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BOTH SIDES OF THE RIVER (fantasy)


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#1 TheLittle1

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 01:44 AM

okay, so im new here, and have had a finished novel for some time now and i am just now writing a query letter. I was having lots of trouble with the synopsis because the story is so detailed and intricate and i know it would be impossible to write what the story really is. but here is what i have so far, my first stab at it.. i would REALLY APPRECIATE feedback on this..


It is the mid-nineties and Sakura, a fun loving, yet virtue conscious little ninja girl is caught between two worlds, industrial Yokohama where she is reunited with her big brother after two years of separation, and the island Torashima, where Ninja and Samurai are still alive, where she grew up. An ancient rivalry between the two kinds keeps them on opposite sides of the river that divides the island. When her friend Tsukitaro is killed by the head of the leading samurai clan, Ryosuke, she finds out that he is searching for the murderer of his father, and is after her family swords, with the belief that being in his possession, the samurai will win the cold war on the island, and believing that Sakura’s older brother has them. Unknown to him however is that the swords are in little Sakura’s possession, and that she killed his father.

She befriends an interesting and handful of characters in Yokohama who set out to rescue her when she is accidentally kidnapped by Ryosuke’s posse and taken to Torashima. She escapes and ends up in a samurai village where she meets the ninja-phobic samurai woman Cho, who is engaged to the gentle medical student Tatsuo, whom she doesn’t like. Unknown to either of them, he is a ninja, and when this is revealed to the village by Ryosuke, Sakura proves to Cho and the village that it is not about the side of the river they live on, but the good or bad in each person’s heart, and in that way both sides are the same. Then Ryosuke’s mother, Setsuka, kills Cho’s father to prove a point, and it is revealed that she is the one behind all the murders, and Ryosuke’s horrible actions. Sakura’s secrets are then spilled out, and Tsukitaro is found to still be alive. After a battle between the good and the bad, Cho kills Setsuka, leaving Ryosuke to Sakura, who decides it is dishonorable to kill him, and forgivingly lets him go.

#2 richard p

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 07:38 AM

Your query lacks the structure of a query letter. Please review the guidelines here on AQC on how to write a query letter and rewrite yours. Then we can give you much more realistic feedback.

http://richard-writi...ng.blogspot.com
Richard P Hughes a.k.a. R Patrick Hughes


#3 bkeats

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 09:49 AM

Your query lacks the structure of a query letter. Please review the guidelines here on AQC on how to write a query letter and rewrite yours. Then we can give you much more realistic feedback.


I think (although I might be wrong) that this isn't a query letter, richard. Despite what The Little1 said, I think this is his synopsis. He states he's having trouble with his synopsis and then mentions "here is what I have."

As regards your synopsis, Little, sadly I'm not the one to help you. This is clearly an anime-inspired story ("cute little ninja girl...") and I have a marked aversion to most anime, manga, and other things of that nature.

Anyone want to take a look at this? :smile:

#4 richard p

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 12:39 PM

I think you're right. Sorry, The Little 1.

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#5 TheLittle1

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 02:25 PM

ah sorry. this wasnt a query, just the synopsis part of it.

#6 TheLittle1

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 02:28 PM

also, its not anime inspired, i dont very much like anime, and i have tried to keep the story as real as possible and not have anything to do with the mythological aspects of ninjas. by "cute litte" meaning she is thirteen years old who looks like a ten year old boy.though in other ways, it turned out to be something of a fantasy. thank you for looking at it anyway.

#7 bkeats

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 08:44 AM

Okay, Little. You wanted my feedback, so here it is. But first, we're going to talk a little bit about ninjas. I'm not Japanese, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject. But I'm not completely clueless, either. And I'm only going here because you state you're trying to keep your story "as real as possible."

Your story is set in the mid-nineties. In terms of the "real world," there aren't any ninjas anymore. Haven't been for a long time. No, I can't prove there aren't any. I don't have to, since you can't prove a negative. However, there is zero evidence they're still around, so the burden of proof falls on you. The last Japanese who displayed what might called "ninjitsu" functoned as commandos and saboteurs in WWII. In terms of what we commonly think of as ninjas- the medieval spy/scout/assassin- they slowly faded away, along with the samurai, after the Tokagawa shogunate fell in the 19th century.

A "virtue-conscious ninja" is an oxymoron. The only reason ninjas existed in the first place was that daimyos needed deeds done that no honorable person would think of doing.

Now, Both Sides Of The River is a fantasy. An alternate modern-day Japan, where both ninja and fantasy are alive and well. Fair enough- I've got no problem with that. However, this is why I initially mistook your work as anime/manga inspired, because those genres are absolutely saturated with samurai and ninja- and these ninja are often children, and always cute. In real life, ninja training, like samurai training, took years. You never became either until you were an adult. Historically, there were no child samurai, and no child ninja. There were also no female samurai. So, if I misinterpreted your work, you can at least see where I went wrong.

Now, onto the story!

It is the mid-nineties and SAKURA, a fun loving, yet virtue conscious thirteen-year-old little ninja girl, is caught between two worlds, industrial Yokohama where she is reunited with her big brother after two years of separation, and the island Torashima, where ninja and samurai are still alive, where she grew up. (This is confusing. I can't get a sense of the timeline. I assumed that Sakura was sent away to Torashima for ninja training and then returned to Yokohama, but you say Sakura grew up in Torashima) An ancient rivalry between the two kinds keeps them on opposite sides of the river that divides the island. (First of all, the whole point of being a ninja is secrecy. Officially, they don't exist. If you can look at someone and identify them as a ninja, then they have already failed at being a ninja. Nor do ninja walk around 24/7 in those friggin' black outfits. Second of all, samurai exist to serve. Do all the samurai in Torashima serve the same lord? And is "rivalry" really the right word here? That implies that both the samurai and ninja serve the same lord/cause/whatever, and both strive to outdo the other in their service. Your scenario sounds more like a Cold War- type of deal) When After her friend TSUKITARO is killed by RYOSUKE, the head of the leading samurai clan, Ryosuke, she finds out that he is searching for the murderer of his father, and is after her Sakura's family swords. Ryosuke believes with the belief that with the swords, being in his possession, the samurai will win the cold war (Ah, ha! I was right!) on the island. He also believes and believing that Sakura’s older brother has them. Unknown to him however, is that the swords are in little Sakura’s possession, and that she is the one who killed his father.

She Sakura befriends an some interesting and handful of characters in Yokohama who set out to rescue her when she is accidentally (Do you mean "mistakenly"? There's a big difference) kidnapped by Ryosuke’s posse and taken to Torashima. She escapes and ends up in a samurai village where she meets the ninja-phobic samurai woman CHO (Every samurai is ninja-phobic. The very concept of a ninja is anethemic to the code of bushido), who is engaged to the gentle medical student TATSUO, whom she (She who? Tatsuo or Sakura?) doesn’t like. Unknown to either of them, he is a ninja, and when this is revealed to the village by Ryosuke, Sakura tries to proves to Cho and the village that it is not about the side of the river they live on, but the good or bad in each person’s heart, and in that way both sides are the same. Then Ryosuke’s mother Setsuka kills Cho’s father to prove a point, and it is revealed that she is the one behind all the murders and Ryosuke’s horrible actions (What horrible actions? I don't see anything bad here Ryosuke has done). Sakura’s secrets are then spilled out, and Tsukitaro is found to still be alive (This comes completely out of left field). After a battle between the good and the bad, Cho kills Ryosuke's mother, leaving Ryosuke to Sakura, who decides it is dishonorable to kill him, and forgivingly lets him go.


A few closing thoughts:

1. Try to keep the number of names introduced to a minimum. FIve is okay, four is better. I dropped Setsuka, and Tsukitaro can probably go as well- just call her "Sakura's friend."

2. I have no idea of Setsuka's motivations. Why specifically does she kill Cho's father? Does she see herself as honorable?

3. Tatsuo is a ninja, living secretly among the samurai. Why? What's his mission? Is he really "gentle," or is that just a cover?

4. The main theme here, as far as I can tell, is " who we are in our hearts that's important." While this is fine, becoming a ninja or a samurai is a choice- it's not like what skin color you're born with. If you value service and honor, you become a samurai. If you value deceit, subterfuge and gold, you become a ninja. Therefore, in this case, what side of the river you live on does show "what's in your heart."

5. Sakura's family swords, which seemed to be a central plot point, disappear completely after their first mention. In short, we need more detail here.

Well, that's what I've got here, Little. Take anything you like and disregard the rest. Obviously, I haven't read your manuscript, and what I think is my opinion only, but this still seems anime-inspired to me, because that's the only place I ever see characters like Sakura. Again, this may only be my ignorance speaking. I'd love to get some other takes on this. Anyone?

Happy Writing :smile:

#8 TheLittle1

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 01:25 PM

THANK YOU!! thankyouthankyouthankyou!! I needed this. Badly. But... I feel like I need to address some things that you said.

Firstly, I know that Ninjas and Samurai dont actually exist anymore, not like they used to, but they are still around in the form of martial artists who practice portions of either Bushido, or Ninjutsu. The ninjas in this story, in other words, wear sweaters and jeans. :P

(A "virtue-conscious ninja" is an oxymoron. The only reason ninjas existed in the first place was that daimyos needed deeds done that no honorable person would think of doing.)
- While I totally agree with this, there were some ninjas who were actually samurai that volunteered for the job. I think it was Nathan Hale who said that "“Every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary" I think it must have weighed heavy on the persons mind or heart, whether they were ninja or samurai. Because the Japanese people as a whole were people of honor (to be general) For a ninja however, it was a different kind of honor.

( In real life, ninja training, like samurai training, took years. You never became either until you were an adult. Historically, there were no child samurai, and no child ninja. There were also no female samurai.)

-- Training takes years, yes I know. I am a martial artist studying Bushido. But I think I should explain that the Samurai and ninja in this story are not who they are by choice or training, but only by name, because of family clans and stuff that date waaaayy back. The island was the land of one Daimyo, and everyone on the island served him. So in a way they were distinguishable (some how this makes sense to me :/) SOOO... that means even though Sakura comes from a ninja family, and even though she has had training, she is not perfect, or super strong, or always dresses in a black gi. And yes there were female samurai. Very few. They were called Onna Bugeisha. (Ive done my research.)

1. THANK YOU!! for making this clear, I had a feeling there were too many names.

2. Setsuka.... yeah I need to explain that better dont I.. she is basically the main antagonist and kills Cho's father for betraying her in the past once, that led to her exile from the village. She is basically taking revenge on people one by one, and also killing anyone who gets in her way.

3. Okay, I really need help here, because I dont know how to explain this, or where to put this information. Tatsuo is a ninja yes, but he didnt even know until just before Ryosuke tells the village. Cho's father and a man from the village found him roaming in the countryside when he is a child after his village had been burned, so the man takes him in and does not tell him who he is until late, and Ryosuke happens to be listening in. His Engagement to Cho was arranged by his adopted father and Cho's father, who are close friends. So yes, he is gentle, and shy, but also very strong in his heart.

4. YES! I love how you put the main theme, only that the people dont chose their ancestry, so it doesnt matter what side you live on. There are good and bad in both kinds of people. (maybe im being too morally?)

5. Ah yes, Sakura's family swords, I dont know how to bring them back in at the end. :( help? the swords themselves and the whole plot around them is a story all by itself, that i dont know how to fit it in a synopsis.

But i sincerely thank you, ive been needing someone to tear this apart rather than just nod and tell me that its good. SO YES! Thank you!!!

#9 bkeats

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:21 AM

While I totally agree with this, there were some ninjas who were actually samurai that volunteered for the job. I think it was Nathan Hale who said that "“Every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary" I think it must have weighed heavy on the persons mind or heart, whether they were ninja or samurai. Because the Japanese people as a whole were people of honor (to be general) For a ninja however, it was a different kind of honor.


Historical ninja certainly had their own code (and loyalty to their ninja "family" was paramount), but it wasn't a code that the samurai (or even the heimen) would agree with.

And yes there were female samurai. Very few. They were called Onna Bugeisha. (Ive done my research.)


While the Onna Bugeisha were of the same upper class as the samurai, and their exploits (in legend, anyway) equaled any of them, they were not technically samurai. They generally fought for their household (ie, when their husbands were killed, they stepped in), as opposed to serving a daimyo. More importantly, the Onna Bugeisha were not allowed to wear the daisho (the combination of katana and wakizashi that the was the hallmark of a samurai)


I understand your point about the characters being (at least partially) defined by who raised them, but I'd be careful not confuse your readers with that.

Ah yes, Sakura's family swords, I dont know how to bring them back in at the end. :( help? the swords themselves and the whole plot around them is a story all by itself, that i dont know how to fit it in a synopsis.


If in your opinion, the swords constitute a sub-plot within your story, then leave them out of the synopsis altogether.


Just a few thoughts :smile:

#10 TheLittle1

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 05:50 AM

Thank you~




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