Thursday, March 16, 2017

Synopsis Critique #5 - MG Contemporary

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of THE LAST DOUBLOON, a 36,000-word MG Contemporary, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


The day before twelve-year-old ANTONIO MORA flies from Spain to Florida [this set-up is a little confusing. Is he going by himself? Is it just to visit? Is he moving there permanently? A tiny bit more detail here would help], his mom shows him an old silver coin she found on her parents’ property in Florida, and a letter belonging to old neighbors. It takes Antonio only two minutes to realize that finding more valuable coins could help his unemployed dad. It could even get his recently separated parents together again. But Antonio’s dad has his own plan and takes off to Melilla [is this a city in Spain?] in search of work the same day Antonio leaves for Florida. [This is a good start. Antonio's mom giving him the coin seems to be the inciting incident, and Antonio is making a plan based on it. Just a little clarity with why and for how long Antonio is going to Spain will help orient the reader here.] Once in Clara Springs [Is this in FL?], Antonio bumps into two kids MOLLIE and TATE who happen to be new neighbors and in Antonio’s mind, potential witnesses of his treasure search. [What does it mean to be a 'witness' of a treasure search? Do you mean they're his helpers? Or are they hindering his search?] Antonio is happy to enlist his old friend, JULIANNE MENDES, in his search, but she is now friends with Mollie who Antonio doesn’t trust. [Why doesn't Antonio trust Mollie?] The last thing Antonio needs is the news of a tropical storm approaching Florida, cutting his digging time short. [Has he already started digging? How does he know where to dig? Where does he start? Perhaps lead with a sentence explaining how he's putting his plan into action, then introduce us to the other kids] After several failed attempts at finding coins, Antonio grows frustrated. When he learns of the sinkholes that opened during the winter, he suspects they could have sucked in the coins, and feels puzzled and discouraged. Then he starts reading the old letter [this is the letter his mother gave him, right? If so, add that here to remind the reader] about the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet that shipwrecked off the coast of Sebastian Inlet. According to it [the letter], some of the surviving sailors stole coins and riches, and Antonio believes his coin was part of the stolen bounty, but finds no clues in the letter about a buried treasure. Instead, he finds and [an] old picture belonging to his mom showing her friendship with Mollie’s dad. Antonio realizes Mollie and Tate aren’t exactly new neighbors but the old ones his mom had talked about. [Why is this significant? Does it show that Mollie and Tate might be looking for the treasure too?] [Who is Antonio living with while he's in FL? Is he with his mom? If so, wouldn't he talk to her about the letter, the coin, and his search?] When Antonio confides with Julianne about his dad, she tells him that her papa is at the hospital, and her family can barely afford the hospital bills. Antonio realizes that her family is in a worse situation than his, and she’d benefit from finding the coins, too. Before the hurricane makes landfall, Antonio talks to his mom and he finds out his dad has settled down in Melilla. Seeing his dad in the future is going to be really hard. [So did Antonio move to FL permanently? Or is Melilla far from where Antonio and his mother live in Spain?] At the library, they find more information about the fleet, but Antonio also figures that his coin, a silver real, it’s not the valuable coin he had dreamed of. [Why does he think this? Does something in the library give him the impression his coin isn't valuable after all?] He wonders if he’ll be able to help his dad at all, let alone share with Julianne if he finds anything. The hurricane makes landfall on the Florida coast, but spares Clara Springs. Unfortunately, two tornadoes cause havoc in the county and partially destroy Antonio’s and Julianne’s properties, including her chicken coop, built by her papa. By an uprooted tree Antonio spots a rotten box with a bunch of coins and crystals inside. The crystals happen to be emeralds, and since they were on the property line, Antonio splits them to help pay for Julianne’s hospital bills. [So did it turn out the silver coin wasn't important after all? Does he ever find out who the box belonged to or why it was buried?] Antonio figures the letter had belonged to Mollie’s dad. Since he passed away, Antonio returns it to Mollie, considering if some of the coins and gems may belong to her. [Does he give some of them to her? Earlier, you mention that Antonio is suspicious of Mollie and Tate, but it isn't really mentioned again. It's worth a sentence or two explaining what happened to Mollie and Tate and their relationship to Antonio.] Finally, Antonio hears news from his dad, and feels hopeful about seeing each other soon at the end of the summer break.


This synopsis is well-written and takes us through the main plot nicely, with a true beginning, middle, and end. Antonio has a clear goal, and a plan to achieve it. As it's a short synopsis, if you're trying to keep it to one page, you won't have a lot of room for revisions. However, I did have some questions I believe merit answering for reader clarity:

1) Why is Antonio going to FL, for how long, and who is he living with while there?

2) What does Antonio specifically do once he decides to become a treasure hunter? For example, does he buy maps, shovels, other supplies? Does he make a plan for when and where to dig? Is he digging on the beach, around people's houses, etc.? How much time does he spend digging? Does Julianne help him?

3) Why doesn't Antonio ask his mom, who gave him the coin and the letter, for more information about the coin and the letter? Are his grandparents in the story? They might know more than Antonio's mom.

4) What's the deal with Mollie and Tate? Antonio seems suspicious of them at first, and it turns out they're the family that originally had the letter, but there's no real clarification of what happens with this subplot. Honestly, you may consider leaving them out of this one-page synopsis altogether unless you have the space to tie them a little closer to the main plot.

For a one-page synopsis, you've got a nice summary of the main plot. If you expand to two or more pages, you'll have more space for Mollie and Tate, and explaining more about their relationship with Antonio, history with the treasure, etc.

Overall, this sounds like a really fun story. Best of luck with the manuscript!

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