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Drawings in Sand - synopsis (Revised)

by Yvonne 

Posted: 03 February 2009
Word Count: 818
Summary: The main theme of this novel is how ways of being - and seeing - are passed on through generations, and what happens when the main character starts to see life differently.


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This version, I hope, answers the questions the last version raised. It's a bit longer and doesn't fit on a sheet of A4 any more, so I probably could do with cutting it. In particular I wonder if I could remove the character, Edith, from this as her role is similar to Mrs Firth's, as far as this synopsis goes. Will be grateful for any advice, and thank you for all the comments on the first one. I've never had revision come so easily before!



Drawings in Sand

Stella isnít allowed in the basement. But sheís there, hiding from the arguments above and whispering secrets to a beautiful lady in a painting. Thirty years later she still doesnít know who the lady and her baby are; nor can she remember what she did last night. She hates herself, and she is sure that everyone else must hate her too, must think she is weak, a waster, a disorganised art teacher and a hopeless mother. This belief colours every action she takes. She rows with boyfriend, Macklin, and he walks out; she snaps at her brother, Sam, and ignores her little daughter, Kirsty.

Having long ago given up on her motherís approval, she craves it from everyone else, especially from older colleague Mrs Firth. No hope of that with a friend like Judy, bragging in the staff-room about their boozy weekend. No hope of it with Stella lying to her boss, losing control of classes, and drifting off in the Anti-Bullying meeting she chairs.

Days later, Macklin returns, keen to live the Ďnormalí family life Stella craves. Then he collects Kirsty from nursery and they donít come home. As Sam tries to reassure her, Stella remembers a day her father went missing. The doorbell rings.

The person Stella who is most convinced hates her is Kirstyís father, Ross. She dumped him years ago, before she realised she was pregnant, and the first he knew of Kirstyís existence was when he bumped into them in a supermarket. Now Stella is sure he has a new woman and plans to take Kirsty away. Nevertheless, she gets drunk again with Judy, even though Ross is due to bring Kirsty back any minute.

Next day, scheduled to run a staff meeting, Stella collapses and throw up in front of Mrs Firth and another colleague Edith. As Edith takes over the meeting, Mrs Firth takes Stella home. With nothing left to lose, Stella confides in Mrs Firth. This genuine friendship provides Stella with the courage to seek help.

She gets a counsellor, stops drinking, drops Judy, gets a cleaning habit. She is determined to change, terrified she canít, and that Ross will get Kirsty. Her counsellor warns that buried feelings might surface. Anger at Judy, Macklin and Sam, still boozing, is no surprise. What is unexpected, and almost unbearable, is the memory of her motherís love. As a child Stella once walked into the sea and almost drowned. Always aware of her motherís fury, Stella suddenly remembers her terror. Stella has believed all her life that her mother didnít love her. This illusion shattered, she has no idea who she is, or who anyone is, and she is terrified.

Kirsty gets ill, and Ross returns from off-shore. Instead of the telling-off Stella expects, Ross supports her to look after Kirsty.

As her old identity continues to crumble, Stella visits her mother, Grace, and finds a woman she barely knows. Then among her dead fatherís belongings she finds a box marked ĎAmanda.í One of his floozies perhaps, but why would her mother hoard that? Sam might know. Sam was Mummyís angel, privy to secrets Stella never heard. But Samís saying nothing and wants Stella to stop prying. That she canít, wonít, do.

Stella continues her search for the truth about Amanda with a trip to an old friend. Meanwhile, Macklin visits Sam. Afterwards, Sam has another secret to hide from Stella. He cracks, and tells all he knows, both about Amanda and about Macklin and a woman in a nightclub. Stella tells Macklin to leave. With Sam she confronts her mother about Amanda. They piece together the truth about a family tragedy. Stella finds the compassion for Grace that has, until now, eluded her. In return, Grace gives Stella the painting she loved so much as a child, a painting Stella now knows is of her mother and dead sister.

Stella visits Edith, now pregnant. As they talk about birth, death and lifeís vastness, Stella has a new understanding of love. Later on the beach, she bumps into Ross and Kirsty. As they play Kirsty lies on the beach and Stella draws round her. Then Kirsty wants Ross to lie down so Stella can draw round him. Drawings in Sand ends not with certainties, but with possibilities. The possibility that Stella and Ross may reunite, or at least become friends, and better co-parents.







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Comments by other Members



NMott at 19:16 on 03 February 2009  Report this post
This is very good. I think you've caught the 'voice' really well.
Don't worry about the word count. I've noticed some of the sentences are coming across as a little clipped, probably because ou are worrying about it's length, but if the prose flows well then the length is not important.
Below I've put some of the words back in. In square brackets are the words or phrases to delete, and in itallics are words I've added in.lus tere are a few comments scattered with in it. I hope it's not too confusing; it's just tweeking really.:


Having long ago given up on [gaining or winning?] her motherís approval

[older - I don't think this is necessary] work colleague Mrs Firth

losing control of her classes

Days later, Macklin returns - Macklin returns a few days later

As her brother, Sam, tries to reassure her

The doorbell rings. - delete. Don't try to introduce suspense in a synopsis as though you were writing it for a reader.
Replace with something like Macklin returns with her daughter safe and sound. (if that's what happened) - how does she feel about that?
Or is it her ex-husband, Ross at the door? Come to pick Kirsty up?

The person who Stella [who] is most convinced hates her is Kirstyís father, Ross.

The person Stella who is most convinced hates her is Kirstyís father, Ross. She dumped him years ago, before she realised she was pregnant, and the first he knew of Kirstyís existence was when he bumped into them in a supermarket. Now Stella is sure he has a new woman and plans to take Kirsty away. Nevertheless, she gets drunk again with Judy, even though Ross is due to bring Kirsty back any minute.


I think it needs a little extra in here to clarify Stella and Ross and Kirsty's relationship. Maybe add 'Ross now has visiting rights'. eg, something like:
Ross now has visiting rights (and has taken Kirsty out...). Stella is sure he has a new woman and they are planning to take Kirsty away.
Also the last sentence needs tying in with the rest of the paragraph. Maybe just turn it around?:

Even though Ross is due to bring Kirsty back any minute, Stella gets drunk again with Judy.

Next day, scheduled to run a staff meeting, Stella collapses and throw up in front of Mrs Firth [and another colleague Edith. As Edith takes over the meeting - yes I think you could probaby delete this],

[Mrs Firth] and takes Stella home. With nothing left to lose, Stella confides [what? - her drinking? Fear of losing Kirsty? Other fears?] in Mrs Firth [full stop]


The genuine friendship of [two - best not to say 'two'] women provides Stella with the courage to seek help.
- not sure what to suggest here, but it would probably flow better if you don't worry about the word count.

drops Judy, and gets a cleaning habit

She is determined to change, but terrified she canít [delete comma] and that Ross will get Kirsty.

Her counsellor warns her that buried feelings might surface. TheAnger she feels at Judy, Macklin and Sam, still boozing, is no surprise, but What is unexpected, and almost unbearable, is the memory of her motherís ... [needs something here. missing, lack of?]... love.


As a child Stella once walked into the sea and almost drowned. Always aware of her motherís fury, Stella suddenly remembers her terror. Stella has believed all her life that her mother didnít love her. This illusion shattered, she has no idea who she is, or who anyone is, and she is terrified.


- Because you've cut the words down this sounds clunky and doesn't really make sense.

When Kirsty [gets ill,] becomes ill Ross [returns from off-shore - un-necessary detail] moves in to help after her?. Instead of the telling-off Stella expects, Ross supports her to look after Kirsty.

- needs smoothing out.

As her old identity continues to crumble, Stella finally visits her mother, Grace, and finds a woman she barely [knows - is that the best word here?] recognises? remembers? - in what way? A lie or phrase needed to give a little characterisation of Grace.
[Then] amongst her [dead] late fatherís [belongings] possessions she finds a box marked ĎAmanda.í One of his floozies perhaps, but why would her mother hoard that? Her brother, Sam, might know - Sam was Mummyís angel, privy to secrets Stella never heard. But Samís saying nothing and wants Stella to stop prying. That she canít, wonít, do.

Stella continues her search for the truth about Amanda with a trip to an old friend. Meanwhile, Macklin visits Sam. Afterwards, Sam has another secret to hide from Stella. He cracks, and tells all he knows, both about Amanda and about Macklin's [and] affair with a woman in a nightclub. Stella tells Macklin to leave.

With Sam she confronts her mother about Amanda. They piece together the truth about a family tragedy. Stella finds the compassion for [Grace] her mother that has, until now, eluded her. In return, [Grace] her mother gives Stella the painting she loved so much as a child, a painting Stella now knows is of her mother and dead sister.

[Stella visits Edith, now pregnant. As they talk about birth, death and lifeís vastness, Stella has a new understanding of love. - delete]

Later on the beach, she [bumps into] finds Ross and Kirsty. As they play Kirsty lies on the beach and Stella draws round her. Then Kirsty wants Ross to lie down so Stella can draw round him. Drawings in Sand ends not with certainties, but with possibilities. The possibility that Stella and Ross may reunite, or at least become friends, and better co-parents.



Very good. I felt towards the end you lost some of the 'voice' from earlier in the synopsis, but that may just be because you were keeping too close an eye on the word count. Two sides of A4 is for for this synopsis.


- NaomiM





<Added>

oops, sorry about typos, my keyboard is playing up:
Also there are a few comments...
Two sides of A4 is fine for this synopsis

<Added>

Stella continues her search for the truth about Amanda with a trip to an old friend. Meanwhile, Macklin visits Sam. Afterwards, Sam has another secret to hide from Stella.


This could be deleted.
Since Stella doesn't seem to discover anything about Amanda from her visit to her freind, you could probably leave this detail out.
Also does the point of view shift from Stella to Sam in this section of the novel? - as that is implied here, hence I think it's best to delete this part and just say something like Sam finally confesses the truth about Amanda (and Macklin's affair - you could bring in the bit from the earlier version about Stella half expecting that)....

NB. With the exception of this line about Macklin and Sam, the synopsis gives the impression the novel is all from Stella's pov; If the pov switchs to another character at this stage in the novel you might want to rethink that section.


Issy at 19:45 on 03 February 2009  Report this post
I thought this came together very well and was extremely interested in the idea that problems during childhood, interpreted through the eyes of the child who hangs onto that interpretation into adult life can so disproportionately affect later relationships, career and own children's upbringing.

My personal choice would not to make the ending too easy, but that's just me. I like the drawing in the sands metaphor - the idea that once created, the sea will wash it away and life can start anew.

I was a little confused that Macklin had collected Kirsty from school and not arrived home, and then Ross had Kirsty and then he was due back when Kirsty was ill. Maybe a bit of clarification there.

Yvonne at 23:30 on 03 February 2009  Report this post
Hi Naomi and Issy,

Thank you both for your comments - I am pleased this version is an improvement, by the 999th version I might get it right! (not that I'm a perfectionist or anything!) Issy, your first paragraph is, I think, probably my 'throughline'. I'm so encouraged that you've picked that up from this!

Your comments about the clipped sentences are very valid Naomi, and I'd agree it's largely because I've been trying to keep the length down. So I'll take your advice and focus on flow instead of length. Most of the additions you've made are spot on. Your suggestion to put in that Ross has visiting rights is also great and maybe I could get some of Ross's character in by adding that he demanded visiting rights - he bossed her about which was why she dumped him. This is implied in the novel rather than spelt out, but I'm getting clearer that it needs to be spelt out in a synopsis.

You've both flagged up problems with the 'Macklin and Kirsty' scene. Trying to please Stella by acting the 'family man' he takes her to a fairground, but the message he leaves with her boss never gets to her, and she goes into panic. It's there mainly to show up Stella's lack of trust in Macklin, but maybe it would be better removed from this synopsis? (Or, I've just realised, I could add what I've written here.)

You are correct to notice a change of POV towards the end Naomi. The novel is mainly written from Stella's POV, with a few chapters from Macklin's, Sam's and Kirsty's POVs. Everyone who has read the novel has said this works well, but when I wrote the synopsis I thought it best to stick to one POV for simplicity. I hadn't noticed I'd shifted there, so will change that.

There are also flashbacks to Stella's childhood scattered throughout the narrative. These are triggered by events in the present day narrative, so don't follow a chronological order and many of them allude to some terrible event that Stella can't remember (which eventually is revealed to be her sister's death). In my earlier attempts at writing the synopsis I included an explanation of this, as an aspect of Stella's character is her difficulty remembering things, but it also seemed too complicated, so I took that out. I think perhaps I need to put something of it back in, to feed in some the tension that is in the novel, and with Edith out there should be room.

Issy, I'm curious about your thoughts on the ending - do you mean it comes across as too easy for the characters or that I should leave more for the readers imagination? Either way I think I'm probably not getting the effect of the novel across as the ending was popular with everyone who's read it. I suppose that's part of the problem of condensing 130000+ words into 700 or so, so I'd be interested to hear how you think I might make it less 'easy'.

thank you both, and I do apologise for not as yet commenting on other people's work. Partly I feel like I'm still learning so much about this topic that I'm not ready to, and also I am about to go away for a few weeks, so haven't had much time.

Yvonne





NMott at 00:31 on 04 February 2009  Report this post
Re: Flashbacks.
I don't think you really need to put them in the synopsis - I'm a little worried they might upset the natural flow of the main story thread. 'Tension' in the synopsis is built up by linking cause and effect, eg, The MC is drunk and has an argument with her boss....she gets fired and loses her flat.
So, eg in your synopsis:
You have Macklin taking Kirsty out but not returning on time....Stella gets worried and thinks the worst of her boyfriend which sours their relationship because her fears are groundless; and/or, Macklin is using the child to chat up other women, so Stella's fears are not groundless; and/or Ross turns up to take Kirsty out and is furious to discover that Stella has allowed the irresponsible Macklin to take his daughter out.

Issy, I'm curious about your thoughts on the ending - do you mean it comes across as too easy for the characters or that I should leave more for the readers imagination? Either way I think I'm probably not getting the effect of the novel across as the ending was popular with everyone who's read it.


I think the final scene, condensed into a paragraph creates a similar effect to one seen when an actual snippet of prose is quoted in the synopsis: It reads fine in the actual mss, but loses it's impact when taken out of context (it lacks the big build up), hence the feeling of it being 'too easy'.


- NaomiM



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