Monday, February 27, 2006

Tempest in Time

Synopses send me run screaming into traffic.
So Carla (see sidebar) suggested I put up a draft for critique and helpful hints.
This is a draft.
This seriously sucks.
While a synopsis should be geared to a publisher's market, the use of self-congratulatory adjectives such as "sensual," "exciting," etc. make me gag; and I'm afraid that the selected plot elements toward that end sound cliched and banal.
So this is a stand-in-front-of-a-webcam-in-underwear sort of post.

Synopsis/ The Green Lady...or Trio of Dragons.

"He watched her stride down the airport concourse. Black it was, just as she had said: black boots, black pants, black leather jacket, a black scarf covering that extraordinary hair...
Tres chic, he thought, but she walks like a warrior."

So begins Book One of Tempest in Time, an exciting series which features an unusual heroine's unusul adventures.
When widowed forensic consultant and myth-buster, Dr. Damery Dionysia Tempest (Damie) boards a plane to attend a Conference and Documentary in England's North Country about the semi-legendary Conyers Falchion and family dragon, she begins a dangerous journey into Time, terrorism, and the locked dungeon of her own heart.
A professional acquaintance in National Security requests she help them with the simplest of intelligence tasks - photograph a suspected Syrian official (Daoud al Zaim) of the Conference.
Damie immediately conflicts with another expert, an associate of al Zaim's, (Herbert Sutherland.)
Damie also encounters a devastatingly attractive re-enactor, John Connors, an undercover anti-terror detective-inspector who is investigating al Zaim.
Having no interest in short-term affairs, determined not to subject herself to any alpha male again, fearing another bitter grief, and considering herself out-of-date regarding relationships, Damie is cool and reserved.
John Connors, a private dreamer with a public reputation as an avid skirt-chaser, is equally bewildered by his viseral attraction to the soigne, unflappable widow.
While playing an ad hoc role of Sibyl in the Documentary as a favor, a twist in time dumps Damie into the post-Conquest world of 12th century England at the feet of her famous ancestor, Roger de Conyers.
Myth is made real.
Whether she is a wood's sibyl, the Green Lady, or some beneficent avatar, Roger is convinced she has appeared to help him slay the Sockburn Worm or wyvern - a task necessary for him to claim his inheritance and continue the Conyers line.
Before this deed is successfully concluded, a band of assassins attack the Conyers keep. Damie, in order to save a servant, kills one of them - another act which forces her to examine yet another aspect of duty, courage and conflict.
Seeking the spot where Time wrenched her to the past, Damie returns to the present as the filming of the final Falchion scene is about to begin. Recognizing - because her dead husband had a pacemaker - that al Zaims' is false, she takes him out - and foils a suicide bomb attack on the visiting British Prime Minister.
Every age has its dragons.
Because of the immediate uproar, threats by radicals, and a degree of embarassment, British authorities decide to pack Damie out of the country for her own safety.
John Connors, his role now revealed, is designated her escort until her flight leaves. Several suspicious incidents heighten their dual danger, strain his professional scruples and Damie's self-control.
The first of Damie Tempest's adventures in the past, in the present and in sexual attraction ends with a hot, explicit embrace at the airport with John promising he will see her again.
The temperature and tension continue to rise in Book Two.
More myths await. More Pasts repeated.

~wiping mouth~
There you have it.
As in Fifth Element - "plees healp."

Bantling: A bastard, literally a child conceived on a bench and not in the marriage-bed; late 16-17th c.; colloquial. Also, as brat, slang in late 17th-18th c.
Baptized: drowned; Australian; since about 1830.
Barber's chair: a harlot, "as common as a barber's chair." (ie. in general use)From about 1570 - obsolete by 1890.


Anonymous said...

As we all know, the purpose of a synopsis is to lay out the high points of a novel in an interesting and coherent way. I think you've done that, Bernita. The only improvements I would suggest are replacing some of the generalizations with specifics and tightening some of the language. I'm not in love with using an opening quote, either. If you get yourself a critique partner, I think you could have this synopsis ready to roll in no time.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jason.

Anonymous said...

Here's an example, instead of "Damie immediately conflicts with..." you could say how she conflicts with him, i.e., a little scene snippet.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Bernita...very cool....I actually, now understand the whole story...good job!

Alright...IMHO...You could delete the quote marks around the first paragraph...

The out of place Capital letters, multiple dashes, and parenthesis seem to slow down the flow (while ready)...

And the thought where you "because her dead husband had a pacemaker"???? LOL...that's like one of Miss Snark's wt*, aliens arrive in chapter 14....LOL

ROFLOL...It really threw me because I didn't know where it came from or where it went...LOL!

But I do the same thing...LOL...I know why I put a line in....but no body else does...LOL!

See I learned something too...

But it really is a very good synopsis. Now I understand the whole story....Start putting up some more...I want to know what happens to Damie!

Erik Ivan James said...

Excellent job explaining the story. I can't offer more because I haven't written a synopsis yet.

Thank you for sharing yours here as many of us will learn from the feedback.

Bernita said...

~ runs screaming into traffic~
This is what comes from trying to keep it under two pages single spaced.
Got you, Jason.
Bonnie, it's noted at the end of Chapter One - in the story.I guess it should be in the synopsis too.
And thank you, Carla. Much. Much. Much. I've printed out your e-mail and will go over and consider everything you've said.

Gabriele C. said...

I agree with Jason that there's a but much black in the opening snippet.

Else it works fine for someone who has yet to write a synopsis. :-) There's only one nit: how does the time travel connect to the present, why is it necessary for the story, and not just some chapters with cool Mediaeval sword waving?

Carla said...

[sighs in relief] Thank you, Bernita, I was afraid I might get escorted to the border. I hope I said something useful.
Are you using very wide margins or a large font? Two pages single-spaced gives me about 800-900 words and I counted yours at 500-odd, so you should have plenty of room to expand it if you want to.

Bernita said...

Carla, you're right. Didn't realize the word count included the hunk I cut off into the next book
~feeling better~
Think the thing to do is combine some of this one - whic emphasized the romantic aspect - with the other one.

It is indicated, Gabriele, without getting into the morass of magic or quantum physics, that she is some sort of avatar.

M. G. Tarquini said...

I'm the last person in the world to offer an opinion on Synopses. The mere sight of one is enough to make me break into a cold sweat. But, here are my comments, for good or ill:

1) I would leave out the opening quote and start right in with 'When widows forensic consultant...

2) photograph a suspected Syrian official (Daoud al Zaim) of the Conference.
Damie immediately conflicts with another expert, an associate of al Zaim's, (Herbert Sutherland.)

Is Daoud a Syrian official or not? I feel like you mean something else, like he's maybe a terrorist or something. Also, both those names in parenthesis have me mentally saying, 'played by Daoud Al Zaim', featuring Herbert Sutherland.

3) You don't mention Herbert again that I see, do you need the name? Also, it might be better to refer to the Syrian as The Syrian, and save the name.

4) agreed on the pacemaker - re: aliens landing

5) what's a Documentary? Who is Sibyl? Sibyl might be handled by saying, 'the wood elf' or whatever Sibyl is (sorry, my completely illiterate upbringing is dreadfully exposed here)

Bernita, this is only one opinion and I have ADD, so it's hard for me to follow so many names in so short a space. Keep that in mind when considering my comments. Not everybody has the attention span of a gnat.

Every designation - The Sockworm, Documentary, The Green Lady, Roger Conyers etc., is one more term to remember. You might want to simplify it more. Stick to Damie and John since those are the main characters and reduce the rest of the story to it's bare bones.

Also, not everybody reading this is going to understand that a worm, a wyvern and a dragon are different terminology for the same thing. I had to stop and think about it and I know about dragons. I suggest you stick to one term for items for which you are using multiple references.

Bernita said...

Ah, thank you, Mindy.
Appreciate this.
Think you're right about the terms.
Doud's a Conyers Foundation employee - Project co-ordinator.
I've tried to condense way tooooo much.

Carla said...

'Avatar' being a sort of god incarnate, according to my dictionary (and I thought it was a little picture on an email group. You learn something new every day). This reminds me of one of the Narnia books, I think it was Prince Caspian but don't quote me, where the Pevensey children are waiting at a railway station and get dragged into Narnia by some supernatural force. It turns out they have been summoned by someone blowing a magic horn, and one of them says 'It's like being a genie when someone rubs the lamp. You never stop to think what it must be like for the genie'. Is something like that going on? If so, I think I'd try and put it in the synopsis and/or covering letter. It might count as Fresh, New and Original. I don't read much time-travel/time-slip, but in the ones I have read, the time-travel is a deliberate scientific experiment, or the time-slip is a sort of accidental tear in space-time caused by some terribly traumatic past event. Neither of those is an avatar, as far as I know. Even if it's only very subtly hinted in the book, you can say in the letter/synopsis that it's there.

Bernita said...

Carla, it's something I don't get into in detail - because time travel explanations can be tedious ( I can think of about six explanations off hand), but there is, in myth, a sort of semi-sidhe element, which, if one includes the suggestion of the susceptibility of an inherited DNA as a time travel gene I hope to make work.
Blood and need to ripple the space/time continium.

Carla said...

Hence my thought that it might be your Fresh, New and Original take and therefore worth a mention given how much agents harp on the need for that. I've not heard of it before (okay, I'm not a good source because I don't read enough of the genre, but it sounds original to me. Is it?)

Bernita said...

I think it is, Carla, most use an artifact( jewel, mirror) or a portal( henge,pool), a curse or a wand-waving wizard sort of thing.
Not sure though, that the logic mechanics behind her traverse would be of any particular selling point.

Carla said...

Well, at least it might stop Agent Kristin going, "Oh, no, not another portal." :-)

Dennie McDonald said...

just my opinion... if you're gonna try and sell it as a series (duh - right) I think you need to give a sentance or two per each subsequent book as well - just a quickie ;-)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Dennie. I was afraid that might be pushing it, but I see your point.
I think of it as open ended, but many series wear out after 3-5 books.

Rick said...

Bernita - Since it is only 512 words (by my count), I agree with the suggestion to use a little more room. I felt like a bit much was being thrown at me too fast.

An example: I queeped on her being asked to photograph al Zaim, because my first reaction was that no national security type would ask a "civilian" to do even a simple task (since it might still put her on the radar of Syrian intel). On reflection, though, she's not really a civilian - she's a forensic consultant, thus a sort of law-enforcement professional even if she has no official status.

You actually imply as much - she's asked by a professional acquaintance - but it slipped past me on initial reading. I can't give any specific recommendation (gee, aren't synopses fun?)

And following on from Gabriele, I think we need some hint in the synopsis of how the medieval element ties into the contemporary one.

In fact, thinking about it, isn't that a unique hook that deserves to be highlighted? Every age has its dragons. That is what sets this off from the usual "portal" stories that irk Agent Kristin. Damie doesn't just fall through at the beginning to give us a Modern Girl in MedievalLand - there's a present-day thriller plot that she's involved in.

Which leads me - sorry I'm rambling! - to another point. So far as I can tell, there's no direct connection between the Sockburn Worm and contemporary Islamist terrorists. The tie, I think (and thus the relevance of the whole medieval sequence to the current-day portion) is the effect on Damie of having lived in the brutal immediacy of the 12th century.

So maybe this should be brought out a bit more - as it is, we go in one sentence from her popping back to our time to her whacking al Zaim, and the connection between where she's been and what she does is not quite drawn.

Rick said...

I disagree with Dennie - I don't think you want to say anything in this synopsis about sequels beyond indicating that you have some in mind. At least, that's the impression I've gotten from Miss Snark.

Shesawriter said...

I hate you, Bernita. I couldn't write these suckers for all the rice in China. I'm horrible at it.


Bernita said...

Rick, thank you.
I have been way too abbreviated.Gone from one extreme to the other.
Thank you all so much. This advice is like gold.

Re: portals. I don't happen to agree with Agent Kristin, for the simple reason that some poster pointed out, because YA readers seem to like them - because they are a recognizable mechanism that fits their escape fantasy - despite agents possibly being tired of them.
Don't think her stricture necessarily applies to adult fiction.
The character describes it variously as a well, a wrinkle, a twist,etc., since she has no real idea how it works.

Re: series mention.Dennie is, I suspect, thinking of e-pubs that welcome series Miss Snark prefers any series potential be listed, in passing only, in a query letter.

Bernita said...

Tanya, I didn't write it either, I merely gobbled at it.

Rick said...

Bernita - Since Agent Kristin's post specifically mentioned YA, I wouldn't take it as applying to adult.

She may well be right about the YA market, though, at least in the sense that agents are getting a billion YA fantasies with portals. It's probably good advice for YA authors to avoid them unless there's a real reason for them, and face up to the challenge of getting the reader to identify with a character in the world where the story takes place.

Mark Pettus said...

Before I go into your synopsis, I have one small complaint,

"John Connors, a private dreamer with a public reputation as an avid skirt-chaser...

John Connors, his role now revealed, is designated her escort..."

If you are going to fictionalize me, I insist you do more than just change my name. I've been called a lot of things, and I know what escort is a euphamism for...


As for your synopsis:

You lost me a couple of times with your language - I'm not a dragon expert, and isn't a Falchion a sword of some kind? I love fantasy and science fiction, and I might love your story, but it took two readings before I thought I understood. I recommend a simpler approach to the synopsis.

Let me stop there. I don't like this synopsis. I don't like the exciting, unusual, etc., any more than you, and I like it even less in your hand. I love your writing, or what I've seen on your blog, and this is not a good representation of your ability.

I'd be happy to offer a more in depth critique in private, but only if you ask. I don't eviscerate people who won't say please...

...and who won't agree to call me master and let me spank them when they're naughty. But, just to be clear, you won't have to pay me. Escort, indeed. Hrmmph.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Mark.
Yes, it sucks, and that's a particularly clumsy sentence.
While I agree that sticking to "dragon" in the synopsis makes very good sense, I'm afraid you're stuck with "Falchion" - because the story is based on a genuine family, a genuine myth, and a genuine article of mayhem called The Conyers Falchion.

Mark Pettus said...

I fear I've hurt your feelings, and if I have, I apologize.

If you were some lightweight with no ability, I'd tell you it was great, and give you a big warm fuzzy. You're not a lightweight, though, you are possibly the best writer in our ever-expanding blog circle, and I don't think telling you that your synopsis is great when I don't think it is, is doing you any favors. It does suck. You should abandon writing immediately, buy yourself a cat-o-nine tails, and begin self flagellation. Just kidding. Sheesh.

As for the Falchion, as long as you are aware that a semi-literate redneck like myself, educated in one of the finest one-room school houses the American West has to offer, may not know what a falchion or an avatar is, then you're on your own. If your editor is a graduate of a superior education system, from say... Canada, Great Britain, or Guatemala... then you'll probably be fine. I'd explain what the Falchion is, myself, just to be safe.

Of course, I could be wrong - I often am.

Bernita said...

No, Mark, you didn't "hurt my feelings."
I appreciate people's honest reactions.
Did you not see the plea above that said "plees healp?"
But don't knock one room schools. Went to one myself for a few years.

Mark Pettus said...

I'm not knocking one room school houses, but I learned about falchions while playing Diablo II online, and about avatars on the usenet... back when I was a geek.

Now I'm cool. The only Avatar I know about is on Cartoon Network.

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Anonymous said...

Hello. Prompt how to get acquainted with the girl it to me to like. But does not know about it
I have read through one history
Each of you has your personal story; it is your history. Keeping a diary or writing your feelings in a special notebook is a wonderful way to learn how to think and write about who you are -- to develop your own identity and voice.

People of all ages are able to do this. Your own history is special because of your circumstances: your cultural, racial, religious or ethnic background. Your story is also part of human history, a part of the story of the dignity and worth of all human beings. By putting opinions and thoughts into words, you, too, can give voice to your inner self and strivings.

A long entry by Anne Frank on April 5, 1944, written after more than a year and a half of hiding from the Nazis, describes the range of emotions 14-year-old Anne is experiencing:

". . . but the moment I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth, and I choked back my tears, since I didn't want anyone next door to hear me . . .

"And now it's really over. I finally realized that I must do my school work to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write. A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humorous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but . . . it remains to be seen whether I really have talent . . .

"When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies.

"I haven't worked on Cady's Life for ages. In my mind I've worked out exactly what happens next, but the story doesn't seem to be coming along very well. I might never finish it, and it'll wind up in the wastepaper basket or the stove. That's a horrible thought, but then I say to myself, "At the age of 14 and with so little experience, you can't write about philosophy.' So onward and upward, with renewed spirits. It'll all work out, because I'm determined to write! Yours, Anne M. Frank

For those of you interested in reading some of Anne Frank's first stories and essays, including a version of Cady's Life, see Tales From the Secret Annex (Doubleday, 1996). Next: Reviewing and revising your writing

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