Thursday, August 10, 2017

Synopsis Critique #12: Adult Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of WHAT LIES DREAMING, a 123,000-word Adult Fantasy, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at operationawesome6@gmail.com, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!

Synopsis

WHAT LIES DREAMING follows a slave, a senator, and a soldier, during a famine in second century Rome. It takes place across the seven-day festivities of the 900th Anniversary of Rome’s founding. [I wouldn't start with an introduction like this. A synopsis is just for telling your story, not telling the reader the book's title. Instead, I'd revise this to something like, 'In second-century Rome, a slave, a senator, and a soldier cross paths during seven days of festivities celebrating the nine-hundredth anniversary of Rome's founding, while famine rages around them.' And then move right into the story.]
JOAH, the Jewish slave, procures animals for the gladiator games. He must find a monster for the grand finale on the final day [of the games/festivities] or risk being sold into the mines. [Nice set-up of Joah's stakes] He has paid TITUS, a commander of the returning German Legion, [You have a lot of names in the synopsis, so I'd remove Titus's name and refer to him as 'a commander of the returning German legion'] to bring him a monster from the north. Titus [the commander] brings him a sickly old barbarian instead, mocking him. [Mocking the barbarian or Joah?] Joah can do nothing but accept Titus’s abuse. [Why doesn't Joah have any other choices? You said he paid Titus, so couldn't he rescind their agreement, insist Titus find an actual monster, etc.?]
MARCUS VERUS, the senator, leads a political faction opposing the emperor. Recently Marcus’s son died in action in the north. Crippled by grief, Marcus has let his various plots against the emperor unravel. But the emperor erred in recalling the German Legion to quell the unrest caused by the famine. [I would connect these two sentences. 'the emperor erred... because the German commander was a close friend of Marcus's son'] Their commander, Titus, [leave out Titus's name] was a close friend of Marcus’s son. Marcus rekindles the opposition and recruits Titus [the commander] to his side.
ANDREAS PANAGOS, a soldier who participated in the destruction of Jerusalem, is tormented by his past. He works as hired muscle now. [For who? The emperor? The rebels? Others?] When he’s ordered to destroy an incoming shipment of grain he realizes how wrong this is. He follows his orders regardless. The gods in his mind [I'm not sure what this means. Do you mean his faith in the gods, or his own gods that no one else knows about? Or are we just talking about his morals?] are stirred into outrage by this. They drive him to seek redemption in the slums, where the famine has hit hardest. He meets EYDIS, a barbarian woman whose people have been enslaved by the Romans. She’s enraged by his clumsy attempts at atonement, and Andreas’s gods take her side. Andreas flees into wine, then returns to his employer. [Why? Tell the reader why Andreas would give up his attempts at redemption, rather than stay and keep trying.]

[You've done a nice job introducing the three main characters and the stakes facing each of them. Now, as we start to see their stories converge, we've got a set-up in place that will allow us to follow the main plot.]
Joah’s sickly old barbarian is thrown into the arena. [When?] He’s shown to be a wizard when he summons a monster to defend himself. It [the monster?] is slain, and the wizard injured. Joah now has a source for a monster, if he can speak with the wizard. He asks his master to find a translator. Joah’s master is Andreas’s employer, [I would take this initial clause out, as it's getting to be a little too much detail] and Andreas overhears the request. He returns with Eydis. [Combine these sentences: 'Andreas overhears the request and returns with Eydis'] In thanks, Andreas’s employer refers him to Marcus Verus, who needs passionate young fighters. [You can delete this sentence, because we know from the next paragraph that Marcus recruits Andreas]
Marcus recruits Andreas to stir up unrest against the emperor. Andreas meets with several failures, but eventually his gods help him spark a food riot. [Does this mean they're rioting about lack of food or destroying food in order to riot (like a food fight?] Under his leadership the mob breaks into an imperial granary and carries its wheat back to the slums.
In the Senate Hall, Marcus goads the emperor into sending the Praetorian Guard into the slums in force. When they kill a popular community leader the entire district rises up in full revolt.
As fighting rages, Marcus learns that a large shipment of grain is only days away. It may calm the masses when it arrives. [And Marcus wants to continue to foment revolt agains the Emperor, right? Why, exactly?] He seeks out Joah’s captive wizard and offers him power and wealth if he can destroy that grain before it reaches Rome.
Joah is caught in violent chaos while procuring magical components for the wizard. He gathers a few animals in his care and flees the city. [For his own safety, even though he's in the middle of helping the wizard?] Once outside, he considers his obligations to his fellow slaves, and his lover. [We haven't heard about this lover before. Is he/she important enough to merit mentioning earlier?] He frees the animals and returns to Rome. He witnesses part of the wizard’s magic ritual and is horrified by its darkness, but Eydis’s convinces him this is what the Romans deserve.
At the height of the fighting Titus’s German Legion turns against the Praetorian Guard, slaughtering them. At the same time Eydis and her wizard destroy tons of wheat hidden in the city as part of a magic ritual to sink the incoming shipment. The amount of senseless death and famine that Andreas witnesses, and feels responsible for, breaks him. His gods become a cacophony in his mind. [How does this manifest? Is he saying and doing things that make others nervous? Breaking laws?]
Marcus confines Andreas to his manor to get him out of the way, then marches on the Imperial Palace. He breaks the last of the Praetorian Guard and captures the emperor. As the final day [final day of what?] dawns, Marcus celebrates his coronation [was he vying to become the new emperor this whole time?] with extravagant games in the Colosseum. Under the guise of summoning a monster to be fought, Eydis and her wizard complete the true ritual they’ve prepared—waking their God. [Is this God different from the gods in Andreas's mind?] From the center of the arena the world begins to fracture and disintegrate.
Joah realizes this God will not merely destroy the Romans, He will unmake the entire world. Joah rushes to stop the wizard.
Marcus, in the Imperial Box in the Colosseum, is set upon by traitors and the last remnants of the emperor’s supporters, seeking revenge.
Andreas, having been locked up with Marcus’s records all night, has discovered that much of this famine was created or exacerbated by Marcus. In a rage, he also races to the Colosseum.
As God wakes our protagonist’s minds blur together, and the three POVs meld into one. Action and thought switch back and forth between them rapidly as they struggle to fend off attackers and disrupt the wizard’s magic. [I need a little more here. I like the concept, but I'm not sure how this would play out on the page] The city is brought to ruins around them.
When Joah realizes how to stop their God, Eydis attacks him. He kills her, breaks the ritual, and the narrative [instead of saying 'the narrative,' I'd say 'the scene in the arena' or something like that so it's particular to the plot] returns to a normal structure.
Andreas confronts Marcus. Surrounded by death, Andreas is sickened by everything Rome stands for. He renounces all violence, casts aside his sword, and leaves Marcus with the ruins of Rome.
Marcus triumphantly assumes his position as Rome’s emperor. Or what’s left of it. He is unrepentant. [Is that it for Marcus? Does he learn or grow as a character throughout the manuscript? Is there anything you can show the reader to indicate that he's changed, even if it's for the worse?]
Andreas gathers Eydis’s body and leaves Rome. He swears himself to a life of solitude, as all mankind’s works are bloody and he wants no part of them anymore. [Same as for Marcus, how can you show the reader that Andreas has grown or learned something throughout the book? Other than deciding to run away from humanity, has anything foundational about Andreas changed?]
Joah stumbles through a ruined city, searching for his friends. He finds his lover, helping the wounded at a temple. Joah has reclaimed the ability to direct his own life. He has cared for his friends, slain those who harmed him, and now aids those in need. He will never again simply accept his fate without fighting for what is right. He rises from these ashes, striding into a brighter future. [Joah shows the most action and change throughout the narrative, at least as reflected in the synopsis. You've got a good character arc shown here for him. Try to mimic this for the other two main characters, in the preceding two paragraphs]

Summary

This sounds like a really interesting story, and I love the three viewpoint characters intersecting as much as they do. Because you have three viewpoint characters, make sure the synopsis reflects how each one of them grows and changes as a character throughout the novel (even if those changes aren't for the better!).

I think you've got a solid plot arc in here, and while I did have a number of questions and requests for clarification throughout, I don't think you need to add a whole lot more detail. Just make sure all three character arcs are represented accurately, and you should be good to go.

Best of luck with this book!

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