Monday, June 15, 2009

Synopsis 15

STOP! If you haven't yet read the query for Redemption, it's just below this synopsis. If you read the synopsis first, or even just a few words of it, you won't be able to play "Guess the Plot."

On the other hand, you'll get it right for a change.

SYNOPSIS [for Redemption]

Ian Templeton, psychologist and profiler, is on the track of a killer with a conscience. People who walked away from abuse charges are dying in horrible “accidents”: trapped in a flood, falling onto sharp railings. [When someone gets trapped in a flood, it's seldom suspected that a serial killer is behind it. I'd stick with the homicidal dishwasher for my example.] First Ian needs to convince his colleague, Detective Inspector Alex Willard, that there IS a case and not just a series of coincidences. Even when she is willing to go along with him, they have to work outside the official rules [You need a more . . . official-sounding . . . term than "official rules." Something like "department protocol." It's not a softball game.] to find their evidence. Just one problem: they can’t find any.

Ian struggles to understand this killer, so different from the ones he usually works with. The killer tells us stories giving us the insight into their mind and motivations that Ian is slowly uncovering. [Terrible sentence.] Some of the stories are eerily similar to the ones Ian painfully trades with convicted killers for the leads which help him find the buried bones of their earlier victims. The personal cost of these conversations is worth it: they bring closure to families, and, more importantly to Ian, a deeper understanding of what drives these warped minds. [I don't think you even need this paragraph. The next one follows the first one more logically, and I'm not clear on what you mean by the killer telling us stories. Are we in the killer's POV?]

With no forensic proof of a murderer Alex and Ian develop a plan to bring the killer into the open. A newspaper report on new evidence in one of the abuse cases frightens the killer: they killed too quickly; they might not have done the right thing. [That last clause is vague. Do you mean: Maybe the killer's victim wasn't an abuser.?] Then Ian’s conference speech on his belief that serial killers can be redeemed finalises the killer’s fixation on Ian as the one person who can truly understand them. The press attack Ian: “Police Profiler says ‘serial killers should be saved’!”—and Alex’s Chief throws him off the team. [Hmm, maybe it is a softball game.]

Ian discovers that the killer has not one, but two patterns: the deaths that are the “day job” of doing the right thing and another, more sinister, pattern of killing during sex for personal fulfilment. [sp.] Literally. Alex calls in a favour with another police division and bingo – they get [five in a row, including the free space.] a call-in on a sexual killing that just might give them a lead on their murderer. Alex’s team unofficially work on the scene while Ian sets up a face to face meeting with the killer at a black tie event. What he doesn’t realise is the killer wants this confrontation even more than he does. This killer knows they are losing control again, and has Ian in their sights as the source of their redemption. [These plural pronouns are confusing. It makes it sound like the cops are losing control. If the killer has been telling us stories, shouldn't we know it's a she by now?]

Then the team finally get some evidence: the DNA at the sexual killing shows a link to a convicted serial killer: Morten. But he is already in jail, and the DNA belongs to a female. Alex discovers Morten has a niece – whose parents both died in “accidents” when she was young. Alex’s breath catches when she recognises her photo: it’s the woman Ian has just left with. [Just left where with? I thought Ian and Alex were in two different places. Did they leave the black tie event together? Ian was supposed to be meeting the killer at the black tie event, so doesn't he know he's with the killer?] She races to find him before he becomes the killer’s next victim.

And Ian and the killer are starting to make love. [Ian knows the killer kills during sex, yet he hops into the sack with her right after meeting her? Does he know he's with the killer? If not, He goes to a black tie event to meet with the killer, and walks out to go have sex with a stranger even though his meeting with the killer hasn't happened yet? As that makes no sense, there's some confusion about the time line.]


Matthew said...

So Alex isn't the killer. I'm glad Evil Editor's gambling feature isn't up and running yet.

I liked the first paragraph of the synopsis more than the query. Maybe you should open the query with that one?

Dave F. said...

I found both of these a bit dry. I'd like to see a little passion in the query and the synopsis.

batgirl said...

I have problems with "Literally." The meaning is unclear (what does personal fulfillment mean 'literally'?), and I don't see why the motivation for killing during sex makes killing during sex more or less sinister - the lover still ends up dead.
Also, the use of 'more sinister' seems off. Less justified, maybe? I get that the non-sex deaths are supposed to be more cool and justice-dealing, but your reader might feel that makes them _more_ sinister, not less.

Just to be confusing, I'd suggest opening the synopsis with the incident you used to open the query. Oh, heck, just swap the openings. It'll be good.

_*Rachel*_ said...

It starts to ramble near the end. That, and it doesn't sound logical, especially with Ian.

Ok, it isn't Alex. Good, I guess.

I always thought "team" was singular, but you keep using the plural verb tense.

"Literally?" I don't want to know.

150 said...

Nothing here gives me confidence that Ian is going on anything but a hunch. At least tell us why he's so sure when he can't find any evidence, he can't support his case using the official rules, and no other professionals think he might be right.

Adam Heine said...

I'm confused about the DNA evidence. It's Morten's DNA, but it's female? Therefore they determine it's his niece?

I thought (from my extensive study in crime and science fiction novels) that DNA was individual. If you tested the DNA of two people, you could determine whether they were related. But if you found DNA at a crime scene, it would point to one person, not to a family of persons.

It's like this. If the DNA is Morten's, then it's not his niece's DNA so it can't be female. If the DNA is not Morten's, but is similar, then the phrase "But he is already in jail" makes no sense because they know it's not Morten already, just someone with similar DNA.

BuffySquirrel said...

Police here in the UK have caught criminals through DNA on their register that is similar to that found at a crime scene; they investigated family members.

But yeah, the DNA is not Morten's; it's familial.

Sam said...

Someone who kills criminals is called a vigilante. I seem to remember a film years ago with Charles Bronson.

There's also Darkly Dream Dexter. He's a serial killer. Whats the difference? It's one of those "I know it when I see it," things.

I'm not so sure murdering someone in a way that's connected with the crime they committed and making it look like an accident makes someone a serial killer. I think there has to be more to it than that.

Why does the Doc suspect there's a serial killer? Does he live a small town and people start to die? Are his patients dropping like flies?

Why does does he have to experience his old childhood trauma to catch the killer? Is it a family member?

Does he want to help the killer or catch the killer? If he wants to help the killer would he involve the police? There's a lot of evidence that time in jail, doesn't help criminals. Something like 70% are repeat offenders. Lots of people come out worse than they came in. Psychologists know this. On the other hand, if he wants the catch the killer, why is that so?

Why is this Psychologist so willing to break protocol? (he's not just breaking police protocol here and he's risking his license to stop-save a killer). What motivates him to risk his practice? What motivates the detective to help? Most women I know won't risk their promotion because a guy they know said "pretty please". She needs a big reason.

What motivates the killer to seek out the psychologist? Is it because he's the best in his field or did he do something to her?

Adam Heine said...

Thanks for that, Buffy. As I said, my knowledge of DNA evidence comes almost exclusively from fiction (and I don't watch CSI, so it's not even a good breadth of fictional knowledge).

Steve said...

Rachel: I always thought "team" was singular, but you keep using the plural verb tense.

I suspect the author is British (and a Val McDermid fan, but that's beside the point); and, as I had to point out to Dave when we gutted my query letter, in British English, collective nouns like "team" can quite happily take plural verb forms.

EE's fame is global, after all, and we're bound to run into these little problems as a result.

Moth said...

Um, is that really the end of the book? Ian and the killer start fooling around? Is it supposed to be ambiguous like: will she kill him or won't she?

Or is it that this synopsis is imcomplete and you haven't included the real ending? Because, honey, you need to include the ending and make it clear that's the ending.

Evil Editor said...

Team can be singular or plural. The distinction comes in that sometimes the members of the team are all doing the same thing, other times they're doing different things as individuals.

The team is practicing for the game. The game is over and the team are going to their homes.

Brits may consider collective nouns plural more often, or always.

BuffySquirrel said...

We Brits love collective nouns. They are singular or plural as we want them to be :D.

Also, if you had "a team of sledge dogs" then we would have a singular verb, cos the subject of the sentence is "team" not "dogs". 'Mericans seem to look at this one differently.

Thanks for the reminder re: Dexter. Knew there had to be a more unbelievable serial killer than this one!

_*Rachel*_ said...

Thanks for the info about collective nouns!

From high school science classes, I think Adam's right about that DNA. The killer would probably have some DNA in common with her uncle, it's true, because they're related. But--and I'm pretty sure of this--DNA will tell you only who it is.

I don't think DNA could show an uncle, though--mother's brother, for example. 1/2 the child's DNA comes from the mom, but a brother and a sister can get entirely different genes, so it could concievably be untraceable.

I'm 90% sure on this. I haven't had science in a while and it was never something I enjoyed much, you might doublecheck.

Steve said...

By the way, is there an official collective noun for Evil Minions? I remember Miss Snark had "a devotion of Snarklings" ... anything similar for EE?

batgirl said...

I so much want the killer to turn out to be supernatural. But I'm guessing not, even though it's not Alex.

Okay, I think something you need to do here is to establish the killer's presence MUCH earlier than she appears. Morten has a niece, okay, but so what? She means nothing to the reader unless we've already met her in the story/synopsis. The way it comes across here, you've pretty much hauled someone in off the street and said 'hey, this one's the killer!'
Also, you're going into way too much detail, with things like 'her breath catches' and 'starts to make love'. I know these are the dramatic moments, but in a synopsis you want dramatic movement, not dramatic moments.

I'm guessing that there's more to this synopsis, but that you cut it when you hit the wordcount limit, instead of editing it down?

chelsea said...


Dexter of Darkly Dreaming Dexter or Dexter of the TV series? Or both?

BuffySquirrel said...

They're different? oh dear me....

The one I'm thinking of is the 'serial killer' who goes out to kill whoever's supposed to die in the story? rather than selecting victims who accord with his own personal fantasy.

maybe that is a tv show

Anonymous said...

wow -- thanks for all the input -- EE and the minions -- all very useful as I do not currently have access to a critique group (and I guess it shows!LOL)

your comments help me to restructure things to make more sense to someone who hasn't actually written the story LOL

typical challenge of taking 97000 words and translating them into some kind of sense for people --

off to do some seroius thinking!

thanks again for taking the time to make all these comments....


once again, google keeps me anonymous

chelsea said...

Oh, I thought you'd seen/read one of the two. I haven't read the book. I've only seen one season of the series, so your comment made me curious.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think I half-saw one episode of the tv series (ie it was on while I was in the room). Most writing about serial killers seems off the mark to me, though.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Serial killers are the new leprechauns: everybody knows what they're like and what they do, but nobody's ever met one.

Pretty much nobody who writes about them, anyway.

Anonymous said...

"Serial killers are the new leprechauns: everybody knows what they're like and what they do, but nobody's ever met one.

Pretty much nobody who writes about them, anyway.""

well there I am ahead of a lot of folk then -- I have met several, have interviewed them as part of a deviant psych course. very scary. especially in how normal most of them were on many levels....

so I do know what I am writing about -- just looks like I need to work on HOW to write it a lot more!

CJ lifting her head from the rewrites to comment....

Adam Heine said...

Anonymous wrote: "I have met several, have interviewed them as part of a deviant psych course. very scary. especially in how normal most of them were on many levels...."

Are you talking about serial killers or leprechauns?

batgirl said...

Having interviewed a lot of serial killers sounds like better credits than having written ch.14 of a business textbook. Considerably more interesting credits, anyways. (no offense to textbook authors intended)