Thursday, February 16, 2017

Synopsis Critique #2 - MG Paranormal Mystery

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of RED-EYED DANIEL, a 76,000-word MG Paranormal Mystery, 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

Thirteen-year old DANIEL VENTURE breaks out in blisters, and this ruins his life: he never invites kids over, doesn’t go to the pool, and doesn’t go to school. [This is a great start, really situating us in Daniel's 'normal life.' But it seems like the blisters must be really painful and/or disfiguring for him to have such an unusual life because of them - consider adding a little detail here describing his condition.] He visits a doctor to treat his condition, but discovers that she has zero intentions to cure him. [Is this the first doctor he's ever seen for this condition? Or is she a new doctor, or supposed to be some kind of specialist?] Instead, the doctor kidnaps his mother to a parallel world. [Has Daniel ever had any indication before this that parallel worlds existed? That his mother would be the target of a kidnapping? If so, integrate a little back-story here. If not, describe Daniel's surprise at this turn of events.] For the opportunity to search for his mother, Daniel trades his eyes. [Who does he trade them to? How? Consider making the last two sentences of this paragraph a separate paragraph and spending a little more time fleshing them out. The visit to the doctor (and subsequent kidnapping of Daniel's mother) seems to be your inciting incident, so they shouldn't be buried at the end of a bigger paragraph.] He wakes up in a parallel universe, haunted by demons. [Is it the universe or Daniel that is haunted by the demons?] Daniel discovers that while he was unconscious, a local doctor named DAVID LODNER filled his empty eye sockets with artificial red eyes. [Was the doctor local to the parallel universe or Daniel's original world? Any relation to the doctor who kidnapped his mother?] With these new eyes Daniel sees a walking demon-skeleton with sharp nails pierce a woman’s shoulder and realizes that he is incapable of battling his mother’s kidnapper, who is a demon herself. [How does he realize this? Does he attempt to save the woman and fail? Also, do the new eyes give Daniel any other abilities or powers?] To gain the knowledge of fighting demons ['To learn how to fight demons' is a little more straightforward], Daniel enlists in a military academy. [More detail about this parallel world would be helpful to situate the reader. Is it just like Daniel's world or are there significant differences (other than the demons)? A sentence or two describing the parallel world would help here - Daniel wouldn't be able to enlist himself in a military academy in his world, but he can here. How?] But the Chief Commander calls roll in the middle of the first night: something has been stolen and the thief is suspected to be nearby. Soon Daniel overhears a conversation between two teachers and learns that his dead father was once working on the reproduction of a secret device called the Pyramid Diamond, whose blueprints were stolen from the Commander. [What does 'reproduction of a secret device' mean? Recreating a device that existed at some point before? If not, then 'production' works better.] Daniel is convinced that his mother was kidnapped because she had classified information about the Diamond. [I really like this. Daniel's learning more about his parents and his real life, and his call to action can't be far off...] Daniel and his new friend BEN LODNER—David’s son [consider using 'Dr. Lodner' throughout instead of 'David,' because that's presumably how Daniel would think of him]—suspect that the thief is the class bully, after they see his silhouette near their guard booth. They give chase, but accidentally find themselves near a pub full of demons. Peeking into the pub, Daniel spots the kidnapper. [consider saying, 'his mother's kidnapper' so we know it's the doctor from Daniel's real world] But to get in and confront her, he needs a demon companion.
Daniel and Ben investigate a bit more, and learn that the Pyramid Diamond is a powerful weapon that can transfer telekinetic energy between demons and people, and vice versa. [Connect the dots here between what the Diamond does and the fact that it's powerful - what does it mean to transfer telekinetic energy? How does that help demons or people? Does it allow them to be stronger, quicker, etc.?] After Daniel and Ben successfully catch a giant bee demon, they are convinced that they can enter the pub and catch the bully helping the kidnapper to recreate the Pyramid Diamond. [Why are they sure it's the bully? And if they can get into the pub, why wouldn't they catch the kidnapper, who we know is in there, as opposed to just catching the bully? And I'm still a bit confused about recreating the Diamond... if the Diamond is an old device that was destroyed, or something along those lines, tell us that.] When they enter the pub, it’s not the bully they find, but David. [Again, I think using 'Dr. Lotner' works better] He was the one they had seen during their guard duty, and he was the true thief. [How do they find out? Does he confess?] Even worse, when David implanted Daniel his artificial eyes, he wasn’t doing him a favor. On the contrary—these eyes were used as a surveillance system, meant to follow Daniel all the time. [Nice twist.] David confesses that he did it because the king of all demons promised to bring his dead wife—Ben’s mother—back to life. And now, with the Pyramid Diamond finally complete and Daniel fallen into his trap, David can summon the king—Asmodeus. [Why does Asmodeus need Daniel? You get into it in the next paragraph, but some hints in this paragraph would help connect them.] Asmodeus appears and tells Daniel that his mother was used as bait to lure Daniel into the parallel world because what Admodeus really desires is Daniel’s immense telekinetic energy, which he will steal using the Pyramid Diamond. [Ah. This is a great reveal. Are there hints earlier on that Daniel has this power? If so, drop a hint earlier in the synopsis] But he also offers Daniel to spare his mother’s life if Daniel joins his army of demons. [A little awkward. Consider, 'But he also tells Daniel he will spare his mother's life...'] Daniel refuses and Asmodeus begins draining Daniel’s energy. [Why does Daniel refuse? I could see not wanting to join an army of demons, but his mother's life is at stake and earlier, he traded his eyes to search for her, so she must be important to him. Does he not trust Asmodeus to keep his word? Or something else?] But then Daniel realizes that in order to destroy Asmodeus he must destroy his demonic eyes. [How does he realize this?] He yanks out his eyes, and stabs them with a knife. Asmodeus is destroyed and Daniel loses consciousness. When he wakes up in the infirmary, he can see with only one eye because the other one was beyond repair. The Chief Commander tells him that Asmodeus was only receiving orders from another, more powerful, demon—Azazel—and as long as Daniel is not caught his mother will be safe. When Daniel gets back to the academy, students look at him with fear and admiration. Though his mother is still held hostage, Daniel’s battle with the demon has made him stronger: he will plot the best attack so the next time he fights Azazel, Daniel will save his mother and come out victorious. [If he's at the academy, wouldn't it be easy for Azazel to track him down?] [Does he ever go back to his original life? Can he? Whatever happened to his blisters? Did they disappear when he went into the parallel world?]

Summary

This is a neat concept with some great twists and turns! My main critiques boil down to two areas:

(1) Connect the dots. For example, explaining that the Diamond imparts telekinetic powers doesn't mean much to me as a non-scientist. If those telekinetic powers enable the user to fly, or see through walls, etc., then that description has a lot more impact on the reader.

(2) I had a lot of questions throughout that amounted to Why? or How? Consider these questions as you read through again, and try to answer them briefly. For example, how does Daniel realize he must destroy his demonic eyes to destroy Asmodeus? Does someone tell him? Does he read about it somewhere? Adding even a short phrase to that sentence explaining how Daniel comes to realize this fact helps the reader with the plot flow.

Best of luck with the manuscript!

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