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[THE COMPETITION] Winner's Submissions
These are pretty, pretty, pretty good...
All right, so let’s jump right into this.
You’ll see that the following pitches are all over the place in terms of location, style, character types, and even genre. On something with as many submission as this that’s to be expected. Some of these are just good, others fall into the category of either wild swings or hyper-precision, which tend to stick out while more generic, repetitive, or sometimes nuanced pitches fade to gray. It’s just how it is.
Here we go:
“On Ordo there are the Great Bibliotekas, Libraries the size of cities” (Sourcebook One, pg168), where millions of people live and work. Assigned by the Institute, the council of Librarians rules one such city, with the Head Librarian highest among them. They work in conjunction with one of the Institutes’ Intelligence Computers and together they maintain the millions of Scholars, Archivists, Clerks, and Pages and all the people who’ve just wondered in and made a home of the place. Things change however when the newly appointed Librarian, covertly working for the Lab, begins to search the City for the forbidden knowledge being hid away by the Judges of the Institute. A cat and mouse game begins between Them and the other Librarians and escalates to a fever pitch when the Librarian finds the actual location in the City where the forbidden knowledge is hidden and a civil war threatens to break out in the Library.
NOTE: Super solid. I’m kind of fascinated to find out if there’s a pitch wrapped inside the pitch. Are we getting a story about what exactly the Lab person is looking for, or is it a McGuffin just to support the characters cat and mouse game (or both)?
The ambitious aristocrats of Heir come and go, but the painter Aleela endures, as does her art - her murals adorn the homes, libraries, and palaces of the princely and the powerful, and her patrons include both highborn nobility and ruthless crime lords. The murals are expensive masterpieces and a mark of prestige; to be Aleela's client is an honor, and some have committed suicide over the shame of the artist rejecting their commissions. But when the King's official arbiter elegantiarum arrives from Fayrii, he discovers that Aleela's murals are more than what they appear, and that the artist's separate works are a connected, subversive vision that challenges the official's dual loyalties to his office and his vocation.
NOTE: This is great. A lot of these (this one included) will probably have notes regarding the mechanics of how specific things work (here, I’m talking about how the King’s arbiter who shows up from Fayrii might work) when we get the full pitches in.
This is the story of the Graverunner, a specialist in acquiring so-called "magical artifacts.” Currently, the Graverunner has been hired to steal from someone's private, "don't-tell-the-Institute-about-this!" collection, their inner monologue informing us that while they don't *personally* believe in magic, the money’s good and the *thrills* are better, so who cares? The job is a success (minus a few bruises and laser burns) and the Graverunner hands the item--a mysterious, glowing flower--over to their buyer…only for the buyer to reveal themselves as an agent of the Institute! A scuffle ensues that ends with the Graverunner being shunted into the vacuum of space, their helmet cracked but the flower still in their possession. As the Graverunner panics and believes this is the end, the flower starts to glow, its pollen filling their helmet and drifting around their body like a bubble of stars. The Graverunner realizes their oxygen levels are *rising,* the cracks in their suit repaired, and they drift through space, watching the pollen with eyes full of wonder.
NOTE: This is good. Very clean. Being able to recognize and write at scale is big problem in the industry right now (what’s a one-issue story, what’s a five-issue story, what’s a twenty-issue story, etc?). This pitch feels perfect for the real estate. I do think that ‘graverunner’ isn’t a ‘title’ that doesn’t fit the universe, but that’s a five minute fix at some point during the process. Good job.
Ceilid was raised from childhood by the Filth Priests on Akva, then escaped as a teen to follow her true calling: music. Now she ekes out a living as a player for the house band at a Syndicate bar on Heir. But the band’s frontperson, Phox, has greater aspirations. When Phox figures out a way to hack the Harmonio algorithm to make more money from their songs, the band finds themselves thrust into stardom, and soon receives a special invitation to do a high-profile performance on the The Drift — forcing Ceilid to choose between returning home, or facing the wrath of the Syndicate that’s banking on the band’s success.
NOTE: This is another one where I think the mechanics might need to be tweaked (I’m not sure how a high-profile performance on the Drift would work, but I could see how that would work with one of the two religious orders, especially if the algorithm Phox hacks in some way circles back to her origin). Regardless, this is really fun.
Gadshill, an experienced performing escape artist for the elite of Therra, has been given the challenge of a lifetime: he’s been hired by Institute big-wig Philippi Rouen to disguise himself as this man and escape. Escape the job, the marriage, the social calendar -- everything. Gadshill quickly recognizes that with the constant surveillance and a packed agenda, this might be one of his toughest performances yet. But as the joys of power sink in and the actual Rouen grows frantic for this job to be finished, Gadshill soon begins to consider… why not just stay?
NOTE: Well, this is just a layup. Can’t wait to read the outline.
Five hundred years ago, the greatest heist in history lit the Solsistemo on fire, causing a major disruption to the balance of power. Despite all worlds on high alert, a lean crew of nine outfoxed everyone they rubbed up against, through feats still considered impossible by today’s technology. Those involved were never seen again and the loot was never recovered. Many have theorized how they did it and some ventured to find the lost treasure, but to no avail. As the eras passed, fact rusted into legend which then corroded into fairy dust. Today, the story exists as a mere fiction with little truth remaining, until a low-rank Therran librarian and a bumbling Fayrii exile stumble upon information that reveals a centuries-long conspiracy to hide what exactly was stolen and where it could be. They set out on an adventure, unaware that their actions will once again light the Solsistemo on fire.
NOTE: To say that this is in line with all the things we talked about when coming up for the idea of the 3W3M is a massive understatement. Indiana Jones/National Treasure in a weirdo science/magic universe is pitch perfect. Nice.
When 12-year-old Bridjo and her parents relocate from Ordo to Therra, their arrival coincides with an anti-Institute uprising in the region. Her father’s hometown of Sumtuar, loud, proud hereditary weavers to the royal houses of Fayrii, long ago told The Institute where they could shove their synthetic cochineal and automated looms. But the historic Luddite simmer has been coming to a boil since the recent ban on certain embroidered patterns and dyed motifs traditionally believed to hold talismanic powers of protection, intimidation, charisma or good fortune. Oblivious to all this on the first day at her new school, Bridjo can’t figure out why her understated plaid draws such ire. The taunts escalate – “Gridjo”, “gridiot”, “square”, “flatback” – until she finds her locker torched and marked with ancient symbols and the graffiti “Ordo girls are fridgrid.” As her parents fight over whether to send her to boarding school back on Doc Rock, Bridjo asks why they can’t just spend the money on a new wardrobe so she can fit in. But in the clothyards of Sumtuar, nothing is off-the-rack. The extended ritual of tailoring an ensemble requires the client to undergo a vision quest tracing the metamorphosis of the wild-silk moth. Maybe it’s just theatrics to justify the price (which the Harmonio algorithm jacks up still further), or maybe it’s a therapeutic placebo effect for self-fulfilling self-confidence. And maybe Bridjo is just hallucinating from the snail-dye rinse-water tea when she overhears operatives from The Bank in the next room, commissioning costumes for a Carnival crew and discussing how much forbidden symbology is enough to lure The Institute into a crackdown and spark a Sumtuar revolt.
NOTE: Very solid, in-universe stuff here. This is in the weeds enough that I’m super intrigued, but it’s also in the weeds enough that I think it’s going to be difficult to have enough escape velocity story-wise. Really, really interested in reading this outline.
Halbeth and Swiftt hold the record for the longest-running Heir duel on record, going on four years now. Both exiles always remain steps ahead of their respective assassins, fleeing across the worlds under aliases. This is because they’re secretly feeding each other information on their assassins. It’s a long con: As long as they’re still in the middle of one duel, nobody can challenge them to a new one, and they’re in no danger in this one as long as they cooperate. They’ve found an escape from the deadly great game they were born into. Sure, they can’t stay in one place, but that’s okay; they love to travel and they have all the secretly-funneled money they need. Everything’s great… as long as neither of them betrays. But surely that won’t happen. They’ve been friends since childhood. It can’t happen. Can it? They live their lives in constant paranoia, wondering if this is the day the other doesn’t hold his end of the bargain, the day the assassin shows up at the door. Always worrying, always scared. Always always always. The only thing they’ve escaped into is a hell of their own making.
NOTE: Wonderful. And by the way, three pitches you submitted made the cut to 40. I was only ever going to allow one per person for this round, but you’re clearly good at this. Let’s see how you do going forward.
A classic meet-cute: An exiled prince from the planet Fayrii falls in love with an assassin on the moon of Heir. He meets her over the body of his dead cousin, another exiled royal. Luckily, he didn’t like his cousin that much. It’s love at first sight and things are going great until the assassin is hired to kill the young prince.
NOTE: This is the kind of thing that’s a perfect single serving, or if there’s an amazing secondary story where they both have risk can make a very interesting single season of a TV show, but no matter what it never works as an ongoing because you have to break it over and over for dramatic reasons and it kills the illusion. So I’ll never understand why the industry has stopped making movies like this. Which, I’ll admit, has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re doing here, but everything to do with why I picked this one. I really like this one.
Jarod Rhys Pratt
Bullet Train meets Training Day on a Vojogonto. It’s Damoja’s first week on the job after taking her vow to serve as a watchguard with The Kuratori Majestic, and already the proverbial shit has hit the fan. Word has come down from on high that a thief has smuggled a mysterious and powerful artifact from The Institute aboard, and various colorful assassins - from the terrifying and remorseless Institute Man to a Fayrii musician with weaponized songs - are wreaking havoc across the living city to be the first to lay claim to it. Alongside her jaded, veteran partner, Damoja must outwit the assassins and find the smuggler before the artifact falls into the wrong hands.
NOTE: Well, this is pretty much a Bullet Train synopsis, so when you offer the mashup with Training Day, I hope you mean more than just the ‘partner/cop’ aspect and are implying the kind of tone you’re going for. Hope, hope. Either way, super solid.
A lone asteroid floats between Therra and Ordo, an unforgettable nomad except for the ornate sword that juts from its surface. The Institute knows of it, etchings of a religious nature on its hilt, and is quick to write it off as a private memorial from a forgotten and inconsequential era. For Stellan, it is a beacon, a lure to the promise of acceptance he has searched for all his life. Held down at the Institute for his outside-the-box mindset that religion and science have always spoken the same language, Stellan will risk life and limb to prove that the sword is more than just space junk, and that there is more to himself than Society tells him there is.
NOTE: Really, really, really interested in seeing the outline for this. So many interesting ways to skin this one. Well done.
Again, really great job by everyone. The deadline to get these one-page outlines in is going to be APRIL 7. This is a week later than I originally intended but it took me longer to get through these than planned (we did have a lot).
There is no real ‘format’ for doing an outline (and if I can be completely honest, I find ‘this is how you outline a story if you want to write a good script’ people to be a little too formalist for my liking), but what I can offer you is a method for how to write the best version of ‘your’ outline.
You have four weeks, which breaks down cleanly as:
Week one: Don’t write the outline. Make notes, think about it, take more notes, think about it some more, but don’t write it down.
Week two: Write the outline. Then put it in a drawer.
Week three: Think about what you wrote but do not read it. Leave it in the drawer. Take notes, write down ideas. But don’t read it.
Week four: Read it. Then hate yourself for an hour, get over it, then fix it.
Okay. Off you go. Great job and best of luck.