Monday, February 16, 2009

Synopsis 12

STOP!!!: This synopsis goes with the Fate's Guardian query posted just below it. If you haven't yet read the query and you like to play Guess the Plot, STOP NOW, without even glancing downward. The first word of this synopsis gives away the GTP, so scroll down and read the query first, then come back for the synopsis.


Gil Jacobs is only seven years old when he witnesses a double-homicide. A man murders his wife and daughter, and Gil watches through the window as his best friend Julie Flaherty dies. It is an event that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Literally.

The ghost of a Troubadour, whose life ended in the thirteenth century after a love affair went terribly awry, senses the impending deaths and enters the Flaherty's house. He captures and devours the soul of Julie's mother. As the Troubadour struggles with Julie's soul, Gil's presence at the window distracts him, enabling Julie to escape.

The Troubadour [This capitalizing of "troubadour" makes it sound like his name, like he's a supervillain known as The Troubadour.] [I suppose most of the good supervillain names are already taken, but if The Troubadour is the best he can come up with, he might want to hire a PR firm.] [At least you had the good sense not to mention in the query that the villain is a troubadour. Couldn't you make him the ghost of the Black Knight?] attacks Gil, but fails. Something odd happens to the Troubadour when he is near Gil – memories of his long forgotten life begin to surface. [Memories of reciting lyric poems in the villages of France.] The Troubadour suspects that Gil played a role in his death and develops an intense hatred for Gil, vowing to take his soul. [I was going to question developing an intense hatred so quickly, but then I realized I develop intense hatreds for other drivers whenever I'm in my car.]

Julie Flaherty is frightened and alone. Trapped as a ghost, she clings to the one positive memory of her short life – Gil. She watches the Troubadour's failed attack on Gil. She can see that the Troubadour is too weak to win, [He's been devouring souls since the thirteenth century, and he's too weak to defeat a seven-year-old kid?] but she watches in fear as the Troubadour preys on other souls, growing stronger with each one he consumes.

The Troubadour attacks Gil repeatedly. During one attack, he catches a glimpse of Gil's fate. The Troubadour [Does this guy at least have a name? Anything's better than constantly calling him The Troubadour.] realizes that he cannot end Gil's life, but knowing the time and place of Gil's death, he hope he can extend it. If he succeeds, Gil's soul will be thrown into an imbalance that will weaken it, leaving him defenseless. [Nothing's more humiliating than being defeated in battle by a poet.]

Julie knows that there is only one way she can protect Gil. Using herself as bait, she lures the Troubadour far away, to other prey. [Other prey that The Troubadour can defeat? He's more powerful than anyone except a seven-year-old kid?] She provides a temporary reprieve, and Gil grows to adulthood and starts a family. But living happily ever after was never part of Gil's fate, for he is going to die in a car crash at the tender age of thirty-three. [That's quite a reprieve. She distracted the Troubadour for twenty-six years?] Unless, of course, the Troubadour can prevent the crash.

The Troubadour returns on the day of Gil's destined death, trying desperately to upset the sequence of events that leads to the crash. Julie follows and, in the moments before the crash, she sacrifices herself to the Troubadour, providing the distraction necessary to facilitate Gil's fatal end.


Amazingly, the word "Troubadour" appears fourteen times in the synopsis, and not once in the query.

It's hard to get serious about a bad guy who goes by The Troubadour. Which explains why none of the X-Men is known as The Troubadour.

The Troubadour devours souls to become stronger, so why is he so weak? Apparently reincarnated kids are at the top of the food chain and ghosts in the middle and souls at the bottom? When you're a soul you probably think God has your back. Yet ghosts can just devour you?

If your goal is to devour the souls of those who just died, shouldn't you be hanging out in war zones or hospitals instead of in the suburbs, hoping some guy will crack and kill his wife and daughter?

As with the query, maybe all the questions are answered in the book, but if you can't explain everything in the synopsis, focus on what you can explain and what doesn't cry out for an explanation.


Anonymous said...

[Nothing's more humiliating than being defeated in battle by a poet.]

Well, you know. The pen is mightier.

Robin B. said...

Wow. The red letters were a freak out when I popped on here to have a look around.

Synopses are hard to do - I feel for you, author. I hope you're only doing a synopsis because you just HAVE to have a certain agent. I'm actually not querying agents who want one. That's how much I hate doing them.

Of course, I haven't tried writing one after drinking half a bottle of wine. Maybe that would work.

Cathy in AK said...

Coming out of lurk to offer a cent or two of opinion.

If there is something special about 7 year old Gil that keeps the soul eater from getting him put it in there. Also, it seems that things are happening TO Gil and Julie is your MC. Whose POV is the story in? It starts off sounding like Gil's but then Julie plays the bigger role after she's a ghost. The fact Gil dies at the end but this is a good thing according to the story is interesting. Perhaps a bit too literary for me, but interesting :)

Synopses are hard, and short synopses are even harder. Good luck with this.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I think it might be more effective to begin the synopsis with the troubadour. As it is, the order of things doesn't quite fit: first, Gil witnesses the deaths. Then it haunts him for the rest of his life. Then a troubadour senses the deaths (which, according to the synopsis, already happened). If you start with the troubadour's ghost, traveling the earth and swallowing souls, then you can move to the Flaherty's house and bring in Gil and Julie.

A few things that seem to be very important to the story aren't fully explained in the query. First of all, what is the difference between a ghost and a soul? What is the troubadour's motivation and why is he trapped on earth? Did Gil play a role in the troubadour's death?

The thing that really threw me was when you said the troubadour wanted to keep Gil alive. I think I am missing something major in the description of how the ghost swallows souls, because up until then I thought he swallowed the souls after the people died.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean I should stop checking my email for a contract?

The X-Men did have "Marvel Girl" aka "Dr. Jean Grey" but to her credit, she did eventually turn into Dark Phoenix...

But why does the Troubadour have to be a sissy poet? Why can't he be an angst-ridden, drug-fueled rocker like Amy Winehouse, or a maniac driven to break things like Pete Townsend?

I didn't reference past lives in this synopsis, but the fact that Gil has lived many lives gives more credibility to his strength...he's not just a seven-year old kid.

EE, the masochist in me thanks you!

Anonymous said...

But why does the Troubadour have to be a sissy poet? Why can't he be an angst-ridden, drug-fueled rocker like Amy Winehouse, or a maniac driven to break things like Pete Townsend?

Because when you trash your suite in the manor of a country knight, you're beheaded.

(I'm sorry, I'm not being useful. Or funny, probably. :P)

talpianna said...

Don't make him just The Troubadour; make him Arnaut Daniel:

Arnaut Daniel de Riberac (today Arnaut Danièl) was an Occitan troubadour of the 12th century, praised by Dante as "il miglior fabbro" (the best craftsman/creator, literally "the best smith") and called "Grand Master of Love" by Petrarch. In the 20th century he was lauded by Ezra Pound as the greatest poet to have ever lived in his work The Spirit of Romance (1910).

Or Bertran de Born. Dante put them both in Hell. (from Wikipedia, more there)

Ezra Pound wrote a sonnet about Bertran: "Sestina: Altaforte":

Sestina: Altaforte

Loquitur: En Bertrans de Born.
Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a stirrer-up of strife.
Judge ye!
Have I dug him up again?
The scene in at his castle, altaforte. "Papiols" is his jongleur.
"The Leopard," the device of Richard (Cúur de Lion).

Incidentally, EE, a troubadour would not be "reciting lyric poems in the villages of France." That would be for jongleurs (and the peasantry preferred romances and ballads, anyway. The troubadour was a great lord who COMPOSED lyric poems and recited them either in his own castle or in other noble halls.

By the way, when did we start doing synopses?

Dave Fragments said...

If I were you, I'd start out with a numbered list for each chapter and then put ONE sentence describing the chapter after each number.

Then you can go back and make that list a coherent synopsis by tweaking the language. But remember, there is a page limit.

For a one page synopsis single spaced you only have 500 words maximum. Hence you are foolish to even try this.

For double spaced synopses, you have four pages (max five) and that is 1000 words (count 250 words on a page including headings and page numbers). If I am wrong, please tell me. But my impression has always been that a synopsis is only 1000 to 1200 words.

I myself would start out with a target of 800 because I know how wordy I can get. I'd end at 1100 and settle for 1000... I have no clue how brief and expressive you can be.

I used to write 500 and 1000 word fact sheets and I know these numbers. So even with my wordiness, I at least have the discipline to cut, cut, cut to the bone, bone, bone. (see the extra words in what I really wanted to say)...
I hate these numbers.
These numbers were my work for a lousy 18 months. And they paid me $30 an hour for it which wasn't enough. It's work, work, work, work, work. But don't be discouraged.

batgirl said...

Okay, so is Gil the only reincarnate? Everyone else just hangs out in the Elysian fields or gets eaten? Are there lots of soul-eaters, or is the troubador Gil's only natural predator?
But I don't really want an explanation of the cosmology. I'd rather know whether Gil is conscious of Julie, and is there a relationship or friendship between them. Is he conscious of Julie protecting him? Is he conscious of the troubador?

Evil Editor said...

Sept. 18, 2007.

Robin B. said...

Nobody deadpans a date like Sparky.

Chris Eldin said...

Okay, I really liked this! I'd like to know who is the true MC, Julie or Gil--will go now and read query.

But this sounds intriguing. Best of luck with it!!

talpianna said...

Ah, so. The blog had not yet been blessed by my presence at that time.