Sunday, November 27, 2011

Requesting your opinion

This is one version of the synopsis I wrote for my first mystery/suspense novel, Mixed Messages. Of course, I had to omit the last two paragraphs which reveal the ending. (I’d like you to read my novel when it’s published.) Please read the following and tell me what you think.
ANN KERN is so caught up in her family’s  problems that, at first, she pays little attention to the news reports that a killer is strangling women in her neighborhood.
Ann loves the old Victorian in upper Westwood where she, her husband, DAVID, and their two children, DANIELLE and DAVEY, live in the first floor apartment. Their landlady, OLIVIA BERGER, an elderly woman confined to a wheelchair who believes in the supernatural, and her son, LAWRENCE, who is infatuated with Ann, live in the upstairs apartment.
Ann’s primary concern is her marriage. David is drinking heavily, gambling and staying out all night. His behavior toward her is becoming more and more erratic; one minute, he’s the kind, loving man she married and, the next minute, he’s cold and cruel.
When her meddlesome mother-in-law, LOUISE KERN, the cleaning woman and organist at their church, recommends Ann for the position as church secretary to FATHER ANDREW, she accepts the job, hoping if she contributes financially to her marriage, it will lessen the pressure on David and he won’t “need” to drink so much. (Ann doesn’t know that her father was responsible for the car crash over twenty years ago, which killed both of Ann’s parents and four other young women, one of whom was the priest’s sister.)
Ann tells Father Andrew about David’s drinking and the problems in their marriage, intimating that she might have to leave her husband. Instead of consoling her as she expected, the priest points a finger at her and shouts, “Divorce is not an option!” He refers her to DR. SUSAN THATCHER for counseling. At her first session, Ann tells the psychologist, “I feel like I’m living in a world of mixed messages.”
Olivia’s psychic, TINA BUTREAUX, a charlatan with her own agenda, warns Ann that she is in danger but Ann dismisses the warning. However, when she receives several ominous biblical quotes, instead of the usual love poems from Lawrence, and a series of strange and frightening events take place, including her discovery of a handmade tombstone with her name on it in the cemetery adjacent to the church, she is terrified that she will be the Westwood Strangler’s next victim.
Did this make you want to read the book? If not, why?


  1. It looks good to me, Patricia. Quite intriguing, and although it's a complex plot you've laid it out clearly. The only thing I recommend changing is that piece of back story in parentheses. It seems tacked on. I expect this info is vital to the plot, but the synopsis seems stronger without it. Good work!

  2. A little complicated - I had to read it a couple of times to figure out who all the characters are and to understand their relationship to Ann. I also think the sentence in parens should be dropped. Having said that, I think it has the makings of a really good story!

  3. John and Jim,
    Thanks for your comments.
    I see that you're both in agreement; the sentence in parentheses is a problem.
    You're right, John, it is vital to the plot so I'll have to figure out another way to include it.
    I agree with you, Jim, in that it does seem a little complicated. All of the characters listed are crucial to the book and, with a synopsis, as you know, you have only a limited number of words to describe the book. I'll have to see if I can simplify it somehow.

  4. Good synopsis, complicated, but well written. Also I agree I would remove the sentene in parentheses too, but find a way to include it. It sounds dark, definetly not a cozy. I enjoy reading both, but tend to write dark too. More grounded in life's reality.

  5. Thank you, Kat! I definitely have some reworking to do on this synopsis but I'm beginning to get a better sense now of what needs to be done.

  6. It sounds involved, but that's okay when you have a whole book to tell the story. I thought you laid out the hypothesis quite well. I agree about removing the part in the parenthesis. It kind of slowed things down. Hope that helps.

  7. I thought you laid things out well. I think we're all in agreement about the bit in parenthesis.

  8. Marja and JR,
    I appreciate your comments.
    Since the purpose of a synopsis is to entice an editor to want to read the whole novel, my next question is: after reading this synopsis (I know I need to make some changes), would you like to read the book?

  9. I like it. I'm excited to read your novel. Totally hooked!

  10. That makes me happy, John. Thank you! Now, if I can just find a publisher!

  11. Hi Patricia,

    Synopses are agonizing to write. It's easy to get caught between the twin evils of giving it all away, and rambling.

    You have a lot of characters here and a lot of backstory central to the synopsis. The psychic also kind of appears out of nowhere. That being said, the plot is cool, the pre-made tombstone is fantastic!

    I'd read!


  12. William,
    Actually Lesley Diehl sent me an email saying basically the same thing. I appreciate the input from you both. I'm definitely going to be doing some major rewrite on the synopsis and taking everyone's suggestions into consideration.
    Thank you!

  13. Everybody seems to be in agreement about “the sentence.” At least thus far. But, as several mentioned, the synopsis is a little difficult to follow. So, I’d suggest leaving out a few names. For instance, her two children do not need names in the synopsis. Neither do we need the name of the councilor, Dr. Thatcher. I’d even leave out the interaction with the councilor and Ann’s comment. It does nothing to enhance the synopsis. It’s enough to say the priest sent her to a councilor.

    You have a good and involved plot. But it does not all have to come out in the synopsis. And leaving out the things I’ve mentioned take nothing away from the synopsis.

    Of course, these are my opinions. Use what makes sense and ignore the rest.

  14. James,
    Thank you for your suggestions. Marja and Lesley are in agreement with you that I have too many names in the synopsis. Believe me, in the next version, they'll be deleted.
    I'm grateful to you and the other Posse members for giving me such honest feedback. I know that my new synopsis will be a lot better, thanks to all of you.

  15. Hi Pat,

    I'm definitely sold on the book. I, too, have questions about synopses. My understanding is that the editors do want those last two paragraphs that you held out on sharing-but it's obvious why you would do so here. Also, if this is a query-wouldn't it be more like a pitch to begin with and then the more detailed synopsis? I've had synopses with pages or full ms requested after the initial query-pitch. I agree that this one has too many names. Great job. We must chat! Best to you!

  16. Patricia, the premise of your book I understood. Synopsis can be difficult, but I think you will have a handle on it. I'm hooked. Thank you for sharing with the Posse augie

  17. Theresa,
    I do have a separate query letter and, of course, editors usually ask for some sample chapters of the novel. Each editor has different requirements.
    You're right. I do feel that I have a handle on writing my synopsis now.
    Thanks to both of you for your comments.

  18. It does. Though I'm a sucker for stories with a killer on the loose or a dash (just a dash) of the supernatural. Queries and synopsis(sp?) are, in some ways, so much harder to write than the actual book. How do you take your baby and compress it down to a single page, or a couple of paragraphs, or even a log line? You're definitely on the right track though - I'd read it.

  19. Bill,
    I think we're "on the same page" (sorry, I couldn't resist) because I only have a "dash" of the supernatural in "Mixed Messages."