Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Synopsis 7: Redux 2

Murder on Music Row

Comments

A break in tradition putting overall comments first because I want to put you all in the proper mind set before you read this revised version by discussing a bit about the the art of the synopsis and the art of revision.

The author has cut about 250 words from the version we saw last week -- and guess what? This version is a lot more clear, more engaging, and just a better read from a synopsis POV all the way around.

We ALL get sooooo close to our own work, we can't believe we can strip the story down and tell it in a little less than two pages. It's too complicated. There's too much going on. The characters and the motivation won't come through well enough. The work is special and it just can't be boiled down like that. 

Of course, YOUR work can't be boiled down, but everyone else's can be :o). This is the time when you as author must divorce yourself from the work and be able to look at it with objective eyes. Sometimes, this means putting the work away for two weeks or a month or so. Of course, by the time an author is writing the synopsis, they're anxious and ready to send the query out. They don't want to wait the time necessary to attain that more objective POV. We've all been there. I've been there.

Understand there are going to be times when an agent will ask for a ONE-PAGE synopsis. After fighting word count and revising my last synopsis, I grudgingly had it down in the 800-word range when I got a request for a full and a one-pager. I toyed briefly with sending the two-pager because, really, how could I tell the story adequately in even fewer words? But I slashed and burned, and when the tears had dried, I found I liked my shorter version even better! From a READER'S perspective, shorter can be better.

For proof, compare the version of this synopsis from last week to this one. It tells the same story. I get the same feel for the story and for the completeness of the work from this version, which is 3/4 the length of the previous version. It's all in the editing, folks. A poorly-edited-down synopsis will reflect poorly on the story. A well-edited synopsis will carry the message nice and succinctly. This author is learning how to edit well.

Synopsis

Nan Macomb, a spunky thirty-five-year-old Nashville hair stylist and puzzle connoisseur, finds her gabby clients to be a better news source than TMZ. While she works her cut-and-color magic in her one-chair home salon, they keep her up-to-date on the latest hair-raising gossip—like the rumor her married ex-lover is going to be a daddy.

Her emotions in a tizzy, Nan heads to Heart and Soul Music Publishing, co-owned by her ex, Randy Soleman, and finds someone’s beaten her to the punch—literally. Randy has been bludgeoned to death with his own Grammy Award. She moves the heavy statuette before frantically calling 911. With her fingerprints are all over the murder weapon, she goes to the head of the suspect list.

When Nan discoversed an e-mail Randy had sent her minutes before his death, she learns of documentation he’d put in his home safe and of his faith in her. With a little help from her friends, she breaks into Randy’s home and snatches the evidence, which she takes straight to her attorney. When the massive envelope is opened, several Heart and Soul employees are implicated in an elaborate embezzlement scheme.

Since Randy’s business partner, Buddy Hart, isn’t on the list, Nan makes him her confidante. In return, he assures her Buddy had planned to divorce his wife who waisn’t pregnant, at least not by Randy. Nan still thinks Randy was a louse for not telling her he was married from the start.

Meanwhile, three Heart & and Soul employees who are on the list, hack into Randy’s e-mail. When they burglarize the safe and find the contents gone, they set out after Nan. However, Nan’s not convinced the evidence is solid enough to clear her good name, so she launches a secret investigation to prove her innocence.

She enlists her two best friends—Loralee, a country music singer wannabe, and Emma, a brilliant, but depressed homemaker—who divvy up the tasks to keep the investigation moving forward. Subtle hints at home confirm Nan and her posse are on the right track: a break-in, a phone tap, and a handful of bugs planted around the house.

Emma befriends Randy’s widow, Amy, and teases out her tawdry secrets while Loralee takes on the employees at Heart & Soul. They discover Matt, Randy’s younger brother and a former coder and decoder with the Navy, is about to join the business. They also learn Matt has an intimate relationship with both alcohol and Amy Randy's wife.

At Randy’s funeral, kidnappers snatch Nan, take her to her own house, and tie her up with her best designer scarves. But she turns the tables on them by finessing the minute details of how they pulled off their embezzlement scheme. However, once they start talking they won’t shut up, revealing more Heart & Soul secrets than she wants to know. The most pertinent is also the most appalling: Randy and Buddy? Both recovering sex addicts. And the women who were their prey? Hired in at Heart and Soul, with inflated salaries, generous benefits, and a strict policy against fraternization, as a tidy way to end the partners’ affairs.

Loralee drops by Nan’s house after the funeral and sees the kidnapping chaos through the window. She alerts Nan’s parents and the police, in that order, and soon there’s a house full of people. Short on sleep and patience, Nan kicks everyone out except the handsome detective—Peter—who needs to question her.

Later, Nan jogs by Heart & and Soul as Matt, Randy’s brother Matt is being rolled from the building on a stretcher. The police are ready to close the case, but Nan sees Matt’s confession of killing Randy in a copy of the suicide note and realizes he used his Navy coding skills to implant a secret message. Nan applies her flair for solving puzzles to untangle the code. However, before she can tell anyone Buddy is the killer, he shows up at her house with alcohol, Xanax, and a deadly plan.

Fearing for her life, Nan uses Buddy’s gambling, sex, and alcohol addictions as bait and suggests they play strip poker. She trips the silent alarm on her security system while she searches for a deck of cards. When the cops arrive, she’s already stripped down to her skivvies. A few more hands and she would’ve been baring more than soul to Buddy.

Peter, the hunky detective, arrives shortly after the cops and stays behind to interview Nan. They flirt and he indicates he’s interested. She’s interested too, but first things first—he has to prove he’s not married.

Specific Comments

I think there's only some minor tweaking left to do on this, so I'm only going to pull out the pertinent paragraphs.

When Nan discovers an e-mail Randy sent her minutes before his death, she learns of documentation he’d put in his home safe and of his faith in her. With a little help from her friends, she breaks into Randy’s home and snatches the evidence, which she takes straight to her attorney. When the massive envelope is opened, several Heart and Soul employees are implicated in an elaborate embezzlement scheme.

I get that you want to convey Randy still has lots of faith in Nan because he loves her, but tacking on the faith bit after Nan learns about the documentation feels like it's just that -- being tacked on. Maybe something like: "When Nan finds an e-mail Randy sent her minutes before his death that points to sensitive documentation in his home safe, she realizes just how much faith he still had in her."

"When the massive envelope is opened" feels like too much detail, and it's passive. How about something like: "Together they discover Randy was ready to implicate several Heart and Soul employees in an elaborate embezzlement scheme."

Since Randy’s business partner, Buddy Hart, isn’t on the list, Nan makes him her confidante. In return, he assures her Buddy had planned to divorce his wife who isn’t pregnant,at least not by Randy. Nan still thinks Randy was a louse for not telling her he was married from the start.

Nan not knowing Randy was married comes as a surprise here. I think she knew he was married, right? Especially in the first paragraph when the synopsis talks about Randy being a daddy, it doesn't seem Nan is surprised to find Randy is married. Maybe rework this a bit to better convey Nan's emotion: "Nan still thinks Randy was a louse for not telling her early in their relationship that he was married. Having that third wheel around really complicated things later on."

Later, Nan jogs by Heart and Soul as Randy’s brother Matt is being rolled from the building on a stretcher. The police are ready to close the case, but Nan sees Matt’s confession of killing Randy in a copy of the suicide note and realizes he used his Navy coding skills to implant a secret message. Nan applies her flair for solving puzzles to untangle the code. However, before she can tell anyone Buddy is the killer, he shows up at her house with alcohol, Xanax, and a deadly plan.

You can use either Heart and Soul or Heart & Soul, just be consistent.

I get tripped up with the "close the case" because I don't find out till later in the sentence that it's referring to Randy's murder and not Matt's suicide. Can you make that just a tad more clear? "In his suicide note, Matt confesses to killing Randy, and the police are happy to close the case. But when Nan sees a copy of the note, she realizes Matt's used his Navy coding skills to implant a secret message."

Now, go sell the book.

5 comments:

Kay Elam said...

Thanks, Phoenix! I'll do some tweaking and "sell that book." :-)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Looks great.

A few nits - Heart and Soul or Heart & Soul. Phoenix caught most of them, btu not all.

And this one:
Since Randy’s business partner, Buddy Hart, isn’t on the list, Nan makes him her confidante. In return, he assures her Buddy had planned to divorce his wife who isn’t pregnant...

I think that's Randy and not Buddy in the divorce his wife line.

So you've got the story, now make sure you catch all the little mistakes.

Awesome job!

Collectonian said...

I think the biggest problem I'm finding is not so much the synopsis format, but finding the story believable and credible. Nan wants to prove she is innocent, so she commmits a crime (breaking and entering & theft)? She takes stolen evidence to an attorney and somehow it is still usable? Nothing in the synopsis gives any reason why she would not trust the cops to go get the evidence if she gave them the email.

The documents prove the employees are embezzling, so why aren't they already in jail? Why does she, a hair dresser who is not a detective, cop, etc even thinking of trying to "investigate" something versus letting the cops or a private eye handle it? And why do her two friends go along with this instead of questioning her sanity?

Also, how are the women working at Heart & Soul "prey" or otherwise victims? It says Randy and Buddy are sex addicts, not rapists, so presumably all sex was consensual. Why would they need to pay them off? Most people call of relationships without such measures.

How could a hairdresser, even one with "a flair for solving puzzles" decode a NAVY encoded message?? I mean if she could, they would be useless to our Navy. Unless it is clear Matt just did a quick, sloppy job with a standard code, that rings very false and hard to believe.

(OpenID was acting up again)

Kay Elam said...

Thanks Phoenix and Sarah for the suggestions and corrections. I appreciate it! GREAT catch on who planned the divorce, Sarah. Phoenix, your feedback is always spot on.

Collectonian, I understand your points and appreciate the time you took to give your feedback. MOMR is a cozy mystery and in this light-hearted genre credibility is often forgiven. Think about Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote solving crimes for example. It is not uncommon for cozies to make leaps that wouldn't be accepted in other genres. The protagonist is usually not in law enforcement and frequently a busy body who turns into an amateur sleuth. If MOMR was a thriller, your concerns would certainly be applicable, but for the cozy genre a lot of leeway is given.

Thanks all.

K

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Fun Kay, Fun.
So get this. Let us know when you've sold this. Congrats in advance.