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INTO NEBRASKA (upmarket historical)


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#1 Wynn Brothers

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 07:34 PM

Thanks for reading. Thanks for critiquing. 

- Todd and Tim

 

SYNOPSIS:

INTO NEBRASKA

 

James Hawkins stands in the living room of the Jefferson estate. The entire family has been murdered. The open safe provides the motive.

 
James and the Jeffersons have been neighbors for over a decade. When James heard there was trouble, he came as soon as he could. But everyone in the room is thinking the same thing: James Hawkins shouldn’t be here. This is the last thing he needs to see.
 
James Hawkins lost his wife and daughter to a tornado on a trip to the Nebraska Territory. With the Fourth of July just a week away, everyone knows it's almost a year to the day.
 
In the past year, James hasn’t done much healing. He closed himself off to the rest of the town. He turned over his carpet-distribution business to his brother-in-law and seemed to give up on life.
 
Today, all eyes at the Jefferson estate fall on James with pity. But James is feeling something he hasn’t felt in a year. He's feeling his wife. She is whispering in his ear, giving him the strength to do something he would never do in a million years. He will volunteer to track the killer.
 
The sheriff is reluctant to accept James’s offer, but when a man tells you it’s the will of his deceased wife, there isn’t much room left to argue.
 
James is partnered with the only other volunteer to come forward: Neil Fletcher. Fletcher is the kind of man who’s always a fistful of money away from being broke, the kind of man who hates the rich.
 
Knowing they’ll need a workable relationship, James tries to overlook Fletcher’s rough edges, and Fletcher does his best to forgive James’s wealth.
 
The hunt leads them into the Nebraska Territory, which brings James vivid memories as he relives his courtship with Elizabeth, through the birth of their daughter, to their final moments together.
 
As James and Fletcher move from town to town, it appears that their fugitive is headed to Grady, the small town where James lost his family.
 
Samuel McGovern—a professional bounty hunter, who loves his horse, treats all women with respect, and will kill any man for a price—claims he was sent by the law in Canfield to join the posse. But Samuel has a secret: he was actually hired to ride with the posse to its destination and then to kill a certain someone. The identities of both his employer and his target are to remain a secret until the posse catches its fugitive.
 
Despite having performed over forty assassinations, Samuel’s code allows him to believe he’s never killed a man; he merely enacts the decisions of others. His skill as a bounty hunter is something James and Fletcher soon find to be a valuable asset. 
 
Like a stone to the head, Samuel recognizes James as the widower from the newspaper. James’s story garnered a lot of attention a year ago. There was even an insinuation that James lied about what happened in Grady. Fletcher, having spent the last year in a haze of alcohol, has no recollection of this.
 
The posse picks up a fourth member when they find themselves at the end of her shotgun, a runaway bride named Katie. When they explain they’re a posse hunting a fugitive, she insists on joining them.
 
Around the campfire swapping war stories, Fletcher drops his pants to reveal a large scar. He tells a story of a Mexican who fired a shot from directly under him, busting his stirrup and sending the bullet slicing up his leg. This resonates with James; he’s seen it before. He knows Fletcher’s true identity now—something he never could have guessed—but now’s not the time to mention it.
 
Samuel confesses to having chased his own daughter away over a spat about her boyfriend. He has committed himself to finding her and making amends, but neither his travels nor his detective skills have brought him any closer to that reunion.
 
When they finally catch up with their fugitive, Raymond Holliwell, at a restaurant in Grady, Raymond is dining with his new fiancé. James is outraged at Raymond's claim of innocence. It’s all James can do to keep from punching the man right in the face. James expected a violent criminal, not a pleading coward. After a moment of reflection, James understands: Raymond’s not trying to weasel out of his crime. He’s trying to protect his fiancé.
 
For the sake of the young lady, James convinces the others to listen to the man’s story before hauling Raymond back to Canfield. But halfway through the story, there’s a problem: James believes it. Everything the man says lines up with what James saw at the crime scene. Raymond’s story fits. (A heated love triangle led the Jeffersons to kill one another. Seeing the open safe, Raymond then fled with a bag of gold.)
 
Bringing Raymond back to Canfield is a death sentence for an innocent man. As James convinces the others of this, they agree to release Raymond and fabricate a story about a deadly shootout.
 
With Raymond and his fiancé safely headed north, James finally visits the graves of his wife and daughter. It’s the first time he’s been back since burying them. The newspaper reporter had been right. James did lie about what happened.
 
Standing in the field, James remembers everything: the tornado he said killed them and the drunkard who actually did. But that wasn’t the death he wanted for his wife and daughter. That wasn’t how he wanted them to be remembered. It was better to say they had been taken by the hand of God than by the hand of the devil.
 
James remembered the gunshots. He had been walking down to the water with an empty bucket. He remembered turning to see the stranger standing over their fallen bodies. He remembered his world going dark and waking with searing pain pulsing through his temple from the bullet he never saw coming. He remembered the hoofbeats arriving to finish him off, and he remembered drawing his pistol. His bullet split the stirrup and sliced up along the man’s leg. It was James, not a Mexican, who left that scar on Fletcher.
 
James understands now that forgiveness is the only thing that can free him from his pain. Love is the only emotion worthy of the memories of his family. And only forgiveness can keep those memories pure.
 
James hears Samuel behind him. He turns to face Samuel’s Colt pistol. Both men knew this moment was coming. Samuel thinks back to the moment he was hired: James sliding a family portrait across the table to Samuel and saying, “Give me back to my family.”
 
Samuel has killed scores of men, but none like James Hawkins. This was the first time his bullet was welcomed, the first time it was purchased by the man who would receive it, and the first time Samuel would own up to killing a man.   
 
When the deed is done, Samuel is left with several letters to deliver on James’s behalf. The first is to Fletcher, in which James reveals his identity and grants Fletcher forgiveness. The second is to James’s sister-in-law, explaining to her what really happened a year ago in Grady and how he knew he wasn’t coming back from this manhunt. The third is to Samuel himself, expressing James’s appreciation for the man who gave him the wonderful gift of returning to his family. The final letter is to a young woman who had recently relocated to Canfield. It reads as follows:
 
Dear Margie,
 
As you will have discovered, the contents of this letter are of no importance. The important thing is only that it reaches you. That much I owe the man who has delivered it. But as long as I’m writing this letter, let me say this: On one subject, my expertise cannot be questioned. That subject is the pain of losing a daughter. I have ridden with your father for several long days, and I have seen that pain in him. He loves you, and he needs you.
 
In Peace
 
James
 


#2 Chuck_Spragins

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 08:21 AM

This is very well done.

 

At +-1350 words, it is a tad long for what most on this site recommend. On the other hand, it is within the 1300 to 1700 range of many of the examples on the link containing 'successful' synopses. When agents in my genre (thriller) ask for a synopsis, they generally say one to two pages, which is around 700 words by my count. You might want to have a shorter version ready, in case you run into that constraint.

 

There are a few thing about the premise that are unclear to me. Was James always the charitable person he turns out to be in the end, or did the journey transform him? We know what happen to him, but not how he felt about it and how those feelings may have changed during his trip. We do know that he must have hired Samuel early on, so obviously he wanted to end his life pretty much from the outset of the story. If so, why bother to wait until they tracked down the fugitive? Was it just his wife's whispering?

 

The only other general comment is that there are a lot of short paragraphs that tend to break up what is otherwise nice flow to the story.

 

Specific comments follow.

 

Perhaps you could take a look at my synopsis, RIVER PLATE BASIN.

 

 

James Hawkins (The standard practice is to use ALL CAPS when you first introduce a character.) stands in the living room of the Jefferson estate (word choice - 'Estate' refers to much more than a home. Perhaps 'family home' or 'mansion' is better.) The entire family has been murdered. The open safe provides (word choice - since a safe is a passive object, 'reveals' might work better.) the motive.

 
James and the Jeffersons have been neighbors for over a decade. When James heard there was trouble, he came as soon as he could. But everyone in the room is thinking the same thing: James Hawkins shouldn’t be here. This is the last thing he needs to see.
 
James Hawkins lost his wife and daughter to a tornado on a trip to the Nebraska Territory. With the Fourth of July just a week away, everyone knows it's almost a year to the day.
 
In the past year, James hasn’t done much healing. He closed himself off to the rest of the town,. He turned over his carpet-distribution business to his brother-in-law and seemed to give up on life.
 
Today, all eyes at the Jefferson estate manor fall on James with pity. But James is feeling something he hasn’t felt in a year. He's feeling his wife. She is whispering (you use 'feeling' in both preceeding sentences, then say 'whispering' which is different enough to be awkward and disturb the flow. One does not feel a whisper.)  in his ear, giving him the strength to do something he would never do in a million years. This is telling, not showing. We need to know enough about James' character to understand why he would never do this in a million years. 'In a million years' is also cliche. Come up with something original.  He will volunteer to track the killer.
 
The sheriff is reluctant to accept James’s offer, but when a man tells you it’s the will of his deceased wife, there isn’t much room left to argue. (No need for new para.) James is partnered with the only other volunteer to come forward: Neil Fletcher. Fletcher is the kind of man who’s always a fistful of money away from being broke, the kind of man who hates the rich.  (No need for new para.) Knowing they’ll need a workable relationship, James tries to overlook Fletcher’s rough edges, and Fletcher does his best to forgive James’s wealth.
 
The hunt leads them into the Nebraska Territory, which brings James vivid memories as he relives his courtship with Elizabeth, through the birth of their daughter, all the way to their final moments together.
 
As James and Fletcher move pursuit from town to town, it appears that their fugitive is headed leads them to Grady, the small town where James lost his family.
 
Samuel McGovern—a professional bounty hunter, who loves his horse, treats all women with respect, and will kill any man for a price—claims he was sent by the law in Canfield (the location does not appear to be critical to the story.) to join the posse. But Samuel has a secret: he was actually hired to ride with the posse to its destination (word choice - 'destination' refers to a place. The posse will presumably go anywhere the killer goes.) and then to kill a certain someone. The identities of both his employer and his target are to remain a secret until the posse catches its fugitive.
 
Despite having performed over forty assassinations (word choice - 'Assassinations' makes him sound like a hit man, whereas you introduced him as a bounty hunter. They are different enough to cause some confusion and break the flow. Perhaps adding 'in the line of duty' would help.)  Samuel’s code allows him to believe he’s never killed a man; he merely enacts the decisions of others. His skill as a bounty hunter is something James and Fletcher soon find to be a valuable asset
 
Like a stone to the head, Samuel recognizes James as the widower from the newspaper. James’s story garnered a lot of attention a year ago. There was even an insinuation that James lied about what happened in Grady. Fletcher, having spent the last year in a haze of alcohol, has no recollection of this. 
 
The posse picks up a fourth member (Sounds like they added an appendage.grows to four when they find themselves at the end of her a shotgun, in the hands of a runaway bride named Katie. When they explain they’re a posse hunting a fugitive, she insists on joining them. Seems like an unlikely thing to do, even for someone running from her groom. Requires some explanation. Actually, if she is not critical to the story, and she does not appear to be, you could cut this para entirely. 
 
Around the campfire swapping war stories, Fletcher drops his pants to reveal a large scar. He tells a story of a Mexican who fired a shot from directly under him, busting his stirrup and sending the bullet slicing up his leg. This resonates with James; he’s seen it before. He knows Fletcher’s true identity now—something he never could have guessed—but now’s not the time to mention it. Why couldn't he have guessed it and why was now not the time to mention it?
 
Samuel confesses to having chased his own daughter away over a spat about her boyfriend. He has committed himself to finding her and making amends, but neither his travels nor his detective skills have brought him any closer to that reunion. Given the ending, you might want to build on this a bit. 
 
When they finally catch up with their fugitive, Raymond Holliwell, at a restaurant in Grady, Raymond he is dining with his new fiancé. James is outraged at Raymond's claim of innocence. It’s all James can do to keep from punching the man right in the face. Seems to mild a reaction. James expected a violent criminal, not a pleading coward. After a moment of reflection, James understands: Raymond’s not trying to weasel out of his crime. He’s trying to protect his fiancé. Protect her from what? The truth?
 
For the sake of the young lady, James convinces the others to listen to the man’s story before hauling Raymond back to Canfield You need to mention the name of the town in the opening for this to fit in here. But halfway through the story, there’s a problem: James believes it. Everything the man says lines up with what James saw at the crime scene. Raymond’s story fits. (A heated love triangle led the Jeffersons to kill one another. Seeing the open safe, Raymond then fled with a bag of gold.)
 
James convinces the others that bBringing Raymond back to Canfield is would be a death sentence for an innocent man. As James convinces the others of this, t They agree to release Raymond him and fabricate a story about a deadly shootout.
 
With Raymond and his fiancé safely headed north, James finally visits the graves of his wife and daughter. It’s the first time he’s been back since burying them. The newspaper reporter had been right. James did lie about what happened. (No need for a new paragraph.) Standing in the field, James remembers everything: the tornado he said killed them and the drunkard who actually did. But that wasn’t the death he wanted for his wife and daughter. That wasn’t how he wanted them to be remembered. It was better to say they had been taken by the hand of God than by the hand of the devil.
 
James remembersed the gunshots. He had been walking down to the water with an empty bucket. He remembersed turning to see the stranger standing over their fallen bodies. He remembersed his world going dark and waking with searing pain pulsing through his temple from the bullet he never saw coming. He remembersed the hoofbeats arriving to finish him off, and he remembersed drawing his pistol. His bullet split the stirrup and sliced up along the man’s leg. It was James, not a Mexican, who left that scar on Fletcher. Seems far fetched that Fletcher would not remember James' face. The year he spent in a haze of alcohol seems like it could be because he wanted to forget something that he could not get out of his mind. If Fletcher left James alive, he could expect to be hunted down by the man.
 
James understands now that forgiveness is the only thing that can free him from his pain. Love is the only emotion worthy of the memories of his family. And only forgiveness can keep those memories pure. This is telling, not showing. We need to understand what it is about James, or that happen to him, that led to this realization.
 
James hears Samuel behind him. He turns to face Samuel’s Colt pistol. Both men knew this moment was coming. Samuel thinks back to the moment he was hired: James sliding a family portrait across the table to Samuel and saying, “Give me back to my family.”
 
Samuel has killed scores of men (We already know this about him.), but none like James Hawkins. This was the first time his bullet was welcomed, the first time it was purchased by the man who would receive it, and the first time Samuel would own up to killing a man. Does not make sense because killing James is consistent with his code - implementing the decisions of others.  
 
When the deed is done, Samuel is left with several letters to deliver on James’s behalf. The first is to Fletcher, in which James reveals his identity and grants Fletcher forgiveness. The second is to James’s sister-in-law, explaining to her what really happened a year ago in Grady and how he knew he wasn’t coming back from this manhunt. The third is to Samuel himself, expressing James’s appreciation for the man who gave him the wonderful gift of returning to his family. The final letter is to a young woman who had recently relocated to Canfield. It reads as follows:
 
Dear Margie,
 
As you will have discovered, the contents of this letter are of no importance. The important thing is only that it reaches you. That much I owe the man who has delivered it. But as long as I’m writing this letter, let me say this: On one subject, my expertise cannot be questioned. That subject is the pain of losing a daughter. I have ridden with your father for several long days, and I have seen that pain in him. He loves you, and he needs you. The extent to which Samuel loves and needs his daughter needs to be brought out more fully for this to resonante. You only gave us a line or two earlier on. 
 
In Peace
 
James

 



#3 loopygoose

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Posted 23 June 2017 - 05:25 AM

SYNOPSIS:

INTO NEBRASKA

 

James Hawkins stands in the living room of the Jefferson estate. The entire family has been murdered. The open safe provides the motive. Great.

 
James and the Jeffersons have been neighbors for over a decade. When James heard there was trouble, he came as soon as he could. But everyone in the room is thinking the same thing: James Hawkins shouldn’t be here. This is the last thing he needs to see.
 
James Hawkins He lost his wife and daughter to a tornado on a trip to the Nebraska Territory almost a year to the day. With the Fourth of July just a week away, everyone knows it's almost a year to the day. Over that past year, James hasn’t done much healing. He closed ; closing himself off to the rest of the town. He turned over his carpet-distribution business to his brother-in-law and seemed to give up on life.
 
Today, all eyes at the Jefferson estate fall on James with pity. But James is feeling something he hasn’t felt in a year. He's feeling his wife. She is whispering in his ear, giving him the strength to do something he would never normally do in a million years. Don't use hackneyed phrases like this He will volunteer to track the killer.
 
The sheriff is reluctant to accept James’s offer, but when a man tells you it’s the will of his deceased wife, there isn’t much room left to argue. So
James is partnered with the only other volunteer to come forward: Neil Fletcher. Fletcher is the kind of man who’s always a fistful of money away from being broke, the kind of man who hates the rich.
 
Knowing they’ll need a workable relationship, James tries to overlook Fletcher’s rough edges, and Fletcher does his best to forgive James’s wealth.
The hunt leads them into the Nebraska Territory, which brings James vivid memories as he relives his courtship with Elizabeth, through the birth of their daughter, to their final moments together.
 
As James and Fletcher move from town to town, it appears that their fugitive is headed to Grady, the small town where James lost his family. They are joined by Samuel McGovern—a professional bounty hunter, who loves his horse, treats all women with respect, and will kill any man for a price—claims he was sent by the law in Canfield to join the posse. But Samuel has a secret: he was actually hired to ride with the posse to its destination and then to kill a certain someone. The identities of both his employer and his target are to remain a secret until the posse catches its fugitive.
 
Despite having performed over forty assassinations, Samuel’s code allows him to believe he’s never killed a man; he merely enacts the decisions of others. His skill as a bounty hunter is something James and Fletcher soon find to be a valuable asset. 
 
Like a stone to the head, Samuel recognizes James as the widower from the newspaper. James’s story garnered a lot of attention a year ago. There was even an insinuation that James lied about what happened in Grady. Fletcher, having spent the last year in a haze of alcohol, has no recollection of this.
 
The posse picks up a fourth member when they find themselves at the end of her shotgun, a runaway bride named Katie. When they explain they’re a posse hunting a fugitive, she insists on joining them.
 
Around the campfire swapping war stories, Fletcher drops his pants to reveal a large scar. He tells a story of a Mexican who fired a shot from directly under him, busting his stirrup and sending the bullet slicing up his leg. This resonates with James; he’s seen it before. He knows Fletcher’s true identity now—something he never could have guessed—but now’s not the time to mention it.
 
Samuel confesses to having chased his own daughter away over a spat about her boyfriend. He has committed himself to finding her and making amends, but neither his travels nor his detective skills have brought him any closer to that reunion.
 
When they finally catch up with their fugitive, Raymond Holliwell, at a restaurant in Grady, Raymond is dining with his new fiancé. James is outraged at Raymond's claim of innocence. It’s all James can do to keep from punching the man right in the face. James expected a violent criminal, not a pleading coward. After a moment of reflection, James understands: Raymond’s not trying to weasel out of his crime. He’s trying to protect his fiancé.
 
For the sake of the young lady, James convinces the others to listen to the man’s story before hauling Raymond back to Canfield. But halfway through the story, there’s a problem: James believes it. Everything the man says lines up with what James saw at the crime scene. Raymond’s story fits. (A heated love triangle led the Jeffersons to kill one another. Seeing the open safe, Raymond then fled with a bag of gold.)
 
Bringing Raymond back to Canfield is a death sentence for an innocent man. As James convinces the others of this, they agree to release Raymond and fabricate a story about a deadly shootout.
 
With Raymond and his fiancé safely headed north, James finally visits the graves of his wife and daughter. It’s the first time he’s been back since burying them. The newspaper reporter had been right. James did lie about what happened.
 
Standing in the field, James remembers everything: the tornado he said killed them and the drunkard who actually did. But that wasn’t the death he wanted for his wife and daughter. That wasn’t how he wanted them to be remembered. It was better to say they had been taken by the hand of God than by the hand of the devil.
 
James remembered the gunshots. He had been walking down to the water with an empty bucket. He remembered turning to see the stranger standing over their fallen bodies. He remembered his world going dark and waking with searing pain pulsing through his temple from the bullet he never saw coming. He remembered the hoofbeats arriving to finish him off, and he remembered drawing his pistol. His bullet split the stirrup and sliced up along the man’s leg. It was James, not a Mexican, who left that scar on Fletcher.
 
James understands now that forgiveness is the only thing that can free him from his pain. Love is the only emotion worthy of the memories of his family. And only forgiveness can keep those memories pure.
 
James hears Samuel behind him. He turns to face Samuel’s Colt pistol. Both men knew this moment was coming. Samuel thinks back to the moment he was hired: James sliding a family portrait across the table to Samuel and saying, “Give me back to my family.”
 
Samuel has killed scores of men, but none like James Hawkins. This was the first time his bullet was welcomed, the first time it was purchased by the man who would receive it, and the first time Samuel would own up to killing a man.   
 
When the deed is done, Samuel is left with several letters to deliver on James’s behalf. The first is to Fletcher, in which James reveals his identity and grants Fletcher forgiveness. The second is to James’s sister-in-law, explaining to her what really happened a year ago in Grady and how he knew he wasn’t coming back from this manhunt. The third is to Samuel himself, expressing James’s appreciation for the man who gave him the wonderful gift of returning to his family. The final letter is to a young woman who had recently relocated to Canfield. It reads as follows:
 
Dear Margie,
 
As you will have discovered, the contents of this letter are of no importance. The important thing is only that it reaches you. That much I owe the man who has delivered it. But as long as I’m writing this letter, let me say this: On one subject, my expertise cannot be questioned. That subject is the pain of losing a daughter. I have ridden with your father for several long days, and I have seen that pain in him. He loves you, and he needs you.
 
In Peace
 
James
 
Fabulous. I love your story. I've just cut out some unnecessary detail because your synopis is very long. Would you please do me the honour.





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