Monday, November 3, 2008

What's Your Book About?


a brief summary or general survey of something: a synopsis of the accident - an outline of the plot of a book, play, movie, or espisode of a television show.

ORIGIN early 17th century: via late Latin from Greek, from sun-'together' + opsis 'seeing.'

The hardest part of being an novelist is writing a synopsis of your book. Try to described your child in three sentences or less. It's a daunting task. Not impossible, but difficult. On the eve of Dead Witness's new release date, and in full edit mode with Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries, I'm determined to write a synopsis for Omatiwak's prequel Broken But Not Dead. I'm determined to do so because I need to understand why I wrote the book. If I can summarize the plot in its best light, maybe I'll learn something about myself.

Each time I begin a new book it's because I've changed. My ideals, dreams, fears are different. It doesn't mean I'm smarter. As each stage in my life comes and goes, I seem to evolve into something more complicated and yet perhaps a mite smoother, like a rock on the beach. Enough wind and the waves are bound to sooth away my jagged edges.

It took me fifteen years to write what I hope is an effective synopsis for Dead Witness.

Canadian wife and mother, witness to a double murder in the States, has her life torn asunder when the FBI kidnap her so that her family and the men hired to kill her, believe she’s dead.

To come up with this short, brief, but effective synopsis, I stepped outside myself and discovered why I'd written this story. It started with a 'what if' question. What if I disappeared and my brother didn't believe I was dead? Would my children survive without me? Would I survive without them? At that time in my life, early 90s, what was the worst thing that could happen to me?

My first manuscript, Always Father's Child was a bid to keep my dad alive. I understand why I wrote that book, and I understand why it will never be published. I know, never say never. What I learned was I am a storyteller. I write about characters I can relate to. The stories become their stories. Their questions.

English professor, Metis Brendell Kisêpîsim Meshango is being stalked by the two deranged sons of a powerful politician. I have nothing in common with this woman. Or do I. At fifty, I also wasn't willing to sit back and let my life continue without direction. I needed to reevaluate what I wanted out of life. Just as Brendell does in the opening of Broken But Not Dead. She goes off to her cabin out at Cluculz Lake to reassess her life and to make changes.

And so it would seem that I've answered my question. I understand why I wrote Broken But Not Dead.

Well, then why did I write Broken's sequel: Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries? How am I connected to 60 year old Sally Warner, widow, mother of two dead sons, a woman who believes she's losing her mind?

No wonder 'they' say writing is a solitary, private, personal journey. I'm not even sure I want to answer these questions.

I say this and I worry. Sally isn't Broken's Brendell Meshango or Dead Witness's Valerie McCormick, or Kiss of the Assassin's Marina Antonovna Abramova. Sally isn't attractive, sexy, exciting, or deadly. Will my readers care about Sally? The way I do? She's not young. She's not on an adventure. All she has are her wits, and they're shaky. But maybe it's no coincidence that she has RCMP Corporal Danny Killian keeping her on her toes.

Danny is more than Sally's equal. He's an intelligent seasoned investigator. He's damaged though, in a way that Sally understands. He's grieving for his murdered wife, Angie. Sally grieves for her destructive sons Declan and Bronson. As the story opens, her nasty-husband-turned-nice has just been murdered.

In the end, it seems the most important reason why a novelist needs a synopsis on each book is pretty basic. When someone asks, "What's your book about?" it's our duty to know. When somebody asks, "What's Omatiwak or Broken or Dead Witness or Kiss of the Assassin about?" I owe it to myself and my characters to say, "Omatiwak is about ...."

What's your book about?

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