Thursday, August 7, 2014

Become an Agent #12

Title: Doomed and Cool
Genre: NA Contemporary
Word Count: 50,000


Twenty-two-year-old Evan returns to his privileged home and new BMW in oil-rich Alberta from Columbia University with a commerce degree and no direction. His college friends have moved forward with their lives, most working for multinational oil companies. Chantal, his high school girlfriend, has their life planned out as a socialite couple moving in political circles, but Evan can’t bring himself to care.

As Evan gets reacquainted with his old friends and scores never-ending eight-balls from his old coke dealer, he learns his friend River has chosen the unexpected path of producing graphic online videos. Evan is shocked at his old friend’s willingness to post his violent films online and is intrigued by the amount of notoriety his friend receives from anonymous sycophants. The lure of fast money and online popularity forces Evan to choose between a daily grind at an oil company, or sink into the cesspool of River's violent video productions.

Intrigued, Evan takes part in the production of one video, inducing painful torture on a girl for the pleasure of others. If he doesn’t pull himself away from his friend’s obsessive impulses, he risks becoming the same type of monster as River and losing Chantal along with any future political opportunity.

DOOMED AND COOL is a gritty, new adult contemporary at 50,000 words. A modern-day take on Less Than Zero, and similar in feel to The Slaves of New York, it explores the depth to which someone will go for instant online recognition and validation.


“I hope you packed some warm clothes,” she says.

She flicks on the signal, and we turn to exit down the ramp and onto the four-lane highway toward the city. The traffic is dense because of rush hour, but she handles it with ease, moving smoothly between the other vehicles.

“Did you hear me?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I say. “Warm clothes.”

The fact that she is talking about appropriate clothing doesn’t bother me, but I start to get uncomfortable at being home and feel that, other than getting back on a plane, nothing else matters. I reach into my carry-on bag and pull out my glass vial of coke and do a hit. I tilt it in her direction.

“Do you want some?”

She shakes her head.

“Not while I’m driving.”

I put the coke in my pocket and push into the chair, letting the heat sink into my body. The lights along the edge of the highway swipe across her dashboard in a regular rhythm and I start counting them. A wave comes over me, and then I don’t care anymore. I don’t care that I am twenty-one and it is May and that my flight from New York was delayed and that the couple from Fort McMurray, who were sitting with me in first class, got drunk to the point that the man threw up and the lady laughed like a hyena. I don’t care that the spring thaw splattered my new Hugo Boss shoes, which felt like a perfect fit when I put them on this morning.


  1. The interesting bits came at the end. Try starting with a hook about Evan and the videos. Snappy and quick, drawing us in.


  2. I second End. This doesn't open with the bang you want. The hook isn't a hook, it's a paragraph of drawn out stuff we don't care about yet.

  3. Although I've already commented on my (lot) I was looking for non-YA submissions (not that I have anything against YA- I lust like to mix it up a bit)
    I'm going to disagree with previous comments. Yes it's true the 1st para isn't a killer-hook but then this is NA and the topic warrant's a different 'style' and I can see that. I would recommend cutting most if not all of para-1 and brining what you need into para-2 as I think that will strengthen the QL, however, I very much liked the theme. It reminded me of the cult-following movie 8mm and that was dark and about drawing people into a world they had never imagined... so I was interested.

    I also think that, while it is true the beginning is not all fire-balls and manic behaviour, you have no choice but to begin with the mundane and the normal, as you're setting the scene for a 'normal' guy getting drawn into a surreal and violent world - so for me this worked.

    As I say, I didn't HAVE TO comment on this one, I wanted to & it's a YES for me.

    YES - #7

  4. At the heart of this, you have a strong conflict, but the query and first 250 didn't hook me. It focuses more on the spoiled rich boy aspect of the story and less on the part that could actually grip my interest. Maybe bring the conflict out more in the query, and do some foreshadowing in the first 250.

    No - 16

  5. From the query, the mc doesn't seem to care about much. He's spoiled, got so much going for him, and nothing matters to him. I have no reason to care about the mc. I don't like him already so I'm not going to want to spend hours reading about him. It's fine to have a mc who's an anti-hero type, but he still needs to be likable in some way. I have to have a reason to want to know what happens to him.

    No. (#11)

  6. No - While the writing is clear and fluid, I think you need to clarify conflict & character here.

    My issue here is that I don't have a good sense of why I should care about the MC. If he's just a weak-willed, directionless rich boy being pulled into further dissolution, I don't have a reason to root for him. Even an anti-hero needs some quality that makes us like him in spite of ourselves -- whether it's a sense of humor, charisma, some redeeming quality, a higher goal, etc. This MC seems to literally have no goals, and I'm not getting a sense of what redeems him (or even has a chance to). Without a shot at redemption, there's no conflict (and no character I'd want to spend any time with).

    I'd also suggest starting at a more compelling point... having the first 250 be devoted to banal conversation in a car trip doesn't give us much chance to get hooked by the story, even with the shock of him doing coke in the passenger seat. I also have no sense whatsoever of who his companion is (chauffeur? wife? mom? friend?) or even whether they approve or disapprove of his behavior.

    Finally, the title seems off -- it sounds as if the book will be humorous, but everything else points to the book being very dark. You might want to pick one that reflects the grittiness of the themes better.

    Good luck!


  7. No. There's nothing here that stands out as unique to me. I really don't care about the spoiled MC and if wants to ruin his life making violent videos it's fine with me.

    Perhaps he actually is a good guy with a great, successful career trajectory and happy relationship with his girlfriend, when he accidentally gets caught up in the video thing when he walks in on his friend making one...? I think we need some reason to care about him and root for him.

    I do like your writing in the first 250 and think you can turn this into an intriguing thriller!

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  9. (#15)
    I like NA but this isn't the kind of story that I would read (this sounds like a gruesome story). The query didn't have much stakes or conflicts. It's merely 'produce violent games and becomes a bad person' or 'lose his status and his gf'. Hm, I think a stronger stakes would be better?

  10. This premise makes me super uncomfortable. I think it's just too dark to me. As soon as you're hinting at any sort of rape or abuse as a plot point - even from the perspective of a person who doesn't want to do it.... I can't. I'm sorry. And if that's NOT what you're talking about, then you need to rework the query. Because that's what it sounds like to me. I'm so uncomfortable with the premise, if I were a real agent, I wouldn't even read the opening pages. This is where "just not for me" comes into play.

    For purposes of the feedback, I went ahead and read it. It bothers me that "she" never gets a name. And, I know that main characters don't need to be likable, but there has to be something that makes me want to stay with them, and I just want to get away from someone who comes across as a spoiled, self-centered coke addict. (His companion is so unimportant, she gets no name or description?)

    Sorry, but I'm a no.

  11. I already have a problem believing that someone would torture someone for internet fame. I can understand someone jumping into the video, thinking that it's all just effects and makeup, but when it comes time to do it, I don't see why the character wouldn't step away. I still read the writing sample and had to reread a few sentences to make sense of them (specifically the line about not caring about appropriate clothing).

    No. (#19)

  12. Hi, and here is where subjectivity is key because this is a Yes from this audience member, and it's a yes from someone who doesn't read NA and hates slasher/horror movies as well. But what gets me is the inner conflict. Sure, it's easy to have an MC who doesn't want to do what his rich friends want, but the fact that he's drawn to this seedy lifestyle AND might like it is what interests me. I do agree though that if the "torture" of the people in the movies is against their wishes as opposed to people who agree to participate to get a quick buck, I might be turned off enough/dislike the character enough to stop reading. Hard to say at this point . . . which is why I'd ask for pages. ;-) Good luck!

  13. The word count seems a bit low. I had a problem with the query in that since the MC comes from a rich family, I didn't get why making violent internet videos was his only option -- other than the daily grind at the oil company. I think this needs to be clarified/strengthened. While I've enjoyed books which start with a less than likeable protagonist, I needed some reason to want to join this character on his journey, but didn't get that here. Unfortunately, the first 250 didn't suck me in either. A No from me. (#9)

  14. I feel like I should start with this isn't my thing. Having said that, my answer is more that I'm drawn in by the query. It's out of focus. Stick to the main conflict, which appears to be these videos where they torture people (though it appears to just be torturing girls, and if it's not gender specific, you'll need to say something to that end).

    The next thing that sort of concerns me is that the first 250 is sort of meandering. While I don't think that's a big problem--sometimes the first 250 is too dense!--I'm concerned that you're not getting anywhere with it and the whole novel is really short to begin with. This makes me worry that things aren't fully developed.

    So my advice for the query - cut to the chase with the videos and develop that conflict. For the first 250, tighten it up. Those words should flow together, one leading to the next (cut that, and consider your MC's voice: would he contract his words or leave them formal?)

    I'm so sorry, but it's a no (#20).

  15. 50k word count is too short for NA. That right there makes me say No. Also hard to care about what happens to an incredibly privileged kid suffering from too much money and hints of psychopathy. Too much stuff about privilege in query, rather than the actual story or things that make me care about the MC - nothing is really there that makes reader worry about the MC and want to see them come out on top. Opening scene does nothing except tell reader MC does cocaine and thinks women aren't worth naming but that material things like his shoes are.

    No. (#5)