Mission X #pitchslam #NoQS Critique Party

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Mission X by Kathrine Zahm

35 word pitch: The game taught Xander everything, from parkour to Portuguese. When the final championship teams him with Akemí and bans life saving reboots, Xander must risk life and limb to escape the girl of his nightmares.

Query:

Growing up in a game has its perks. Perk number one is that by eighteen, Xander knows almost every skill imaginable, from parkour to Portuguese. Hacking TSA security? A breeze. Assassinating Presidents? He can do it in his sleep. Perk number two is that Xander gets to win. It’s not just the money; the satisfaction is better than any drug. But the biggest perk of all? The game never requires Xander to work with other players. Social interaction is more painful than losing. Okay maybe not losing.

When the final championship, Covert Ops, requires Xander to work with Akemí, he hopes it’s a random one mission gig. When they reach the Kyoto train station checkpoint and open the new rules, Xander’s already cold heart turns glacial. Six teams, comprised of one male and female partner each, will compete elimination style through a series of complex missions. It’s too bad both team members have to be alive to qualify to win, or Xander would have offed Akemí in mission one.

The rules also state that foul play is on the table. No one gets a penalty for causing bodily harm. Oh, and one final rule change: Life saving reboots used whenever a mission went south are now banned. Playing against deadly competition with a championship in the balance, Xander must learn to cooperate while risking life and limb if he ever hopes to escape the girl of his nightmares.

Mission X is a YA sci-fi at 67,000 words.

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7 thoughts on “Mission X #pitchslam #NoQS Critique Party

  1. I love the idea of growing up in an actual game. I feel like the pitch is fine except I don’t know why she’s the girl of his nightmares. The query should be tightened. It’s got too much info in it. Stick to one plot point: the new game, the antagonist (winning the game or is it the girl?) and the conflict (no life reboots) and what happens if the goal isn’t met? (death?). There should be a comma after the word, okay but I almost feel you should delete it because it seems too present day for a SF. Why is this the final championship game? What happens after this? Does one get a new life? New career? A new game? I feel like that would be important to know. Good luck!

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  2. OK, here’s the question I have from your pitch: Is Akemi a girl, and is she the one of his nightmares?

    On the Query: If he’s growing up in a game, is he not in real life at all? Are these real things he’s doing or imaginary? Are there any real-life consequences? If he doesn’t have to socially interact, then how does he know it’s painful? Why do I care if he loses? Why does he care if he loses other than personal pride?

    I hope that’s of some help. I know the point of a query is to raise questions, so hopefully these are the kinds of questions you want the reader asking, and if they’re not, hopefully it gives you some ideas.

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  3. I too love the idea of growing up in a game. But why is Akemi the girl of his nightmares? I agree that the answer to this is important. Is it just because he’s forced to have a partner and it happens to be her, or have they some past history or does she actually figure in his nightmares or maybe he just doesn’t like girls? As Akemi is in both pitch and query, I think it would be great if you could find a more specific phrase than ‘girl of his nightmares’ even if it’s ‘long-time rival’ or ‘girl who snubbed him’ or whatever.

    I do really like the query and I think you’ve given a great idea of the story. Kyoto train station threw me a little because it’s a real world setting and I thought we were in a game world. Maybe just leave it out because you haven’t much space in your query for world-building. The other thing is that while the stakes are pretty clear as to what happens if he loses the game, I’m not sure what he gains if he wins, so I don’t really know why he wants to play.

    But I do think it’s a strong query and if you can just clarify it a tiny bit more, it will be really good.

    Best of luck with it!

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  4. The first sentence of the pitch is really good but the second one I was confused. Like there is too much info and could be trimmed a bit.

    I think the first paragraph of the query is really good. The voice comes through well. It’s the next two I think get a bit bogged down with too much explanation. The voice fades a bit. What are the most important points you want to get across? Also it took me two reads to realize Akemi is the girl of his nightmares. I thought it was a guy at first. So might want to make it clear from the start she’s a girl.

    Living in a game is a really cool concept and the voice is strong just need to pull it through the rest of the query and you’ve nailed it.

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  5. You guys all rock! Thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback. I so needed this! I agree with what all of you have said, I just couldn’t see the forest over here. Getting to work now! Thanks again everyone for joining. This was much needed and as always, a blast. Best of luck to all of you. 🙂

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