The Plot Synopsis Strikes Back

As part of Joshua Palmatier’s Plot Synopsis Project II I’m posting the proposal synopsis for CodeSpell, the third book in the WebMage series. Links to other writers’ synopses will be at the bottom of this post.

For my full thoughts on how to write one of these you can see my posts on the subject. Pitching and Synopses parts 1, 2, and 3. Plus, what a synopsis should do.

Update: For those who have read CodeSpell you may notice that while the overall sequence of events and emphasis follows the book, there are any number of minor but significant departures. That’s pretty typical and expected. Enough so that this book went straight from delivery to the copyeditor with no revisions. For comparison here’s the synopsis for WebMage written after the book was complete.

Book Proposal for WebMage III (CodeSpell)

The story begins a few days after the end of Cybermancy with Ravirn receiving an invite from Zeus. The big guy is throwing a party of divine proportions. Among the reasons for the party is the coming-out of the newest power in the pantheon, Raven, so Ravirn’s attendance is not subject to negotiation.

The party is held on Mount Olympus in a huge outdoor venue. Ravirn attends with Cerice and Melchior in tow. During the course of the afternoon he encounters Cerberus, Hades, Persephone, the Fates, Dionysus, the Furies, and his own parents. His mother snubs him, his father does not, and in the process we find out that his father is the son of one of the Muses. He also runs into Dairn (last seen being dumped unconscious into a faerie ring in WebMage).

Something is horribly wrong with Dairn, though Ravirn is unable to decide what. This becomes much more important to Ravirn in a few minutes, when Dairn tries to kill Ravirn using powers beyond anything he’s ever previously exhibited. Ravirn is able to escape the attack, but only by the skin of his teeth.

There are a number of things going on that Ravirn doesn’t know or find out about for some time:

1. In the process of falling through the faerie rings, Dairn lost big chunks of his personality and memory. As he was wandering the worlds over the next year by randomly leaving and reentering faerie rings he became merged with the goddess Nemesis. Mythologically the role of Nemesis has a lot of overlap with the Furies, though she is less constrained, because she is without any controlling authority. She is also a bodiless entity, something like a non-replicating computer virus. In merging with Dairn she’s developed a powerful hatred of Ravirn.

2. Zeus is not the buffoon that Ravirn believes him to be. The sex-addled idiot thing is a carefully cultivated and personally rewarding act he uses to help throw his enemies off and reduce his workload. He is not fond of work if it can be avoided.

3. The damage to Necessity in Cybermancy includes a number of things that pose problems for the pantheon in general and Ravirn in specific. Among those is the loosing of Nemesis. Previously she had been confined both in location and power. Also, the resource locator forks for Tartarus (the prison of the Titans) have been destroyed. This last means that Zeus can no longer maintain a tight watch and leash on them, and that they are likely to free themselves and restart the Titanomach (the ten-year war with the gods that ended with the imprisonment of the Titans). Another major result of the damage is severely restricted access to Necessity, both electronic and physical. Not even the Furies are able to access her physical location and they can only speak with her intermittently. There are many other points of damage, but these are the ones of primary interest for this story.

4a. In order to prevent the escape of the Titans Zeus needs to arrange for the repair of Necessity. He believes he could take them in battle again if he had to, but it would be better if he didn’t have to. Fortunately, he sees a perfect out that involves a minimum of effort on his part——make Ravirn fix Necessity.

4b. His method for doing this is to nudge Nemesis into an encounter with Dairn and then to provide an opportunity for the merged being to have an unsuccessful shot at Ravirn, hence the party. Thereafter, in order to get rid of Nemesis Ravirn will be forced to repair the portion of Necessity that also contains the Tartarus forks.

4c. Zeus is also concerned about the increased power of the Fates in the computerized era and would like to see them taken down a peg or two. By framing them for the creation of Nemesis/Dairn he hopes to set the Furies, who are very jealous of the role of Nemesis, against the Fates. He also hopes that in the course of fixing Necessity Ravirn will introduce an anti-Fate bias that will come into full effect once Necessity’s powers are restored.

The initial attack by Nemesis is quickly followed up by further attempts, forcing Ravirn into a running battle with Nemesis while he tries to figure out some way to stop her. Because of Zeus’s machinations Ravirn becomes convinced that the Fates in general and Clotho in particular are responsible. This puts Cerice in the position of either joining Ravirn in direct opposition to her grandmother or of recusing herself. While she is being torn about this decision, Fate intervenes, literally. Clotho acts to remove Cerice from the equation, imprisoning her. Without Shara, who is still trapped within Necessity, Cerice is unable to resist effectively and is largely removed from the scene.

This is the opportunity Tisiphone has been waiting for, and because of the opposing roles of Furies and Nemesis, she is able to act as a desperately needed ally. Nemesis is a full-fledged goddess and her powers are nearly as great as those of Eris or Hades. Only the combination of the fact that she has to work through the relatively fragile medium of Dairn’s body and the intervention of Zeus allowed Ravirn to escape the first attack in one piece.

Over the course of the next several days Ravirn and Tisiphone discover that it is the damage to Necessity that unleashed Nemesis. A significant part of this discovery process results from communications with Shara from within Necessity. These communications are only possible because of Tisiphone’s tight connection to Necessity. Shara literally has to speak through Tisiphone. We also learn here that something truly strange happened with Ahllan’s disappearance in Cybermancy.

Once this is all established, it becomes clear that Ravirn is going to have to try to repair Necessity. He’s going to need to figure out some point of access. He’s also going to need more computing power. Necessity is simply too big a job for Melchior’s current specs. It’s time for a major (i.e. risky) upgrade. Melchior’s goblin shape and personality will remain the same, but he’s getting a new case and (in line with Ravirn’s chaos powers) a new quantum computing architecture that will make him significantly less mweb dependent.

Just as Ravirn completes the upgrade and reboots Melchior, Nemesis arrives. It’s touch and go, but at the cost of a really severe beating, Tisiphone is able to buy enough time for Ravirn and Melchior to escape. Unfortunately, they are now without the link they need to reach Necessity. In a stroke of apparent coincidence that is simply too much for Ravirn to buy, Megaera show up and offers to provide the missing link. She says she’s doing it for Tisiphone’s sake, but Ravirn realizes there’s more going on here than he thought, and he makes the conceptual leap to link it all back to Zeus.

Tired of being manipulated, Ravirn heads out to confront Zeus with Melchior vociferously arguing that it’s a bad idea. The whole way. Zeus’s role is revealed in the plot, including his actual nature. Ravirn is stunned beyond words, and deeply angry with Zeus, but he admits that at this point their goals coincide and he will go through with the scheme to fix Necessity. Scene ends with an accommodation similar to the one Ravirn enjoys with Eris, affection tinged with fear and grudging respect.

When he arrives at the physical location of Necessity however, he discovers that Nemesis, using Tisiphone as a link, has preceded him. A pitched battle takes place, one that Ravirn is able to win with the aid of Tisiphone, Melchior, and Shara-who can act directly for him in the House of Necessity. The fight is won with the death of Dairn and the apparent destruction of Nemesis through the physical destruction of portion of some of Necessity’s hardware.

Then Melchior and Ravirn proceed to repairing Necessity. Unfortunately, complete repair is far beyond their limited resources at the time. They are able to tie up Tartarus, but the Nemesis portion of the system is totally inoperable and the Furies are going to need do considerable hardware repair over the course of the next several years in order to get Necessity back into a state where Ravirn can take a true crack at the software problems.

The book ends on the first day of spring when Shara is ejected from Necessity. Ravirn is triumphant, but a number of loose ends leave him with a great deal of work to do and food for thought. Necessity is still controlling the mweb, but only portions of the destinies of the gods. Cerice and Ravirn parted under very stressful circumstances and Ravirn has developed further feelings for Tisiphone over the course of their conflict with Nemesis. This is further complicated by Tisiphone’s anger and grief over the damage done to Necessity’s physical form in the battle. She feels personal responsibility for that and her fellow Furies also blame her, but she also holds Ravirn partially to blame. And, where is Ahllan? All of which will lead into WebMage IV, MythOS.

Joshua Palmatier

Alma Alexander (Will post on the 20th instead.)

Sam Butler

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Daryl Gregory

Simon Haynes

Jay Lake’s comments and his synopses

Kelly McCullough

Jeri Smith-Ready

Jennifer Stevenson

Edward Willett

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog September 19 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)