Thursday, June 2, 2011

Synopsis 7: Redux

Murder on Music Row

[At 1021 words, this is a bit long. Where can the author cut without consequence?]

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 CNN. 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. After she ends her relationship with her married lover, she hears a rumor his wife is pregnant and she goes a little bit berserk.

When she makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to drop by Heart & Soul Music Publishing, co-owned by her ex-lover, Randy Soleman, she finds him bludgeoned to death with one of his own Grammy Awards. She moves the heavy statuette before frantically calling 911. Her fingerprints are the only ones on the heavy statuette so it’s no surprise her name heads the suspect list.

Minutes before his death, Randy had sent an e-mail to Nan. He needed someone to know about the documentation he’d put in his home safe and she was the only one he trusted. With a little help from her friends, she breaks into Randy’s home and snatches the evidence, which she takes straight to her attorney’s office. The assistant DA is summoned and the massive envelope is opened, implicating several Heart & Soul employees in an elaborate embezzlement scheme.

The documentation in the safe confirms Randy trusted his business partner, Buddy, so Nan makes him her confidante. He tells her things she never knew about Randy—both good and bad—but, best of all he assures her Randy had planned to move heaven and earth to be with her and that his widow was never pregnant.

Three Heart & Soul employees hack into Randy’s e-mail and learn of the evidence in his home safe. They burglarize it only to find its contents gone. Fearing the absent data will implicate them in their payroll scam, they begin a quest to find the safe’s contents.

Nan’s convinced there are too many missing links. Nothing is solid enough to clear her name so she launches her own secret investigation. Her friends and clients rally to help her comb the Music City for clues to prove her innocence, preserve her reputation, and salvage her career.

A break-in at Nan’s house verifies she’s on the right track so, she has an alarm system installed. The installation team finds her phone has been tapped and other bugs are placed around her house.

Her two best friends—Loralee, a country music singer wannabe, and Emma, a brilliant, but depressed homemaker—divvy up the tasks to keep the investigation moving forward. Emma befriends Randy’s widow and teases out her tawdry secrets while Loralee takes on the employees at Heart & Soul to see just who knows what. They learn Matt, Randy’s younger brother, is excessively fond of both his sister-in-law and anything containing alcohol. The latter contributed to his discharge from the Navy, even though he was a shining star in the coding and decoding division.

When this trio of amateur sleuths regroups to compare notes, tempers flare over what is—and isn’t—in Nan’s best interests and the strength of their longtime friendships is tested. After they reconcile, armed with life experiences they’d just as soon forget, they recognize adversity is the true test of their bonds of friendship.

At Randy’s funeral Nan is grabbed by kidnappers who take her back to her own house and tie her up with her best designer scarves. She watches as they rip her home to shreds looking for evidence now possessed by the police. Nan turns the tables on them when she finesses the minute details of how they pulled off their embezzlement scheme. But once they start talking they won’t shut up. They tell her more Heart & Soul secrets than she wants to know. She is appalled when they reveal both Randy and Buddy to be recovering sex addicts. The business partners previously hired their prey to work at Heart & Soul as a way to end affairs with the women by citing company policy prohibiting employee fraternization. By the time most of the women figured out the meaning of fraternization, they were comfortable in their new jobs with their inflated salaries and generous benefits. Employment at Heart & Soul was actually more satisfying than the brief 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 talking at once. Short on sleep and patience, Nan kicks everyone out except the handsome detective, Peter, who needs to question her.

Later Nan jogs by Heart & Soul as Randy’s brother, Matt is being rolled from the building on a stretcher. The police are ready to close the case, but when Nan sees the alleged confession in a suicide note, she recognizes Matt’s used his Navy coding skills to implant a secret message. She applies her flair for solving puzzles to untangle the code. Before she can tell anyone Buddy is the real killer, he comes to her house intent to kill her making it look like an overdose of alcohol and Xanax.

Nan get’s him to reveal he panicked and killed Randy for the insurance the company carries on the partners. Buddy is involved in the embezzlement scheme and since that tax-free money is no longer available he needs a source to pay his debts.

Using his gambling, sex, and alcohol addictions as bait, she suggests they play strip poker. While searching for the cards, she was able to hit the silent alarm on her new security system. By the time the police arrive she has stripped down to her skivvies. Buddy draws the gun he has with him and fires, nicking one of the officer’s ears and destroying her china hutch. Peter and the other officer detain him. The officers take Buddy to be processed at the jail, leaving the handsome detective behind to take her statement.

They flirt and he indicates he is interested. She’s interested too but first things first. He has to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s not married.

Comments

The author mentioned in her email that this synopsis doesn’t sound like the voice of her book and asked if it’s supposed to. I assured her that no, it doesn’t have to, but it’s nice to have the flavor of the voice incorporated. However, I realized after reading this that the voice here is a bit uneven. Parts of it DO sound like her book. And parts don’t. This is tricky because you don’t want the story to sound uneven as well. This is a comedy drama type story, and not overplaying the comedy or having the humor overshadow the drama is a tough balance.

In this case, I would recommend adding a few more light touches to the narrative to help balance things out.

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 CNN. 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. After she ends her relationship with her married lover, she hears a rumor his wife is pregnant and she goes a little bit berserk.

I would tie in that it’s her clients who pass along the rumor.

"… hair-raising gossip. Like passing along the rumor the wife of her ex-lover is pregnant. Which sends her into a tizzy since he swore he was divorcing her, and she goes a little berserk on that lying cheater’s butt."

When she makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to drop by Heart & Soul Music Publishing, co-owned by her ex-lover, Randy Soleman, she finds him bludgeoned to death with one of his own Grammy Awards. She moves the heavy statuette before frantically calling 911. Her fingerprints are the only ones on the heavy statuette so it’s no surprise her name heads the suspect list.

I think here would be a good spot to let the reader know she still cares about Randy, since later we learn she thinks it’s good Randy planned to be with her. Give her motivation to drop by. (And “dropping by” implies a spur-of-the-moment, unannounced decision.):

"Once she’s cooled off and remembers she still loves that stupid scoundrel, she drops by Heart & Soul, the music publishing business co-owned by her ex, to reconcile. There she finds Randy bludgeoned…"

Minutes before his death, Randy had sent an e-mail to Nan. He needed someone to know about the documentation he’d put in his home safe and she was the only one he trusted.

This is a break in voice. Keep it from Nan’s POV: "Once home, Nan finds an email from Randy sent moments before his death. Citing her as the only one he trusts, the email points her to documentation in his home safe."

With a little help from her friends, she breaks into Randy’s home and snatches the evidence, which she takes straight to her attorney’s office. The assistant DA is summoned and the massive envelope is opened, implicating several Heart & Soul employees in an elaborate embezzlement scheme.

I don’t think we need the asst DA here. Just: "…attorney’s office. The documents implicate several Heart & Soul …" Or keep the DA and ditch the attorney.

The documentation in the safe confirms Randy trusted his business partner, Buddy, so Nan makes him her confidante. He tells her things she never knew about Randy—both good and bad—but, best of all he assures her Randy had planned to move heaven and earth to be with her and that his widow was never pregnant.

Since the reader isn’t privy to the good or the bad, I think you can leave out that part of the exchange:

"Since Randy’s business partner, Buddy, isn’t on the list, Nan makes him her confidante. In return, he assures her …"

Three Heart & Soul employees hack into Randy’s e-mail and learn of the evidence in his home safe. They burglarize it only to find its contents gone. Fearing the absent data will implicate them in their payroll scam, they begin a quest to find the safe’s contents.

This can be tightened since the reader knows about the email, the safe and the scam and can figure out these guys are worried about being implicated. And since the email was addressed to Nan, the reader knows she’ll be their target:

"Meanwhile, three Heart & Soul employees who are on the list hack into Randy’s email. When they burglarize the safe and find the contents gone, they set out after Nan."

Nan’s convinced there are too many missing links. Nothing is solid enough to clear her name so she launches her own secret investigation. Her friends and clients rally to help her comb the Music City for clues to prove her innocence, preserve her reputation, and salvage her career.

Since Loralee and Emma are named as divvy-uppers later, I don’t think the “her friends” sentence is needed here. Especially since it’s in the query. I think it can be deleted.

A break-in at Nan’s house verifies she’s on the right track so, she has an alarm system installed. The installation team finds her phone has been tapped and other bugs are placed around her house.

I don’t think we need the details of the alarm system and team. Maybe inject a bit of humor here:

"Subtle hints at home verify Nan is on the right track: a break-in, a phone tap, and a handful of bugs planted around the house."

Her two best friends—Loralee, a country music singer wannabe, and Emma, a brilliant, but depressed homemaker—divvy up the tasks to keep the investigation moving forward. Emma befriends Randy’s widow and teases out her tawdry secrets while Loralee takes on the employees at Heart & Soul to see just who knows what. They learn Matt, Randy’s younger brother, is excessively fond of both his sister-in-law and anything containing alcohol. The latter contributed to his discharge from the Navy, even though he was a shining star in the coding and decoding division.

Delete “to see just who knows what”

It’s not overly clear that Matt works at H&S (which I assume he does as he’s wheeled out of the offices later). Instead of “They learn” maybe “ There she learns”?

Tighten last sentence: That got Matt, an expert decoder, drummed out of the Navy.

When this trio of amateur sleuths regroups to compare notes, tempers flare over what is—and isn’t—in Nan’s best interests and the strength of their longtime friendships is tested. After they reconcile, armed with life experiences they’d just as soon forget, they recognize adversity is the true test of their bonds of friendship.

The last half of this paragraph is a bit maudlin. I’d delete the second sentence, revise the first sentence (“…best interests, testing the strength…), and tack it on to the end of the preceding paragraph.

At Randy’s funeral Nan is grabbed by kidnappers who take her back to her own house and tie her up with her best designer scarves. She watches as they rip her home to shreds looking for evidence now possessed by the police. Nan turns the tables on them when she finesses the minute details of how they pulled off their embezzlement scheme. But once they start talking they won’t shut up. They tell her more Heart & Soul secrets than she wants to know. She is appalled when they reveal both Randy and Buddy to be recovering sex addicts. The business partners previously hired their prey to work at Heart & Soul as a way to end affairs with the women by citing company policy prohibiting employee fraternization. By the time most of the women figured out the meaning of fraternization, they were comfortable in their new jobs with their inflated salaries and generous benefits. Employment at Heart & Soul was actually more satisfying than the brief affairs.

I’m a little confused why the kidnappers tear the house up. I assumed the house was searched during the earlier break-in.

I also think the bit about hiring prey goes on a little long in relation to its relevance to the story. I think this is the author pointing out how clever this bit is ;o)

“…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 & Soul, with inflated salaries, generous benefits, and a strict policy against fraternization, as a tidy way to end the 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 talking at once. Short on sleep and patience, Nan kicks everyone out except the handsome detective, Peter, who needs to question her.

Add an m-dash before “except” to call more attention to Peter, who will be showing up later.

Later Nan jogs by Heart & Soul as Randy’s brother, Matt is being rolled from the building on a stretcher. The police are ready to close the case, but when Nan sees the alleged confession in a suicide note, she recognizes Matt’s used his Navy coding skills to implant a secret message.

I think this could be more clear about Matt and “the case.” I had to think about what “the alleged confession” means. At first, I thought it was Matt simply saying he killed himself. On reflection, I’m guessing the note confesses to his killing Randy.

She applies her flair for solving puzzles to untangle the code. Before she can tell anyone Buddy is the real killer, he comes to her house intent to kill her making it look like an overdose of alcohol and Xanax.

Maybe “…the real killer, he shows up at her house with alcohol, Xanax, and a deadly plan.”

Nan get’s him to reveal he panicked and killed Randy for the insurance the company carries on the partners. Buddy is involved in the embezzlement scheme and since that tax-free money is no longer available he needs a source to pay his debts.

This seems backwards and a little confusing. Buddy was part of the embezzlement scheme. Check. Wasn’t it still in play when Randy was killed? Why would Buddy kill Randy before the scheme went bust? How would he know the money wasn’t going to be available before the other players are implicated?

I’m also guessing Nan turns the tables on Buddy since she knows he’s the killer and he doesn’t know she knows. So she would first suggest the strip poker and get him drinking, giving him a reason to divulge that he killed Randy before the cops show up.

Using his gambling, sex, and alcohol addictions as bait, she suggests they play strip poker. While searching for the cards, she was able to hit the silent alarm on her new security system. By the time the police arrive she has stripped down to her skivvies. Buddy draws the gun he has with him and fires, nicking one of the officer’s ears and destroying her china hutch. Peter and the other officer detain him. The officers take Buddy to be processed at the jail, leaving the handsome detective behind to take her statement.

The silent alarm sentence slips into past tense. It can be combined with the sentence before:

“… strip poker, and trips the silent alarm on her security system when she gets the cards.”

Maybe some humor here in place of the ear and the hutch, which are details we don’t really need:

“The cops arrive barely in time: A couple more hands and she and Buddy would be baring more than just their souls to each other.”

If Peter is a detective, what’s he doing answering a security alarm? I can see him showing up after the beat cops but not as one of them.

I don’t think we need the detail of Buddy going off to jail, especially the “to be processed” part. That’s kind of a duh.

They flirt and he indicates he is interested. She’s interested too but first things first. He has to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s not married.

I like ending on the flirting and humor, but this doesn’t quite tie in with what we know about Nan and Randy’s relationship. We don’t learn much about Randy’s wife other than she’s not really pregnant, and what we learn of Randy is that he truly loved Nan. So it doesn’t feel like Nan’s troubles stemmed from the fact she was having an affair with a married man. Maybe here in the synopsis, you could tie the humor note to something to do with Peter already having seen her in her skivvies.

Critters, any other areas candidates for cutting?

5 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Here's my cut at the first two paragraphs (and making them into one). Takes the total down to 993 words.

While thirty-five year old Nan Macomb works her cut-and-color magic in her Nashville one-chair home salon, her gabby clients keep her up-to-date better than TMZ. When they dish about Nan’s married lover, Randy Soleman, and his newly pregnant wife, Nan goes a little berserk. She pops into Heart & Soul Music Publishing, co-owned by her now ex-lover, but someone’s beaten her to the punch – literally. She finds him bludgeoned to death with his Grammy Award. She moves the heavy statuette before frantically calling 911. It’s no surprise her name heads the suspect list since her fingerprints are the only ones found.

Kay Elam said...

Thank you Sarah. I didn't know what TMZ is until I Googled it, but apparently I'm the only one :-)

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Phoenix. I'm going to work on it and will post a revised version is a day or two. You're the greatest.

I'll be checking back, so other comments are welcome.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I really like this. What was set down is clear. Phoenix and Sarah are grand in smoothing things out and succinctity (?). Not helpful but darn, I like where this went and the suggestions give you tons to work with for a tighter screw down shall I say.

Sentence about jogging and Matt bothered me. Comma in wrong position? I'm reading Eats, Shoots, Leaves so I'm comma sensitive today.Looking forward to thw rework.

DelSheree said...

some of the things I would suggest cutting is added detail of the wife being pregnant/not pregnant and Randy's desire to still be with Nan. that can come int eh story, but it didn't add to the query for me, just bog it down. Also i'd suggest cutting the details of what the employees do. i assume they're going to try and get all the evidence that points th finger at them, but in the query i don't need to hear each step they take. it added a lot of length to the query, and each action was so abbreviated it felt clipped and hurried. just give the general idea. they're going to go after the evidence and put Nan in danger in the process. focus on Nan and how their actions will affect her.

kay Elam said...

Delsheree,

Thanks for your comments. Just FYI, this is a synopsis, not a query. My query appeared two days before this.

Wilkins, I'll rework that sentence.

Thanks both of you (and of course Sarah & Phoenix) for your helpful feedback. New version soon.

Kay