The Writer's Voice

This is part of a blogfest that's part of a contest and it's all explained here. It's run by four popular writer-bloggers and I was lucky to secure slot 149 out of 175. It's a writer-eat-writer world out there. Rawr.

Anyway, Drivers:

Ash arrives in a foreign country to begin an exciting, high-stakes job. He’s young and inexperienced, but his new employer sought out and recruited him because of one important qualification—Ash is suicidal.

He’ll be inside an armed robotic vehicle that’s supposed to be unmanned and autonomous. Ash will ride until the artificial intelligence reaches its limits, and then because his boss oversold the robots’ abilities, he’ll be given control to drive and fire the weapons.

It’s meant to be Ash’s last suicide attempt, but he just isn’t any good at dying. He survives the first mission.

One other driver also makes it back, a girl named Zephyr. As Ash gets to know her, his perspective changes. There were so many reasons to die, but one reason to live might overrule them all.

Unfortunately, their employer won’t let either of them quit. They know too much. He’d rather see them die than lose a contract. And inside each vehicle is a self-destruct to destroy all evidence of the human drivers if anything goes wrong.

One reason to live is all Ash needs. Actually escaping is a lot more complicated.

And the first page (or so):

I don’t exist anymore. Not as a real person, anyway. I’m more like cargo. Expensive cargo, with my own guard and a corporate jet. The steps down to the tarmac are steep but sturdy. The sky arches overhead, splashed with clouds. A city squats nearby, skyscrapers reaching. And the air smells foreign.

I’m not a prisoner, exactly. I’m an employee. My first day on the job has been everything they promised—exciting, new, well-paying. My last day on the job is less than a week away, though they’re not certain exactly when. That’s too bad, because I’d really like to know when I’m going to die. Mostly, I just want to get through the days until then.

My guard hands a passport to another man who must be airport security. 

“Ash Palmer,” he mutters, glancing up at me. I guess it’s my passport. This ain’t normal airport security. There’s no metal detector, no customs, not even a desk. Just the one guy who writes something in a book and doesn’t bother stamping passports.

There were three others like me on the plane, each with his—or her—own guard. Mine looks like Yul Brynner: bald, sharp jaw line, intense manner. He collects the passports of the two recruits who went through security first, drops them into a small vinyl pouch with mine, and waits for the girl behind me.

She’s the only girl. The guards, security guy, and the other recruits are all men. I suppose that applies to me as well, though I’m still more comfortable with “boy.” And she looks about my age—college dropout age. Old enough to die for her country, but too young to be taken seriously.

She doesn’t look suicidal.

“Zephyr Petralia,” the security guy says. 


  1. I like the first paragraph of your first 250. Great description of who he is.

    I won't be rejecting your query, of course it doesn't matter what I think since I'm no agent. :) Good luck!

  2. Best of luck Ben! This is bound to be fun! : )

  3. You've got a great voice, Ben! GL! - Katherine (#94)

  4. I want you! You know how much I love DRIVERS, and even in a sea of queries, this one still stands out. Great voice, great concept.

    (That said, if another coach picks you, too, and you want a fresh perspective, don't feel like you're going to offend me if you decide you want to go with someone else. I wouldn't blame the others for seeing the promise in DRIVERS:) )

  5. This is really great. Your writing sucked me right in and your query is excellent! Good luck, although looks like Krista already picked ya, which is awesome!!!

  6. Nabbed! Nice! Good luck! Brandi #199

  7. Great query and fabulous hook. Good luck with the contest!

  8. Congrats getting picked, awesome story idea! Good luck throughout the competition! -April, #61

  9. This is seriously impressive. Compelling concept, and your excerpt cuts to the chase. Best of luck with this!

  10. I really liked your first 250! Drew me in right away. Congrats on being picked. Good luck as this continues! WVC #28

  11. Hi Ben, I'm visiting your blog from the Writer's Voice Contest (entry #58), and I wanted to wish you the best of luck! I'm also now your newest follower, so: nice to meet you!

  12. I LOVE THIS!!! I am not prone to using either such flowery language, or caps, so that should tell you something. I also hear you about the agents, just between you and I they are all – without exception – complete idiots…
    Oh wait a second, I must modify that last sentence – there are in fact four exceptions, the judges of this contest, and one who won my heart with a rejection letter that showed she had actually read my submission.
    Your writing shows real humor, something I completely lack, and a very interesting premise, which immediately leaves me wondering if the robot’s manufacturer has been up-front about the protagonist’s chances of survival.
    Keep at it, this will find an agent – and then… well, then there might be six agents with brains – but I’m betting on the number staying at five :).
    Good luck!

  13. Very interesting concept.


    Tina (#194)

  14. Congratulations on getting picked! The concept is very intriguing, and that line in your query - "It’s meant to be Ash’s last suicide attempt, but he just isn’t any good at dying." - is a killer. Love it.

  15. Sounds like a trip! I liked it a lot!

    Good luck in the contest!

    Summer - #40

  16. I love this book. I also LOVE the first few pages. Good luck :-)

  17. Cool premise! I love the writing and the query just pulled me in. Congrats!

    -Sarah #146

  18. Congrats on getting picked!

    ~Nicole, entry 68

  19. Congratulations! Can't tell you how badly I want to read this book! #163

  20. This is great, Ben! :) Congratulations on getting picked!

  21. Thank you all for your comments and well-wishes. I don't really think it's a writer-eat-writer world out there. This is the best online community I've seen. (Not sure I can say the same for the coaches...;)

    I'm still working on reading everyone else's entries.

  22. Yeah Ben! Congrats on getting picked. I would wish you luck, but now we're competitors. Go Team Cupid! ;)

  23. I think I've seen your query somewhere else, and I remember it because it is AWESOME. Good luck and GO TEAM KRISTA!

  24. You had me after the first paragraph!
    Great job!
    Go Team Krista!


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