The “Witness” Synopsis

I always tell people that if they’re confused as to how a novel synopsis should look, simply go to Wikipedia. Search any movie made in the last five years and the first thing on the page is the long “Plot” section, which is essentially a front-to-back synopsis. A lot of them are too long; a lot of them are poorly written; but some are goodand you will get a sense of how they work. Oryou could just let find good ones for you and edit them a bit.
The first great synopses I edited and posted were Starman (see that one here) and Peggy Sue Got Married (see that one here). This time it’s Witness.  Witness is kind of strange categoryprobably mainstream fiction in book terms. It’s got the Amish elements, a dash of crime stuff at the beginning and end.Look at the synopsis below. I like how it’s pretty short. There could be a lot more said about the culture clash in Philadelphia and then how Book adapts to Amish life on the farm, but just enough is there. Like other synopses posted here, this one has a quote or twojust enough spice to flavor the whole thing. Don’t use quotes often.


Several days after her husband’s funeral, Amish widow RACHEL LAPP and her six-year-old son, SAMUEL, depart for Baltimore to visit her sister. At the train station in Philadelphia, Samuel enters a restroom and is the sole witness to a murder.

JOHN BOOK, the investigating detective in charge, reveals that the murdered man was a police officer. Samuel says two men were involved in the crime, but he could only see one—a tall African-American man. Despite Rachel wanting nothing to do with Book’s laws, Samuel is taken around town to identify suspects, but fails to find a match. At the police station, Samuel sees a displayed press photograph of Lieutenant MCFEE, and identifies him as the murderer. Worried, Book turns to his mentor, Chief SCHAEFFER, for help.

Shortly after, McFee engages Book in a parking garage gunfight and Book is hit in the abdomen. The injured Book deduces Schaeffer and McFee are both dirty and working together. After destroying records to hide the location of Samuel’s home, Book sneaks Rachel and the boy out of the city to their farm in rural Lancaster County. Moments after dropping them off, Book passes out behind the wheel. Rachel’s father-in-law, ELI, reluctantly agrees to put up the “English” man, and arranges for an Amish apothecary to treat the bullet wound using traditional methods.

Adopting Amish dress to be inconspicuous as he recovers, Book, an amateur carpenter, fits into the community fairly well—making toys for Samuel and helping in a barn raising. As the weeks pass, he begins to fall in love with Rachel, who has mutual feelings for him. Their attraction is met by disapproval of the elders, who consider having Rachel shunned. Meanwhile, Eli lectures young Samuel about the English man’s use of the “gun of the hand” and tendency for violence (“What you take into your hands you take into your heart”).

In town, Book witnesses youths harassing the Amish. Book severely beats the youths and, as the Amish are pacifists, word of this unusual occurrence spreads quickly. Book realizes his cover is blown and Schaeffer will soon find him. Book prepares to leave the farm, sharing a passionate embrace with Rachel.

Schaeffer, McFee, and a third corrupt officer (the second murderer) arrive the next morning to kill Book. Unarmed, Book uses his wits to defeat the two cops before Schaeffer holds him at gunpoint. Thinking quick, Samuel rings the farm bell, alerting his neighbors to a problem. Schaeffer, knowing he cannot kill all the amassed Amish witnesses, surrenders. Afterward, as Book prepares to leave, he exchanges a silent, loving gaze with Rachel before driving back to Philadelphia. Eli caringly tells Book to “be careful out among them English.”

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