Jeanne: The Dreaded Synopsis


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Last Saturday, Julie Sturgeon, editor with Tule (pronounced Too-ley, completely against the phonics rules I learned in Mrs. Young’s second grade class) Publishing, spoke at my chapter on Five Career Sabotages You Probably Don’t Know You’re Doing and then stuck around to take pitches.

Tule publishes Contemporary romance, with a special affection for small-town stories. I recently completed (finally!) work on Girl’s Best Friend, a Contemporary romance set in the mythical village of Russet Springs, Ohio. I’d already decided that I can’t really afford an editor and cover for a book that is not part of my base brand. (See the little she-demon in our header? That’s me–not because I’m a she-demon (although some people might argue that point) but because I write about demons and Hell most of the time. Anyway, for the reasons described, I’d already decided to try to sell GBF to a small press, and Tule has a good reputation, so I pitched it to Julie.

She liked the sound of it and invited me to submit 4-5 chapters, a synopsis and a brief description of a second book I have in mind for that small town series. So, yay!

Except, in the middle of that sentence was the dreaded word “synopsis.” (Cue the organ music for a horror film.)

When we were at McDaniel, Jenny Crusie taught us to create a synopsis by writing one paragraph for each turning point (e.g. inciting incident, end of Act 1/point of no return, midpoint, crisis, resolution) and then a paragraph for the four acts that fall in between those turning points.

I’m not going to share the whole thing because if I do, when the book comes out no one would need to read it, but I will share the first few paragraphs and you can tell me what you think.

Inciting Incident:

Would-be real estate developer Taylor Wallace needs one last piece of land to complete acquisitions for a casino development outside quirky Russet Springs, Ohio, where she recently relocated. She approaches sexy dog whisperer Jake Trent only to learn he plans to build a dog rescue on his land. But Taylor’s boss, Norman Meath, the only employer in Chicago who was willing to offer a real job to a former dance major, has a lot of money invested in purchasing real estate options and won’t take no for an answer.

Act 1:

Taylor is tempted to help Jake with the paperwork required to set up his rescue, but it feels like disloyalty to Norman.  Meanwhile, Taylor’s fifteen-year-old sister, Bree, begs to move back to Chicago, where her friends are, and Brandon, their sixteen-year-old brother, lobbies to become an exchange student in Germany so he can work with a famous soccer coach there. Taylor, who got custody of the kids after the accident that killed their parents and ended her dreams of a dance career, is determined to keep her family together—a trick that will require the raise and bonus attached to successfully completing the acquisitions for the casino.

End of Act 1/Point of no return:

After Norman files a nuisance complaint about Jake’s uncut grass to pressure him to sell and threatens further dirty tricks, high-principled Taylor agrees to help Jake create a project plan for the the rescue.

Act 2:

Taylor searches for an alternate site for the casino while Norman uses the information she unwittingly shares from conversations with Jake to bribe a local hunter to sue Jake for adverse possession. Meanwhile, during parent-teacher conferences, Taylor learns two things: ace-student Bree is not doing well in school, and there’s a land trust that’s constructing a “green bagel” around Russet Springs by buying up any land adjacent to Russet Springs that comes up for sale and placing a restrictive covenant on it to prevent it from ever being developed. Jake and Taylor grow closer, but their time together is constricted by the fact that she has two teenagers she wants to set a good example for.


Jake and Taylor finally manage to schedule a real date, but that day Jake receives a “cease and desist order” from Norman’s lawyers, claiming he’s putting up fence on land that doesn’t belong to him. Over dinner, they argue about whether Taylor should change jobs, giving up one that has good benefits and will help her pay for college for her brother and sister. Taylor insists that, while Norman’s actions aren’t admirable, they are legal. They leave the restaurant intending to break up, but an encounter with an abusive dog owner in the parking lot reminds Taylor what a wonderful man Jake is. They take the rescued Basset hound to Jake’s house, where they make love for the first time.

Is there anything you think I should cut or add so far?

P.S. The illustration came up when I entered “synopsis” over on Pixabay. I’m pretty sure it actually depicts synapses, but I decided that works, too.


2 thoughts on “Jeanne: The Dreaded Synopsis

  1. I’m so late to this. I love the little details — the pettiness of filing over uncut grass, or that Taylor gets so much plot-moving information at a parent-teacher conference!

    The synopsis seems to proceed logically from one point to the next, until you get to the abused dog in the parking lot. I think I’d cut the part from “giving up” to “are legal” and then add a bit more about Jake and the dog owner. It’s a huge leap to go from breaking up to (ahem) making up, and I think even in the synopsis, we need to know more about the why. I mean, yeah, saving a dog is important. But more important than keeping food in the mouths of a beloved brother and sister?

    (-: It sounds like a good read!

Let Us Know What You Think

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s