The Deadly Synopsis

Writing at Thrillerfest, Phoenix, 2007

There are so many different ways to approach a synopsis. Here’s just one–the short synopsis that you might send to an agent or an editor so she can get the flavor of the book and a quick idea of the plot and characters.

If you have already written a book, it’s fairly easy to pick out the important elements that an editor or an agent will want to know. You don’t have to summarize the whole story. You just have to give the set up, some of the key points and the ending.

Below is the synopsis I sent with KILLING MOON, my Berkley Sensation paranormal that’s the first book in my Moon trilogy.


Private Detective Ross Marshall has come to the home of Donald Arnott to look for the graves of young women Arnott has tortured and killed. After using wire cutters on the fence around the property, he takes off his clothes and intones an ancient chant that triggers his change into a werewolf. Transformed, he slithers under the fence, then uses his wolf senses to find one of the victim’s graves.

But Arnott shoots him in the thigh–thinking he’s injured a dog. Ross escapes, but an infection spreads from the wound to the rest of his body. He’s nursed back to health by Dr. Megan Sheridan, who has come out his house to take blood samples for genetic studies Ross has requested.

Ross hates the savage aspects of his werewolf nature, hates the idea of perpetuating his kind. Like his father before him, he knows he’s wildly attractive to women, but he’s vowed that he won’t put another woman through the hell his mother endured–bearing girl babies who died at birth and boys who rarely survived their first change into werewolves at puberty.

Five years ago, to prevent the murder of a young girl, Ross ripped out the throat of a serial killer and buried him in Western Maryland. He’s vowed never to kill again, but when Arnott kidnaps Megan, he’s forced to break that oath.

The story is told from the point of view of four main characters:

Ross Marshall: A man who fears that his humanity will always be overshadowed by his wolf genes. Yet he’s compelled by his basic morality to fight for good over evil. As he tracks Arnott, hunter becomes the hunted.

Police Detective Jack Thornton: Jack’s investigation of the five-year-old serial killer’s murder leads him to suspect Ross, but he can’t prove a connection between the animal-mauled body and the private detective. At the same time, he’s working with Ross to bring Arnott to justice and to find out who attacked Megan at her office.

Megan Sheridan: Physician, medical researcher. She may be the only person who can help Ross deal with his genetic heritage–if her love for him can stand the shock of seeing him transformed from man to wolf.

Donald Arnott: A security guard who finds his victims at Montgomery Mall outside Washington, D. C., Arnott kills for pleasure. When he discovers that Megan’s involved with Ross, he kidnaps her with plans to pin her murder on Ross.

The plot lines and characters all come together in the book’s nail-biting action climax when Jack and Ross converge on Arnott’s compound, their mission to rescue Megan. With her life hanging in the balance, Ross is forced to kill again to save the woman he loves.

In the aftermath, Megan can’t cope with her feelings for Ross. It isn’t until months later that they work out their personal relationship.