Siren: NA Romance

Siren

Intended Audience: New Adult (18-30 years)
Genre: Romance
Length: 80-90k words

Logline: Ashlyn Holland, a mute woman haunted by the tragic loss of her father, learns that sometimes she must let people close in order to heal the wounds of her heart and move forward.

Summary

Since losing her father to a violent storm, Ashlyn’s struggled with the emotional pain it caused. Finding comfort in her silence, she withdraws from people to protect her heart.

When Ashlyn meets Derek, their newest fisherman, he doesn’t withdraw as she expects. Guided by the secrets he keeps, Derek refuses to be pushed away, and Ashlyn can’t help being curious why this gentle guy with the warm smile cares.

Pushing people away had always been easy, but when Abel, the closest thing she has to a father, suffers a heart attack, Ashlyn’s walls shatter. There amongst the broken mess, Derek finds her and provides the comfort she desperately needs. Exposed and no longer capable of shutting him out, Ashlyn’s resistance weakens. Derek continues to push back against every wall she builds, something he failed to do when his friend needed him most. Motivated by his need for redemption from his guilt, Derek remains patient, and it doesn’t take long to see a breakthrough.

When he says ‘I love you’ her fear returns, drowning her hearts whispers. Just as Ashlyn manages this fear, a ghost from Derek’s past arrives projecting their guilt, and Derek re-acknowledges his guilt and transfers it into trying to fix Ashlyn. Secret appointments and betrayals amount before the truth comes out, and both are forced to acknowledge what holds them back.

Having always struggled to get past all the hurt and grief of losing her father, it takes Derek pushing her to see a specialist for Ashlyn to acknowledge these feelings and accept that the only way to move forward is to finally let go. Ashlyn realizes her grief affects more than just her, and she doesn’t want to be held back anymore. She wants the joy and hope that Derek’s love has given her. So she resumes her therapy, finds healthier methods for processing her grief, and with some help from her family, she finally accepts what happened and looks ahead.

After twenty years, Ashlyn feels a weight lifted, and the only person she wants to celebrate with is Derek. But then Derek says he must leave to face his own demons. Her doubts return watching him go, not knowing when, or if, he’ll be back. Two weeks pass as Ashlyn anxiously awaits his return while preparing for the approaching storm.

When the storm arrives, Ashlyn’s relief over Derek’s safety is short-lived when she learns he had returned early that morning and is out amidst the storm. Watching their fishing boat try to port safely, Ashlyn is confident of only one thing; she won’t lose Derek.

Braving the turbulent waves, Ashlyn steals a boat and rows out to help, desperately trying to find her voice. A large wave flips her boat before she makes it and Ashlyn is thrown into the ocean. Several men, Derek included, witness this and jump in to help. Help arrives shortly after.

Once safely back on land, Ashlyn speaks for the first time, telling him she loves him.

Major Plotlines:

  • Ashlyn’s journey as she moves towards finding closure in what happened to her father and acknowledging that she has allowed her grieving to control her life ever since, closing her off from the people who love and care for her.

  • Derek’s search for redemption after he failed to be there for his best friend through his illness. Derek regrets not fighting harder to be there for his friend when he needed him most and starts to believe the only way to be freed from his guilt is to ‘save’ someone else, which reflects in how hard he pushes Ashlyn at times. Through the story, we experience his journey towards realizing his need for self-forgiveness.

  • Ashlyn’s exploration of the friendship that grows between her and Derek, and the eventual realization she has that she loves him.

Other Notes:

  • Ashlyn has psychogenic mutism, initially bought on by the trauma of witnessing her fathers fishing boat go up in flames. With time she found comfort in not speaking with people and the extra distance it created between her and others, that she chose to continue not speaking into her adulthood.

  • Ashlyn’s journey through her grief, and similarly Derek’s understanding of his guilt and search for redemption, factor heavily in this story. I also seek to highlight the importance of a loving and supportive community and how it can impact a person on their journey.

  • This story is currently a work in progress. I have begun writing this and am a third of the way into the planned plot.

8 Likes

I think you can get away with removing “it caused” from the first sentence since the opening phrase makes the cause clear enough. I’d personally reverse the phrases in the second sentence so it ends with “finding comfort in her silence,” since the silence is probably what you want to emphasize (especially given the ending and the name of the book).

In the first sentence of this second paragraph, you may want to choose a different way to describe how Ashlyn expects Derek to react to her — especially since the same verb is used in the previous sentence. Somebody usually “withdraws” from something that causes repulsion, pain, or fear, while I’d assume that somebody reacting negatively to another person’s mutism would come from a place of discomfort, which doesn’t quite match up. I think the way you worded it in the next sentence, “refuses to be pushed away,” fits better.

Also, I’m not clear on how “the secrets [Derek] keeps” are informing his actions, so as it is, that phrase isn’t giving me much useful information.

In can be inferred from the first paragraph, but this part of the summary might be enhanced by a nod towards what Ashlyn stands to lose if she lets somebody in (and therefore what’s motivating her to keep pushing this guy away). It’ll also emphasize the consequences of what happens with Abel in the next sentence.

“There amongst the broken mess” isn’t a bad description, but I think we’re already getting that image from “Ashlyn’s walls shatter,” and the sentence makes as much sense without that phrase. Same goes for “Ashlyn’s resistance weakens,” which is better illustrated by “exposed and no longer capable of shutting him out.”

These sentences feel artful but vague. Essentially, this section seems to exist in order to inform the reader that Ashlyn and Derek’s relationship progresses, which can be inferred from the next paragraph. I’d suggest either cutting these sentences out altogether or replacing them with a specific moment that brings them closer.

The important information in the first sentence seems to be that Derek says “I love you,” causing Ashlyn to have a strong negative reaction. Technically, “when he says ‘I love you’” is an introductory phrase, and so should have a comma after “you,” and there should be a possessive apostrophe in “hearts.” However, “drowning her heart’s whispers” feels vague, as does “projecting their guilt, and Derek re-acknowledges his guilt and transfers it into trying to fix Ashlyn” (especially since it’s not said what Derek’s guilt stems from). Since the third sentence seems to be summing up the first two sentences, I think you can condense this entire paragraph.

If I’m interpreting this paragraph correctly, something reminds Derek of past guilt, which causes him to overcompensate by clinging tighter to Ashlyn, which makes her feel suffocated and pushes her away. This seems like an important conflict in their relationship, so definitely find a way to include it.

Basically:
Derek pushes Ashlyn to resume therapy to get over her father’s death. As a result of her character development, this time she’s ready, and it works.

It’s unclear whether it’s been twenty years since her dad died, or a twenty year time jump in the story. I’m going to guess it’s the former. To avoid confusion, I’d suggest removing this phrase. I’m also unclear whether “the approaching storm” is literal since it’s a commonly-used metaphor. To clear that up, maybe be more specific with the type of storm (hurricane? tropical storm? blizzard?).

Ashlyn’s next action is driven because she’s not confident that she won’t lose Derek, so maybe rephrase that second sentence to emphasize the tension.

“Rows out to help” and “brav[es] the turbulent waves” describe the same action. Since the latter is stronger, I’d suggest going with that option. “Desperately trying to find her voice” is a nice callback to Ashlyn’s mutism.

Awesome way to tie it up.

You can easily cut down on word count by replacing artful language with more utilitarian phrasing. The core relationship progression seems solid. With those extra words, I think this summary could benefit from a greater indication of Ashlyn’s character and her goals/motivations outside of her future with Derek. Overall, it sounds like a cute, emotional story with a well-structured plot that doesn’t sound too contrived and has the right amount of conflict.

2 Likes

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I really appreciate the time that you have given to read through this pitch and leave such constructive and insightful feedback. Everything that you have said and the suggestions you have made make sense. It helps to clarify some of the errors that I now see could have been stronger and better explained, and I am looking forward to working on these changes in the next couple of days. Thank you (:

2 Likes

The second half of the story doesn’t really need to exist for the first half to make sense/have closure. If anything, it opens up a little more confusion.

A cute fishing village romance is fine, having mutism caused by trauma and pushing people away in response makes sense, as does the original motivation of Derek in wanting to make up for guilt of prior issues by helping a new person. Both characters have something to learn in each other (pushing away versus pulling in).

But then it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. They get close enough to talk love, which makes her shy all over again (fine) and someone from his past shows up and projects guilt? How? Who is this person? What are the secrets? What spills out? This is the critical moment, the bottom of act two where all things are now at their lowest point and instead it is lacking in specific detail.

Then, somehow, she goes to therapy and just gets better? But then it goes on, she still doesn’t talk, and he has this random outing twenty years later, which doesn’t align with the momentum of the plot at all. If she’s finally gotten over her issues and starting to come around, why does he just not for an extra twenty years? And then having him also go out to see feels pretty forced and arbitrary, just existing so that she can basically re-experience her past trauma (which she supposedly already got over in therapy the healthy way).

You have two characters coming together through their mental states (push/pull) and past traumas. They then do something which separates them and then they overcome it and get better. That’s a perfectly reasonable story. It has a climax built right in. It does not need this bigger, second climax showing up later to really test them, especially at the expense of glossing over the critical moment earlier.

2 Likes