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  1. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

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    critique on a very rough synopsis

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by J.T. Woody, Apr 12, 2021.

    i've been working on this ALL DAY (no lie... from 9am until 9pm).
    This is my 4th iteration. I know it needs more work, but I'm not sure where to go from here. Trying to cram a whole plot into 1-2 pages is frustrating:

    578 words

    The desert planet of Diadasos is in the midst of a lasting drought. The four nomadic clans, inhabiting the middle and southern deserts, the rocky plains to the west, and the salt flats to the east, are in a state of flux as the death tolls rise and families make hard decisions in order to save their children from the sickness that comes with thirst. The clans will do everything in their power to appease the guardian spirits and the malevolent goddess that watches over all in hope of ending their suffering.

    Olun, of the Rohta desert clan, has made up her mind that, for better or for worse, she will never leave the desert and the life she’s always known. To her, life is simple: hold on tightly to family and traditions. To live, love, and die in the desert as her ancestors did before her. A revelation of her clan’s elder, however, shatters the life Olun expected for herself.

    Hidden away in the northern mountain range, a territory said to be the home of the goddess that's caused all of their suffering, is the sedentary fifth clan, the Venatiz. Reluctantly, Olun travels north to the village to marry Didan, who bears the physical and mental scars of a turbulent past, but as she watches her family disappear, Olun can no longer remain silent. She makes her aversion to Didan and the situation known, separating herself from the village and its people, however, she cannot deny her connection to the mountain spirits- and Didan- of which began in a childhood wiped from her memory.

    While it is under the guidance of the spirits that lead Olun to the village, the contentious Sinya is guided by the fear of being displaced. Having lost so much already, Sinya is resentful of Olun for taking the few people that she still holds dear. In order to protect herself and the village from the threats that Olun poses, Sinya plays on their superstitions, stopping at nothing in her efforts to convince them of Olun’s depravity. Not even murder.

    While Olun struggles with her conflicting feelings for Didan and her need to run back to the desert, she is thrown into the mystery of the voices that speak to her with familiarity, and the visions that pull her deeper and deeper into darkness. What’s, Didan can hear them too and is quickly losing his battle against the darkness in his own mind. Saving Didan means opening herself to the wills of the spirits and letting go of control. Olun abandons her quest to return home in order to discover what it is the spirits want of her and to find a purpose to her life.

    Through misunderstandings, curses, and tragedies that bring her closer to Didan and the spirit that's been ever present in her journey, Olun delves deeper into the meaning of her destiny and the path she chooses for herself. But when a confrontation with Sinya becomes violent, Olun is thrust into a realm beneath the mountain where time and space are suspended. It is there that she meets the spirit of the mountain range, and the man from her dreams. With his guidance and her newly returned memories, Olun urgently navigates the dark realm in order to save not only her life but two others. As she emerges into the light, she realizes the answer to a question she never realized she sought: There is no life without suffering.




     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    (I totally suck at these so take everything I say with a grain of salt)

    I'd say this reads more like a blurb/query than a synopsis in that I'm not seeing the sequence of events that summarize the plot. I mean, I'm seeing their mental journeys and how they resolve their struggles, but not what is actually happening. I can get a sense of the lessons that will be learned, but now how they got from A to B to C in order to get there. Something like this:

    tells me a lot about subtext, but little about what I'm about to read about. What's her path? What's one of the tragedies that got her there? How did she delve deeper into the meaning of it? You don't need to list everything, but one or two specific examples that will create a better picture of the nuts and bolts narrative. I know the word count limitation is a bitch, but you can whack a lot of superfluous verbiage. Your first two paragraphs could be condensed to something like:


    The desert planet of Diadasos is in the midst of a lasting drought. The four nomadic clans, inhabiting the middle and southern deserts, the rocky plains to the west, and the salt flats to the east, are in a state of flux as the death tolls rise and families make hard decisions in order to save their children from the sickness that comes with and thirst. The clans will do everything in their power to appease the guardian spirits and the malevolent goddess that watches over all in hope of ending their suffering. (this last line here doesn't really come up later in the synopsis... sure it'll point to motivation, but a synopsis is plot, plot, plot)

    Olun, of the Rohta desert clan, has made up her mind that, for better or for worse, she will never leave the desert and the life she’s always known. To her, Life there is simple: hold on tightly to family and traditions. To live, love, and die in the desert as her ancestors did before her (you don't need to tell me that's a tradition, the fact that her ancestors did it makes it so). A revelation (what revelation? You're trying to sell me a story... tell me something cool about it!) of her clan’s elder, however, shatters the life Olun expected for herself.

    Word count is not your friend in a synopsis The bit about her wanting to stay in the dessert and keep tradition is really, really good. Instant empathy and character motivation. We don't need any mention of "making up her mind" or "for better or worse" or be told it's the "only life she's known." You've wasted 20 words modifying a point that stands tall on its own.

    "Olun of the Rohta desert call will never leave the dessert."

    Done.

    And we really need specific examples that tell us why we want to read the book. Princess Leia didn't suffer tragedy or overcome obstacles.. her home planet was destroyed by the Death Star. And Luke Skywalker didn't suffer a "revelation"... he learned that Darth Vader was his father. Those are attention-getters. Those grab you by the short and curlies. Gotta remember that the synopsis is probably part of package that includes your query and sample chapter whose role is to provide a simple nuts and bolts, full spoiler explanation of how the story unfolds and concludes. So if an agent/editor found the query enticing and the sample chapter enjoyable enough to want to see the cliff notes of how the story finishes, give them something they will want to read about next.
     
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  3. SapereAude

    SapereAude Active Member

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    Maybe I don't know what a synopsis is supposed to be but it mostly works for me. However, it has some holes -- which would presumably be filled in the complete work. The biggest one is: Who (or what) is Sinya? It's also unclear (to me) whether Olun traveled to the north alone, or with companions, or with her entire clan.

    In fact, how was it revealed to her that she must travel north to marry Didan? Was this the message of her clan's elder? And where did "the spirits that lead Olun to the village" come from?

    You mention four nomadic clans and one "sedentary" clan. I assume you mean that the fifth clan is not nomadic, but I would prefer to see some other word than "sedentary." To me that connotes a bunch of people who sit on their posteriors all day, every day.
    https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/the-opposite-of/nomadic.html
     
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  4. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

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    I took both of your advice and went back to the drawing board to do a complete rewrite.

    I started off, this time, just writing a summary of the whole thing, not worrying about word count or SPAG or anything. the objective was just to get it all out on paper.

    Its 5 pages long.

    next will be going back and cutting less important words and scenes to make the synopsis more concise. i have to shave off at least 3 pages and i'm not looking forward to it :(
     
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  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Are you dealing with specific word count guidelines or the classic "short synopsis" a lot of agents mention?
     
  6. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

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    "1-2 page synopsis" is what submission guidelines say. So about 500-1000 words:dead:

    I made a spreadsheet of agents and included what they wanted and it seems like 1-2 pages is what they're all asking for
     
  7. ItzAmber

    ItzAmber Member

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    Could I ask what is a synopsis? It sounds like the description of a book that is printed at the back of the cover of it, is that what it mean?
     
  8. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

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    The back of the book is a blurb, from what i understand. It says just enough to get people interested in reading.

    A synopsis is a summary of your entire story, spoilers included.
     
  9. ItzAmber

    ItzAmber Member

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    what is a synopsis for?
     
  10. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

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    Im using it to query agents. They typically ask for a letter and a 1-2 page synopsis of your story, so they can determine if they are interested in investing the time to read your full manuscript
     
  11. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

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    I have a prologue nd an epilogue.
    Do i mention those in my synopsis?
     
  12. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    No. Plot plot plot. You can even ignore character development/lessons learned for the most part.
     
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  13. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody A Certain Shade of Green Contributor

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    I started off with 5 pages (3434 words), printed it out and basically crossed out lines and words that were either extra or strayed from the main events of the plot.

    I'm left with 2 pages (1,203 words). I still need to polish this turd up.....

    The desert planet of Diadasos is in the midst of a lasting drought. The four nomadic clans are in a state of flux as families make hard decisions to save their children from sickness. Olun, of the Rohta desert clan will never leave the desert. Life there is simple: live, love, and die in the desert as her ancestors did before her. When her clan’s elder wakes from a deep sleep, she reveals the spirit’s will for Olun to marry a mysterious man in the Venatiz village of the fifth clan hidden in the mountains.

    Olun doesn’t know why the spirits take special interest in her, or why her family so readily agrees to give her away, but she travels with them north. When she meets Didan, her disfigured and partially blind groom, fear and doubt sets in. Reluctantly, Olun trusts the spirits to guide her, but as her family leave her behind for good, she becomes angry and resentful. She runs away from the village and is attacked by a wild animal. Didan and his brothers come to her rescue. Distraught, Olun strikes a deal with Didan’s brother that if she can live in the village without incident until storm season, he will take her to the Elder to absolve her marriage to Didan.

    Didan shows mild interest in Olun, leaving her alone in the village. In his absence, Daidan’s brother, Genta, and his wife take Olun into their care and acclimates her to the village. However, Olun shuns making lasting ties in the village. Sinya, a respected apprentice healer, vehemently opposes Olun’s presence, making it clear that she does not belong even if she attempts to do so.

    While navigating the outskirts of the village alone, Olun is pulled into a vision filled with darkness, twinkling stars and a familiar voice from her dreams. The voice and the visions are recurring, tempting Olun into the caves and teasing her connection to the mountains and its spirits. Desperate for answers, Olun confronts Genta and his wife, but neither are forthcoming about the past.

    After avoiding Didan for so long, stumbles upon him one night as he camps outside of the village. Too afraid to turn back, Olun camps with Didan, comforted in knowing that he has no expectations of a life with her. Their friendship grows as they continue to meet in secret, but like his brother, Didan is reluctant to revisit past pain to answer Olun’s questions.

    Olun is put in direct contact with Sinya as she’s recommended as an apprentice healer. Though Sinya’s passive aggressive approach to force Olun out of the village fails, she succeeds in ending Olun’s friendship with Didan. Avoiding conflict with Sinya, Olun avoids Didan and devotes her time to learning to be a healer so that she can return to her clan after the storm season with a purpose. After a man’s body is found outside of the village, tensions rise, leading Didan and Genta to violently fight each other. Genta tells Olun not to leave the village until they know what happened to the dead man, but running into Didan for the first time in weeks, Olun disobeys Genta and leaves the village. Concerned about Didan and struggling with her feelings toward him, Olun meets him at his camp outside of the village where she finds him in crisis.

    Olun sits with Didan through terrors, spiritually entering his nightmarish memories of how he became disfigured. Confused by Olun and what she did, Didan leaves the village to find clarity, and Olun promises to wait until his return to decide whether or not to stay in the mountains.

    Months pass and Didan hasn't returned. Didan's family fear the worst but Olun still holds onto hope that he will return. A run-in with Sinya's sister sends Olun on a short lived adventure out of the village. Didan returns to find her missing and, fearing the worst, goes to find her. Having misunderstood Olun's reasons for leaving the village, his trust in her waivers. His trust in Olun is further diminished when a chance encounter with the Elder sends Olun desperately pleading after him for answers.

    Didan leaves Olun once again. As the storms begin, Olun is unprepared and falls ill. A spirit visits her in her feverish state to watch over her in Didan’s absence. When Olun wakes, the village is in the midst of a flood. Desperation is increased when she finds Genta’s wife is on the verge of death. Overwhelmed, Olun reverts back to her old ways and attempts to run, but her fever causes her to collapse.

    Didan stays with Olun through her illness as she hallucinates, sorts through memories, and is visited once again by the spirit. Her feelings for Didan grow as he cares for her and the pair finally dispel their misunderstandings. In an attempt to address the misunderstandings with Sinya, Olun tries to befriend her. Sinya’s violence toward Olun, however, causes Didan and his brothers to sever ties with her.

    When the storm season ends, Didan takes Olun to an otherworldly oasis full of lush greenery where they spend the day together and consummate their marriage. Just before they leave the oasis, Olun has another vision of darkness and stars that seem to lead her toward a cave. She hears the familiar voice again telling her not to be afraid and that everything is connected.

    In the village an elderly couple is attacked by a wild animal in their homes. Olun gives in to her fear and runs away again when asked to treat the survivor. When the survivor dies from her wounds, Olun blames herself and vows to be stronger and never run again. The villagers whisper about all the misfortunes that befell the village since Olun’s arrival, and they begin to shun her. When Olun accompanies a caravan, led by Genta and Didan, down the mountain to trade with the plains nomads, Olun is confronted with these rumors and is conflicted over whether or not to return to the mountains when the time comes.

    On their way down the mountain, Olun finds an ancient warning carved into the rock from Venatiz, the guardian spirit of the village and the mountain. Olun reveals to Didan that she’s seen the circumstances of Venatiz’ death. On the plains, Olun is devastated to find that a plague swept through her former clan, killing multiple loved ones. When whispers start about divine retribution, Olun suspects Sinya as the spreader. Genta warns Olun against confronting her without proof.

    As they travel an alternate route through the mountains on their way back to the village, Genta goes missing and the remaining caravan turns on Olun. Didan stops them from attacking her and sends Olun, Sinya, and half of the caravan back to the village for help, while he and others stay to look for Genta. Olun follows Sinya away from the group for help but Sinya’s hostility takes a violent turn. Sinya confesses to attempting to kill Olun as a child as well as to manipulating the villager’s belief in the gods in an attempt to get them to cast Olun out of the village. Olun chooses fight rather than flight, but she is thrown into a hole and left for dead.

    Injured but alive, Olun is lost in limbo where she meets the spirit of Venatiz. With his guidance, Olun finds Genta who is also injured after confronting Sinya. Together, the two make their way through the caves, unaffected by time and space. Once free, both Olun’s and Genta’s testimonies against Sinya exile her away to the desert. Olun’s connections to the spirits make her the next spiritual Elder of the Venatiz village.
     
  14. ruskaya

    ruskaya Senior Member

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    Disclaimer: I am not a professional editor, and I never submitted a query.

    I was initially drawn in, but as I advance your writing slows. There are a few mistakes which I imagined got fixed in between posting here and sending it off (like it is not "absolve" but "dissolve" a marriage), but I think there a bunch of editing changes you can make to quicken/uniform the rhythm.

    Another example of small edits that I think need to be done or that can improve the rhythm:
    "Didan shows mild interest in Olun, leaving her alone in the village. In his absence, Daidan’s brother, Genta, and his wife take Olun into their care and acclimates her to the village. However, Olun shuns making lasting ties in the village. Sinya, a respected apprentice healer, vehemently opposes Olun’s presence, making it clear that she does not belong there even if she attempts to do so."

    I do like your story very much. I think it is an interesting book with lots of potentials. But I also think you need to work more on the query, both its rhythm and adding a little spark (like a couple of examples of how its pizzazz outside the pure description of events). Because it is only a couple of pages long, agents will expect the best of efforts.
     
    J.T. Woody likes this.

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