Synopsis help - revision2

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casnow
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Synopsis help - revision2

Post by casnow » February 26th, 2010, 7:50 am

Hello All! Several of the agents I'm querying have requested a "brief" synopsis (whatever that means), so I'm trying to cut this baby down to size. So far I've cut it down from 10 pages to 5 (and from 5 to 3 on attempt 2, and now down to 2 pages). The comments so far have really helped. I've cut out many of the details and stripped it down to the basic plot elements (I think) and have changed it to all present tense. I think I'm close.

Here is the THIRD attempt:

When wealthy businessman Don Williams is forced into a nursing home, he loses the will to live. Don hates the nursing home and desperately wants to return home. If not for the companionship offered by nursing assistant Marsha Dent, he wouldn’t have had the will to continue. Marsha wants a better life for her two sons, and prays for help. When Don returns home against doctor’s orders, and asks her to move in to be his full-time caregiver she thinks her prayers are answered.

Don’s sons, Robert and David, quickly realize they have more to worry about than their father’s health – after Marsha moves in she turns Don against them, and begins spending his money at an alarming rate. She makes it clear that she wants more, intends to get it by marrying Don, and cons him into a romantic relationship. Robert and David know something has to be done, but are unable to convince their father to throw her out before he secretly marries her.
Robert, CEO of the family business, needs to raise new capital, but can only do so by diluting the family stake to 51%. He approaches Don about the decision, and Don uses the opportunity to secretly sell a portion of his stake in the company to fund his new wife’s lifestyle. Don can’t face his son after what he’s done, and resigns as chairman.

When David’s campaign for the US Senate fizzles after his father sabotages him by giving an inflammatory interview, he turns to the family business, hoping to replace his father as chairman. However, he is out-voted when he discovers Don has sold part of his stake in the company. David continues to campaign out of pride, and wins the election when his opponent is charged with child molestation.

Jason Dent, Marsha’s son, would have rather been poor than have his mother be with Don – it disgusts him. To lash out at the Williams family he violently rapes Robert’s young daughter. When Don finds out what happened to his granddaughter he has a heart attack and dies. Jason goes to prison for his crime.

Don changed his will to leave Marsha his money and his sons the family business. However, Don owes million in back taxes, leaving Marsha with nothing until she reveals she is pregnant with Don’s baby and claims a stake in the business.

Robert is consumed with rage after the rape of his daughter and refuses to let Marsha claim a stake in the business. He contacts a mafia boss his company laundered money for, and arranges to have Marsha killed. Marsha survives, but one of her sons dies. Undeterred, Robert tries to kill Marsha a second time, but is arrested seconds before he could pull the trigger.

After Robert is sent to prison, one of the men that attempted to kill Marsha is arrested and points a finger at Robert, adding years to his prison sentence. While in prison Robert overhears a boy bragging about “raping some bitch”, and realizes it’s Jason. He ambushes Jason, and stabs him to death in the prison yard. Facing a long prison sentence Robert makes a deal to open up the company’s books and testify against the mafia in exchange for immunity and a place in the witness protection program – he walks away a free man.

Marsha had lost everything; both sons were dead and the money was gone. The only lasting thing Don left her were mentally handicapped twins she delivered after his death. Once again Marsha is drowning in debt and misery and praying for a way out. She runs herself a bath, gets in with her two babies, and overdoses on sleeping pills – the last sound she hears is the faint gurgling sound made by her drowning infants.
Last edited by casnow on March 1st, 2010, 12:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Synopsis help needed

Post by Holly » February 26th, 2010, 8:57 am

Don Williams, founder and chairman of Williams Construction, was stripped of his vitality when a sudden illness nearly killed him. The doctors managed to save his life, but the illness forced him into a nursing home. Don hated the nursing home and desperately wanted to return home. The only thing Don didn’t hate about the nursing home was Marsha Dent. Marsha brought his meals and would sit and listen to his stories for hours. She was the only constant during his time there, and without her companionship he wouldn’t have had the will to go on.

When wealthy businessman Don Williams has to go to a nursing home, he meets Marsha Dent. She gives him meals, companionship, and the will to go on.

You could probably say that in a better way, but it gives you the idea. Present tense, just the basics. You don't need to include all the details. The synopsis is supposed to be a stripped down skeleton of the plot highlights. If you can do it, write several versions -- a one page, two page, and a longer one.
Last edited by Holly on February 26th, 2010, 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Synopsis help needed

Post by Holly » February 26th, 2010, 9:35 am

Marsha wanted a better life. She wanted her sons to have nicer things, her mentally handicapped son to be in a school that catered to his needs, and to sleep at night without worrying about money. No matter how much overtime she seemed to get at the nursing home the bills kept piling higher. Marsha prayed for a way out, and when Don asked her to move in to be his full-time caregiver she thought her prayers were answered.

Don’s sons, Robert and David, were worried when their father decided to return home against his doctor’s orders. However, they quickly realized they had more to worry about than his health – Marsha weaseled her way into Don’s life, turned their father against them, and spent his money at an alarming rate. They knew Marsha was lying to their father, and hadn’t told him that she had two kids before she moved in. When she made it clear that she wanted more, and intended to get it by marrying their father, Robert and David knew something had to be done.

Robert and David argued for their father to get rid of Marsha. They confronted him about her stealing, the money he was spending on her, and the lies she was feeding him. However, Don turned them away, told them to mind their own business, and accused them of only caring about money. Even when Marsha’s son started a fight with one of Robert’s children, Don turned his back on his sons’ pleas to get rid of her.

Don hires Marsha as his caregiver and returns home against doctor’s orders. His sons Robert and David realize Marsha has turned their father against them and is burning through his money. Marsha didn’t tell Don she has two kids. When she makes it clear that she wants more in life and intends to get it by marrying Don, Robert and David confront their father. Don tells them to mind their own business and accuses them of only caring about money.

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Re: Synopsis help needed

Post by Holly » February 26th, 2010, 10:32 am

As CEO, Robert wanted to make his mark on the company by growing and expanding it into new fields – the only way he could do this was to raise new capital and dilute the family stake to 51%. However, that required a vote by the board, and Robert didn’t want to risk exposing the full extent of his father’s health problems to their investors.

Unfortunately, Robert’s only options were to either hold the meeting or force a vote of no confidence to remove his father.

Robert, CEO of the family business, faces an investor meeting that will expose the full extent of his father’s problems.


Marsha continued to pull Don closer to her and catered to his every need. However, she knew it would take more to get what she really wanted from him. She began to secretly slip Viagra in with his daily medications, and used it to show him that he was capable of loving her. She took him as a lover and convinced him that she loved him. When Don confessed his love, and asked her to marry him, Marsha thought she would have everything she ever wanted.

While Robert was planning the expansion of Williams Construction, Don watched his bank account dwindle. Don knew had to do something if he was going to afford the lifestyle that Marsha wanted. When Robert came to him to chair the board meeting to vote on the expansion, Don used the opportunity to secretly sell a portion of his stake in the company at a premium, taking control out of the family.

Meanwhile, Marsha slips Viagra into Don’s medications and takes him as a lover. When Don proposes, Marsha thinks she will have everything she has ever wanted. Don sees his dwindling bank account, wants to keep her lifestyle, and secretly sells his stake in the family business.

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Re: Synopsis help needed

Post by Holly » February 26th, 2010, 10:52 am

Jason Dent, Marsha’s youngest son couldn’t stand to see his mother be with Don. Jason would have rather been poor than to have his mother be a whore. It disgusted him and made him want to hurt something, somebody. When the opportunity came to hurt Don’s granddaughter, he couldn’t resist. He raped and brutally beat Robert’s eleven-year-old daughter, and probably would have killed her if he hadn’t been caught. Jason went to prison for his crime.

When Don found out what happened to his granddaughter his heart gave out, and he died. Don had changed his will to leave Marsha his home and his money. However, Don had exaggerated his wealth, and owed millions in back taxes, which left Marsha with nothing. Don’s will stated that his sons were to split his share in the business, effectively leaving Robert and David everything, until Marsha revealed that she was pregnant with Don’s child, and intended to use that child to claim a stake in the company.

Jason Dent, Marsha’s youngest son, can’t stand to see his mother acting like a whore. Enraged, he rapes Robert’s daughter and goes to prison. Don finds out and dies from a heart attack. His will leaves Marsha his home and money, but he exaggerated his wealth and owes millions in taxes. Robert and David inherit the business. Then Marsha reveals she’s pregnant and intends to use that child to stake a claim in the company.

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Re: Synopsis help needed

Post by Holly » February 26th, 2010, 11:11 am

Robert was consumed with rage and couldn’t stand the thought of Marsha living in his father’s home and taking part of the business he had worked so hard for. Robert reached into his past and contacted a mafia boss that his company had laundered money for early in his career to kill Marsha for him. The mafioso agreed and arranged to have Marsha killed by burning her house down – the attempt failed to kill Marsha, but left one of her sons dead.

Robert contacts a mafia boss with old ties to their company. The mafia burn Marsha's house and kill her older son, but fail to harm her.

Not accustomed to defeat and with nothing to lose, David continued to campaign out of habit and pride, and watched his poll numbers rise. He turned a sure landslide loss into what would likely be a narrow defeat. Then, a week before the election his luck changed and his opponent was accused of child molestation – David was elected to the US Senate.

David wins election to the U.S. Senate.



That's enough. You can say it much better than I can. Just whack it down and leave out all the explanations. Summarize. Your story sounds great! Good luck. I'm heading out now into the latest east coast blizzard to walk my dog and get some coffee.


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Re: Synopsis help needed - revised

Post by Holly » February 26th, 2010, 12:17 pm

When illness forces wealthy businessman Don Williams into a nursing home and renders him unable to care for himself, he loses the will to live.

Just one sentence and then I really have to go -- my dog is getting mad at me!

When you go into a nursing home, you're there because you can't take care of yourself. You don't need to say that Don is unable to care for himself. That's a given. I would also drop the illness. That's another given.

Good luck! It sounds like a great story.

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Re: Synopsis help needed - revised

Post by BlancheKing » February 26th, 2010, 2:37 pm

One thing: after your first paragraph, you shifted into past tense. A synopsis must be in present tense.
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Re: Synopsis help needed - revised

Post by Holly » February 26th, 2010, 5:35 pm

One last comment.

When you write a novel, you know everything about it. You're aware of every emotion, every nuance, every twist. it's really hard to step back from all that mountain of STUFF and look at the skeleton and themes.

You can't reproduce your entire novel in a three page document.

The synopsis gives the agent a bare-bones rundown of the major plot and themes. That's it. You can't include all those emotions and nuances and little twists. You can't include all the explanations.

Here's a good post by agent Nephele Tempest on the one page synopsis:

http://nephele.livejournal.com/99392.html

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Re: Synopsis help - revision2

Post by casnow » March 1st, 2010, 12:29 pm

The synopsis is down to 629 words! Thanks for all the help!

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Re: Synopsis help - revision2

Post by Kniki » March 1st, 2010, 12:45 pm

You missed a couple of verbs that need to be changed to present tense, so I have highlighted them for you:

When wealthy businessman Don Williams is forced into a nursing home, he loses the will to live. Don hates the nursing home and desperately wants to return home. If not for the companionship offered by nursing assistant Marsha Dent, he wouldn’t have the will to continue. Marsha wants a better life for her two sons, and prays for help. When Don returns home against doctor’s orders, and asks her to move in to be his full-time caregiver she thinks her prayers are answered.

Don’s sons, Robert and David, quickly realize they have more to worry about than their father’s health – after Marsha moves in she turns Don against them, and begins spending his money at an alarming rate. She makes it clear that she wants more, intends to get it by marrying Don, and cons him into a romantic relationship. Robert and David know something has to be done, but are unable to convince their father to throw her out before he secretly marries her.
Robert, CEO of the family business, needs to raise new capital, but can only do so by diluting the family stake to 51%. He approaches Don about the decision, and Don uses the opportunity to secretly sell a portion of his stake in the company to fund his new wife’s lifestyle. Don can’t face his son after what he’s done, and resigns as chairman.

When David’s campaign for the US Senate fizzles after his father sabotages him by giving an inflammatory interview, he turns to the family business, hoping to replace his father as chairman. However, he is out-voted when he discovers Don has sold part of his stake in the company. David continues to campaign out of pride, and wins the election when his opponent is charged with child molestation.

Jason Dent, Marsha’s son, would have rather been poor than have his mother be with Don – it disgusts him. To lash out at the Williams family he violently rapes Robert’s young daughter. When Don finds out what happened to his granddaughter he has a heart attack and dies. Jason goes to prison for his crime.

Don changed his will to leave Marsha his money and his sons the family business. However, Don owes million in back taxes, leaving Marsha with nothing until she reveals she is pregnant with Don’s baby and claims a stake in the business.

Robert is consumed with rage after the rape of his daughter and refuses to let Marsha claim a stake in the business. He contacts a mafia boss his company laundered money for, and arranges to have Marsha killed. Marsha survives, but one of her sons dies. Undeterred, Robert tries to kill Marsha a second time, but is arrested seconds before he can pull the trigger.

After Robert is sent to prison, one of the men that attempted to kill Marsha is arrested and points a finger at Robert, adding years to his prison sentence. While in prison Robert overhears a boy bragging about “raping some bitch”, and realizes it’s Jason. He ambushes Jason, and stabs him to death in the prison yard. Facing a long prison sentence Robert makes a deal to open up the company’s books and testify against the mafia in exchange for immunity and a place in the witness protection program – he walks away a free man.

Marsha has lost everything; both sons are dead and the money is gone. The only lasting thing Don has left her are mentally handicapped twins she delivered after his death. Once again Marsha is drowning in debt and misery and praying for a way out. She runs herself a bath, gets in with her two babies, and overdoses on sleeping pills – the last sound she hears is the faint gurgling sound made by her drowning infants.

Also "mentally handicapped" isn't a term that would be used these days. You would be better off saying something like "twins born with learning difficulties" or "born with brain damage", for example.

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Re: Synopsis help - revision2

Post by Holly » March 1st, 2010, 3:55 pm

Hello, this is getting there. Be sure to pay attention to punctuation, too. You're missing a few commas. You also want to use present tense throughout.

You still have a lot of extra words you can cut -- like "violently rapes." Just use rape (all rape is violent). "Consumed with rage" can become "enraged." "Quickly realize" can just be "realize." "Young daughter" can just be daughter. You don't have space for all those extra words.

Think of the synopsis as telling your story in 500 words.

Here is the synopsis in about 500 words. This is rough, though. It has some passive sentences that should be active. It would be good if you had a summary sentence about the novel's themes (human nature, the desire for love, weakness, greed).

Be sure to read the link to Nephele Tempest's post about the one page synopsis (several posts back up in this topic).

I'm not an expert, just having fun, so good luck. I hope this is useful!

#########

EDITED: I got it down to 487 words and tackled some of the passive sentences. It still needs polishing. Good luck!


When illness forces wealthy businessman Don Williams into a nursing home, he meets nursing assistant Marsha Dent. She gives him meals, companionship, and the will to live. Marsha wants a better life for her two sons and prays for help. After Don returns home against doctor’s orders and hires her as his caregiver, she thinks her prayers have been answered.

Don’s sons, Robert and David, realize Marsha has turned their father against them and is spending all his money. She makes it clear that she wants more in life, intends to get it by marrying Don, and cons him into a romantic relationship. Robert and David know something has to be done, but they are unable to convince their father to throw her out before he marries her.

Robert, CEO of the family business, needs to raise new capital, but he can only do so by diluting the family stake. When he approaches his father, Don secretly sells part of his stake to fund his new wife’s lifestyle. Afterwards Don can’t face his son and resigns as chairman.

David’s campaign for the U.S. Senate fizzles after his father sabotages him with an inflammatory interview. He turns to the family business, hoping to replace his father as chairman, but he is out-voted when he discovers Don sold part of his stake. David continues to campaign out of pride and wins when his opponent is charged with child molestation.

Jason Dent, Marsha’s son, is disgusted by his mother’s marriage. Lashing out, he rapes Robert’s daughter and goes to prison. When Don finds out about the rape, he dies of a heart attack.

Don changes his will to leave Marsha his money and his sons the family business. However, Don owes millions in taxes, leaving Marsha nothing until she reveals she is pregnant and claims a stake in the business.

Robert is consumed with rage after his daughter’s rape. He contacts a mafia boss his company laundered money for and arranges for Marsha’s death. Marsha survives, but one of her sons dies. Undeterred, Robert tries to kill Marsha himself, but the police arrest him seconds before he can pull the trigger.
After Robert goes to prison, the police arrest one of the mafia who attempted to kill Marsha. The man fingers Robert and adds years to his prison sentence. Robert overhears a boy bragging about “raping some bitch,” realizes it’s Jason, and stabs him to death. Facing a long sentence, Robert makes a deal to testify against the mafia and walks away a free man.

Marsha has lost everything. Both sons are dead and the money is gone. Handicapped twins are the only lasting remainder from her marriage to Don. Once again, Marsha is overwhelmed with debt and misery and praying for a way out. She runs herself a bath, gets in with her two babies, and overdoses. The last sound she hears is the gurgle of her drowning infants. (note -- you used drowning twice in this para., so I changed one of them to overwhelmed.)

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Re: Synopsis help - revision2

Post by casnow » March 2nd, 2010, 10:57 am

Kniki - thanks for the catch on switching to past tense in the last paragraph... I must have gotten lazy near the end.

Holly - You rock! You seem to be much better at stripping my story raw than I am. I read the post by Nephele, which did help me get it down from about 1500 to the 630-ish mark I was at. What I find is funny is that my novels are skinny and my synopses are fat. I've tried thinking about what a back cover would say, with the ending added on, but I'm terrible at doing that (which is probably why my query letters always take a while).

Anyhow, thanks for all the feedback! It's been very helpful.

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Re: Synopsis help - revision2

Post by Holly » March 2nd, 2010, 11:02 am

casnow wrote:Kniki - thanks for the catch on switching to past tense in the last paragraph... I must have gotten lazy near the end.

Holly - You rock! You seem to be much better at stripping my story raw than I am. I read the post by Nephele, which did help me get it down from about 1500 to the 630-ish mark I was at. What I find is funny is that my novels are skinny and my synopses are fat. I've tried thinking about what a back cover would say, with the ending added on, but I'm terrible at doing that (which is probably why my query letters always take a while).

Anyhow, thanks for all the feedback! It's been very helpful.

Hi, Casnow.

I'm not ready to query my own novel, but I have three synopses, a 1-page, 2-page, and a 4-page, and they're all terrible... because I am stuck in the details.

The synopsis is the hardest thing in the world to write. You're immersed in details when you write a novel. Then you have to switch gears and write a short document about the big picture. It's much easier for somebody else to look at your material and come up with a draft. Good luck getting it into final shape!

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