to see future work if the author doesn't find an agent on this book, since both the writing and the author's sensibility are definitely to my taste.