I’ll Show You Mine…


So, last week, I promised to post my own synopsis.  Here’s one for an as-yet-unsold novel.  I don’t follow my own formula perfectly (for a series of long, boring reasons that I’m not going to go into here…)  Nevertheless, I mostly stick with the formula I shared.  Obviously, on this website, you can’t see proper formatting, but assume that I nailed that, okay?  In comments, let me know what you think — does the synopsis hold your interest?  Does it show you the development of the main characters?  Does it give you a view of what the novel is actually about?

* * * BEGIN SYNOPSIS * * *

ASHLEY WARNER is a typical high school senior: a good daughter to her widowed father, a great friend to the brilliant, high-strung KAYLA BARKER, and the somewhat unlikely girlfriend of Lincoln High’s ultra-popular All State pitcher, BRANDON METHENY. Ashley understands the way her world works; she lives and breathes social rules and academic expectations. Her life is in perfect order until she gets hit with after-school detention for a minor offense. Until she meets ZACHARY JACOBS.

Zachary is the guy no one likes. Saddled with the moniker “Super Nazi” since an elementary school prank, the computer genius is a repeated victim of bullying. His lunch is stolen; he’s tripped in the classroom aisle. Everything Zachary does seems doomed to draw the wrong sort of attention from the popular kids.

Nevertheless, Ashley finds herself spending a lot more time with Zachary after she volunteers to help overworked Kayla with the school literary arts magazine, Crossroads. Due to funding cuts, the magazine is being published electronically for the first time, and Zachary’s computer skills are vital to a successful launch.

Ashley helps Kayla with another task—the distribution of Valentines Day carnations as a Student Council fundraiser. Ashley is astonished to receive a full bouquet from Brandon, and she’s proud of the attention—until Brandon informs her that he expects sex as a fair trade for the flowers. When Ashley refuses, Brandon flies into a rage. Their break-up is soon brutally public.

Ashley’s life begins a new trajectory. She’s no longer a happy, well-adjusted senior; rather, she is astonished to discover her classmates’ cruelty. When Zachary is beaten by Brandon’s friends, Ashley stands with the outcast. Day by day, she finds herself more isolated, more separate from the easy school life she’s always known. These changes create friction with both Kayla and her father.

A chance encounter between Ashley and Brandon’s mother leads the jocks to take major revenge for Ashley’s perceived impertinence. They draw a compromising caricature of Ashley on the bathroom wall and add the legend, “ASH TAKES CASH.” Ashley’s excision from Lincoln’s mainstream society is complete; her only friend is Zachary. (Kayla is so wrapped up in academic challenges that she’s unable to help.)

By spring break, Ashley is grateful to escape the hallways of Lincoln High. She spends time at Zachary’s house, working on the final formatting for Crossroads. While there, she discovers that Zachary’s life is very different from hers. He is distanced from his unemotional father, and he is infantilized by his mother. Ashley is both compelled and repulsed by the shooting range target displayed in Zachary’s room—the one relic of positive time shared with his father.

While working on the magazine, Zachary reveals a plagiarized submission from Brandon. Ashley reports the violation to school officials, but Brandon manages to escape censure. Nevertheless, Brandon seeks revenge. He shares a website with all of Lincoln High—www.AshTakesCash.com. Disgusted by the graphic images and sickened by the lurid text, Ashley spurns ineffectual support from Kayla and turns to Zachary.

The computer genius hacks into Brandon’s account and takes down the revolting website, adding substantial charges to Mrs. Metheny’s usurped credit card. Still stunned, Ashley spends the night with Zachary. They bond (chastely) through their shared pain, through their unjustified victimization at the hands of Lincoln’s bullies.

By the light of day, things are more complicated. Brandon, enraged by the hacked charges on his mother’s account, threatens bloody vengeance. When Ashley phones Zachary to warn him, he crystallizes into a different person. He instructs Ashley not to come to school the following day, and then he refuses to say more.

Panicked by Zachary’s implied threat, she runs to his home and discovers him holding a handgun. Alone in the house with a boy pushed past endurance, Ashley begins the argument of her life. She begs Zachary to think about the families of the boys he will murder. She pleads with him to imagine the penalties he’ll pay—prison or execution. She tries to make him understand how his actions will destroy his parents. Ultimately, she demands that he recognize the impact his actions will have on her—on the girl who knew him, who understood him, who could be held as an accessory to his crime.

Zachary only breaks when he realizes the harm he will bring to Ashley. He sobs and pleads with her, trying to explain that he only wanted to keep her safe. Ashley comforts him, but she demands that he reach out for help—to his parents, to a school counselor. Ultimately, Zachary agrees to give the gun to Ashley’s father. Ashley places the call and settles down to wait, unspeakably relieved that disaster has been averted.

In a brief epilogue, Ashley relates that Zachary is getting the mental health treatment that he needs. She is working on her own emotions—anger and fear and sorrow. She’s healing, patching things up with Kayla and reaffirming her bond with her father. And she’s eager to head to college in the fall, to a new life free from the bullying and violence of Lincoln High.

* * * END SYNOPSIS * * *


15 comments to I’ll Show You Mine…

  • Well, reading the synopsis made want to know more about the book and had me jumping from plot point to plot point with eager anticipation. So that means it’s effective, and is doing it’s job. I’ve heard some say that the voice of the synopsis should mirror the voice of the novel, and that doesn’t seem to be something you’ve done here. That is not meant as a criticism; just an observation. And though I think you touched on this in a past post, it might be a decision you want to explain in comments. I’d be interested to know why you chose this approach.

    The one suggestion I would make is this: The synopsis took a few paragraphs to really snag my interest, and I think that might be easily fixed by a somewhat more leading and specific tease in the first paragraph. Make it a little clearer that the story is headed toward a Ashley’s precipitous fall from grace, and the very real possibility of violence. Something to grab the reader right up front and up the stakes from the beginning. I wouldn’t necessarily change what you have, but would rather add something after the first mention of Zachary Jacobs. Just a suggestion.

    Oh, and Jacobs is often a Jewish name. Was that intentional? It did strike me as odd, given that he’s called a Nazi.

    Thanks for sharing this, Mindy. Having done something similar on this site, I know how intimidating this can be.

  • The synop did grab me, Mindy, and if I was an editor, I’d hop on buying it, though I agree with David that moving up a hook sentence about Zachary, into the first para, would give it more impact. 🙂

    As a victim of bullying (2 full years in jr high) it spoke truly to me and to my emotions at the time. And it also left me wondering about the mental help the lead bully should have gotten. The lead bully I dealt with in real life is described by her brother as “a bitter, angry old woman” and I have wondered for years whether she would have been a happier person if she could have gotten help. But that is real life wondering, not the beautiful synop you shared.

    So, again, if I was an editor, I’d want this book. Seriously.

  • David – thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. (And yes, when I read back over this prior to posting here, *I* felt the lack of a hook in the first paragraph. There’s a somewhat legitimate reason, given the specific circumstance for which I wrote this, but that’s not a good enough answer…) And I’d love to say that I had a deep inner reason for Jacobs as Zachary’s last name, but I didn’t – it fit with other names in the story…

    Faith – I am seriously considering writing a YA about the effects of bullying on the bully. It’s a tough book to write and a tougher one to sell — the market wants bad people to be punished, but it doesn’t tolerate ambiguity… Thanks for your kind words about this one!

  • I tripped a little over how Ashley meets Zach. Otherwise, this was a very engaging synopsis. This story feels like it could be very potent and powerful.

  • Hey all. I’ll be posting this in the comments often in the next 2 weeks.

    The MW lunch at ConCarolinas is on Saturday June 1, from noon to 3 pm in Boardwalk Billy’s. I had to post a credit card note for the room, so if you are not on the list, you may not get in. If your plans change, let me know ASAP, so I can adjust accordingly.

    So far (names shortened for privacy) we have: Laura, Margaret C, 3 Gilberts, Judith and Melanie, Sharon S, Emily L, Lee WW, Joyce and Lynn, Alexander/C, 3 Masseys and Jan, David and Daughter, Joy, Wayne McC, Janet WW, Theresa G, Gerald and Angela, James Tuck, Tiff Clark and guest. Hubby and Faith.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Not being used to reading synopses, this is tough for me to comment on. I can tell that the bulk of my reactions stem from the story you’re presenting – which means that you’ve presented the story very clearly, very much like a story, and you’ve made it look easy, even though I know it’s really really not easy to write such a well flowing synopsis.

    I will agree with Laura that the transition to spending more time with Zach is a bit awkward. Perhaps mention the computer needs of the literary magazine first? Also, I immediately wanted to know why she was the “somewhat unlikely girlfriend” of Brandon when the rest of the intro paragraphs are so focused on proving how highschool-normal she is.

    My further comments are all *very* much personal preference and so probably aren’t helpful. Also, this book is simply well outside the range of what I usually read. The primary reason I probably wouldn’t read it, all other things being equal, has to do with this sentence: “When Ashley refuses, Brandon flies into a rage.” The highschool jock who is such a (hidden) jerk that he “flies into a rage” when denied something he wants feels like an overly familiar trope. And it’s so far outside my own much more introverted highschool experience that I have little patience for it. In fact, in my memories of highschool, it was the girlfriends of these guys that I actually disliked, because their contrasting niceness came across as patronizing and false.

  • Faith – make me a plus one, as my friend Melissa will be there and would very much like to attend.

  • Thanks for sharing this–it really helps me understand how to write a synopsis. Your synopsis makes this seem like a strong and powerful book. I’ll echo what others have said about the beginning not really grabbing me the way the ending did. After the first three paragraphs I was thinking about a high school romantic triangle, something fairly light. The switch to violence in paragraph 4, when Brandon flies into a rage, threw me a bit. After that, I was definitely NOT thinking light romantic triangle!

    Also, I love the idea of a book about the effects of bullying on the bully.

  • Very informative and educational, Mindy – thanks!

    I’ll echo the earlier comments regarding the slow start. Two other things jumped out at me – one of which had me distracted for most of the synopsis. First – there’s no explanation of the “elementary school prank” that earned Zach his SUPER NAZI nickname; I kept expecting it to be revealed (no hiding stuff in the synopsis, right?). The second was the target in Zach’s room – it telegraphed that it would become a school-shooter story, and made me wonder if perhaps it would do the same in the novel.

  • Razziecat

    Mindy, yes, I think it does show character development and clearly shows what the story is about, there is only one thing that bothers me. It seems incomplete because there’s no mention of what happens to the bullies. As a person who was bullied through most of elementary school, I can say that one of my dearest wishes in those days was for justice: I wanted the bullies to be stopped. So for a story like this, I’d also want to see the bullies get some sort of comeuppance.

  • Laura – Thanks for reading and commenting! It’s interesting to me, to see what rough spots rubbed which readers the wrong way…

    Hepseba – Your comments raise a very important point — each of us can have the best synopsis in the world — the Platonic Ideal of a synopsis — and if our story just rubs an editor the wrong way, our work isn’t going to succeed with that editor. The elements that you dislike about my synopsis are elements that will bother you with my novel, and that’s just a fact of life. ::spirited grin::

    SiSi – Yep, this discussion definitely illustrates the need for an effective hook (which I did not provide!)

    Lyn – Interesting to read your reaction about the prank — I didn’t intend to hide the ball; I just wan’t going to waste valuable space describing the prank. As for the target — I think that I *do* hide the ball in the novel, but I don’t have time to do that in the synopsis; rather, I have to prove, “I lay the groundwork, and then I follow through.” Although, perhaps, it doesn’t work for you-the-editor!

    Razziecat – “What happens to the bullies” was actually a *huge* deal as I wrote this novel. There were — literally — seven different endings, some with nothing happening to the bullies, some with them suffering social falls, some with them going to jail, etc., etc., etc. In the ultimate version of the novel, the focus isn’t on what happens to the bullies, it’s on the choices made by my heroine. And that focus might be too disappointing for you-the-editor…

  • Mindy – I think because the term “Nazi” is such a hot button for older generations, but not necessarily common among today’s children, it begged explanation. “Cheese Wuss” wouldn’t have distracted me nearly as much! 🙂

  • I am rather new to this blog. I have visted this blog multiple times and have read many of the great post. Then I read this… I want to know where I can buy a copy. Great job, I don’t say this much, but this synopsis was amazing and gripped me from the beginning. I look forward to reading more from you, hopefully in the near future.
    A.L. Wyatt

  • Lyn – I guess I think of Nazi as being a hot button for all generations (perhaps not as true as I’d like it to be…) Hmmm… Cheese Wuss… Now that’s a totally different story! 🙂

  • Andrew – I apologize for the delay in clearing your post — I was offline most of the weekend. Thanks for your kind words about the synopsis, and I hope you’ll stick around, commenting often, in the future!