Thursday, April 12, 2018

K is for Key Characters: Synopsis Critique #17: YA Fantasy #AtoZChallenge

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of EVREN, a YA Fantasy novel, 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 (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!


Evren Greenwood - a sea-navigator with a love of sweets [1]- dreams of escaping the kingdom of Tarkais and the cursed inland pirates who have been hunting her for years. They tell her they want her eyes.[2] East Yuriel, an elf, has just been promoted to King’s Guard in the capital.

When the infamous pirate Captain Sa’av arrives at the shores of Ionoke [3] looking for a navigator to take him to the impossibly-hidden Sea Queen’s [4] lair, Evren jumps at this opportunity. But there is more to Captain Sa’av than meets the eye: he is the Keeper of the Sages [5] and he is looking for the Water Sage, the one prophesied to be a great healer.

Meanwhile, East is beginning to see the King lose his way, as Ranger of the West [6] comes to the capital with his radical ideas. The sun-fae [7] are being persecuted across the capital and East begins to investigate who is behind it.

Evren thinks Sa’av is unwise to go to the Sea Queen’s lair - and at first doesn’t want to take the job. [8] When the murderous pirates [9] find her at Ionoke and threaten her life the sun goddess, Amataru, steps in and saves Evren. She tells Evren to answer her call when the time comes. Evren realizes this job is her only chance to get enough money for the expensive flight across the seas and accepts the position.

East struggles in his new position. His King is excluding the sun-fae and tightening agreements between the elves of the Near Woods. [10]

Onboard, Evren meets an alcoholic, Red, who becomes her best friend. For the first time in her life, she feels like she belongs. Feelings begin to develop for her Captain [11] and Evren realizes it may not be as simple as receiving her payment and leaving. After fighting a sea serpent from killing Red, Evren meets an elf who tells her she is special and there is a reason Amataru saved her. Evren begins to get nervous, knowing that the forgotten magical memories from her past are beginning to surface. [12]

When Evren and crew arrive in Tarkais, the King asks for an audience with Sa’av and Evren. They find out that this trip has become more pertinent than ever: an epidemic is sweeping Tarkais and the only one who might be able to help is Rusalka. [13] Evren finds out Sa’av is sick and she cannot leave him now, even when Rusalka begins threatening Evren over the wind [14]. East becomes friends with a sun-fae, Tsura, who shares with him she is the Sun Sage.

They finally arrive at Rusalka’s Lair, after many trials. The Battalion is hijacked and Evren and Sa’av continue through the haunted fog. When they arrive at Rusalka’s Lair she laughs in their face, before telling them she will never give them the antidote. The last thing she tells Sa’av is that the Water Sage was murdered ten years ago. They leave, both feeling defeated.

Evren and Sa’av make it back to the capital and she is given her payment. Before she goes to catch the flight, she goes with Red and Sa’av to have a final lunch. The murderous pirates swoop down on them and kill Red. Evren freaks out [15] and the magic that has remained hidden within her for years, bursts forth, destroying the cursed pirates. She is then taken into custody as a prisoner of the castle, for hiding her magical abilities. She misses her flight. [16]

One of Sa’av’s friends breaks Evren out of her jail cell and Evren makes it to the Winter Solstice celebration. Rusalka arrives with her water folk. The celebration doesn’t last. The water folk drag the landwalkers [17] to their death, drawing everyone into a final battle. Rusalka threatens Evren and fights with her. Evren manages to stay alive but Rusalka doesn’t. Ranger - who has been polluting the King’s mind - stabs Rusalka and kills her. His goal is to purge the land of the sun-fae, water folk, and elves, leaving behind only Landwalkers of his choosing. The King dies from the epidemic. East, Evren, and Sa’av agree to work together and reunite the Lost Sages: those responsible for maintaining harmony and protecting Tarkais from people like Ranger.


[1]: Is the love of sweets relevant to the synopsis? If not, I’d rephrase this as ‘Sea-Navigator Evren Greenwood…’
[2]: Why do the pirates (assuming it’s the pirates you mean here) want her eyes? This doesn’t seem to recur later, so if it’s not an important point in the main plot, I’d cut this sentence.
[3]: What is Ionoke? So far, we’ve heard of Tarkais, which is where Evren and East live. Describe what this new location is.
[4] Who is the Sea Queen? Why does the pirate care about this?
[5] What are the Sages? Is the Sea Queen also the Water Sage? Why does the pirate care about getting the great healer?
[6] Who is Ranger of the West? You’ve got character soup already, and we’re only in the second paragraph. A short synopsis really needs to focus on the 4-5 characters who are most important to the main plot. Any other characters should be described by their relationship to the named characters (Evren’s brother, the King’s nemesis, etc.)
[7]: Who are the sun-fae? Is East a sun-fae? If not, why is he investigating this?
[8]: Earlier, you said Evren jumped at the chance. Make sure this is consistent.
[9]: I thought she was working with the pirates? Add a little detail to explain what’s happening here. Are there bad pirates and good pirates?
[10]: I don’t know what this means or why it’s important. In fantasy, when you’re creating a world unlike our own, assume the reader won’t understand who elves of the Near Woods are, or why it’s important to tighten their agreements.
[11]: Is Red her captain, or is Evren developing feelings for both of them?
[12]: This is the first we’re hearing about these magical memories. If it’s significant, seed it in earlier, probably in your initial description of Evren.
[13]: Who is Rusalka? You need to cut about half of these names, and make sure the names you keep have sufficient description to orient the reader.
[14]: What does it mean that she’s threatening her over the wind?
[15]: The term ‘freak out’ doesn’t seem to fit with the tone of the rest of this synopsis.
[16] Is it a literal flight, like on an airplane? Describe.
[17] Who are the landwalkers?


You’ve got what sounds like a fun swashbuckling adventure with high stakes, but the synopsis doesn’t quite work as written. First, there are way too many named characters, and that makes it very difficult for the reader to get situated in the story. Cut it down to the 4-5 most significant (key) characters to the main plot. Second, I tried to note everywhere I didn’t have enough detail to understand what was going on. Add some story here so the reader can understand the main throughline of the plot. Third, is this a dual narrative with Evren and East having viewpoint chapters? The beginning of the synopsis indicates this, but by the end, East’s plot is dropped. Make sure you account for what’s going on in East’s story, assuming he’s a viewpoint character. Even if he’s not, if he’s important to the story, we need to know what’s going on with him throughout the book.

Best of luck with this!

Operation Awesome's #AtoZChallenge theme for 2018 is... 

OA to Z! We'll be correlating our usual posts with the challenge letters, plus, each weekend, you'll get a chance to get to know one of our bloggers better.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this! Synopsises are the hard to write and these tips are helpful. The story sounds like an interesting one. Good luck!


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