1. godsandgenerals4ever
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    godsandgenerals4ever Member

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    Is this a good short story synopsis?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by godsandgenerals4ever, Oct 17, 2011.

    [Not sure if this is the right spot for this or not.]

    I'm about all set to go on a short story of mine that's the best I've written in eons. Thing is, the place I want to send it to requries a three sentence synopsis.
    One idea of mine for one would go like this:

    'Lieutenant Wilmer E. Gallaher, USN, finds his routine scouting patrol on December 7th, 1941, suddenly become a matter of life and death as he and his wingman are engulfed by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The gods of war, however, smiles on them borh, for they survive the day both unscathed and with no shots traded with the Japanese. On the evening of the "date that will live in infamy", Gallaher beholds a sight that leaves him both sickened and deeply moved. A sight that flashes across his memory six months later as he participates in one of the most legendary battles of World War Two.'

    I don't think it would be a good idea to mention the battle at the end of the story is Midway. It would spoil the suspense for the editor, IMO.
    Opinions, anyone?
     
  2. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I hestitate to make a comment because I suck at writting a synopsis so feel free to disregard what I say. I think you cover the details of the story well, maybe too well. Somehow the excitement of the story feels lost to me in all the dates and details. And the gods of war smiling on them and matter of life and death is a little too cliche for my taste. I do like the way you leave a question in the readers mind. What did he see? What happened that would make him remember it?
    Success with your submission.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's 4 sentences, not 3... and has mistakes [borh/smiles] that need to be corrected, plus is too wordy to be effective, imo...
     
  4. godsandgenerals4ever
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    godsandgenerals4ever Member

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    Based on the above feedback, here is draft two:

    'Lieutenant Wilmer E. Gallaher's routine patrol on December 7th, 1941, takes a shocking turn when he is engulfed by the attack on Pearl Harbor. On the evening of the "date which will live in infamy", he sees something that leaves him both sickened and deeply moved. A sight he later remembers during one of the most legendary battles of the Second World War.'

    How's that?
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    With a short story submission, you want the 'synopsis' as brief as possible. They've got the short story right there to read.

    Consider removing the 'On the evening of the 'date which will live in infamy" as the reader should already know about Pearl Harbor, and it's already got descriptions such as shocking and engulfed by attack...' Also, is the comma after 1941 necessary?

    Just my two cents.
     
  6. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    @TWErvin2: The year in a full date when placed in the middle of a sentence is usually separated by commas, yes.

    @godsandgenerals4ever: Personally, I would rephrase or rewrite everything after the date. For a few reasons, but mostly because it's a tad bit boring (i.e., "He sees something..."). "Takes a shocking turn" tells me little and may be replaceable by something shorter or more specific, and "he is engulfed by the attack" is passive (not necessarily bad, but could be better).

    For example, "Lieutenant Wilmer E. Gallaher's routine patrol on December 7, 1941, is decimated when the Japanese descend upon Pearl Harbor."

    Obviously, I took some creative liberty there and the overall sentence is now arguably passive, but I think it helps because there shouldn't be a reason to list him as the subject or a part of the subject twice in the sentence (his routine patrol and he is engulfed). Basically, look for a better way to combine both thoughts in the same sentence. Also the extension of the "th" on December 7 is unnecessary.

    For the last two sentences, I agree with TWErvin2, that "On the evening of 'date which will live in infamy'" is repetitive and slightly awkward. You could simply say "Afterwards" or "After the attack" or something similar.

    Now, I'm guessing that the focus of the story is about what he sees and being reminded of it throughout the story or just at Midway? I think you could be able to shrink these last two sentences down into one if you focus on what he sees instead of him seeing it, and how what he sees effects him as the war for the United States begins.

    For a rough example to get some ideas rolling for you (with more creative liberty), "The speechless cries of his fellow Sailors (what he hears) and charred remains of the U.S. Fleet (what he sees) serve him as a sickening reminder as the Second World War explodes for the United States."

    Hope this helps.
     
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  7. godsandgenerals4ever
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    godsandgenerals4ever Member

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    What I'm trying to do

    @Raki

    Thanks for the constructive critique. It highlights what I'm grappling with; trying to write a synopsis that intrigues an editor, not bores him, makes him think "Rejection slip for this."
    I don't want to give away that what Lt. Gallaher saw after the attack was the wreck of the USS Arizona and how he thought of her as he glimpsed his bomb slam home on a Japanese carrier at Midway. My fear is this will tip my hand to the editor and make them think "Just another cliched WWII yarn" when in reality I based it on a real person who really thought of the Arizona during the battle of Midway. (You can find it at the end of John Toland's book But Not In Shame.)
     
  8. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I would advise not to think of writing a synopsis in terms of holding your story back to create suspense. For a couple reasons: one, it's basically a summary of the story and the editor will look to it to learn as much about the story as he can before he begins reading (you probably don't want him to think it is lacking); two, holding details or information back often times forces you to use vague phrases and words like "something" or "thing" and it never explains what that "thing" might be. For example, "he threw something at me" is very vague and could be anything from a paperclip to a piano. The same goes for seeing something. How can the editor be intrigued if he doesn't know what the lieutenant saw? You don't have to spell it out in detail (you don't have to explain it was the USS Arizona), but give him some kind of idea (paint a brief picture), and perhaps why it is important to the character.

    Just some ideas. Maybe write the synopsis out in 5-10 sentences and try to shrink it from there, keeping as much of the information from those 5-10 sentences as you can as you do so?
     
  9. godsandgenerals4ever
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    godsandgenerals4ever Member

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    Hmmm ...

    @Raki:
    Would like to keep working on this here with you since you know your stuff. (Cool blog, by the way!)
    How about this:

    "Dive bomber pilot Wilmer Gallaher survives the attack on Pearl Harbor. Already enraged by what has happened, his anger is further inflamed when he sees burnt, sunken USS Arizona. At the battle of Midway, he remembers her as he attacks the Japanese fleet."

    (BTW, I am pleased you deduced from my earlier synopsies the battle Lt. G. takes part in was Midway. Most people don't even know about that epic fight in spite of the all-star cast movie Midway released in 1976.)
     
  10. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Thanks, I'll do what I can...and I may contradict you and say I know some of my stuff :) I'm still learning and will always be. My biggest hurdle is explaining what I know to others in a way that they can understand it, so bear with me.

    I may recommend to replace "Dive bomber" with "Navy" or "Naval" and maybe the inclusion of the word "Japanese" before "attack," although it is probably clear which attack you are referring to with just "attack on Pearl Harbor." Overall, you have a definite improvement with the first line, imo.

    I don't like the second sentence for a few reasons. One, it seems repetitive (enraged and his anger). Two, it possesses a dangling modifier unless you perceive that "his anger" can be "enraged," which I guess may be possible (though how do you make anger angry?), but I think you mean he is enraged and not his anger. Three, what does his being angry tell us? Is he angry at the attack, the Japanese, the loss of lives, the loss of an iconic warship, angry in disbelief?

    The third sentence I also have a problem with (much like my third reason for the second sentence); how does his remembering Pearl Harbor matter?

    Basically, when I read the three lines you have now, I don't see the plot really. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I just don't see it. I'm also not saying it needs to be cut and dry (i.e., he survives the attack, goes to war, and sinks a carrier at Midway), but it needs to be more than what you have. How does his "anger" affect his role in the story? How do his memories affect the battle of Midway? Obviously, with a three sentence limit, you don't have a lot of room to elaborate, so maybe I'll pose another question, are his emotions and memories more important to the story than his actions? Or maybe, are his emotions and memories the driving force of his actions? And if so, maybe you can explore ways to communicate that instead of just his emotions and memories?

    Just some additional thoughts ... Keep at it. :)
     
  11. godsandgenerals4ever
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    godsandgenerals4ever Member

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    The plot and the synopsis

    @Raki. Thanks again for your constructive feedback.
    The reason the wreck of the USS Arizona is so important in the story is that it cements a burning desire for revenge in the heart of the protagonist, anger which only shedding the blood of the enemy can, and does, wash away from his heart. And that is why he thinks in exhulation Arizona I remember you! at the climax; he has got them, the people that created such a horror who now in turn must suffer a horror themselves!
    So, how on earth can I get a good synopsis of that plot across in three sentences? I keep getting stuck here, newbie that I am.
    How have you written your synopsises, Raki?
     
  12. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Honestly, Godsandgenerals4ever, I think you nailed it with your response (which was two sentences, btw). Put that in the synopsis and tighten it up.

    Something like:
    Again, I took some creative liberties that may/maynot be accurate to what you've written (and it still needs some work and tightening up), but I think you may be able to see a little more of what I was trying to steer you toward. Emotions are fine to illustrate in a synopsis, but actions (the cause and effect of the emotions) are equally important. Basically, we need to know more than someone was mad; we need to know what made them mad and how that changed them or affected their actions ... if that makes sense. That's your story; that's your plot; that's what you need to communicate. And as I said earlier, it doesn't need to be incredibly specific, just an overview.

    Hope that helps.
     

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