The "Punch-Drunk Love" Synopsis

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.
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 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.

Image placeholder title

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."

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:

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.


The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.


Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.


Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.


Stephanie Wrobel: On Writing an Unusual Hero

Author Stephanie Wrobel explains how she came to write about mental illness and how it affects familial relationships, as well as getting inside the head of an unusual character.


Who Are the Inaugural Poets for United States Presidents?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets for United States Presidential Inauguration Days from Robert Frost to Amanda Gorman. This post also touches on who an inaugural poet is and which presidents have had them at their inaugurations.


Precedent vs. President (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use precedent vs. president with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 554

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