Friday, August 28, 2009

Synopsis 21


In the year 2012, Satan rose from Hell to install his infernal kingdom on Earth, but mankind thwarted him with the help of Heaven't most powerful forces. Jesus Christ's second coming revealed the truth of Christianity, and a thousand years later there is no other religion on Earth. [Jesus is the Grover Cleveland of religious figures--he gets a second term years after his first term ended.] The world’s united government operates by means of two power-sharing entities: the Church, who rule the economy, [They volunteered.] and the Sword of God, the Earth’s holy army. [What does Earth's holy army do, now that there aren't any non-Christians to kill?]

In 2993, Earth is challenged by a hostile alien race called Perfirians. The Sword responds violently despite the Church's protestations. The resulting war sets the Church and the Sword irreperably at odds, and the Sword's conscription initiative causes a firestorm of discord between war supporters and peace advocates worldwide. [If the world has one united government and one religion, how big an army do they need? Aren't all wars caused by differences between governments and religions?]

Seraph begins by following a few conscription letters to their young addressees. Matthias, a poor boy in the slums of Lesser New York, vows to personally end the war so he can return to his ailing mother. Kenneth enlists to escape a criminal trial after killing a man in self-defense. [If anyone who is about to go on trial can get out of it by joining the holy army, the holy army must be full of serial killers and other sinners.] [Is killing in self-defense a crime in the future?] The scrappy urchin Sic [Anagram: Sin Church.] embraces the opportunity to flee poverty and boredom, and the once-celebrated pianist Kate reluctantly accepts her best career option in a world increasingly disenchanted with the arts. [Historically, Christianity has inspired great music and art almost as much as it's inspired war, murder and injustice, so I find it hard to believe the arts are out now that Christianity has no competition. Didn't Jesus, during his second term in office, say anything along the lines of, "Lay down your weapons and learn to play the organ."?] Clement, a brilliant scientist and Kate's fiancé, wants a first-hand look at the Perfirians, and Genny, a statuesque and haughty blueblood, foresees a glorious future in the military.

After their training, these six youths proceed to the space station Seraph and into frothing conflict, where they are joined by Tib, an enigmatic outsider with something to prove. Months of side-by-side danger and excitement draw Sic and Matthias closer together. [What is this frothing conflict? Battling the Perfirians? Their war ships haven't defeated our measly space station after months? Klingons they ain't.] Clement, far removed from the action on a Sword research station, [You said all six were on the Seraph station.] fears for Kate's life. He consequently makes feverish progress on a weapon powerful enough to conclude the war before it claims her. [Did Jesus sign off on the policy of making more powerful weapons? Why didn't he ordain that all disputes be settled with rock, paper, scissors? I guess he could have said, in 2012, keep that weapon research going, you're gonna need some big guns when the Perfirians show up in a thousand years.]

The seven soldiers meet the evil Perfirian generals, among them Diomedes, who seizes a Sword ship in an attempt to infiltrate Earth's atmosphere. [Infiltrate the atmosphere? If you're saying he needs a Sword ship so Earth will think he's one of them when he lands, I find it hard to believe that you can seize a ship without anyone on Earth knowing it. Even our primitive communications are good enough to prevent that deception.] Kenneth is captured in the ensuing battle. After neutralizing Diomedes on Earth, Tib is absorbed into the Sword’s excavation of a sacred relic, headed by Genny. There he learns that the Pope has organized his supporters into a rabid militia. [Is the Pope on the Sword side or the pacifist side?] It’s only a matter of time before the Church and the Sword descend into all-out war, but Genny obliviously digs on. [What should she be doing?] A supernatural force compels her to the prize buried beneath the site. [It's the ring of power.] [Too much going on in that paragraph. Change it to a paragraph about what Genny's doing, and mention no one else.]

Sic is killed rescuing Kenneth, and it takes the shock of her death for the devastated Matthias to realize how much he loved her. While undercover, Tib sees the Church supporters' mobilization firsthand, but his desperate calls to Genny go unanswered. He returns to the dig to find everything destroyed...and a terrifying demon flying off into the distance. Thinking Genny dead, he pursues the creature, which leads him across North America to the Gates of Hell. [California.]

In her tireless search for peace, Kate discovers a conspiracy: the Sword is actively perpetuating the war in order to preserve its livelihood [Did we learn nothing from Halliburton?] and curtail the Church's power. Kenneth is ordered to silence her, but he cannot countenance the heinous act, so he performs a mock assassination and sends her safely to Earth. Kate then meets up with Tib, and the two soldiers battle the demon to prevent the Gates' reopening. In vanquishing him, they learn the Perfirians' true purpose: infiltrate Hell to establish an unholy trinity with Satan, their god. With Earth on the brink of civil war, Kate and Tib must persuade the Pope that peace is not an option. [This is going on too long. It feels like a list of things that happen, with little focus on the thread that ties everything together. Maybe we need to know earlier what the enemy wants.] [The only thing shorter than an editor's attention span is an agent's, so cut, cut, cut.]

Unbeknownst to Tib, Genny returns to Seraph with a shard of the demon corrupting her soul. Clement has at last perfected a weapon capable of neutralizing the Perfirian fleet, but the demon (using Genny's body) attempts to murder him in order to subvert its activation. Clement destroys the demon, killing Genny in the process. With her dying breath, Genny thanks Clement for freeing her. Clement [, using the transporter,] then sends the vengeful Matthias into the Perfirian mothership bearing the weapon, and Matthias sacrifices himself to cripple the enemy. Sic is the last thing he sees before he dies. [Why didn't he transport out at the last second?] [Lemme guess . . . He tried, but the transporter malfunctioned again.]

With their generals killed and their mothership captured, the beleaguered alien army retreats. Kenneth and Clement cooperate to bring down the Sword's corrupt higher-ups. Kenneth then recovers Tib and leads a contingent to pursue the fleeing enemy, while Clement joins Kate on Earth in the arduous task of reuniting the human race. [This time they decide to try it with zero religions.] Seraph's epilogue summarizes their success, and the novel ends with their long-awaited wedding.


Notes

You'd think once there was concrete proof that heaven exists, sinning would be almost nonexistent, except for adultery. Yet Kenneth has to kill someone who's trying to murder him? How stupid do you have to be to attempt murder when you know there's a heaven?

On the other hand, since there are people who think the Holocaust never happened after only sixty years, how is it that everyone believes the second coming happened after a thousand years? I guarantee there'd be second coming deniers within a century.

If the militant Sword goes to war against the pacifist Church, isn't the war over in about ten minutes?

What did Jesus do after vanquishing Satan's demons? You'd think he would have stuck around a while and straightened people out. With the crime and weapons manufacture and slums and civil war, Earth doesn't seem any better. Guess we'll have to wait for the second coming of Buddha.

How do the aliens plan to infiltrate hell? Can you go there when you're alive now?

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

I guess I didn't read the comment thread on the corresponding query correctly. Didn't it turn out that this was satire? The synopsis doesn't sound satirical at all so I guess I was wrong.

Evil Editor said...

You were, indeed, wrong.

Anonymous said...

The religious intro comes off as an example of the sort of posturing Texans refer to as "all hat and no cattle". Because the actual story is basically a Start Trek episode. Which is not to say it can't be an amusing zap gun romp, but that stuff about Jesus seems to be a distraction. It isn't key to the plot and it doesn't seem to make the world more coherent, either. Although if your goal is to write action adventure scifi for people who like to think everyone will eventually be a Christian, I suppose this would be it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:11 here. I just reread the comment thread from the query and I have no idea how I got the idea that this was a satire. Sorry, no offense intended.

I don't know if I'm smart enough to read this story but it sounds pretty interesting and I'd probably learn a lot...

BuffySquirrel said...

Obviously the Sword is needed to kill everyone from the sects who insist Jesus's hat was blue rather than red....

Eh, EE, wars are over resources, not religion.

Evil Editor said...

Resources that governments and religions convince their people they are entitled to.

Steve Wright said...

Well, if you leave the religious setting out of things, what you've got is a reasonably standard military/space opera, with alien invaders, corrupt military, and nefarious third parties stirring things up. It'll work as well as your writing does, I guess. (I notice that you're juggling a fairly large cast, and I wonder whether they all need to be in the synopsis - what's the relevance of the Sic/Matthias arc to the overall plot, for instance?)

However, if we take the religious setting into account ... well, there are problems.

Basically, I think you're falling into a common trap in SF, that of failing to think through the implications of your setting. You're asking, implicitly, the question "What would the world be like, after a thousand years of Christ's rule?" I bet you could ask a dozen Christians that, and get a dozen different answers. I'd also bet that none of them would be your answer, which seems to be "just like today, only with spaceships."

The corrupt Sword generals are prolonging the war, causing death and destruction for selfish ends - which is pretty much an unChristian act, no? So what are they thinking? Are they saying, "OK, I'm damned for all eternity ... but on the other hand, check out this uniform! Total chick magnet, man!" These people are knowingly casting their immortal souls into hellfire! You have got to address their motivation.

Why are there still slums, in the Christian millennium? For that matter, how does the economy work, given that excessive interest rates and exploited Third World labour are known to be tickets to hell?

Why does the Sword even exist? I could see people standing ready for a while, directly after the conflict with Hell ... but after a few hundred years of peace, I'd think the standing army would be scrapped, so the resources it takes up could be devoted to healing the sick and helping the poor.

I think I said this in the comment thread on your query, but it bears repeating: surely, the Christian response to the discovery of the Perfirians is to send out missionaries to them? Warfare should be a measure of last resort ... actually, after a thousand years of Christian peace, it might be a measure nobody even thinks about.

... There are a number of other questions that crossed my mind; basically, though, the problem is this: religious conversion is a profoundly life-changing experience, even at an individual level. You're positing a religious conversion across the whole of the Earth ... and it seems to have made no difference at all. I seriously don't think that works.

blogless troll said...

I agree with Steve.

Plus, taking the synopsis as a synopsis without the religious and logical issues, I'm not rooting for or connecting to any of these characters. Possibly there's too many of them as has been mentioned.

Eric P. said...

According to this synopsis, what has changed in the past 1,000 years? The world government is unified, everybody's a Christian, and we have spaceships.

But we still have poverty, war, armies, increasing disenchantment with the arts, demons, arms races, government corruption, murder trials, military conscription, slums.... Gosh. Either Christianity is totally overrated or you haven't sufficiently thought through the effects such a change would have on society over 1000 years. Even without the Return of Christ, society in general changes so much in a millennium it's staggering. 1,000 years ago Beowulf hadn't been written.

Steve Wright did a fine job covering most of what I wanted to say here, especially about the religious elements--confusing at best. If tomorrow everybody decided to seriously follow a religion of "love thy neighbor," wouldn't the world become a better place within a week?

Just another example of the historical element: Kate is a pianist. Have pianos changed at all in the past 1,000 years in your story? They've changed significantly in the past 100 years (even 25) of real life. 1000 years ago they hadn't been thought of. The point is not so much that 1000 years from now we won't have Steinways, but that you should take more care in thinking through your historical and societal settings if you want readers to accept them.

As for the spaceship/alien plot, I hate to be harsh but my mind kept insisting on pointing out all the parallels to Independence Day.

Voter said...

It sounds a lot like the movie "Starship Troopers," with the religious angle added to disguise it. That's probably why the religious angle adds unanswered questions.

Dave F. said...

I actually copied this into a document and removed EE's comments (shame on me). As I read it, I realized that I've read this and seen it. It's "Starship Troopers" with the "citizen" jingo replaced with Jesus jingo.

Opening with the 2012 events as you do, creates a huge bias in the reader's mind. It's done it twice now -- the query and the synopsis. The opening paragraph is one of the culprits.

What you leave out of that opening is that after establishing his Kingdom on earth, Jesus leaves it to mankind, all religions unite and things to fine for a few years but over time, two factions develop -- the peaceniks and the warhawks. Each believe themselves to be the true heir to the Kingdom. Their contentiousness (awful word) reaches a head just as a third party intervenes - the Pefirians. An alien race who have accept Satan as their god and rejected Jesus.

That setup will center the reader in the middle of your story.

Now as to your story... What did they do with the movie ot Heinlein's story? (aside from Van Dien's naked buttocks and the gore and the sneering satire they shoved down the viewers throat)... They made it a love story and we silly romantics forgive the faults of the story. To emphasize: they emphasized the characters.

To your credit, you do some of that. Your story is not the awe-inspiring epic of the Second Coming, it's the story of seven flawed people who find a way to defeat the Perfirians and re-unite the church.

A thought for all: Philosophically and theologically, the Second Coming of Christ does not remove Free Will. Mankind as individuals and as a society are still free to choose good or evil. Free Will implies that Even in the face of God Almighty, a man or woman has the ability to choose not to worship and follow another path.

The human capacity to disagree leads to two factions forming over 1000 years. What a fickle and foolish race we are.

It is an alien civilization that completely rejects Jesus and salvation and embraces Satan. That works for me. Go back and read the Paradise Lost. There is something admirable about Lucifer after he is cast down to the Lake of Fire and that, is free will.

Last, let me walk my pet peeves. It's raining today and my pet peeves look like ankle-biting schnauzers. Get rid of these words and don't use them in the query: long-awaited, arduous, beleaguered, vengeful, unholy, tireless, terrifying, scrappy, reluctantly, and Unbeknownst.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with an earlier post (either here or the other day) that the author could help him or herself out by tinkering with the names. Kate, Kenneth, Tib and Sic? I don't know, it just doesn't work for me.

Anonymous said...

Steve and Eric did an excellent job describing some of the problems with using Christian theology/beliefs in this plot.

My problem has always been the Second Coming has significant religious connotations and, although 10 Christians will have 10 different beliefs on what will happen, the banishment of Satan and demons to hell is usually in there somewhere, (even in your story). If you define evil as being murder, war, death, illness, anger, diseas, suffering, poverty, jealousy, lust so on and so forth and that all evil comes from Satan, then once he is gone, these evil things are gone as well. What is the point of banishing Satan to hell otherwise? What changed when the devil left? While we are here what is the point of the Second Coming when, in fact, nothing changes in the world? Most would agree Jesus’ return is to be the end of the world as we know it, therefore, it’s a legitimate question to ask – where did Jesus go and the promise of heaven?

For these reasons and those sited by Steve and Eric, I continue to encourage to rethink this religious slant or to make up your own religion and world.

When I read your synopsis I didn’t think of Independence Day, I thought of Starship Troopers, like Dave. Your plot is Starship Troopers meets some Christian ideas without the promised climax of eternity or change in the world.

I agree with Dave – “free will” will not be taken from us with the return of Christ but all desire to do evil is banished with Satan. I would refer you to Adam and Eve who had a little help from a snake to make the wrong choice. The implication being without Satan that choice may have not been made.

And I have no desire debating theology with anyone - so let's don't go down that path, but rather politely discuss the plot problems we see in this synopsis.

Again - I don't think the author has a bad story but the Christian part brings too much dissent and problems to be useful to it.

vkw

blogless troll said...

I don't think it's accurate to dismiss this as Starship Troopers with a side of Jesus.

The most intriguing part of this is the aliens arriving to dig up the demon (which Jesus overlooked/missed?) and open the gates of hell. That's a cool story idea. What's throwing it off and creating all these logic problems is the second coming, which, unless the author is trying to make A Statement About Christianity, I don't think is necessary.

I realize after 160K the last thing you want to do is rework the plot, but if this were set in the near future instead of 1000 years from now, and the second coming bit was ixnayed I think it would be much more compelling. Or possibly your explaining it wrong and we just don't get it.

~Aimee States said...

I think it's a little unfair to dog the bad crap happening in this world of his. Jesus was here (I guess) two thousand years ago and we're a mess. His return (again) would hold the same value of proof after another thousands years pass. You can say mankind would be stupid to NOT believe in the face of proof, but if mankind has proven anything, it's how fricken stupid we are. There are some interesting moments in the synopsis, and there's also some ridiculous ones. Needs work, and I imagine the book does, too. But I don't think it's irredeemable at all.

Teucer said...

I wrote a long comment, but it began to sound a lot like puling justification. I have half a mind to copy Dave F.'s third paragraph and stick it in the synopsis. It's a more eloquent way of saying "in my story, this is how things worked out." The fact that others can defend my position without having read or written the book seems pretty vindicating to me.

You're right: I was definitely influenced by Starship Troopers in writing this book. There are profound differences from that story, however, and I'll work to highlight them.

The piano comment bears thinking about for sure. It would help Kate's predicament if her specialty lies in period pianos, and public interest in these is waning especially.

Halfway through the synopsis, EE frets that too much is going on and suggests I should focus on what ties everyone together. Here's my problem: the synopsis is what ties everyone together. They're all cooperating to defeat the Perfirians. My next question is, "how do they go about doing this?" That's what the synopsis covers. Each event is a point on the line that ends with Earth's victory. No good?

Also: my query indisputably benefited from cutting out five-sevenths of the main characters. But these guys are essential. They each have oodles of chapters narrated from their unique perspectives. That fact justifies the novel's length. Should I really leave any one of them out of the synopsis?

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm rather touched by the idea that conviction of the existence of heaven/hell would inspire good behaviour, but I'm also entirely unconvinced.

Teucer said...

I'm afraid that my previous comment got eaten. In case it's forthcoming, I'll try to fashion this one as a follow-up.

EE, you and the minions have cited various places where you believe an event or development is implausible. I completely understand that, but I could apply Newton's Third Law against every alleged implausibility you find. This is not to quibble with your judgment; I expect a pessimistic and skeptical response from you because you're...well...evil.

My point is that regardless of how much you agree with the plot in question, I was under the impression that the synopsis is supposed to state the facts of the book's progression as straightforwardly as possible. Yes, questions will abound, but how do I enumerate the nuances of this 160,000-word monster in a document most people demand to be less than three pages?

"Then this happens."
"Wait. That doesn't seem quite right to me because--"
"Look, it happened. There's a good reason for it. Don't believe me? Request a partial."

Admittedly, I'll never have a conversation like this with any industry bigwigs...hence this question. What am I actually trying to accomplish with this synopsis? The way I see it, there's a progression of events from the conflicted beginning (Earth beset by Perfirians, Matthias and Sic in love, Clement and Kate wanting to get married) to the resolved end (Perfirians defeated, Matthias and Sic dead, Clement and Kate married).

Most of the contentions brought up by the minions center on their disagreements with my interpretation of the future. I don't intend to discount these comments, and I'll certainly implement some in revising my synopsis. But a lot of these approach back-to-the-drawing-board suggestions for my book. An agent who disagrees with vast swaths of my Christian-future-land will not accept this book regardless.

I'll be delighted to answer any questions you all have about the story. There are a lot of interesting details on which I'd just love to expatiate. But my overarching question (and my reason for sending this synopsis in the first place) is this: assuming that it's not already, how do I get the synopsis to do what it's supposed to?

Jeb said...

As it did with the query, this still reads like two separate books:

a. The Second Coming (in which Satan-whupping would inevitably involve some social turmoil before things settled into a recognizable and relatively unified direction that will eventually lead to the schism between Church and Sword) and

b. The Alien Resurrection (in which 6 - or is it 7? - spunky souls work to defeat perfidious space monsters seeking to dig up a demon and release Satan's powers back onto an unsuspecting - but far from evil-free - world.

With 160,000 words on the page, you might get two fairly tight 80,000 word novel manuscripts instead of a complicated mashup that requires a lot of authorial explication just to elucidate the query letter.

Contrariwise, if you lose the Second Coming section altogether and include in your synopsis (and your novel?), as Dave suggested, a sentence or two implying the history leading up to the present Church-Sword schism, you can get the agent/reader to your 6 - or is it 7? - spunky characters and their motivations that much sooner.

Matthew said...

Don't worry about cutting major characters out of your synopsis/query, Big T. In my book, there are 4 different characters that get time as the POV. For the query, I just focused on one (the one that originally gets the plot going) and mentioned two others in passing while cutting the fourth one entirely.

Pick the character that is most interesting and/or the most pivotal to the plot and tell it from his perspective (EE suggested Kenneth).

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's accurate to dismiss this as Starship Troopers with a side of Jesus.

And yet, I could so see that as a jacket blurb.

Dave F. said...

You may take my third paragraph and use it. It's fine with me. Just think about telling your character's story. Leave the religious background as just that, background.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Hi Teucer,

To begin with, don't beat yourself up. A synopsis is a completely different animal from a novel and a good one takes a long time. Here's what I've learned about distilling your story down to the essentials.

Start by asking yourself two questions:

1. What makes my project unique? Well, you've got spiritual warfare meets alien invasion. That's pretty darn unique.

2. What is the emotional hook? This is trickier since you've got six different leads, but I would summarize this as: We see an intergalactic, supernatural battle through the eyes of seven ground level soldiers, young men and women who have signed on for very different reasons but who all see the military as their chance for a better life.


Write it. Get feedback. Determine what is causing the most confusion (and confusion is inevitable on the first draft) and then ask yourself question number three:

3. What do I love about this work that has no place in the query?

IMHO, the Second Coming does not belong in the summary. All we need to know is that Earth is unified with one religion (Christianity), one government (the Church), and one military (the Sword). And then boom, aliens show up.

The Second Coming happening 1000 years ago is a world building feature, not a plot element. It's distracting from the meat of your story, which is what happens to your characters.

I hope this is helpful, and remember, good summaries take time. Time and pulling out lots of hair.

Ruth said...

I agree with Sarah from Hawthorne: This might be a stronger synopsis if you just left out the Second Coming bit. That's backstory - which you don't need in the synopsis.

No, you don't.

@Aimee: The point of the "Second Coming" (as per the Bible) isn't that Jesus is actually just popping into visit again, as per the First Coming. The point is that he comes back to vanquish Satan, chuck Satan & Friends into hell, and banish evil. Hence, everything would basically be back to a Garden-of-Eden type state and the demons that tempt people to do wrong, would all be gone.

Anyway. Not to get into a theological debate, but just wanted to respond to the idea that the Second Coming would be as ineffective as the first was. :)

@Author: There have been 160,000 word novels summed up in far less than three pages. Try the snowflake method, perhaps. Sum the whole novel up in a sentence of under 25 words. Then enlarge that to a three-sentence paragraph. Then enlarge each sentence to a paragraph. Then enlarge each paragraph to a page....

Your synopsis currently just reads as confusing. Too much stuff happening. There isn't really any cohesion or sense of direction (to me, at least) in the synopsis. Maybe think of it in terms of choice and consequence.

Kenneth chose A, therefore B happened. This led to C. etc...

I also firmly believe that your 160,000 word "monster" could be cut down significantly.

Re: questions arising from a synopsis: Maybe. But a lot of it, in this synopsis (as others have mentioned), is just that it doesn't seem to make logical sense. And you DO need to make a synopsis make logical sense. (This is why I'd take out the Second Coming bit in the synopsis, as everyone's religious beliefs are different and this could be too problematic for a lot of people - whereas in the book it might make perfect alternative-history-type sense.)

Adam Heine said...

Nathan Bransford wrote a post about this once. He said the synopsis needs to do two things: (1) cover all major characters and plot points and (2) be interesting.

That said, if your novel has 10 major characters... well, it doesn't. There's got to be 3 or 4(ish) characters that are more major than the rest - characters that carry the story from Inciting Incident to Major Climax. Focus on them and don't worry about dropping the rest of the rat pack.

It also must be interesting, just like the query must be interesting. That's hard. I'm still figuring out how to do that, so I don't have as much advice on that point.

Dave wrote: "They made it a love story and we silly romantics forgive the faults of the story."

I forgave nothing about Starship Troopers. Much as I love sci-fi and Neil Patrick Harris, that movie made me want to throw up. So... I guess I'm not a romantic?

danceluvr said...

Gates of Hell. [California.] Hey, watch it. That's my state you're besmirchin'.

Teucer said...

Revision's in the next post. A few things:

1. As much as I hate to, I cut out Tib. Part of the reason a thousand years is important is because over that time period Earth's people evolved into two distinct physical classes known as Alphas and Betas. Without getting into it too much, the conflict between these two groups represents a social commentary on discrimination in present-day society. Tib is the only Alpha among the main characters, so his primary purpose is to provide a window into the Alpha mentality. Since none of this can be explained succinctly in the synopsis, Tib's purpose is moot. (He does carry out other functions essential to the plot, but I'll address that in the next point.)

2. The more I cut this synopsis, the more I veer away from the actual narrative arc of my novel. A lot of the why questions everyone's asking do get explained in the novel; in fact, reading the novel, you wouldn't even ask the questions because the background stuff (like the Alpha-Beta dichotomy) would establish the whys already. But any synopsis for a complex novel will sacrifice plot points and nuance in the cutting process, and I've excised many of the more unique and non-Starship-Troopers elements for brevity's sake.

3. I can't address every what-if question and eschatological punctilio in this synopsis. I just can't. At the same time, it is crucial to the following plotline (the demon comes from nowhere otherwise, and who are these Church and Sword people anyway?), so I can't do without the first paragraph. I've tried to make it less controversial and more snarky-question-prohibitive, but let's face it: this kind of a book invites controversy. (By the way, Jeb, I cannot for the life of me see how one paragraph of backstory followed by ten paragraphs of separate plot reads as two novels. If you must know, the prequel-to-be expands the first paragraph, but this synopsis sure doesn't.)

4. The thing that Independence Day, Starship Troopers, and Star Trek have in common is that they all got presented to the public. They're all marketable. You could tear any of them apart on the details (I did just this on Independence day with my family not long ago...hilarious!), but they got through anyway. We've established that my book as unique elements, but if it's still similar to those stories, then what's keeping it from being marketable?

Finally:

Teucer said...

In the year 2012, Satan rose from Hell to install his infernal kingdom on Earth, but mankind thwarted him with the help of Jesus Christ and Heaven's most powerful forces. Christ left humanity to find its way, and the war's survivors painstakingly rebuilt society. After centuries of deliberation and fine-tuning, the world’s united government operates by means of two entities: the pacifist Church and the militant Sword of God.

In 2993, Earth is challenged by a hostile alien race called Perfirians, and the Sword responds violently despite the Church's protestations. The resulting war sets the Church and the Sword irreperably at odds, and the Sword's conscription initiative causes a firestorm of discord between war supporters and peace advocates worldwide.

Seraph begins by following a few conscription letters to their young addressees. Matthias vows to personally end the war so he can return to his ailing mother. Genny, a statuesque and haughty blueblood, foresees a glorious future in the military. Kenneth enlists to procure amnesty for killing a man in self-defense, while the scrappy urchin Sic embraces the opportunity to flee poverty and boredom. Clement, a brilliant scientist, wants a first-hand look at the Perfirians, and Kate, his hotheaded and impulsive fianceé, abandons her career to follow him.

After their training, Clement heads to the Sword research station Revelation and Genny returns to Earth to head a prestigious excavation. The remaining four recruits proceed to Seraph, one of the Sword's many megastations. Sic and Matthias establish themselves as unparalleled soldiers, and Matthias has more trouble with Sic's brazen attempts at seduction than the daily life-threatening missions they share. Clement, far removed from action, fears for Kate's life. He consequently makes feverish progress developing the Covenant Project, an enigmatic energy source powerful enough to conclude the war before it claims her.

The six soldiers meet the evil Perfirian generals, among them Diomedes, who pulls off the first breach of Earth's atmosphere. Kenneth leads the Sword in reestablishing the front line but is captured in battle. Sic and Matthias volunteer to rescue him.

Meanwhile on Earth, the Pope has organized his Church supporters into a rabid militia. It’s only a matter of time before the Church and the Sword descend into all-out war, but Genny ignores the growing danger to her project and crew. A supernatural force compels her to the prize buried beneath the site.

Sic is killed rescuing Kenneth, and it takes the shock of her death for the devastated Matthias to realize that he loved her. Genny finally reaches her goal: an imprisoned demon who possesses her in order to secure freedom. The beast destroys Genny's project and crew and then uses her body to secure passage to Revelation. Clement is on the verge of a breakthrough, and the demon must thwart him.

Teucer said...

In her quest for peace, Kate discovers a conspiracy: an influential Sword general is actively perpetuating the war in order to preserve his livelihood and curtail the Church's power. She entrusts Kenneth with her secret and flees to Earth before the general can stifle her. There she sifts through the ruins of Genny's project and discovers the Perfirians' true purpose: use Revelation's Covenant Project as a gateway to infiltrate Hell and establish an unholy trinity with Satan, their god. With Earth on the brink of civil war, Kate must persuade the Pope that peace with the aliens is impossible.

Clement has at last realized the Covenant Project's potential, but the demon (using Genny's body) attempts to murder him in order to subvert its activation. Clement destroys the demon, killing Genny in the process. With her dying breath, Genny thanks Clement for freeing her. Clement then sends Matthias into the Perfirian mothership bearing the new weapon. Matthias, still reeling over Sic, realizes that he must sacrifice himself in order to prevent an unstoppable Perfirian assault on Revelation. He embraces the opportunity to be reunited with Sic, and she is the last thing he sees before he dies.

With their generals killed and their mothership captured, the alien army retreats. Kenneth and Clement cooperate to bring down the mastermind behind the Sword's corruption. Kenneth then leads a contingent to pursue the fleeing enemy, while Clement joins Kate on Earth to bridge the gap between Church and Sword. Seraph's epilogue summarizes their success, and the novel ends with their long-awaited wedding.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to make some changes to avoid logical issues.

Change it to 50 or 100 years from now or don't define it. Take the Handmaids Tale,The Giver, and The Long Walk as an example.)


Maybe you think Christ returning is a big selling point, but its not. Instead you've dug yourself a hole to China. How long does Christ live? Why is the church ruling instead of him? Where do aliens fit into religion? What kind of technology is there? Did Christ allow mankind to keep computers or make us live like the Amish? How does Christ feel about all the scheming going on around him? Why does Christ even need a church or army? In (Look under a rock I'm there etc.) In the bible woman serve men. Wouldn't a society run by Christ be extremely male dominated? Would woman be allowed contraception, divorce, or abortion? What does Christ do about global overpopulation? What does he do with gays and lesbians? Can they marry?

Are you prepared to answer hundreds of theological questions? Because by returning Christ, you have to or it's not believable. (This is why everybody thinks thinks or at least wishes you were joking).

I'd believe sooner that a radical Christian Church somehow took over the world. This a hard sell too, but more plausible than what you have.

I find it hard to believe the church and army share equal power. Keep in mind historically armies when armies have as power as you're giving this one, they rule everything. They don't have to share power. They can take what they need and want.

blogless troll said...

I was definitely influenced by Starship Troopers in writing this book. There are profound differences from that story...

In my opinion, Starship Troopers is Heinlein on his soapbox, so I hope that's one of the profound differences. Good luck with your querying.

BuffySquirrel said...

Never mind cutting the synopsis. First you need to cut the book to, at most, 125k. That should make writing the synopsis easier, anyway.

Evil Editor said...

You can get your backstory into one sentence.

299?: Earth is united under one government and one religion.

Then:

When an alien fleet comes a-knockin' seeking a pathway to their god, Satan, the militant Sword ignores the pacifist Church, and takes on the invaders.

Now we're rolling. I'm not sure why we're following conscription letters when all your main characters except Matthias enlisted or had good reason to enlist. I'm also not sure how recently drafted members of the Sword turn out to be the main characters, while lifelong members play supporting roles, but that being the case, I'd focus on Kenneth, your super-soldier, Genny, your demon-freer, and Clement, your weapon master. We don't need Kate; Clem has enough motivation to create a weapon to end the war. Sic and Matthias are a subplot; drop them. Tib you've already dropped.

I'm not sure why Genny, recruited by the Sword with the planet under attack, and put through training, is then assigned to work an archaeological dig. Apparently Satan pulled some strings to get her that gig. Why can't Genny just be someone working on the excavation from the beginning instead of a draftee into the Sword?

In any case, you've got someone to free the demon, someone to create the weapon of mass destruction, and someone to hold off the aliens until the weapon is ready. That's plenty to repel an alien invasion. Adding a pianist and a kid from the slums doesn't seem to improve our odds.

~Aimee States said...

@Ruth - The second coming can be whatever you want it to be, it's a book. Jesus can wear Levi's.

Teucer said...

Ruth: Yes I do.

I understand EE's point about agents' and editors' attention spans, but like I said before, the more I cut, the more I lie about the plot to make ends meet.

danceluvr: He was pretty close to the truth! The Gates of Hell rest on the ruins of Las Vegas.

Anonymous (2:51): I will not change the length of time for reasons stated above.

If everyone quailed at the idea of having to answer hordes of questions about his book, nothing would ever get written. Star Trek would not exist. Did you see Galaxy Quest, where in the beginning the show the nerds asking some fine point about their heroes' ship?

1984 would have never been written. Aliens would have never been written. I can go on.

BuffySquirrel: This novel was originally 203,000 words, so I won't claim that it can't be cut more. But demands to cut the book for cutting's sake are utterly unhelpful. When the book is fully edited, it'll be the length that it is because that's what's necessary to get the story told, not because I needed to meet some arbitrary.

EE: Forgive my pressing, but I need you to be explicit about this. None of these characters is more main than any other. Matthias is instrumental on the final strike against the Perfirians. He sacrifices himself only because of Sic's influence. Without Kate (and Tib), the demon would accomplish his goal on Earth, which I've already obfuscated by cutting. By removing characters from the synopsis, I am lying about the plot. Will agents be okay with this? When they read the partial and discover four new irremovable main characters, will they mind that I didn't mention them in the synopsis?

Ruth said...

@Aimee: Oh, I know! Totally agree. I was just saying from a Biblical point of view. :)

Which isn't really relevant since this is an alternative-history/future type thing anyway, so never mind me. :)

writtenwyrdd said...

The whole religious thing seems irrelevant to the synopsis.

To be truthful, the whole backstory would put me off the book; but, that said, once you get to the 'present day' portion, it sounds interesting. You could merely refer to the government with the expedient "unified Earth government" instead of the religious backstory.

And I don't believe all wars are fought over resources. Most, but not all. Although I suppose that could be argued ad infinitum. Probably the two go together.

Evil Editor said...

Forgive my pressing, but I need you to be explicit about this. None of these characters is more main than any other. Matthias is instrumental on the final strike against the Perfirians. [So, at the end of the synopsis, say, a young recruit volunteers to deploy the weapon at the cost of his own life.]He sacrifices himself only because of Sic's influence. [Without Kate (and Tib), the demon would accomplish his goal on Earth, which I've already obfuscated by cutting. By removing characters from the synopsis, I am lying about the plot. [Lies of omission are fine.] Will agents be okay with this? I would be okay with this.] When they read the partial and discover four new irremovable main characters, will they mind that I didn't mention them in the synopsis? [I wouldn't mind. I pretty much assume more than three characters play major roles in a novel.] Note that I am willing to speak only for myself, just as Nathan Bransford speaks only for himself, etc. The synopsis is a sample of your writing. If it's boring or disorganized or cluttered, it's not helping your cause.

BuffySquirrel said...

It isn't arbitrary; publishing houses do not want SFF novels over 125k in length except in exceptional circumstances. So if you want to sell the book, it needs to be shorter. If you're not serious about selling it, of course, make it any old length you like!

Ruth said...

You don't think you can cut the synopsis down and leave out characters?

I'll try (although the following isn't beautifully written, it gives you an idea):

-----

It's the year 2993. Earth is united under one government and one religion when it comes under invasion from the Perfirians, a hostile alien race.

When Clement, a brilliant scientist, gets a conscription letter from the army, he sees a chance to get a first-hand look at the Perfirians, and wastes no time in signing up and heading to the research station.

Kate, Clement's beautiful fiancée, abandons her career to follow him into the army, but the two are separated when she is sent to a space station. Clement's fears for her life increase as the war continues, and he throws himself into work developing a weapon powerful enough to end the war... before it ends her.

As the war continues, the Perfirians succeed in breaching the Earth's atmosphere. Kate's space station leads the defence to reestablish the front line, but the station's leader, Kenneth, is captured, and a dangerous rescue mission is organised for him. Kenneth is rescued, but only at the cost of more lives.

On Earth, Clement is on the verge of a breakthrough. But an excavation team unearths an imprisoned demon, which possesses the team's leader and heads to Clement's research station with one purpose in mind.

And Kate discovers a conspiracy: an influential general is actively perpetuating the war to preserve his livelihood. She entrusts Kenneth, the station leader, with her secret, and flees to Earth before the general can silence her. On her way to find Clement, Kate finds the ruined excavation site, where she discovers a horrifying secret: the Perfirians' true purpose is to use Clement's project as a gateway to Hell and release Satan, the Perfirians' god. Just as a peace treaty with the aliens seems feasible, Kate must persuade the Earth's ruler that peace is impossible.

As Clement's project nears completion, he realises its true potential. But before he can halt it, the demon arrives at the research station to kill him and subvert the project. Clement manages to destroy the demon, and sends a kamikaze pilot with the weapon to the mothership. Once the mothership is destroyed, the alien army retreats, as Kenneth's fleet sets off in pursuit to kill them once and for all.

Clement joins Kate on Earth, and the novel ends with their long-awaited wedding.

Ruth said...

- You may want to mention Matthias (as the kamikaze pilot) in your synopsis and note the reason he's happy to die for the cause.
- In your revised synopsis, it says that Kate abandons her career to follow Clement. In the initial one, it says that Kate can't get a job so she decides to join up. Did you actually change the book? Cos not only are those reasons polar opposites, but she doesn't even "follow" Clement anyway, if he ends up on Earth and she's on the space station.
- Start with one character. Just pick one that's interesting. I picked Clement. EE suggests Kenneth. But it doesn't really matter too much - just pick one to START with, even if you bring in the other characters later.
- Terminology troubles me here. I might well be wrong, but I thought conscription was mandatory. I.e., you get a conscription letter, you HAVE to join. Which is different from enlisting, which is voluntary.
- Kate seems a bit silly. Didn't she realise that she wasn't going to end up on the research station with Clement? She abandons her career to follow him... and doesn't end up following him at all. Couldn't she have just got a job at the local café in the research station? Seems safer and, y'know, she'd still be with him that way.
- What is Kate's quest for peace? I thought she just wanted to reestablish the piano-playing business and hang out with her boyfriend?
- Why do they set out to rescue Kenneth? Is he so important? I would think most PoWs in this kind of war would just be written off, rather than risking more soliders (and presumably spaceships) in a probably futile attempt to rescue one man.
- One general risking all this to keep his livelihood seems like a really weak motive. Couldn't he find any other job at all? No? He'd rather keep a war going and risk his life and everyone else's?
- Why does Kate know she has to go to the excavation site? Or does she just wander across it while going to see Clement, which I would assume would be her main purpose? If she could leave any time, why hadn't she left before? Or did she want to be in the space station away from her loved one, whom she joined the army to be with?