Author Topic: Please critique my 1-pager for a thriller novel!  (Read 445 times)  

Offline davidsachs

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Please critique my 1-pager for a thriller novel!
« on: September 13, 2017, 07:34:12 AM »
Hello!

I'd appreciate any input on this 1-page synopsis for my thriller novel, which would be used in agent queries.

much thanks!
(please ignore the paragraph breaks, I couldn't get it to tab properly in this post)
*******


Deep into their travels, JOSH and SASHA arrive in Kenya at the start of the rainy season. Tribal violence simmers across the countryside in the lead up to national elections.

 They came to East Africa for an adventure to save their marriage. The thirty-something golden boy and golden girl investment bankers have lost their passion; for each other and for life. They fight over Joshs desire to quit the rat race and find a lighter style of living. So theyve taken a leave from work, with Josh hoping it will spark Sashas desire to see the world and Sasha hoping it will satisfy Joshs appetite for a while, and allow them to return to Buffalo and start a family.

Three months ago, they rekindled their romance in Zanzibar. Theyve climbed Kilimanjaro and trekked for gorillas in Rwanda. Two days ago, on an adrenaline and beer fueled high after rafting near Kampala, they invited an old friend into their sex life.
As they get off the bus in Nairobi, a safari booked, there is an unspoken tension between them as taut as that across the country.
   
They enter Maasai Mara national park with a guide and a French traveller who shares the Land Rover. The Frenchman has just finished working as a medical volunteer. Feeling isolated from her husband, Sasha is drawn to him.
Partly because of the season, partly because of the violence, the park is almost empty. After two disappointing days, the guide breaks the park rules, taking them far off-road in search of cats. The Rover gets stuck in a rut formed by the rainstorms. Getting out to dig their wheels loose in the long grass, the guide steps into a sleeping family of leopards. The tourists try to save him, but the guide is killed. The Rover is stuck fast, and now the battery is dead.
   
In a harrowing night in the vehicle, the tension between Josh and Sasha turns to animosity. At daylight, the threesome walk the savannah, looking for the road and rescue. The male leopard stalks them now; they see it every few hours. Sasha feels alone facing death, and Josh feels bitter at her abandonment. The tension finally breaks in a vicious falling out, each attacking the others emotional weak spots. When their French companion steps in, he and Josh come to blows.
   
Thats when the leopard attacks. It separates them from the Frenchman. Josh and Sasha are almost killed trying to save him, but in the end, theyre alone.

The couple face a gauntlet over the next two days, from the elements and animals of the Mara, and their own turmoil and the pasts that brought them here. They need their trust to save each other, and slowly they rebuild it. Josh is badly injured. Sasha protects and carries him on, finally stashing him on a tree branch to save him from jackals, who sense his frailty.

By the time they are rescued by Maasai tribesman, and taken to their boma for care, Josh is gangrenous from his wounds. Delirious in the mud hut, with Sasha watching, the Maasai healer amputates his left arm.
   
When the ambulance finally takes them away, Sasha holds Joshs wedding ring. She knows she holds the fate of their marriage as surely as she held the fate of Joshs survival, and she chooses to hold on to the wild ride.
   

Offline Becca Mills

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Re: Please critique my 1-pager for a thriller novel!
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2017, 10:14:18 AM »
I don't know how many folks here have experience writing successful examples of this genre (the query synopsis). For instance, never having tried to publish traditionally, I saw one for the first time when I opened this thread. So, with a bucket load of salt and a suggestion that a forum more oriented toward traditional publishing might be a better place to ask for feedback ...

- I do get a clear sense of the story from what you've written, including the idea that Sasha's attitude toward her marriage changes through her experience, and that the couple's relationship problems provide the primary arc of the novel.

- I don't get as clear a sense of when/how Josh's attitude also changes. Since the decision about their marriage seems to be in her hands at the end, I assume he recommitted to her earlier, when he was injured and depending on her?

- I don't get a deep sense of who Josh and Sasha are, beyond the facts of their marriage, jobs, etc. Should the synopsis make me care about them? I'm not sure that's part of what this genre needs to do, but if it is, then I need something else to feel invested in these people. I hate to suggest a cheap fix, like giving them a sympathetic earlier tragedy, but that's the first place my mind went.

- The mention of the "family of leopards" did send me to Wikipedia to look up the species, since I was sure they were solitary. Apparently males do sometimes interact with females and their offspring, but the "family" thing doesn't seem right and might be a distraction. Maybe a female and her three young adult cubs? The cubs could devour the guide and then stay behind while the mother stalks the remaining three humans.

- The premise of the story -- wealthy white folks to to Africa and find themselves through their encounter with primal savagery/the common sense of natives/untrammeled nature/whatever -- seems like a bit of a political hot potato to me. If you're confident this kind of storyline is being published, fair enough, but it might be worth reading around a bit to be sure.

- The writing looks pretty good on a local level. The semicolon in paragraph two isn't correct. I'd suggest an em-dash in that spot. This sentence has a dangling modifier: "Delirious in the mud hut, with Sasha watching, the Maasai healer amputates his left arm." See how the literal meaning is that the Maasai healer is delirious? You need to get Josh in there somewhere so that the state of delirium is attached to the right person.

Good luck with your submissions! :)




Offline Picky Android

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Re: Please critique my 1-pager for a thriller novel!
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2017, 10:37:51 AM »
What Becca said is good too.

But I think on second paragraph, second sentence "... passion; for each other and for life ..."  should be, "... passion for each other, and for life.  Or "passion for life and each other. ".  Or "... passion, for each other and for life."

Yours is a fragment. The semicolon makes what follows to be a complete sentence or should be. It is not.  But I could be too picky. Not sure an acceptance of a  query letter or synopsis would get read past that or not.  They may think they are headed for trouble right off the bat.  I hear those guys are real picky and will dump something for the smallest reason. 

Offline J.L. Jarvis

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Re: Please critique my 1-pager for a thriller novel!
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2017, 01:38:38 PM »
This seems awfully long for a query. I haven't queried an agent in years, so maybe things have changed. But it used be standard to send a one-page letter with a hook, title, genre, and word count; about a paragraph devoted to the story; a paragraph about your sparkling credentials; and a closing paragraph. If it's a good fit, they follow up asking for more. What they ask for can vary, so you might want to wait to see precisely what they'd like to see next (e.g., 1-pages synopsis and three chapters; a longer or shorter synopsis and the entire MS).
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 01:48:59 PM by J.L. Jarvis »

Offline Kyra Halland

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Re: Please critique my 1-pager for a thriller novel!
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2017, 07:20:15 PM »
If you're querying, Absolute Write might be a better forum to seek advice, since they're much more focused on traditional publishing. Just, whatever you do, don't use the term "traditional publishing" there (people have gotten banned for this). It's "trade publishing."


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Offline davidsachs

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Re: Please critique my 1-pager for a thriller novel!
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2017, 05:23:35 PM »
Thanks for the wisdom.

(J.L.: Its not for the query letter, it is a separate 1-pager that agents often ask for in addition to the query letter)
   

Offline J.L. Jarvis

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Re: Please critique my 1-pager for a thriller novel!
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2017, 06:27:59 PM »
...(J.L.: Its not for the query letter, it is a separate 1-pager that agents often ask for in addition to the query letter)

Ah, I see. In any event, good luck with the queries!