Today, I’ll critique a few more starts for synopses, but I think you all are getting the hang of things now. So be thinking of what you’d like to discuss next. Leave a comment with a question.
Janice posted this beginning:
It’s 1856. Orphaned, Charlie Cooper is forced into an apprenticeship under a heavy-handed blacksmith. He flees Clio, Virginia, vowing to someday return to claim his young sister, Emmeline, from the guardianship of their austere aunt. Penniless, he is befriended by an old trapper, who bequeaths Charlie a treasure map that leads him to the mysterious book of Proverbs.
Charlie throws himself into finding prosperity and riches the only way he knows how, through the words of King Solomon. Proverbs’ repeated instructions to “My son,” chaff Charlie’s soul– his papa abandoned him when he needed him most. He tries to ignore the gnawing desire for a parent’s love, while battling the enmity of rival David Kent. Charlie’s heart longs for the God who is a Father to the fatherless.
Four years later, Charlie learns his papa has returned to Aunt Martha’s. Emmeline pleads with Charlie to come home, but he clings to his anger toward his papa and remains bitter toward Aunt Martha. Finally, the taunting words of Proverbs send him home. As he works to restore his relationship with his papa, words of southern secession put a chill in the air. A business trip into Kentucky turns tragic when they are attacked by Confederate guerrillas, and Charlie’s papa is murdered. The tension between Aunt Martha and Charlie becomes unbearable, as well as the desire to seek vengeance against his papa’s killers. He joins the Union Army, but before leaving he seeks the promise of Big Ed, a family friend, to guard and protect Emmeline. Again vowing to return to claim her.
Randy sez: There’s a story here, but I’m not seeing the scenes clearly. I think this needs a bit more detail. I would guess it expanding it out to be twice as many words would do the trick. Remember to try summarizing a sequence of scenes into a paragraph or so.
Gina posted this beginning for her mystery:
Sixty seconds before going live on the Texas Lyndon University cable show “Archeology Today”, hostess and Archeology Professor, Mari Duggins, learns her first guest is dead. She stumbles through her opening, knowing the casting director at KTXL will be watching. She recovers, but after a practical joke, faints on camera. Humiliated, she believes her chance at her dream job as co-hostess for the network affiliate morning show is ruined.
Mari’s best friend assures her that all things will work together for good and offers to pray with Mari, but Mari refuses. God has never heard her prayers before. Then the casting director at KTXL calls saying she missed the show. Mari can’t believe her luck and entertains the idea that maybe all things will work together for her good.
On her way to class, Mari learns her first guest, Head of Archeology Martin Henderson, might have been murdered. Mari informs the detective that field archaeologist, Fletcher Murdock, was the last one in the green room with Henderson. She doesn’t mention the argument she witnessed before the show between Henderson and fellow archeology professor, Peter Kipling. The two have had a professional rivalry for years, recently fueled by Henderson’s marriage to Kipling’s ex-wife.
Randy sez: Now there’s a strong lead! The entire first paragraph is excellent. Paragraph 2 seems to lose pace though. Gina, you asked if you might have introduced the spiritual thread too early. I’d say yes, and it feels pretty strong too. Might be better to let it emerge more subtly in the synopsis.
Paragraph 3, at first glance, appears to be a repetition of the opening. Then I realized that it’s only in paragraph 3 that we know it’s a murder, as opposed to just any old death. You’ve introduced a couple of the suspects and the story is well on its way to unfolding. Be wary of including too much detail. If you have a lot of paragraphs as detailed as #3, the synopsis is going to be pretty long.
Gina, you asked in a late comment if it’s OK to tell the synopsis a bit out of order so you can group together related scenes. Yes, that’s just fine. That’ll help you cut some words.
Yeggy posted this entry:
Shannon Mckay is 15, a gifted high school student living in a rural suburb of Darwin, Australia. Her one ambition to sing professionally is thwarted when she wakes at Nuselmir’s Keep on the world of N’Arth as the unpopular Princess Rhea.
Her mentor, Nuselmir, informs her that she can not go back to Earth, until she has completed her task on N’Arth. He is adamant about one thing – if she dies on N’arth, she dies.
Three assassination attempts fail, on the third the keep is raised to the ground. With the help of the alien Draghelli, Brghyn, Rhea escapes through a secret passageway with an unconscious Nuselmir, a kitchen boy, her maid, and the unconscious Nuselmir. With her life at stake, small decisions and seemingly inconsequential actions now have big consequences.
Randy sez: OK, we’ve got a fantasy here. What I see in paragraph 1 is a run-on sentence: “Her one ambition to sing professionally is thwarted when she wakes at Nuselmir’s Keep on the world of N’Arth as the unpopular Princess Rhea.”
That’s more than just thwarting her ambition! That’s messing up her life. I’d revise that paragraph as follows:
“Shannon Mckay is 15, a gifted high school student living in a rural suburb of Darwin, Australia. Her one ambition is to sing professionally. After [insert the incident that causes her to switch worlds] she wakes up at Nuselmir’s Keep on the world of N’Arth as the unpopular Princess Rhea.”
In paragraph 3, we’ve got a run-on sentence again. You mention three assassination attempts. Who is doing the attempting, and who is the assassinee? I think it would be good to tell a bit more about each of these attempts, unless they happen really fast. I would think each of them requires a scene (or 2 or 3) to show. So you really need to spell these out in more detail–methods, characters, settings, etc.
All in all, we need to see more details. I need to be able to guess, with a fair degree of accuracy, what scenes are going to be used to write each paragraph.
OK, I think we’ve gone through enough examples. We could go on forever, but it seems to me like we’ve covered the topic and I’m starting to repeat myself.
What’s next for us to talk about? Leave a comment and we’ll switch gears tomorrow.