Sunday, November 30, 2008

Synopsis: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie Hatter has a boring life, and is almost sure she wants it that way. Then the Witch of the Waste casts a spell on her and turns her into an old woman. Sophie decides to hobble out and seek her fortune. She makes a pact with Calcifer the fire demon and enters into the service of the Wizard Howl. He eats girls' hearts, but Sophie's not worried since she's no longer a girl. Soon Sophie must save Calcifer and Howl from a bargain that helps neither,

What bargain that helps neither?

save her younger sister from Howl's heartless courtship, and save the Kingdom of Ingary from the Witch. Sophie learns that she's not as timid as she thought, she has an incredible talent for magic, that she's not immune to the Wizard's charms, and that in Ingary, even the oldest of three can live happily ever after.

Oldest of three? What?
This is mostly well done, and I might be intrigued enough to request this. But this highlights a common difficulty in writing a synopsis-- forgetting what elements will be confusing/meaningless to someone who hasn't read the book.


Anonymous said...

This wasn't mine, but I can easily see where I faulter as I try to decide what to include in a synopsis.

EA's innocent question is: "What bargain that helps neither?"

But there are fifty other similar questions that could be picked out by other editors.

"Why does the witch cast this spell on Sophie?" "Why does Calcifer eat girl's hearts?" "A sister? She has a sister, shouldn't we know this in the beginning?"

These type of questions twirl like a merry-go-round in a writer's head, because if you are lucky enough to get published, this is how your editor talks to you. "Too many details." "I need some details" "Can't you summarize this? "This should not be summarized." "Would this character say this?"... except from page to page there often seems to be no consistancy in their comments -- they berate you for something on one page and then tell you to do that exact same thing ten pages later. My editor and copyeditor disagreed on entire sections of a book of mine, and I was left to choose who to agree with. The funny thing, was my editor sounded so offended by the copyeditor. Um, yeah, that's how I felt the entire time I was jumping through hoops to please the editor.... Ahem...

It's frustrating to write for someone else's particular pet peeves.

(no offense to EA or other editors, but after a while of this you start doubting your ability to write at all)

Deirdre Mundy said...

Thanks EA! I really struggled with this one....

I think it might actually be HARDER to write a synopsis for a well-loved book than for one that makes you feel "meh."

Because if you love a book you have the urge to cram in everything that makes it special and then finish with "Look, trust me! It's brilliant! You'll love it! Take two, so you have one to lend out!!!"

I haven't tried to write a synopsis for myt WIP yet... I bet that will even be worse.... because I'm closer to the story... (or maybe not, since, actually, I've read Howl twice a year for almost 2 decades!)

danceluvr said...

Now I have a better understanding of the film/animated version, although there wasn't a sister in that movie that I remember.

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