Synopsis Example: ”A History of Violence” (Thriller)

Here’s another example of a fiction summary, which can be used as a guide for writing your novel synopsis. (See all my synopsis examples here.) This time it’s A History of Violence (2005).

This story is most likely a thriller. The synopsis below is short because the main hook of this story is easy to convey. Nothing needs to be over-explained. Get in, get out, move on.



TOM STALL owns a diner in the small town of Millbrook, IN. He lives a simple life with a lovely wife, EDIE, and two children. His idyllic life is shattered one evening when two killers pass through Millbrook and decide to rob Tom’s restaurant and rape one of the customers. During the robbery, Tom deftly kills both robbers, and his brave actions make him an overnight celebrity and local hero.

Tom is soon visited by a physically-scarred gangster named FOGATY, who alleges that Tom is actually a killer named Joey Cusack, who used to run with him in the Irish Mob 20 years ago in Philadelphia. Tom denies these accusations and claims he has never been to Philadelphia, but Fogaty continues to stalk and threaten the Stall family. Under pressure from Fogaty’s harassment as well as his newfound fame, Tom’s relationships with Edie and his teenage son JACK become strained. Edie is unsure of what to think of Fogaty‘s (somewhat convincing) claims, and Jack, who has been bullied in high school, now decides to use violence against his student tormentors. Tom chastises his son for said violence, but Jack claims hypocrisy and runs out of the house.

Fogaty arrives at Tom’s house with Jack as a hostage, demanding that “Joey” return with he and his men to Philadelphia. Tom kills Fogaty‘s men with the same precision he used against the robbers, while his son Jack kills Fogaty with a shotgun in defense of his father. At the hospital, Tom shocks Edie by admitting that he is actually Joey Cusack, and that he ran away from Philadelphia around the age of 21 to escape his criminal past and start a new violence-free life. This furthers the tensions in their marriage and Tom starts sleeping on the couch.

Not long after Fogaty’s death, Tom receives a call from his older brother, RICHIE CUSACK, the head of the Philly Irish Mob, who demands that “Joey” return to Philadelphia or violence will befall his family. Tom drives to Philadelphia, meets Richie at his mansion, and offers to make peace. Richie seems happy to see his long-lost little brother again, but claims he has no choice in what comes next. He orders his men to kill Tom. Tom defends himself and kills Richie and all the guards.

Tom returns home to Indiana, but the atmosphere is tense and silent as the family sits around the dinner table. The future is uncertain, but the family indicates their acceptance of their father by setting a plate for him and passing him some food.

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