Scheebelis One-Page Synopsis — Are You Curious?

I’m looking for feedback on my synopsis — feedback of any kind. This is not the cover blurb, but a somewhat more detailed synopsis that would be used to interest an agent in the novel (and used by an agent to sell the novel to a publisher). Most pressing is whether it makes you want to read the book, but I’m grateful for anything else! Thank you!

***

THE SCHNEEBELI BROTHERS GO TO CHURCH tells about the experiences of the six Schneebeli brothers — Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas — from Affoltern, a village in Canton Zürich, during what we now call the Protestant Reformation. The novel is set between June 1524 and June 1532, during intense religious upheaval and political power struggles. The story revolves around the emergence of the Swiss Evangelical Church (Zwingli’s church) and the rise of Anabaptism (rebaptizers). Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the dramatic changes.The story draws on historical fact, but it is fiction. It includes the historical figures of Huldrych Zwingli, Leo Jud, Felix Manz and Pilgram Marpeck.

The overall plot is driven by historical events and, as each brother has a unique relationship to those events, each brother has his own story. In this way, the plot is character driven. The individual “plots” of each life intersect the “plots” of the lives of other family members, beginning in the first chapter in which the question of infant baptism nearly starts a family fight.

The story opens with the birth and death of Rudolf. Nineteen year old Andreas is the only family member home when Rudolf is born. Andreas does not believe in infant baptism, so he does not baptize the his little brother. Rudolf’s death is followed soon after by the death of Verena, the mother of all the Schneebeli boys. Hannes, the second son (in his late twenties), a Cistercian monk, arrives in time to give Last Rites to Verena so she dies in a state of grace. Infant Rudolf’s lack of baptism brings the central question of the story to a head immediately as Rudolf cannot be buried with his mother in sanctified ground. The novel climaxes seven years later at the Second War of Kappel which took place on October 11, 1531. It was a short deadly battle between Zürich’s army of 2000 men (800 troops were lost; the rest ran away) and the forces of the Inner (Catholic) cantons aided by their Habsburg allies totaling 7000 troops. The battle is also the climax of historical events in the Zürich Reformation as the leader, Huldrych Zwingli, was killed on that day. After the war, life returns more or less to normal for the surviving brothers all of whom seem likely to live happily ever after.

Themes in the novel include family relationships, romantic love, faith and despair. Two hundred years after the events in my novel, many thousands of immigrants did come to America from Switzerland and the upper Rhine region, looking for safety and freedom they had not been able to find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were so adamant about separating the church from the state.

The novel is 65,000 words.

6 thoughts on “Scheebelis One-Page Synopsis — Are You Curious?

  1. Well, you asked… I was viewing this as the inside book cover flap info that makes me see if I’m interested. As such, I have a very short attention span. My main comment is not what you said, or how you said it, just that there was too much. I don’t want to feel like I’m reading a history lesson, I want the fiction (which could just be me). Very quickly I did an edit of this, to show you where I might do the weeding. I do not consider it to be an end-all, be-all final edit, just a suggestion as to what might happen. YMMV. Depending on its use, it could even stop at the end of the 3rd paragraph. This clocks at 399 words:

    THE SCHNEEBELI BROTHERS GO TO CHURCH tells about the experiences of the six Schneebeli brothers from a village in Canton Zürich, during what we now call the Protestant Reformation between June 1524 and June 1532. This was a time of intense religious upheaval and political power struggles. The story revolves around the emergence of the Swiss Evangelical Church (Zwingli’s church) and the rise of Anabaptism (rebaptizers). Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the dramatic changes.

    This historical fiction opens with the birth and death of Rudolf. Nineteen year old Andreas is the only family member home when Rudolf is born. Andreas does not believe in infant baptism, so he does not baptize his little brother. Rudolf’s death is followed soon after by the death of Verena, the mother of all the Schneebeli boys. Hannes, the second son (in his late twenties), a Cistercian monk, arrives in time to give Last Rites to Verena so she dies in a state of grace. Infant Rudolf’s lack of baptism brings the central question of the story to a head immediately as Rudolf cannot be buried with his mother in sanctified ground.

    The novel climaxes at the Second War of Kappel which took place on October 11, 1531. The battle is also the climax of historical events in the Zürich Reformation as the leader, Huldrych Zwingli, was killed on that day. After the war, life returns more or less to normal for the survivors.

    The overall plot is driven by historical events and, as each brother has a somewhat different relationship to those events, each brother has his own story. All the brothers are central to the story. It is a story about them and their relationships to each other. The individual “plots” of each life intersect the “plots” of the lives of other family members, beginning in the first chapter in which the question of infant baptism nearly starts a family fight.

    Themes in the novel include family relationships, romantic love, faith and despair. Two hundred years after the events in my novel, many thousands of immigrants did come to America from Switzerland and the upper Rhine region, looking for safety and freedom they had not been able to find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were so adamant about separating the church from the state.

  2. Martha, I’m no writer and don’t feel qualified to give feedback – this is just a basic reaction I have to the above. I don’t know if your title is written in stone yet, but the more modern tone of the title doesn’t seem to reflect what sounds to be the nature of the story to me. It feels like a disconnect for some reason. I’d be more interested to explore further if it had a more general title like “Hallowed Ground” or maybe something related to transition or maybe the name of some simple feature of the Protestant Church. Maybe it’s just the name “Schneebeli” that seems hard to relate to, I don’t know.

    Also, I have the same reaction to a story said to be about 6 brothers that I have to Westerns – for some reason I need a female character to attach to in some way to want to read…..just because as a female I have a hard time relating to an all-male cast (the book probably has great female characters, I just don’t get a sense of it without any specific mention, that’s all).

    I’d make the historical events and place-names less prominent in the synopsis and focus more on the brothers’ differing beliefs and internal struggles. I like the explanation of the beginning related to the Andreas’ decision not to baptise the infant, the mother’s death and the Cistercian brother’s visit and am interested to read the book to find out more about how that part of the story fleshes out. It sounds like a dynamic, encompassing and interesting story and I can’t imagine how one weaves all that together. I wish I had 1/100th of your talent and expertise, Martha!

    • Thanks, Beth! I don’t have a title for the book yet. I’m open for suggestions. The book has female characters, but probably none to relate to, I’m afraid. The brothers have wives but they aren’t prominent characters in the story. The longer synopsis has more of the information you’re looking for — these things are a bitch to write, honestly. That’s why I’m so grateful for suggestions. I really appreciate your comments!

  3. Sorry, I’m hopeless, I can’t resist playing with things even though there is no way in the world I could write a book of this magnitude, complexity or depth. I take my hat off to you.

    Like Laura, my feeling was that for a synopsis, it’s fairly intense. Too much information for the average thicko like me to absorb from the inside flap. So I too had a go at simplifying it, very rough, just an idea.

    THE SCHNEEBELI BROTHERS GO TO CHURCH is set in Switzerland between 1524 and 1532, during what is now known as the Protestant Reformation. While the story itself is fiction, it draws on historical fact and includes the historical figures of Huldrych Zwingli, Leo Jud, Felix Manz and Pilgram Marpeck.

    For each of the six Schneebeli brothers – Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas – these changes are dramatic. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the intense religious upheaval and political power struggles, the emergence of the Swiss Evangelical Church (Zwingli’s church) and the rise of Anabaptism (rebaptizers), and as each brother has a unique relationship to those events, each has his own story. Inevitably, as the family interacts, beliefs and convictions come into conflict.

    The opening scene of the story brings its central question into focus immediately. It opens with the birth and death of a seventh brother, Rudolf. Nineteen year old Andreas, the only family member at home when Rudolf is born, does not believe in infant baptism, and does not baptize his little brother. Rudolf’s death is followed soon after by the death of the boys’ mother, Verena, who dies in a state of grace after Hannes, the second son, a Cistercian monk in his late twenties, arrives in time to give her the Last Rites. Infant Rudolf’s lack of baptism means Rudolf cannot be buried with his mother in sanctified ground. The clash of beliefs has begun.

    The novel climaxes seven years later at the Second War of Kappel which took place on October 11, 1531. The battle is also the climax of historical events in the Zürich Reformation as the leader, Huldrych Zwingli, was killed on that day. After the war, life returns more or less to normal for the surviving brothers all of whom seem likely to live happily ever after.

    Themes in the novel include family relationships, romantic love, faith and despair. Two hundred years after the events in my novel, many thousands of immigrants did come to America from Switzerland and the upper Rhine region, looking for safety and freedom they had not been able to find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were so adamant about separating the church from the state.

    The novel is 65,000 words.

    I also agree with Beth about the title. It reminds me of modern titles I can’t think of offhand, but I know they’re ****go to ****

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