Monday, February 14, 2011

Synopsis 12: Redux

Duality

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 figure out how she ended up as a science experiment, she has to find a way to tame the panther that’s taken over the blank spaces in her memories. Having claws is great and all, but being unable to control what happens with them pits human compassion against animal instinct. The duality often leads to a struggle in Dima’s mind between doing what’s right and doing what’s necessary to survive.

Dima is the newest success of the government-sponsored Humani Project, which combines the DNAs of humans with animals. The Dept. of Defense hopes to create mercenaries with human reasoning and animal instinct to do the military’s dirty work, eventually using them for combat to reduce the need for human soldiers. Dima’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.

The lab’s physical assessments—ranging from hunting to scent tracking to combat—are designed to help Dima balance her dual nature. They also give her an opportunity to get out her animal aggression. However, DR. JAMES has a different agenda for her—death. Her memories contain information that would cripple, and likely end, the Project. If she fails her assessments, he can terminate her without question. But when DR. LORENZO breaks protocol to save her during one of those exams and calls her “Janelle,” Dima realizes they know more than they’re letting on.

As the tension between the three fills the lab, James becomes openly antagonistic. He enters her enclosure and goads her into attacking him by telling her that he erased her memory himself. When she does attack, he tases her until she’s almost dead. Lorenzo realizes that he can’t protect her or the other Humani from James’ abuse. Lorenzo goes to his brother-in-law, a Scottish engineer-turned-human rights activist trying to shut down the project, for help.

At first, Dima resists, especially as she develops a closer relationship with Lorenzo. However, when her keeper uncovers a new combat exam designed to exploit 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.

In 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 living in the fantasies of whom Janelle could have been and depending on them to anchor her humanity, she doesn’t know how she’ll handle the truth. As she debates it, she wanders to a large reference room where she finds a computer. Her curiosity overwhelms her. She sees a folder marked “Humani Project” and opens it, hoping to find more information. Instead, she finds a file labeled “Janelle Gray.” Skimming through it, she learns that she was a Project scientist. And she and Lorenzo were in love.

Enraged, Dima heads to the only place she knows to find solace—the forest. Knowing her past doesn’t make her Janelle. But the knowledge contained in Janelle’s memories could hold the key to reversing the Humani’s mutation. She believes that for her friends, she has to learn what Janelle knew. Her past could change the future.

Comments

Filling in details and motivation has really helped this synopsis! And I know you're trying to keep it to one page, so there's some necessary shorthanding here. There are just a couple of minor tweaks I see in the first half - otherwise, that half here is so much better.

You knew there was going to be a "but" though, didn't you? The second half starts to fall apart a bit. And the end is really a major, major red flag. It's OK for there still to be some mystery at the end of a book, especially if there's a planned story arc for a sequel. But, ahem, the query didn't mention this was the first book of a proposed sequel. And even for a first book, the reader will be looking for some sort of resolution. Instead, we have the MC reading a file then basically running away and thinking about what she needs to do next. Honestly, I think the first thought an agent will have after reading this is, "Where's the rest of the story?" The next question I had was, "Does the first part up to when she arrives in Edinburgh feel like it should take 100,000 words to tell?" To me, it doesn't feel big enough, especially after seeing a 114K total word count per the query and realizing the story really isn't done yet in this book.

Maybe trying to boil it down to one page right off is doing a dis-service to the story. Maybe by doing a two-pager first, you can skim off more high points to include in your one-pager so it feels more robust.

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 figure out how she ended up as a science experiment, she has to find a way to tame the panther that’s taken over the blank spaces in her memories. Having claws is great and all, but being unable to control what happens with them pits human compassion against animal instinct. The duality often leads to a struggle in Dima’s mind between doing what’s right and doing what’s necessary to survive.

This is a nice concise explanation of your theme. I like it!

Dima is the newest success of the government-sponsored Humani Project, which combines the DNAs of humans with animals. The Dept. of Defense hopes to create mercenaries with human reasoning and animal instinct to do the military’s dirty work, eventually using and eventually use them for combat to reduce the need for human soldiers. Dima’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.

I'm suggesting deleting the bit about "human soldiers" because that statement basically says the US DoD sees the hybrids as non-humans, which by that statement's presence opens up a whole layer of philosophical and ethical questions not really touched on elsewhere in the storyline. Dima is struggling with who and what she is at her very core, but not questioning whether she's human by legal definition. Unless you intend to elaborate on that more with the Scotsman, I would avoid it altogether here.

The lab’s physical assessments—ranging from hunting to scent tracking to combat—are designed to help Dima balance her dual nature. They also give her an opportunity to get work out her animal aggression. However, DR. JAMES has a different agenda for her—death. Her memories contain information that wcould cripple, and likely end, the Project. If she fails her assessments, he can terminate her without question. But It's only when DR. LORENZO breaks protocol to save her during one of those exams and calls her “Janelle,that Dima realizes they know more than they’re letting on.

As the tension between the three fills the lab escalates, James becomes openly antagonistic. He enters her enclosure and goads her into attacking him by telling her that he erased her memory himself. When she does attack, he tases her until she’s almost dead. Lorenzo realizes that he can’t protect her or the other Humani from James’ abuse. Lorenzo goes to his brother-in-law, a Scottish engineer-turned-human rights activist who's trying to shut down the project, for help.

At first, Dima resists, especially as she develops a closer relationship with Lorenzo.

Here's where it starts breaking down. What does Dima resist? I'm assuming she resists going to Scotland, but only because I read in the next sentence something about her saying good-bye, then suddenly she's in Edinburgh. Just because the guy's Scottish doesn't immediately equate in the reader's mind that he actually lives in Scotland. We'll need a hint, too, of why she's resisting. The next paragraph says she "remains guarded" and "doesn't trust the Scotsman" but doesn't give us a reason why. Does Lorenzo share his plan in its entirety with her? Does she know the guy's a human rights activist?

However, when her keeper uncovers a new combat exam designed to exploit 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.

I don't understand the cause and effect here. Why does the discovery of a new exam make Dima realize she has no choice but to say bye? I think the detail of the exam isn't necessary here and that the space can be better used to let us know she starts having those fantasies about whom Janelle might have been that we learn about in the next paragraph or maybe to hint about how Lorenzo smuggles all the Humani out.

In 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.

This paragraph has way too many details. You don't need Dima both remaining guarded AND not trusting the Scotsman. Why "repressed Humani?" First, this is the first indication we have that more Humani than Dima were brought to Edinburgh. Second, I think you mean their memories are repressed, or their humanity is repressed, but the whole Humani entity isn't repressed.

If Dima is the only one who can communicate, do the others understand what the Scotsguy is telling them? Are they intelligent enough and adaptive enough to use a computer to communicate and understand what's on their memory discs? I'm thinking about paraplegics who can hold a stick in their mouth and tap out messages on the keyboard. That's a form of communication. Can the other Humani not even communcate in that way?

Dima takes the time to think about the repercussions. After living in the fantasies of whom Janelle could have been and depending on them to anchor her humanity, she doesn’t know how she’ll handle the truth. As she debates it,

You don't need both "takes the time" AND "debates". And as mentioned above, this is the first time we realize Janelle has been living in some kind of fantasies.

she wanders to a large reference room where she finds a computer. Her curiosity overwhelms her. She sees a folder marked “Humani Project” and opens it, hoping to find more information. Instead, she finds a file labeled “Janelle Gray.” Skimming through it, she learns that she was a Project scientist. And she and Lorenzo were in love.

You've just devoted significant synopsis space for what probably takes a half a page in the book. We don't need this level of detail here.

She stumbles across a "Humani Project" folder on a computer with the file:"Janelle Gray." From it, she learns she was a Project scientist. And that she and Lorenzo were in love.

Enraged, Dima heads to the only place she knows to find solace—the forest. Knowing her past doesn’t make her Janelle. But the knowledge contained in Janelle’s memories could hold the key to reversing the Humani’s mutation. She believes that for her friends, she has to learn what Janelle knew. Her past could change the future.

"Knowing her past doesn't make her Janelle" is a really great phrase for getting at the cusp of the whole duality issue. But again, this as an ending? I'm not feeling it.

3 comments:

lexcade said...

Thanks, Phoenix. She has a lot to do LOL. It's just kinda hard to fit that into a one pager. I'll work on a 2 pager and see what happens. Also, I'll try to write a more conclusive ending. Thanks for all your help :)

Wilkins MacQueen said...

You're taking giant steps improving the syn.

lexcade said...

Thanks, Wilkins :) I'm trying.