So this is a plot synopsis for a novel. I have never done one before and do not know what I'm doing. The problem is compounded by the fact that the book consists of three timelines featuring the same characters related in parallel, which I am unsure how to synopsis-ize. So this is my first stab.
I have read various suggestions for the length of a synopsis, going from two pages to ten pages to one synopsis page per 25 manuscript pages (which would be, like, 3200 words for an 80000 word novel and sounds fucking loony tunes, but whatever). I can probably cut this down without much effort, but I'm not even convinced the voice and style are appropriate, or that the level of detail is appropriate, or anything.
So. If you were an agent, would you want to make publishers give me money based on the following? Please check the appropriate box:
PARKER sits in a doctor’s office waiting room with his daughter CHARLIE. Routine check-up. Same ol’, same ol’. Charlie doodles six-year-old masterpieces in her sketchbook while Parker fantasizes about stabbing the pretty receptionist with her own pen. The sticky red mess. He shudders at the visceral imagery, but boy would it make for a compelling narrative. Same ol’, same ol’.
Later, Charlie is back at school and Parker is back at home, distractedly seeking a new job in project management. In his head, Parker plays the conversation he knows is coming, the one with his wife GENNY where she tells him that the marriage is over, so sorry Parker. In his head, she realizes she still loves him. They kiss, they reconcile, slow pan to table lamp, cut scene.
Parker thinks back to when the marital troubles began, the failure of bedroom chemistry and general alienation that drove him to infidelity. He wants to be a good person, better than his estranged FATHER, the alcoholic, the abusive womanizer who left when Parker was a teenager.
That night, Parker and Genny hold their conversation: she’s sorry, it’s over. This time, there is no last-minute realization that they can make this work. There is no kiss and no slow pan. Cut scene.
Life continues for Parker and his family. Little Charlie doesn’t know that Daddy will be leaving just as soon as her parents get their financial ducks in a row. Parker puts on a good act as he and Genny go out with their friends, as Parker nods and smiles his way through dinner parties while imagining himself murdering the other guests.
When Parker receives the letter from his father, it’s the first time he’s heard from the man in twenty years. His father is dying and wishes for reconciliation. He wants to make amends, and Parker wonders: should he grant a dying man his final wish? What would Hollywood do?
It is in the wake of this reminder of his past that Parker, stumbles across the realization that he may fit the definition of clinical psychopathy. To his growing pile of concerns , add this: is he a psychopath? What would that mean? And what would his friends and family do if they ever found out?
Parker recalls his escapades with his old high-school flame, ANGELA, the woman who reintroduced herself into his life just two years back. He recalls the stuttering, long-distance affair they shared, and how handily he negotiated the river of lies. He recalls the lack of guilt, the sociopathic disregard for Genny’s feelings. Add to this his emotionless fascination with death and violence - proof positive that he is a psychopath, case closed, QED. Devastating, truly. But what a compelling plot twist in the film that is Parker’s life!
Weeks pass, and Parker and Genny move with tectonic speed towards the dissolution of their marriage, Parker pleading with her to change her mind, Genny stonewalling in her own, more subtle ways. Even as they share moments of genuine love towards one another, the strain of the approaching end leaves its marks, compounded further by Genny’s own loss of employment. There is tension , and even poor, oblivious Charlie has begun to feel it.
And that letter, clamped to the refrigerator, ignored. Parker recounts his upbringing, his mother and father each ruining him in their own unique ways. At last Genny demands: make a decision about your father, Parker. Don’t let this problem resolve itself.
Parker makes the call.
And finds that his father died just a few days back.
Parker attends the funeral, and as he’s making his way to the viewing room he imagines how this could’ve gone. A final confrontation in a quiet restaurant, Parker meeting his father and telling him: I hate you, dad. You were a terrible father and I fucking hate you. Then the door to the viewing room opens and Parker sees the body and knows that chance is gone. He will stand before these mourners, then, and deliver a pitch-black eulogy on exactly the sort of man his father was. Except Parker looks down at the newly-widowed ex-wife he never knew existed, sees her genuine grief, and he can’t do it. He gives a waffley speech about how each person is good in his own way and darts out of the building, mourning the Hollywood moment that was stolen from him.
Parker returns home to resume playing the loving husband for an audience of one. Except the performance is unconvincing; Charlie realizes that Mommy and Daddy are seeking a divorce. The familial stress reaches a breaking point and, one stormy night, as Charlie sleeps and Genny waits for Parker to return with frozen yogurt, Parker decides that if his life will contain uncertainty, it will be an uncertainty of his own manufacture. He will create his own dramatic plot twist. He stabs his car through a puddle and forces a hydroplane before slamming his car into a tree, a mid-speed collision calculated to be incalculable; let the narrative gods determine his fate.
Days later, swimming in and out of lucidity, Parker sees his daughter. And he knows: she is what matters. The best thing Parker’s father ever did for him was to leave, and though Parker’s father left after the damage had already been done, maybe it’s not too late for dear Charlie. Weekend visits, then. A removed sort of devotion. He will see her but he will not break her.
He comes to, and Genny is beside herself. She wonders if maybe they can work things out, maybe they can be a family, and he tells her: no. I love you, Genny, but no. You were right before, and we can’t work. We can be our own sort of family, but not with this simulacrum of a marriage.
Charlie rushes in – Daddy! You’re awake! – and, as their own sort of family, they embrace.
Weeks later, we see Parker getting ready for his first day at a new job. Genny hugs him goodbye and he walks, with Charlie, out through a garage filled with packed boxes that await his imminent move. As he drives her to school, Charlie makes Parker promise that he will call her every day. Parker promises. As she steps from the car, Charlie turns and smiles and says goodbye and I love you, Daddy. Parker sees her little blonde head disappear into a swarm of first-graders, and she is gone.
Cut scene and wrap.