Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Synopsis 41

Ratman's Revenge

When eleven-year-old CODY feels left out and alone [abandoned] by his too-busy divorced parents and his off-at-summer-camp friends, he ventures into the woods for the first time. There he meets two kids who claim to live in a city deep below the surface of the earth where everyone has amazing paranormal abilities. Of course, Cody doesn’t believe them. [Of course. But later when no one believes Cody about seeing a man-sized rat, he won't understand how they can be so dense.]

The next day, Cody’s mom bails on him when she starts dating a new guy, and Cody’s dad says he’s moving to across the country with his giggly girlfriend. Cody has had enough and storms off to the woods. This time, he begs the kids to take him to their underground city. Even though [when] they warn him [that] once he goes down, he can never go home again, Cody is all-in. [He can never go home because it's against the rules or because it's physically impossible?]

With strange caves to explore and plenty of new friends with crazy abilities, Cody thinks he’s scored the perfect new home. Except outsiders from the surface are not allowed. [So the kids who brought him down and the plenty of new friends he's made are unaware that surfacians aren't allowed?] But when Cody is discovered by the Council of Elders, instead of executing him, they ask for his help. [If execution is the usual penalty for being there, you'd think that would have been mentioned by the kids who brought him down.] With his knowledge of the surface, he may be able to find out what happened to their missing Detectors, the citizens who protect the underground city by patrolling the surface.

As a way to find the Detectors, the council wants to teach Cody paranormal abilities and create a psychic link between Cody and the Detectors. [Have they tried creating a psychic link between the two kids Cody met in the woods and the Detectors?] Cody is determined to help his new home [friends]. The problem is, he’s failing his simplest paranormal classes, and a man-sized rat, RATMAN, attacks [him] every step of the way by using paranormal abilities to create Cody’s dangerous “accidents.”

Since Cody is the only one who sees the giant rat, no one [else] believes Ratman exists. So while Cody struggle[s] to find the Detectors, he wants to figure out who or what Ratman is and why he’s attacking him.

When Cody finally develops visions in his meditation class, he gets glimpses into the mind of Ratman. He discovers [that Ratman is usually thinking about cheese.] there’s a real man behind the rat illusion, [If you're gonna create the illusion that you're an animal, you oughta be able to come up with something better than a rat.] and that man is a vengeful council member, KIRK, who has been using the missing Detectors to locate a mysterious power source that can create an earthquake. Cody fears Kirk is about to get his revenge for the death of his family by destroying the city with a man-made earthquake. [This is the plot of that Star Trek episode where Kirk destroys the planet Romulus as revenge for some Romulan woman digging Spock more than she digs Kirk.] [Also, how did this Elder's family die? Unless everyone in the city was responsible, destroying the city seems like overkill.]

But when the entire Council of Elders is the next to disappear, it’s up to Cody and his friends to stop Kirk. [I see we've decided to call him Kirk instead of Ratman. If Ratman is an illusion and is actually Captain Kirk in a rat costume, maybe the title should be Kirk's Revenge. You'd see huge sales to Trekkies who think it's fanfic.] Despite their best efforts, one of Cody’s friends is killed [The one in the red uniform shirt.] and the remaining friends are held under Kirk’s hypnotic spell.

As the earth begins to shake, Cody is left to face Kirk’s wrath [The Wrath of Kirk] alone and save his new home. Cody draws on the simple talents he had on the surface—quick thinking and telling a convincing lie—to deceive Kirk and refocus the power source to kill him. [Quick thinking and lying may be useful talents, but do they allow you to refocus a power source that's causing an earthquake so that it kills one wererat?] The council and the Detectors are then freed from Kirk’s control.


If these other kids are able to come to the surface, why wouldn't Cody be able to come back and go home?

Are the people who were unable to see Ratman able to see Kirk?

Hard to believe they pin all their hopes on an eleven-year-old stranger who fails even the simplest paranormal classes, just because he has some familiarity with the planet's surface. It would be easier to have Cody teach someone who aced his paranormal classes about the surface.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Okay. So. Middle grade fiction. Our character faces a problem. How will he or she cope, and how will he or she grow from the experience?

Off we go. Cody's got a problem. His parents are so busy sorting out their own lives, they have no time for him. Cody copes by...

Going to another world, understanding he will never be able to return home again.

Cody's got a problem. He likes his new home, but he's not allowed to be there. So much not allowed that if the Elders catch him, they'll kill him. They catch him. Cody copes by...

The Elders deciding to ask him for help instead of killing him.

Cody's got a problem. He needs psychic abilities to help the Elders, but he hasn't got them. Cody copes by...

Suddenly he's seeing a giant rat no one else can see.

I'll stop here. This synopsis, as written, seems to just keep hopping around. Every problem Cody encounters is dealt with either by someone else(kids appear in the forest, the Elders don't want to kill him after all) or by a hop to a new problem (giant rat).

I'm sure it all hangs together more logically in the manuscript. But as it stands now, I think you need to identify Cody's central problem and stay focused on that, and on how he, through his own actions, solves it. It will generally be assumed that the problem you began with is going to be addressed by, or in, the end of the story.

InkAndPixelClub said...

I'm not feeling invested in this story yet. I know it's only a synopsis, but even a synopsis should give the reader some sense of why the story is interesting and make them want to read the full version. I'm not getting a sense of Cody's character and I don't care about this underground city or what happens to it. The characters you've highlighted as important by putting their names in all caps the first time they each show up are our protagonist, a giant mutant rat that's actually an illusion, and the bad guy. What about the people Cody is trying to help?

I would start by fleshing out Cody's friends a little. Right now, one of them dies towards the end and I could not care less because I know nothing about this person beyond that he or she lives in the underground city and has befriended Cody. If you can show these kids as individuals and make it clear why they befriend Cody, I'll have reason to care about them and the fate of the underground city.

It doesn't sound like Cody does much but fail at his classes, get attacked by Ratman, and have a vision. If he's doing anything more active before the end of the store, it should be in the synopsis. I'd also like to know how Cody feels through all of this. Is he frustrated by his inability to develop paranormal abilities? Frightened by Ratman's attacks? Overwhelmed by the expectation that he will find the Detectors and save the city. And where are his friends in all of this?

The reveal of the bad guy is not satisfying. If Cody has been working on solving the mystery and the vision is just the final piece of the puzzle, that's one thing. But if he just has this vision and it reveals a guy he's never seen or heard of before, a person who should have been on the Councils short list of suspects if anyone knows that his family died and he's angry about it, it's not that interesting.

If Cody is a quick thinker and a convincing liar and these talents are what ultimately enables him to defeat Kirk, those qualities should be mentioned before he has to rely on them to save himself and the city.

Is that the end? Cody kills Kirk and the city is saved?

I'd rewrite this with a focus on what Cody is doing (not just what happens to him) and feeling. You've got the events down, but it's lacking the excitement and emotion that would make someone want to read the full version.

khazarkhum said...

One of the things about popular culture is that it tends to put certain things on a "Do Not Use" list. For all the reasons EE lists, and many more besides, the name Kirk falls onto that list.

If it's the sound that's important, spell it differently:: Kerk, Kyrq, Qirk, etc.

Unknown said...

Thank you for all the comments. You guys are the best. And of course, a huge thanks to EE! I am a big Star Trek fan and that's why I named a character Kirk.

I'll start rewriting tonight!

SB said...

Personally, I don't think the name Kirk is unusable (not as, say, Spock or Uhura would be), as it's a reasonably common name (particularly as a first name). I think people's reaction to this might depend on if they've personally known or known of a Kirk in real life. In a case like this, it might just end up being easier to change it. If you like the idea of a Trek reference, you could maybe pick an even more common real-world name? Or the name of one of the less well-known Trek characters?

I'm not an expert in MG, but it doesn't sound like a character defeating the big evil with his great lying skills is really something that parents would want their kids reading. Lying, especially in children, is not usually seen as a virtue.