Monday, July 4, 2011

Synopsis 16: Kindar's Cure

Because not everyone who visits here has the time or patience to read a synopsis, I’m going to put this personal observation up front as a help to everyone struggling with writing one. What I’ve observed is that authors who can get the word count to about the 1000 mark and can’t seem to trim another 250-300 words are the ones most likely to be writing a blow-by-blow account. This happens, then this happens, then this – which may be the story in truth but not in essence. And for a short synopsis you want essence.

If you’ve simply summarized each chapter in your story and can’t imagine how you can trim any further without compromising that storyline, then it’s time to come at your synopsis with your storyteller skills. Try rearranging the synopsis, jumbling the timeline, putting like events together or focusing on separate character threads separately. A reader just wants to make sure a story is there, the conventions are there, and that the resolution is satisfying and believable in context. By telling the story in a compelling and satisfying manner, and adding in an element of engaging, the synopsis will have done its job – even if doesn’t mention that subplot where the two ‘droids are captured and disassembled and in need of rescue, which is a funny bit but really not part of the essence of the story.

Princess Kindar experiences constant disappointment. Stricken from childhood with a disease of the lungs that leaves her coughing, she can’t abandon her guard and be herself. On her older sister’s wedding day, her mother, Empress Eugenie, refuses to grant the traditional betrothal of a younger daughter.

In Anost, their religion centers on a prophecy that during a ‘dark’ time, one of three princesses will become a savior. Empress Eugenie cannot completely reject her ill middle child because of the omen’s importance.

Stunned by this further denial, Kindar meets with an inexperienced wizard. Maladonis Bin (Mal) promises a cure for Kindar’s choke lung if she’ll journey with him to find it. She spurns his offer fearing yet another charlatan. Plus the area, Cushwair, is a troubled province, home to a weak rebellion.

On the wedding night, her sister is murdered along with her foreign groom. Using magic, the killer entered the heart of the palace and leaves behind Kindar’s property to incriminate her.

Empress Eugenie orders Kindar banished, arresting her in all but name. Blaming her illness, Kindar complies, but forms a different plan. She hires Mal and seeks the cure instead. Changing places with a servant, Kindar sets out, taking the wizard, her nurse, and three guards.

A group of thieves relieves Kinder of her baggage and kills her guards. Now three, they continue their journey toward Cushwair and the cure.

Shortly after, Kindar contracts a fever. With her medicine stolen, the nurse sends Mal for more. He discovers Kindar’s medicine is a poison that causes her symptoms. He keeps this knowledge to himself.

At home, the man charged with guarding Kindar murders the ‘duplicate’ princess. The court believes Kindar’s dead.

A recovering Kindar reveals her inner fears to Mal. He inadvertently reveals that Empress Eugenie has a lover in the Head Wizard. Kindar is stunned to add another suspect for her sister’s murder. She is surprise when Mal pulls away.

Her surprise is explained deeper in the province of Cushwair where Mal hands her over to a rag-tag rebel army. The leader of the army, Baron Grant intends to marry her to his bullying son to move Cushwair toward independence. Kindar reels from Mal’s treachery and despairs of the cure.

Grant needs her compliance to make the marriage valid. He instructs her jailor to see to it. Her jailor is her former lover. Henry is caught between admiration for Kindar’s spirit and duty to his liege.

Mal gives Grant advice to torture the beloved nurse to collapse Kindar’s resistance.

When her vicious groom attempts to rape her, Henry walks into the middle, forcing him to choose. Together, they slay the groom, and Henry helps Kindar escape. The death of his son turns Grant into a bitter enemy.

While escaping, they discover Mal spying and knock him unconscious. Against Henry’s wishes, Kindar takes Mal with them. Mal denies he’s a traitor. He protests his actions were to test whether she could be the prophesized savior. She resumes seeking the cure, reassured by Mal that it exists.

Back at court, Empress Eugenie takes a husband, the High Wizard. She turns on the ambassador from the neutral country which stands between Anost and its powerful neighbor. She ignores the hunger and suffering of her people.

Sniping with Henry and distrusting Mal, Kindar finds the fumes that were supposed to cure her, instead sicken her. Mal urges her to keep searching. The ground gives way beneath her, and she drops into a pit. Seeing her injured, Henry works with Mal to reach Kindar.

With no hope for a cure, grief immobilizes Kindar although her body heals. She and Henry come to an understanding. She taxes Mal with his lies about the cure, and, in a fit of anger, Mal reveals her poisoned medicine. Before Kindar can understand this truth, Grant’s soldiers arrive. Mal and his magic helps them win.

Empress Eugenie makes her boldest move, and declares the prophecy finished. She orders all copies burned. She orders her wizard husband to murder the neutral country’s ambassador.

With the country falling apart, Kindar returns home to seek the killer of her sister and confront her mother. On the way, she fully reveals her inner fears to Henry and realizes she loves him.

She learns her mother hired Mal to murder her older sister. Shocked and stunned, Kindar surrenders to her mother to protect her companions. Her mother orders her to the dungeon where Kindar manages to escape as Henry searchs for her. Unaware of Mal’s second betrayal, Henry takes the wizard.

Fighting their way through guards, the party is reunited with Kindar revealing Mal’s treachery. Mal seizes them with magic and divulges he works, not for the empress, but the rival country. To goad Kindar, Mal stabs Henry. Fulfilling prophecy, a resolve for justice burns in Kindar and ignites the poison in her blood, enabling her to break free of Mal’s binding magic. Her anger brings down chunks of the roof, burying Mal.

With Mal dead, Kindar faces her mother. Under stinging taunts about the failure of her reign, Eugenie explodes and admits to murdering her child in order to defeat the omen. Eugenie felt trapped and belittled by the omen so she resolved to destroy it by removing her own children. The witnessing nobles cast Eugenie from the throne in favor of Kindar.

The High Wizard attacks Kindar, but Henry leaps on him, snapping his magic. Further enraged, Eugenie attempts to kill Kindar with a hunting dagger. In self-defense, Kindar stabs her through the heart.

Shocked and remorseful, Kindar takes the reins of the kingdom. She rights her mother’s wrongs and redirects the army to the border to frighten away the massing rival army. With dark times averted, Kindar feels confident in rejecting an arranged marriage and following her own heart. Henry proposes. Setting aside her doubt about her weakness, she accepts the lingering effects of the poison as part of her. With the throne and love, her happiness seems guaranteed.

Unknown to Kindar, Grant has made a treaty with the general of the rival county to revenge his son. In the dungeon, Mal used magic to shield himself from the falling rock. He eases out of his prison, all the while nursing his desire for revenge. The prophecy stands incomplete.

Comments

At a little over 1000 words, this is too long and the author realizes it. To be fair, she was still working on it when she saw my announcement about backing off of critting a bit and she hurried to get a copy over. At this point, I think she’s still in the mindset of spitting out the synopsis in the exact linear way the novel is written. It will, I believe, benefit from a structural overhaul.

My Version

This cuts about 200 words from the original and restructures it somewhat by combining like plot threads, making the essence of the story easier to follow.

Stricken in childhood with choke lung – a chronic condition that still sends Kindar into daily fits of coughing despite the medicines her nurse plies – the 18-year-old princess is used to disappointment. And having a mother who will do anything to undermine what little happiness she can manage means Kindar must act the arrogant and cold lady to protect the things she loves. The Empress can’t completely reject her ill middle daughter because of a religious prophecy that during a ‘dark’ time, one of three princesses will become a savior. But she can make life miserable for the sickly child who, like her other two daughters, gets more attention over this prophecy business than she does. In her most strategic and public strike yet, the Empress refuses to betroth Kindar, per tradition, during the wedding of Kindar’s older sister.

When Kindar’s sister is murdered on her wedding night and one of Kindar’s rings is found at the scene, Kindar realizes she’s been set up – but by whom? Her mother orders Kindar banished. Kindar, though, has a different plan. She sends for Maladonis Bin, a young wizard who’s been promising a cure for Kindar’s choke lung if the princess will just follow him to Cushwair, where volcanic fumes possess healing properties. Determined not to live in disgrace, Kindar exchanges places with a servant and sets off with the wizard.

Shortly after she leaves, the servant posing as Kindar is killed, leaving the court to believe Kindar is now dead. In a calculated power bid, the Empress weds the Head Wizard and, together, they plot the fall of a rival kingdom. That move, on the heels of the deaths of two princesses, leaves the court stunned and, most of all, malleable.

Kindar’s faith in the young wizard’s promise dies when Mal hands her over to a rag-tag rebel army when they reach Cushwair. The leader, Baron Grant, intends to marry her to his bully of a son and move Cushwair toward independence. Kindar reels from Mal’s treachery as she’s led away. Under orders to convince Kindar to comply using any methods necessary so the marriage will be valid, her jailor, Henry, is torn between his flagrant attraction to her and duty to his liege.

When Grant’s son decides he has better ways of making her comply and attempts to rape her, Henry chooses heart over duty. Together, he and Kindar slay Grant’s son and escape. On the way out, they discover Mal spying. Mal swears he was forced to betray her but that the cure he promised does exist. Against Henry’s counsel, Kindar takes Mal with them.

She flees to Cushwair’s dormant volcano where she inhales its sulfuric fumes. Instead of healing, they sicken her more. Realizing there is no cure, she lays into Mal, grief making her cruel. In a fit of anger, Mal reveals a secret to a stunned Kindar: The medicines she’s been taking by the Empress’ command to counteract the choke lung’s effects have been poisoning her for years. More, the Empress hired Mal to murder Kindar’s older sister. And now the Empress has thrown the country into turmoil in her bid to quell prophecy and subjugate a rival kingdom that has been trying to negotiate peace for a generation.

With the country falling apart, Kindar returns home to confront her mother. There, she surrenders herself, hoping to protect Henry, whom she’s grown to love, and force retribution for Mal’s betrayals.

Only Mal turns coat again. While he’s followed through on the Empress’s orders, he doesn’t work for her. His loyalty is with the rival kingdom and he plans to use Kindar’s bitterness to goad her into destroying her mother and rip apart the court. Using magic to seize her and a knife to Henry’s gut to persuade her, Mal puts his pawns into position. That’s when Kindar’s resolve for justice ignites the poison in her blood, enabling her to break free of Mal’s binding magic. Her anger brings down chunks of the stone roof, burying Mal.

With Mal dead, Kindar accuses her mother of murder, treason and heresy before the witnessing nobles who cast the Empress from the throne. With life and freedom on the line, the High Wizard attacks Kindar, but Henry leaps on him, snapping his magic. Using the distraction, the Empress snatches up a hunting dagger. In self-defense, Kindar stabs her through the heart.

Grieving over the turn of events, Kindar takes the reins of the kingdom. As the prophecy embodied, she rights her mother’s wrongs and redirects the army to the border to frighten away the massing rival army. With dark times averted, Kindar rejects an arranged marriage and accepts Henry’s proposal instead. With throne and love in hand, her happiness seems secured.

Unknown to Kindar, though, Grant has allied with the general of the rival kingdom to revenge his son. And standing with them is the traitor Mal whose magic shielded him from the falling rock and transported him, unseen, from Kindar’s court. The prophecy, thought completed, has only begun.

2 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

I don't have time for the whole, so I'll comment on a few parts. Mostly I'll show what my thoughts are as I read parts of this.

Princess Kindar experiences constant disappointment. Stricken from childhood with a disease of the lungs that leaves her coughing, she can’t abandon her guard and be herself.

I don't understand what the coughing has to do with the guard or her being herself. And does the coughing cause the disappointments?

On her older sister’s wedding day, her mother, Empress Eugenie, refuses to grant the traditional betrothal of a younger daughter.

The second 'her' refers back to the older sister, yes? Technically Eugenie's the mother of them both (I assume) so you can get away with it here. The traditional betrothal... means nothing to me.

In Anost, their religion centers on a prophecy that during a ‘dark’ time, one of three princesses will become a savior. Empress Eugenie cannot completely reject her ill middle child because of the omen’s importance.

Anost is where they all live? Or is it a neighboring town? Or the planet? The castle?
Who is the 'their'? The people we've met? The people of Anost?
Why is dark in quotes? The omen specifically says there are three princesses? Are we in a 'dark' time? I've seen no hint of that.

Stunned by this further denial, Kindar...

What further denial. Eugenie can't reject her middle child as part of the prophecy - how is that denial? Or is this refering back to the betrothal?


There's some world building that needs to happen to ground the reader in where you are and what's going on. One sentence on Anost and the 'dark' to ground us perhaps? You are very familiar with your story and I know nothing. Framework is important and also very hard to build into a synopsis when word count is so limited. That doesn't mean you can't start with the princess.

Phoenix' first paragraph leaves some holes with things like the dark, but it doesn't matter (yet) as she's given me something to gnaw on. There's the conflict between Kindar and her mother and there's some great character description that gives me grounding in who the MC is and who her (possible) main protagonist is. I care about Kindar already and I'm reading on.

Michelle4Laughs said...

Phoenix that was sensational! You are the bomb! I can't thank you enough for your help and ideas. Now it flows like a story and not like a point by point condensed repeat of the plot.