NOTE: The below is an outdated version of my query for EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn. Though it’s changed a great deal, I leave the original here so that it can be compared to the one seen on the Current Projects page. The first 250 words have also changed dramatically as well. These things evolve so much over time!
After the break you’ll find my submission for #SonOfAPitch. Not sure what this is? Learn more here and join the action!
Title: EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn
Genre: Adult Sci-Fi / Thriller
Word Count: 114,000
Query (excluding personalized greeting/connection and bio):
…I thought you would be a great fit to represent my sci-fi thriller EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn.
EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn is the story of art-school dropout Chandra Adelhadeo, who, in a last-ditch effort to communicate with her comatose wife, enrolls in the first round of human trials for an implant that will give her access to the internet in her mind.
Once on the research compound, Chandra becomes the first patient for whom this technology takes. In light of her success, Doctor Wyatt Halman–the lead scientist behind the EMPATHY nanochip–asks Chandra to become the face of EMPATHY once it goes public. Chandra accepts on one condition: that Halman ensures she’ll be able to use the implant to speak with her wife. Free installs for immediate family members are one of the perks of enrollment, after all.
Wyatt agrees to Chandra’s proposal, though he makes no promises on its success. As the research progresses and the implant begins to function for other patients, all seems well on the EMPATHY compound–until a smattering of patients begin to seize and go missing. Without answers on the disappearances and concerned for the welfare of the entire patient body, Chandra must team up with an amateur programmer and an EMPATHY administrative assistant to save the study from itself… before this technology turns on her, too.
This multi-perspective thriller also follows the stories of inventor-turned-necromancer Wyatt Halman, truth-bound journalist Meredith Maxwell, and the naive-yet-determined administrative assistant Ariel Commons, each of whose lives are set on a crash course that will determine the fate of the study and singularity technology itself. Complete at 114,000 words, EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn is ready for your consideration.
First 250 Words:
Chandra Adelhadeo had survived brain surgery. Surviving the wait for the procedure’s results was proving to be another matter entirely. As she sat in the post-install waiting room, she ran a finger along the scar.
Chandra cringed. She knew better than to touch it. The nurses had told her as much. She curled her fingers inward, grasping tightly at the grit of the charcoal pencil in her other hand.
She opened the sketchbook on her knee to a fresh leaf. Before the pencil could hit the page, however, worry took her again. So much hinged on the conversation she would have on the other side of the door at the end of the hall. Any minute now they would call her name and–ugh. She was doing it again.
She wiped the sweat from the webbing between her fingers onto her standard-issue lavender scrub bottoms. The advice of her pre-study therapist came to her.
Draw. Write. Anything. Focus on something you can control.
Chandra eased in a breath and adjusted her grip on the pencil.
I’ve felt miserable for abandoning you since Ratan dropped me off. That’s not the right word, though: abandon. You know I’ll be back. This is the right thing. I did this for you. For us. When this is all over, we’ll be closer than we’ve ever been before. Well, closer than we have been in a long time.
Thanks for reading! I’m making it my goal to leave comments for everyone who leaves them for me, so feel free to leave your feedback (and a direct link to your post) below. As always, you can also reach me on Twitter or at email@example.com.
Query: This is a really good start. But I feel like it's lacking oomph. What are your stakes? Where is the voice? You need a really good hook, which, I'm sure you can do with the content you have. Right now, though, it reads a little too much like a Synopsis. The first paragraph, I would love to have this book punch me in the face. But right now, your first paragraph just summarizes the book, then it is followed with the summary of the plot. I feel like the stakes are missing, the consequences if Chandra and her wife don't have working implants. Get that hook, spice up the voice, and drive the stakes home. You'll be golden!
First 250: Speaking of stakes… I don't feel like there's any. You tell us that she just survived surgery, but we don't know how Chandra feels about it. Was she scared? How important is this to her? A first page needs to do soooo very much, character, setting, mood, voice, set genre, and so much more. I feel like we barely got a taste of character. Don't just tell us she got out of surgery. Let us know how she feels about the situation she's in, where she's at, give her a strong voice. You can do it!
Hope this is all helpful!
I love the story idea! The query does sound too much like a synopsis. I think you can leave out mentioning of the other perspectives from the query. Hook them in, and your agent can read all about that later.
I personally feel my eyes glaze over when the first few paragraphs are descriptive. The first two paragraphs are fine, but then I'd expect something to happen that's not description. Maybe you can shorten that, get the writing out of the way and then dive into the next event in that scene?
This sounds like a really cool story! I agree with previous comments that it takes a little too long to get to the highest stakes (patients disappearing). I know the emotional stakes for the character feel the most immediate, but until I am invested in your main character as a reader, the more direct threat of potential violence is going to be the most compelling stake.
I was also taken out of the moment a bit when I got to “inventor-turned-necromancer.” Up until the word necromancer, I was thinking of this is a medical thriller, but all of a sudden that word made me rethink what I had just read because that is more of a fantasy occupation. Even if it is true, it felt inconsistent with everything else I'd read about the story so far.
Good work and good luck!
Thanks for the comments! It sounds like you're not alone in thinking this reads a bit too much like a synopsis. I'll cut to the chase a little sooner in my rewrite. I'll also try to make the stakes a little clearer earlier on.
Thanks again and best of luck with your pitch, too!
Your premise is so fantastic. I love eerie bits of scifi that don't seem to far off from our current reality. I also enjoy that you work in that this is an LGBTQ+ couple without coming out and stating it. Just casual word choice has a fantastically strong effect.
In terms of critique: I do agree with the other commenters about the 250 words feeling like a recap of the query pitch. I think some of the exposition could come later. You want to hit on a strong emotion quick, so even having her just thinking about Kyra off the bat could have a strong impact. And then once they know her current state you could work in all the tech exposition.
I do think that the query is strong. Just the right length and no-nonsense. In terms of hook, I did find that the introduction of your concept was strong and I would have kept reading without any other zingers or attention grabbers, but that's just me.
Overall, I think it was fantastic and I look forward to picking up EMPATHY at my local B&N 😉
Thanks for your feedback. Cutting the other perspectives is definitely a viable option. Perhaps I can mention them casually without going into additional detail? We'll see how that reads when I rework this.
It sounds like my goal of building some tension regarding the results of her install is falling a bit flat, too. I suppose if one has read the query already, they know the direction in which this goes. I'll have to strike a better balance between what the reader and a prospective agent might know going in to page one.
Thanks again for your feedback and best of luck with your pitch as well 🙂
Thanks, Phoebe. I'll get the high-stakes introduced earlier in my rewrite. I'm glad there's been some consensus on that point among reviewers so far.
Good point on the description for Halman as well. I'm thinking I'll take the advice of another reviewer and either cut or pare back the mention of the multi-perspective nature altogether, as it may be muddling things more than it is clarifying them.
Thanks again for the review and best of luck with your submission as well!
Thanks a lot for your feedback. I'm glad you really enjoy the premise. It sounds like this really landed for you 🙂
Your feedback seems consistent with what others have mentioned so far, too. This is a good thing, I think, since at least I'll know what to focus on (it sounds like Kyra should come into play that much sooner).
I hope you're able to pick up EMPATHY at B&N some day 🙂 Just a few steps to complete before that, though, of course…
I'm gonna head over to your submission and leave some feedback now, too. Thanks again for your input and best of luck with your novel!
Overall, I enjoyed the query and the premise is fascinating. Writing from multiple POVs and a high word count will come with its own challenges; however, anything written well can find a home. My only real struggle with the query is the cast of characters thrown in almost after the fact at the end. I was reading about one MC, then I discover, I'll be reading from multiple POV's, but I have no idea what their conflict is other than to assume it's the same as Chandra's (which it can't be since they have different goals).
The first 250 is good, but it didn't hook me in. The first sentence almost feels like a throw away compared to the power of the second and the potential of the pair, plus considering what she just went through. With all this being said, the writing is strong enough I wouldn't stop at the 250, especially when tied with the query.
The underlying idea is awesome, so make sure you keep taking that artist's knife and pen to this thing. This can be amazing.
1) It's not clear how the implant will connect her to her wife. Why is this effort “last-ditch.” Is it dangerous? Unlikely to work? Remember to find ways to squeeze these ideas in with the smallest number of words.
2)There doesn't seem to be anything for the character to lose in this. If we're far enough advanced in tech that we can stick implants in people's brains, your reader is not going to assume that it's dangerous.
3)In what way is technology “turning” on people. How much do you gain from not telling your reader? It's specifics that make a query pop. Remember your vague comment feels more powerful to you because you know what it is.
4)The phrase “the entire patient body” is awkward.
5)The purpose of a query is to get the agent to move on to the pages with excitement. The last paragraph offers a lot of real estate to the other characters you weave into this without much payout for their inclusion. If you're sending this to an agent that is asking for braided novels, then go for it. Otherwise you might do better to leave it out.
6)”Singularity” has a meaning in science that sci-fi readers will probably be familiar with (relates to black holes). Did you mean “singular”?
First 250 Words
1) Ditch the first two sentences. It starts of flat and out of the moment. It's safe to assume she survived the brain surgery (this would be a very different novel otherwise, or very short), and the idea that she might not survive the waiting for the results is a throw away that's clearly exaggerated for no obvious effect. If you start the novel with the third sentence, it begins brilliantly–alive and in the moment (Just with her name rather than “she”).
2)I suggest skipping this whole waiting for the meeting thing. Start in the meeting. As realistic as it might be, the frustration and boredom of waiting in a doctor's office is not what you want to start with for your reader.
3) The lead up to the letter seems like an excuse to dump backstory on the reader. Just keep us in the moment and let the backstory come out as necessary.
good luck to you!
My query and 250 are at
Thanks for your feedback, Tim. I'll definitely keep it in mind while revising!
Thanks, Cesar. You make some great points regarding both the query and first 250.
Where the singularity is concerned, I mean the idea of the technological singularity. I think this is a term out in the vernacular as well, but it could be confusing when juxtaposed against the black-hole meaning. I'll tweak that a bit to avoid confusion.
Your suggestion on the first two sentences is spot on. As a matter of coincidence, I happened to make a similar change prior to reading your post. I'll revisit it again now though and see if I can improve it even further.
I'll take a look at your other suggestions as well. Thanks again!