Monday, May 18, 2009

Log Lines, or, Picking Up Where We Left Off

Once, in the ladies room at a conference, I overheard an author complaining about her editor. "She takes forever to read anything. I think it's because she spends all day blogging and twittering."

Clearly, that author was not talking about me, despite my sometimes slow reading response times. Apologies for my recent lack of blogging, but blogging is for fun, and work does come first. The good news is that we've got two new acquisitions editors hard at work on our backlog, my injuries from the car wreck are about 98% healed, the Red Sage 15th Anniversary celebration is more or less planned, and there are fewer than 80 pending manuscripts in my inbox. Things are starting to feel almost normal again. (knock wood)

So. Where were we? Oh, right. Log lines.

Here's a pair from Beth, who blogged about finding our blog through Janet Reid's blog. Bet you can't say that five times fast.

After a teen girl who's been cryogenically frozen on a generation space ship is woken up fifty years before the ship's due to land on a new planet, she must work with the future leader of the ship to find the person who is unplugging (and thereby killing) the other cryogenically frozen people...before her parents are unplugged.

After two teens on a generation space ship discover a plot to kill the cryogenically frozen people on board, they also discover a terrible secret about the ship, and must decide whether it's better to tell the truth or let everyone else live in happy ignorance.

Anybody know what a generation space ship is?

My first thought is that I want to play mix and match with this pair. In no particular order, here are the things that jump out at me.
  • I want the teen girl instead of two teens, because it gives a clear protagonist.
  • The whole fifty years thing seems like a distraction.
  • The plot to kill the other cryogenically frozen people is interesting. And probably is the plot.
  • Her parents. There's your stakes.
  • How can the others live in happy ignorance if they're being picked off in their sleep?

If we scramble the bits, we might end up with something like,

After a teen girl on a generation space ship discovers a plot to kill the cryogenically frozen people on board, she must work with the future leader of the ship to find the person who is killing the other cryogenically frozen people...before her parents are unplugged.

Still not perfect. Teen girl is okay because it signals YA, but I'd like something that indicates character. Throw me an adjective. Lonely teen girl. Or a character tag. Prom queen.

But it does now sound like an interesting story, doesn't it? I can easily imagine wanting to read this one. What does everyone think?



Unknown said...

Thanks so much for posting my pitch! I'll be interested to see what others think. I really struggled with this because I have two main protagonists (the girl who was cryogenically frozen and the boy who was born on the ship), although the stakes are higher for the girl (as her parents are at risk).

I can't wait to see what others think! Thanks again!

Ian said...

Theresa: a generation ship is a colonizing starship that takes decades or hundreds of years to get to its destination. The ship's inhabitants are born, live, and die on board. The colonists are the descendants of those who launched on board initially, hence the "generation" term.

I don't like "teen girl." It feels repetitive and redundant ( :-P ). You could lose the "girl" because you define her sex in the second clause. Then you could put an adjective in there instead like "precocious" or "curious". A "star ship" would be a better term because it implies travel between the stars. Apollo 7 was a "space ship." "Cryogenically frozen" also feels like a redundancy, even though I know it's accepted terminology. It's a real mouthful to have twice in the same sentence.

I'm also looking at the basic premise of "work with the future leader of the ship." That seems odd and out of place. Is the story about the future leader of the ship and she's just a lackey? I want this to be about her, not the "future leader of the ship."

Here's my proposal based on what's available:

When a precocious teen on a generation star ship discovers a plot to kill the frozen colonists, she can only trust the future colony commander to help her find the killer before her parents are unplugged.

Riley Murphy said...

I have a couple of questions and I figure I’m allowed to ask them as I took such a beating on my log lines, right? Would anyone dispute that? (I hear crickets.) So, um...I didn’t think so.:)

So, my first question would be: Are there people awake on the ship - while some are frozen? Is that what you mean by generational? That the ones to care for (the cryogenically frozen individuals) make the journey because these ‘entombed’ people will matter in the end of fifty years - as in: for the sake of their world they need to make it?

My second question would be - why not say about the teen girl that she is prematurely wakened? That’s what happens, right? So that she is now able to help out?

My third question would be: This girl’s parents, are they important scientists or something? Do they have something/knowledge that someone doesn’t want them using or is this a random act that the girl is awakened and must save her parents because something is happening, deal? I think that would need to be established. Or, is it that someone (and the killer doesn't know who) - has information and therefore he/she must kill everyone of the frozen individuals to be sure?

Is unplugged an accepted term in SF cause I'm not liking it - but hey, that's just me. Maybe: targeting their (whatever you're calling the capsules the frozen people sleep in) to shut down?

I'm curious. Does she have something that is essential to finding the person responsible for the killings and that's why she's been prematurely woken? Or did she almost die because her unit had been cut off and the future leader saved her and just by doing so draws her into helping because her parents are at risk?

It sounds like a great premise Beth.:)

Edittorrent said...

Agreed, first is better-- more urgent and personal.

Minor thing here-- "woken up" is a bit clunky. (There isn't actually a good way to say that, but try "awakened"?)

Also two "unplugs"-- and it's sort of a silly sounding word. "Thereby killed" is a little awkward. How about unplugged the first ref, and then "before her own parents are killed?"

The other thought is just to maybe quickly say what's conflictful or interesting about the future leader, and also, do you need the "future"? It opens questions you can't really expand on at this point.

But it's good! I think it would catch the agent's interest.

McKoala said...

I kind of liked Ian's. The parents really matter.

B.E. Sanderson said...

The premise sounds intriguing, but the lines make me itch to tweak them.

After 16-yr old Mary awakens early from her cryogenic freeze, she discovers a plot to kill the fellow frozen travelers on her generational spaceship, and must work with the future leader of the ship to find murderer... before her parents are unplugged.

Or something like that. Changing whatever doesn't fit the story, of course.

em said...

I'm not sure that I like the word unplugged. And as Alicia says woken up is awkward.
I am wondering if the parents are in jeopardy for a reason or is it just because a killer may cut off their frozen life support? If there is a reason then you might be able to define the conflict better in the log line with the fifty year time line mentioned.
The point about why she was awakened to begin with that Murphy makes could better define the conflict/relationship between the future leader and heroine.
I do like B. E. Sanderson's arrangement as well.

Adrian said...

I like it in general, but I grew concerned that the author might not know what a generation ship is. If they're using cryogenics, then it doesn't sound like a generation ship.

Other than that, this sounds like a great concept.

Unknown said...

From the original log line I feel that there is a major point of conflict that is hinted at but not addressed. Are the parents important somehow? Or, is the teen's relationship with the future commander more important? What is the real conflict? finding a killer? Having to save her parents? after reading the second option I think the conflict might even be saving the population on the ship from being destroyed before they get to the new planet in the future. The questions posted in comments lead to clarifying the true conflict as Em, said.

Edittorrent said...

I liked the use of the term unplugged. It has a hip tone. ymmv

Sometimes it's difficult to narrow a complex book into a single statement of conflict. This might be one of those cases. All the questions and comments may help the author focus, though, so keep them coming!


Riley Murphy said...

Unplugged? Hmmm....when I hear that word I think of Eric Clapton in the studio (showing my age with that one, eh?). Words are subjective and no one knows that better than me, right? Think incestuous and blackmail. So, knowing this, I take back what I said about unplugged - especially since my older sister got all the sci-fi genes in the family and I don't know the correct lingo in the genre. That being said, Beth, I am going to take a shot at your log line...even though I still don’t know if the heroine was awakened for the purpose of finding the bad guy (that would be an important detail I would want to add if it were so) - cause it would make me immediately wonder why a teen, when there are older more experienced people to see? Told ya I didn’t know the lingo:D.

Here goes:

When a spunky teen is prematurely awakened from her cryogenic state prior to reaching the star ship's final destination, she is commandeered to work with the future leader, in order to discover who is targeting the frozen colonists for extinction, before her parents are next...

em said...

Melted, Murphy? LOL!

Is there a problem with the term generational? And just wondering is there a difference between starship and spaceship?

Unknown said...

I just wanted to pipe up and say thank you all for your suggestions! There are so many layers to my book that it's very difficult to sum it up in one sentence (the query paragraph, I hope, will go a long way to clearing up many of your questions, but I do plan to revise the pitch sentence, too).

Thanks again! Much, much, much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

It is not a generational starship if cryogenics is in use. The term itself indicates that the descendants of the original inhabitants will be populating the distant star or planet once it is reached. A ship that has its occupants in a cryogenic state (stasis) traveling in hyper-sleep is called a sleeper ship. A writer needs to know what they are writing before they write.

Riley Murphy said...

Good luck with this Beth. It really does sound like a great premise.:)

And um, Anon, did I miss something here? We’re talking science FICTION, right? I may not know the lingo or terminology in this genre - but in any genre isn’t it great to switch things up a little? I mean, why can’t you have some people on a ship that are in a cryogenic sleep until they get to their destination - while others are living their lives in current time awake onboard? Call it a generational ship with a few cryogenic exceptions because of the plot. And, I am wondering (insert one dubiously raised brow here), how can one know anything definitively about the fiction they write? Isn’t that why it’s called fiction? And don’t try telling me that terms are terms, unless there is a SF rule book that says that you can’t have human popsicle’s on a generational ship. But hey, if there is a rule book I want to know who wrote it and how come they got to decide...

Unknown said...

All good luck, Beth. I think loglines are harder to write than the book itself;).

Murph, I couldn't agree more.

Edittorrent said...

Re: sleeper ship/generational ship --

Well, this may be a world-building issue. Some tropes become cemented into their genres.

But let's watch the tone and try to keep it constructive, folks. I don't want this discussion to devolve into an argument. That helps no one, and I know you all aim to be helpful.


Riley Murphy said...

Crapatolla Theresa! Am I being sent to time out? That hasn’t happened to me in...? Well, never....but heck, there’s a first time for everything, right?:D

em said...

Murph, you rock. Wish I had seen this earier.
Em :):)

Edittorrent said...

Nobody's being sent to time out! And we want to keep it that way. :)

ashley said...

...before her parents become victims?

...because two of the sleepers are her parents?