An Uncapped Pen

April 15, 2008

Casual Duty – A Synopsis

Filed under: Writing — cindylv @ 12:45 am

The annual Las Vegas Writers’ Workshop begins this week.  In preparation for my pitch sessions, I’ve drafted my synopsis.  Please provide any comments/suggestions for improvement.  In case you are not familiar with the concept of a synopsis, this is what I will provide to potential agents, editors, or publishers to sell the concept of my book.  The requirements are:  1.  Limit to a single page.  2.  Use present tense and omniscient voice.  3.  No passive voice.  4.  No typos or grammar mistakes.  5.  Capitalize names of main characters.  6.  ID the POV character.  7.  Convince someone to support your novel.

Thanks for any help you may provide.


Two days ago at her Basic Training graduation ceremony, Private BRIDIE TRAYNOR (POV) stood with her classmates confident and ready to take on an entire Soviet Infantry Division armed with her M16 and a bayonet.  Standing here in the mini-mart wearing her Class A uniform armed with only her purse and beret, she just wanted to pee.   Fortunately, the two bank robbers had not anticipated her counterattack by asparagus grenades.   Despite outwitting the gunmen and rescuing two civilians from a hostage situation, BRIDIE finds herself in the crosshairs of her new platoon sergeant who assigns her to the Exercise Support Detail.

Staff Sergeant TOM JACKSON wants nothing more than to complete his temporary assignment to establish the orienteering and obstacle course for the first annual Desert Warfare Training Exercise at Fort Huachuca, and return to his Special Forces unit before his team deploys to South America on a secret drug interdiction mission.  When he is assigned a team of inexperienced recruits to support his task, he is convinced he will fail and miss his deployment.

Recent preparations for the Desert Warfare Training Exercise force unsuspecting soldiers directly into the path of seasoned smugglers who won’t hesitate to kill to protect their cargo of drugs and illegal aliens.

During BRIDIE’s first foray into the desert, she finds out just how strong she is after being chased by a pack of wild javelina, falling off a cliff, and getting caught in a flash flood.  Lost, injured, and scared, BRIDIE catches a glimpse of illegal aliens being herded across the river by their guides, the Coyotes.  In her confusion, she reports that she’s seen the band of ghosts who allegedly haunt the building that used to serve as the post morgue.  Frustrated that no one believes what she’s seen, BRIDIE is determined to prove to everyone that she is telling the truth.  Her mission is to find out which of her new friends she can trust and which one has betrayed the team.

Working long hours under terrible conditions, BRIDIE finds herself irresistibly attracted to the ruggedly handsome Staff Sergeant JACKSON.  However, he’s not interested in anything or anyone that distracts his attention from completing his temporary assignment and returning to his team.  Over time as BRIDIE gains experience, she proves her worth to the team and earns JACKSON’s grudging respect.

Just days before the exercise begins, Staff Sergeant JACKSON discovers the enemy’s command post and is mortally wounded.  BRIDIE must conquer her self-doubts and use her new skills to capture the traitor and rescue Staff Sergeant JACKSON.



  1. Hi Cynthia,

    I haven’t read the novel installments yet, but I found the synopsis very convincing, with a nice touch of humor–it definitely made me want to read the book.

    I think, as a synopsis it works very well, and God knows I’ve read and edited my fair share of them–mine as well as other people’s. I could relate to your heroine and her emotions, I could literally feel, smell and hear the world you’ve created. Great job!

    A couple of really petty nitpicks:

    >>> ready to take on an entire Soviet Infantry Division

    it’s a lovely joke, but I felt it sort of established the book’s setting. The novel isn’t set in the Soviet times, is it? Because this phrase immediately sent me back in time. By the way, you might use this bit as an opportunity to establish the story’s setting by mentioning something equally funny, but from the novel’s actual background–something about South American guerillas, maybe?

    >>> their cargo of drugs and illegal aliens

    This made me jump for a second — I probably read too much SF… :-)

    >>>Her mission is to find out which of her new friends she can trust and which one has betrayed the team.

    This bit I didn’t quite get — have they been betrayed? So that’s why they walked into the smugglers’ path? And by her new friends you mean her fellow soldiers? I wouldn’t mind learning a tiny bit more about the betrayal.

    But these are really petty comments, see. The synopsis worked very well for me. It definitely made me want to read the book! (with your permission, of course–I’m a Dickens Challenge newcomer, just joined).

    I’m sure other people will have diffirent suggestions, this is just my personal impression.

    Good luck at the Workshop!


    Comment by rinagrant — April 15, 2008 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Rina,

    Thank for your comments. Yes, the novel is set in the early 80s, so the Soviets were still our main threat. I’ll take another the look at the rest of your comments when I’ve compiled the others I’ve been receiving via email. I’m a lot more confident with the whole synopsis today than I was when I wrote it. Good luck with the Dickens Challenge. I’ll be getting caught up again after next week!

    Comment by cindylv — April 15, 2008 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  3. One nitpick from me–you can’t save someone who’s mortally wounded, unless we’re talking about saving his soul.

    Otherwise, a good synopsis.

    Comment by Steve Wylder — April 16, 2008 @ 1:28 am | Reply

  4. Thanks Steve. I’ve re-written the synopsis based on the suggestions of 11 people. I have a few questions about it. And I need your opinion on “mortally.” I think it can mean “serious”, not just “fatal.” And, BTW, can true love save someone’s soul? (Okay, I know that’s not being fair to you. You haven’t read the whole book yet!)

    Comment by cindylv — April 16, 2008 @ 2:08 am | Reply

  5. Cindy–The online dictionary says “causing death–a mortal wound.” The word is derived from the Latin mors, meaning death.

    You haven’t read all of my novel yet, but it essentially answers your question yes. My charcters Liane and Gregory are struggling with that question right now–to choose between magic and true love. They aren’t in jeopardy of losing their souls, but they could be. If you read my post about John Donne, it argues for the saving power of human love.

    Comment by Steve Wylder — April 16, 2008 @ 8:36 pm | Reply

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