Sunday, 31 January 2010

Problems in Synopses

Each of the following extracts were taken from three real synopses, but I've doctored them a bit to protect the guilty (of whom I was one...).

Q: Can you spot the common problem?

One blazing hot July, fourteen year old Jane and her recently widowed mother move into a new house and Jane falls instantly for the boy next door, John. But he's nineteen and a student at Oxford, and takes no more notice of her than he does the family's pet dog. After taking her GCSEs Jane wants to go to university but her mother is ill and Jane needs to find a job instead. She begins work as shop assistant in a department store, hoping to be accepted onto the management trainee scheme.

Bored and restless, Isabel takes a part-time job with Patrick Sherwin, who has recently moved into the area, living and working in a cottage belonging to his sister Mary. Almost to her surprise she starts having an affair with Patrick, who says that he does not want any commitment which she agrees to.

Sophie meets John, a stand-up comedian and together they tour the working men’s clubs of Northern England. John reacts to paternity in a major way and decides that he must bring up their five children, Megan, Morag, Michael, Sandy and Mandy, away from the dangers of the Big Wen. Sophie agrees to leave her job as marketing manager and the family move to the West Country where they hope to find paradise.

A: They've all got time slips, all of which were quite genuine and unnoticed by the authors.

1. There's an implied gap between 14 year old Jane's arrival, and her taking her GCSEs. Unless she's utterly brilliant that would be two years later, at sixteen. So what's been going on in the mean time?

2. This was from my first draft and it always makes me laugh (now). 'Almost to her surprise she starts having an affair...' So, she was walking down the street when - whoosh - she's having an affair? Like she slipped in something dodgy on the pavement. Again, there's an implied time lapse.

3. Two time slips here. Firstly, when did she produce those five children? Secondly, she was touring the working men's clubs a few sentences ago, so how and when did she manage to become a marketing manager?

None of the authors spotted the time slips, but when you read them it jars. So, ask someone else to check your synopsis before you let it go out.

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