Synopsis Example: "Matchstick Men" (Mainstream Fiction)

This time it's Matchstick Men (2003). This story is not quite crime fiction nor literary fiction so I call it mainstream. Notice how, as usual, the most important things to show in a synopsis are the bones of the three acts and the arc of the main character.
Author:
Publish date:

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 Matchstick Men (2003). This story is not quite crime fiction nor literary fiction so I call it mainstream. Notice how, as usual, the most important things to show in a synopsis are the bones of the three acts and the arc of the main character.

Image placeholder title

ROY WALLER is a con artist. He is also a sufferer of several disorders, including agoraphobia, OCD and a tic disorder—not to mention that he yells "Pygmies!" when something surprises him. Alongside his partner, FRANK, Roy operates a fake lottery, selling overpriced goods to unsuspecting customers. Frank wants to put together a long con, but Roy sticks with bread-and-butter small grifts, having collected more than $1 million from his scams. After Roy experiences a violent panic attack, Frank suggests he see a psychiatrist, DR. KLEIN, who provides Roy with medication.

Dr. Klein contacts Roy’s long-estranged ex-wife and reveals that Roy has a 14-year-old daughter. Roy meets his quirky daughter, ANGELA, but his ignorance about parenting makes their meetings awkward. One night, Angela unexpectedly arrives at Roy's house, saying that she fought with her mother, and has decided to stay the weekend. After an argument, Roy admits his true profession to her, and Angela is immediately intrigued. He agrees to teach her a con, and their small scam together at a Laundromat goes seamlessly (but Roy makes her return the money).

With Angela’s youthful energy rejuvenating him (and his disorders lessening), Roy questions his lifestyle and debates quitting the grift for good to raise his daughter. Roy agrees to work with Frank on a long con with a big payoff. Stuck in a time crunch, Roy asks Angela to play a part in the scam. The deal goes bad, and the mark, a businessman named FRECHETTE, learns that he’s being swindled. Roy, Frank and Angela manage to escape unharmed. Spooked by the near-disaster, Roy tells Angela to return to her mother and never contact him again.

Without Angela, Roy's phobias resurface, and during another panic attack, he learns that Dr. Klein’s “medication” is a placebo—proving that he doesn't need pills to be happy. He invites Angela back into his life and decides to go straight. Roy and Angela return home one night to find Frechette with a gun, alongside a badly beaten Frank. Frechette gets shot, but not before he knocks Roy unconscious. Roy awakens in a hospital, under arrest, where police inform him Frechette is dead, and Frank and Angela have disappeared. Roy gives Dr. Klein access to his bank account, trusting him to give Angela the $1 million when she is found. Later, Roy awakens to find that the "hospital" is fake, "Dr. Klein's" office is vacant, and his bank account is drained. He realizes that everything was a con orchestrated by Frank, and Dr. Klein, Frechette, the police, and, sadly, even his “daughter,” were only Frank's accomplices.

A year later, Roy is married and living a quiet life as a salesman at a local carpet store—only to witness “Angela” wandering in one day. Roy confronts Angela but ultimately forgives her, realizing that he is much happier as an honest man. Roy returns home to his new wife, who is pregnant with his child.

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:

Image placeholder title

Don't let your synopsis be rejected for
improper formatting. The third edition of
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
has more than 100 examples of queries,
synopses, proposals, book text, and more.
Buy it online here at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:

WD-Poetry-2020-WinnerGraphic

The 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WD Poetry Awards!

GettyImages-163437242

Your Story #113

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

E.J. Levy: When Your First Draft is Your Best Draft

E.J. Levy: When Your First Draft is Your Best Draft

Author E.J. Levy discusses her journey with drafting and redrafting her historical fiction novel, The Cape Doctor, and why her first draft was her best draft.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 569

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an "In the Name of Blank" poem.

Writer's Digest July/August 2021 Cover

Writer's Digest July/August 2021 Cover Reveal

The July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest features a collection of articles about writing for change plus an interview with Jasmine Guillory about her newest romance, While We Were Dating.

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Debut novelist Lacie Waldon discusses how her agent encouraged her to write what she knew, but then her editor made her realize that what she thought was boring might not be the case.

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use pedal and peddle with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Debut author Marissa Levien discusses how she always knew what the beginning and the end of her science fiction novel The World Gives Way would be, but that the middle remained elusive.