Monday, July 11, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Synopsis 50 would like feedback on the following revision.

After her mom's death, seventeen-year-old MAGGIE hopes to forge a new life with her grandma, JESSIE-BELLE, in the small, southern town of Leviathan. But not long after Maggie steps off the bus, DANNY, the son of a local preacher, tells her to go back to California before it's too late.

Jessie-Belle warns Maggie to stay away from Danny. She explains that he is the prime suspect in his father's murder and may be involved in the disappearance of several local teens. But after visiting a disturbing museum of human oddities run by ELIAS LAVENDER, Maggie decides Elias is a more likely suspect.

When school starts, Maggie gets lost during a class trip to the Great Dismal Swamp. She finds a girl impaled on the branches of a tree and shouts for help. Danny appears, seemingly from nowhere. He claims the girl is the victim of a monster that feeds on human sin. They free the girl and take her to the hospital, but she dies.

Maggie returns home to find her grandma disappearing into the swamp, trailed by Elias. Maggie follows. She loses track of Elias, but sees Jessie-Belle summon a Lovecraftian creature from Lake Drummond.

When Maggie confronts her grandma, Jessie-Belle reveals that Maggie is the monster's daughter and his intended bride. She encourages Maggie to submit to the monster, claiming he will grant them both immortality. She also admits to killing Danny's father.

Maggie goes to Danny, hoping he can help her defeat the monster. Danny explains that his family has rescued people from the monster for generations, aided by a supernatural ability to sense human sin, but it can only be killed by one of its own children.

Maggie and Danny resolve to face the beast together. They gather a variety of weapons and force Jessie-Belle to lead them to the monster. But their plan to ambush the beast is derailed when Elias arrives carrying an unconscious girl. Elias hopes to supplant Jessie-Belle as the monster's servant by offering it a worthier bride.

The monster awakens and in the ensuing chaos, Jessie-Belle kills Elias and chops off one of Danny's arms. She declares her unwavering love for the monster, but it kills her.

Forced to face the monster alone, Maggie sets the creature on fire, but is burned herself when the creature falls on her in its death throes.

Several weeks later, Maggie awakens in the hospital where she is reunited with Danny. Danny assures her the monster is dead, and the two embrace, ready to begin a new life together.


Evil Editor said...

No one foolish enough to demand a 400-word synopsis has a right to expect it to be much better than this. Questions that might come up:

Was Maggie's mother impregnated by the monster, or did her father become the monster later on?

Does the monster actually want a bride, or just a victim to impregnate? I would think learning she's the monster's daughter would be traumatic enough without bringing in the bride aspect.

Also, the query can probably do without Granny's confession that she killed Danny's father. Once your grandmother advises you to wed your monster/father, you don't need more evidence that she's nuts, and while I'm sure Granny, in the book, believes admitting she murdered someone will win Maggie over, if you're going to say so in the synopsis, I'd want an explanation for why she believes this.

I don't like "The monster awakens..." You haven't said it was asleep, and if it was asleep when Maggie and Danny got there with their weapons, why would Elias's arrival carrying a girl derail her plans to kill it? I guess Elias or Grandma must yell, "Hey monster, wake up, someone's about to kill you."

"Ambushing" the monster would involve concealing yourself and waiting for the monster to come by, then hitting it with a surprise attack. Being led directly to the monster by Grandma, technically, isn't an ambush. And if you do want to ambush it, bringing Grandma along is a mistake, as she doesn't want you to succeed, and will yell a warning.

I'm not too clear on what "a supernatural ability to sense human sin" means. Does the sin have to be in progress? Does it mean just sensing that someone who has sinned at some time is in the vicinity? Danny senses that a sinner is in the swamp and rescues him before the monster can get to him? Is the reason he didn't rescue the impaled girl before she was impaled because she wasn't a sinner, so he didn't know she was in danger? But wait, she wouldn't have been in danger if she wasn't a sinner, because the monster feeds on sin. Maybe it should be human fear instead of sin. Or has that been done to death?

Anonymous said...

Not an expert on synopses, but I think this works all right.

The only thing that bothered me is the grandmother telling her Danny is the prime suspect in the murder case, mostly because my brain started wandering off of your story and into legal proceeding like has he been arrested? Is he out on bail? etc. If you don't think it would hurt, maybe change it to just 'a suspect in his father's murder' or say he was arrested or whatever so I'm not left distracted. Of course, this could also be just me.

Hope you have a good query to go with this, if not, you know where to find us.

JSF said...

This is much better but the daughter - bride angle is confusing. But monsterish for sure. Why a bride? The monster wants to reproduce? A bride will turn it normal again? Also, I was raised Catholic, so the supernatural ability to sense human sin would leave Danny with the ability to sense all people at all times. I don't see how that would help rescue people from the monster. Do they follow Catholic rules where confession will absolve you of some sin therefore Danny and his family rescue people that have not been to confession? Confusing. The bride angle is confusing enough but then Elias supplants a worthier bride than Jessie - Belle? I think EE is right. Maybe just cut out the bride part. This is much better but I still say a Jaws like ending with an explosion would be best. A Feast of Sin might be a good title. But if the monster still feeds on human sin he might become obese in my neighborhood. Then there would be a Frankenstein's monster type mob after him. Still looking forward!

AA said...

“They free the girl and take her to the hospital, but she dies.” They take her to the hospital, or the teacher does? Does the teacher/class see this?

 “Maggie is the monster's daughter and his intended bride.” EEW. Seems like you're making a small southern town = inbreeding joke here. It's a bit cliché.

  “but it can only be killed by one of its own children.” This seems extremely coincidental.

“ready to begin a new life together.” If she just spent several weeks in a burn ward she probably hasn't even had her skin grafts yet. Unless she wasn't really burned badly but has just been in a coma?

These are probably an easy fix.

I felt the same way about the ambush angle. “Surprise attack” might be better. That sounds the same as ambush, but you can use it whether they were led to the monster or the other way around. So it is slightly different.

InkAndPixelClub said...

This is an improvement, but there are still a few spots where the logic seems hard to follow.

I'd either say "a recently murdered street preacher" or find a different way to describe Danny when you introduce him. What you have isn't technically wrong, but it's a bit of an awkward fit.

I get that Maggie thinks Elias's museum is creepy, but the jump from that to him as a murderer is a bit of a stretch.

The "human sin" thing is tough. As JSF points out, sin can mean different things to different people and we never find out what specific kinds of sins the monster targets. Maybe for the purposes of the synopsis, that detail should be left out.

While I understand that you're trying to establish Elias as a possible suspect, you may want to leave out his following Grandma I to the swamp. It's never completely clear why he would be doing that and Maggie loses track of him anyway. Consider "heading to the swamp" instead of "disappearing." You've brought up the idea of a monster being real in this world, so a reader might think Grandma turned invisible. The first time I read it, I though she was sinking.

If you don't have the space to explain "human sin" more fully, you could just say that Danny's family can sense people who the monster intends to kill. True enough, if not the full story.

Again, I know word count is a concern, but it'd be nice to know that Maggie and Danny were starting to have feelings for each other before they get to live happily ever after.