Friday, July 31, 2009

Synopsis 19


Morally Ambiguous

[I changed a few words/lines to red to indicate I'd get rid of them.]


When Nodammo Ebonlocke’s afternoon tea is spoiled by a hero with a very big sword arriving in the Generic Little Village, she reacts as any morally ambiguous sorceress would. [She invites him to play sword in the stone.] With a little help from her employees, she manages to bury the hero’s [sword in her garden.] remains in the vegetable garden where he can finally do something useful with his life by helping the vegetables grow bigger. [A joke is seldom improved by explaining it. Also, if you're going to leave out the part where she zaps the hero, start the next sentence: Then, with a little help from her employees, she buries . . . The "Then" lets us know her reaction already happened; otherwise we think her reaction is burying the remains.]

The problem doesn’t stop there, though. Infuriated by their constant loss of heroes to Nodammo, the Company, a mysterious megacorporation that’s mushroomed overnight in Fantasyland, dispatches an army of heroes led by Miss Annoyed, a junior executive in the Company, to dispose of Nodammo and her employees. Nodammo and her employees [Maybe we should leave Nodammo's employees out of the query.] summon up a tea elemental, buying them time to escape from the heroes. After some deliberation as to what to do, Nodammo decides to seek consul [counsel] from her mother, who advises her that running is ultimately futile, and that standing her ground and fighting the Company offers her the best chances of prolonged survival. [Not to quibble, but if her sorcery isn't strong enough to defeat an army of heroes, running would not be futile, as she could use magic to run to the other side of the world, where they wouldn't follow. And if her sorcery is strong enough to defeat the heroes, why did she run in the first place? Why can't she do to Miss Annoyed and friends what she did to so many other heroes?]

Meanwhile, Brommus, a wise old mentor on the Company’s payroll, loses his job to the fact that Nodammo’s been killing off his protégés. After leaving Literacity and wandering for a while with no goal in mind, Brommus receives a prophetic dream from his own chain-smoking wise old mentor, and is advised to hire himself out as a handyman to the very nursing home where Nodammo’s mother is living in. There he finds happiness in repairing carnivorous fountains and other odd jobs--until Nodammo arrives, the army of heroes on her tail.

In the ensuing confusion, Nodammo meets Brommus and learns of his previous career choice. [Wise old mentor was a career choice?] Realising the value of a disgruntled ex-employee of the Company to her cause, she offers to hire Brommus. While he is initially reluctant, Brommus eventually agrees as Nodammo’s cause is the best chance he has of undoing the damage he’s done over the years. That being done, Brommus suggests that they head to the kingdom of Gru’bar’atr, where he gains them an audience with the current king by virtue of being the king’s wise old mentor during the latter’s days as a hero. [It sounds like everyone's got a wise old mentor, in which case there may not be enough wise old mentors to go around, and some people will have to settle for wise young mentors or imbecilic old mentors. Feel free to use a variation of that idea in your book with the standard acknowledgment.]

Nodammo and Brommus soon learn that the kingdom is in dire straits, due to the fact that having a crown-shaped birthmark, a large sword and good intentions is hardly a qualifier for good statesmanship, especially when he [Who?] is under pressure by the Company to turn his kingdom into a cliché. Together, they help rebuild the kingdom by convincing ministers and nobles to return to their posts, fixing the king’s well-intentioned financial disasters and restoring the people’s confidence in their ruler. [Why did they want an audience with the king? Seems like they're helping the king but the king does nothing for them.]

However, Nodammo’s activities have long since come to the Company’s attention, and Miss Annoyed is dispatched once more by the Company’s CEO to assess the situation. Here the Company’s true intentions are revealed to the reader; that they are people from Earth who have crossed over into Fantasyland and are creating artificial stories for the sole purpose of extracting narrative powers such as deus ex machina, million-to-one chances, happily ever afters and the likes for resale on Earth for obscene amounts of money. [Are these true intentions revealed only to the reader, or also to a character? If the latter, that's what belongs in the synopsis.]

Miss Annoyed quickly determines that Nodammo is a threat. While her boss agrees with her assessment, he instructs her to construct an appropriate climax for the narrative structure she’s observed so far with the caveat that she throw the fight, so that the story can be milked for all it’s worth. The idea troubles Miss Annoyed but her objections are ignored, and she secretly plans to eliminate Nodammo for the sake of the Company’s stability.

It doesn’t take long for another army of heroes to be amassed, this time directed at the kingdom. Realising the first signs of the threat, the king asks that Nodammo convince the ex-commander of the kingdom’s armies to help organise the defences. When Nodammo arrives at the cottage she’s been directed to, she discovers to her surprise that the commander doesn’t live alone; the ex-king, the current king’s uncle, is in hiding there too. After listening to the ex-king’s side of the story of how he became and evil usurper, Nodammo ropes them into helping save the kingdom. Through a combination of their own grit and ingenuity, internal sabotage from Miss Annoyed’s boss, who’s realised what she’s doing, and the power of the narrative secretly aiding them, Nodammo’s side manages to defeat the army of heroes. [Once the truth about the Company was revealed, I lost interest in the plot up to then. Just call me Mr. Annoyed.] [By which I mean, it hasn't been made clear what the danger is to anyone, and now that the truth is revealed, it doesn't have much to do with any of the characters. Was the Company causing the kingdom to fall apart?]

Brommus expresses concern that they won too easily, but Nodammo tells him to be content with his victories, even as unknown to them, Company agents pore over the battlefield harvesting huge amounts of narrative power. The story ends with the kingdom reverting to its former and rightful name of Fairbanks and the instatement of the ex-king as his nephew’s [wise old mentor,] head advisor, with the invitation to Nodammo and her employees to stay in the kingdom as long as they wish.


Notes

The idea that the villains are in Fantasyland to steal narrative powers seems kind of gimmicky in a novel, especially if it's not revealed reasonably early. Maybe it just needs to be more clear what the company does. They create a story with a Deus ex Machina or a happily ever after in Fantasyland, then extract that narrative power from the story, bring it to Earth, and sell it to someone who is willing to pay for it, and then that person lives happily ever after or is miraculously saved from disaster? Is that it?

If so, what are the narrative powers the army is gathering after they lose the war? Seems like that was an unhappy ending with no Deus ex Machina to save the heroes, so who's gonna wanna buy those powers?


It doesn't seem that what the Company is doing hurts anyone in Fantasyland. Why does Nodammo kill the heroes? Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys, and what's at stake for everyone? The Company must be stopped from creating and selling literary tropes because . . . ? I think we need to know early on what the Company is doing and how this is affecting Fantasyland adversely. Otherwise it feels like the book veers off into craziness long after we've settled in with it.

18 comments:

Matthew said...

Argh, this thing started out with so much potential. I was all set to read a tale about the bad guy and then it devolved into craziness. I think this story would work better if you downplayed the satire and made the plot a little more down to earth.

Keep the humor of course. But when I hear the place is called fantasyland I start to see all the characters as generic cut-outs and I cease to care about them.

I like the red line feature.

Anonymous said...

Sorcery etc would be in my genre, especially with humor added, but this did not enchant. Story doesn't seem to flow very well. Logic is flawed, plot = series of episodes that seem disconnected, prose relies on violence and cynicism for humor but twas not funny. Perhaps you're going for a sort of Monty Python effect. That was never a novel. The visuals made it work.

Steve said...

It does seem to lose focus and veer off course about half-way through ... If Nodammo Ebonlocke (evidently a long-lost relative of Satiety Wherret, that one) is considered a threat by the Company, how come they leave off pursuing her long enough for her to do a deal with the ex-mentor and the inept king? (And what use is the inept king anyway?)

How is the Company doing ... whatever it does ... and why is it a problem for the inhabitants of Fantasyland, exactly?

If Miss Annoyed is supposed to come from the real world, why doesn't she have a sensible name?

Kings Falcon said...

Fantasyland?? - as in "The Tough Guide to Fantasyland?" You might not be able to use "Fantasyland."

Generally, I like the idea but the synopsis leaves me scratching my head. Here's why:

You probably want to let me know right off that this is satire. You could do that by putting quotes around "hero" in that first sentance.

You leave little gems hanging. You tell me that Nodammo does what any "morally ambiguous" sorceress would do but don't tell me what. You tell me Brommus wants to undo the harm he's done, but I have no idea what he's done other than train heros that Nodammo kills.

Then there are things that simply don't make sense to me. Like - if Nodammo's been killing off the "heroes" why Miss. Annoyed would need to determine, yet again, that Nodammo is dangerous to the Company's plans. I presume the danger is that Nodammo keeps messing up the narrative arch, but you never really say WHY she's a danger to them.

The kingdom of Gru’bar’atr and its king are already a cliche so what is the Company doing to "pressure" them into becoming cliches ?

Keep working on cleaning this up because I think you have a story I'd like.

Xiexie said...

I like this premise, really I do. I like the humor and the humor attempts. I love satire.

That said, after reading your synopsis, I'm confused. It reads like episodes rather than a full cohesive plot. I also agree with EE about the revelation of the Company's intentions needing to occur earlier.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, I always find a lot of the pleasure in reading Terry Pratchett is working out what he's satirising. Having it laboured up-front that Hey This Is Satire doesn't appeal to me.

Eric P. said...

I really think I would like this a lot if I had any idea what you meant and why it mattered. Do try again!

pacatrue said...

My main question was: What exactly is Nodammo's cause? The whole plot should revolve around that.


Btw, I am surely an idiot, because I bet there's a joke around Nodammo's name, but I can't figure it out. Help?

lionel said...

Bah, the author here. I've reworked the synopsis according to some of the comments--I'll clearly admit as to not being clear as to what the stakes were, and hope to clear that up in the upcoming version. I'll post it once more people have expressed their views and I've had time to change it accordingly.

Then again, I don't see how the synopsis is disconnected, but then maybe I'm too close to the work. Could someone please explain? As I see it:

Hero arrives. Nodammo is forced to kill him in self-defense. This provokes reaction from Company, which has to make an example out of her, and also triggers Brommus' dismissal. Nodammo reacts to army of heroes and runs away to find Mommy and meets up with Brommus. Mommy suggests rallying others against the Company before there's nowhere left to run, and Brommus suggests a place to start her efforts. They go to kingdom, meet figurehead king, and undermine Company. Company reacts, is beaten, story ends.

-This novel is an out-and-out satire, and should be treated as such.

-The Company executives' names are explained in the story--since people find it confusing, I'm taking them out from the synopsis.

-The Company essentially operates much like planet-looting aliens from science fiction; invade, establish stranglehold on the local populace, loot the place for all it's worth and bail, leaving a lifeless rock behind. Of course, morality doesn't come into the question, since they think of the inhabitants of Fantasyland as merely fictional characters.

A lot of tropes in fantasy novels simply don't work when logic is applied--abolition of taxes by "good" governments, which leads to financial ruin for any government, shopkeepers stocking items such as invisibility cloaks which have no market in the local populace, and somehow all the taverns in the world are exactly the same. Even "traditional" heroes often engage in clearly sociopathic behaviour (see Eragon and Richard Rahl) and this is the kind of person the Company is churning out. Simply enforcing these genre tropes can pretty much lead to a lot of unhappiness--imagine elves being told they've got to move out of their houses and live in trees, turn vegetarian, and every night they've got to sing and dance a song they don't even know--or be sent for "re-education".

Add this to the fact that the Company enforces all these tropes through police state-like control in the territories listed as its subsidiaries, and I think that should be enough of an answer as to why it is so dangerous.

I've reworked the synopsis to (hopefully) reflect more of this, but I'll wait for more comments.

-Regarding why she is being let off, the Company is intentionally letting her do so in order to pump the yarn she's spinning.

I hope this clears some things up.

Evil Editor said...

The synopsis didn't say Nodammo killed the hero in self defense, it said she killed him because he spoiled her afternoon tea. And since she's regularly been killing off other heroes, we have every reason to assume she's been doing that on a whim too.

Xiexie said...

I can't figure it out either, Pacatrue.

lionel said...

Yeah, EE. My bad on that--that's in the newer version.

Ruth said...

@lionel: That does clear a lot of things up. Could you put that into the synopsis?

I also found the original synopsis utterly confusing. It did read like a sequence of random, unconnected events. I think this is because you don't explain WHY they're related, or things like the fact that N was killing in self-defence.

I think you also need to make the Company's role much clearer in the synopsis, as well as why they were letting her off initially (which I was also confused about).

It kind of reads to me that you were so bent on being jokey and satirical that you skipped important parts of the story.

Often on EE's blog, writers are told off for being too explicit and told to "trust the reader" to understand what isn't spelled out; but you've gone a bit too far in the other direction.

I look forward to seeing the rewritten synopsis!

lionel said...

Thanks all for your comments. Here's a reworked version of the synopsis--I hope I can get some feedback on this, since i have two agent partials waiting for it to be done before sending.

***When Nodammo Ebonlocke’s afternoon tea is spoiled by a so-called “hero” with a very big sword bent on terminating her breathing privileges, she reacts as any morally ambiguous sorceress would and invites him in for tea and a practical demonstration of self-defence.

The problem doesn’t stop there, though. Infuriated by the loss of their hero to Nodammo, the Company, a mysterious megacorporation that’s mushroomed overnight in Fantasyland, dispatches an army of heroes to make an example out of her for continually defying them and throwing their narrative arcs into chaos. Nodammo manages to escape and decides to seek counsel from her mother, who advises her that running from the Company’s rapidly growing influence is ultimately futile, and that rallying together those disenfranchised, disenchanted and disposed by the Company offers her the best chances of prolonged survival.

Meanwhile, Brommus, a wise old mentor on the Company’s payroll, loses his job to the fact that Nodammo has been taking out his protégés. After leaving Literacity, he comes upon the very nursing home where Nodammo’s mother is living. There he finds happiness until Nodammo arrives, the army of heroes on her tail with instructions to wipe out not just her, but any other witnesses.

In the ensuing confusion, Nodammo meets Brommus and learns of his previous career. Realising the value of a disgruntled ex-employee of the Company, she offers to hire Brommus. While he is initially reluctant, Brommus eventually agrees as Nodammo’s cause is the best chance he has of opposing the Company and undoing the damage he’s done over the years. That done, Brommus suggests that they start their search at the kingdom of Gru’bar’atr, where he gains them an audience with the king by virtue of being the king’s wise old mentor during the latter’s days as a hero.

Nodammo and Brommus learn that the king is in dire straits, and not just because he‘s little more than a figurehead. Pressure from the Company has lowered taxes to almost nothing, resulting in the near-collapse of public services, shopkeepers have been forced to stock items such as magical swords and invisibility cloaks which have absolutely no market amongst the common populace, and people have simply vanished, taken away for “deportation” and “re-education” by the Company for failing to adhere to fantasy stereotypes. All this is enforced by the Company’s spies and agents, who are everywhere and watching all the time.

Together, the three of them work to undermine the Company’s efforts and presence there. However, their activities have long since come to the Company’s attention, and have been allowed to continue because of the profitability of Nodammo story. Here the Company’s true intentions are revealed; that they are people from Earth who have crossed over into Fantasyland and are creating artificial stories for the sole purpose of extracting narrative powers such as deus ex machina, million-to-one chances, happily ever afters and the likes. These are then resold on Earth for obscene amounts of money--and damned be the consequences, because to the Company, the inhabitants of Fantasyland are merely fictional characters.

lionel said...

With this in mind, the Company dispatches a junior executive to construct an appropriate climatic battle with the caveat that the fight be thrown, so that the story can be milked for all it’s worth. The idea troubles the executive but her objections are ignored, and she secretly plans to eliminate Nodammo for the sake of the Company’s stability.

It doesn’t take long for another army of heroes to be amassed, this time directed at the kingdom. Realising the first signs of the threat, the king asks that Nodammo get help, and she ropes in ex-members of the government to save the kingdom. Through a combination of their own grit and ingenuity and internal sabotage from the executive’s boss, who’s realised what she’s doing, Nodammo’s side manages to defeat the army of heroes.

Brommus expresses concern that they won too easily, but Nodammo tells him to be content with his victories, even as unknown to them, Company agents pore over the battlefield harvesting exciting climaxes and hard-earned victories. The story ends with the kingdom reverting to its former and rightful name of Fairbanks, with the invitation to Nodammo and Brommus to stay in the kingdom as long as they wish.

Ruth said...

Your sentences in the first paragraph are too long. Read it out without pausing for breath (except where you've put a commma).

I thought the sword was bent initially - "with a very big sword bent..."

Try to avoid sentences starting with When (etc) as it tends to make for long, unwieldy sentences. I'm not sure how to change that in your first paragraph without changing the whole thing, though.

I do like the first paragraph, but I think a bit of extra punctuation and changing clauses around would help a lot:

When a sword-wielding "hero" (you don't need to say so-called - it's implied by the quotation marks) spoils Nodammo Ebonlocke's afternoon tea, intent on terminating her breathing privileges, she reacts as any morally ambiguous sorceress would: she invites him in for tea and a practical demonstration of self-defence.

I don't think you need to say the Company is "a mysterious megacorporation that’s mushroomed overnight in Fantasyland". We want explanation of what the Company IS, of WHY they're a terror - not the fact that they're mysterious and appeared suddenly. We want the police-state explanation you gave us in your earlier comment. (Or at least, I do. :) The re-education as fantasy stereotypes later on does this. I kinda wish you could introduce that part earlier in the synopsis, but I'm not sure how you'd do so. It works as it is.

The Company dispatches an army of heroes to make an example out of her for continually defying them

Defying them? They're trying to kill her! Or are they trying to kill her FOR defying them? That could be clearer.

Her mother advises her that running from the Company’s rapidly growing influence is ultimately futile.

There are too many words here. You don't need to describe everything this much. Just say "running from the Company". After all, it IS the Company she's running from, not their influence. Right? Also, why couldn't she just figure that out on her own? Does her mother have some sort of special insider knowledge to the Company?

After leaving Literacity,...

(Is this another land? I don't think we need to know all the names of things - it gets too confusing with a lot of new names.)

What damage has Brommus done? Are we still talking about training evil heroes?

That done, Brommus suggests that they start their search at the kingdom of Gru’bar’atr, where he gains them an audience with the king by virtue of being the king’s wise old mentor during the latter’s days as a hero.

Don't need "That done" (just insert "then" after "Brommus"); don't need anything from "by virtue" onwards. We don't need to know exactly how he got them an audience. He just does. Otherwise it distracts from the main plot.

Why is "deportation" in quotation marks? Are they being killed?

However, their activities have long since come to the Company’s attention, and have been allowed to continue because of the profitability of Nodammo story.

"and have been allowed" should be "but have been allowed"... and you either need "Nodammo's story" or "the Nodammo story". :)

"Through a combination of their own grit and ingenuity and internal sabotage from the executive’s boss, who’s realised what she’s doing, Nodammo’s side manages to defeat the army of heroes."

Confusing sentence! I'm bored of rewriting stuff now, but that's a confoozing sentence. "what she's doing" could be either Nodammo or the executive. I know you mean the executive, but it isn't clear here.

You have a few looong sentences in here which need to be chopped into two. Also, I don't think we need to know the kingdom reverts to its original name or that Nodammo's invited to return. End the synopsis with "harvesting exciting climaxes and hard-earned victories" - much more interesting.

Hope I helped! I do like the synopsis a LOT more - it makes a lot more sense and I can see the progression now - it's no longer just a disconnected sequence of events. Good luck with the agents!

Jeb said...

Lionel, the idea of this novel entertains me greatly, and I suspect it hangs together better in the whole than your synopsis did in summary.

Your second synopsis still gives me pause for sheer unnecessary wordiness. It might well give an agent the impression that your manuscript's word count is swollen and ugly with word-blubber.

You could lose everything [in brackets] in the first two paragraphs as indicated below without losing much in the way of tone at all, while cutting slightly closer to the chase.

"When Nodammo Ebonlocke’s afternoon tea is spoiled by a so-called “hero” with a very big sword [bent on terminating her breathing privileges], she [reacts as any morally ambiguous sorceress would and] invites him in for [tea and] a practical demonstration of self-defence.

[The problem doesn’t stop there, though.] Infuriated by the loss of ["yet another" /their] hero to Nodammo, the Company, a mysterious megacorporation that’s mushroomed overnight in Fantasyland, dispatches an army of heroes to make an example out of her [for continually defying them and throwing their narrative arcs into chaos]. Nodammo [manages to] escape(s) and [decides to] seek(s) counsel from her mother, who advises her that running from the Company[’s rapidly growing influence] is [ultimately] futile, [and that rallying together those disenfranchised, disenchanted and disposed by the Company offers her the best chances of prolonged survival.]"

All of paragraph three could be summarized as "Brommus, who mentored many of Nodammo's recent victims, crosses paths with Nodammo at a retirement home about to be overrun by the Company's army of heroes." Or even shorter, but I don't have time to write a shorter version.

Less is more, especially in deliberately overblown prose. Get that under control and you may well have a tale to delight curmudgeons such as I.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I would pick this up in a heartbeat. The pacing, dry humor, and ideas are just too fun!

loses his job to the fact that: loses his job because

he became and evil usurper: he became an evil usurper

The ending isn't very fulfilling, and it does seem to change focus in the middle, but I'd still read it. It sounds like Dark Lord of Derkholm, only funnier and different. Or Galaxy Quest, but fantasy.

I saw morally ambiguous sorceress and knew it was satire.