Thursday, May 4, 2017

Synopsis Critique #7 - Adult Fiction

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of FIRST CORPSE: THE APPETIZER, an 89,000-word Adult Fiction, 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!


As host of the Foodie Channel’s hottest show, Food Made Whole, Lane Stevens’ next episode takes her to San Francisco, where she finds a shiny silver tray of grilled rumaki on her hotel room floor, along with a very bloody, very blue, very dead man. [This is a great opening, though I've never heard of 'rumaki.' Can you add a short description, maybe in parentheses?] In a voice reminiscent of warm caramel, Federal Agent Ryan Cooke exposes the dead man as Lane’s estranged uncle [would Lane not have recognized her uncle, even if they were estranged? Or was he so decomposed by then they had to get a forensic exam to determine his identity? If not, then how was the federal agent able to identify him?], who had protected a microscopic memory card with evidence of a deadly conspiracy aimed at the American public. [Interesting... but how does the agent know all this? Was the uncle working for the government? Can you add more details about what the conspiracy entailed, or does the agent not know (or reveal the details to Lane) at this point in the book?] Ryan doesn’t divulge that all evidence gathered by his forensics lead points to Lane. She is believed to have stolen the card. [I would combine the two preceding sentences] In fact, many parties [what parties? You can be more detailed here] think she has it, and any one of them could be the entity known only as The Employer [what kind of entity is The Employer? Give the reader just a little more to go on here. Is The Employer a mafia-type organization? Group of computer hackers? Etc.?], who sends a clear message—either Lane hands over the card, or someone else she cares about will be the next corpse. Without the card and with limited options, she has no choice but to trust Ryan, so together they stir up a plan to draw The Employer out. [What's going on with her job at this point? Has she taken a leave of absence? Is she still hosting with all this going on?] After a daring deep ocean escape from the bureau, [what bureau?] they shack up in an old safe house, dine on stale mini-mart food, and work through clues leading them to her grandmother’s diamond necklace, which they soon learn had housed the tiny card all along. But their efforts to find either the necklace or The Employer are scrambled amidst an attack by a mounted patrolman, a personal massager incident, several red herrings [can you describe at least one of the red herrings? If there's no space, then I'd leave that out. The other three incidents you describe are detailed and add a lot of color to the plot, and 'red herrings' is generic], and a shoot out in Lane’s childhood home. When they finally hold the leverage [what does this mean? Explain using details from the story] to end the ordeal, all nefarious parties pursuing the card converge on the safe house. In the commotion, Ryan is shot and Lane watches, helpless, as he dies. With all eyes on her, she drops the necklace into the blazing fire of a wood stove, [when did they get the necklace? And how? That seems like an important plot point] where the diamonds melt away, and, in theory, so does the card. The nightmare may be over, but her life isn’t the same. She isn’t the same. Lane seeks the solitude of a remote Caribbean island, hoping to reclaim some small piece of herself. But Ryan’s partner, Marco, intercepts her. [I'm not sure 'intercepts' is the right verb to use here. Do you mean he finds her, or confronts her, or something else?] Lane admits to having pocketed the gem with the memory card before she destroyed the necklace, and Marco persuades her to help him examine the data. It contains proof the nation’s health crisis [what health crisis? Be specific] did not simply evolve. It was planned, designed, marketed, and well executed for corporate profit, and was conveniently overlooked by the FDA. It is the ultimate public betrayal, and in foul hands would make a powerful bargaining chip against the U.S. government. [This is an interesting reveal] As Lane and Marco walk the shoreline discussing the fate of the card, the forensics lead accosts them. [Have we met the forensics lead before? He's the one who thinks Lane stole the card, right? You don't have a ton of names in the synopsis, so since he's important to the climax, I'd name him here] He boasts of his partnership with The Employer [does Lane ever find out more about what The Employer is and what they do?] to obtain the incriminating data, then he shoots Marco in the hip and orders Lane to hand over the memory card. Scared witless but stubborn when confronted by demands, Lane hurls the card into the waves. Marco extends a weak arm, tripping the forensics lead, and the gun tumbles to the sand. The man wields a knife over Marco’s chest, but Lane scoops up the gun, closes her eyes, and fires. Back in the states, Lane receives word that Marco will make a full recovery, and that the forensics lead she shot in the ass confessed to killing her uncle with a skewer from the grilled Rumaki. [Nitpick, but above, you don't capitalize rumaki and here you do. Just be consistent] The Employer is still at large, but with the card swept away by the surf, the threat appears to be eliminated. Lane embraces her work with a new sense of purpose, determined to make a difference in turning the nation’s health crisis around. [This makes it sound like she's using her work as a cooking show host to solve the health crisis. This may be true, but if not, break these two points apart] And as recording for the episode wraps up, she dedicates the show to a hero killed in the line of duty, Special Agent Ryan Cooke. Afterwards, a man waits in the shadows. “Hello, Lane,” the man says. A quiver tiptoes up Lane’s spine. Was that…caramel? [This isn't a traditional synopsis ending, but I love it. You start and end with caramel, it ties into the cooking theme, and it lets the reader know the story has a complete arc, but there's a door left open for a sequel (Ryan not really being dead, I assume).]


Overall, this is strong. You've got the full main plot arc here, and the reader gets a good sense of the tone of the book (mystery/thriller, but with a hint of lightheartedness shown by the food references and some of the details (for example, that Lane's uncle was killed by a skewer from the grilled rumaki)). I love the last few paragraphs, even though they aren't a typical way to end a synopsis - breaking the rules, in this case, really works.

My main critique is that the descriptions skew vague/generic in many places. Since there's a neat vibe going on with the underlying humor, why not use specific descriptions where you're currently using generic ones? It would add a lot more voice to the synopsis and give the reader a full indication of what kind of book this is. For example, where you say 'When they finally hold the leverage to end the ordeal' say something like 'As Lane holds the necklace over the fireplace, ready to toss it in and end the ordeal' (which may or may not be what happens in the story, but you get the point).

Also, don't lose sight of Lane's job, which makes her an interesting main character. Does she work the whole time she's focused on this mystery, or has she taken a leave of absence? Either way, does that add pressure to the situation? If that's part of the plot, add in a few details to include that color here.

Great job, and best of luck with this manuscript!


Unknown said...

Thank you Jaime! I've been working on the changes you suggested, and the synopsis is stronger already!!

Girl Who Reads said...

If I was critiquing this I would have also asked - What kind of fire is that wood stove that melts a diamond? Diamonds burns at 700 degree Celsius and melts at over 3000 degrees Celsius. I would think it more likely that what is melting is the metal setting.

Unknown said...

Good catch Donna H! In researching this at the time, there seemed to be consensus that diamonds will dissipate at roughly 1200 F. (almost 700 C) provided there is ample oxygen. Wood stoves with ample oxygen will also reach 1200 - 1300 F. Within the context of the novel, one of the characters explains that a missing top plate on the stove allowed both the heat required to "melt' the diamonds and the opportunity for Lane to dispose of them. It seemed too long to include in the synopsis, but I like your discerning eye, as the word "melt" is technically incorrect. Off the top of my head I think I'll change it to "turned to dust", or something like that, in both the synopsis and the manuscript. Thank you so much for taking the time to give me that feedback!! Every comment makes the manuscript stronger. :-)