Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Synopsis 24

Ryan is a young boy, unhappy with his small-town life. He is, however, given the opportunity to see the world when a soldier rides into town and recruits him. Ryan demonstrates exceptional skill with the sword, and is made the squire to the most skilled knight in the realm, Armand. Unfortunately for Ryan, Armand doesn't want a squire, and resents that his superiors are forcing such a burden upon him. This resentment creates an escalating conflict between the two, which is reflected in the backdrop of war between the Kingdom and its rival, the kingdom of Triol. [The most skilled knight in the realm is seriously involved in an escalating conflict with a young boy? Over what, his bedtime?] [And you compare this escalating conflict to an actual war?] [One kingdom is called Triol and the other kingdom is called . . . the Kingdom?]
[According to Wikipedia, the typical duties of a squire included the following, which leads me to believe having a squire was not a burden, but a necessity:

  • Carrying the knight's armor, shield, and sword,
  • Holding any prisoners the knight takes,
  • Picking locks on fair maidens' chastity belts,
  • Rescuing the knight should the knight be taken prisoner,
  • Polishing the knight's lance . . . frequently,
  • Ensuring an honorable burial of the knight in the event of his death,
  • Replacing the knight's sword if it was broken or dropped,
  • Oiling the knight's knees and elbows after rainstorms,
  • Replacing the knight's horse should the horse be injured or killed,
  • Acting as the knight's human shield while facing a fire-breathing dragon,
  • Dressing the knight in his armour,
  • Reaching under the knight's armour to scratch his itches,
  • Carrying the knight's flag,
  • Arranging the knight's Round Table poker games,
  • Removing the knight's codpiece to allow urination without rust.]
Renek is a man who wakes in a monastery after having survived a great disease. [You seldom see "great" being used to describe a disease.

Knight 1: I just got over a great case of leprosy.
Knight 2: Big deal. I'm recovering from some fantastic scurvy.
Knight 3: That's nothing. I survived a sensational case of Black Death.]

He has the trappings of a soldier--an ancient sword and some serviceable, if simple, armor--and decides to travel to the war's front to seek his forgotten past. Like Ryan, Renek demonstrates finesse with the sword. Initially, upon meeting Renek, the commander distrusts him; however, Renek is too valuable an asset to the army, and so the commander allows him to participate.

Both Renek's and Ryan's units are told to search for the legendary Swords of the Ascendancy, swords made by gods. [You know how much the army values you when the big battle's approaching and they send you on a mission to find a legendary item. Sort of like when I was in the army and we were supposed to take an enemy camp, but before we made our final charge my sergeant took me aside and said, "Much as we'd like you fighting beside us, we need you to go search for the hammer of Thor."] Their similar stories intertwine as they track down the weapons' resting place. As they each separately enter the mountain where the swords hopefully lie, it becomes clear that they are doing so at different times; the mountain is the same, but Ryan enters a living mountain, [also known as a volcano,] with strange creatures guarding the swordchamber, [When you're looking for a sword and all you know is it's inside a mountain, it's always convenient to discover the mountain has a swordchamber.] whereas Renek enters a dead mountain, with dessicated bones instead of living beings.

Ryan finds one weapon where there should be two; Renek finds a broken chamber empty of swords. However, Renek does realize that the ancient sword that he has carried all along is one of the weapons that he sought. [Sort of like when you're searching for your glasses and you discover that you're wearing them.] [Which would be worse: spending weeks searching for a sword only to find it's in a room guarded by strange creatures, or spending weeks searching for a sword only to find it's hanging off your belt?] Both Ryan and Renek leave the mountain having discovered one of the weapons, and both return to the front of their war with the Triols.

At the front, Ryan's wielding of the sword shows great power--too much power for him to control. He struggles, but fails to contain the sword's power; it's release destroys most of both of the armies. [When you realize that your god-made sword is destroying your own army, you might consider trading it in for a non-turbo model.]

Renek, however, has no problems controlling his sword; it seems to have little power beyond what his arm can lend it. He struggles through superior strategy, but more limited resources, and the battle comes to a bitter ending, with only a few dozen soldiers left on each side. During the last few pages of the book, Renek's memory returns when he recognizes one of his boyhood friends. He realizes that he is, in fact, Ryan--somehow he has been given another chance to do things right. [But has failed, as both armies were wiped out again.] He stands up, renewed, determined to make the most of that chance.


Is Renek's sword the same one Ryan found at an earlier time? If so, how come it's no longer uncontrollable?

Renek realizes he's been given a chance to do things right, but what things? The army was wiped out the first time, and it's been wiped out the second time. What went wrong that's left to do right?

Apparently Renek's been given another chance through magic or time travel? How do we know he didn't just have amnesia?

As this synopsis is plot-only (no title, no genre), maybe you should stay with the plot consistently and not step out to make comments like "During the last few pages of the book," and " it becomes clear [to the reader] that . . . "


Rebecca said...

Oh wow... I needed a good laugh this morning. That "hammer of Thor" comment sent me spewing coffee all over my desk. But hilarious!

Chris Eldin said...

EE, a classic. ROTFLMAO!!!

chelsea said...

Ok. So Ryan's story happens first, but he fails to control the sword and thus the army is destroyed. He ends up going back in time (or something to this effect) and is able to control the sword that he actually kept with him from the first battle. This time, he is able to control the sword and, theoretically, win the war (or succeed in some other way - it's not completely clear in the synopsis.)

I can dig this, but a few things aren't quite coming across. First of all, the part about Armond seems unnecessary. If Ryan's relationship to Armond is relevant to his coming back as Renek, it's not coming across in the synopsis. You might consider taking it out, and shortening the opening paragraph up a bit.

Secondly, I don't understand why Renek can now wield the sword that Ryan couldn't. I am assuming something happened to Ryan after the (first/original) battle to give him the power to wield the sword as Renek, but the synopsis doesn't give much to support that. Since Renek's power to wield the sword seems to be the big difference between Ryan's Orginal Time and Renek's Time (which seems to be the same as, and different from, Ryan's time), I think it needs to be explained in the synopsis. Also, the time thing isn't entirely clear, and I'd like to know how it works in the story.

Lastly, as EE points out, the armies get mostly destroyed both times, so it's not clear what Renek is going to do differently this time. I get the feeling his chance to "do things right" doesn't simply mean winning the war, but I could be wrong. While it's okay to leave people hanging in the query, in the synopsis I think it's best to let people know how things end.

The story itself sounds really interesting. I am definitely interested to see how things end up.

_*Rachel*_ said...

commander allows him to FIGHT

ITS release destroys

Two nitpicky things, I know.

Maybe the point with Armand is that he's got multiple squires (not too unusual, I think?), and Ryan's just one too many. Though having their conflict be as important as the battle is a little off. You want it to matter to the reader, but the perspective is a little off. Perhaps what you mean is that a house divided against itself will fall, and this one's sure divided?

Matthew said...

I would be interested in reading this.

vkw said...

I think it has potential.

Phoenix said...

Bet this one makes the annual awards shortlist, EE ;o)

Author: It's an intriguing setup that doesn't quite hang together for this reader. I'll second Chelsea's suggestion that Armand doesn't seem necessary for the synopsis. "Ryan shows potential for handling a sword at a young age and is recruited into battle when his kingdom goes to war" is probably enough to get that point across and then leaves you with more room for a bit more meaningful synopsis.

Now, like a query, a good synopsis is tight, tight, tight -- and as equally hard to write. In its basic form it tells the reader what the story is about. The whole story -- ending much included.

As the synopsis writer, YOU are in charge of which details go into the synopsis and how you want your reader to be affected by the story.

A straight blow-by-blow may be faithful to the story, but it's the difference between watching a sporting event at home with the sound turned down vs listening to the color commentary. What happens is, of course, quite important. But how your characters react to what happens gives the reader greater insight and appreciation.

For instance, I know more about Armand (his resentment toward his superiors)than I do about Ryan here (or Renek -- they are both skilled with a sword is about all I know; they could be blood-thirsty mercenaries or reluctant warriors for all the synopsis tells us), and yet Armand appears to be a minor character. Why doesn't Ryan turn the god-sword (that would be a cool name for the book: Godsword [if Runescape hasn't trademarked it]) over to his superiors that sent him looking for it? Why does he wield it? Is it hubris on his part? What is his failing or character flaw that he can't contain the power of the sword the first time? And what is his redemption that he can the next? (Except it sounds in the synopsis like there is no power in the sword when Renek wields it, so that's confusing to me.)

A little motivation, a little more character development, and a more concrete ending will make this synopsis a much more enticing read. IMO.

jrmosher said...

Aside from the issues mentioned above, there is one more thing that bothered me. I assume this is covered in the book, but confused me in the synopsis.

Both men go looking for a pair of sword. One man finds only a single sword, and the other finds none but realizes he already has one. Assuming that the one he has is the same one the other guy found (based on the assumption that they are the same person) ... where is the second sword? Is there another one? If so, who has it?

If there is no second sword in the book, why not just have each of them looking for THE sword of the gods? If the second sword exists and plays a part in the story, it should be mentioned somewhere in the synopsis.

I think the two toughest things about synopsis writing are the tendency to include too much (because everything in the book is important, dammit!) and the tendency to try to hide things (because I want you to want to read the book, dammit!) You can do away with some minor characters (as mentioned by others) but you also have to show the important cards -- why is the sword behaving differently the second time, what has Renek learned / won that Ryan did not, and what's up with the second sword?

Jason said...

Author here. Thank you for your comments, they are all very helpful. And Evil Editor is quite amusing, as always!

Rachel: I cannot believe I put that apostrophe in its. It's a pet peeve of mine to get its and it's correct! Thank you!

There are many ends left hanging as it is the first in a series. The second sword having gone missing is supposed to be a mystery...where did it go? Why didn't both swords disappear? The reasons that Renek can wield the sword better than Ryan are mysterious as well. (And no, I'm not saying that because I don't know--it's something that comes out naturally in the last of the three books.)

Thanks a lot everyone, I appreciate your comments and share your laughter. :)


BuffySquirrel said...

There was very little social mobility in feudal societies. In particular, squires were usually the sons of nobility who trained for knighthood under either their older male relatives or the knights of families into which they were transferred quite young. Without being able to 'furnish his helm', ie have enough income to pay for his horse and equipment, a boy would have no prospect of becoming a knight, and so it's unlikely anyone would bother training him as one.

In short, feudal society was not a meritocracy.

If Ryan is recruited by a soldier, he'll probably become a soldier, although feudal soldiers were usually peasants who owed service to their liege lord. Perhaps Ryan--if he's freeborn--could become a mercenary. If he's not freeborn, he's not going anywhere.