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A friend of mine from the LSFW is looking for feedback on his synopsis. In addition to being a thoroughly good chap, Nathan's one of those 'How can I be of help?' folks, so I was only too happy to offer to post it online in the hope some of my readers would spare a few minutes to offer a little constructive feedback.

Here's Nathan's synopsis:

The Right Medicine, Mystery, 87,000 words

Lee Thurman, a can’t-miss baseball prospect who missed, skates through life playing recreational fast-pitch softball and working as an IT consultant and part-time Blue Hills, NJ, constable. Since giving up on heroics after a pressure-filled youth on the ball field, Lee tries to be satisfied with his quiet, simple life. Until, that is, his Blue Hills police detective cousin Roger sets him up investigating DistaPharm CEO Walter O’Brien’s suicide.

Siobhan, the deceased’s smoking hot daughter and Lee’s new client, believes the cops are wrong; her father was murdered. DistaPharm was about to announce a cure for cancer, and Walter had a new lover. Why would he kill himself? Siobhan is alone in her belief, but she has money and time on her hands. Lee likes the potentially easy payday.

Walter’s colleagues and contacts, including close friend Doc Cramer, try to dissuade Lee. Still Lee tumbles over O’Brien’s secret plans to corner the recreational marijuana market and gets Walter’s drug-dealing, bike store owning partner arrested. Lee’s reward is a beating by the dealer’s minions and an ER trip with cracked ribs and broken pride where he meets a very cute physician’s assistant named Mule.

When Lee gets home the dealer is waiting in the living room, not to deliver another beating but to profess innocence. The arrangement with Walter was a chance to go straight, and Walter’s death ended that dream. He produces secret documents outlining the partnership under the DistaPharm seal.

Faced with additional evidence, the cops are forced to re-open the case. Siobhan fires Lee to protect him from additional harm, and to make up for it invites Lee and Roger to a political fundraiser. Lee is very happy to see Mule at the event and offers her a ride back to her car at the hospital.

Lee’s amorous intentions are thwarted when some jerk in a green sedan shoots Roger walking back to his car, and Lee scares him off with Roger’s gun by shooting out the back windows of a bunch of parked cars. In the confusion the cops think Lee is the shooter, sending Lee again to the hospital with a severe concussion. Mule is impressed and takes him home when he’s discharged for some TLC.

Everyone now agrees Walter was murdered, but the idiot detective who takes over from Roger focuses on the innocent (of this murder, at least) Hayes. This leaves the real killer free to track down Lee and his friends to finish the job started at the fundraiser.

So Lee has to play the hero again for the first time in over a decade, and he’s committed not to let everyone down. Lee uses his IT skills to root through Walter’s smart phones, laptop and cloud services and discovers Walter planned to give away the cure for cancer for free like Jonas Salk did for polio. Suddenly every employee and investor who would lose money on their DistaPharm stock is a suspect. Unfortunately, that puts Lee farther away from knowing how to stop the killer.

The killer misreads this discovery and considers Lee a growing threat, and the next morning tries to run Lee down, throwing him over the hood of his brand new car and head first into the windshield. Unsuccessful, the killer drives off in his damaged green sedan and Lee takes yet another trip, this time unconscious, to the emergency room to see his new girlfriend.

Based on the evidence, and the timing and locations of his various beatings, Lee narrows the suspect list down to two, including the acting DistaPharm CEO and Doc Cramer.  A search of car ownership determines Cramer’s lobbying firm owns a car like the one that smashed into Lee. Every cop in New Jersey mobilizes to search for Cramer on the roads, bridges, bus and train stations, and airports.

But they don’t search the bed and breakfast where Lee and Mule decide to take a break. Lee is happy to see Siobhan standing at the front door until Cramer emerges behind her waving a gun. Lee’s worst fears are realized: he failed to protect his client and girlfriend, and is afraid he won’t be physically able to stop Cramer before someone gets hurt. As Cramer is distracted Siobhan and Mule tackle and tie him up to save the day. Lee, stuck in his chair, sheepishly comes to terms with the fact that he isn’t the hero of this story.

And discovers he’s finally OK with that.

Any and all constructive criticism welcome.


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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 27th, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
A few comments (which should probably be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as I'm not a mystery reader and know only so much about synopses).

1. I'm not understanding why Lee does this, other than that it's a quick payday. If he just wants to make money, there have to be easier ways than trying to solve a murder. Why would anyone even *want* him to solve a murder? He's an IT guy and ball player. (Also, how does being a baseball player or an IT guy matter? The details feel kind of irrelevant.)

2. I find the idea of a pharma CEO also being a recreational marijuana drug dealer a bit implausible. Marijuana is grown, not manufactured (like most pharma), and just...why risk it? (And how does this tie in with the cancer thing?)

3. I think that there may be too many characters, plot twists, etc. in this. I found it hard to follow, and a lot of what happens doesn't seem to follow a clear chain of causality, which I think adds to my confusion. I suspect that reducing the events that are described (and characters), but giving them more context would make this easier to read.

Hopefully some of this helps!
Mar. 27th, 2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback!
1) I've heard this a few times from folks reading the query or synopsis but people who read the ms (even just the opening) get it right away. Many amateur sleuth mysteries go this route (not that I am anywhere near this good, but Stephanie Plum starts hunting down killers because she's broke), so it's a problem with the query and/or synopsis I need to figure out how to present it.

2) This is a great point in the synopsis, because obviously I didn't write it properly. In the world of the book medical marijuana is being legalized most places (a lot like this world) and there is a push on to decriminalize that looks like it might be a success. So he is setting up his company to provide medical marijuana, then to take that expertise and go recreational with a subsidiary when the opportunity presents. Again, not done well in the synopsis.

3) Yeah, working on that, too. Thanks!
Mar. 27th, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the feedback!
You're welcome. I do think that it may take a bit of work to figure out how to present it properly. As of the moment, I'm just puzzled, which I suspect is not good.

2. may still be hard, as growing drugs and manufacturing them really are different processes. Attaching a chain of causality, I think, would be difficult (and, yes, I think it probably needs to be done).

Glad it helps, and best of luck!
Mar. 27th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
I agree with Julia on these. I don't see what the baseball angle has to do with the rest of the story. It would make better sense if he's a private eye, but the cliched "smoking-hot" daughter character is a little too reminiscent of the scientist's daughter in The Thin Man and a dozen other hard-boiled detective novels of that era. The baseball player this is a lot like Magnum P.I. too. Also, the end, though it could be played for comedic value, is a little anti-climactic.
Mar. 27th, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback, also!
This is an amateur sleuth novel, which intentionally plays with some of the tropes of the noir mystery. I'm guessing that doesn't come through well.
Mar. 27th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
However valid those observations might be,
they are actually criticisms of the book,
rather than of the synopsis.

My only concern with the synopsis is that it may not be sufficienlty concise.
Mar. 27th, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure that this is true. I'd assume that the book actually goes into why some of the complaints I have aren't really complaints - it's just not clear from the synopsis. Unfortunately, without being able to read the actual book, I'm left with bewilderment. (And, if I were an agent, would probably reject.)

If, for instance, we learn that the baseball abilities allow Lee to wield a bat and kill the bad guy, then we know why that matters. If the murderer needs to be tracked through IT, that ability might matter. Etc. etc.
Mar. 27th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see.
I guess I was infering an accurate synopsis of an imperfect book,
where it may simply be an incomplets synopsis
of a perfectly good book?

Mar. 27th, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
I tend to assume the second. ;) I mean, I figure that a synopsis is like...1/100th of what we see in a book. So likely there are all kinds of details that would make sense if they were added or explained. (And, of course, if the book itself is the problem, the author can always change that too, at this point.)
Mar. 27th, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks fo the feedback, too!
The synopsis is less than 750 words, easily fitting on two double spaced pages. Could it be that it feels long because there is too much plot and not enough character development of Lee? Or too many characters?
Mar. 27th, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks fo the feedback, too!
Okay, it feels long,
although I'm not sure why,
so you may have the right idea,
particularly if you resolve the points brought up
in other comments.
Mar. 27th, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
I think it's too long in two ways.

1) It mentions too many characters - I was constantly scrolling back up the page to remind myself who various characters were. Example: Roger is mentioned in the first paragraph and then again in the 5th - by then I had no idea who Roger was. Also, mentioning Doc Cramer seemed very irrelevant in the 3rd paragraph until he was brought back into the story in the 10th paragraph. Also, the dead CEO is referred to by his full name, and then as Walter & O'Brien & back to Walter. For a minute I thought there were 2 guys - Walter & O'Brien.

2) Too many adjectives. "part-time Blue Hills, NJ, constable", "Blue Hills police detective cousin Roger", "Walter’s drug-dealing, bike store owning partner" - they make it hard to follow the meat of the story. Maybe trim some of that and try to connect the flow of events more smoothly instead. The 3rd-5th paragraphs are a bit confusing as is how the killer misreads his discovery.

All those characters and descriptions will be great in the story, they just are too hard to follow in a compressed synopsis. It sounds like an interesting story and just the type that I would really enjoy.
Mar. 27th, 2012 08:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you Once Again
Thanks for the specifics. In the version I'm now on thanks to all the helpful hints here I may have addressed a couple of your things (Roger is toast, I redid the killer's confusion, and the Walter/O'Brien thing is fixed) and I will now look at adjectives.

THANKS TO EVERYONE. (yes, i know i screamed. sorry.)
Mar. 27th, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you Once Again
Happy to help! ^_^
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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