The “Proof of Life” 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 Proof of Life, a good example of a thriller/action story. Look at what this synopsis does right. I like how the story starts quickly. Alice is a big character and she is unhappy with her situation. Her husband is kidnapped and the story is in motion. The climax (a battle) is told quickly, and there is no blow-by-blow of the gunshots.



ALICE BOWMAN moves to the (fictional) South American country of Tecala because her husband, PETER, has been hired to build a dam. Though their marriage is strained with yet another move, Alice again tries to hit the ground running. Mere weeks later, Peter’s automobiles is ambushed by guerrilla rebels. Believing that Peter works for an oil company, soldiers abduct him and lead him into the jungle to hold him for ransom.

TERRY THORNE, an ex-Australian Special Air Service Regiment soldier, arrives in Tecala to assist in the situation. Thorne, fresh from a successful hostage rescue near Russia, is an expert in kidnapping-and-ransom cases. He is hired by Peter’s company to bring about Peter’s safe return. Unfortunately, it turns out that Peter’s company actually has no insurance coverage for kidnapping, so they cannot afford Thorne’s services nor pay a ransom. Despite Alice’s pleas to stay, Thorne leaves the country. Alice gets teamed up with a seedy local hostage negotiator, who immediately suggests a questionable money payment. Alice agrees, but the transaction is stopped by Thorne, who, following his conscience, has returned to help. He is aided by DINO, another ex-military man.

Over the next several months, Thorne uses a radio to talk with a guerrilla contact, and the two argue over terms for Peter’s release—including a ransom that Alice can afford. With downtime between conversations, Thorne and Alice bond, and an attraction between the two grows. Thorne’s cold exterior begins to melt, and Dino warns that their budding relationship can have no happy ending.

Meanwhile, Peter is led through the jungle by a group of younger rebels before arriving at the main camp. There, he meets another hostage: KESSLER, a missionary. The two immediately conspire to escape.

After much negotiation, the guerrillas agrees to release Peter for a sum of $650,000. But before the deal goes through, Peter and Kessler make a run for it. Peter is recaptured, but Kessler escapes. In the hospital, Kessler meets Alice and, having heard a gunshot, claims that her husband is dead. Acting on a tip, Thorne visits a high-ranking Tecala government official, who turns out to be the radio contact he was communicating with this whole time. The contact confirms that Peter is indeed alive, but has seen secret rebel maps and will likely soon be killed. 

Thorne, Dino, and several associates decide to risk a rescue. Before leaving, Thorne shares tender words and a kiss with Alice. In the jungle, Thorne and his men travel by helicopter and attack the ELT base. They free not only Peter, but other hostages held there as well. Peter returns to Alice, emaciated but alive. Thorne and Alice have a final moment together before Alice thanks him and leaves to be with her husband. Thorne watches her leave, and talks with Dino about what might lie in store for them next.

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