Synopsis Example: The IDES OF MARCH (Political / Thriller)

Here’s another example of a fiction synopsis. This time it’s The Ides of March (2011). It’s a thriller, sure, but a character-driven one.The biggest challenge with this one was cutting down on which characters to give attention to. You’ll notice how Jeffrey Wright’s and Paul Giamatti’s characters are glanced over. This is on purpose. I just barely got this under the necessary word count. Remember: Keep your synopses moving—cut, cut, cut. (See all my synopsis examples here.)

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.) 



STEPHEN MEYERS, 30, is a wise-beyond-his-years political consultant who acts as junior campaign manager for MIKE MORRIS, the frontrunner Democrat for the forthcoming presidential election. Stephen is helping organize Morris’s campaign in Ohio and solidify the candidate’s lead against a last remaining primary opponent. On any given day, Stephen deftly deals with reporters and shapes messages for the campaign. Stephen, who still has idealism, legitimately believes in Morris, and feels he is a good man that can change the world when elected.

Stephen begins a sexual relationship with MOLLY, a young intern for the campaign. After a debate, Stephen is approached by a rival campaign manager, who attempts to seduce him into working for another candidate. Stephen declines the offer, but lies to his own boss, campaign manager PAUL, about any approach ever taking place.

The campaign gets distressing news: Due to dirty tricks by their primary opponent, Morris’s statewide lead in Ohio evaporates. Both Paul and Stephen urge their candidate to cut a deal with a third primary opponent (that dropped out), who will pledge valuable support in exchange for an undeserved cabinet post. Morris refuses the shady deal, citing integrity. Victory in Ohio is even more distant for the campaign.

Late one night when Molly is in his room, Stephen discovers that Morris is calling her. She and Morris had a brief sexual tryst several weeks previously, and Molly is now pregnant with Morris’s baby. Stephen is crushed to learn the “good” man he believed in is no different from other lying politicians. With no one to turn to because of her family’s Catholic faith, Molly asks Stephen for money for an abortion. Stephen warns her to stay silent about everything, then drops her off at a clinic. When Molly’s procedure is finished, she waits for Stephen’s transport back, but he never shows.

Stephen finally comes clean to Paul about his secret meeting with the rival campaign. Despite Stephen’s apology, Paul fires him, citing his need for the core political value of loyalty. Infuriated, Stephen promises Paul he will take down the Morris campaign by any means necessary. Word of Stephen’s promise reaches the ears of Molly, who has taken a cab back to her hotel. Molly is (correctly) worried that Stephen will divulge news of her pregnancy and abortion when firebombing the Morris campaign. Finally remembering about Molly, Stephen heads to her hotel, but he is too late. She has killed herself with a cocktail of prescription pills and alcohol. Morris publicly mourns the loss of a “valued intern.”

But Stephen has a wild card. After seeing Molly at the crime scene, he took her phone. Stephen privately meets with Morris and tells him Molly’s phone contains incriminating messages about the pregnancy. Though Morris surmises it’s a bluff, he acquiesces to all of Stephen’s demands. Paul is fired and Stephen is made campaign manager. Morris takes the shady deal with the third primary candidate and is immediately a lock for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Stephen, now cold and hardened because of his recent experiences, prepares a new message for his first interview as lead campaign manager of the Morris campaign for president.

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