Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Synopsis 6

GARWAF is set in the Middle Ages, a time when handsome knights, damsels in distress and Big Bad Wolfs [Wolfs?] roamed the countryside. In this story, though, the handsome knight is the Big Bad Wolf, not to mention the one in dire distress.

GABRIEL was once the bravest knight in the land- before the woman he loved cursed him. Reduced to naught but a beast, Gabriel is trapped as a wolf with only the limits of his forest as a boundary from the human world that has cast him off. [Does being turned into a wolf by one woman equate with being cast off by the entire human world?] Gabriel knows if he stays a wolf much longer, he will lose his mind.

ISABEAU [isn't a beau.] (Beau) is a noblewoman who would rather discuss classical literature with a man than listen to his war stories or let him make love to her. She is all set to disappear into a convent [She won't be discussing classical literature with many men in a convent.] when an uncanny wolf tumbles into her life, giving her a reason to stay in the secular world and, perhaps, a chance at love. [I'm not letting any man make love to me, but I must admit, this wolf is quite the hunk.]

REYNARD is a ruthless knight with a nasty temper and a penchant for violence. Having helped his new wife, ALISON, betray her first husband, Gabriel, this villain is not pleased when tidings reach him of the wolf. [Is Gabriel the only wolf in the kingdom? Unless he's a talking wolf, I don't see how Reynard can assume it's Gabriel.] Reynard will lose everything if Sir Gabriel ever appears again as anything other than a wolf.

[Messenger: Sir Reynard, the king has captured a wolf.

Reynard: Hmm. Was it wearing armor and carrying a sword?]

Gabriel and Beau are initially drawn to one another after the king finds the wolf while hunting. Gabriel tries to avoid Beau, having vowed never to trust a woman again after what his wife did to him. Stress and loneliness take their toll, and Gabriel becomes all wolf, a danger to everyone around him. Beau is the only one able to pull him out of it. After this incident, Gabriel grows to love Beau. He longs to declare himself to Beau- even as he knows he cannot. [You call him Gabriel even when he's a wolf. Who's Garwaf?]

Reynard drives a wedge between the two by convincing Beau that Gabriel is still in love with Alison. Heart-broken, Beau flees and Reynard follows her with evil intent. [Some guy somehow manages to keep a straight face while telling you that the wolf you're in love with is in love with another woman, and you flee? How would Reynard know which woman the wolf loves?] The wolf thwarts him, but not before Beau is injured. Enraged, Gabriel returns to his old home and confronts Alison. She tells Gabriel how he can regain his humanity and with the coming of the dawn he is human again. [Apparently the cure was administered overnight; I guess Beau wasn't the only woman who found the wolf hunky.] He kills Reynard in a duel and rides with all haste to claim Beau as his bride. They are married at the end of the novel and live happily ever after.


I would think that in medieval times, if you land a guy who's not a plague-ridden, toothless, rag-wearing hunchback, you'd never let him go. Yet Alison is married to the bravest knight in the land and dumps him for a ruthless knight with a nasty temper and a penchant for violence?

And where did she get the ability to turn people into wolves? What is she?

Reynard must always be a fox in literature. Does he exhibit fox-like characteristics?

Someone started it and it caught on, but I've never been big on capitalizing character names.

This has the same format as the previous synopsis, A little about each character followed by no more plot than I'd get in a query letter. Why not work the character info into something with a narrative flow, i.e.

GABRIEL was the bravest knight in the land--until his wife Alison cursed him, trapping his now-fading mind in the body of a wolf. While hunting in the forest, the king finds the wolf and has it brought to his castle, where he entrusts its care to Isabeau, a noblewoman. Isabeau has grown so weary of men and their boring war stories, she's about ready to enter a convent. But this wolf intrigues her; he seems almost human.

Gabriel and Beau are initially drawn to one another, but Gabriel has vowed never to trust a woman again after what his wife did to him. Besides, he's a wolf. Stress and loneliness take their toll, and Gabriel's humanity ebbs. Beau is the only one able to pull him out of his wolfiness. He longs to declare himself to Beau- even as he knows he cannot.

REYNARD, a ruthless knight with a penchant for violence, has married Alison. Having helped her betray Gabriel, Reynard is not pleased when tidings reach him of the wolf. Reynard will lose everything if Sir Gabriel ever regains human form.


This gets your character profiles in, but also takes you through part of the plot, leaving you plenty of room to embellish those paragraphs and to develop the last paragraph, which moves too fast from event to event. You can tell us how Gabe is returned to manliness, add some details about the duel, etc, and still come in under 400 words.


16 comments:

150 said...

Aww, I liked it better when he bit her nose off. :)

Your first paragraph tips me off that this would be more fantasy than history, which is fine, but less my taste these days. You've said before that it has a historical grounding, though, so I'm not sure you want the fairyland elements to be the first thing the reader sees.

I have to wonder why Reynard would break Beau's heart and then follow her, rather than killing her right there.

Can Gabriel talk? I'd assume not, but I'm not sure how your plot can progress without it. You might want to let us know either way.

Good luck!

BuffySquirrel said...

You're on form here, EE :). My husband even looked up from his computer to discover why I was laughing so hard.

Isn't Gabriel still married to Alison at the end...?

Anonymous said...

I am strongly reminded of Ladyhawke, a movie starring Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer. Hauer was a wolf at night, Pfeiffer a hawk by day. Pfeiffer's character's name was Ysabeau.

Robin S. said...

"I would think that in medieval times, if you land a guy who's not a plague-ridden, toothless, rag-wearing hunchback, you'd never let him go." Good one. I agree with buffy. Definitely on form.

What is it about wolves that women like? I'm not saying I'm immuned - I mean, I like facial hair, to a point. But there are whiskers and then there are WHISKERS. I'm just asking.

I always felt so sorry for the Lon Chaney werewolf guy.

Anyway..can Gabriel talk? I remember the opening to this, and I liked it. He was thnking quite well there - is he able to verbalize them? Hope so.

Anonymous said...

I don't know; my dog seems to be able to "talk" to me with her yowls and howls. There was a dog on a TV show that said a distinguishable "I love you" some time back.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps he talks like Scooby Doo?

Rabey dabey Gabe!!

Alison said...

I'm wondering why the king ddn't just kill him. Wolf found while hunting = nice warm cloak.

elissa said...

Anon 6:58 said exactly what I was going to. For some reason, the parallels weren't as clear in the query and opening we've already seen. Maybe I'm just more alert this morning.

sboydtaylor said...

Along with Anon 6:58 and Elissa, I thought "Ladyhawk ripoff" the moment I saw a lady named Isabeau and a Wolf in the same story.

Ali said...

I thought your character descriptions were really good. Just enough to intrigue me about each character (except Alison and the king, but I assume they're secondary) and understand their motivation. Nicely done.

In both the query and this synopsis, I end up stuck on the wolf-man details. I'm not clear if there is a physical werewolf-like transformation taking place throughout the novel, or if you're talking about a wolf with the mind of a man, or what.

You say Stress and loneliness take their toll, and Gabriel becomes all wolf. But earlier you said he was trapped as a wolf, and Reynard would lose everything if he ever appeared as Sir Gabriel, which implies that he already was all wolf. The distinction isn't clear to me, which I think takes some of the drama away from what I think you're suggesting is a pretty dramatic plot point. Also not clear when/whether Isabeau knows that Gabriel is really a man. I'm having a hard time picturing this relationship. Maybe a couple of details about how they spend their time together as princess and wolf, and what makes this wolf stand out from all the other wolves, would help me understand the nature of the connection between them.

Lightsmith said...

For the people who say, "this reminds me of Ladyhawke," I can't disagree with you. If you say you were reminded, you were reminded.

However, for anybody who says, "this is a ripoff of Ladyhawke," I strongly disagree. "Ripoff" is a strong term to use - you are basically accusing the author of theft.

Just because two stories have similarities, it doesn't necessarily indicate that the newer one is a ripoff of the older one. We don't even know that the author in this case has even seen the movie Ladyhawke. I mean, Ladyhawke is not exactly the Wizard of Oz, a film most people are familiar with. Ladyhawke was modestly popular in its day, but it wasn't groundbreaking or genre-defining, nor is it now considered a classic, except perhaps by its fans.

More importantly in this case, the elements the author is accused of ripping off are hardly unique to Ladyhawke. Mythology and literature are full of characters who have been magically transformed into animals, including wolves. A little-known fact is that the concept of werewolves actually predates the movie Ladyhawke. ;-)

I think the juxtaposition of the wolf curse and the name Isabeau is mainly what's triggering this reaction from people, but in my experience when someone is actually ripping off someone else's story, the first thing they do is change the characters' names. At least, that's what I do. ;-) The duplication of the name Isabeau actually makes me think this is not a ripoff but just a coincidence.

Sorry if it seems like I'm overreacting, but one of my pet peeves is when people casually throw around the term "ripoff."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to writing my novel about a futuristic amusement park where dinosaurs are brought to life through advanced cloning techniques. I call it "Billy and the Cloneasaurus."*

*ripped off from the Simpsons

Anonymous said...

AUTHOR HERE:

I knew EE was gonna get me on the "Wolfs" typo. I caught it two minutes after I sent it off. *facepalm*

Below is a revised and beefed up synopsis built off EE's frame. I think I addressed most of the problems people were having with the plot. Most of them rose out of me trying to simplify and save on the word count. Anyway, feedback on this new one will be much appreciated.


GABRIEL was the bravest knight in the land- until his wife Alison betrayed him, trapping his now fading mind in the body of a wolf. While hunting in the forest, the king finds the wolf and has it brought to his castle, where he entrusts its care to ISABEAU (Beau), a noblewoman. Isabeau has grown so weary of men and their boring war stories that she's about ready to enter a convent. But this wolf intrigues her; he seems almost human.

Gabriel and Beau are initially drawn to one another, both are lonely and Beau is one of the few at court who seems to understand Gabriel- even though he cannot speak. Gabriel has vowed, however, never to trust a woman again after what his wife did to him. Besides, he's a wolf. Stress and loneliness take their toll, and Gabriel's humanity ebbs. Ultimately, Beau is the only one able to pull him out of it and calm his brutal wolfish urges.

After that, the two become inseparable. She takes to calling the wolf Garwaf, an old word for “werewolf”. On their daily walks through the king’s gardens, Beau begins to put the pieces together of what she knows of her wolf with rumors about Sir Gabriel’s disappearance several years before.

Gabriel, meanwhile, has fallen deeply in love with Beau. He longs to declare himself to Beau- even as he knows he cannot.

REYNARD, a ruthless knight with a penchant for violence, has married Alison. Having helped her betray Gabriel, Reynard is not pleased when tidings reach him of the uncanny wolf at the king’s court. Reynard will lose everything if Sir Gabriel ever regains human form.

Reynard arrives at court and Gabriel viciously attacks him. Beau fears Gabriel will lose himself completely if he does not become human again soon. Reynard manages to convince Beau that Gabriel attacked him to clear the way to Alison. Heart-broken and confused, Beau leaves the castle for a convent. Reynard follows her, intending to brutalize and murder her. The wolf thwarts him, but not before Beau is wounded.

Enraged by his own uselessness, Gabriel returns to his old home and confronts his wife, who has suffered herself for what she has done to him. Dying of leprosy, she gives Gabriel several magic talismans that will return him to his human body.

With the coming dawn Gabriel is transformed back into a man. He kills Reynard in a duel and rides to claim Beau as his bride.

She realizes she has always loved the spirit within Gabriel, even when he was a wolf. They are married at the end of the novel and live happily ever after.

~Moth

Phoenix said...

Hi Moth, I'll be back to comment on your rewrite. Just wanted to weigh in on the name capping and Ladyhawke dialogues.

I have a HUGE problem remembering who's who when first being introduced to characters (or real people, for that matter), and if I forget who someone is in a synopsis, the capping provides either a visual cue for me when I scan back up or a real reminder when I reread where the character is introduced. So I'm a big fan of the name capping when a character is intro'd.

I absolutely love "Ladyhawke," but since I have that problem remembering names (see above), I didn't connect Ysabeau with Ladyhawke because I didn't remember that was Ladyhawke's real name. Never even thought there was any kind of connection between your story and Ladyhawke since your query (or one version at least) indicates it's a retelling of "Bisclavret." And the curse is completely different. I don't think there's a worry there. Some similarities, yes. A few. But, sheesh, look hard enough and you can find similarities between just about any stories.

Anonymous said...

Hi Moth,

Sarah here. I'm going to write comments as I read through your new synopsis.

1. Doesn't smack of Ladyhawke to me and that's one of my favorite movies. Just my 2 cents on that one.

2. Isabeau/Beau - the nickname throws me every time I read it in the query. Any chance you'd consider sticking with her longer name? Isabeau puts me more in mind of medieval times - Arthur type stories.

3. I often have a problem when the tense switches in the middle of a paragraph. Your first paragraph starts in past tense then switches to present. I think you can keep it all present tense.

4. I think it can be tightened up some more and not lose the feel of the story or the information. Some of it is duplicated.

5. 'Stress and loneliness take their toll, and Gabriel's humanity ebbs. Ultimately, Beau is the only one able to pull him out of it and calm his brutal wolfish urges.' - Seems more like she would bring out the beast in him since they like each other so much.

6. 'even though he knows he cannot' - can he howl his desire or something. I think this line can be spiced up.

7. 'Reynard manages to convince Beau that Gabriel attacked him to clear the way to Alison.' Although I know what you mean, it's a little fuzzy for me.

8. Not sure about the Happily ever after tag, but a lot of novels do end that way.

Here's my edited version:

GABRIEL is the bravest knight in the land - until the day his wife Alison betrays him, trapping his fading mind in the body of a wolf. While hunting in the forest, the king finds the wolf and has it brought to his castle, where he entrusts its care to ISABEAU, a noblewoman. Isabeau has grown weary of men and their boring war stories. She's about ready to enter a convent, but this wolf intrigues her.

Gabriel and Isabeau are drawn to one another. Both are lonely and Isabeau is one of the few at court who seems to understand Gabriel - even though he cannot speak. Gabriel has vowed, however, never to trust a woman again. Besides, he's a wolf. Stress and loneliness take their toll, and Gabriel's humanity ebbs. Isabeau is the only one able to pull him out of it and calm his brutal wolfish urges.

The two become inseparable. She calls the wolf Garwaf, an old word for “werewolf”. On their daily walks through the king’s gardens, Isabeau begins to put the pieces together of what she knows of her wolf with rumors about Sir Gabriel’s disappearance several years before.

Gabriel, meanwhile, has fallen deeply in love with Isabeau. He longs to declare himself to Isabeau - even though he knows he cannot.

REYNARD, a ruthless knight with a penchant for violence, marries Alison after helping her betray Gabriel. Reynard is not pleased when tidings reach him of the uncanny wolf at the king’s court. Reynard will lose everything if Sir Gabriel regains human form.

Reynard arrives at court and Gabriel viciously attacks him. Isabeau fears Gabriel will lose himself completely if he does not become human again soon. Reynard convinces Isabeau that Gabriel attacked him out of love for Alison. Heart-broken and confused, Isabeau leaves the castle for a convent. Reynard follows her, intending to murder her. Gabriel thwarts him, but not before Isabeau is wounded.

Enraged by his own uselessness, Gabriel confronts his wife, who is dying of leprosy. She gives Gabriel several magic talismans that will return him to his human body.

With the coming dawn, Gabriel is transformed back into a man. He kills Reynard in a duel and rides to claim Isabeau as his bride.

She realizes she has always loved the spirit within Gabriel, even when he was a wolf. They marry and live happily ever after.

Phoenix said...

Your rewrite is much clearer but, ahem, a bit longer.

There will, of course, always be nits.

Is Beau young? I know she is from other work I've seen, but the synopsis makes her, and Gabriel, sound like they might be getting on in years -- or at least be middle aged, and you're aiming for a YA crowd. You call Beau a noblewoman who has grown weary of men, which to me is what's making her seem older than her years. And to say Gabriel disappeared several years before -- and since we know he was married and made a name for himself as a knight before being cursed -- well, it all makes him feel old, too.

I would add "Alison betrayed and cursed him" simply because betrayal doesn't usually result in a garwaf.

If Beau is "about ready to enter a convent," does meeting the wolf make her rethink that decision? The "But this wolf intrigues her" sentence doesn't make it clear to me whether the "But" is in reference to the convent decision or her weariness over men.

Gabriel and Beau are initially drawn to one another, both are lonely and Beau is one of the few at court who seems to understand Gabriel- even though he cannot speak.

Check your grammar in this sentence. Also, do more people at court understand Gabriel? That seems to go against what's been inferred so far. What does "understand" mean? Unless people know there's a man trapped in there, they might think he's depressed or irritable because he's a wild beast who's been brought into a tame environment, not that he's a human spirit needing to be able to act human again. I would just say Beau is the only one who seems to understand him. Then change the last sentence in that 'graph to "Ultimately, Beau's [persistent kindness, whatever] calms his brutal wolfish urges."

Garwaf is an old word to us. Would it have been an old word to Beau, or simply an idiom?

Tighten the next 'graph: "Gabriel, meanwhile, has fallen deeply in love with Beau, and longs to declare himself to her." The "cannot" part is understood since we know he was married and is now a wolf who can't speak.

You don't need both "ruthless" and "penchant for violence" to describe Reynard. "Lose everything" is a bit vague. "lose wife and title", perhaps?

Most attacks are "vicious" so you can cut "viciously" as well as "manages to" a couple of sentences later.

Don't know what "enraged by his own uselessness" means. We know he's pissed he's still a wolf, but he did manage to thwart Reynard. Perhaps a word other than "uselessness" would be stronger.

Is the wife's leprosy a direct result of her cursing him? If so maybe:

Enraged by mounting circumstances, Gabriel returns to his old home and confronts his wife. Little did she know the price for cursing him would be her own slow death from leprosy. Hoping to reverse the curse to herself, she gives Gabriel the talismans to return him to his human form.

Once transformed back into a man, Gabriel kills Reynard in a duel and rides off to woo Beau for his bride.


And finally, don't pull us out of the story to say "at the end of the novel."

You're almost there, I think!

writtenwyrdd said...

This reads much better, but there are a couple of logic flaws.

First, why would a nobleman give a wolf you describe as having "brutal wolfish urges" into the care of a woman? Why is he running loose like a housepet? Or is he? Sounds like he is.

Second, the term "brutal wolfish urges" doesn't describe wolves. They aren't brutal, they are just practical.

Overall, this lacks what would make me care. I think you need to work on that factor, that emotional grab. The hook, I believe, is missing from this, although the story sounds interesting.