Crapometer #3

This is a science fiction military murder mystery. (uh boy)


In the middle of welcoming the alien ambassador, Josephine "Joey" Terifino, a former fighter pilot now in charge of security for Harmony Station, learns that the station's telepath, Galee Inne, is dead. She must investigate the murder of a man who was her friend as well as a key part of the controversial peace talks between humanity and the aliens without offending her rigidly controlling commander, Patricia Cruzfield.

(ok, I’m hooked, this is good)

Joey orders security tightened for the talks and searches the quarters of everyone who came in contact with Galee and could have administered the slow-release poison that killed him. This brings protests from the station's civilian residents, the mercurial spaceborn, and a visit from their politik India Langsford Carolay, but gives her no leads. Joey begins looking for personal, instead of political, motives for Galee's murder. In the meantime Galee's replacement, Siebel Nix, arrives on station and begins demanding results on the case. Norman Deserae, the station's second telepath, claims that a spaceborn named Cantebur is
threatening him. And the alien ambassador warns Joey that failure to resolve the murder may destroy the peace talks.

Then Joey finds an encrypted file that suggests Galee was trying to found a telepath-only colony with the help of a spaceborn. After a fight with Siebel she questions Norman and confirms her suspicions, but decides not to inform Patricia. She detains a spaceborn named Trevor May Cantebur in the aftermath of a bar fight turned riot and realizes he is Galee's contact, but is distracted when a sniper shoots at her. The sniper escapes. India convinces Joey to release Trevor.

The next morning an agent from Section Seven, the corrupt internal investigations arm of the military, arrives. The agent, Annette Barker, has Siebel read Joey's mind, revealing the existence of Galee's conspiracy. Annette convinces Siebel to illegally read the minds of the
spaceborn and then convinces Patricia that his subsequent mugging is a sufficient excuse to raid the spaceborn and arrest Trevor. Joey, warned by India that the spaceborn are on the edge of rioting, refuses Patricia's orders; Annette leads the raid instead. Norman reads Trevor's
mind and claims that he is Galee's murderer. Joey is suspended from duty. The spaceborn lock themselves in their section of the station and refuse to work, cutting the station's supply lines.

Joey, convinced that Trevor is innocent, realizes that Norman is a Section Seven agent and that Annette is trying to set up the spaceborn to take the blame. She confronts Annette and after a brief struggle for power has Norman arrested. Siebel confirms that Norman killed Galee and
tried to kill Joey. Joey and India attempt to talk the spaceborn down but are unsuccessful until the alien ambassador assists them.

Under pressure from Joey, Annette admits that Section Seven set Normanup as a double agent and supplied him with deadly weapons despite his mental instability, but says Section Seven will not be mentioned in Norman's trial. The peace talks conclude successfully and Joey receivespersonal thanks from the ambassador.

What you have here is a mystery set in space. What I like about this synopis is that it doesn’t over explain the world but it gives me enough info for context and connections among the characters and events.

This is good.


Kat said...

Thank you very much. I've had this synopsis out as part of a query for the last six weeks with no replies yet; reassurance that it does not, in fact, suck, may leave me a few fingernails left. *grin*

And thanks for taking the time. Others have said it before, but I'll say it again: your generousity in spending your time with us hopeful writers astounds and delights me.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Kat, that was awesome. I got the whole story from your synopsis. Now if I could just learn to do that......

That's talent, girlfriend!

Anonymous said...

I know you're not taking questions until you work your way through the synopses, but when you get a chance, could you expand on what you like to see in the first paragraph of a synopsis? What hooks you, or is it indefinable?

Kat said...

Heh. I've been going over the darn thing myself, trying to figure out what I did right, as I'd like this to be a replicable experience. *grin*

Basically I started with a one-sentence explanation of the main plotline (which, in expanded form, is pretty much my first paragraph.) I then treated the rest of the synop like a short story: just enough information to make sense and not an ounce more, but with proper attention paid to the "gun on the mantlepiece" - making sure that anything I did was adequately foreshadowed.

Thus one of my dead favorite characters (and a favorite of everyone who's read the thing) never even makes it into the synopsis, because everything he did main plot-wise can be summed up by describing the ambassador's actions. The socio-political mess that is the spaceborn got cut down to the simple word "mercurial". Joey's gradual acceptance of her new job gets left out entirely; likewise a whole subplot involving an annoying reporter. All of this added depth and color to the book, but if it wasn't necessary to explain the main plot then it got left out.

And then, when I was done and the bleeding had mostly stopped, I went back and cut about 200 words more. *wry grin*

Another thing I remember very conciously doing is leaving out as many names as I could: whole swathes of characters, but also stuff like the human name for the alien race and using "slow-release poison" instead of "nanobiological agent with a time delay". There's nothing more eye-crossing than reading reams of someone else's made-up words all at once, and it's a particular problem in science fiction. Basically if I could replace it with a descriptor or common name, then I did.

Of course, I had a plotty, linear novel to work with, which makes things easier. Anyone else got any good tips...?

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"Oh," she says, slapping herself in the forehead, "is that all you did?"

At that moment her head spins around and splits open...

Waaa...thanks kat, maybe I'll get there before I need a walker :-)

Catja (green_knight) said...

Kat, I think you've pretty much summed up things - linear, not overloading the reader with details, cutting to the bones of the story. I'd pick it up if I saw it on the shelves.

Anonymous said...

Dude, what's the difference between a "science fiction murder mystery" and "a murder mystery set in space?" Either one gets the point across in a few words, methinks.

Miss Snark said...

ya, it's clear you pay attention.
There's a big difference. Sort of like you don't buy a Chevrolet at a Ford dealership even though they both sell cars.

Anonymous said...

I am hooked and intrigued. Let us know if this sells, so I can go buy this. Really nicely done. I'm especially thrilled with the fact that we have a competent woman investigator without the whole "torn between her duty and her love" subplot. Kudos!

Jo Bourne said...

Hi Kat -

Awesome list of steps for a successful synopsis.


Anonymous said...

"Dude" was meant not as a vocative, but rather as an eighties-era interjection.

And am I correct in assuming that you do not believe such a story would be shelved in the SF/F section of a bookstore? The Chevy and Ford metaphors do not seem to follow for me, and it seems like the readers most likely to be interested in this story probably like Asimov more than Christie.

In this story, I see spaceships and aliens, as well as a "nanobiological agent with a time delay." What else would such "don't exist now but might exist someday" elements be if not science fiction?

I'm honestly curious here, because Lucienne Diver, aside from her excellent observation about chapter 14 aliens, also argues that you should call a book with spaceships and ray guns a science fiction novel, because that's what everyone else will call it, regardless of its other genre inclusions (romance, mystery, etc.).

Kat said...

Wow, loads of responses!

Bonnie: I didn't mean to make it sound easy... *wry grin* it's not... but this is my second synopsis, and a great many people pitched in and helped me figure out why the first was well and truly awful, so I'm trying, in my awkward way, to pay forward.

Jo: To be honest, I was in great envy of your synopsis. You've got a great sense of tone and character, which I think is something this one lacks. But thanks so much for the vote of confidence.

anon: Well, "science fiction military murder mystery" is what I tend to call it, but my boyfriend made me put "murder mystery set in space" in the query because when he pitched it that way to our Friendly Neighborhood Bookstore Owner, she lit up and said, "Tell her to send it in! Those are selling really well right now!"

Score one for the boy.

I can't speak for Miss Snark, but I suspect the difference is that one says "put spaceships on the cover and label it 'Geeks Only'" while the other says "Crossover Potential! Crossover Potential!" Science fiction does not have a good reputation for accessability right now, so anything that draws in new readers - like saying "a mystery that happens to be set in the future" rather than "science fiction that happens to be a mystery" - is a sell point.

And I'm guessing that that very fine distinction, if it's made often enough and in the right way, could affect all kinds of things that affect sales - maybe not where it's shelved, but certainly cover art, back cover blurbs, or who gets quoted on the front.

That's all a guess, though. My industry experience is nil....

And thanks to everyone who's said they'd read this on the shelves. It's very heartening. ;)

Anonymous said...

Depends how purist you are about your science fiction. There's nothing in this synopsis that DEPENDS on science. There's no element of science whose removal will make the entire plot fall apart. Slow release poisons already exist; for telepaths substitute wiretapping. The primary focus of the story is not the science--it's the murder mystery. All else is window-dressing.