The “Punch-Drunk Love” Synopsis

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 Punch-Drunk Love, my second attempt at a “literary fiction” story. The female lead here, Lena, is somewhat bland, so the synopsis rests on showing the strange-yet-likeable nature of Barry, and explaining his arc, because it is a big one.


BARRY EGAN owns a company that markets themed toilet plungers (“fungers”) and other novelty items. He has seven overbearing sisters who ridicule him regularly, and leads a lonely, depressed life punctuated by fits of rage. In the span of one morning, he witnesses a bizarre car accident, picks up an abandoned musical instrument in the street, and encounters LENA, a sweet, somewhat mysterious woman who orchestrated the meeting after hearing about Barry from one of his sisters with whom she works.

Barry calls a phone sex hotline for conversation, and the female operator correctly surmises he’s a weak man with money in the bank. The sex line “supervisor,” DEAN, sends four henchmen from Utah to Southern California, where they quickly threaten and extort Barry, forcing him to take out money from a cash machine. This complicates his budding relationship with Lena, as well as his plan to exploit a loophole in a frequent flier miles promotion where he can amass a million miles by buying large quantities of Healthy Choice pudding and mailing in UPC bar codes. After Lena leaves for Hawaii on a business trip, Barry decides to follow her. Upon meeting her, Barry explains that he is in Hawaii on a business trip by coincidence, but he soon admits that he came to pursue a romantic relationship. She kisses him and the pair retreat to a hotel room for more.

After returning home, the four sex-line henchmen ram their car into Barry’s, mildly injuring Lena. Normally not confrontational, an outraged Barry attacks his attackers in the street, and fights them off despite being outnumbered. He awkwardly leaves Lena at the hospital to try and end the harassment, and drives to Utah. When he arrives, Dean meets a changed and powerful Barry who explains “I have so much strength in me you have no idea. I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.” Dean agrees to leave Barry alone.

Returning home, Barry asks forgiveness from Lena for abandoning her at after the accident. He plays a simple song for her on the instrument he found and pledges to use his frequent-flier miles to accompany her on all future trips to Hawaii or wherever she goes. She forgives him, and they embrace; lastly, Lena says “So, here we go.”

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0 thoughts on “The “Punch-Drunk Love” Synopsis

  1. Tricia

    Literay examples must be the hardest of all. Sometimes the plot is so hidden, it can’t be seen with the naked eye. I’m glad you chose Punch-Drunk Love for I have seen it and never could figure what it was about, other than a day in the life of a simple man.

    I hope you provide more examples of literary and/or character-driven synopsis’, they are extremely challenging to put plot to paper and confine it to one page.


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