Thursday, March 24, 2011


After you have your wonderful new great novel written, and you have a query that looks pretty good, the next thing you need is a synopsis.

A synopsis is a breakdown of the plot. That much you probably know from school. And there are a LOT of sources out there that will tell you how much to write, how long, etc.


Look, the single most important thing is this: know the requirements of the agent to whom you are querying. It's just that simple. If they say "include a query with synopsis that does not exceed two pages," then that's what you give them. Two pages. Get it?

Cool. But how do you take a story, say 72,000 words in length, and break it down into roughly two pages?

Pruning out the non-essentials, naturally. Below is my current synopsis. It gets to the point, goes over the plot, the highs, the lows, and the conflict. Yes, a conflict. Each story has to have a conflict or it's just a drab narrative. And nobody wants to read that.

LOCARNO was envious of vampires, they were elusive, immortal, strong, and powerful. But that was when he was foolish and young; and now, knowing what he knows, they are nothing to him but a plague upon humanity—a disease that needs to be removed. He hates them because of the things they did, and continue to do; and this, his private journal—his memories—left for those who may find and read it, is a living record of the time when his destiny was first intertwined with evil.

Locarno is a Lich, a form of powerful undead—but unlike vampires, for he does not feed upon the living, rather he is mankind's protector; but he was not always so. There was a time when he was but a boy, learning sorcery at the feet of his GRANDFATHER, a man of potent magic, who is the closest thing to a father-figure in Locarno’s life.

Prior to his becoming a Lich, Locarno becomes embroiled in a plot of a rogue offshoot of the church, DIES IRAE, who exist to reduce humanity to barbarism by the destruction of civilization, which is believed by them to force God to destroy the world. This plot unfolds before Locarno, ominously, as people who are part of Grandfather's inner circle start dying—one by one.

Matters are complicated by Locarno's budding, young romance with JULIANA, the only daughter of a wealthy merchant; and the sudden appearance of vampires. It is from this that all things begin to unravel in Locarno's world. SIMM, Juliana’s elder brother, whom always acted oddly, is dramatically abducted by the blood-suckers, and is feared dead—but the truth is far worse.

Convinced by Juliana, and his desire to protect her from the ravages of the evil that is being perpetrated, to undertake a questionable ritual which would provide everlasting life, Locarno initially has no outward change—it is only when he is later killed that the magic truly takes hold. Rising as a Lich in that moment, he becomes the scourge of the undead, and begins undoing the plot Dies Irae wished to unfurl.

The culmination of the scheme against humanity is revealed when the apparent happenstance appearance of the two simultaneous plagues—Dies Irae and the vampires—are found to be one and the same threat.

In the end, Locarno is triumphant; but his actions, for all their power, may have only forestalled the inevitable return of Dies Irae and the apocalypse, as Simm, now fully a member of their hideous clan, travels to their stronghold, ostensibly as a form of punishment for his failure to eliminate his assigned target—his family. Simm, finally and symbolically, turns his back on his former life and his sister, whom he had previously protected.

Steeled to live out his existence with Juliana, Locarno waits, but knows this brief glimpse of heaven will be short-lived, as his daughter—destined to become a dark mistress full of power—is born, bringing the promise of future woe.

There it is, the whole story, 46 chapters, broken down into that simple set of paragraphs. But for all the good it may be, it too is limited by the "gotcha!" power of the query. I think the query needs more work, but alas don't know where to begin.

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