1.01.2006

#81 Crapometer

genre: inspirational (Christian) contemporary women's fiction.

All Angela Williams wants is a family-a normal family unlike what she had as a child. But after three miscarriages, she isn't sure if she'll ever carry a child to term and Angela decides to gain her family through other means. But, when she attempts to convince her husband they should adopt, he counters by suggesting that they need therapy to deal with the trauma of the miscarriages.

Fourteen-year-old Diana Russam thinks she has the perfect life until her older boyfriend talks her into sex and she immediately regrets it. She starts having dark thoughts about what her family with think of her, so she plans to keep it a secret. When her brother reveals that he knows the truth, Diana lets him believe that was raped.

Unexpectedly, Angela's mother calls to say that she's dying and she wants to see Angela to rebuild their broken relationship. After some deliberation, Angela and her husband decide to go to dinner with her mother. As the evening progresses, Angela must scramble to keep the secret in her past hidden from her husband. In order to distract him, Angela agrees to counseling with the pastor of their church.

When Diana discovers she's pregnant, her father is outraged and tries to force her into an abortion. Diana refuses and, with her brother's help, she arranges to have the pastor of a local church help her with a private adoption. He agrees to set up a meeting with a couple who may want to adopt the child, but he tells Diana that she has to tell her father about it. The pastor also tells Diana that he knows she wasn't raped and he gives her a Bible with a list of Scriptures to read.

Angela's counseling sessions are more intense than she expected, and she reveals more of her past than she wants to, but she manages to deflect the pastor and her husband from uncovering her secret. When the pastor mentions a young lady is looking for parents to adopt her unborn child, her husband, Paul, is so pleased with her progress that he agrees to the meeting.

Diana needs to tell her father about the adoption meeting, but she doesn't know what to say. She procrastinates by reading the Bible the pastor gave her and is struck by a verse saying "there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus". She prays and becomes a Christian. When she tells her father about the meeting, he decides to come and meet the prospective adoptive parents.

At the meeting, they are shocked to discover that Angela and Diana's father, Mark, are co-workers. He questions Angela's fitness as a parent and the meeting ends in confusion when Diana reveals she wasn't raped.

Mark knows Angela through his work, and must know something about her that isn't said here. Leaving out details can lead to some odd conclusions like: she's unfit to be a parent because she works with him?

Angela convinces Paul that they should adopt Diana's child. As they work through the legal process, Angela continues to attempt rebuilding a healthy relationship with her mother. Meanwhile, Diana is overwhelmed by school rumors concerning her pregnancy and the lack of support from her father, and she begins cutting to find emotional release. When her brother's best friend dies in a car crash and he withdraws from her as well, Diana cuts too deep and loses a lot of blood. She is rushed to the hospital, and she is in danger of losing the baby.

Angela is devastated when she hears about Diana's hospitalization. Mark tells her that Diana has to have an abortion for medical reasons. Because Paul is out of town, Angela seeks comfort from her mother, who tells her that maybe God is seeking justice for the sins Angela committed as a teenager.

As Diana's condition stabilizes, Mark tells her that Angela is no longer willing to adopt the baby. He tells her that he is concerned about her physical and mental health, and that he has started proceedings to declare her incompetent to make her own medical decisions. Mark says he is certain that he'll gain control over her medical affairs, but he doesn't want to drag her through court. He promises Diana that if she consents to an abortion, he will stop the legal process.

Convinced that everything happening is her fault, Angela confesses her part in her father's death twenty years ago. Paul is angry that she kept that a secret from him and tells her that he is glad they're not adopting Diana's child and that he doesn't think they should start a family now. Angela goes back to her mother and blames her for destroying any chance she had at getting a family. They have a major blow-out and Angela reveals that she was protecting her younger sister from their father's lecherous attack. Her mother is forced to re-evaluate her idea of what happened and apologizes to Angela.

Diana's ex-boyfriend and his father, a lawyer, come to visit Diana in the hospital. She explains her father's proposition and discovers that her father has no case and is manipulating her.

Angela surrenders her desire to have a family to God, and then she receives a tearful phone call from Diana. She wants to know if Angela still wants to adopt the baby or if her father was telling the truth. Angela admits that she wants the child very much, but she doesn't think they'll be able to adopt. Paul overhears the conversation and tells Diana that they will adopt her child. He tells Angela that her mother explained what happened. Angela asks for his forgiveness and agrees to stay in therapy to deal with the issues of her childhood.

When her father arrives at the hospital the next morning, Diana tells him she knows about his scheme and she refuses to have the abortion. She contacts the pastor and asks for his help to find another family to stay with until she has the baby.

This is a pretty straightforward rendition of events. We don’t get much sense of why Mark is so manipulative. What's he concerned about that he's lying all over the place?

What I notice here is that most of the the men are bad guys. Did you pick up on that? The closest we come to ”good guys” are Angela’s ex boyfriend and his father the lawyer who clue her in to her father’s shenanigans. Maybe the synopsis format forced you to remove nuance, or inner conflict?

One of the things I don’t like about “christian fiction” is everyone ends up making “the right choices”. One of the most powerful things about a loving god who freely bestows grace is that it’s there for people who make WRONG choices. I think this would be a much more powerful story if Diana actively considers abortion. If you know you can be forgiven, why NOT do the easy thing? Seeing her struggle with a full range of choices would be much more interesting to me, but I’m also not your target reader.

And I want to kick Angela’s mother in her smug little mouth. I just might, too and pray for forgiveness later.

7 comments:

ValMarie said...

Thanks for the comments, Miss Snark! :-) Now I have some good suggestions for how to revise my synopsis--I did leave out a lot of the things you commented on, so it's nice to know that the flaws aren't in my story, but in how I chose to relate them. :-)

Happy New Year!!

Demented M said...

I think MS is dead on with her comments on this one.

As someone struggling with infertility, I would like to add some additional thoughts that you might find useful.

1. Three miscarriages is nothing medically speaking. No doctor would tell a couple after 3 mcs to give up having their own kid, not unless there was some kind of other problem. So why Angela throws in the towel at 3, I don’t understand.

Most couples proceed to adoption after extensive treatments. I.e. IUI’s & IVF, procedures where they have to learn how to give themselves shots, usually have at least one infection that puts them in the ER, and ectopic pregnancies that almost kill them aren’t unusual either.

Reading your synopsis gives me a feeling that maybe you’ve not experienced infertility first hand, in which case, I would suggest doing some more research. While I’m sure emotional reactions to infertility run the gamut, a lot of couples are angry, bitter, and not terribly interested in ‘God’s will’. If you google A Little Pregnant, she maintains an extensive blogroll of infertile bloggers or you can check my blog under the topic of infertility.

2. The plot reads just like the common refrain of ‘you can always adopt’ or ‘why don’t you just adopt’ that couples dealing with infertility hear constantly and find incredibly offensive.

2a. Adopting is expensive. I can’t see the motivation for a couple to jump to adoption after only 3 mcs with no other medical issue. I don’t know if your plot has the mother just ‘give’ the baby to the couple, but even so it doesn’t ring true and I’m not sure it’s possible. It is a myth that adoption is easy. It is not. It is expensive and society, to protect the child, invades a couple’s life examining everything from their morals to their fingerprints.

2b. For me, the adoption is way too easy, which makes the plot seem contrived. Character A needs baby and behold! Character B is created. Read some adoption blogs, adoption is rarely so linear.

3. What is the deal with Paul? I get no sense of grief from him about their difficulty conceiving. Yes, guys process emotions differently, but I get no emotion from him in this synopsis. And the way he seems to be the ‘boss’ of Angela is disturbing to me.

Usually the guys are not fans of adoption, but not because they think their wife needs therapy.

There are 6million or so couples dealing with infertility in the US, based on the synopsis, they would probably not be able to finish the book and, in fact, you may get an irate email or two. We're a pretty vocal group.

But unless an agent or editor has any experience with infertility, you may not have any problem getting published. So my comments don’t necessarily mean anything in the context of publication.

Good luck.

M

Elektra said...

Generally that logic only works for the Calvinists who have been "saved". For other religions (Catholics especially), just because God is forgiving doesn't mean He can't get mad and send you straight to hell. Now, I don't know which denomination, if any, Christian writing is aimed at, and I don't read it myself, so I may very well have it wrong here...

ValMarie said...

Thanks for your comments, M. It's always nice to get other perspectives.

I've learned through this synopsis that I need to work on jogging the motivations and reasoning behind my character's actions into the synopsis rather than just the laundry list of events. A lot of the issues you mentioned are worked out in the story, but the explanation didn't make it to the synopsis.

Thanks again for your input. It helps me clarify where my synopsis fails.

Anonymous said...

<<<<<2b. For me, the adoption is way too easy, which makes the plot seem contrived. Character A needs baby and behold! Character B is created. >>>>>>>

I have a friend whose real life story is a lot like this one. Her daughter was pregnant and a couple in her church was looking for a baby. The couple had just had "another" miscarriage, I don't know if it was more than three. It worked out great for both--for ten days. Then the daughter decided she wanted the baby back. There is a six months waiting period for the adoption to become final in this state.

But the adoption was not a big problem in itself nor was it that expensive. I think it has to do with what the agreement is. Of course, mostly it is covering expenses--medical and legal. The daughter couldn't ask for money over and above the actual costs or it would have been selling the baby. But I think the logic of the basis of this story is fine.

Anonymous said...

So it doesn't bother the ex-boyfriend or his lawyer father that Diana's been going around accusing the ex of being a rapist? That is very forgiving!

Robin L. said...

Elektra is right - I grew up Nazarene, and though they believed in a loving God who would forgive, you'd better not DIE before you could ask forgiveness.

Case in point... a kid at my highschool rocked the pop machine trying to get a free pop. The pop machine tipped over on him and crushed him. There was much debate in the church on whether or not he died instantly or had time to ask forgiveness because if he died in the act of stealing and couldn't ask for forgiveness he was clearly in hell. *shudder* The same logic could follow for a girl not wanting to get an abortion because if she died on the table...

On the other hand, I DO agree with what you say about Christian fiction. It's like Christian music, I wonder what makes it Christian - mention of God? nothing offensive in it? Religious themes? I write for a publisher who is asking for Christian fiction right now and I haven't been able to figure out really what it is.