Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Synopsis 4: Heartsouls

The author cut 500 words to make the 1000-word limit. Heartsouls is epic fantasy with a strong component of romance.

The query for it is here.

Comtesse Marguerite Navarre is a naïve young woman from the privileged race of Argents, distinguished by their gold eyes and blonde hair. Argents own all property and control the country of Maore to the exclusion of the other race, Silvers. Heartsouls begins with Comtesse Marguerite Navarre fleeing for her life. Strange creatures, she names blackbirds, are attacking the Compound where she lives, killing Argents including her family. Marguerite escapes over the Compound wall to fall, literally, into the Silver section of town

Silvers find her in the streets after curfew. Dark-haired Silvers are restricted to their homes for curfew, but these men don’t follow the rules. They are dismayed to find a young Argent on their hands, requesting help to warn the Empereur. After hearing her story, their leader, Bolton, decides they will accompany the Comtesse out of town and see what happens

Jorge, the handsomest of the Silvers, is a cocky, confident young man who enjoys teasing and flirting. His cavalier attitude infuriates Marguerite. Morris is a fun loving boy, who is soon telling Marguerite more than the others want revealed, including that Jorge receives warnings of danger and he has the ability to seek people or things out.

The Silvers find Marguerite’s friendly behavior remarkable. They begin to care what happens to her against warnings from Bolton to be cautious. Marguerite finds she is happier with her new friends then she was in the stuffy society of rules and snobbery.

In Maore, people worship a group of Spirits. The greater Spirits are Air or Wind, Earth, Water, Sun, and Moon. Each greater Spirit had a hand in creating some form of life: birds, animals, fish, Silvers, and Argents. The Sun Spirit is associated with Argents while the Moon is the creator of Silvers. Spirits will feature large throughout Heartsoul.

As they reach the capital, Marguerite fears she will never be allowed to see her new friends again. Duty to her dead family compels her to continue with her visit to Empereur Agenor despite her feelings. Jorge offers to find her with his seeking powers if they should be separated. An offer she declines for fear of her friends’ safety. Jorge kisses her and she is filled with confused feelings.

Empereur Agenor and his heir, Captain Hull, tell Marguerite she has manifested a very old magic. Her magic is the result of a bond she has formed with the Silvers. All the people of Maore have the potential for magic- if they find their soul bond. There are two types of bonds. Twins souls are Argents/Silvers in a sibling partnership, while heartsouls is a more intimate matching of love. Agenor decides to confirm Marguerite’s connection to the Silvers. He separates her from the Silvers, holding her as his guest at the palace and sending them on their way, and waits results.

The Silvers are unexpectedly infuriated at being parted from Marguerite. They decide they will use Jorge’s ability and Bolton’s scheming to rescue her. A sneak rescue to find her is foiled when someone tracks Jorge’s magic. Instead of all getting away, Jorge and Bolton let themselves be caught by Captain Hull so the other two with Marguerite can get out of the palace into the city.

Dutifully, Marguerite comes back for them the next morning and gives herself up in exchange for the Silvers’ safety. Empereur Agenor now tells them of their connection to each other. He insists on testing all the Silvers to discover which is bonded to Marguerite. It is, of course, the lying charmer, Jorge.

In return for their promise to learn magic and help Agenor, their group will be allowed to stay together. The Empereur’s last demand is devastating to Marguerite. He declares that she and Jorge are heartsouls and they must marry to strengthen the bond between them or they will be confined and forced to do so. Marguerite must get a handle on her feelings for Jorge. She is confused and unsure, caught between desire to help the Empereur, her curiosity about magic, and her wishes not to be forced into marriage.

After meeting with the Empereur, Jorge and Marguerite end up arguing; affecting their ability to make their magic work. The strength of the magic depends on the strength of the heartsoul or twin soul connection. Like Silvers of ancient times, Jorge is susceptible to a binding oath- meaning when he promises to do something he is held to it or he becomes physically ill. Jorge has promised to marry Marguerite but she refuses. Worn down with Jorge’s increasing suffering, Marguerite finally agrees to marry him

At midsummer, the blackbirds return with their creators to attack the Argents of Starke. In particular, they want Empereur Agenor removed. With no children to follow him, the country would fall into chaos for Captain Hull is not generally accepted as heir. And without the Empereur’s protection the Silvers, and especially Jorge, would be in danger from Argent retribution.

An exciting rescue to save Empereur Agenor, involving many blackbirds, is successful. On their way back a panicked crowd separates the friends. Jorge, Marguerite, and Captain Hull encounter a hooded man. This man, Seth, boasts he is the one behind the blackbirds and mocks their pitiful skill with magic. Not even threatened enough to kill them personally, Seth leaves behind enough blackbirds to do the job for him.

Beset by too many blackbirds to overcome with their beginning skill, they are saved by the intervention of the Moon Spirit, Candrima. She banishes the blackbirds and reveals that Jorge is her favorite child. The Moon Spirit created Jorge with the purpose of bringing magic back to the world. After Candrima releases them, most of them they have no memory of her or her intervention. Candrima looks on at the end knowing Jorge has only begun the journey to fulfill his purpose. Jorge and Marguerite’s relationship is still incomplete. The mocking blackbird creators are still at large and they have much more magic to learn.

Comments

The author mentioned she thinks this synopsis sounds a bit boring and I have to agree (but that can, of course, be fixed!). Why?

Lack of a clear antagonist. In the beginning, the blackbirds seem to be a collective villain. There's not really a hint of a main villain until Seth shows up 90% of the way through the story.

Lack of tension in the middle of the book. The story is bookended by attacks by the blackbirds, but what's really happening in the middle of the book? M&J travel to the capital, the emperor thinks they have a bond, tests that bond, then says they have to marry to make their bond strong. There's talk of magic, but no one seems to perform any and the magic is not explained. Because there are a lot of machinations to discover that bond, it seems to be important, but the reader is left not caring because the synopsis doesn't clearly show what the point of it all is.

Unresolved ending. The emperor is captured and rescued in two sentences. Our protags are beset by blackbirds and they are saved by what seems to be a deus ex machina – the Moon Spirit. There's something special about Jorge, more hints at magic and nothing is resolved between M&J. As written, it feels like a setup for Part 2 rather than a satisfying conclusion to this story's arc.

Plus, I know I seem to be harping on the magic, both in your query revision and now in your synopsis (sorry), but I'm afraid I just don't get what the magic is, how it works, or why it's important. Does anyone else see something here about the magic that's obvious that I'm missing?

I failed in my job of cutting this synopsis down. In my edit, I expanded on some of the ideas (making a guess or two - and using some placeholder words like "gang" and "hoodlum" that will need changing) and tried to cram in a bit more motivation and a more resolved feel to the ending. The original is 999 words; my version is 993. Are there parts that the rest of you feel can go? Or other ways you would tackle this?

My Version

Comtesse Marguerite Navarre is a naïve young woman from the privileged race of gold-eyed, blonde-haired Argents. In Maore, Argents own all the property and live in Compounds that insulate them from the subjugated, dark-haired Silver race. When strange creatures nicknamed blackbirds attack her Compound killing every Argent they find, Marguerite watches in horror as they slaughter her parents. She flees, barely escaping over the Compound wall to fall, literally, into the Silver section of town.

A gang of Silvers finds her in the streets after curfew. The four young hoodlums hear her story of the attack and her pleas to warn the Empereur. Their leader, Bolton, antsy for action, agrees to accompany the Comtesse to the capital.

One handsome hoodlum, Jorge, is a particularly cocky, confident young man who enjoys teasing and flirting. His cavalier attitude infuriates Marguerite, until one of the gang confides that Jorge receives visions of danger and has the uncanny ability to find people and things that are lost -- or don't want to be found. Intrigued despite herself, Marguerite studies the man with new eyes.

In fact, she begins to see all the Silvers – children of Candrima, the Moon Spirit -- with new eyes. The boys are easy-going and fun-loving, far from the stuffy society of rules and snobbery she's been accustomed to. She feels comfortable with them. In turn, the Silvers find Marguerite’s friendly behavior remarkable. Argents made the rules they're rebelling against, but Marguerite is different. And they're starting to care what happens to her.

When they reach the capital, Marguerite fears the Silvers won't be let in and that she won't be allowed to see her new friends again. But duty to her dead family compels her on alone. Jorge promises to find her should they be separated. Then he kisses her, and the resulting flush of warmth and power overwhelms her.

When she appears before Empereur Agenor and his appointed heir, Captain Hull, they sense what Marguerite can't – that she has manifested a very old magic. What they don't know is who she's made the rare and powerful heartsouls bond with. To find out, Agenor detains her and orders the Silvers on their way. Then he waits.

Relying on Jorge's seeking ability and Bolton’s scheming, the Silvers attempt a rescue. The plot, expected as it is, is foiled. Changing plans on the fly, Jorge and Bolton let themselves be caught by Hull so the other two can escape with Marguerite into the faceless city.

Conscience, though, won't let Marguerite abandon her friends. She returns for them the next morning, giving herself up in exchange for the Silvers’ safety. Agenor insists on testing all the Silvers to discover which one is bonded to Marguerite. It is, of course, the cocky charmer, Jorge.

In return for their promise to learn magic and help Agenor, the Empereur will allow the friends to stay together. But his next demand devastates Marguerite. He declares that, as heartsouls, she and Jorge must marry to strengthen the bond between them. If they refuse to marry willingly, they will be confined and forced to consummate the bond to bring the ancient magic back into a world grown sterile from its absence.

To keep Marguerite safe and his friends free, Jorge agrees to the marriage. Marguerite, though, remains caught between desire to help the Empereur, her curiosity about magic, and her wishes not to be forced into marriage. And she still hasn't come to terms with her feelings for Jorge.

Jorge and Marguerite end up arguing, affecting their ability to make their magic work. To complicate matters, Jorge, like Silvers of ancient times, is susceptible to a binding oath -- meaning when he promises to do something he is held to it or he becomes physically ill. The more Marguerite argues against the marriage, the more Jorge suffers. Worn down at last by Jorge’s increasing anguish, Marguerite agrees to marry him

Before that can happen, blackbirds attack the capital. This time they're after Agenor. Since Hull is only an appointed heir and not of royal blood, many Argents do not accept him as successor. With Agenor off the throne, the country would fall into chaos. And without the Empereur’s protection, all Silvers would be in danger from Argent retribution. The raid on the capital is a success and Agenor is captured and spirited off by a squadron of blackbirds.

Recognizing the importance of keeping Agenor safe, Marguerite and the Silver gang join Captain Hull in a successful rescue. On their way back, a panicked crowd separates the friends, leaving Jorge, Marguerite, and Hull on their own. Trapped in an alley by a mysterious hooded man -- who boasts being the one behind the attacks -- and his entourage of blackbirds, Jorge and Marguerite call on their heartsouls bond and the magic they need to save them. Unskilled, their magic is weak, impotent, and the man, Seth, mocks their pitiful attempt. Not even threatened enough to kill them personally, Seth leaves behind enough blackbirds to do the job for him.

Their attempt, however, draws attention. The strong bond resonates with a power they cannot yet tap into but which can be felt by the many spirits of their world. Candrima, Moon Spirit and protector of the Silvers, appears and banishes the blackbirds. In a moment of wistful love she reveals that of all the Silver children she's created, Jorge is her favorite and the one purposed to bring magic back into the world.

Before Candrima leaves, she takes away their memory of her and her intervention. Like any Mother, she must allow Jorge to walk his own path and succeed or fail on his own choices. Before the world can be made whole again, Jorge and Marguerite’s relationship must be completed and they must learn to wield their magic to bring the blackbirds and their creator to bay. But for now, Candrima's allowed them a second chance to learn and – perhaps – to love.

12 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

This sounds like an interesting story with a lot of world building. It seems like you're talking about the book itself in the third person and I've never seen that in a synopsis before.

With that in mind, I chopped a lot, made it a bit more immediate, removed characters who are mentioned once, removed things that are not cogent to the synopsis though they might be for the story - that kind of thing. Here's my 686 word version (multiple comments).

Blackbirds attack the Argent compound killing people of this privileged race who own all property and control the country of Maore. Her family dying in the attack, young and naïve Comtesse Marguerite Navarre escapes over the Compound wall to fall, literally, into the Silver section of town.

Silvers are restricted to their homes for curfew, but some don’t care to follow Argent rules. The leader, Bolton, is dismayed to find Marguerite in his territory requesting their help to warn the Empereur. After hearing her story, he decides they will accompany Marguerite on her mission.

Jorge, the handsomest of the Silvers, is cocky. His teasing and flirting infuriates Marguerite. During the journey, Marguerite learns more than the others want revealed, including that Jorge receives warnings of danger and has the seeking ability – he can find people or things. Though Bolton warns them to be cautious, the Silvers begin to care what happens to Marguerite. She, in turn, finds she is happier with these new friends then she was in the stuffy Argent society of rules and snobbery.

When they reach the capital, duty to her dead family compels Marguerite to visit Empereur Agenor though she fears she will never be allowed to see her new friends again. Jorge offers to find her with his seeking powers should they be separated. Fearing for her friend’s safety, she declines. Jorge kisses her and she is filled with confused feelings.

Empereur Agenor and his heir, Captain Hull, tell Marguerite she has manifested a very old magic – the result of a Heartsouls bond she has formed with one of the Silvers. Heartsouls are an intimate soul bond – a matching of love. Agenor decides to test Marguerite’s connection to one of the Silvers by holding her as his guest at the palace and sending the Silvers on their way.

The Silvers decide to use Jorge’s ability and Bolton’s scheming to rescue Marguerite. The rescue is foiled when someone tracks Jorge’s magic. Jorge and Bolton let themselves be caught so the other two can get Marguerite out of the palace. The next morning, Marguerite gives herself up in exchange for the Silvers’ safety. Empereur Agenor tells them of their Heartsouls bond. He tests the Silvers to discover who is bonded to Marguerite. Of course, it’s the lying charmer, Jorge.

In return for their promise to learn magic and help Agenor, their group will be allowed to stay together. But the Empereur’s last demand is devastating to Marguerite. She and Jorge must marry to strengthen the bond between them. She is caught between her desire to help the Empereur, her curiosity about magic, and her desire to not be forced into marriage.

Jorge and Marguerite argue which weakens their magic. The strength of it depends on the strength of their emotional connection. Like Silvers of ancient times, Jorge is susceptible to a binding oath - when he promises to do something he is held to it. Marguerite’s refusal to marry him causes him to become physically ill. Worn down with his increasing suffering, Marguerite agrees to marry him.

Sarah Laurenson said...

At midsummer, the blackbirds return with their creators to attack the Argents. They want Empereur Agenor removed. Captain Hull is not generally accepted as heir. The country would fall into chaos. Without the Empereur’s protection the Silvers would be in danger from Argent retribution for ??.

On their way back from rescuing Empereur Agenor, Jorge, Marguerite, and Captain Hull are separated from the rest of the Silvers by a panicked crowd. A hooded man, Seth, boasts he is the one behind the blackbirds. He mocks their pitiful skill with magic. Not threatened enough to kill them personally, Seth leaves behind enough blackbirds to do the job for him.

The Moon Spirit, Candrima, banishes the blackbirds and reveals that Jorge is her favorite child. She created him to bring magic back to the world, but he has only begun the journey to fulfill his purpose. They are released with no memory of her or her intervention. Jorge and Marguerite’s relationship is still incomplete and they have much more magic to learn. The blackbird creators remain at large.

Michelle9Hauck said...

Thanks so much for the rewrites. In order to cut down to 1000 words, I took out some important things that fill out the story- the political firestorm that results from M&J's marriage and a minor character that creates conflict. I also cut out the in- depth description of the magic.

Not all of Marguerite's family succumbed to the blackbird attack. Her older brother, Joshua, lives in the capital and he is not a man who cares to share either attention or the family fortune. After attempts to bully Marguerite into giving up her part of the money fail, Joshua first attempts to have Jorge beaten to death then hires an assassin to kill his sister. Jorge and Bolton break up the assassination, but filled with hatred at his sister's inappropriate marriage, Joshua will try again.

Joshua is mentioned from the second chapter and he is the red herring that readers should imagine is the Argent murderer. He pulls people's attention from mention of the true villian. How do I make that apparent in the synopsis?

Phoenix said...

Did AA take her comment down? Well, darn. I thought there were some really good observations there.

Michelle: Joshua sounds like an important secondary character, and his assassination attempt sounds like the kind of thrill the middle of the book needs.

In the synopsis at the beginning, I don't get that there's anyone in particular behind the blackbirds' attack. So including that bit at the front would be good. I think the "The Silvers find M's behavior..." paragraph could be cut, then add in your red herring in P1 with something like "their attacks aren't random" or "obviously being controlled."

Maybe, then, after M agrees to marry J, you can slip in a short paragraph about the assassination attempt and M's suspicions that Joshua's greed led to their parents' deaths.

Then, when Seth reveals himself, use something like "claims/boasts he's the one behind the attacks -- not Joshua after all."

If you put M in danger from Joshua, I don't think you have to mention Jorge getting beaten up, too.

Robin B. said...

Phoenix, I wish I could channel your brain when writing a synopsis, girl!!

Anonymous said...

Just a note: "Argent" is another word for "silver," and the redundancy made me wince every time I saw it. The author might want to consider a terminology change.

AA said...

Hey, my comment disappeared! Well, I'm not going to try to rewrite it. It was long.

Here's my version, with all due respect to Phoenix and Sarah's rewrites. I faked the parts I wasn't sure about. Next two comments:

Comtesse Marguerite Navarre is running from the demon-like blackbirds that killed her entire family. A madman named Seth seems determined to use his "pets" to destroy all of the Argents who live in a glorious, walled city in the land of Maore. Marguerite escapes over the wall and is discovered by a gang of Silvers, the less privileged race of people who also live in Maore.

The four men aren't sure what to do with a spoiled, pampered Argent. She pleads with them to help her reach the city of Stark and warn the Empereur of this villain and his powers. Their leader, Bolton, decides the cause is worthy, so they start for the Empereur's palace.

The Silvers are surprised at Marguerite's friendliness. Bolton warns them not to get too attached to her, but that's easier said than done. Jorge, the handsomest of the group, teases and flirts with her. His cockiness alternately angers and attracts Marguerite. She learns that Jorge has special abilities. He can sense impending danger, and he can project his mind to find people he knows.

When they reach the capital, Marguerite knows her new friends won't be allowed inside. Jorge tells her he'll use his seeking powers if they're separated for long. Fearing for his safety, she declines- but when he kisses her, she wonders if she's made the right decision.

Empereur Agenor sees something unusual in Marguerite. He suspects she's awakened an ancient magic by forming a bond with one of the Silvers. All the people or Maore have this potential- they can form a "soul bond" with someone of the other race.

AA said...

[Same paragraph] He insists she stay at the palace as his guest, hoping the Silvers will use magic in an attempt to take her back. Predictably, they do just that. Jorge and Bolton allow themselves to be caught so that Marguerite can escape with the other two men.

They don't count on Marguerite coming back the next morning and trying to make a deal with the Empereur who she believes will have the Silvers executed. The Empereur is more interested in finding out which one she bonded with. It turns out to be Jorge, of course. The Empereur insists they must be married. They are "heartsouls", and a magical bond exists between them that will only strengthen with time.

Marguerite has been envisioning a different future: a return to the Argent population and a continued life with people she understands. The Silvers are so very different from her. A life with Jorge would be unpredictable to say the least. Afraid of what she can't forsee, Marguerite refuses.

Jorge, on the other hand, agrees. They fight over the issue, and Marguerite is upset when Jorge becomes quite ill. She learns he is susceptible to a binding oath, meaning that when he promises to do something he must do it, or suffer from physical illness. Marguerite softens and finally relents. She agrees to the marriage.

AA said...

[I meant, THREE comments!] Meanwhile, Seth and his rogues are at work planning the demise of Empereur Agenor and the Argents of Starke. The Silvers know that with the Empereur missing, Maore will fall into chaos. Along with Agenor's second--in-command, Captain Hull, they hatch a bold plan to save the Empereur.

Marguerite fears for Jorge, and she insists on coming with them, in case her magic might help. After a fierce battle with the monstrous blackbird creatures, the Empereur is rescued, but the friends are separated by the panicked crowd. Seth corners Jorge, Marguerite and Hull, then sets his blackbirds on them. Seth is confident that Jorge and Marguerite don't yet have enough magic to defeat his minions.

Their valiant attempts are not enough, and they're nearly overcome. Sensing their distress, a godess of the Silvers comes to their rescue. Candrima is the Moon Spirit and Jorge is her favorite child. The spirit banishes the blackbirds and leaves Jorge and the others with no memory of her. She knows the two lovers have many trials ahead, but if they can survive Seth and all his unholy kind, their magic will one day become complete.

Phoenix said...

AA: I don't know what happened to your comment, either, but I still have it in my email. I'm reposting it here since you seemed surprised it was gone and because it has some excellent advice in it.

I applaud Phoenix's valiant attempt to make some of this seem more immediate or urgent, but the story here comes across as boring for a really good reason.

We all know that tension is needed to plot a story. Tension is caused by the protag having a goal and not reaching that goal for a while. Or, there is something the protag wants (or needs to save her life) and she can't get it right away.

Also, in this type of story, another source of tension is one or more of the protags being in mortal danger, and that problem not being resolved right away.

Considering all that, here is the story the way it comes across to me:

The beginning is good. The protag is running away from killer blackbird things. But then she falls in with a group of extremely courteous young men who don't even try to cop a feel even though she's helpless. They like her, she decides she likes them. She even picks up a handsome boyfriend with magical powers! Her royal ass might as well have landed on a pillow.

It keeps going this way. She gets to the capital, no problem. She's accepted there, too. She's separated from her friends, which is sad but not life-threatening. She eventually tries to escape, but not because she's in danger. She later gives herself up for the sake of her friends, but they aren't really in danger either.

Next, she's "forced" to marry the man she's really in love with. If she does, she gets magical powers and her boyfriend won't be sick anymore. How tragic. If she doesn't- well, she has to anyway, right?

The Empereur is kidnapped and rescued, apparently in the same sentence. Then the friends are separated by a crowd (horrifying!) and attacked by those blackbirds again. The magic that this whole story is supposed to be about doesn't work (!), and they are rescued by a huge, glaring deus ex machina.

Yes, I'm being facetious. But you get what I'm saying, right? It doesn't help that the protag seems to have the mental and emotional depth of a kindergartner. That's ok at the beginning, but a lack of character development doesn't help much.

I'd suggest rewriting this with these things in mind:

What does the MC really want out of life and what is keeping her from getting it?

What does Jorge really want out of life and what is keeping him from getting it?

If the Empereur is in mortal danger, play it up, don't gloss over it.

Don't mention Hull unless he turns out to be the bastard son of the Empereur or is secretly planning a coup.

Mention the villain much earlier in the synopsis and try to give us an idea of why the blackbirds are so scary. The only scary blackbirds I've seen were in "The Birds", but even that seems kind of cheesy by today's standards.

Tell us what this magical power of M and J could really do if they ever get it working properly. At least hint at this.

Focus on what's at stake, what's important. Tell us how things could really go wrong.

This is the best advice I know how to give you. Good luck. (And follow Phoenix's comments. She's right.)

Phoenix said...

And then Blogger decides to post it 3 times. Sigh.

AA said...

Thanks, Phoenix. I wonder where it went.

Bad Blogger! No biscuit!