Friday, February 11, 2011

Synopsis 13: Skip

After ten-year-old BROOKE’s diary is ripped up by her older sister LEAH because Leah didn‘t like what Brooke had written about her, Brooke resolves not to write about Leah in her diary anymore. She doesn’t even want to think about Leah. She’d rather pretend her sister doesn’t exist. Instead Brooke focuses on her acquaintances at school. KAITLYN, Brooke’s former best friend, manipulates Brooke into loaning her a pen with sentimental value. Brooke is devastated after Kaitlyn looses the pen that Leah had bought her and she realizes that Kaitlyn likely has no interest in remaining friends. Even though Brooke’s FATHER buys her a new pen, Brooke is still upset about the loss.

Brooke has to go stay with her MOTHER’s friend MRS. HENDERS while her mom takes Leah to see a psychiatrist. Brooke loves Mrs. Henders even though she doesn’t enjoy playing with her son CODY.

Brooke’s parents decide that they should all go to family therapy. When the get there the therapist makes Brooke wait in the waiting room while he talks to the rest of the family. Brooke, Leah, and their parents are all frustrated by the experience and decide not to go to another session.

Brooke and Cody begin to bond over their shared love of a series of Science Fiction books. While Brooke makes a friend with Cody she has no friends at school girls at there laugh at Brooke behind her back because of her “crazy” family.

When the lead singer in Leah’s favorite band dies, Leah takes it hard. She begins locking herself in her room and crying for hours. She also refuses to go to school. Unbeknownst to Brooke, her parents make arrangements to have Leah admitted to a local psychiatric center for treatment. Leah, already upset by her parents plans, is furious when she finds Brooke going through her belongings. Brooke and Leah fight and Brooke falls down the stairs. Brooke and her mother go to the ER where Brooke has a cast put on her broken arm. By the time Brooke returns from the emergence room, Leah is gone. With Leah away, Brooke slowly begins writing about her sister in her diary again.

Even though Brooke is relieved that Leah is gone, she discovers much in the house still revolves around her sister. Mrs. Henders makes Brooke’s Halloween costume because Brooke’s mother is too busy visiting Leah. Brooke’s parents miss her school events because they have to meet with Leah’s treatment team.

Brooke attends Cody’s birthday party. There she finds she gets along well with all Cody’s friends, including Cody’s cousin EMILY who is in Brooke’s class.

Brooke’s already poor spelling grades continue to get worse until her teacher MRS. MARREN tells her she is in danger of failing. Emily begins studying with Brooke and Brooke’s grades slowly improve. Kaitlyn has also been struggling in spelling, much to her embarrassment and Brooke teases her about it.

Brooke apologizes to Kaitlyn for making fun of her. She realizes that even though she will likely never to friends with Kaitlyn, they can still be civil. Kaitlyn returns Brooke’s pen.

Leah’s doctors finally realize she may suffers from bipolar disorder, not clinical depression. They adjust her medication accordingly and her condition begins to improve. Brooke still refuses to visit her sister though. She is afraid of getting too close and being disappointed again. To Brooke’s dismay, her parents inform her that Leah will be coming home for a few hours on Thanksgiving.

Despite Brooke’s insistence that she wants to stay in her room, her parents force her to come down for Thanksgiving. To her surprise Leah is smiling and friendly. Leah teaches Brooke a card game and the family sits down to dinner.. Brooke realizes that Leah will likely always struggle with her condition but admits that by trying to pretend Leah didn’t exist, she’d missed a lot of her sister’s good qualities and forgotten many of the fun times they’d spent together.

Comments

By following the book’s events scene-by-scene, the story in the synopsis comes across as being kind of choppy. Coupled with some names we don’t need to know, it’s a little hard to keep up with and doesn’t flow as well as it could.

Here’s a secret: A synopsis is not an outline. In the synopsis, you need to be faithful to the story but not necessarily true to it.

By combining some of the storylines and following them through in a single paragraph rather than starting a storyline at the beginning of the synopsis and getting back to it several paragraphs later, you can get the general idea across to the reader in a much more palatable form. For example, in my rewrite, Brooke is left with her (unnamed!) neighbor, the reader is told she and Cody aren’t really friends, and she and Cody find a way to bond all in the space of a couple of consecutive sentences. It may not be EXACTLY what happens, but it is the spirit of what happens and easier for the reader to digest.

I did feel there was a bit of a continuity problem when we’re told the girls at school are laughing behind Brooke’s back but then Brooke and Emily, who’s in her class, bond readily. I made Emily a year older and in the class ahead, but you can figure out how better to portray their relationship.

I made one more subtle change in my rewrite as I grouped like events. As things deteriorate for Leah, they also deteriorate for Brooke. And as things start improving for Leah, they start improving for Brooke. I’m not sure if that parallelism is part of your story’s actual structure, but if it isn’t, it’s something to maybe think about as a storytelling convention for helping to reinforce a theme without being overtly blatant about it.

My Revision

When 10-year-old Brooke’s older sister, Leah, rips up her diary because big sis didn’t like what Brooke had written about her, it’s the last straw. Between Leah’s screaming fits and general rage, Brooke resolves not to write about her sister any more. Not only that, she won’t even think about her. She’ll just pretend her sister doesn’t exist.

Instead, Brooke focuses her attention on her BFF, Kaitlyn, who isn’t quite ready to be the center of Brooke’s world. Kaitlyn manipulates Brooke into loaning her a pen with sentimental value that she promptly “loses.” Brooke gets the message: Kaitlyn doesn’t want to be friends any more. More than that, all the other girls at school are laughing behind her back at her and her “crazy” family.

Meanwhile, the family therapy sessions started for Leah seem to be forgetting one thing: Brooke. She’s left in the waiting room not knowing what’s going on behind the therapist’s door. Soon, she’s simply left behind with her next-door neighbor whose son, Cody, is a year older than Brooke. She’s never really had anything to do with Cody before but after he gets off a crack about “robodog,” Brooke and Cody bond over a shared love of a science fiction series.

Then the lead singer in Leah’s favorite band dies and Leah locks herself in her room and goes on a crying jag that just won’t quit. She also refuses to go to school. When she finds Brooke going through her things looking for a ruler, she’s loses it and attacks her younger sister. While they’re fighting, Brooke falls down the stairs and breaks her arm.

Unbeknownst to Brooke, her parents had already made arrangements to have Leah admitted to a local psychiatric center for treatment and Brooke’s barely back home from the ER when Leah is simply -- gone. Now that Brooke doesn’t have to pretend so hard that Leah doesn’t exist, she begins writing about her sister in her diary again.

But a home without a sister doesn’t mean her sister’s really gone. Brooke discovers the house still revolves around Leah. Brooke’s mom can’t be bothered to make a Halloween costume because she’s too busy visiting Leah. Her parents miss her school events because they have to meet with Leah’s treatment team. And Brooke’s already poor spelling grades tank even further, putting her in danger of failing.

Even learning that Leah’s doctors have at last diagnosed her with bipolar disorder and she’s improving with the new meds she’s on doesn’t make Brooke any happier. Afraid of getting too close and being disappointed, Brooke refuses to visit her sister.

The only break Brooke gets is attending Cody’s birthday party. There she finds out she gets along well with all Cody’s friends, including Cody’s cousin, Emily, who’s in the class ahead of her. Emily offers to help Brooke with her classes and Brooke’s grades start improving. As Brooke’s self-confidence returns, she reaches out to Kaitlyn, hoping they can still be friends even though she realizes they’ll never be best friends again. Kaitlyn returns Brooke’s pen, and the general teasing about Brooke’s family dies down.

Things are finally looking up -- until Brooke’s parents inform her Leah will be coming home for a few hours on Thanksgiving. Brooke insists on staying in her room, but her parents force her to “be part of the family.” To her surprise, Leah is smiling and friendly. Even more surprising, Leah offers to teach Brooke a card game, and Brooke finds herself gossiping and giggling with her sister – just like they used to forever ago.

By the time the family sits down to dinner, Brooke admits to herself that by pretending Leah didn’t exist, she’d missed a lot of her sister’s good qualities and forgotten many of the fun times they’d spent together. Brooke realizes that Leah is struggling with her condition as much as she and the family are with its effects. And by the time Leah leaves, Brooke is looking forward to the day Leah comes back to stay.

10 comments:

vkw said...

Phoenix was right about the synopsis, the author put too many details into it. Her synopsis was much better and I can't add anything.

I'm even more interested in the novel and wonder have effective it is being told by journal entries.

vkw

Lauren K said...

Thanks so much for the rewrite. I hated how disjointed my version read. This synopsis flows much better. I really appreciate the help

Anonymous said...

Hey Lauren,
What a tough subject. I just looked up the difference between bipolar and depression. Got an eye/ear full.

You are very brave to take this on. Does a 10 year know or care about the difference between bipolar and depression? A 10 year old wants a normal family with a big sister she can rely on. She doesn't have one. She's in a family that is dysfunctional. This is one sad little girl. She wouldn't go through her sister's belongings. You have given adult understanding but teenage actions to a 10 year old. IMHO.

This is a hurting kid, she's invisible to her parents. She wouldn't tease anyone. She wants to remain invisible. If she goes the other way, she'll set fire to her sister's room and cackle as the room ignites. (Kidding!)

I would love clearer character definition and stronger sense of who these kids are.

I get too much changing of the mc. She's ten.

Even though Brooke is relieved that Leah is gone, she discovers much in the house still revolves around her sister.

My take: Even tough Leah is in the psych ward, the entire house revolves around Leah and Brooke is reminded of that every waking moment.

To me, for what it's worth decide if Brooke is a "good" quiet sort or if she's the teasing/bullying sort. Can't be both.

This can be an incredible story of rejection and acceptance. I feel you have too many mature realizations for the mc at too young an age and are treating too many characters with equal time on a superficial level.

I would like to more about how you see Brooke.

I'm sure other critters will have more succinct comments than I can articulate. Maybe you need to decide if love or hate poor Brooke. I'm getting both in a contradictory manner.

I hope that helps. I believe this is a great story, and it got buried in the syn writing.

Best of luck.
W. MacQueen

Wilkins MacQueen said...

PS Dear Lauren (and Lexc),

You are welcome to vent on my blog and rant at me. I know how hard this is. I admire courage. Really admire it.

Keep at it. You'll get where you want to go.
Mac

Lauren K said...

Mac,
Thanks so much for your comments. Brooke doesn't really care what Leah is diagnosed with, but people with bipolar disorder don't generally respond to the same meds that people with clinical depression respond to. So it's important that Leah gets a correct diagnosis so that she can start getting proper treatment.
You're right, Brooke isn't really the teasing type. She was provoked and immediately apologized for what she said. It doesn't really come across that way in the synopsis though. I'm planning to post a new version of the synopsis once I get it all figured out. :) Thanks again

I love your pictures of Thailand. Absolutely beautiful

vkw said...

Also, if someone had Bi-Polar Disorder and is treated just for depression, it can result the patient swinging into a manic phase.

Manic is not always happy go lucky, let's have fun hyper-activity. It's disorganized, unable to complete tasks, unable to plan, irritability and often very bizarre behavior as the manic phase progresses.

I think this story from what I am seeing in the synopsis is right near the mark.

chelsea said...

I thought it was clear that Brooke teased Kaitlyn because she'd been pushed to her limit. Even a very sweet child will lash out sometimes when she's given more than she can handle. (In my opinion/experience.)

I am curious why Brooke was going through Leah's belongings. Is there a simple explanation that can be added into the synopsis?

I kind of wanted more about Leah in the opening paragraph. At the beginning of the story, they think she suffers from depression, right? I knew what was going on because of the query, but based on the synopsis alone, I'm not sure I would get what Brooke is dealing with.

chelsea said...

One more thing!

You go out of your way to say that Brooke's parents make plans to send Leah away without Brooke knowing. The way things line up, it has me wondering if Brooke thinks her broken arm is to blame for Leah's leaving. But the synopsis doesn't address this, and maybe the "unbeknownst" is just another example of Brooke's parents ignoring her.

Does Brooke blame herself? Or am I misreading things?

Lauren K said...

Chelsea- Yes, Brooke does think it's her fault that Leah is sent to the hospital. It's also part of the reason (although not the main reason) she doesn't want Leah to come home. She's afraid Leah will be mad at her.
After the singer died, Leah had locked herself in her room and was listening to the same CD over and over. When she left her room to use the bathroom, Brooke went into her room and took the CD. Brooke thought if Leah stopped listening to the CD then she would stop being so upset. I'll add both of those details into the synopsis. Thanks for pointing them out

chelsea said...

Ooh yes that definitely explains things! I think those are great details to add in because they really tie everything together. Especially Brooke's motivation for taking the CD. It shows that she cares deeply for her sister in spite of not understanding Leah's sickness.