One thing everybody should do, once they finish writing a book, is write an in depth synopsis. Why? Well even if you aren’t going to send your finished product anywhere its good practice for if you ever decide to send something else. It will also help you to understand what you have written in a much better way, help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of the plot and the characters and by thinking about it in an analytical way you’ll then be able to talk about your work in a much clearer and more concise manner. In these synopsis you need to talk about the plot, the themes and the characters without actually bigging the book up in any way. You also need to do it in a couple of thousand words or less… Two pages of size 12 is the ideal. But rather than tell you how to do it I can show you an example, one of mine. It might not be perfect and it is longer than most (I also keep some details deliberately vague) but if you’re looking for how to do it this should at least give you something of a start… Oh and the pictures and pull quotes are just to make the page easier on the eye… Don’t put them in your actual synopsis. Keep it professional.
Dark Legend is about a parasitic infection that turns people into mutants and it is about the man who steps up to fight those mutants and save the world: Will. Together with his friends Joe, Doug, Dan and, later on in the series, Hailey, Dast and Lydia, Will sets out to stop the graffe (the mutants) and along the way he and his friends face off against countless dangers, obstacles and lunatics attempting to use the graffe for their own ends. Meanwhile, Will’s actions garner him a great deal of attention and, quite inadvertently, he finds himself becoming a media celebrity. As much as he tries to shrug off, deny or hide from this, Will eventually comes to realize that this it is in fact the key to beating the graffe and saving the human race. Rather than it being the burden he thinks it is, it is actually something that he can use to his advantage. He finds that he can use his status as a hero and an idol to unite humanity against the graffe and save the world…
Dark Legend is also a character piece, dealing with a small group of teenagers and how they cope with their everyday lives as they try to stop the world around them from falling apart. What unfolds throughout the series is a complex tale told through the eyes of those living through the events, with each main character being visibly changed by their experiences. The way they are each affected is explored in considerable detail throughout, as is the way in which these changes affect the relationships between the main characters. For example, after one character, Randy, falls victim to the infection as a result of persistent bullying, Joe fails to see how the bullying was an issue and this (and the continual bullying of others, Eliza and Dast for example) causes a gradual deterioration in his relationship with other characters who do see it as an issue, most prominently Will and Doug. This deterioration eventually causes a serious rift between the characters and results in Joe not being present when he is needed the most and his (albeit brief) absence has a serious impact on the events of the narrative.
Everything, at the most base level, revolves around Will. He is the one who, indirectly, first brings all the other characters together and it is often his ideas and actions that drive the narrative forwards. At the start of the series he is aloof and unfriendly, believing that he doesn’t need any help fighting the graffe. Very quickly, however, he comes to accept the guidance and assistance of his friends and by the end he has come to depend on them almost completely. His aloofness gradually fades, though he remains a sometimes cold, serious and determined character who is often mistrusting of others through until the end. Will’s relationship to the other characters is best exemplified by his interactions with Dan. Will at first despises Dan owing to the fact that he is a reverted graffe but after Dan starts helping him he develops a grudging respect for him which eventually, by the start of the second book, grows into a fully fledged bromance. Once this occurs the two remain fiercely loyal to one another, willing to forgive each other almost any transgression. For example, when Dan discovers that Will has started dating his ex girlfriend, Eliza, Dan is prepared to let it slide for the sake of their friendship despite the fact that he hates Eliza for her role in their break up.
Doug, meanwhile, is the everyman. He is far more serious than the others and is often quick to point out the flaws in their ideas. However, he is often one of the first to jump into the fray despite the lunacy of the idea, usually right behind Will, and he is always willing to stick his neck out when the situation calls for it. He does not often lead the charge himself, mostly he follows others into danger instead, but he will sometimes seize the initiative when the plan goes wrong, for instance in the middle of the second book when he and his girlfriend Amanda investigate a laboratory which is experimenting on the graffe. On the odd occasion when he does take charge, as in the third book, he is shown to be a competent leader but highly inefficient, going off task and making things worse than they already are. He is quick to make friends, often accepting people at face value and he usually remains somewhat amicable towards them when they cross the moral line and the others are treating them harshly. That said, he does still take a dim view of certain character’s actions, when Will is sleeping around at the start of the second book for instance.
Other characters include DI Peter Fisher, the local police chief who finds himself struggling to balance his duty as a police officer and what needs to be done. He is prepared to give Will a long leash when it comes to fighting the graffe and eventually the two become close, with DI Fisher eventually seeing himself as something of a father figure towards Will. He even, when Will finds himself injured (and is presumed by the rest of the world to be dead) in the second book, allows him to sleep on his couch despite the strenuous objections of his wife Muriel.
Contrasting to DI Fisher is Karen Harper, a local headmistress who is determined to do her job despite constantly finding herself up against Will and his friends as they try to stop the graffe. Eventually she is forced to admit that Will may actually have a point when it comes to stopping the graffe, although she does it reluctantly, and finally allows him to use her students to help battle the graffe.
Finally there is Jonathon Harris, the principle human antagonist. Harris is the young head of local business, Lupus Industries, and as Will puts it when they first come across each other he is a stereotypically insane bond-villain. This is what makes him dangerous. He is clever, calculating and willing to do whatever it takes to advance the position of the graffe but he is also insane. Because of his insanity Will seriously underestimates Harris, almost to the point where he gains the upper hand. Will at first views Harris as nothing more than a lunatic although it later transpires that he really is dangerous as he is able to use his power and influence in order to rapidly advance the graffe across the globe and bring humanity perilously close to its knees.
Harris is an incredibly animalistic character and this plays into one of the major themes of the books: The difference between humans and animals. What precisely makes us human? Is it our genetics or is it our behaviour that define what we are? The books make arguments for both being the case. The graffe are defined as being specifically inhuman and yet, as a contrast, Dan is later revealed to have retained his corrupted DNA and yet appears, on the surface as human as the other characters. Also, all of the human characters sometimes behave in ways that could be described as immoral and even inhuman. Harris, for instance, when he has Dan and Joe at his mercy, malevolently tortures them as revenge for siding with Will. Even Will himself is not above this behaviour, often more than willing to jump into a fight without thinking about who it is or even what he is fighting, especially early on in the series.
The books also highlight and confront a range of issues affecting modern day society. These range from youth and gang culture to scientific ethics and the after effects of war. One issue, bullying, is brought up in the relationship between Dast and Joe. The two do not get along with one another and Joe will often resort to homophobically bringing up Dast’s sexuality in a cruel, disparaging way when they argue, despite attempts by his friends to stop him. He is quick to deny that he is homophobic but to the others, and the reader, this is quite clearly a lie. Joe is also shown to be heavily involved with bullying others, specifically Eliza. Other characters are not immune to bullying either (Will does it in the first book) and the books go out of their way to show that bullying, under any circumstance, has serious consequences.
The role of the press and the media in society would be another issue presented in the series. The media drums Will up to be a mighty hero but is exceptionally quick to turn on him when he makes mistakes, laying into him without full possession of the facts, as in the second book when he rescues a hospice full of terminally ill patients from being experimented upon. Quite often the press will make up stories about Will, such as suggesting that he and Doug are in a relationship, and their behaviour, particularly in the second book, often borders on the intrusive. At one stage they are found to be camped out in his front garden and going through the bins, for example.
Finally, the books have a heavy focus on love, romance and sex. Several aspects are explored through different characters as they each fall into and out of love and the events of the narrative drive couples both together and apart. The loss of love is explored in several ways, through grief for instance. At the start of the books Will is implied to be in mourning for his previous girlfriend, Charlotte, and he is quite hesitant to get with any other girl, Eliza most prominently. He does eventually get with quite a few girls before events bring him back to where he is hesitant again, refusing to confess his feelings for Hailey as he believes it would be ‘unfair’ to leave her grieving if he were to die fighting the graffe.
The after effects of loss are explored too, in the way Dan copes after his break up with Eliza near the end of the first book for instance. He loses almost all of his confidence with women and although he does state, at one point, that he finds another character attractive, his lack of confidence means that he is unable to get together with her. Meanwhile when Will finally gets with someone at the end of the first book, Alison, he loses her in a very short space of time and reacts very differently. By the start of the next book he is revealed to be sleeping around, despite his friends severe objections, and he is forced to admit that he is doing it because of the way in which he lost Alison. This admittal does force him to rethink his behaviour but he does not actually stop until he is hit by the consequences of his actions.
Of course, with most of the characters being in their very late teens the topic of sex comes up frequently. The main characters are, in their own unique ways, lusty and almost always up for rutting like rabbits. The effects of this behaviour are quite evident and the sexual exploits of the main characters cause more than a few headaches throughout the series. One such example would be Will’s sleeping around after losing Alison, which culminates in the accidental creation of a new mutant hybrid who then goes on to plague the main group for the remainder of the series. Where this lusty attitude again becomes an issue is with Randy. Randy tries to pair himself with any woman he comes across and yet he is so socially inept and clueless concerning sexual matters that he comes across as perverted and desperate, never succeeding to get himself even so much as a peck on the cheek as a result. This leads to serious jealously, especially as the other characters begin to get involved with each other. He eventually snaps on the night Dan and Eliza break up (thanks to that break up, no less) and he turns against the main group.
In short, Dark Legend is an epic and incredibly complex series, full of twists and turns and heartbreaking surprises. It features a dense web of characters, at the centre of which is Will and his march to save the world. The series covers a broad range of themes and strives, above all else, to answer the question of what makes us human.
THE DARK LEGEND SERIES IS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON, WORLDWIDE (See my ‘Releases‘ page for links to UK store… If outside the UK just replace .co.uk with your own usual .com etc.)