Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Synopsis 10: All Things Together for Good

ANAIIYA grows up in the streets of Laryial, all knowledge of her true name or nature stolen from her when her mother the queen—driven mad by her ensorcelled union with demons—threw her from the cliffs. Twenty years later, Anaiiya’s bitter life of poverty and loneliness ends when saves the city’s gargoyle tribe from a band of murderous zealots known as the JYNGOS.

The gargoyles invite her to live with them in the Tower on the condition that she continue guarding them during the day when they are vulnerable. Anaiiya agrees. She settles into a peaceful life with the gargoyles, even finding love with one, until the Jyngos attack the Tower again and kidnap her. They hold her in a woodshed and use a potion to keep her unconscious. But the potion doesn’t work on her like it’s supposed to. On the fifth evening after her capture, Anaiiya recovers and escapes.

Anaiiya flees from her pursuers through the city streets, screaming for the gargoyles to swoop down and save her. But once again it is the gargoyles themselves who need saving. As she approaches the Tower, she sees the Jyngos scaling its walls yet again. Something snaps inside her. Strength and energy fill her, unlike anything she’s ever felt before—and she blacks out.

She awakens covered in blood to find she’s killed the Jyngos. All of them. Fifty men are dead by her hand, and now even her adopted gargoyle family begins to suspect the truth: Anaiiya isn’t human. But with no memories of her own before the age of five, she can’t even begin to guess what at what she really is.

The blackout is only the beginning of the strange things happening to Anaiiya. When she sings, the river boils and mysterious rockslides plague the Amaranthine Cliffs. When she’s angry, her eyes glow with an otherworldly light and hunks of stone crumble in her hands like cheese.

Then a man arrives at the Tower, claiming to be Anaiiya’s father.

Anaiiya reluctantly meets with him. She doesn’t know it, but her father waits for Anaiiya in the same tavern where he bespelled her mother into a single night of passion. His name is SEFAL. He is Nephilim; a half-demon abomination. The last of his kind, he’s desperate to gain control over the only child he can ever sire. He tells her she is the supposedly-dead princess TARASEYA. Sefal tries to convince his daughter that Good and Evil are myths; lies perpetrated by a narcissistic and indifferent God. Together, he promises, they can set everything right in the world. They can even save her beloved gargoyles.

Then the Guardians arrive, sworn enemy race of the Nephilim, to prevent the war the Jyngos have set in motion between Man and the Mystic Races. Ancient and immortal, the Guardians are protectors of Creation, chosen rather than born, and endowed with incredible powers. They can speak any language, Shift into any form, and their magical “Hemtr-Elilla” songs can do anything from healing bruises to destroying stars. They also lay claim to Anaiiya and insist she is one of their own.

The Guardians restore her memories and Anaiiya can no longer live in ignorance. She sneaks into the palace to confront her mother, QUEEN RILTARA. Sefal’s words haunt her. She must know the truth of her parentage. Is the monster Sefal truly her father? Is she born of demons, or chosen by God? Could she possibly be…both?

Queen Riltara is just as mad as the rumors claim, but she instantly recognizes her supposedly-dead daughter. She shrieks about prophesies and darkness and the end of the world and repeatedly attacks Anaiiya. When Queen Riltara falls on her daughter with a battleaxe, Anaiiya loses control and stabs her mother through the heart.

Sefal springs his trap during her half-brother PRINCE XOZER’S coronation the following day. Prince Xozer falls to the ground, dying at the hands of black Nephilim magic. Only Anaiiya can save him...if she wants to. If Anaiiya joins forces with the Guardians to prevent the coming war between Man and the Mystic Races, the Prince will live...but the Tower will collapse and destroy the last gargoyle tribe on Earth—the only family she has ever known. If she sides with Sefal and his demonic kindred instead, the gargoyles will live but the Prince will die. Leaving the Jyngo leader as the only heir to the throne. If he becomes King of Laryial, he will wage a war against the Mystic Races that will cost countless lives.

Prince Xozer is dying in her arms. Anaiiya has only moments to decide. Howling in anguish, Anaiiya makes her choice and watches in horror as the Tower collapses before her eyes. The last gargoyle tribe is dead, including her beloved. Sefal vanishes in a firestorm of demons and wrath, promising that Anaiiya will never know peace or happiness until she joins him.

In honor of her terrible sacrifice, the Mystic Races rescind their declaration of war. Anaiiya and the other Guardians oversee the signing of the peace treaty between their people and Laryial. The Guardians have a gift for Anaiiya before she departs with them; they have gathered together all the scattered remnants of the destroyed gargoyle tribes from around the world. Sixty-three gargoyles are alive and under the protection of the Mystic Races. Anaiiya finds some measure of peace in this, knowing that gargoyles will flourish again, before she departs with the Guardians.


Where I think the synopsis might be doing a disservice to the story is that this wrap-up left me disappointed. There's all this immense power that these beings all hold, yet we're only told about it. We see Anaiiya wield it once, but that's it. In the end, her dad tricks her into making a decision -- a decision that will somehow decide the fate of the world. She decides she'll join Team Guardian and Sefal leaves in a huff and the Mystic Races all sign a peace treaty. So my question is, why does all this power matter and, really, why does Anaiiya matter? Why couldn't Sefal have killed the queen and prince and set the Jyngo leader on the throne a year ago -- before Anaiiya comes on the scene? It isn't clear to me how Anaiiya is the lynchin.

The Guardians come in all their power and glory to prevent the war and what do they do? Give Anaiiya back her memories -- but don't reveal the truth to her -- and then wait around for her to join them. I'm not feeling anything about what their presence means to Anaiiya, to Sefal, to the city, or to the world.

I see a very personal struggle here for Anaiiya, which is good. But from this synopsis, I don't see a deftly constructed world where things happen inevitably that force Anaiiya into becoming who she's meant to be. I see a writer's hand forcing the world to serve a story of "The One."

If this doesn't reflect the book well, then what will help, I think, is going back through with an eye to showing not telling. Don't tell us the Guardians have incredible powers and can shift into any form -- help us to see it, just as we see Anaiiya's songs affect the earth. But I think we need to see the Guardians, other than Anaiiya, also throwing their power around.

In a similar vein, we're told her dad's a half-demon, but as he's described here, he seems to be all talk but no power. The only instance we have is of the prince being killed with black Nephilim magic. Since it seems a sword would have been just as effective, what about Sefal -- by himself as he's the last of the Nephilim or even with Anaiiya's help -- is a match for the Guardians' ability to destroy stars? Help us understand in the synopsis how the balance of power is equally weighted so we feel confident that there's a real threat to all.

For the niggles:

I think you can strike a little more balance in the weight of the scenes, too. For instance, a hint at how Anaiiya first saves the gargoyles would be good. Notice how you use a whole lot of words to let us know a potion doesn't work on her, but skim right over how a 20-something gets the upper hand over a band of murderous zealots.

And why do those murderous zealots kidnap and drug her rather than zealously murdering her? SHE may not know, but the synopsis should let the reader know.

A murderous zealot is the only heir to the throne? What's the royal connection? And why isn't Anaiiya an heir to the throne if she's the daughter of the queen? Surely the city folk would believe the Guardians (out of fear if nothing else) if they put her forward as a legitimate heir.

Or wouldn't it be easier to just kill the Jyngo leader after the prince dies rather than go through all the complications of "if she chooses one way, she loses X but if she chooses another way she loses Y"?

High fantasy is so much about world-building. Help us understand the politics of your world.

These are the bits and pieces in synopses that agents are looking for and what we all need to think about when writing them:

  • Does the plot hang together?
  • Is the MC 3-dimensional?
  • Is there a satisfying ending or can the plot not be sustained and does the story just fizzle?

1 comment:

AA said...

The problem that is bothering me while reading this: There are lots of published and unpublished books out there on the subject of a Chosen One who lives in poverty and obscurity until she discovers her true parentage and the fact that she has some sort of magical powers.

In order to get readers' attention, there needs to be something really special about the mc and I'm not seeing it here. To tell the truth I was bored with Anaiiya. Living in poverty, unaware of true heritage? Check. Turns out to have magical powers? Check. Finds true identity? Check. Turns out to be some kind of royalty? Double-check.

The story itself seems freaky cliche too, sad to say. There are lots of tribes and factions with different powers fighting for control in a magical land. That's become standard. Also, the mc hasn't figured out how to use her powers to her best ability yet and/or is often controlled by others who have stronger powers. That's in every story, too.

I need to see why this story is more than just a checklist of what is supposed to be in a fantasy story. I need reasons to root for the good guys and hate the bad guys. I don't feel an emotional connection to anyone.