Thursday, September 16, 2010

Synopsis 5: The Miranda Contract

The author calls this one street-level superhero noir.
Dan Galkin is desperately trying to be normal, but when you were a teenage super-villain in high school and your grandfather is an evil psychopath, it's going to take more than a low-paying pizza delivery job and a cynical attitude to convince the police, your probation officer and two house-mates that you're just like any other disaffected eighteen year old.

Dan is an uberhuman, born with the ability to sense and manipulate electricity, and even though he was a member of The Small Gods for only two weeks, the label of supervillain is hard to erase. As part of his rehabilitation, Dan is required to work for the uberguard security firm, under the thumb of Alsana Owens.

While delivering pizza, Dan is caught up in a paparazzi storm outside the hotel of American pop singer, Miranda Brody. Brody's management hires Dan as part of her security detail after seeing him in action, but Brody is not impressed with 'the pizza boy'. The job seems to be all about making Brody look good by manoeuvring undesirables out of her personal space, but then Dan is nearly killed at the airport and he realises that the superstar's life (and his own) are in danger. He is dragged through a police interrogation, insulted by Brody and her entourage, abandoned by his manager, only to find himself under attack again.

With no one to turn to, Dan and Brody slip into the streets to escape. They meet up with Halo, a former team-mate and rival, who has embraced the life of a criminal. Brody enjoys Halo's tour of the city's underworld while Dan tries to find out who is behind the attacks. He suspects his grandfather, the Mad Russian, and after some investigation he stumbles into a trap - set by Halo.

Betrayed and beaten, Dan is confronted by his grandfather who wants him to return to the super-villain fraternity instead of wasting his life delivering pizza. To do this in style, the Mad Russian wants Dan to be credited with Miranda Brody's death - and it doesn't matter whether Dan's interested or not. Using a combination of bluff and his powers, Dan escapes with Brody, bruised and without a plan.

They leave the city in a stolen car and end up at Dan's deranged mother's house where he realises he has gone as far as he can. He stops running - from his grandfather and from his past. Using clues from the previous attacks, his grandfather's contacts, and his limited ability to tap into telecommunications network, he tracks the Mad Russian's location - a shopping centre.

At the centre, Brody uses her celebrity status to cause a stampede of shoppers and distracts security while Dan slips into service corridors and clashes with Halo. The Mad Russian makes a very public stand in the middle of the centre, taking Brody hostage to draw out his grandson. Dan is pushed to his limits keeping the people safe and taking down his grandfather, eventually scrambling the electrical impulses of the Mad Russian's brain, although it nearly kills them both.

In the aftermath, Brody is bathed in the limelight when the media (and her entourage) arrives. Dan finds himself pulled into the throng as well, and becomes a 'hero', although he worries about some of the comments his grandfather made suggesting that Dan isn't in control of his destiny.

Dan wakes up the next day to a front cover news report labelling him a hero. Alsana Owens phones him up with a job but he hangs up, deciding to live his life the way he wants.


At 599 words, this is tightly – and quite nicely! – written. I think it does a good job capturing the events – the whats. Where I, as a reader going into this cold, feel it could use a bit of fleshing out is in the motivation – the whys. I have a good idea of what Dan does, but not necessarily why.

Here are my pain points:

Dan is nearly killed at the airport, then we see him being attacked again. The synopsis makes it sound like he's the target, but then we find out his grand-dad is somehow setting it up so that Brody gets killed. Yet Brody never really seems to be in danger until the incident at the shopping mall.

The reference to the grandfather's comments about Dan's destiny seems to come a bit out of nowhere. Maybe work that into the earlier paragraph where Dan and his grandfather meet up.

In the last two paragraphs, there are two references to Dan being labeled a hero. I think one would be enough. And even so, I'm not sure how Dan feels about it. What does he constitute as normal now? Being a hero or going back to slacker-dom?

Dan hangs up on Alsana at the end, but 1) I don't know what life he wants to live so am not clear what he's headed off to do, and 2) if Alsana's gig is a court-ordered rehab, won't he wind up in prison and be so not in control of his life at that time?

I also was a little uncertain about why Dan was delivering pizzas and working the security gig for Alsana (even as part of his rehab). Was the uberguard just part-time? And is the uber part of Alsana's guard services secret? Wouldn't Brody be aware Dan is more than a pizza boy if her handlers purposefully hire uber protection? And if it is secret, why would the uberguard be hiring on as celebrity bodyguards and not political bodyguards or guards for witnesses or others generally in more danger than celebs?

For me, none of these questions are deal-breakers in the synopsis; I think the synopsis, even as is, will likely garner some requests! Especially if you attach the first 5 pages and the writing holds up there as well as it does here.


LSimon said...

The only comment I have is that since the title is "The Miranda Contract" I would refer to her as Miranda in the synopsis. I go to the end and was like...what does the title have to do with the book?

Other than that, hate you...not really. Good job!

LeeAnn Flowers said...

I love the title, and I agree with the first comment that she should've been referred to as Miranda. This is the kind of synopsis I want to write. It's concise and keeps me moving through it.

Nice job.

PH said...

A nice, tight synopsis which keeps the action coming.
Because of the title, I think it might be better to use 'Miranda' rather than 'Brody' throughout, though.
I agree that the two references to being a hero in the last paragraphs should be cut down to one.
Just a touch of emotional content would add drama to the piece - show just a little of how he is desperate/scared/determined/in pain etc.
Overall, though, a really great job. Congratulations.

AA said...

This is good. There are some confusing points, but it makes me want to read the story.

vkw said...

This is a good synopsis. I think the author does have some room to flesh it out a bit.

3rd paragraph:

Maybe this would be better. After Brody's management sees him in action he is hired to join her security team. But Brody is not impressed with the 'pizza boy' and Dan isn't all that impressed with his job which seems more about making Brody look good by keeping undesireables out of her way than it is about protecting her from danger.

Now you may want to consider adding a detail about how he impresses the security detail. And, why is he able to take this job if he's under this Alsana's thumb?

I am making suggestion to make the change in p.3 primarily because I think cause and effect is much clearer than effect then cause. Hope that makes sense.

Dan changes his mind when he is nearly killed at the airport and realizes the superstar's life (and his own) are in danger.

Then we have some annoying things happening and jump to the two on the run.

How did this happen?

You may want to leave out the interrogation. .. . so on and so on and start with. (without reading the book it's hard to give advice). Nevertheless, you may want to jump to:

After their harrowing escape from not only the unknown? attacker but the police and members of Brody's entourage, they find themselves on the streets with no where to run, no one to turn to and no plan. (Do they meet up, which seems planned or run into? which seems is more accidental) with Halo.

okay the rest is good, real good

but let's jump to "wasting his life delivering pizza" err, really? Because I think he's wasting his life now by keeping undesireable away from a spoilt star. .

again try more cause and effect,

The Mad Russion takes Brody hostage in the middle of the centre in order to draw Dan into his trap.

I would move the comments about "not being in control of his destiny where he is confronted by his grandfather in paragraph 5, where I am assuming this happened or where in the story it did happen.

The ending repeats the hero part so drop that.

The next morning Alsana calls with a new job, Dan just hangs up, deciding he will be the master of his own destiny.

Anyway, very good synposis and interesting story.

I would read it

Anonymous said...

I would like to see more about the relationship between Brody and Dan. You say she is not impressed by him, but later she goes with him and then helps him at the shopping mall. Obviously a change of heart happens in their relationship. Is this a love interest or not, because I don't feel it is clear. Or how they stand at the end of the book.

Ben Langdon said...

Thanks for the comments Phoenix and co. I was a bit worried that my synopsis would be a case of 'This happens... then this happens... and then Dan does this... and then...'

I can see where the concentration on what happens kind of discourages detail on why it happens so I'll go back and have another go.

The comments on calling Brody Miranda are spot on. Makes sense and although I prefer to think of her as Brody, in the synopsis I think it'd be much easier and clearer to use Miranda.

Dan is an 'up-cycled' uberhuman - a young person with powers who has committed a small crime, but instead of being incarcerated has been given to the government for a certain length of time. It's a violation of rights but better than prison. Alsana Owens is his case worker/manager and most up-cycles only get to do low-rent security. Usually their powers are limited. So when Dan accidentally impresses Miranda's entourage by re-routing a paparaazzi storm (makes them think Miranda is elsewhere) they track his license plate and contact Alsana, hiring him.

As for the relationship between Miranda and Dan it's probably kind of cliche. They hate each other, then are forced to flee and end up at Dan's childhood home where they connect in his bedroom over his old guitars. She shows that she appreciates music and isn't just a pop princess and he opens up a bit about his family. Throughout the story Dan is shown to be a bit of a bastard when it comes to women, mostly because of a bit of a tragedy in his past, so I didn't want the two of them to live happily ever after. Instead I have Miranda disappear after the press conference, flying back to the safety of LA, and Dan being alone but happy. It's open for a seqeul of course, so they may get together.

The main threat is the Mad Russian who wants to control Dan's life. He was a big time villain during the Cold War, then tried to make his sons and daughter into a suitable legacy, failed, and is now trying to find an heir amongst his grandchildren.

Anyway, I'll hopefully be finished polishing the manuscript by the end of January and see what happens.

Thanks so much again.