Jun 14, 2013

QK Round 3: Zone Tripper vs. Colorblind

Entry Nickname: Zone Tripper
Title: Zone Trippers
Word count: 90,000
Genre: Adult SciFi


When a mystery disease causes soul transference among the infected, Owen MacIntyre is too logical to believe in the urban legend of Zone Trippers. After all, he holds an esteemed job at the CDC, managing the mass hysteria surrounding epidemics and preventing pandemics PR nightmares.

But when Owen’s only daughter, Eve, shows symptoms of the psychosis, claiming to be an Irish father of three, he can no longer dismiss the rumors. Owen is forced to face the fact that his estranged daughter is one of the fabled Zone Trippers. He locks Eve’s body in an asylum, ignoring the cycle of personalities who inhabit her body, while he searches the world for her soul.

When Eve’s body escapes the asylum, Owen finds an unlikely partner in Humberto, a temporary soul in Eve’s body. While Owen fervently researches Zone Tripper’s Disease, Humberto hastily constructs a website which allows Eve’s soul to attempt a journey home. But without warning, several soul swaps yank her further away until Owen loses contact with her entirely.

Meanwhile, the world is divided between two camps: the Statics and the Trippers; furthered by an unscrupulous reality television show which exploits the Trippers, while spreading false information and rumors.

Desperation turns to terror when Owen learns of a zone-tripping serial killer who has a get-out-of-jail-free card and a penchant for torture. A video blog details each gruesome murder and offers the first tangible clue in finding Eve’s soul.

Owen abandons logic and risks his job, his life, and his soul to rescue Eve, but he might have already lost the daughter he never really knew.

First 250 Words:

At the CDC, security was a formality but success was often elusive.

My name and title was printed on the magnetized card: “Owen MacIntyre, Executive Officer of Public Health Preparedness and Response.” But the machine squawked at me nonetheless.

A uniformed guard meandered over to me, gun at his hip and doubt in his eyes.


“The card reader isn’t working,” I said, uncaffeinated and irritated. My wife used to make coffee before work but now I was at the mercy of the dregs in the community pot upstairs. My daughter, Eve, only drank green tea.

The guard compared the photo to my face and swiped the card quickly. It gave a satisfying beep.

“Must be sun flares,” the guard replied, referring to yesterday’s memo. The advantage of working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was the abundance of choices for blame. A flurry of potential disasters cluttered my in-box every morning. And every coincidence was the epicenter of an impending catastrophe.

I followed him past the open terminals to the bank of elevators.

“Thanks for the help,” I said, pressing four.

“No worries. Have a nice day saving the world.”

I didn’t bother to tell him I was in charge of press releases, not world-saving.

“There is another outbreak,” Rylan announced unceremoniously as I stepped off the elevator. My intern was partial to delivering bad news in person, rather than via email. “Another cluster of psychosis patients have been linked to the H2N8 virus. An intake ward in Phoenix is reporting a group of trippers.”


Entry Nickname: Colorblind
Title: An Uncommon Blue
Word Count: 65K
Genre: YA Sci Fi


In Télesphore, the glowing color of a person’s palm determines their place in society, and touching hands with another mixes the colors permanently. For the first sixteen years of his life, rugby star Bruno Nazaire hasn't had any trouble keeping his hands to himself. But when a Green boy sneaks into Blue Campus to get Bruno's autograph and is attacked by a guard, Bruno falls into defense mode.

And kills the guard.

Whether or not the slaying was accidental, the rule of law has not been challenged in fifty years and the Steward is determined to make an example of Bruno. That is, if he can catch him.

Bruno's only chance at survival is to become someone else. That means a haircut, a change of wardrobe, and most important, getting rid of his once cherished Blue. Now he’s visiting parts of town he never knew existed, and making friends with people he would've crossed the street to avoid only weeks ago. But the officials hunting him are getting smarter, and in a city enclosed by jagged iron fences, there are only so many places to hide.At the last minute, Bruno’s parents arrange a deal to clear his name and get some semblance of his life back. All Bruno has to do is abandon those in the Red slums that look to him as a leader and let a familiar Green boy die in his place.

Or there's always offense.

First 250 words:

There are three unspoken rules in high school rugby.

1. Your team members are family.

2. You support your family.

3. This support must be shown periodically with an affectionate slap on the butt.

After four years as the starting right winger, I had almost gotten used to this.

Almost. At least I no longer felt the urge to bloody my teammates' noses when they tried it. But in the middle of the hall? No way. During school hours my glutes were off limits.

I whirled around to explain this to whichever of my idiotic team members was behind me.

Instead, I found myself face to face with an attractive redhead.

“Hey, Bruno,” Drea said with a smirk. “Ready for the test?”

I opened my mouth but no sound came out.

Even with her super-short hair, Drea was stunning. Before last summer she’d often been mistaken for a boy. But that all ended when puberty hit. With both fists.

I recovered from my embarrassment enough to nod.

She leaned against the lockers. Her face reflected the light from her blue palm as she twisted an earring. “History should be a breeze compared to pre-calc. I wanted to stab myself in the eye when I got to that section on antiderivatives.”

I grunted and fumbled with my combination.

Without warning she came up close and spoke in a half-whisper. Her hair smelled like coconut. “I know someone that likes you. If you hurry up with that lock, we might have time to talk before the final.”


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes only.

    1. Victory to COLORBLIND
      These are both great. I was sucked in by the voice and promise of character growth/development in COLORBLIND.

    2. Victory to COLORBLIND

      ZT: This version of the query is a little clearer, but I think it needs to still be sharpened some. The repetitiveness of "Eve's body" started to get to me. I think there are more succinct and powerful ways of getting across the idea. As for the 250, I was sucked in by the voice and the deep sadness in the first 250 we saw, not so much by this one. There are a lot of redundant references to the CDC, trying to narrow in on the department he works for, and I think the reference to Eve drinking green tea is there only to introduce her as her preferences don't seem to have an impact on why he's uncaffeinated. She feels sort of forced in.

      CB: The query revamp to paint the MC as a more sympathetic character works much better. I'm not certain the last sentence is needed. I think one more round of revision on the query may be needed, but the 250 still reads quite nicely.

      I would have had a harder time choosing, I think, had the original 250 for ZONE TRIPPERS been offered up for this round.

    3. Victory to COLORBLIND

      I love both of these. I love the changes made to ZONE TRIPPER, the voice in the 250 and more specifics in the query (though it seems a little long). COLORBLIND's changes felt more subtle, but I really think it's the stronger of the two. Love both, great job guys!

    4. Victory to COLORBLIND

      I loved both of these. but I think the first 250 Zone Tripper posted the last time lent a haunted, sentimental quality to the opening that I was really drawn to. I didn’t feel it as much this time. I'm sorry because I really, really love this the last time I read it.

      Colorblind, I love your first 250. Great voice!

      Good luck to you both.

    5. Victory to COLORBLIND.

      I know this business is so subjective, but I actually preferred the previous 250 for Zone Tripper, because it helped me to instantly pull for the character as I felt his pain. I also found the query a bit more difficult to follow this round, in part because of the word repeats, but also because it felt less streamlined than the earlier version. I get that you are trying to explain more of the story, but I think you may be trying to explain too much. The concept of a grieving widow now doing anything he can to save his only daughter was very compelling and relatable even in this alternate world setting, and I didn't get as much sense for that in this version.

      On the other hand Color Blind DOES have that relatable alternate world. We can instantly identify with this story because we can understand the class barriers perfectly, and how they often have a lot to do with the color of our skin (not just our hands), so I love that this sounds like it has some important commentary on diversity masked in an entertaining storyline. The voice in the first 250 assures me this won't be a preachy commentary, but a subtle one. I was sucked right in.

    6. Victory to COLORBLIND. I loved the improved query, and over all I connected better to the voice.

      This was such a hard match-up!!! I really loved both queries and both first 250. Both queries have improved so much and cleared up confusion. Great work!

    7. Victory to COLORBLIND

      This was hard match up, both are wonderful premises.

    8. Victory to ZONE TRIPPER.

      I LOVED both of these entries, and although I felt the 250 felt a bit detached from the queries in both of the entries (I liked Zone Tripper's original 250 a BIT better but only because I loved the tension and sadness in it. This new one starts with the action and, honestly, might be better, overall. It's just a personal thing for me).

      In the end, it came down to the main characters and I liked Zone's better; saving the daughter seems like SUCH an emotional journey, and I want to be there for it!

      Two EXCELLENT entries though. GRR!

  2. Zone Tripper, you knocked my socks off. That first 250 is a total transformation! Love the new start. Goodbye telling, hello showing! I love the new detail that he works for the CDC.

    Colorblind, you took away the unlikeable factor from your MC in the query. He went from jerk to hero. "Keeping his hands to himself" Awesome!

    This is hard. Can I vote for both? Victory to ZONE TRIPPER!

  3. Zone Tripper: This is the first time I’ve read this entry, and…WOW! What a premise! That being said, there were a couple things that confused me in the query. One was, how do several soul swaps bring Eve further away from Owen? Does that directly have to do with Humberto’s website or does it mean Humberto swaps out of Eve’s body (because I imagine that’d make it tougher to get Eve back without his online expertise)? I just couldn’t wrap my brain around that part and kept trying to piece it together. I was also a bit confused about the reality show and the zone-tripping serial killer (does that mean he kills zone trippers or that he, himself, is a zone tripper?) and how they tie into everything exactly. Great 250. I’d like to read this one!

    Colorblind: In the query, I’m glad you’re being more concrete about how Bruno kills somebody, but it still reads a little confusingly to me. Why would he kill the guard, even if accidentally? Wouldn’t he be trying to defend himself against the Green boy intruder? I feel it’s still a little too vague there. Also excellent 250, however.

    Fantastic job by both entries, and good luck!

  4. Zone Tripper: Your premise sounds amazing and complex. I'd be really interested to see how you execute this! I enjoyed your 250, and I feel like the writing is sold. That said, I have to agree with some of the others that I wasn't really pulled into the story by this opening.

    Colorblind: I agree that your MC is much more likeable and relatable now. I still am a little foggy on how the guard was killed accidentally, but maybe that's not important in the query. I like how your query includes rugby now, so the first page isn't so jarring. I still wish there was a tiny bit in the 250 that made us know from the beginning that this is SF.


  5. It's wonderful to see how the mentors have helped both entries! This would be a tough vote for me but I'd give the victory to Zone Tripper.

    TRIPPER: Your query is excellent and the premise is outstanding. I would read that book! But the first 250 didn't pull me in ... it felt like the author was giving us backstory on who Owen is. Even starting with the intern's revelation would make it more intense.

    COLORBLIND: I also love the premise here. But I think you can just start with the ass slap instead of the three rules of rugby. Something like (but you can do better!):

    When I felt the sharp smack across by butt, in the hall of all places, I whipped around to see which of my idiotic rugby mates was going to get a bloody nose for taking that time-honored tradition off the pitch.

  6. Zone Tripper-- Really interesting unique premise, seems like there's a lot going on with your story. I feel like your query have a lot going on-- there's so much plot there I feel like you could even cut out the reality TV info for the query. Also certain things, like how often Eve's body is mentioned and 'forced to face the fact' tripped me up a little. But the idea of a serial killer is very intriguing.

    Colorblind-- I love the idea of him having to go on the run and making a choice between his new life and his old. I thought the query spelled it out pretty clearly, although the mixing of hands so easily still seems a little to easy for me. And I think your first 250 you don't really need the rules of rugby and can skip straight into the action.

    Interesting stuff, good luck to both of you!

  7. I liked both of these even before this round and damn, you both tightened things up great!

    Zone Tripper: I agree with much of what has been written above. I would definitely read on because of the premise and I expect to get some action soon.

    Colorblind: I will always like the premise of a character trying to better understand himself, especially in the context of class systems and judging others.

    Good luck to you both!