Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Synopsis 8: Three Broads and a Fraud

You’ll love DOTTY CROWDY, despite the fact her two lifelong friends NORA and WILMA, find her incorrigible, especially when her two hundred and twenty watt light bulb illuminates her mind with ludicrous ideas and doesn’t have an off switch. Her latest illumination is an African camping adventure, which fails to resonate with her friends, but Dotty knows how to sway their mind over a couple of bottles of sherry.

Dotty’s unsuccessful visit to a travel agent prompts her to a visit to the Forest Arms for a conciliatory drink. She meets LUCAS, who hails from an exotic Brazzina (an imaginary but plausible island) off the coast of Africa. He’s a tour operator and well connected, so he tells her. In her excitement, she invites him to dinner to meet her two sceptical friends. Nora’s cautiousness and lack of ambition and Wilma dubiousness peeves her until Lucas seduces their minds with pristine beaches and beautiful mountains.

The three women excitedly chat about their forthcoming holiday over coffee in the local cafe. MAJOR RAYMOND MILESTONE eavesdrops on their conversation. He catches Dotty’s eye, her beguiling smiles offers him an invitation to join them and introduces himself. When he invites her to dinner, her hormones do the tango as she misconstrues this as a romantic tryst. His purpose is to glean surreptitiously, information on their itinerary. He’s not surprised it coincides with his covert military operation to destroy Lucas’s opium on the island. He realises the women will be in danger if left to Lucas’s devises. The onus is on Milestone to provide clandestine protection for the trio. Dotty doesn’t hear from him again and assumes he’s a jerk.

From the outset of their travels, nothing is as Lucas promises. Their travel arrangements are a diabolical cock-up. On arrival on the island, hysteria abounds when they see the touring vehicle, an old war torn rust bucket with a goat tethered to the tow bar and a box of live chickens as their fresh supplies. HONEST, their driver guide meets them, not Lucas’s brother as he arranges. The hazardous journey takes five hours due to a cloudburst, potholes and thick mud. On arrival at their destination and to their surprise, they find a luxury camp nestling at the foot of the mountain. They absolve Lucas for the minor hic-ups!

A day into their sunshine holiday a storm rips through their camp. They seek refuge under a solid kitchen table as its canvas engulfs them into darkness. The end is nigh as Dotty suggests they make their confessions. Three hours later the storm abates, miraculously they only suffer minor injuries.

Dotty is suspicious when a new camp is erected and interrogates Honest. She knows Lucas doesn’t have the resources. She demands to know who his boss is. Reluctant, he reveals it is Milestone. Furious, she concludes he’s a kidnapper and contrives a foolproof escape plan to safety. They steal their vehicle and find themselves bogged down in mud. Nora and Wilma must push them out, if their mission is to be a success. Instead, Dotty steers it down a ravine, leaping to safety just in time. Despondent they contemplate their long walk back to camp. A passing vehicle picks up three dishevelled mud coated ladies and their goat.

Honest lets slip, his boss watches their every move from a secluded observation post. He reports to him early every morning. This adds fuel to her rage and begins a vendetta of ridiculous demands, chilled champagne for breakfast, and lobster for lunch, fans and a generator. Milestone wonders if the wretched women think they’re staying in the Hilton hotel.

Two days later, Dotty demands to see Milestone. She learns he and his personnel have gone to war. Hysteria prevails; they’re in a plum war zone and Milestone has kidnapped them for ransom. Honest assures them it’s not true and moves them to Plantation House, Milestone’s HQ.

ROSE the housekeeper welcomes them; they’re awestruck by its luxury and the aquamarine sea below. Nevertheless, Dotty still plans another escape. She cajoles the driver to take them into the city: they must find their original guide. A visit to the market and opium parlour lands them in jail. Milestone radios Rose to find if the wretched women have settled, she tells them of their arrest. Enraged, he bellows for DURWARD, the Intelligence Officer, to find out the reason. Mortified, Durward has to inform his superior the charge is smoking opium with intent of purchasing. One of the women is his grandmother, Nora. Dotty thought she was buying opium perfume. Milestone negotiates their release with strict instructions to Rose and Honest to lock away anything with wheels, and the keys to the vehicle. Even better, shackle them to a tree until his return.

Milestone accomplishes his mission despite the added challenges and returns to the house with his key personnel only to discover the women missing. They trio and their goat went on a picnic in the forest and haven’t returned. At the end of his thither, he sends a search party. The inebriated trio are singing in the observation post. Dotty jumps in surprise when she sees Milestone. Nora’s surprise is seeing her grandson.

The following day Milestone explains his modus operandi. To accomplish his mission, he had to provide for their safety. Lucas, a drug baron, whose opium they confiscate and destroy had plans to use them as pawns against the military, even if it meant their demise. Embarrassed, the three tell Milestone what they thought – he abducted them for ransom and sleazy pornographic movies. Milestone is under no illusion where the assumption comes from.

With two days left of their holiday, Dotty has to find a way for Milestone’s forgiveness. He taunts her with his aloofness, although his full intention is to prove to her, he is not the person she makes him out to be.


The synopsis is a bit frenetic and choppy. Each sentence doesn't lead as smoothly as it could into the next sentence; instead, it's like a roller coaster where the reader is being whipped first one way then another. And like a coaster ride, we come to an abrupt halt at the end. It's kind of like you thought: Uh-oh, I'm approaching maximum word count; I'll do what they do in journalism and start cutting from the end of the story.

Like with your query, I think you were just in a hurry to get this out -- and it shows. It needs a very careful edit. No matter the fun premise, I don't believe any agent or editor would ask for more based on this simply because of the amount of editing they would infer your manuscript needs.

Capping the character names on first introduction is a preference thing. Some people hate it, some people like it. I've done it both ways with abandon. So it's up to you whether to do it or not.

My version takes it down from 978 words to 760 words. It cleans up the grammar and syntax issues, but it's up to you -- and maybe some of the commenters! -- to add in the needed voice.

My Revision

At 63, Dotty Crowdy is an incorrigible retiree with a wild imagination, even wilder schemes, and plenty of time to act on them. Her latest notion: an African camping adventure with her two lifelong friends, Nora and Wilma. As usual, Norma urges caution and Wilma is dubious about the whole business, but it just takes a couple of bottles of sherry before they're willing to follow Dotty anywhere. Nor does it hurt that Lucas, the charming tour operator from an exotic island off the coast of Africa, is so persuasive and insistent, filling their heads with promises of pristine beaches and beautiful mountains.

The three women are in a local cafe chatting excitedly about their upcoming holiday when a silver fox, Major Raymond Milestone, catches Dotty's eye. She beckons him over with a beguiling smile, and when he invites her to dinner, her hormones do the tango.

Milestone, however, isn't after a romantic tryst; he's after her holiday itinerary. Nor is he surprised to find it coincides with his covert military operation to stop an opium cartel run by the same Lucas who's posing as Dotty's tour operator. Realizing the women are heading into danger but not knowing what it is, Milestone sets up clandestine protection for the trio.

When Dotty doesn't hear from him again, she assumes Milestone is a jerk. But she has other issues to worry about once she's off on her holiday. For starters, the touring vehicle is an old, war-torn rust bucket. And their fresh supplies? A goat tethered to the tow bar along with a crate of live chickens. It isn't even the driver -- Lucas' brother -- that had been arranged. And though it's a small island, it takes 5 hours to negotiate the potholes, rain and mud on the way to their lodgings.

A day into their "sunshine holiday" a ferocious storm rips through camp. Sheltering under a kitchen table, Dotty is convinced the end is nigh and suggests they make their confessions. A short time later the storm ends, but Dotty is suspicious about how quickly a new camp is erected. She drills their driver, Honest, to find out who's funding it only to discover it isn't Lucas at all but Milestone. Of course, there's only one possible explanation: Milestone must have kidnapped them and now intends to force them into making one of those sleazy pornographic films.

Dotty plots a foolproof escape and the trio manages to steal their tour bus. Only getting bogged down in mud isn't part of the plan. Nor is having to work the clutch. When the bus careens out of control into a ravine, the women leap to safety just in time. Almost immediately Honest is there to pick up the three disshevelled, mud-coated ladies and their goat.

When Dotty learns Honest's boss is watching their every move from a secluded observation post, she's infuriated. She begins a vendetta of ridiculous demands -- chilled champagne for breakfast, lobster for lunch, fans, and a generator -- wanting to put Hilton Hotel screws to Milestone's camping budget. The one demand that isn't granted is her demand to see Milestone. Her imagination concocts the obvious reason: They're in the middle of a war zone, Milestone is heading up an army, and she and her friends have been kidnapped for ransom.

Another escape attempt is in order. Dotty cajoles Honest into taking them into the city where she intends to find their original guide and go home. A sidetrip to the market, though, thwarts her plan when they duck into an opium parlor, which Dotty mistakes for a factory that manufactures her favorite brand of perfume. The women are unceremoniously thrown in jail on charges of smoking opium with intent to purchase.

An exasperated Milestone negotiates their release with strict instructions to Honest to keep a sharp eye on them and lock away anything with wheels. Even better, shackle them to a tree until his return.

He and his men track after Lucas, the opium baron, confiscate and destroy his latest shipment, and put him in custody. When Milestone returns, Dotty and her friends are gone -- again. A frantic search finds them in the forest. On a picnic. With their goat. The inebriated trio is singing, and Milestone finds himself thawing in the presence of their simple exuberance for life.

Against his better judgment, he invites Dotty to dinner. With a wink in her eye, she accepts, knowing she still has two days left of her holiday to win him over and end this silver fox's kidnapping ways.


Anonymous said...

Phoenix thanks for doing this. But, in places the synopsis does not reflect the true story. I am going to copy and paste and work on what you have put together. Great you have reduced the word count. Also just to let you know, my MS has been professionally copy edited by a friend; the MS has no reflection of an overlaod as the synopsis or query. It's just that I wanted to do my own. Hopefully this puts your mind to rest on that.

Matt said...

Building on PHX's revision,I wouldn't name Dottie's two friends in the first para, or at all, because they don't do anything specific for the rest of the synopsis. Plus, that makes 5 characters named in the first 100 words or so.

She drills their driver, Honest, to find out who's funding it

This line made me laugh because I thought drill meant sex and Honest was not a name but a statement as in: "She honestly drilled him!"

All in all, it's shaping up well.

I'm of the crowd that's against capitalizing names in synopses.

my MS has been professionally copy edited...

I wouldn't go around telling people that because if an agent hears it he'll think, "If I ask this person to make changes, they won't know what to do." and might not think it's worth the effort to take you on as a client.

Anonymous said...

Hi Matt thanks for your valuable advice. Will take note of what you have said re: copy edited...... but I wanted Phoenix to know that the writing was loaded as she thought with the query and synopsis and I assume agents don't go looking...... or do they?????

Phoenix said...

She drills their driver

grills. grills.

Awwk! I blame it on the sticking "g" on my keyboard...

Anonymous said...

Ha different terminology between America and British - well whatever I am. As a white born in Africa I used to be termed as European on any official document when in fact I am not European.... Africans say I am not African. Hands up, but yes I would use the terminology 'drilled' for an answer. Never heard of it as another version.