12.26.2005

Crapometer #12

Genre: Epic Fantasy

"The Wings of Winter"


A foundling baby adopted by a family in one of Tremont's many villages, Sparrow can communicate with birds. Despite her strange ability, she has lived her whole life in the Human world, ignorant of her parentage. The massacre of her foster family and the destruction of her village forces Sparrow to flee for her life.

ok, here you’ve got three sentences that don’t flow together. The fact she can communicate with birds is meaningless without context. Can’t everyone? this is fantasy...everyone could BE a bird for all we know.

Consider this: Sparrow has lived her whole life in the human world, slowly realizing she’s unusual because she can communicate with birds.

Even that isn’t a good lead sentence because it doesn’t give us a snapshot of the book as a whole.



Owen, Prince of Tremont, is riding toward the kingdom’s northern border when his father is murdered and the throne usurped. Tremont faces war, trapped between a dangerous alliance of Aliud shape shifters and Human mercenaries.

All of a sudden, in the space of two paragraphs we have Sparrow, Owen, his father, the kingdom, shape shifters and mercenaries. If this doesn’t seem jumbled to you it’s cause you’re familiar with it. At this point I have no idea what’s going on.

Sparrow inadvertently saves Owen’s life and discovers she is a shape shifter, the half-Human daughter of Raya, Queen of the Aliud and heir to a legacy of power enemies are willing to kill for. A common enemy weaves their fates together: her uncle Elias seeks to channel Sparrow's emerging power and use it to wrest control from the Aliud circle of elders. He has also engineered the death of Tremont’s king.

You’re getting bogged down in details. Particularly if you have a BFF (big fat book) you need a crisp synopsis. Here’s where all the connective detail is a hindrance rather than a help. We can’t keep all this stuff straight cause there’s no story.

Consider: Sparrow and Owen discover they have a common enemy: her uncle Elias. Elias engineered the death of Owen’s father and now seeks to channel Sparrow’s power and use it to control the circle of Aliud Elders.

Sparrow and Owen are also bound through Avery, Owen's advisor and teacher. Avery is Sparrow's human father whom Raya fled twenty years earlier when she found out she carried his child, fearful of the hatred such a half-breed might engender. Confronted by his now adult daughter, Avery attempts to kill her, convinced she is a threat. Owen intervenes and Sparrow flees.


Aliud trackers abduct her at Elias’ behest. He has already circumvented the Law restricting the ability of an Aliud to directly act to harm another and Sparrow is his next target. However, not all of the Aliud see Sparrow as a threat. Some, loyal to the late Queen, offer Sparrow support, helping her to harness her latent shape shifter talent, and grant her sanctuary. She is surprised to discover her gift with birds is not an Aliud trait.

Again, the detail is getting mind boggling here. You can start this paragraph with “Not all of the Aliud” and convey what we need to know: there’s nuance here.

Evidence emerges of Elias' complicity in the slaughter of her village. Enraged, she attacks his mind and nearly kills him. She has broken Aliud Law and fears her own abilities. Sparrow’s presence brings into focus the sharp divisions among the Aliud and she must leave her kin for her own safety.

(A) Burdened by a sense of responsibility for Sparrow's capture, Owen sets out to rescue her. He orders Avery to find the remnants of Tremont's guard and escort them to the safety of Atmos, a loyal principality. Avery and the guard successfully ambush a group of mercenaries, but at a high cost. Several of the men are killed, and a wounded enemy brags that they have killed Owen.

to whom?

(C) Avery attempts a desperate mission to obtain help from Duke Peren of Atmos. He nearly spends himself on the journey, grief and fatigue taking their toll. While Avery recuperates, Peren brings aid to the guard, returning with them to Atmos.

again, we can assume that there are events in the conflict. We don’t need to know each and every one of them.

(D) Owen doesn’t realize he is being mourned as dead. After Sparrow's Aliud allies reunite them, they flee south, seeking the protection of Atmos. Alone in the wilderness, they learn to rely on one another, love and trust building between them.

ah yes, the green world part of the hero’s journey.

(B) Duke Peren’s son Callahan, Owen’s foster-brother, is next in line for the throne. He vows to fight the Aliud for Tremont in Owen's name. Overwhelmed with grief, Callahan wanders the beach at Atmos to compose himself.

You are trapping yourself by following the chronology of the novel. You don’t have to limit yourself that way in a synopsis. In fact, if you have a lot of stuff going on, it’s better not to. Paragraph B logically follows A. C and D are different threads entirely.

Owen and Sparrow reach Atmos and find Callahan. Believing that Owen is really a shape shifter, Callahan attacks him, but is thwarted before Owen is harmed. The Duke and Duchess accept Sparrow, offering her the hospitality of Atmos, but Callahan remains suspicious. Reluctantly, Sparrow agrees to act as a liaison between Owen and Callahan’s guard as they attempt to recapture Tremont by stealth.

Avery travels with her and they forge a bond based on their mutual love for Owen. Her Aliud powers grow and so do her other talents, rare gifts she has inherited through Avery’s lineage: what his people called the ‘full talent’. She can enter the minds of other animals and is adopted by a wolf pack.

Elias attacks Larimore, the main Aliud city. In desperation, the elders loosen the strictures of Aliud Law, enabling the defenders to access older and darker power. A terrible battle ensues and many Aliud die, others go mad. Elias, frustrated in his attempt to kill Sparrow, kidnaps Owen, using him to lure her.

Sparrow confronts Elias. Avery distracts him and is mortally injured. The wolf pack comes to Sparrow’s aid and she uses all of her skills to trap Elias within his own mind. Sparrow reunites with Owen and they mourn Avery's death.

oh I hate that wolf pack to the rescue thing. I like heroines who do their own rescuing. Wolf packs at the last minute always feel like deus ex machina and that’s soooo five centuries ago.

Sparrow cannot bring herself to kill Elias, but knows her uncle will remain a threat. The cost of his confinement is her own freedom: she must stay in Aliud land to reinforce the wards that keep his power broken. The wolves agree to guard Elias’ exile and one of the Aliud offers to stay in Sparrow’s place if she will cede her power willingly. Sparrow agrees, ready to face the loss of her shape shifting ability in order to return with Owen to Tremont.

Sparrow wakes after a long convalescence, mourning the loss of her Aliud identity, believing she has relinquished all of her power and discovers that she carries Owen's child. She fears that their baby will be forever between two worlds, but Owen reassures her that the child will always belong to both.

this is a resolution to the plot? Let me guess...there’s a second volume.

This isn’t incoherent but it’s hard to follow unless you take notes. Most agents aren’t taking notes as we read this; we’re skimming. Cover the things that matter-the places in the action where things change.

2 comments:

LJCohen said...

Thank you for your comments. I've been able to rework the query letter and have a direction for the revision of the synopsis.

You say:
You are trapping yourself by following the chronology of the novel. You don’t have to limit yourself that way in a synopsis. In fact, if you have a lot of stuff going on, it’s better not to.

This alone was worth the price of admission. Thank you, Miss Snark.

May your gin pail never empty and may you dream of George Clooney.

LJCohen said...

Miss Snark--you totally rock! Based on your comments, I completely revised my query and synopsis and got my first request for a partial on an equery within 24 hours of sending it.

Keeping fingers crossed. . . and thank you.

ljc