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I recently had a literary agent ask for a synopsis of my latest novel, Code Name: Fountain of Youth. I shuttered! This is not an easy task. For starters, my manuscript contains 389 pages. How in the heck can I summarize this puppy into one or two pages?

The first thing I did was look up the definition. It read: A synopsis conveys the narrative arc...an explanation of the problem or plot...the characters...how the book ends and who changes from the beginning to the end of the story. It should include the characters feelings and emotions!

Start with a strong paragraph identifying your protagonist problems, conflict and setting.

Next, convey major plot turns or conflict necessary and any characters necessary to make sense.

Finally, indicate how major conflicts are resolved in the last paragraph.

Easy, peasy right?

So, here's what I'm thinking...I'll show you mine if you show me yours. Perhaps we can help each other out. What do you think?

Bob Jordan

Clanci's Novels

Tags: Synopsis, a, synopsis, writing

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First thing -- I think you shuddered, not shuttered. (I know; I get like this sometimes.) Synopses are difficult, and I don't like writing them. That said, if you gotta, you gotta. Here's one way to go. Write a one- or two-sentence description of every chapter of your novel; what happens therein, in other words. When you're done, you'll have a bare-bones outline of the book. It may even be the required two pages in length. That's the synopsis.

For example, here's my synopsis for my horror novel Jersey Ghouls. The book is a tad under 90,000 words long, 349 manuscript pages. The synopsis is about 1100 words. (I also have synopses that are 200 and 500 words in length.)


Germaine St. John, scouting movie locations in Colombia, is bitten by an unknown species of giant centipede that lays eggs in her. Later, back home in the riverside community of Sherwood’s Landing, NJ, the eggs hatch and she is eaten alive from the inside.

Former cop Lafferty “Hoff” Hoffman, now on disability, is contacted by his friend, patrolman Link Cheyne, after Germaine’s body is discovered. Hoff volunteers to notify Germaine’s sister Beatrice, a former girlfriend of his now living in Boston.

Beatrice arrives in town to wrap up Germaine’s affairs. She renews her friendship with Hoff. Beatrice also sees other acquaintances. Among them is Kip Augustine, who was a promising musician before losing an arm in the first Gulf War. Now he is a recluse on his family farm.

Beatrice visits an old friend, Tessa Haggerty, whose daughter Jessa is gravely ill and troubled by strange dreams Beatrice’s other sister, Anita, an IRS agent, arrives in town.

On the day of Germaine’s funeral two young campers, transformed into flesh-eating ghouls due to an infection carried by the centipedes, attack Link Cheyne’s house, killing his wife. Link arrives home too late to prevent this tragedy and is likewise attacked, but flees. Elsewhere, journalist Mason Protheroe is infected by the ‘pedes, and passes out from their venomous bites.

Beatrice finds Germaine’s journal and begins to get a glimmer about what is happening. Kip Augustine is attacked by ‘pedes and becomes delusional. A rainstorm moves into the area. Rockslides and flooding effectively cut Sherwood’s Landing off from the outside world while the storm worsens.

Anita St. John offers her services – and marksmanship – to the local police. Soon people realize they are trapped in town: hastily erected barriers block roads at strategic points.

Mason Protheroe awakens to discover that he has apparently killed and devoured his girlfriend. Beatrice and Hoff succumb to their mutual attraction and make love.

Other ghouls lead Mason to Kip Augustine’s farm: the nexus of the centipede “colony” growing in Sherwood’s Landing. Mason now realizes that he is partly immune to the ‘pedes’ enthralling venom: he can maintain his free will as long as he doesn’t get too close to the main nest, which functions as a group mind. Fleeing the farm he encounters Hoff, who is on patrol. Mason confesses his attack on his girlfriend. Hoff doesn’t really believe him, but the evidence at Mason’s house seems clear. Mason explains that Augustine’s farm is the central point. He and Hoff approach the farm but as they do Mason falls under the insects’ spell. He manages to wrest free. Together they head for the home of Curley Wasselton, a survivalist who, Hoff says, has weapons and maintains his home like a fortress.

Hoff and Curley go to fetch Anita and Beatrice from Hoff’s home while Mason heads to Kip Augustine’s farm to reconnoiter. Anita and Curley assist in rescuing townsfolk stranded by the rising river. Hoff assures Beatrice that he can get her out of town – she can ride with Mason on his motorcycle, which will be able to get around the roadblocks. He gives her a gun with which to protect herself, and leaves to pitch in with rescue operations.

Kip now knows that the ‘pedes intend to spread out and subjugate the entire region. To do this, the ever-more-intelligent group mind knows that it needs to co-opt people of authority. One of these is the head of local law enforcement, Sheriff John Collazo, who is tasked with infecting some of the more influential town residents, with Kip’s help.

Mason, spying at the farm, sees Collazo and Kip leave the farm together, but is prevented from following by a band of thralls. Collazo and Kip go to Hoff’s house, where they kidnap Beatrice, leaving a note reading AUGUSTINE FARM. Meanwhile, Anita and Curley are ambushed by thralls and taken captive.

Beatrice manages to escape from Collazo and Kip into the woods. Mason finds Curley and Anita and assists them. Anita and Curley continue to the farm, where they too are captured. Meanwhile Mason goes to alert Hoff, who sets off to find Beatrice.

Young Jessa Hagerty, sensing that someone is in trouble, thinks it’s her father; so she goes looking for him. Instead, she finds her brother, so leads her to safety.

Jessa’s mother Terry is attacked by the teens who were infected during their camping trip. She kills one, though the other flees. Hoff decides to get as many uninfected people as possible to Curley’s fortress-like home. But they are being watched by Sheriff Colazzo and other thralls.

Anita manages to partly free herself just as two thralls enter the barn where she and Curley are shackled, intending to devour them. Anita wins free but Curley is killed. Hoff brings the first load of refugees to Curley’s fortress/home. When he tries to bring more people there, he finds it beleaguered by ghouls. Terry attacks the ghouls anyway. This distraction allows Hoff to enter the compound, but Terry is killed.

Hoff goes back to town for more refugees. Beatrice tells Jessa and Greg that their mother is dead. More ghouls attack but Anita, who has arrived at the compound, drives them away with gunfire. Beatrice is bitten by a centipede, and doses herself with antibiotics to ward off the infection. Jessa Haggerty proves her mental powers to the sisters. In their rage they have created their own “group mind,” empowered by Jessa, and intend to kill the ‘pedes with it. They set out to find Hoff and enlist his aid.

At the emergency HQ in town, others agree to join a frontal assault on the Augustine farm. A helicopter lands nearby and Kip, who piloted choppers in Iraq, investigates. One of the people aboard is a semi-thrall, like Kip and Mason. She is “fighting for humanity.” Kip rejects this, bests her in a fight and kills the chopper pilot. The ‘pede group mind, sensing his wavering will, attacks him – but this changes his mind. He is now anti-‘pede. He takes off in the chopper. While the ‘pedes and their thralls are focused on the helicopter, Hoff and the others launch their assault on the farm.

Kip crashes the chopper into his barn. The ‘pedes are now seriously weakened – but not yet vanquished.

Jessa lands the final blow by carrying a grenade into the ‘pede nest. She detonates it, destroying the ‘pedes and herself. Meanwhile, Mason gives in to his base urges and kills Anita. He flees into the woods.

Some weeks later, the mess is cleaned up and the town has returned to a semblance of normality. Howe and Beatrice become a couple. Not far away, Mason Protheroe is hibernating in an underground den in the forest, undergoing changes...


But all this may be academic, because you've already got some answers, and this post is 3 months old. :-)




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