Friday, September 21, 2007

Synopsis 4

The throne is empty, and the kingdom of Norida has been ruled by KOBRI for the last twelve years. RICA, a young commoner, is practicing sword work [Is that what they called it in days of yore?] when SANO, a heavenly being, indicates that the MOST HIGH has chosen her as the next ruler. [Indicates? Like with sign language? Pantomime?]

[Abbot and Costelllo's classic Most High routine:

Sano: Yo, Rica. You've been chosen ruler of Norida.

Rica: Chosen by who?

Sano: The Most High.

Rica: He'd have to be the most high to choose me. What's his name?]

Sano: The Most High.

Rica: Yes.

Sano: That's his name.

Rica: Who?

Sano: The Most High.

Rica: And his name is what?

Sano: No. It's the Most High.

Rica: The Most High what?

Sano: That's his name. And I'm going to recommend that he make another choice.]

[Why has the Most High waited 12 years to choose a new ruler?]

[Do all the gods have such descriptive names? Is there a Most Boring, Least Tall, Second-Most High, etc.? It would be better to give them numbers, like on The Prisoner.]


Kobri tells Rica that Lord KANTO may be abusing his power. [What is Kanto's power?] Rica commands him to investigate these rumors, but Kobri twists her words to prevent the investigation. When Rica attempts to investigate the rumors herself, two men try to kill her. Kobri urges Rica to arrest Lord Kanto for the attack, but she refuses.

The evidence actually suggests that her high officials and members of her army were behind the attack, and Rica worries that they might try again. [One gets the impression that when the Most High chooses a ruler, Most People couldn't care less. Doesn't the Most High have the power to kill those who refuse to accept the chosen ruler?] She escapes the palace in disguise and hires on as a cargo caravan guard in hopes of finding out what is really going on in her kingdom. During her travels, Rica hears rumors that Lord DARRIS, Kobri’s nephew, regularly breaks the law.

Rica leaves the caravan to investigate these rumors. She immediately discovers that Kobri illegally ordered Lord Kanto arrested for the assassination attempt, but that Kanto’s men rescued him. Then Darris’ soldiers attempt to arrest a nearby stranger, and Rica helps the stranger’s bodyguards get him to safety. The stranger explains that his son killed the previous king on Darris’ and Kobri’s orders. Kanto’s men are escorting him to the Queen to testify in the hope that she will arrest them. [I need a scorecard to keep up with this. Anyone who was still with you up to that paragraph has just abandoned you. Except EE, of course. Onward, through the fog.]

Since Rica no longer controls the royal army, she marches back to Darris’ palace determined take him down by herself. [Her and what army?] Some of Kanto's men follow Rica. [Ah. Kanto's army.] They think she may be a spy for Darris returning to report on them. When Rica instead rescues a woman from Darris' unwanted attentions, they decide to help her. The leader of an underground rebel movement against Darris also helps her escape. [Seriously. Consider attaching a scorecard to this synopsis when submitting it.]

Kanto and his forces join with Rica and the rebels to attack Darris' palace. But just hours after Darris is captured, the royal army appears outside the palace demanding that the rebels surrender. Rica goes out to confront them and shows proof that she is the queen. [The document of authenticity Sano gave her, signed by the High Guy.] The army is shocked to find her there--they thought they had been acting under her orders. Rica orders the army back to the capital to arrest Kobri and later sentences Kobri and Darris to death.


Revised Version

A heavenly messenger appears in the kingdom of Norida and declares that Rica, a young commoner, has been chosen as the next ruler. The kingdom has been ruled by Kobri for the last twelve years, ever since the previous king was assassinated.

Rica has heard rumors of widespread corruption among the leadership, and when she sets out to investigate, two men attempt to kill her. Kobri accuses his rival, Lord Kanto, of the assassination attempt, but evidence suggests that Rica's high officials and soldiers were responsible. Worried that they'll try again, she slips out of the palace in the night.

Disguised as a caravan guard, Rica travels about the kingdom seeking the truth. She discovers that Kobri has illegally arrested Lord Kanto for the assassination attempt. She also learns that Kobri and his nephew Darris were behind the assassination of the previous king.

As Rica marches to Darris’s palace, determined to take him down, she is joined by Lord Kanto's men and by members of an underground rebel movement. Darris is easily overpowered and captured . . . but the royal army appears outside the palace demanding that the rebels surrender. Rica confronts them; the soldiers are shocked to find they've been sent by Kobri to strike against their queen. Rica orders them back to the capital to arrest Kobri, and when she later sentences Kobri and Darris to death, Norida can close the books on a troubled period in her history.


If anything, this seemed more confusing than it did in Face-Lift 329.
Too many names, too many subplots.

I still don't get the point of the Most High appointing the ruler if the choice isn't respected. Surely the villains can't get the entire army to follow them instead of the chosen one.

If someone tells you they want a longer synopsis, tell them that's your plot and you're sticking to it.

12 comments:

author said...

Moral of this exercise: don't try to remove ~150 words from your synopsis with only 1 hour remaining to submit and hope it will make any sense when you're done. *sigh* Yet another reason to check EE's blog every day, no matter what.

EE, since you keep asking: the Most High doesn't blast the bad guys because he doesn't need to. He put Rica there because he knows Rica will take care of it. So why should he bother? You'll also be...relieved to know that I took Sano and the Most High and pretty much everyone out of the query letter. Just to confuse people, here's my latest query letter. It probably still sucks, though I tried to make it simple "but hinting at complexity."

Rica is a common mercenary who is thrust into a deadly situation when she is chosen as the next queen of Norida. High Minister Kobri believes that Rica will be easy to manipulate and that he will remain the true power in Norida as he has been for the last twelve years. He is wrong.

Rica is determined to make her own decisions, even if it kills her--and it looks like it might. Kobri isn't content with second place, and there's more on the line than just power. A rival lord is attempting to expose Kobri's involvement in the assassination of the previous king in the hopes that Rica will arrest Kobri. Will Rica survive these intrigues, keep her throne, and bring her enemies to justice?


Is this really enough description? Darris is also a major player (involving about half of the book), and he isn't easy for Rica to defeat. Yet if I add any more information, things just seem to get muddled. Which makes covering Darris and associated events in the synopsis difficult.

EE, thanks for pointing out my synopsis problems. I do appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Let's change your first sentence because off the jump you make her passive.

Rica is a common mercenary who is thrust into a deadly situation when she is chosen as the next queen of Norida.

How about:

Rica, a common mercenary, faces a deadly situation now that she. is in line to be Queen of Norida

BuffySquirrel said...

Obviously the Most High has been waiting for Rica to be old enough :).

I found this very confusing--too many names spring up--and by the end I had, as EE predicted, given up. I think there's the core of something here, and EE made a fair stab at making sense of it. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

As a reader I would like to have a sense of why this is all happening now.

Why was Rica chosen after 12 years rather than immediately after the assassination. If she was too young, surely there'd have been a way for powerful heavenly beings to organize an interim monarch. They must have known how bad it would be for Norida to leave the throne vacant.

What does Norida have now? Bad government. What will Norida have if Rica fails? Bad government. It would be nice if she won, but there isn't really a threat of anything particularly bad happening if she doesn't.

Evil Editor said...

Did EE forget to color a couple of his comments

Fixed.

Wonderwood said...

Hey, author, I like your query much better than the synopsis. I think if you change the very first sentence, as suggested by anon 4:30, you've got a pretty kick ass query. Maybe try to put that same sense of urgency into the synopsis, and follow EE's template and you'll have a kick ass synopsis, too. Good luck, it sounds like a cool story.

Phoenix said...

The tone of your query is good. But I question what your hook is. What else is on the line other than power? The rival lord wants Rica to arrest her second in command who seems to be plotting against her anyway ... so that's the big intrigue? What are the stakes? What's unique about your story of rather tame-sounding court intrigue?

The synopsis has me wondering what Sano's role is other than to proclaim Rica queen. I'm hoping you don't come out and say as you put in your comment that he makes her queen 'cause he knows she'll take care of things. That removes the suspense for the reader, too. Having Sano and The Most High front and center in the synopsis makes me think there will be more heavenly involvement, but that thread just peters out after the first paragraph.

Rica likes to investigate rumors herself, doesn't she? Not sure how well she'll do as a ruler in any court full of intrigue. She'll be off chasing rumors at the drop of a hint. Dangle a bright, shiny rumor in front of her and she's gone...

I'm afraid I'm still looking for what's different about your story in your synopsis, too. The heavenly being and the Most High sounded promising as the hook, but when you got away from them, well, what's left that makes this fantasy?

Anonymous said...

[I need a scorecard to keep up with this. Anyone who was still with you up to that paragraph has just abandoned you. Except EE, of course. Onward, through the fog.]

EE, you read my mind...and I didn't give up reading it...but my brain did give up trying to understand it.

~Moth

Lexi said...

Hi Author (what an amazing coincidence they named you this and you turned out to be a writer!)

I really like your query letter; it's snappy and caught my interest.

I agree with wonderwood about getting more of the essence of this into your synopsis.

author said...

Okay, is this re-write of the synopsis any clearer/better? It's still 400 words long.

--

Twelve years ago, Lord Kobri was named the Chancellor of Norida. Spurred on by his nephew's lust for power, he uses the knowledge entrusted to him as Chancellor to instruct an assassin how to get around the safe-guards bestowed upon the king by Norida's god. The King is dead, long live the... But there isn't another King. No one understands why their god doesn't immediately choose a new ruler. Kobri now fears openly declaring himself King and his nephew his heir, so he settles into ruling Norida as Chancellor instead. Kobri's rule isn't cruel, and many people start to forget that anything is wrong. But Kobri has angered a god, and justice won't wait forever.

Rica is a common mercenary, someone used to taking orders. She's as shocked as everyone else when Sano, a heavenly being that takes on the form of a panther, finally appears and indicates that she is the next Queen. Kobri consoles himself with the belief that Rica will be easy to manipulate because of her youth and that he will remain the true power in Norida. But he is wrong. Rica is determined to make her own decisions.

Then Lord Kanto, a rival lord, finds proof of Kobri's involvement in the regicide. Kobri learns of this before Rica does and desperately attempts to have Rica assassinated before she can see the proof and arrest him. The assassination fails. Kobri tries to frame Kanto instead, but the planted evidence is weak. Rica realizes that the evidence really points toward Kobri, her other high officials, and possibly even her army as the ones trying to kill her. She flees the palace in fear for her life and travels as a caravan guard to hide her whereabouts.

As she travels, she investigates her lords and discovers the truth about Kobri and his nephew, Darris, who is now a lord. Since she no longer commands the royal army, she recruits help from Kanto to defeat Darris in his fortified palace. They win after a hard fight and finally capture Darris. Success! Then the Royal Army shows up. They demand that the "rebels" release Darris and surrender. Rica confronts the army with Sano at her side. The soldiers are shocked to find they've been sent by Kobri to strike against their queen. Rica orders them back to the capital to arrest Kobri and later sentences Kobri and Darris to death.

author said...

To answer questions previously asked:

What does Norida have now? Bad government. What will Norida have if Rica fails? Bad government. It would be nice if she won, but there isn't really a threat of anything particularly bad happening if she doesn't.

Um, Anonymous 4:37 PM, if Rica loses, she ends up dead. I think that qualifies as "anything particularly bad happening"...at least, in her view. And the story is in her viewpoint.

Phoenix said: The heavenly being and the Most High sounded promising as the hook, but when you got away from them, well, what's left that makes this fantasy?

That's my greatest frustration. I have a number of fantastic elements in the story, but there's no way to explain them without raising more questions than I can explain in 400 words or less. So they get dropped out, and the story ends up sounding rather mundane. The fantasy elements are:

1) Sano appears in the form of a panther and can't speak, so he really does indicate that she is the queen. He then lurks around invisible (well, incorporeal) and only appears when needed to protect the ruler from assassins and to kill her if she screws up too badly. (Beheading people who annoy her would qualify as screwing up, BTW.) But Sano isn't all-knowing and he has difficulty communicating what he does know.

2) Once chosen as a ruler, the Most High makes that ruler stop aging for the next 1,000 years. So Norida's monarchs could rule for 1,000 years, but Sano or a sneaky assassin tends to kill them off before they reach that mark. The ruler also heals rapidly from injury, but sometimes it's not rapid enough. It's also hard to hide who you are if you happen to heal right in front of somebody.

3) The royal sword is also nifty in that it never needs to be sharpened, but Rica finds out that lugging around a magical sword has some major drawbacks.

The first two fantasy elements drive why the action happens as it does--why Kobri doesn't declare himself king, why he hires other people to assassinate the rulers, why Sano hasn't killed Kobri, why 12 years of waiting aren't that long (in the grand scheme of things), etc. But, again, I can't figure out how to explain them and the story in only 400 words. At best, I can hint at them.

To answer other questions: Rica initially has no idea that her government is corrupt or why the Most High selected her. "Why her and only her" is answered throughout the story. Yes, she does tend to be a rather hands-on type of gal, but part of her problem is that she's never commanded anyone before. She has to learn how to be a commander/ruler and leave stuff like that to others. There's also the small element that the people who are supposed to be doing the investigating for her are trying to kill her instead. So what's a girl to do? Do it herself, of course.

TO EVERYONE ELSE, thanks for the comments, re-writes, etc.

Evil Editor said...

The revised version has only about 250 words, so there's room to bring in some of the fantastical elements.

Many have been annoyed by the 400-word limit. If you send a query letter alone, it usually contains a 150 to 200-word synopsis. If you feel that's insufficient to hook an editor, you might send a brief cover letter along with a synopsis, which would likely be 300 - 400 words.

If an agent writes to you and requests a synopsis, she'll usually let you know how detailed she wants it. Could be a page and a half, could be 25 pages.

My feeling is that the people who come here because they find it useful will come no matter what the length, but the people who come because it's entertaining may disappear if I start posting 1000-word synopses of unpublished novels. No one ever said a synopsis made for good reading.

Think of me as an editor who wants 300 - 400-word synopses. You send me what I want, but if you don't like that version, you send a longer version to other editors and agents. It's like this is a writing exercise. Can you get it into 400 words? It's a challenge, but if the answer is no, it's no big deal.