Monday, February 7, 2011

Synopsis 12: Duality

Known in the beginning as “Subject 31,” DIMA is the newest success of the Humani Project, which combines the DNAs of humans and animals. She’s the perfect physical combination—practically a panther standing upright, with sharp claws and sharper teeth. Her ability to communicate makes her the most profitable Humani to date.

Dima’s only clue to an existence before panther DNA was spliced to hers is a fragment of a memory and a name—Janelle. But before she can begin to figure out the mess she’s in, she has to find a way to tame the panther that’s taken over the extra space in her memories. Having claws is great and all, but not being able to control what happens with said claws is a bit of a pain.

The lab’s physical assessments give her an opportunity to get her animal aggression out of her system; however, DR. FREDERICK JAMES has a different agenda for his great success—death. He hopes for her failure. If she fails, he can terminate her with no questions asked. But when the Project’s founder, DR. LORENZO, breaks protocol to save her during one of those exams, she realizes that they know more than they're letting on.

After an accident leaves Dima's caretaker incapacitated, her new keeper enters with his own agenda as the tension between Dima, Lorenzo, and James fills the lab. Under orders from a Scottish engineer-turned-activist with an interest in the Project, he intends to “liberate” the four Humani now populating the lab and take them to his boss’ compound in Edinburgh.

At first, Dima resists, especially as she develops a closer relationship with Lorenzo. However, when her keeper uncovers a new physical exam developed to take advantage of her lack of night-vision, Dima realizes that she has no choice but to say goodbye to Lorenzo and to her past if she intends to stay alive.

Even in the safety of Edinburgh, Dima remains guarded. She doesn’t trust the Scotsman. He tells the repressed Humani that he has their memory discs, but warns them that they might not like what they find. Dima takes the time to think about the repercussions. After spending so long wondering about her past and living in the fantasies of who Janelle could have been, she doesn’t know how she’ll handle the truth. She wanders to a large reference room where she finds a computer. Her curiosity overwhelms her; she finds a file labeled “Janelle Gray.” Skimming through it, she finds what she never expected: she was a Project scientist. And she and Lorenzo were in love.

She decides to go to her room, but on the way another familiar scent stops her. The scent’s owner reminds her of James, inducing the need to flee or defend herself.

She investigates and finds one more clue to her past: her husband.

Comments

One of the things my critters emphasized for me about my story that involves cloning Ice Age beasts was that I needed to find ways to distance it from Jurassic Park. I think you need to look for ways to distance yours from The Island of Dr. Moreau. Giving us a reason for why this organization -- which I assume is private -- is conducting these experiments might help.

Known in the beginning as “Subject 31,” DIMA is the newest success of the Humani Project, which combines the DNAs of humans and animals.

Maybe having THREE names for your MC in a 500-word synopsis is overkill.

She’s the perfect physical combination—practically a panther standing upright, with sharp claws and sharper teeth. Her ability to communicate makes her the most profitable Humani to date.

If we know the ultimate purpose for the hybrids, the reader will better understand what determines what makes the perfect physical combo. Why is an upright form more perfect than a quadriped? Does it need to hold weapons? Drive vehicles? Operate in the human world?

Dima’s only clue to an existence before panther DNA was spliced to hers is a fragment of a memory and a name—Janelle. But before she can begin to figure out the mess she’s in, she has to find a way to tame the panther that’s taken over the extra space in her memories. Having claws is great and all, but not being able to control what happens with said claws is a bit of a pain.

"blank spaces" rather than "extra space"?

The lab’s physical assessments give her an opportunity to get her animal aggression out of her system; however, DR. FREDERICK JAMES has a different agenda for his great success—death.

Two things aren't immediately clear: that "physical assessments" must mean more than drawing blood and hooking the humani up to an EKG machine, and that "his great success" means Dima and not his ego.

He hopes for her failure. If she fails, he can terminate her with no questions asked. But when the Project’s founder, DR. LORENZO, breaks protocol to save her during one of those exams, she realizes that they know more than they're letting on.

"Hoping" doesn't seem to be much of an agenda. Also, what's James' motivation? WHY does he want to terminate her? And unless the EKG machine short-circuits and electrocutes Dima, we need reinforcement as to what the exams entail.

After an accident leaves Dima's caretaker incapacitated, her new keeper enters with his own agenda

This is a lot of information to throw in. First, this is the first indication we have that Dima has a caretaker and in that intro to him we find he's in some sort of incapacitating accident and is immediately replaced by a new keeper who happens to have some sort of agenda, which is different from James' wanting to kill her. Is it necessary for us to know anything about the first keeper? Because if the "accident" is caused by someone on the project for some mysterious reason, this synopsis is not telling us that at all. If it wasn't, then it's irrelevant info.

as the tension between Dima, Lorenzo, and James fills the lab. Under orders from a Scottish engineer-turned-activist with an interest in the Project, he intends to “liberate” the four Humani now populating the lab and take them to his boss’ compound in Edinburgh.

You're playing coy with the reader. How does "an interest" translate into sending henchmen to kidnap specimens? And in what locale does the story begin?

At first, Dima resists, especially as she develops a closer relationship with Lorenzo. However, when her keeper uncovers a new physical exam developed to take advantage of her lack of night-vision, Dima realizes that she has no choice but to say goodbye to Lorenzo and to her past if she intends to stay alive.

Of course, when you DO provide details, I have no idea what they mean (sorry). How and why do you take advantage of something you don't have? And really the "new physical exam" could be something as innocuous as measuring the amount of Vitamin A in Dima's system or figuring out the ratio of rods vs cones in her eyes and outfitting her with night goggles. There's no indication that this new exam is a deal breaker. If the exam is locking her in a dark room with a giant rabid owl to see how she copes, then SAY so.

Even in the safety of Edinburgh, Dima remains guarded. She doesn’t trust the Scotsman. He tells the repressed Humani that he has their memory discs, but warns them that they might not like what they find. Dima takes the time to think about the repercussions. After spending so long wondering about her past and living in the fantasies of who Janelle could have been, she doesn’t know how she’ll handle the truth. She wanders to a large reference room where she finds a computer. Her curiosity overwhelms her; she finds a file labeled “Janelle Gray.” Skimming through it, she finds what she never expected: she was a Project scientist. And she and Lorenzo were in love.

This is another instance where you give us info only to turn right around and discount it. She thinks about the repercussions and just about decides not to pursue finding her past life, then immediately opens a file with the name she remembers from the past. Why even tell us she has a day of doubt?

She decides to go to her room, but on the way another familiar scent stops her.

Again, we're given detail we don't need at this level.

The scent’s owner reminds her of James, inducing the need to flee or defend herself.

Does the scent or the owner remind her of James? That's critical. If the scent, then it COULD be James. If it's the scent's owner, then she knows it's NOT James and makes me wonder why, knowing who it's not, she feels compelled to flee?

She investigates and finds one more clue to her past: her husband.

I double-checked to make sure I hadn't accidentally not copied over another paragraph. An agent must get the ending in a synopsis and be let in on how the pieces tie together. This doesn't check that box. The climax for me seemed to be when she discovered she was once a scientist on the project. That she has/had a husband who may be Lorenzo or James or the keeper's boss (and that there could be the remnants of a love triangle in play here) seems anti-climatic. But what an agent will be looking for is what she does with that information. That's the crux of the story: Does she become Janelle and reconcile with her past and tame the beast within or does the animal mind get the best of her and she slaughters everyone in the Edinburgh compound and escapes to terrorize the Scottish countryside?

Overall Comments

You've got the bones here. Now you just need to take a few steps away from your work and connect all the dots for the reader.

What I'm getting from this is that it's a character-driven story, not so much a plot-driven one. And with character-driven stories, many of the turning points revolve around motivations, deceptions, and enlightenments. That's the layer you need to add now. Otherwise, all the reader is left with is:

The product of an experiment wakes up half human, half panther, and with almost no memory of her past human life. She has to try to tame the panther tendencies. A scientist wants her to fail some tests so he can legitimately kill her. Another scientist steps in to save her when she does fail. Then some keeper person kidnaps and takes her to Scotland where a Scotsman with a passing interest in the project just happens to have her memories on disc. She reads about herself and discovers she was a project scientist in love with the scientist who saved her. And while the memory file has details about her love affair, it apparently neglects to mention she also has a husband who reminds her of the guy who wanted to kill her. The end.

Is that the story YOU want to read? We have the what's; now we need the why's.

15 comments:

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Is this a revision of the story that opened with that killer line "if so and so could remember her/previous former life she sure as hell would want it back?"
Paraphrasing. Couldn't find it. If it is, the energy has evaporated, if it isn't it is a little detached and clinical for me.

Sorry author if I've confused your query with another.

This query seems kind of lost. A bit of a drift with some fatigue in there maybe? It is too long. Three paragraphs.

I think the story is great. Can you show us and not tell us so much?

Hope that is helpful.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Phoenix has good advice, don't answer the questions the critters ask. Consider yes, but if you answer all you lose your thread.
I'd like to read on but you made it seem like work. If that query I referred to was yours, that is the story I am dying to read. Trust your gut and don't try to please us.
Good luck.

vkw said...

Actually, I like the story. I had no interest in it when I read the query. I don't think the query is doing the story justice.

I wonder if the author could post the query here so we can examine it more closely with the syn.

Now after saying that - there is big problems with the synopsis. A critical element to the plot seems to be these physical examinations. Now I get that they are tests of her ability to assimulate the feline DNA into physical manifestations, i.e. she can kick some butt now but to what extent needs to be determine. That is not clear in the syn. (The only reason I know is because I read the query and remember it).

Follow Phoenix's advice and resubmit.

vkw

lexcade said...

Thanks y'all.

Yes, Wilkins, that was my query lol. I've had a devil of a time trying to write this stupid synopsis that I think my fatigue and frustration came through in it. Trying to keep it one page is a chore.

I'll look at all of this tonight and work on it some more. And fix my ending. I think I'll leave hubby for book 2. That is, if Book 1 actually gets somewhere.

BTW, vkw, you made me feel a liiiittle better.

Matt said...

Something I hoped to have answered in the synopsis was the logic behind creating hybrids. It reads like the Project exists to breed super soldiers, but what advantages does a panther-person have over a highly trained human?

The teeth and claws seem extraneous. I imagine the cost of breeding hybrids is astronomical, so wouldn't it be more efficient to train someone to wield a knife?

As for agility and strength, I think humans are better than panthers in those categories (except in the jaw, but again, how would that benefit a soldier?). Watch world class gymnasts, parkour athletes and martial artists like Jackie Chan.

Would the assassin Nikita be any more deadly if she were half cat?

If 31 is not a super soldier, what's her purpose?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Hey Lexcade,
I have learned something from your syn. If as a writer it feels like WORK when you sit down to write it, it reads like a chore.

Maybe set it aside, then after a few days drink a couple of expressos, make up your mind not only do you love your story, but you LOVE writing the synopsis. Do a few push ups, go for a short run then approach it high on caffeine and energy and excitement. Our brain frame really comes through in the writing.

Your query was so hot, I was so intrigued. As Divine Miss Phoenix said, you got the skeleton, if you can carry that query style over and stay with the thread, I'll bet you'll go a very good job of it and make me drool over the writing and beg you give me more.
Good luck.

My mistake, read this very late at night and thought it was a very long query.

lexcade said...

Wilkins, if I could I'd bottle up your enthusiasm and wear it as perfume. :) And you do have a good idea. I think I've worked on this for so long that I've lost my enthusiasm for it. So I will remind myself of how much I LURVE my project and try to work some of that into the synopsis. Thanks again for the encouragement!

Matt, I tried to focus on more aspects than agility and claws and whatnot. Things like night-vision (Without goggles, obviously), the ability to track and decode scents, things like that. Kinda like if a German Shepherd was mixed with a human and learned to detect the scents of bombs. Rather than the dog alerting its handler to the bomb's presence and possibly tipping off the dude w/ said bomb, the hybrid could arrest the dude instead. Probably not the best example ever, but I'm exhausted :D

What's going on in my little world is that this is a government project that wants to design super-soldiers by mixing human DNA w/ the DNAs of different animals. (There's an eagle and leopard as well.) They intend to clone the most successful Humani to use in the field for different missions, Black Ops stuff typically. There are a lot of things that people can be trained to do, that animals do naturally. At least that's my theory for this.

I think my biggest issue with writing the synopsis is how much back story to include.

lexcade said...

Also, sorry for the ridiculously long comment *blush*

Phoenix said...

Lexcade: I don't think you need to bring in the eagle and the leopard, but I do think we need to know this is a government, rather than private-enterprise, project and that it's super-soldiers they're after. That's just slipping in "government-sponsored" before "Humani Project" in the first sentence, and giving us a few choice specifics like "night vision for recon missions" when mentioning the types of exams Dima is undergoing.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Lexcade,
Enough blushing already, and call it a good flush (which we all need) and get on with it please.
Tapping my foot, waiting, and listen to Divine Miss Phoenix. We are waiting my dear. Can you please meet my expectations with this story that wants to tumble out of you? Hehehehehe, Go girl, just go.

lexcade said...

Wilkins, you are awesome.

Phoenix, thank you for your critique. At least now I have something to work with :)

Matt said...

"...I've worked on this for so long that I've lost my enthusiasm for it."

You can try something new if you're feeling frustrated. You're project won't disappear if you take a break from it. Don't stress yourself out!

lexcade said...

:) i've been working on a paranormal i'm really enjoying. but i'm also finding ways to have fun with synopsis writing too, mostly by just de-stressing and taking the pressure off. and whining about it on Twitter lol. so in a couple of days, i should have something better.

you guys are the bestest!

Wilkins MacQueen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilkins MacQueen said...

Man. I wrote this long thing then DTAC quit and my long thing is gonzo.


Don't say "said" claws.

She decides to go to her room, but on the way another familiar scent stops her. The scent’s owner reminds her of James, inducing the need to flee or defend herself.

She investigates and finds one more clue to her past: her husband.

Let's re work this.

On the way to her room a scent stops her. James. She can fight or flee because (she loves/fears him/ remembers his touch), she stands her ground because (she recalls/knows his)and he was her husband. Her longing and sadness (is shoved aside, forgotten) well there just isn't time for that because (he's her keeper/genetic whatever)and he (loves/recognizes/wants) her back.
Best of luck babe. Want to read on.