Monday, 14 November 2011

Synopsis Spotlight - Kip Cusack and the Spy Formation League

I've chosen this synopsis by Louise Kelly because it nicely shows how you can (and should) convey the tone and voice of your story in your synopsis. Louise's worries whether, although the comic tone fits the novel, some vocab/phrasing doesn't match age range. Also, she introduces a new character right at end. Is this odd/wrong, she asks?

It's a novel for children of 9-11 (I'm guessing.)

Kip Cusack and the Spy Formation League: Synopsis

KIP CUSAK AND THE SPY FORMATION LEAGUE is the first adventure of 12-year-old KIP whose world flips upside down when he finds that his ‘Support For Learning’ sessions are in fact a cover for a spy training network – the Spy Formation League. Not content with making him grapple with his spelling, life now seems to expect him to grapple with villains too!

Kip arrives home one day to find the contents of his GRANDA TOM’s potting shed being hurled into the back lane, and Granda Tom, locked inside the garden, denying that the clearly audible thumps and threats are any cause for alarm. And, why should they be? After all, Kip’s mum, ROSA, makes sure their life in the dull seaside town of Brawhaven is as humdrum as possible. But what Granda Tom knows, and what Kip is about to find out, is that all this is about to change … completely.

When Kip meets IRWIN, his new SFL [explain] teacher, it’s clear she’s got more on her mind than trying to deal with dyslexia. She’s there, she claims, to mould the group class (Kip and his two SFL classmates GUTHRIE and JAMEEL) [we don't hear their names again, so no need to include them here] into a top spy ring - oh, and earn her own stripes as a Spy Master while she’s at it. At first, Kip is sure it’s all some elaborate joke but when eccentric Spy Master SARAH BELLA contacts the SFL with some astonishing news his feet don’t have time to touch the ground before he’s catapulted into the SFL’s latest case: the plot by world-dominating seed research company, SPORE, to control the earth’s food supplies. As Kip and his friends discover, SPORE will stop at nothing, even kidnapping top seed scientist,Taru.[I've put this here and deleted next para. Neater.]

Sarah-Bella reports her fears that the Super-Yield rice seeds, unleashed by (supposed) seed research company, SPORE, are linked to some reported episodes of brain-washing. Then, when Kip and his co-spies contact the Global Seedbank – home of the world’s seed reserves – to check out the Super-Yield strain, they find that the vital seeds have gone missing. And what’s worse so has Seedbank scientist TARU. It is clear that SPORE will stop at nothing to make sure they can keep control of their newly developed rice strain and the wealth, and power over the world’s food supplies, that it will bring them.

Kip’s first botched attempt to stalk the seed-pirates ends up with his incarceration in the Seedbanks [need apostrophe] freezers. But he has been practicing [UK spelling: practising] some of his spy skills – honest – and uses them to escape as well as to uncover the identity of one of SPORE’s top operatives, POULSON. What’s more, his adventure alerts Granda Tom to his grandson’s new identity – and prompts the revelation that he too was part of the SFL in his youth. With Granda Tom on board, the race to uncover the details of SPORE’s plans and rescue Taru careers onwards apace [don't like that phrase] but also brings new dangers. Sensing that the SFL are closing in, Poulson and top seed-pirate, PATTERSON, decide they need to take drastic action and it is not long before Kip finds himself kidnapped and on a boat to an island prison.

Overhearing plans that SPORE are on the verge of completing their stranglehold on the seed supplies, and that Taru is also hidden somewhere on the island, Kip tries to signal for help… but when none arrives Kip knows he has no choice but to take on Patterson and Poulson on alone. Once again, however, he is overpowered and thrown to sea – with a lump of concrete tied to his leg for company – and left for drowned.

With only seconds to spare, however, one of his SFL companions reaches him - it seems that he had got a signal through – and plucks him from a watery grave. Kip’s tale, and the information they decipher from a coded message that he’s also managed to capture, show that there is no time to lose. Not only are the only [clunky repetition of only]viable rice seeds about to be spirited away, but Taru will drown if they don’t get to him before the tide changes.

Kip, the SFL and Granda Tom speed back over to the island but there is one more shock in store. Not only are Patterson and Poulson intent on absconding with their haul [cliché and clunky!] but Patterson intends to remotely detonate a device which will blow-up the Seedbank and everybody in it as soon as they are in open sea with their cargo. [That whole sentence could be: their enemies plan to blow up the island and disappear with the seeds.]

Gone are any traces of Kip’s former insecurities and indecision [first we've heard of this!]and now, in the face of such malice, he does not hesitate. Giving chase to Poulson and Patterson, he masterminds the cornering [clunky] of their escaping boat, dives across to them from his moving vessel, disables their engine and brings them to a halt. Then, with artful persuasion he extracts the over-ride code from Poulson and averts the detonation of the Seedbank.

[I have no idea what this next bit actually means!] If only escaping the wrath of his mum was that easy.

Maybe now Kip can begin to grasp just what it might feel like to have the quiet confidence of his eccentric dad FERGAL. And maybe his adventure has given him a taste of what his mum has been trying to protect him from all his life.
And he thinks he might be ready to taste more.

OK, here's what I think.
Essentially, it's a great synopsis, Louise! Lively, fast-paced, age-appropriate and credible. I disagree that there's a problem with vocab not matching the age-range. OK, so I perhaps know which phrases you're thinking of but this is the synopsis and not the actual story and it's very marginal. However, your concern about the sudden appearance of a new character at the end is valid. It definnitely feels wrong, not least because I have absolutely no idea how he fits. So, essentially, you've messed up the ending of your synopsis.

One important point: you mention the scene with Granda Tom's potting shed as though it's important. Actually, we never discover the point of that, so I think you've put it in for all the wrong reasons: it sounds quirky, fun and scene-setting; but it's not ultimately important or interesting.

I've also cut out some unnecessary words and details and tried to tighten your prose. That does give you room to add back in some action phrases to spark it up again but do so in a snappier way than the bits I chopped out.

Any other comments, anyone? Essentially this is how a synopsis should be just before the final revisions of it before sending out. You could get this perfect in another fifteen minutes of polishing.


catdownunder said...

If the book is written like this then it sounds as if it would be a fast paced read. That is the way it comes across, especially once Nicola made those alterations.

M Louise Kelly said...

Ooh, thanks for choosing mine to go up and under the spotlight.

It's great to know what i'm not making clear. Your comment about the first scene is an eye-opener, Nicola. The guys doing the biffing-up include one of the main baddies (Paterson) warning him off from getting involved as a spy again now that his grandson has been recruited. You don't find this out till later in the book, obviously, but it's useful to know that it sounds inrrelevant in a synopsis unless its relevance is pointed out! *aaggh*

In other words (as Robert Burns might put it...
'O wad some Power the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!' (Eng trans. Ooh how useful to be able to see your own faults in the way others can).

M Louise Kelly said...

And glad to know it comes across as faced-paced catdownunder. It IS aimed at 9-12's, as Nicola guessed, and I'm hoping the pace will be a plus in selling it to that age group.

Neal... said...

My eldest is still a bit young for this, but he's spy-mad at the minute and I know he'd love this idea. As I would have when I was a boy -- it reads really well for your target audience.

Something I've noticed generally from the synopses that have been under the spotlight so far is that at the start of a few of them there needs to be more background and setting etc, which ties in with important developments later in the story.

I wonder if this is because there's a real need to get the action and the hooks in early, but doing that while foreshadowing is so difficult.

Anyway, love this idea, and the synopsis reads really well.

JoMacdonald said...

Hey Louise
There's a brilliant energy to this and although I don't have kids myself and don't write for this age group I found myself getting excited. Nothing struck me as being out of place in terms of language apart from the odd cliche which could be weeded out.
The main point that jarred for me (which Nicola has already picked up on) was paragraph 2 re Granda Tom which didn't seem to fit in. I felt that the first and third paragraph flowed really nicely on from one another and this one just felt a bit like you were giving an alternative introduction.
However I like the sound of Granda Tom so think it would be good for him to get a mention fairly early on.
Hope this helps.

M Louise Kelly said...

Neal and Jo thanks for your enthusiastic responses. Feels great to think some of the energy of the story has come through. And i think you've hit the nail on the head: in the synopsis you need to get the hook in early and it's difficult to know how much background is needed for the essential points to make sense!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's amazingly helpful to have other eyes looking at your work!

Will get back to working on it now...

Kittie Howard said...

Big applause for putting yourself on the operating table and not needing real surgery. It really is fast-paced, like the changes, and think you've got a winner. Good luck!

M Louise Kelly said...

Thanks Kittie. I'd recommend the Morgan Botox treatment to anyone!