Oct 01 2009

Sharpening Your Concept With a Two-Sentence Synopsis

What’s your story about?

That question usually sets off a rambling and unappealing description of the novel or comic book.  As part of your query, you need to describe your book in 1-2 sentences (I’d recommend 10-30 words).  New authors often have a great deal of trouble doing so– they’re so intimately familiar with all the details of their work that it’s hard to see what the big picture is.

As a writing exercise, I’d like you to boil down a lengthy work into 1-2 sentences.  That’s not easy.  It forces you to make tough decisions about what is absolutely essential to the core of your novel or comic book.  It also provides you an response when someone asks you what your book is about. Having a simple, elegant introduction available is crucial.

Here’s an easy way to write a two-sentence synopsis.


Step one:  Brainstorm the aspects of the plot that are most important to understanding the plot. In particular, write down a few ideas for each of the following categories you find important.

  • Conflicts
  • Key traits of main characters
  • Background of the main character(s)–occupation, wealth, age, or anything else particularly relevant.
  • Major character goals
  • Anything notable about the premise or setting.
  • Major changes of the protagonist(s)– how they grow over the course of the book.
  • Crucial relationships

Step two:  Pick the most important item in each category.

Step three: Write a sentence that connects at least three of the items that you think are most important.  Here are some dry examples (don’t worry–we’ll make them more lively in the next step).

  • An ordinary British boy (background) that discovers he is a wizard (premise) must avenge his parents’ death (goal/conflict) by studying at an extraordinary university (setting and possibly character change).
  • Four mutant turtles (key traits/premise/background) must become ninjas (growth) to save New York City (goal/setting).
  • Two unlikely cops, an accountant and a mutant alligator (background/traits/premise), must work together (relationship) to save the world (goal) from an unusual supervillain (conflict/premise).  –> This is the synopsis for Superhero Nation, by the way.
  • A fearless archaeologist (traits/background) must reunite with his estranged father (relationship) to stop the Nazis from seizing a magical artifact  (conflict/setting/goal).

In some of these, I used more than one item from each category.  However, I’d recommend against carpet-bombing. For example, if you describe four character traits, you’ve probably diluted the character.  If you feel that you need that many traits, I would recommend thinking more about what is most important.

Step four:  Pump up the style. In particular, try to insert details from your book that show off your style and make you stand out.  For example, are there any vague words that can be shown with a detail?  For example, in my synopsis, I described the antagonist as an “unusual supervillain.”  Weak!  A more specific phrase, like “deranged cosmeticist,” is more interesting and tells us more about the story and its tone.

Step five:  Add a second sentence if you feel that the first one missed something essential to understanding the plot or you have particularly stylish details left.  If the first sentence is like the headline for the book, the second sentence is like the subheader.  As a rule, I would suggest focusing the second sentence on developing what came up in the first sentence rather than introducing details that relate more to subplots.

One miscellaneous note: it’s usually more effective to refer to characters by their profession or key traits rather than by name.  The names are usually distracting and don’t add much.  Would the Harry Potter synopsis have been any more interesting if it had begun with “Harry Potter, an ordinary British boy…”?  No.

If you liked this article, I’d also recommend More Tips on Writing a Two-Sentence Synopsis and Can You Pass the Soul Test?

76 responses so far

76 Responses to “Sharpening Your Concept With a Two-Sentence Synopsis”

  1. Koryon 01 Oct 2009 at 8:28 am

    Examples of what the second sentence might include be would be helpful.
    Thanks

  2. B. Macon 01 Oct 2009 at 9:14 am

    Generally, I think the easiest way to do the second-sentence is to develop what came up in the first sentence. For example, if the first sentence of SN’s synopsis is “Two unlikely cops, an accountant and a mutant alligator, must work together to save the world from a deranged cosmeticist…”, then here are a few possible examples:

    “But can they do it without stabbing each other first?” This sets up SN as an action/comedy and develops the relationship angle from the first sentence.

    “But as the bodies pile up, mankind’s time is running out.” This would be appropriate if SN were an action-packed thriller (it’s not). It develops the urgency of the goal/conflict and also conveys the mood/violence level of the story by mentioning that bodies pile up.

    “Three hundred million counts of attempted murder later, their investigation is off the grid, off the hook and off its rocker.” One thing I don’t like here is that it implies that the cops are committing the attempted murder. Anyway, besides that, this does a pretty good job of raising the stakes and developing the mood. Also, I think the corny wordplay might arouse a chuckle.

    PS: I don’t think it shows up on this website, but I love your avatar.

  3. Lighting Manon 01 Oct 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Version 3

    “A mentally ill supervillain and his imaginary friend are sentenced to spend the rest of their days in the world’s worst insane asylum, once inside, he finds a reason to change, but things are soon further complicated when prisoners begin dying.”

    Version 2

    “In the world’s worst insane asylum, a recently convicted supervillain finds a reason to change, but soon other prisoners start dying. leaving it up to him and his imaginary friend to figure out who is behind it before it is too late.”

    Version 1

    “What’s a mentally ill supervillain and his imaginary friend, the reincarnation of Charles Guiteau, to do when they’re forced to live the rest of their days in the world’s most secure insane asylum? Can an imaginary presidential assassin find love? Can a supervillain find redemption surrounded by the ones that came before him?”

    I haven’t talked much about my work before here, but I’d describe it as a fair mixture of drama and action, with good amount comedy added in.

  4. StarEon 02 Oct 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Lightingman, “Can an imaginary presidential assassin find love?” That was hilarious! I definitely liked your third synopsis best, because it included a brief taste of the supervillain’s alleged insanity. But it could some revisions so it’ll flow better… The first sentence is worded awkwardly because you needed to add the “Charles Guiteau” part in there. Maybe you could try something like,

    “What’s a psychotic supervillain and his imaginary friend to do when they’re sentenced to life in the world’s worst insane asylum? Can an imaginary presidential assassin find love, and can a supervillain find redemption by solving the psycho ward’s very own murder mystery?”

    Eeeek, I think my version was even worse. Whoops! Condensing into two sentences isn’t my specialty, but I hope it helped at least a little.

    Umm, here’s “mine” so far… B. Mac and Marissa helped me on this.

    “In a prison where computers reign and the ultimate cost for insubordination is your memories, a light-hearted painter must cooperate with a dangerously intelligent stranger to escape.”

    How’s that? I feel like I need a second sentence. The current synopsis leaves out some key details… like the fact that the painter and the dangerously intelligent stranger both have superpowers. And instead of a lot of “sitting around in jail”, there’s a lot of brawling with psychotic “rebel machines” within the destroyed/abandoned cities that the prison works to reclaim. I’m still thinking of what I could write for that second sentence… *ponders*

  5. B. Macon 02 Oct 2009 at 2:52 pm

    “In a prison where computers reign and the ultimate cost for insubordination is your memories, a light-hearted painter must cooperate with a dangerously intelligent stranger to escape.” I like this a lot, but I’d like to suggest some minor tweaks.

    –There’s probably a more interesting verb available than cooperate.

    –”In a prison where computers reign and the ultimate cost for insubordination is your memories…” What would you think about revising that to something like “In a prison where computers can seize your memories at any time…” It’s a bit shorter and sets up the second half of the sentence a bit better, I think.

    Aside from these two minor suggestions, I feel like this is really clicking. If this were the beginning of the query, I’d definitely want to keep reading.

  6. B. Macon 02 Oct 2009 at 8:23 pm

    I agree that the superpower aspect is worth mentioning in a second sentence. However, I wouldn’t recommend using the word “superpower” exactly because that is so associated with superheroes and I don’t think this is actually a superhero novel.

    Alternately, you could probably handle the superpower aspect in a single sentence. For example…

    “In a prison where computers can seize your memories at any time, a light-hearted painter and a dangerously intelligent stranger must harness [superpower phrase] to escape.”

  7. thablueon 06 Oct 2009 at 3:10 am

    How about this? :

    A 4,000 year old Vampire living in modern-day Dublin is being hunted for her demonic blood by an underground society based in The Vatican, all while finding new love with an old soul in the body of a young woman. She fights to keep from becoming wholly evil, to keep from being destroyed, and to save the world from Fascist Ideology – albeit inadvertently on that last one.

  8. thablueon 06 Oct 2009 at 4:18 am

    (Okay, attempt 2): A 4,000 year old Sumerian Vampire living in modern-day Dublin is being hunted for her demonic blood by an underground society based in The Vatican. She fights to keep from becoming wholly evil, to keep from being destroyed, to keep newfound love, and to save the world from Fascist Ideology – albeit inadvertently on that last one.

  9. B. Macon 06 Oct 2009 at 2:47 pm

    In both attempts, I think the last sentence is too diluted. It gives her four goals.

    –Keep from going evil. This doesn’t seem to have a connection to the first sentence. If this really is her main goal, I think that the first sentence should be revamped to reflect that.

    –Keep from being destroyed. This is unnecessary, I think. I don’t feel it adds enough to what we know from the first sentence (she’s being hunted, so we already know she’s in grave danger).

    –Keep newfound love. If this is important, I would bring the lover into the synopsis, particularly if the lover is somehow tied to the Vatican plot. (For example, pretty much every Bond girl is a scientist or a mole that has crucial information or skills). If the romance angle isn’t terribly important, I’d recommend taking it out. If the lover isn’t tied to the Vatican plot BUT you still feel the romance is important enough to keep, then I would recommend overhauling the first sentence to introduce better that it’s an action/romance.

    –Save the world from fascism. This doesn’t seem to be connected to the first sentence, either. Are the fascists with the Vatican group? Or is this something else entirely?

    Also, I would recommend rephrasing your first sentence as an active sentence.

    “An ancient Sumerian vampire living in modern-day Dublin must turn to [lover description] to survive a Vatican cabal bent on world domination.” In the second sentence, I’d recommend developing 1-2 of the most important themes, like her struggling to keep her morality or whatever.

  10. Ragged Boyon 06 Oct 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Time for RB’s attempt. I’ll try two for juxtaposition.

    Version 1:
    Weird things happen in San Libre on a daily basis, but when aliens begin to pop up and cause drama for everyone an offbeat actor and an eccentric alien scientist are forced into action to save the humanity from painful genetic enslavement.

    - I like this one, but it sounds like it has more of a comedic edge. Although, I usually try to keep the script light-hearted and humorous, so it could work.

    Version 2:
    San Libre, city of the stars, the weirdos, and most recently, devious aliens intent on enslaving all life. A young offbeat actor must don the identity of a superhero and, along with an eccentric alien chemist, stop their genome-twisting plans and save humanity.

    - This one is a bit more serious, but I still like it, particularly the first sentence. I’m not sure if I should have included the name, Showtime.

    I like both, but I like the first a little more. What do you all think?

  11. thablueon 07 Oct 2009 at 9:58 am

    Okay here goes attempt 3…
    “An ancient Sumerian vampire living in modern-day Dublin must turn to a new love to survive a Vatican cabal bent on world domination. But can she trust in love? Can she even trust herself?”

    Only now I think it sounds a bit like a romance. It’s not. It’s a supernatural thriller with a bit of romance in it. Hmmm *goes back to the drawing board*

  12. B. Macon 07 Oct 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I’d recommend replacing “new love” with something more gripping. It feels too generic and, like you said, it strongly suggests that this is mainly a romance. If the romance is not essential to the story, I would also recommend replacing the phrase “but can she trust in love?” with something like “but can she trust [describe him using a noun that suggests something interesting about him or their relationship]?” But can she trust a human? A priest? A politician? A wayward baker? A dyslexic word-ninja?

  13. Ragged Boyon 07 Oct 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Reminder on my synopses above. :-)

  14. B. Macon 07 Oct 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for the reminder– I missed your post earlier.

    Here’s my version of version 1:
    When aliens land in San Libre, an offbeat student actor and an extraterrestrial mad scientist must [verb phrase] to save humanity from genetic enslavement.

    If this were just a sci-fi shoot ‘em up, the verb phrase would be something like “kick alien ass,” but you can tailor it to your needs. You can establish the mood and foreshadow the plot with something well-suited to your book. One approach that might work is a verb phrase that pushes the superhero angle. Alternately, you could establish the superhero stuff in the second sentence.

    If you’d like to use a second sentence, I’d recommend dropping the word “superhero” or otherwise denoting this as a superhero work…

    In my take, I cut “weird things happen in San Libre” and “eccentric alien scientist” because I feel like they don’t go far enough to establishing the story. I think that “mad scientist” has a more specific feel than “eccentric… scientist.”

    If your work is often light-hearted and eccentric, it might be worthwhile to establish that with a characteristic detail. For example, on the cover of SN, I propped a rocket launcher against a water cooler to establish that this is not your typical office comedy. Would you like to brainstorm with me? What are some of the unusual things happening in San Libre? What are some of the things that make Jiminy eccentric?

    My take on version 2: San Libre is home to movie stars, gangs, and (as of last Tuesday) aliens intent on enslaving all life. With the help of a batty [renegade?] alien chemist, a teen actor must [verb phrase] to [goal phrase]. Alternately, instead of “to [goal phrase],” you could lay out the challenges with “without [danger phrase].” For example, if his powers were fuelled by his sanity (just pretend with me for a moment), the phrase might be “without losing his mind.”

    I think that leading with the setting is unusual. It worked out well here. The juxtaposition of these very different elements builds intrigue.

    I replaced “the weirdos” with “gangs” because I think it sets up the grittiness of issue 1 better. Also, I find the contrast between gangs and movie stars more interesting than the one between movie stars and weirdos…

    Here, I replaced the word “eccentric” with “batty” because I think it has more flair and is a bit more specific. (It has a connotation of mild sanity issues). If you were trying to do this as straight-up action, I’d recommend something like “renegade” as a more serious alternative.

    “Devious” seems like too mild a word for alien invaders. The detail that they’re intending to enslave all live describes them a lot better.

    “don the identity of a superhero” –> a somewhat smoother version of this phrase would be “become a superhero.” I think that’s still a bit too generic, though.

  15. Ragged Boyon 08 Oct 2009 at 4:23 pm

    I like batty much more than eccentric, I too felt eccentric was a little generic. Oh, so I do have more authorial room. I didn’t know how “by the book” I had to be. I definitely like your version of #2. I really wanted to make San Libre sound interesting. I think I’m going to go with this:

    San Libre is home to movie stars, gangs, and, most recently, malicious aliens intent on enslaving all life. With the help of a batty alien chemist, an offbeat teen actor must step out of his overidealistic (lazy?) shadow and into the spotlight to save humanity from genetic enslavement.

    What do you think?

  16. B. Macon 08 Oct 2009 at 5:14 pm

    “San Libre is home to movie stars, gangs, and, most recently, malicious aliens intent on enslaving all life. With the help of a batty alien chemist, an offbeat teen actor must step out of his overidealistic (lazy?) shadow and into the spotlight to save humanity from genetic enslavement.”

    A few thoughts…

    –”malicious aliens intent on enslaving all life…” Malicious is unnecessary.

    –Not feeling the verb phrase “must step out of his overidealistic (lazy?) shadow and into the spotlight”… I think the wordplay with shadow and spotlight is sort of awkward. What would you think about something like “must put away his Hollywood fantasies and get real. Real badass [well, I don't think of him as terribly badass, so just use a suitably cool adjective].” This is technically three sentences long, but one is two words long, so I think it’s okay.

    –”from genetic enslavement” feels mostly redundant with “intent on enslaving all life.” I would recommend cutting “from genetic enslavement.”

    –The second sentence feels a bit too long.

    –I feel like Adrian’s idealism sticks out a lot more to me than his laziness. You could use a verb phrase like “get serious” to show the idealism->realism character arc.

  17. Ragged Boyon 08 Oct 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Ok, let’s try again.

    San Libre is home to movie stars, gangs, and most recently, aliens intent on enslaving all life. With the help of a batty alien chemist, an offbeat teen actor has to put away his Hollywood fantasies and get real to save humanity.

    I think this works. I’m still happy that I made the skeleton for it, even if the content was devised by you.

    What do you think?

  18. ShardReaperon 08 Oct 2009 at 5:48 pm

    It sounds right on the money, from what I can tell. Two things: is this meant to be a buddy-cop deal, and is it present day? If it is, I want several potshots at teen actors.

  19. Ragged Boyon 08 Oct 2009 at 5:56 pm

    What’s a buddy-cop deal? And yes, it is in present day.

  20. ShardReaperon 08 Oct 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Think of Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, Sherlock Holmes, where two characters work together to solve a crime or mystery.

  21. B. Macon 08 Oct 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Or Superhero Nation, Rush Hour, Men in Black, Wild Wild West, Bad Boys, etc. It comes up quite a lot. Since many cops work in groups of 2, it’s a very natural and realistic-feeling way to focus on two characters.

    The most common character combination is probably the salt-and-pepper (one feisty/unusual character and one by-the-books guy).

  22. StarEon 08 Oct 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Heya, Ragged Boy! :) Your synopsis is sounding nice so far! I think maybe you should mention the superhero aspect in there. He’s saving the world, yes, but this synopsis doesn’t indicate he’s got extraordinary powers to do so. Maybe you could say, “…and into the spotlight as the superhero SHOWTIME to save humanity from genetic enslavement”…? I’m not sure.
    _
    I’ve been working on mine lately. I haven’t forgotten about it, B. Mac! Um, how does this version sound?
    _
    “In a prison where inmates are used as tools of war against mechanical monsters, an artist must ally with a dangerously intelligent stranger to escape. But when the utimate cost for insubordination is her memories, can she master the art of mind-hacking without blowing her cover?”
    _
    Does this still sound engaging like the original version, or have I lost some of the spark during the changes?

  23. StarEon 08 Oct 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Oops! Wow, I forgot to refresh the page before responding, heehee. I’m a big step behind, so sorry if my commentary wasn’t helpful, Ragged Boy.

  24. Ragged Boyon 08 Oct 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Hmm, I like it StarE. I don’t know much about your story, but I’m interested, which means that it has served its purpose. Thanks for trying to help, even with the slight tardiness.

    What do you think of the current version?

  25. Marissaon 08 Oct 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Trust me, it’s even more interesting when you hear about it. :D

  26. thablueon 09 Oct 2009 at 4:16 am

    Ragged Boy: I like your final version – it would make me pick the book up in the shop, that I can tell you. Puts me in mind of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett thematically. Is that what you are going for?

    StarE: I like yours as well – although it feels a tad unwieldy. Puts me in mind of a cross between The Matrix and Terminator. But hey, at least it doesn’t make your book sound like a soppy teenage vampire novel! (no offense intended toward soppy teenage vampire novels mine just isn’t one!) *sighs and goes back to work on those two sentences*

  27. thablueon 09 Oct 2009 at 4:23 am

    Okay, here’s attempt 4:

    “An ancient Sumerian vampire living in modern-day Dublin must turn to a bookish young woman to survive a Vatican cabal bent on world domination. But can really she trust a human? Can she even trust herself?”

    Hmmmm. I’m still not sure that gives the book any ooomph I was hoping for. I mean I’d pick it up, but I’m a Vampire/Religious thriller fan. I’m not sure anyone else would.

    Maybe I need to start over. *goes back and re-reads the article above.*

  28. Lighting Manon 09 Oct 2009 at 8:41 am

    I’ve other stuff I’ve been meaning to say but college work has been swamping me, so apologies for lack of responses. However, quickly, I must ask thablue something. Do you really intend for all the terrorist connotations in your synopsis? You’ve got by what all means is an Iraqi citizen, in a city and a country with a history wracked by terrorism, fighting Catholicism, although just a sect of it, plus, and apparently she’s a lesbian / bisexual?

    It all seems quite disparate to me, and as a reader, in mentioning the lead’s birth place, you seem to be marking it as a defining trait, which for me would be detractor because I’m not actually that well-versed in Sumerian history and I’d hate to buy something and have it get tangled up in ancient Sumerian blues. I’m sure there’s a more defining trait then her age or birthplace, and if there isn’t, why should readers care if she survives? Just my input though. An accountant takes a certain type of person, so when B. Mac makes use of that profession, we get a feeling for that character from that title, but we don’t learn anything from Sumerian, we get that feeling from pop culture history she’s probably still going to be white, but we don’t know anything because we don’t know how you treat vampires.

    She could have been awake, adapting all these years, she could walk around Dublin taking pictures of funny signs with her I-Phone, she could be driven by carriage and live in a dark castle on the hill, or she could have been sleeping since the 1961 and wake up singing Chubby Checker’s greatest hit, we just don’t know. Again, just my opinion.

  29. thablueon 09 Oct 2009 at 11:26 am

    Hiya, Lightening Man –

    I do mean for certain connotations, certainly. Rue’s been Mesopotamian ever since she popped into my head a few years back – and became specifically Sumerian which is, at least in part, in modern day Iraq – true) when I did more historical research. The reason being is that that whole area (from Pakistan up through Turkey) is one of, if not THE Cradle of Western Civilization…and one of the very first historical references to Vampires (although they callled them Utukku or Ekimmu, depending on source – but I digress) is in the Sumerian Mythos. It was a logical choice for a being so ancient.

    She would certainly be, by Modern standards, Iraqi – although she wouldn’t consider herself so. And although, being what she is, she has grown pale over the millenia, she isn’t white, if this ever becomes a film (dream on, me!) I’d hope she’d be played by an actor of middle-eastern decent.

    As far as the whole Iraqi/terrorist/Ireland/Catholic connotations, I was vaguely aware of them, but I was approaching the whole thing from a more religious/esoteric thriller aspect. I have to be honest and say the whole depth of what you brought up did not occur to me. But I like it!

    I live in Ireland now, (albeit The Republic, not The North) although I didn’t grow up here – (my partner did, and right through the worst of it). Now the worries here are more about the economy than any terrorist threat, and honestly I hardly ever think about such things in the context of my every day life. Although you’re right, my vampire would have been here for all of that, (although she would be a recent immigrant to Ireland) and I believe it would be wrong to ignore it. I will deal with it as best I can, thank you for reminding me. I am humbled.

    I chiefly wanted to set my series in Dublin and Ireland, because I think it’s and original setting for a supernatural thriller, and I love Ireland – and my teachers always said “write what you know” – (although the novel is also half set in Vatican City – and I don’t know it at all – so there goes that one). So I guess the synopsys wouldn’t need to mention Sumerian. On the other hand, although I am attempting to keep it at a minimum, and avoid “Highlander -esque” flashbacks every few seconds, I am having to deal with her History. Her creation is all based in Sumeria. I don’t want to mislead readers. And yes, she is bisexual. Aren’t all vampires? ;) I could mention that in the synopsys, but it is not a fact that defines her.

    As far as The Catholic/Vatican City Cabal thing (by the way, B. Mac – thank you so much for the word Cabal! I love it!) – the real thing is so secretive and old and all-controlling, it’s just too perfect a place for a secret vampire-hunting world domination plotter. :D

    Anyway, I’ve gone on long enough – you’ve given me loads to ponder! Cheers!

  30. thablueon 09 Oct 2009 at 11:29 am

    P.S.

    I LOVE the iphone bit! Hee hee.

    I forgot to mention I mean for quite a bit of…a certain kind of humor here. Wry humor, I guess. It will become more clear as we go along, but Rue is often almost mocking popular culture’s idea of what a Vampire is, all the while still being one.

    Anyway…..

    *goes off to think*

  31. B. Macon 09 Oct 2009 at 3:24 pm

    StarE, I agree with Thablue that it’s a bit unwieldy. “In a prison where inmates are used as tools of war against mechanical monsters, an artist must ally with a dangerously intelligent stranger to escape. But when the utimate cost for insubordination is her memories, can she master the art of mind-hacking without blowing her cover?”

    –Quick question– if you mention that they’re being forced to fight, I would recommend taking out the part about losing her memories because I think it’s redundant. Readers can intuit that the stakes of insubordination are very, very high.

    –I feel like the jump from the first clause (the ultimate cost for subordination is her memories) to the second (can she master the art of mind-hacking without blowing her cover?) is kind of awkward.

    –I’d recommend staying away from imaginary words like mind-hacking. It’s sort of intuitive, which is a plus, but I think that you can use a more descriptive phrase.

    –”ally” strikes me as a weak verb. I like something like “rely on” because it suggests that the crux here is trust. I don’t feel like “ally” has the same connotation of trust and dependence.

    –Suggested revision: In a prison where inmates are forced to fight against mechanical monsters, an artist must rely on a dangerously intelligent stranger to escape. But can they exploit the glitch in her mental reprogramming without frying her brain?”

    What do you think?

  32. B. Macon 09 Oct 2009 at 3:40 pm

    “An ancient Sumerian vampire living in modern-day Dublin must turn to a bookish young woman to survive a Vatican cabal bent on world domination. But can really she trust a human? Can she even trust herself?”

    LM, I think that’s a good call about “Sumerian.” Unless a substantial portion of the book happens in Sumeria/Iraq, I would recommend striking the adjective. It’s mostly redundant with “ancient.”

    –I’m not concerned about the possible connections between Sumerian, Ireland, the Vatican and terrorism. First, the use of the word “Sumerian” rather than “Iraqi” (or even “Mesopotamian”) creates a lot of distance. Second, if the book were about Iraq or terrorism, the synopsis would probably have made that clearer.

    –Not sure how to handle the possible lesbian/bisexual angle. Umm, I would recommend against leaving it to inference. Either make it clear that they’re lovers or change “bookish young woman” to “young librarian” or whatever her job is. If this is about lesbians (even partially), I’d recommend “bookish young lesbian” in place of “bookish young woman.”

    –I agree that the lack of description about the main character is a concern. She has trust/security issues. Okay. What’s likable about her?

    –What’s her modus operandi? Since the only thing we know about what she does is that she must “turn to” an ally, I think that this description could easily apply to a Dan Brown book (an academic investigation with violence mixed in), a Jim Butcher book (a private eye investigation with some violence), my brother’s speed-run in Bloodlines (a chomp-chomp vampiric killfest), etc. I think narrowing it down with some more details would help. For example, above we know that Harry’s learning wizardry, so he’ll probably avenge the deaths with magic. We know that the turtles will become ninjas, so they’ll probably save the day with ninjitsu. We know that that SN’s protagonists are “unlikely cops,” so we can probably intuit that they will conduct an unusual criminal investigation.

  33. B. Macon 09 Oct 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Also, I’d recommend swapping the phrase “can really she trust” with “can she really trust.”

  34. Marissaon 09 Oct 2009 at 6:03 pm

    I diagree, StarE, ‘mind-hacking’ fits just fine. It’s very much not made-up. If someone sees the word ‘mind’ and the word ‘hacking’ and can’t figure out what that means, I’d estimate their IQ to be in the double-digits.

    Also, the last sentence of B. Mac’s version is awkward, unprofessional/unsuited to your mood, and generally factually incorrect.

    The rest of what B. Mac said, though, I’d agree with.

  35. thablueon 09 Oct 2009 at 6:47 pm

    I agree that the fact that she was once a Sumerian human doesn’t need to be in the synopsis. The important part is that she’s 4000+ years old, so not your average 300 year old baby vamp. So that’s fine.

    I don’t know how I feel about making the gender of her lover clear. Part of me doesn’t want to because “Oh look, Joe – it’s another lesbian vampire book” :/. It’s not like that at all. Part of me does because the burgeoning relationship is important to the story. Hrm. I’ll see how it reads with no gender mention.

    I want to describe my vampire more, as well as the love interest – but I can’t figure out how to do it without the synopsis becoming unwieldy. Hrm.

    Also… yeah, oops, the “Can even she” was a typo! ;-)

    I’ll take a look at the character traits list and have another go in a bit.

  36. B. Macon 09 Oct 2009 at 7:19 pm

    There are many lesbian vampire novels? Hmm… I think that the publishers that have published several lesbian vampire books would not be put off by another. They obviously think there’s a market for them. Otherwise they wouldn’t keep publishing them. (A caveat: some otherwise-publishable manuscripts get nixed because they’re too similar to what the publisher JUST accepted– but that wouldn’t be affected by whether or not you mention the lesbianism upfront, I suspect).

    I’d recommend mentioning the lesbian angle, particularly if you’re submitting to US publishers. However, do what you’re comfortable with–obviously you have more of an artistic and economic stake in this than I do. ;-)

  37. StarEon 09 Oct 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I agree with Thablue as well. I think the synopsis sounded chaotic because of all the details crammed in there, heh. Too much going on. Thank you also to Ragged Boy and Marissa, too!
    _
    If I can skate by with it, I’d like to keep “mind-hacking” in there. Would it help if I removed the dash? It seems pretty self descriptive, and the idea of “hacking into someone’s mind” is crucial to the plot. “Rely on” is a much better verb than “ally”. Thank you! And um, how’s this?
    _
    “In a prison where inmates are forced to fight against mechanical monsters, an artist must rely on a dangerously intelligent stranger to escape. But with a computerized warden that can sieze her memories at any time, can she master the art of mind-hacking without blowing her cover?”
    _
    RaggedBoy, your current version sounds nice so far. :D Somehow, I feel like it should still mention that he’s saving the world as “Showtime”. I also randomly remember B. Mac mentioning a phrase like “and, as of last Tuesday” that seemed pretty funny for your synopsis, haha. Like this, maybe?
    _
    “San Libre is home to movie stars, gangs, and as of last Tuesday, aliens intent on enslaving all intelligent life. With the help of a batty alien chemist, an offbeat teen actor has to put away his Hollywood fantasies and get real to save humanity.”
    _
    Actually, that sounds okay… I only did added some extra words, but I don’t know if it’s better or worse. In any case, your new version is good, RaggedBoy!
    _
    And Thablue, I don’t know if I can offer an advice yet. I’m sorry! B. Mac and Lightingman seem to have covered all the important stuff. I’ve never read a vampire novel before, so I’m not sure how to guage your synopsis. :)

  38. StarEon 10 Oct 2009 at 12:15 am

    Marissa and I worked on this a bit more. How’s this one? :)
    _
    “In a prison where inmates are sent to war against technological monsters, an artist must rely on the scheme of a dangerously intelligent stranger to escape. But when a computerized warden can sieze their memories at any time, can she master the art of mind-hacking without blowing their only shot at freedom?”
    _
    I wonder if there’s a more stylish way to say “computerized warden”? That the most straight-forward way to say it, because “warden” indicates control over the prison’s happenings, and “computerized” keeps that tech feel and hints at HOW the wardens can tap into their memories, etc. Does it sound corny to just say “computerized warden” straight up?
    _
    Just saying “supercomputers” with “warden” doesn’t indicate their level of authority. And just saying “warden” without mentioning that they’re supercomputers doesn’t have the right feel, and makes people think the prison is run by humans. *ponders*

  39. B. Macon 10 Oct 2009 at 10:14 am

    I don’t think it’s necessary to introduce the computer warden. Since they’re battling against technological monsters, it should be pretty obvious that this is sci-fi. Is it really critical that the prison is run by machines rather than humans?



    I think it’s still a bit long…

  40. thablueon 10 Oct 2009 at 12:04 pm

    OK, I think I’ve got a new handle on it…(this is a great exercise, btw! It’s making me think about the novel in a new way.) This is closer – still not quite there, I think I can do better than “Solitary” and “Bookish” for describing the two (and I know it’s three sentences :P )

    “A 4,000 solitary vampire living in modern-day Dublin must turn to a bookish young lesbian, an opportunistic criminal, and a dishonest priest to survive the machinations of a secret Vatican cabal bent on world domination. At the same time she must battle the demon bourne in her own blood. But is either battle one she can win?

    What do you think?

  41. thablueon 10 Oct 2009 at 12:04 pm

    (bah – sorry got the bold all over the place)

  42. B. Macon 17 Oct 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Hello, thablue. I like how your synopsis is turning out.

    “A 4,000 solitary vampire living in modern-day Dublin must turn to a bookish young lesbian, an opportunistic criminal, and a dishonest priest to survive the machinations of a secret Vatican cabal bent on world domination. At the same time she must battle the demon bourne in her own blood. But is either battle one she can win?”

    Here are some thoughts.

    –I think you’re missing “year old” after 4000. Also, I think that “ancient” or perhaps “primeval” or “archaic” would be more effective than the longer “4000 year old”.

    –How important is it that the bookish lesbian is young?

    –This mentions 4 characters (vampire, bookish lesbian, criminal, priest) as well as the cabal and the demon. I’d recommend eliminating at least one of the criminal and the priest. (Don’t worry– you’ll get a chance to mention them in the synopsis, which is considerably longer than two sentences).

    –”survive the machinations of a secret Vatican cabal bent on world domination.” This is a really smooth way to introduce the goal and antagonist. Nicely done! However, I have two minor suggestions on length. First, “the machinations of” is probably unnecessary. Second, the word cabal implies secrecy, so secret is unnecessary. I think this could be cut down to “…survive a Vatican cabal bent on world domination.”

    –”But is either battle one she can win?” I don’t think that this question adds very much to the preceding sentence. It doesn’t raise the stakes. (I doubt you could raise the stakes much after introducing world domination in the first sentence).

    If you’re really attached to “but is either battle one she can win?”, I’d recommend phrasing it as “but can she win either battle?”

    –”modern-day” could probably be “modern.” Your call.

    –”At the same time she must battle the demon bourne in her own blood.” I don’t think it’s clear what this means. Could you rephrase it? In particular, I don’t think that it’s obvious whether the demon in question is a literal supernatural demon, or her vampirism (or perhaps her vampiric craving for blood), or something else entirely. In addition, I feel that this sentence could probably be tied together with the first one more smoothly. You can probably give us a detail here. How does this demon affect her efforts to defeat the cabal? What’s it trying to accomplish? Etc.

    –”opportunistic criminal…” Criminal is a sort of generic word. Could you think of something more specific? I’d rather read about an opportunistic arsonist, a pickpocket, a murderer, a conman, a kidnapper, a vandal, etc. Any of these helps develop the character more than just being a criminal. (Nonetheless, I’d like to commend you for describing him as a criminal rather than something totally useless like a “man” or “person”–”criminal” is so much better it’s not even funny).

  43. ShardReaperon 17 Oct 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Let’s see: “Fifteen years after a catastrophe, Freedom City has gone to hell in a handbasket. But four heroes are the only thing that stand between the city’s salvation… and it’s freedom.

  44. B. Macon 17 Oct 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Hello, ShardReaper. Here are some thoughts and suggestions.

    –”Fifteen years after a catastrophe…” Is this bit of backstory important here? It doesn’t feel that way yet. I’d recommend making the connection between the destruction 15 years ago and the fight going on today. Otherwise, it’s just passive backstory and shouldn’t be in the synopsis.

    –If you’re deadset on “fifteen years after a catastrophe,” it may be worthwhile to throw in a word describing what sort of catastrophe we’re talking about. We’re probably not talking about a financial crisis.

    –”has gone to hell in a handbasket” is fairly cliche. Do you think you could use a phrase that shows more about your style of writing?

    –I’m not sold on the first sentence. It only describes the setting. I imagine you could probably work in a villain here, at the very least. Particularly if the catastrophe was man-made: “Fifteen years after [villain noun phrase] wrecked Freedom City, [detail that draws the setting into the story now.]”

    –I would recommend taking out the ellipsis in the second sentence. Also, its only has an apostrophe when it’s being used as the contraction for “it is.” In the context of “its freedom,” it wouldn’t have an apostrophe. “Four things are the only thing that stand between the city’s salvation and its freedom.”

    –I love the juxtaposition between salvation and freedom.

    –I’m a bit concerned that we don’t anything about the heroes, or even about the team of heroes. Are we talking about… ninja turtles? wizards? Wild Wild West mad scientists? Kung fu chicks? So the word “heroes” can mean pretty much anything. And that’s even before we get into the personality of the team. I’d recommend replacing “four heroes” with “four [distinctive adjective] [distinctive noun]s.” For example, “four surly ninjas” would strike a very feeling than “four badass mercenaries” or “four disgruntled cops” or whatever. This should suggest the mood of the piece– for example, if we described Batman, we’d want something that conveys how dark and gritty the character and story are. In contrast, we might describe Superman as a moral paragon to help us think of a world that’s generally more pleasant and clean-cut. What kind of superhero story are you trying to tell?

    –I don’t think the word “but” is warranted in the second sentence.

  45. ShardReaperon 17 Oct 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Let me try this: “Welcome to Freedom City: land of death, drugs, violence, and explosions. In a city where every day is like Hell in SoCal, four superpowered heroes will be a shining beacon for a dark place.”

  46. B. Macon 17 Oct 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Hello, Lightning Man. Here are some thoughts and suggestions.

    Version 1: “What’s a mentally ill supervillain and his imaginary friend, the reincarnation of Charles Guiteau, to do when they’re forced to live the rest of their days in the world’s most secure insane asylum? Can an imaginary presidential assassin find love? Can a supervillain find redemption surrounded by the ones that came before him?”

    –I love the question “can an imaginary presidential assassin find love?” It really helps establish your style and the mood of the piece.

    –I get the wackiness, but I don’t understand what the plot is. What’s the villain trying to do? Where’s the conflict? Are we supposed to take it at face value that the most important things that happen in this book are the assassin’s quest for love and the supervillain’s attempts to redeem himself?

    –The rhetorical question “What’s a [noun] to do” shortchanges you, I think. It saps an opportunity to use a more interesting verb phrase. For example, “A mentally ill supervillain and his imaginary friend must [verb phrase] when they’re committed to the world’s securest asylum.”

    –”A mentally ill supervillain and his imaginary friend… insane asylum.” I don’t think you need to tell us he’s mentally ill if he has an imaginary friend. Also, do you need to put the word “insane” in front of asylum? Also, “mentally ill” is kind of generic. Could you give us a more descriptive phrase like psychotic, sociopathic, etc. Hopefully something that builds on what we learn about him in the rest of the passage. Alternately, there may be a more fitting descriptor to apply to him than his mental illness.

    Version 2

    “In the world’s worst insane asylum, a recently convicted supervillain finds a reason to change, but soon other prisoners start dying. leaving it up to him and his imaginary friend to figure out who is behind it before it is too late.”

    –Better, I think. There’s conflict and a clear goal (solving the case). There are major smoothness issues, but generally I could see myself wanting to read further.

    –I think there’s a typo. The period after dying should probably be a comma. Even so, it’s sort of awkward because the sentence is long and has a lot of clauses. I suspect that using two sentences here will help– I’d recommend putting a period after either change or dying.

    –Starting with the setting is interesting.

    –”recently convicted” can probably be removed. If he’s in an insane asylum, I think we can infer the conviction. Unless the recentness is critical to the story, I would recommend leaving “recently convicted” out.

    –”supervillain finds a reason to change…” I would recommend at least hinting at what the reason is.

    –Major awkwardness issues. It’s hard to entangle this separately, so I’ll try it all at once. ORIGINAL VERSION: “In the world’s worst insane asylum, a recently convicted supervillain finds a reason to change, but soon other prisoners start dying. leaving it up to him and his imaginary friend to figure out who is behind it before it is too late.” REVISION: “The sudden [interesting synonym for death, like decapitation or whatever] of several prisoners at the world’s worst insane asylum threatens the delicate recovery of a [interesting adjective] supervillain. It’s up to him and his imaginary friend to crack the case before [stakes].” I’d feel more comfortable if it were a bit shorter, but I think this is workable.

    –This does not feel like the same book described in the first version. The distinctive wackiness is gone. This feels much more sober.

    Version 3: “A mentally ill supervillain and his imaginary friend are sentenced to spend the rest of their days in the world’s worst insane asylum, once inside, he finds a reason to change, but things are soon further complicated when prisoners begin dying.”

    –Similar issues to #2. My revised version would look roughly the same. “A [adjective] supervillain and his imaginary friend are confined to the world’s worst insane asylum. Once inside, he [why he changes] but prisoners begin dying and he could be next.”

  47. B. Macon 30 Oct 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Ack, ShardReaper, I didn’t notice your last version until just now.

    “Welcome to Freedom City: land of death, drugs, violence, and explosions. In a city where every day is like Hell in SoCal, four superpowered heroes will be a shining beacon for a dark place.”

    –I don’t get the SoCal reference. Does this book take place in southern California? If so, does the setting matter enough to mention? (For example, I think thablue’s vampire story is an example where the setting is important– if the book is set in modern Dublin rather than BMactopia, it’s clear we’re not talking about a straight-up fantasy).

    –I think this needs more style. “Beyond the gang wars and drug epidemics and [cast the villain here in a catastrophic light], Freedom City has a lot going for it. Namely [hero phrase]. And low property values.

  48. Anonymouson 28 Feb 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Um, helloo. I posted a while back, but I’d imagine you don’t remember me. Currently gearing myself up to work on my novel. Any thoughts on the following?

    “Against the gloomy backdrop of Victorian London, a vampire seeks revenge against the Orwellian regime that imprisoned her. Her only way forward is to join a faction of radicals, but her rebellious young companion complicates matters.”

  49. B. Macon 28 Feb 2010 at 2:32 pm

    I like it, but I do have some suggestions.

    Perhaps you could give another detail about the rebellious companion. What does he do that complicates things? In what ways do things get complicated? Is it really that important that he’s young?

    Also, is “Orwellian” the best word to describe this Victorian regime? I think it has a modern/futuristic connotation, which may feel out of place in the Victorian Era. Does it fit your story better than “tyrannical” or something similar?

  50. Anonymouson 28 Feb 2010 at 2:37 pm

    (was looking at lolcats, blinks) Whoa- that was fast.
    I agree about the rebellious companion- that detail needs work. ‘Traitorous’ could work better, as he eventually betrays her to said regime. As for the young… probably a placeholder. His character is something like the typical rebellious teenager, so I suppose young works from that angle.
    I see your point about Orwellian. I’m reluctant to change it, to be honest with you, as the novel is best summed up as a cross between the Vampire Chronicles and Nineteen Eighty-Four. (Yes, bizarre, I know, but somehow it works.) I was considering elements of steampunk- do you think perhaps that would smooth it down?
    Nevertheless, I shall take a look through a thesaurus, see if there’s anything better than ‘orwellian.’
    Sincere thanks. ^_^

  51. B. Macon 28 Feb 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Hmm, okay. If the story is similar to 1984 in some way, I think “Orwellian” is solid. I just wanted to make sure that it fit your story because it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Victorian vampires. ;-)

    I like traitorous. I feel like it conveys more about what happens than “rebellious.” If the betrayal is particularly important, you might want to bring a few words about that into the synopsis. If not, you could probably leave it for the full-length synopsis.

  52. Anonymouson 28 Feb 2010 at 3:13 pm

    xD, it’s a bizarre mashup of various influences. I’m a history student, learning about Naziism, and also having read both Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm- but I’m also a rabid vampires freak. Maybe it’s a dead end, but people generally seem intrigued by the idea.
    And yes, looking at it, I think traitorous works better. It could be interesting to try and bring in the reason for the treachery. A lot of the story is about character growth, as the vampire (main character, by the name of Ivy) has some serious personality flaws, and it’s partially her fault that her companion turns traitor.
    Anyway, enough of my jabbering on. Thanks a lot for the help.

  53. Milanon 09 Feb 2011 at 11:09 am

    World Peaces

    A superhero struggling with his lemming-like powers unwittingly gains a vengeful orphan sidekick, the two united only by a dream to restore humanity’s lost innocence. But their growing compassion for each other outlasts a series of impractical world peaces, and they apply this wisdom to defeat the villains that follow in their turbulent wake.

    I have a feeling this makes no sense at all…

  54. Nicholas Caseon 09 Feb 2011 at 1:43 pm

    What I got was that a superhero found an vengeful orphan try to rid the world of evil. One thing that tripped me up was were it said the orphan was vengeful. What is he vengeful about? If it’s a key part, we should know. I suspect he’s vengeful about the world being as twisted as it was, but initially I thought the superhero did something to him to make him vengeful at him. (Like the superhero accidentally [or more interesting, maliciously... ] killed his parents/guardians.) Also,

    “But their growing compassion for each other outlasts a series of impractical world peaces, and they apply this wisdom to defeat the villains that follow in their turbulent wake.”

    ‘But’ should be replaced with a better transitional word like ‘however’.

    “However, their growing compassion for each other outlasts a series of impractical world peaces, and they apply this wisdom to defeat the villains that follow in their turbulent wake.”

    Sounds better right? You’re lucky I have a big vocabulary for a kid, Milan, because most people (generally my age) would have no clue about what you just said. It’s great but seems a tad long-winded.

  55. B. Macon 09 Feb 2011 at 3:00 pm

    “A superhero struggling with his lemming-like powers unwittingly gains a vengeful orphan sidekick, the two united only by a dream to restore humanity’s lost innocence. But their growing compassion for each other outlasts a series of impractical world peaces, and they apply this wisdom to defeat the villains that follow in their turbulent wake.” It sounds bizarre, but I’m intrigued. The contrast between the vengeful orphan and the lemming-like superhero and their quixotic goal would keep me reading this proposal.

    It sounds like it would be, ahem, a highly unorthodox plot, but it feels like I could follow it more easily than most utopian quests.

  56. Milanon 09 Feb 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Thank you Nicholas and B. Mac!

    Nicholas, your understanding of the sidekick is remarkably prescient. The sidekick’s father dies after rescuing the hero from an assassin, but she was knocked out at the time by a drug – given to her by her father. The sidekick seeks to find out what really happened, so that she may carry out her revenge. Was it the superhero’s fault?

    I agree with your word change too. As for the vocabulary, the two-sentence challenge is partly to blame. As I get chapters reviewed in future I will try not to alienate my audience with words (excepting perhaps the dialogue of the evil scientist). These sentences are only for an editor/publisher. A back cover blurb might be simpler, with more than two sentences.

    B. Mac, thanks. I’ll definitely keep writing this story. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years, but the chalk-and-cheese partnership that makes it intriguing is only a recent twist. The whole thing now needs a lot of rework but this feedback suggests I might finally have a tale someone would want to hear. Unorthodox beats banal, right? :)

  57. Nicholas Caseon 09 Feb 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I did a re-write and dumbed it down a bit for others, I don’t mind if you use it though because it’s pretty easy to understand. I also did a little changing as well.
    (PS: If I’m correct, a lemming is a kind of rodent found in the Arctic Tundra-or one who joins a mass movement without thinking about it. I suppose that you mean the rodent since the second one isn’t really a power.)

    A hero struggling with his rodent-like powers accidentally gains a vengeful orphan, fated to restore humanity’s lost innocence. Although at a rocky start, their growing compassion for each other withstands a series of unreal world peaces.

    I took out the last part because that basically told the reader that they would pull through. If the reader knows they will win, it kills the point of you developing the reader’s compassion of the protagonist and the only reason they will read it is to see how they pull through. (If you ask me that’s a thin line to go across. If the reader is impatient they’ll probably close the book and pick up a new one. D: ) Not to brag, but in my story (Portentous: The Last Hope) my protagonist loses just about every fight he get’s into or at the very least runs away. Because of this I made a fail-proof so that if he does chicken out in the end, the whole world will be destroyed. (I can let you read it if you want)

    Also,
    Q: “Was it the superhero’s fault?”
    A: DON’T ASK THAT!
    When you do it signals that you would make your characters think what you would think and do. It ends up a 1 dimensional cliche. (I’m re-writting mines now) Ask some friends, or even strangers. Sometimes, make them react vice-versa to what you would do.

    Oh and um like I said, if you want to read some of my story, just ask! :D

  58. Milanon 09 Feb 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Nicholas,

    The superpower fits your second definition of lemming. It affects the mind. At least one world peace is real, albeit with side-effects. And compassion is the ultimate weapon in the fight against evil, not just what they learned. I left it to the imagination how that might unfold.

    Nowhere does the story ask, “was it the superhero’s fault” – that is simply a summary of your post and my plot. Nothing I’ve written here so far quotes from the text. But I’ll post some someday, hopefully soon.

    Meanwhile, I’d be happy to check out your own story. You have a forum here?

    Cheers, Milan

  59. Nicholas Caseon 09 Feb 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Look, I’ll show you and bolden it,
    Thank you Nicholas and B. Mac!

    “Nicholas, your understanding of the sidekick is remarkably prescient. The sidekick’s father dies after rescuing the hero from an assassin, but she was knocked out at the time by a drug – given to her by her father. The sidekick seeks to find out what really happened, so that she may carry out her revenge. Was it the superhero’s fault?

    I agree with your word change too. As for the vocabulary, the two-sentence challenge is partly to blame. As I get chapters reviewed in future I will try not to alienate my audience with words (excepting perhaps the dialogue of the evil scientist). These sentences are only for an editor/publisher. A back cover blurb might be simpler, with more than two sentences.

    B. Mac, thanks. I’ll definitely keep writing this story. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years, but the chalk-and-cheese partnership that makes it intriguing is only a recent twist. The whole thing now needs a lot of rework but this feedback suggests I might finally have a tale someone would want to hear. Unorthodox beats banal, right? :D

    I just got confused is all. Also, how could a mental condition be a superpower? I think a superpower classifies as one that gives one an advantage over another. However, there are some metal disorders that give one an advantage over another. For example, hyperthymesia (Thymesia is Greek for memory) gives one a superior autobiographical memory. (I’m starting to think I’m a genius for a 7th grader-knowing all this extra stuff…hmm…)

    Anyways i do have a forum here but it has a lot of posts so here is an excerpt of it.

    Chapter 2: The Best Successor

    7 years later…
    Dunimas was sweeping the floor behind the register. He had swept up a cockroach, some paper, and dust bunnies. Dunimas muttered to himself, “The dust bunnies slowly yet patiently approach the roach. They finally surround him when…a huge wind swept them away!” Dunimas often talked to himself to satisfy his social need, not that he was crazy, no, far from it. He was smart for a kid his age. His mother home schooled him because in such a grief-stricken world people do crazy things. His mother taught him a lot, but it wasn’t that which made him seem really smart-it was his thinking which did it for him.

    A tall, light tan, bald man walked in wearing a black tuxedo, boots, and a blood-red tie with a young girl. Dunimas was a decent young fellow, eleven-years-old, had strait brown hair like his mother and grandmother, Molly, yet his father and grandfather’s light peach skin. He was wearing a starched white dress shirt, black belt, and blue jeans when he walked to the two and said, “Welcome to Dull Bookstore how may I help you gentle…people?” Ugh! I just KNEW I’d go and screw it up! I was gonna call a girl a gentlemen! Idiot-idiot-IDIOT! Dunimas roared in his mind.

    “Hello.” The bald man said in a stern and slightly annoyed voice with a hint of ‘you better say that’.

    “Um…hi.” The girl weakly smiled. Her voice was fragile and cautious, like an expensive wine glass trying not to fall from an earthquake.

    “Shut up! He was talking to me-me and me only!” The bald man roared at the 10 year old girl, wearing a red dress with white gloves and stockings. She had small black, round-toed short heels; also her hair was long and blond that draped to the center of her back with light tan skin tone. He then backslapped her, causing the girl to stumble.

    “You didn’t have to hit me!” the girl cried with her face red and blood trickling from her mouth to match. Dunimas did not approve of the at all.
    “Sir, I understand I’m not this child’s legal guardian but you can’t slap a girl like that.” Dunimas insisted.

    “Dunimas!” Molly, his grandmother, snapped. Molly was 63 years old but looked and functioned like a young adult. She hadn’t aged ever since she reached the age of 25 years old due to her Xian heritage in which they do not age after they reach the peak of their youth. Molly had long strait brown hair, light peach skin tone, and was wearing a white shirt with black polka dots. To match she had a long black skirt with black shoes. Her voice tended to be gentle, even when she yelled-as if she didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings all the time. She also looked nothing like her diehard martial artist ancestors; she looked like a normal librarian despite her super strength, speed, and endurance. Predictably, she had something against Dunimas learning how to fight, mainly because she didn’t want him to try to save the world and get himself killed.

    “I can do whatever I want, boy.” The man snarled.

    “There are always rules to things, no matter how much you deny it!” Dunimas pointed out, yelling now. The man thought this was very disrespectful and dealt a devastating blow to Dunimas’s mouth. Dunimas then delivered an impressive blow to the man’s stomach, causing him to bend over in anguish. The man pulled a knife and almost stabbed Dunimas before Molly intervened, she got from the other side of the store so quickly it seemed as if she teleported. She grabbed the knife by the blade and snatched it from the man, pushing Dunimas to the ground. She then threw the knife behind her while she taunted

    “I didn’t know a man would have to use a weapon against a child.” They stared at each other for what seemed to be days from Dunimas’s perspective.

    “Humph!” The man snarled, “We were just leaving!” He then yanked at the girl’s arm, who was staring at Dunimas, almost dragging her out. The man walked off in the distance, the noonday sun rising high above the sleepy little town and Molly’s bookstore.

    Checking her hand, she warned Dunimas in a stern manner, “Dunimas I do not want you talking to that man, or anyone with him, got it? If I’m in the storage room come get me right then okay?”
    “Okay.” Dunimas agreed with a strain of sadness in his voice.
    Molly thought that she must have sounded angry with him so she turned around to Dunimas, who was standing up, and kneeled down to make better eye contact apologizing, “Dunimas I didn’t mean to get angry with you I just don’t like using force on people, I just want you to be safe…I don’t want anyone else to-”

    “Grandma it’s not that…it’s how that man treated that girl. It just wasn’t right.” Dunimas revealed, “The stories you told me my great grandfathers and uncles never had a part in it were they gave up on protecting the innocent. In such a time as this, they wouldn’t be sweeping floors or dusting tables in a bookstore! They would at least try to do something!”

    “You’re not going to try and confront that man, are you?” Molly feared.

    “Yes I am.” Dunimas insisted, “I’d rather die than let a helpless child deal with that!” Dunimas then checked his right pocket to make sure he had his pocket knife, and left.

    “Maybe Dunimas is right…what if I am doing the wrong thing? Maybe I should try helping, even if it means I will die. But he is right about one thing…this isn’t fair.” Molly thought. She the stood up and went to the back room of the bookstore.

    Dunimas ran down the grassy road, broken-down cars on Dunimas’s left side, and tall weedy grass to his right. He could hear a girl shouting in the direction the man had walked off to. Dunimas ran as fast as his two legs could take him and met up with the bald man forcing her inside a small building.

    Dunimas decided fighting a snake in his own hole would give him the upper hand so rather than trying to fight him directly, he should draw him out. “Get your hands off me!” the girl shrieked. Instead the bald man picked her up and threw her inside. Dunimas jumped into the very tall grass, approaching them slowly like a tiger stalking his prey. The bald man then went inside and the double steel doors began closing automatically. Dunimas scrambled to get inside before the door shut, making it just in time. There was a small basement door in the cramped room which Dunimas was present. Dunimas cautiously opened the door to a long, dark, metal hallway. He could hear the shouting once again and began running after them.

    Dunimas could finally see a chrome blue light at the end of the hallway when suddenly the shouting stopped. “God, please don’t let me be too late!” Dunimas prayed aloud. He then heard a loud metal door slam much closer. He could see the silhouette of someone walking away from a door, probably just locking it. Dunimas stepped to the door and attempted to open it. “Locked.” Dunimas noted. Although Dunimas was only a eleven year old he was very analytical and began feeling around the door knob. Dunimas smiled to himself as he felt a screw. He pressed his thumb in and looked at it. “It’s a two-prong.” Dunimas noted. He then pulled out his pocket knife and began unscrewing the screws.

    Dunimas stopped unscrewing the last screw and remembered that once he unscrewed it the knob on the other side would fall and make one heck of a noise. He then took off his dress shirt revealing an undershirt. He stuffed his dress shirt under the door and finally unscrewed the last screw. Dunimas quickly grabbed the outer doorknob as the inner knob fell silently.

    Dunimas pushed the cold, heavy door open and beheld a strange biology lab. There was a huge cylinder chamber in the middle of the room, lined at its base with countless buttons, computers, and flashing lights. Dunimas paced around the cylinder and wondered where that man and that girl were. He then looked up and became disgusted. The girl was floating high above in the blue liquid unconscious, her red dress looking purple instead. Dunimas picked up his dress shirt and hurled the metal knob with all his might. The glass began to crack, fluid spilling out creating a bigger crack.

    The chamber finally burst, computers began sizzling and the room quickly filled up with the blue liquid. Dunimas swam over the girl and suddenly a loud alarm sounded. The cyan lights flashing blood red with Dunimas trying to swim towards the door and hold on the girl, swimming with one arm. Dunimas finally opened the door by kicking the door and was pushed out by the escaping liquid. He picked the girl up, fireman’s carry style, and ran up the long hallway. Dunimas loved to run; he was quite agile at it. If he changed his mind and decided to do anything else in the future, it would be running track. s

    He finally got outside and he could hear that bald man once again. “Get back here you snotty little brat!” he roared, running into the sunlight as well. Dunimas tripped over his foot and fell into the tall weedy grass. Dunimas and the girl began tumbling down the hill as the bald man pursued them. Dunimas and the girl finally stopped when the reached a more level terrain. The girl staggered up regaining consciousness when Dunimas grabbed her wrist and headed back off again.

  60. Nicholas Caseon 09 Feb 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Oh and Milan if you plan on having superpower fight scenes, read this. (I made it myself!)

    5 Reasons why your Superpower Descriptions are Lame.

    1. They start casual. When I say this I mean that at the beginning of the story don’t say,
    “Bob fires a Death Blitzer at the burning building.”
    The first thing that comes to mind is,
    “What the heck is a ‘Death Blitzer’?!”
    Here is are some variations,

    EPIC FAIL- Bob shot a Death Blitzer.
    LAME-Bob blew up a building with a Death Blitzer.
    MEH-Bob destroyed the burning building with a black Death Blitzer.
    BETTER-Bob fired a black energy blast called Death Blitzer at a burning building.
    WIN-Seeing the burning building, Bob cupped his hands and focused as hard as he could forming a deathly black, flame-like ball. Bob then aimed his hands at the building and fired it, obliterating the building.

    Note: This is only if you introduce a new attack. If you have already had you character use the technique (In more than two instances) and name it, then you could refer to it in a more casual tone. However I would would stay around ‘MEH’ for the minimal of casualty.

    2. You describe the power longer than 2 sentences. If it takes you more that two sentences to describe an attack then summarize it. Your readers don’t have to know every detail, let them imagine a little.

    3. You forget the reaction. Sure your readers should know what a Death Blitzer is by the middle of the story right? Well, DON’T forget the reaction. I don’t care how generic the after-effect is, NEVER forget it! If he fires the attack, how do we know what happens once it lands? Does it kill the victim and cut a swath of destruction or does it blow up in Bob’s hands and blow his hands off? The reader should know this!

    4. ‘Good’ is NOT good! What this means is that you say,
    “The black ball burned up stuff, but B.Mac dodged it.”
    Can’t you find something else to describe it other than ‘black, and ‘burned up stuff’? Another one is ‘good’, that could be changed to something that explains the noun better. Exceptional, breath-taking, and mesmerizing-just to name a few.

    Tip- Adding a dash and ‘like’ to some words can spice it up. Here are a few examples,
    Flame-like
    Plastic-like
    Wood-like
    And generally any noun that it could be described as. Also if you use a color, instead of saying ‘blue’ liven it up with something like, ‘bedazzling blueberry’ depending on the audience.

    5. The descriptions are out of the audience’s understanding. B.Mac had a problem with me with this one. I’m just a kid, but I wrote the dialogue like an adult was talking rather than a child. We get it, some people have big vocabularies. Sometimes we are afraid that the audience won’t understand the ‘slang’ and such. Common slang like ‘gonna’ and ‘ain’t’ can be used just fine, ‘homie’, and ‘G’ can’t. ‘eyeballs’ can work, but ‘blepharos’ can’t. If your description is out of the audience’s league, it sucks.

    Hope that helps!

  61. Milanon 09 Feb 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Hi Nicholas! Slow down a little. There is big a difference between a discussion about a story and the story/text itself. I meant what I said, my text does not have that phrase in it, no matter how bolded :) .

    Super Lemming Power though must be read to be believed! I don’t use the word “lemming” at all in my text yet, but I’m sure the sidekick will say it at some point. I only recently realized what my superpower resembled. I’ll think more about whether the analogy is right for these marketing sentences.

    To yours:

    Your chapter 2 opening does a stylish job of painting Dunimas as a simple guy enamoured of his own thought process. Is the girl on the tie or with the guy? [strait -> straight]. Dunimas has a strange preoccupation with everyone’s outfit, He seems rather crazy to me unless it is irrelevant detail. His behaviour, and thought processes in general (such as running away) seems consistent, yet abnormal.

    > Dunimas did not approve of the at all.

    Perhaps his reaction could tell us this. He seems remarkably composed. He could be hit next! You do follow with his reaction, so perhaps you can just drop this sentence.

    Dunimas has an interesting personality. Perhaps his quirkiness could be lampshaded or contrasted by other characters, to give some perspective on whether others also see him as a bit odd. And perhaps you’ve already done that elsewhere.

    If I said anything offensive, I apologise, I’m writing fast from work :)

  62. Nicholas Caseon 09 Feb 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Look, here’s the link. Read it-you posted that yourself and you DID say that.
    http://www.superheronation.com/2009/10/01/sharpening-your-concept-with-a-two-sentence-synopsis/#comment-108020

    Also I’m still doubtful about being a Super Lemming. Lemming is a trait/habit-not a superpower. A suggestion though would be that their power is super wisdom. That would be better, since super lemming is a weakness rather than an advantage. They could just waltz into anything they want without thinking about the consequences to begin with. If you want a disadvantage give the hero the ability to forget everything at random…I hope you know where I’m getting at.

  63. B. Macon 09 Feb 2011 at 10:09 pm

    In general, I think a novel’s superpowers should make the readers feel like they’re there. For example, if you were a military action author describing a guy firing a gun, you might lead in with the preparation he puts into the shot, then the recoil, then the impact, then maybe the smell and/or the aftermath of the shot, etc. Depending on the situation (like an assassin only getting one bullet to kill somebody), it could make sense to spend more than a few paragraphs or perhaps a page on a single action.

    So, referring back to your examples, it may help you to draw out the moments of the fight a bit more.



    “BETTER-Bob fired a black energy blast called Death Blitzer at a burning building.” Also, umm, I think naming the attack comes off awkward here. If the move absolutely has to have its own name*, I would recommend introducing the name before he’s actually using it. (For example, perhaps he shows it to someone when he’s training or something).

    Then I think the final issue is the name itself. Now, granted, you’re writing for a younger audience, so presumably a publisher will give you somewhat more latitude on voice issues like this, but I think something a bit more sober than “Death Blitzer” might help a 30-something publisher’s assistant or a 50-something editor take the proposal seriously.

    *Besides some spells, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a Western novel or comic book that had named attacks (besides spells), except in jest. I tried it once but I think it turned out too wacky even for a comedy starring an accountant and a mutant alligator. (The alligator goes on a quest to recover the secrets of the “Rocket-Propelled Inverted Double-Chomp.” According to alligator lore, the move was so unfair that it was banned by the Geneva Conventions and is now known only to the most lurid masters of violence, namely an Oakland pizza boy and a Baltimore cabbie).

  64. Nicholas Caseon 10 Feb 2011 at 6:43 am

    The name was just an example, I wouldn’t actually use it. It came from the top of my head.

  65. Five-manon 10 Feb 2011 at 8:20 am

    Hello all,

    I’m interested to know if this synopsis is Ok,

    A cowardly gunslinger chases his father’s murderer across space. However in the process winds up becoming the only one capable of saving humankind from an apocalyptical invasion.

    I’m not sure if I needed to mention the fact that the murder was of his father or if I should replace it with just

    ‘chases a murderer’ With this however, I don’t think it conveys why he is doing it as he is a coward after all.

    Should I change ‘winds up becoming’ to ‘he becomes’ ?

    Also am I right in thinking that mentioning the ‘mcguffin’ would be a bad idea? I haven’t but its something I’ve been pondering.

  66. B. Macon 10 Feb 2011 at 10:07 am

    “A cowardly gunslinger chases his father’s murderer across space. However in the process winds up becoming the only one capable of saving humankind from an apocalyptical invasion.”

    Some thoughts and suggestions:

    –I think that the second sentence would be smoother if it had a subject. (The word “he” seems to be missing).

    –”However in the process [he] winds up becoming” could be shortened to “He becomes” or “He ends up” or “In the process he becomes…”

    –”Am I right in thinking that mentioning the ‘mcguffin’ would be a bad idea?” What do you have in mind? (If it develops what you have here in an interesting way, I’d go for it).

    –I think it helps that you mentioned it was his father’s murderer rather than just a murderer. It helps explain the gunslinger’s motivations.

    –What leads a coward to become a gunslinger?

    –”an apocalyptical invasion…” I think “apocalyptic” has a slight religious connotation. Unless the religious connotation is intentional, I’d recommend shortening this to “annihilation” or “total destruction.” Alternately, since preventing the annihilation seems to be the main aspect of the plot, maybe you could use a longer but more descriptive phrase describing the danger to humanity.

    –At the moment, I feel like there may be a bit of a jump from hunting down his father’s killer to saving humanity from invasion. It may help to give some sort of transition from one to the other. (For example, why is he the only one that can save humanity? What causes him to shift from the first plot to the second?)

  67. Nicholas Caseon 10 Feb 2011 at 10:26 am

    Okay I made a rewrite of mine,
    In a tainted future, a speedy 11 year old alien hybrid named Dunimas is thrust into an inevitable battle with the dictator of Earth by one thoughtful motive. Although it seemed he had gotten away, it is brought to his attention by a young girl that his battle is something he can’t outrun.

    Do you think I should tell about how if he doesn’t kill Haden then he’ll destroy North America?

  68. B. Macon 10 Feb 2011 at 1:41 pm

    “In a tainted future, a speedy 11 year old alien hybrid named Dunimas is thrust into an inevitable battle with the dictator of Earth by one thoughtful motive. Although it seemed he had gotten away, it is brought to his attention by a young girl that his battle is something he can’t outrun.”

    Some thoughts and suggestions:

    –”In a tainted future” is probably unnecessary because it’s implied by Earth having a dictator.

    –”thrust into an inevitable battle… by one thoughtful motive.” I’d recommend cutting “one thoughtful motive” and just telling us what the motive is.

    –”Young girl” –> “Young” is probably implied by “girl.”

    –I still feel like the main character should probably be fleshed out better.

    –This presents the girl’s main role as telling Dunimas that he can’t outrun his battle with the dictator. Is that really her main role? It sounds rather minor… (One vaguely similar but more important role would be convincing him to stop running and confront the emperor–I think that it implies she has a bigger impact on the plot and on the main character).

    –Rather than mention North America specifically, I think you could phrase it more generally as something like “…must kill the emperor or watch as he destroys the rest of the world.” (But why would the guy that controls North America want to destroy it? Canada isn’t THAT bad).

  69. Nicholas Caseon 10 Feb 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Lol no Canada isn’t bad. It’s just that Haden loves to fight worthy people and will do anything to get what he wants. I know I didn’t explain it in the synopsis but After he destroyed Eurasia, the entire tectonic plates was obliterated. It would take a long time for it to completely recycle the ash and dust back into magma, so when he destroys Antarctica 7 years later, the seismic waves rattle all of the Earth’s progress. Trying to fill in Antarctica and Eurasia, if he does destroy North America…*sniff*…the Earth wont be able to recycle all of that, plus with three continents ripped out is was rip other tectonic plates out of place and the pressure in the Earth’s mantle will depressurize like a balloon and explode…if that makes sense.

    Also Nora plays a major roll in the story as she saves Dunimas from Exsusia who tries and kill him (For the first out of many times), sends him to he planet Coreous (Where Kyu killed Erra and one hour on earth equals 1 month on planet Coreous) to train him, and tells him what will happen if Haden destroys North America.

    Also ‘tainted’ was used to spice up ‘the future’ because taking a world by force doesn’t have to mean that they used Doughnuts-I mean Weapons of Mass Destruction, the mind is the most dangerous weapon of all. If one could convince people to overthrow world leaders and crown said person emperor, then the world wouldn’t have to be corrupted. There are good emperors too you know!

  70. [...] great posts from Superhero Nation: your two-sentence synopsis, and creating a self-destructive [...]

  71. Kaotik Typhoonon 16 Dec 2012 at 10:00 am

    Hello All!

    I know this is an extremely old thread, but I was wondering if people are still around to critique work.

    Here is my summary:

    Stranded in the future, a lost generation must rise to save humanity from eradication, but with the invasion tilting towards an extinction level event can teenage gamers really be Earth’s last hope?

  72. B. McKenzieon 16 Dec 2012 at 10:03 pm

    “Stranded in the future, a lost generation must rise to save humanity from eradication, but with the invasion tilting towards an extinction level event can teenage gamers really be Earth’s last hope?” My main concern here is that the only thing we know about the characters is that they’re young gamers, which by itself doesn’t strike me as necessarily interesting. I think Ender’s Game was a sharper example here.

  73. Kaotik Typhoonon 19 Dec 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you for the response. You’re site is becoming such a valuable tool. Great community.

  74. Kaotik Typhoonon 19 Dec 2012 at 1:38 pm

    *Your. Can’t believe I missed that one….

  75. Darkslowbro210on 24 Jun 2014 at 11:45 am

    Version 1
    “A team of super powered misfits with zero chemistry or heroic experience are thrust headfirst into a world of danger and intrigue.”

    I feel it could use character descriptions, especially since they’re so different.

    Version 2
    “A hologram, a demon, an amnesiac, and an alien must become heroes to save the Earth from a threat literally shrouded in shadows.”

    While the second describes the characters better, I think the first one sounds better. What do you think?

  76. B. McKenzieon 24 Jun 2014 at 8:34 pm

    I think version 2 is far superior — I agree with you that describing the characters individually makes them much more memorable. On a minor note, I suspect that there’s probably a clearer introduction to the threat/stakes than “a threat literally shrouded in shadows.”

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