Monday, November 1, 2010

Synopsis 9: Seduced by Deceit

I finally figured out that when we have a query and synopsis both to critique it only makes sense to consider the synopsis first so we can see better how well the query captures the story. Duh, huh?

This one is women's fiction and the synopsis clocks in at a nice, respectable 876 words. We'll see the query for it on Wednesday. (And later today, I'll post a major revision to a query we saw last week.)

Twenty-four year old AMANDA LEUCI, a graduate of Interior Design University, aspirations shatter on her first assignment when she meets MATTHEW MAJEROY, a viticulture lecturer at San Francisco University.

He seduces her with his charm and wit, blithely unaware of his deceit. His demands for her attention become a distraction; she ends their relationship. Unperturbed, he’ll achieve what he wants; it’s a matter of time.

Two months later, she realises her colleague BARRY TOLKIEN and she share a mutual love. Wary of an involvement she wants to accomplish her goals.

When spates of nausea and tiredness debilitate her, she discovers she’s pregnant and confronts Matthew. He confesses his lie. She threats to abort but he declares his undying love and promises her the world.

She accepts her fate and agrees to marry on the proviso she can juggle motherhood with her career. Not long into the marriage, his psychosexual and tyrannical behavior becomes evident. After his brutal attack on her, he involves himself in debauchery and drugs while her premature son loses his fight to live.

In her grief, she returns to her parents. Matthew appears six days later from his narcotic haze and discovers Amanda gone. Incensed with her absence, he assumes her friend ISABELLA is the cause, until he listens to the messages on the answering machine. Distraught, he conjures a lie: he’s been on a spiritual journey to liberate from his demons and walks with God. He begs forgiveness and promises he’s a different person. She believes him.

He resigns from his lecturing post and relocates to Cloverdale to consult the wine growers. Three months later, she joins him to start life anew and to fill the void of the loss of her baby; she desperately tries to fall pregnant again. Instead, she unearths his lies and tackles him prior to his departure on an overseas convention. In his rage, he rapes her brutally.

Isabella and Amanda take advantage of his absence and break into his study in search of hidden truths. To their astonishment, they discover he and his sister originate from Poland with their adoptive parents. His father is serving life in prison for murder, after which Matthew changes his name. His mother overdoses on barbiturates, his former wife, who bore him two sons, coincidently commits suicide. His orphanage upbringing as he told her is total fabrication.

In fear of her life, Amanda covertly plans her departure. She tells her neighbor Matthew delays his return and leaves to visit her parents.

Four days later, the sheriff notifies her, her neighbor found Mathew’s bludgeoned body in his study. On continuation of their investigation, they uncover his sleazy dealings and a motive for his murder. ANGELA, their daughter is born seven months after his demise.

Matthew’s father has a successful re-trial based on his son’s DNA – Matthew had framed him. Before he departs for Poland, he requests to meet Amanda in hope she has his valuables, in particular the brass statue. She hands it over with relief. This is riddance to the ghost of her past.

Amanda returns to work and endeavours to settle but Matthew continues to haunt her.

A year later, Barry reappears and rekindles their love. After eighteen months, Amanda is hesitant to give a commitment because of her dark secret. Her refusal for counseling and lack of trust to confide in him is detrimental to any future happiness. He relocates to Australia. This devastates Amanda as she reflects on her selfishness and accepts it’s too late to make amends.

Two and half months after his departure, she discovers she’s pregnant with his twins and has no idea where to contact him.

In the meantime, she agrees to counseling and journalizes everyday. She changes her career path when she discovers her passion for photography.

Two years later Barry visits his parents in Michigan to introduce his Australian fiancée. He browses a bookshop and notices the cover of the latest photographic magazine, ‘Amanda Leuci, single mother of twins’ wins coveted award.’ An intensive chill runs down his spine, the twins are his. He reads the interview intently; his eyes flicker back and forth to the photographs. He has to beg for a second chance.

When he sees her, his overwhelming love is apparent as fear grips him; what if she no longer loves or needs him.

Overcome by emotion when he holds his children, he informs Amanda of his forthcoming marriage. Taken aback with his news, he reiterates his love and desire to marry her; he doesn’t want to make another mistake. Before any decision, she hands him her journal and confesses she killed Matthew in self-defense with the brass statue. He knows, Isabella told him before their engagement. Barry retreats to read her journal, Amanda doesn’t hear from him and concludes he’ll marry his fiancée.

When her close friend VALERIE requests her presence at her confirmation, this perplexes her, but agrees although disenchanted with her outfit Valerie chooses. As Amanda enters the church her father steps out and whispers he’s walking her down the aisle – Barry waits to marry her. Tearful, she faces him and takes her vows. As the priest announces them husband and wife, Barry holds her face and whispers he’s waited six long years for this day.

Comments

I don't think it will come as a surprise to this author that there are a number of word choice and grammar issues. I've pointed out a few of the word choice problems, but I'm concentrating my comments on the high-level construct rather than tackling it at the granular level. 

Twenty-four year old AMANDA LEUCI, a graduate of Interior Design University, aspirations shatter on her first assignment when she meets MATTHEW MAJEROY, a viticulture lecturer at San Francisco University.

Her aspirations don't really shatter on meeting him, especially when you say two months later she doesn't want to get involved with Barry because she wants to accomplish her goals. I know you mean her pregnancy screws everything up, but that's not what this is saying.

He seduces her with his charm and wit, blithely unaware of his deceit. His demands for her attention become a distraction; she ends their relationship. Unperturbed, he’ll achieve what he wants; it’s a matter of time.

In a synopsis, you really don't want to leave the reader guessing what you mean. What is his deceit? What does he want?

Two months later, she realises her colleague BARRY TOLKIEN and she share a mutual love. Wary of an involvement she wants to accomplish her goals.

When spates of nausea and tiredness debilitate her, she discovers she’s pregnant and confronts Matthew. He confesses his lie. She threats to abort but he declares his undying love and promises her the world.

I'm still not clear what his lie was.

She accepts her fate and agrees to marry on the proviso she can juggle motherhood with her career. Not long into the marriage, his psychosexual and tyrannical behavior becomes evident. After his brutal attack on her, he involves himself in debauchery and drugs while her premature son loses his fight to live.

That's an awful lot to have happen in three sentences! Also, I'm noticing a lot of POV shifts throughout. Head-hopping in your synopsis needs to be just as smooth as it should be in the novel.

In her grief, she returns to her parents. Matthew appears six days later from his narcotic haze

Matthew appearing from a haze is another issue of word choices not quite right.

and discovers Amanda gone. Incensed with her absence, he assumes her friend ISABELLA is the cause,

Why would he assume that? He beats her, her baby dies, he leaves and he assumes someone unmentioned before now is the cause? Think about how you need to set the reader up for the motivation.

until he listens to the messages on the answering machine. Distraught, he conjures a lie: he’s been on a spiritual journey to liberate from his demons and walks with God. He begs forgiveness and promises he’s a different person. She believes him.

He resigns from his lecturing post and relocates to Cloverdale to consult the wine growers. Three months later, she joins him to start life anew and to fill the void of the loss of her baby; she desperately tries to fall pregnant again.

I think we need some motivation to understand why she either didn't follow him to Cloverdale immediately or why she decided to join him three months later.

Instead, she unearths his lies and tackles him prior to his departure on an overseas convention. In his rage, he rapes her brutally.

A little explanation of how she unearths his lies would be good. Without motivation or some insight into why all this is happening, it feels like we're just getting a list of events. Give us something so that we can feel connected to the story and sympathize with the MCs enough that we care that Amanda is being so abused by Matthew – and why she doesn't go to the police or a women's shelter.

Isabella and Amanda take advantage of his absence and break into his study in search of hidden truths.

So Isabella moved to Cloverdale, too? And didn't Amanda just unearth his lies? And "taking advantage of his absence" doesn't seem hard-hitting enough for being out for blood/retribution.

To their astonishment, they discover he and his sister originate from Poland with their adoptive parents. His father is serving life in prison for murder, after which Matthew changes his name. His mother overdoses on barbiturates, his former wife, who bore him two sons, coincidently commits suicide. His orphanage upbringing as he told her is total fabrication.

Watch your verb tenses. And what lies did she unearth earlier if these are new lies she's discovering?

In fear of her life, Amanda covertly plans her departure. She tells her neighbor Matthew delays his return and leaves to visit her parents.

Four days later, the sheriff notifies her, her neighbor found Mathew’s bludgeoned body in his study. On continuation of their investigation, they uncover his sleazy dealings and a motive for his murder. ANGELA, their daughter is born seven months after his demise.

Don't forget to clue the reader in on what those sleazy dealings might be and what the motive is.

Matthew’s father has a successful re-trial based on his son’s DNA – Matthew had framed him. Before he departs for Poland,

Is his father living in America? I read it earlier that he was living in Poland.

he requests to meet Amanda in hope she has his valuables, in particular the brass statue. She hands it over with relief. This is riddance to the ghost of her past.

Here's where you knowing the story so intimately makes it difficult for you to step back and realize the reader has no clue why the brass statue (what statue?) is the ghost of her past.

Amanda returns to work and endeavours to settle but Matthew continues to haunt her.

Again, be careful of your word choice. Sounds like Matthew could be a ghost if he's the one haunting her and not the memories of him.

A year later, Barry reappears and rekindles their love. After eighteen months, Amanda is hesitant to give a commitment because of her dark secret.

Okay. I give up. What dark secret? That she was abused? Be clear.

Her refusal for counseling and lack of trust to confide in him is detrimental to any future happiness. He relocates to Australia. This devastates Amanda as she reflects on her selfishness and accepts it’s too late to make amends.

Her selfishness because she refuses counselling? Once more, the reader should be clued in as to why she refuses.

Two and half months after his departure, she discovers she’s pregnant with his twins and has no idea where to contact him.

The way this comes across to this point, I'm afraid you'll be losing any sympathy the reader may have had for Amanda. She continues to be a victim and doesn't seem to be learning anything.

In the meantime, she agrees to counseling and journalizes everyday. She changes her career path when she discovers her passion for photography.

Why would she do any of this? Once more, the reader could really use some motivation for her suddenly changing her outlook.

Two years later Barry visits his parents in Michigan to introduce his Australian fiancée. He browses a bookshop and notices the cover of the latest photographic magazine, ‘Amanda Leuci, single mother of twins’ wins coveted award.’

Notwithstanding that I'm not sure I buy into a prestigious magazine actually defining an award-winning photographer as both single and a mother of twins, which sounds more tabloid to me, um, what happened to daughter Angela?

An intensive chill runs down his spine, the twins are his. He reads the interview intently; his eyes flicker back and forth to the photographs. He has to beg for a second chance.

Again, lack of motivation. He's affianced. Does he want HER back or does he just want their kids?

When he sees her, his overwhelming love is apparent as fear grips him; what if she no longer loves or needs him.

Overcome by emotion when he holds his children, he informs Amanda of his forthcoming marriage. Taken aback with his news, he reiterates his love and desire to marry her; he doesn’t want to make another mistake.

This last sentence doesn't make sense to me.

Before any decision, she hands him her journal and confesses she killed Matthew in self-defense with the brass statue.

OK, so that's her dark secret. But where did it come from? The synopsis needs to demonstrate how all this makes sense in the novel and that the groundwork for this revelation is well laid. For instance, if the police had a motive for Matt's murder, then they likely had a suspect. If no one was ever caught was she never questioned? We need to see that you, the writer, can weave this all in seamlessly.

He knows, Isabella told him before their engagement.

He's engaged to Isabella? First she shows up in Cloverdale and then she happens to meet Barry in Australia?

Barry retreats to read her journal, Amanda doesn’t hear from him and concludes he’ll marry his fiancée.

When her close friend VALERIE requests her presence at her confirmation, this perplexes her, but agrees although disenchanted with her outfit Valerie chooses. As Amanda enters the church her father steps out and whispers he’s walking her down the aisle – Barry waits to marry her. Tearful, she faces him and takes her vows. As the priest announces them husband and wife, Barry holds her face and whispers he’s waited six long years for this day.

Overall, I'm afraid I'm not getting a clear sense of Amanda. A lot of things are happening around her and TO her, but the synopsis is not giving me a clear idea of why she's reacting the way she does. I also would like to see the deft hand of the author here. Without proper motivation from the characters, the things that happen in this synopsis seem to serve the need of the story at the moment. I'm not seeing clear reasons for the characters doing what they do. I'm especially not seeing growth in Amanda: she goes from being a victim to not even being allowed to participate in whether she wants to marry someone. Help the reader root for Amanda.

8 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Am scheduling my time this month in honor of NaNo and my general inability to get my butt in gear. I don't think I'll have time to look at this until the weekend.

vkw said...

I started reading this early this morning and I couldn't finish it. It was too early for horror.

I've been in human service now for more years than I would confess. I've seen this self-destructive pattern over and over again. So many times, I've lost count of that as well.

In my opinion, here is the number #1 problem with your story. First I don't like Barry. Sure he marries Amanda in a surprise wedding but its a bit caddish he just assumes she'll marry him. And, its caddish he dumps his fiance for Amanda which makes him a cad and liar to the fiance, (assuming of course that he told her that he loves her). And its caddish that he professes love to a woman, has sex with her and then when she does not deal with her problems in the manner that he thinks is best, he just disappears - with no contact. That's not a friend or a person that loves you. That's a control freak. Is is true that Amanda really couldn't figure out where he was by the way, because I would think she could call family or mutual friends at least. Maybe use his cell phone? Maybe the internet?

Anyway, problem number two, Amanda is a victim throughout this story, failing over and over again to learn from her mistakes. Granted that mirrors real life. However, the women I've known professionally who overcame self-destructive choices did other things to better themselves other than go to therapy. You have not demonstrated that Amanda is still not being self-destructive.

She marries Barry that romantically surprises her with a wedding. That doesn't sound mature or in the best interest of her children. Hey kids, daddy's home, after one hug, I'm getting married. By the way Barry has dumped his fiance and lives in Australlia. How do we know Barry isn't like Mathew? Hasn't Barry confessed undying love and promised Amanda the world like Barry? Isn't his witty charm sweeping her off her feet?

vkw said...

Part two
What's up with Barry other than being a cad?

If my ex-boyfriend showed up at the door and I confessed I murdered my husband, I'm thinking he would run like hell.

And, I would likewise if the situation was reversed.

Amanda looks like she plans Mathew's murder by the way, and even if it was in self-defense, then she should have called the police when the "accident" occurred. Again, she falls into the "victim" trapped that "I can't trust anyone and therefore I shall make bad decisions that will further my downfall." Do you know the first thing I would do if I was Barry - that's right, I wouldn't plan a "surprise" wedding, (who picks out dresses for someone to wear to a confirmation by the way? Shouldn't Valerie be 13 or 15?), I would call the police.

There were word choices that made the synopsis akward. And, you hinted at plot points and then left the reader hanging.

A better ending would be Amanda gets Barry to pay child support - big time child support so his children will be well-educated. And, Amanda develops a healthy relationship based on overcoming obstacles together, unconditional love not fairy tale weddings and charm that sweeps her off her feet.

Now I'm just being grumpy. I apologize author, this just is not my type of book and I am somewhat offended women are depicted this way in novels.

mickip said...

Wow reading the comments, maybe I should scrap this one and put it down to experience. I obviously haven't got the message over in the synopsis...... that is for sure. BUT I have to say I really appreciate the comments given. I have also portrayed Barry as rather ugly when in fact he isn't.

Phoenix said...

If the fault is with the synopsis and not the story, then no reason to scrap the story. Just start over with the synopsis.

You mentioned privately to me that you've left hints in the book that will make the reader think Amanda kills Matt and then doubt whether she did or not. That just needs to be translated to the synopsis. Agents who read your synopsis are looking to see whether you embed red herrings or if you construct your story to its best advantage. With the synopsis, there's no need to hint or to surprise the agent reading it. They WANT to know how you're making sure the story plays out right for the reader.

And while I tried to keep my comments objective and focused on how the story is described in my critique, I have to admit I also had a "squick" moment when Amanda actually went along with the wedding.

vkw's reaction may be visceral - but I dare say it's the reaction a lot of readers will have to the synopsis in this form.

But if the characters and situations are simply misrepresented in the synopsis, that's fixable.

vkw said...

mickip,

If the writing is good and the plot is good, and the characters are good, you don't have to scrap the entire book.

Make Amanda stronger. Let's see her change and grow. Let's see her overome her poor choices. Let what's his face be a cad, but allow Amanda to be a heroine by saying - I don't want to be with someone that just leaves me forever when he doesn't get what he wants. I don't want to be with someone that would dump his fiance'.

Readers pointed out some problems in my plot, (even about my MC) and I went. . . . I can change that. I can make her stronger, better, faster . . . or whatever. I can flesh her out. I can fix that plot problem. I can redefine motivation.

I have a better story now. And, with every edit it gets better and better. But it takes a lot of rewriting and a willingness to never, never give up.

Perfection is about getting 80%right and 20% of making it right.

mickip said...

vkw thanks for the encouragement. I will try and rewrite the synopsis giving a beter idea and will def have a look at the end of the story and do a rewrite.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I'm lost from the getgo here.

Is it important about the universtities? The break up of the first sentence makes for awkward reading.

What deceit? What does he want? You're hinting at things that should be spelled out.

This is too confusing overall. I think taking a step back and stripping the story down to the basics first might help. Who are the people, what are their motivations and what happens to them? Get the bones here first, then flesh it out with voice.