Descriptions, Synopses, and Carnivorous Subterranean Aliens

Cheryl Campbell

Cheryl Campbell

Continuing our conversation with author Cheryl Campbell

On Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 3:43 PM, Cheryl Campbell <ccampbell.me@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Joel,

After doing much digging and reading other book descriptions, and working to shift the synopsis to be more around the concept, here’s what I have come up with….Short description:

Two families find their lives in quiet, rural Maine turned upside down when they discover a deadly world hidden beneath Burnt Mountain.

Longer description for back cover of book:

The savage world lurking beneath a mountain in rural Maine is home to the Tuars, a race of carnivorous, battle hungry creatures determined to wipe out their enemy clan. Led by Ilnin, the Tuars actively seek out their enemies and hunt anything or anyone they can for food. The world also becomes home to humans unfortunate enough to discover the new world. Staying to explore the fascinating yet deadly realm may mean acquiring special abilities, but these come with a price of struggling to stay alive.

When thirteen year old Rio finds herself trapped in the world, but learns she has a gift to control the elements, she must work together with her friends and mother to escape the Tuars and the world threatening to keep them there permanently.

Let me know what you think.


On Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 5:58 PM, Joel Canfield <joel@somedaybox.com> wrote:

Short description feels, well, descriptive. I want it to scream “you have to read this book!”

More like “Can a 13-year-old girl protect her family from the carnivorous race in the hidden world beneath Burnt Mountain?”

The longer description is much better. Try short sentences. Cut each sentence in half, either by making it two, or deleting redundancies. Short equals tense and fast-paced. Eliminate prepositional phrases by rewording the core of the sentence.

Make sense?

On Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 6:06 PM, Cheryl Campbell <ccampbell.me@gmail.com> wrote:

Thank you for your suggestions…they do make sense. Short:

Two families in rural Maine find their lives in peril when they discover a world full of flesh eating creatures hidden beneath Burnt Mountain.

Long:

The savage world lurking beneath a mountain in rural Maine is home to the Tuars. They are a race of carnivorous, battle hungry creatures determined to wipe out their rival clan. Led by Ilnin, the Tuars seek to destroy their enemies and hunt anything or anyone they can for food.

The world is also home to humans unfortunate enough to discover the new world. Staying to explore the fascinating and deadly realm may mean acquiring special abilities. However, the powers come with a price of constantly struggling to survive.

When trapped in the world, Rio learns she has a special gift. Can a thirteen year old girl learn to harness her new power? Will she succeed in helping her friends and mother escape the carnivorous race and the world threatening to keep them there permanently?

Hopefully this is improving a bit and not going in the other direction.

On Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 8:38 AM, Joel Canfield <joel@somedaybox.com> wrote:

It’s hard to get emotionally involved with a group. Give us a single protagonist, not “two families.” 13-year-old Rio: if she’s the heroine, make her the heroine every time you talk about the book. We root for people, not races, or groups, or institutions.

Your goal is to give us a very specific hero to root for, a very specific enemy (though not necessarily an individual for the enemy) and a very specific danger, hopefully loss of life, to the hero and their current life.

Also, avoid stating the obvious. Like, if we’ve got carnivorous battle-hungry beasts, telling us the humans will struggle to survive isn’t necessary.

Here’s a possibility:

The Tuars: a carnivorous race of warriors battling for supremacy in a world hidden beneath the mountains of rural Maine.

Rio: a 13-year-old human who, stumbling into this savage world, discovers she has a special gift which might save her — and her mother.

Can she learn to use her new power in time? Or will her life end under Burnt Mountain?

Give us scary. Give us someone to root for. Tell us why her life is in danger. And tell us what her need is, and what the stakes are.

On Jul 27, 2013, at 10:47 AM, Cheryl Campbell <ccampbell.me@gmail.com> wrote:

Ah, ok…the light bulb is beginning to flicker here. Thanks so much for explaining! Can you tell I’ve never done this before? :)

I was trying to go more broad towards the concept instead of character focus, but I see what you mean. The concept is still there, but it’s not the only piece of information I should give to the reader. I’ll work on this some more over the weekend and let it roll around in my head for a bit.

On Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 11:53 AM, Joel D Canfield <joel@findingwhy.com> wrote:

Yup. Go specific, not broad. Concrete, not abstract.

Keep ’em coming.

On Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 4:39 PM, Cheryl Campbell <ccampbell.me@gmail.com> wrote:

Ok, I think I’m getting closer to success here… :)

Thirteen year old Rio Kaiser discovers a world that is plagued with a warrior race of creatures hiding beneath Burnt Mountain.

A hidden world lurking beneath a mountain in rural Maine is home to the Tuars, a race of carnivorous creatures in a constant battle for supremacy. When thirteen year old Rio Kaiser unintentionally discovers the world, she also uncovers a special gift. Will she learn to control her new power in time to save her and her mother from the battle hungry Tuars? Will she be forever trapped in the new world? Or will Rio’s life end under Burnt Mountain?

I tried not to pilfer straight off of your suggestions but I really liked some of the verbiage you used, so I did mooch a little. I tossed in Rio’s last name just to see how it looked. Not sure I need that included, but I think she has a cool name in general.

And I did finally hear back from one of my beta readers. She’s liking the story but was progressing slowly in reading it. She’s almost done though, and she wants to hand it off to her sister because she knows her sister will enjoy it. :) I’ll take that word of mouth recommendation any day of the week!

I did not hear back yet from Larry Brooks after I sent my updated concept kick start document back to him. So I’m guessing that was a one time submission thing and not a back and forth discussion. And that’s ok. I still learned a lot from the first pass with him and learned more when I made the second pass on my own. All fantastic stuff. I’m a bit amazed my brain has not exploded yet with how much I have learned in a few weeks!

For giving you a personal referral for all your help, do you want me to type something up that you can post on your website? I’m very happy to do this!

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 1:01 PM, Joel D Canfield <joel@findingwhy.com> wrote:

Why wouldn’t you pilfer from what I wrote? Use it verbatim, with no credits whatsoever if you like. Matters not to me. Honest.

Your shorter description has a passive phrase, “a world that is plagued.” Passive phrases are weak. Consider the difference here:

“That house was built by us.”

“We built that house.”

Fewer words, and even in such a short mundane sentence, more powerful.

Avoid Yoda speech: “forever trapped” is how not we speak, yes? “Will she be trapped forever?” Or, omitting needless words (because being trapped temporarily is, y’know, what’s already happened) “Will she be trapped?” (Do you have the 4th Elements of Style by Strunk and White? If not, order it from Amazon right now, for $7, fourth edition remember, and read it once a week until it’s second nature. Take you 45 minutes to read it. It will change your writing.)

Sure, if you want to write about something specific I helped with, how it made you feel, and the spirit of our conversations, those are the kinds of things I want people to know about me. Fair enough?

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 1:25 PM, Cheryl Campbell <ccampbell.me@gmail.com> wrote:

Doh! Thanks for pointing out that passive phrase and the Yoda speech. I feared that I was starting to over think this stuff and making the descriptions more clunky instead of tighter. But I like what I have now, tidied up based on your suggestions and what you wrote. Thanks so much!

I have read Elements of Style but it’s been a couple of years and I don’t have my own copy. I will get that ordered today. I obviously need the refresher.

And I will write something up for you. I’m so glad I can give a little back for all of the help you’ve given me. :)

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 2:36 PM, Joel D Canfield <joel@findingwhy.com> wrote:

Super. I hope it hasn’t sounded like your descriptions were lame little losers. They started out pretty good, and now they’re excellent, really they are. I want to help until you feel they’re just right.

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 1:44 PM, Cheryl Campbell <ccampbell.me@gmail.com> wrote:

Thanks so much! Below is what I really like and want to use for Smashwords and Amazon, mostly yours, but I have a much better handle on what they should look like and what makes them so good. If you haven’t done a blog yet on how to do a great quickie synopsis, you should. You’re obviously amazing with this stuff and have a gift!

Thirteen year old Rio Kaiser discovers a world plagued by a warrior race of creatures hiding beneath Burnt Mountain.

The Tuars are a carnivorous race of warriors battling for supremacy in a world hidden beneath the mountains of rural Maine. Rio, a thirteen year old girl, stumbles into this savage world and discovers she has a special gift which might save her and her mother. Will she learn to control her new power in time? Or will Rio’s life end under Burnt Mountain?

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 3:23 PM, Joel D Canfield <joel@findingwhy.com> wrote:
Those make me want to read the book. And that’s the point, right? The tone sounds like how you’ve described them, your audience, all that.

This has been fun.

What’s next? ;)

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 2:32 PM, Cheryl Campbell <ccampbell.me@gmail.com> wrote:
Haha! You love the punishment I dish out. And you have already learned I do not easily run out of questions :)I’ll give you a break (for now…like for the rest of the day) and then I’d like to talk about effective blogging.

On Sunday, July 28, 2013, Joel D Canfield wrote:
Excellent.

Y’know, I gather up all my answers and use them as blog posts. You’re just a pawn in my game, a tool to help me think more clearly about how to better achieve my own success. And as long as I can fool you into thinking I’m helping you just to be a nice guy, my evil plot is working.

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 2:55 PM, Cheryl Campbell <ccampbell.me@gmail.com> wrote:
Awesome! Then that means i’m not just a pawn, but I am a FANTASTIC pawn! Haha

On Sunday, July 28, 2013, Joel D Canfield wrote:
Pawns which survive a single transit of the board can become any piece you want — even a lost queen.

Continued tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Descriptions, Synopses, and Carnivorous Subterranean Aliens

  1. Gooodddddd, Joel, good stuff! Great for you, outstanding for her! Thank you so very much for your helpfulness to others. Huge deal. And you’re also a fine editor, my friend. I’m not sure I knew that, but do now. Here’s a comment I like a lot:

    “Also, avoid stating the obvious. Like, if we’ve got carnivorous battle-hungry beasts, telling us the humans will struggle to survive isn’t necessary.”

    That’s beautiful. Ahhhh.

    Thanks again, and I’m on to your next blog.

    lynelle

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