Login   Sign Up 


Absent - synopsis

by Skippoo 

Posted: 05 October 2014
Word Count: 1000
Summary: This is a synopsis of my new teen fic idea. It's to send to my agent, so she can check out the plot before I take it further. Plot is my weakness, so I want to know if this is the sort of thing that would keep someone reading. Oh, for anyone who remembers Tash and Kev, this is the same setting and Emma was a character in that.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

According to her best mate, EMMA is ‘one of the most lovely, genuine people ever.’ According to pretty much everyone else, Emma is ‘a slag’. The name calling has pretty much driven her out of school. Instead, she spends her time trying to hold her home together: cleaning, making sure bills get paid, keeping social workers at bay and trying to stop her little brother, JACKSON, going off the rails. All the stuff her mum is too pissed to manage.
 Emma has to go to school for a meeting about her attendance. As she walks through the gates, some boys shout all the usual stuff at her: slut, whore, sket …. That is, until a fit older guy appears and sends them packing. Emma wonders if he’s a new teacher, but hurries off, embarrassed.
Emma’s mum doesn’t show to the meeting, as usual, so it’s Emma, the deputy head and a social worker. Then the fit older guy walks in. He turns out to be Emma’s new attendance officer, SCOTT. It’s decided that Emma can go to college full-time to do a motor vehicle maintenance course. Excited, she rushes home to get Mum sober enough to sign the permission forms.
Emma loves the college course. She’s good at it and the boys there don’t call her names. She has a meeting with Scott. He’s different from the other workers; down to earth. Afterwards, they keep texting. Scott admits he likes talking to her and has been checking his work phone out of hours. Emma’s not sure if he likes her in that way, though. After all, he’s married.
 Emma bunks off one day with a boy from college. They have sex and he talks her into letting him take nude photos of her, telling her she’s beautiful and the photos are art. Emma later finds out he’s shown the photos to half their class. She stops attending and is too ashamed to reply to any more of Scott’s texts.
Scott visits Emma at home. She cries and tells him everything. He persuades her to go back to the course; she should follow her passion and not let a bunch of immature boys hold her back.
Jackson gets into trouble for throwing a chair at one of his teachers. There is talk of him being sent to a residential special school. Scott works with Jackson too and Emma begs him not to let her brother get sent away.
One night, a tipsy Scott texts Emma and asks her to meet him. He tells her his marriage is going downhill. His wife is a police officer who works long hours; they barely see each other and she’s changed since she had a miscarriage last year. He admits to Emma that he can’t stop thinking about her. They end up kissing. Things develop into a proper affair. Emma doesn’t feel used like she normally does; she feels special.
During half term, Scott and Emma go to the seaside, thinking they won’t have to hide there. Then at lunchtime, Scott spots the school headteacher walking into their restaurant. Emma runs to the toilets to hide, finds a fire exit and sneaks out. Afterwards, Scott is visibly shaken and tells Emma maybe they should stop seeing each other. Emma is terrified of losing him. They agree to carry on, but to be more careful.
 It’s Jackson’s 13th birthday. Mum doesn’t do much to make their birthdays special (if she remembers), so Emma invites some of Jackson’s friends over for a get-together. Scott takes Emma to buy Jackson presents, a cake and some balloons. The day goes really well. Emma calls Scott and thanks him; tells him that she loves him and this is the happiest she’s been for ages. Then in the middle of the party, the police arrive. Jackson is arrested for assaulting someone with a weapon.
Jackson is put in a secure unit until his court date. He tells Emma he was there when the attack happened, but it wasn’t him. Another boy filmed the attack on his phone, which the police took at the scene.
Emma heads for the police station to find out what’s going on. On the way there, Scott rings her from a phone box. He tells her his wife has found out about the affair. What’s more, she’s pregnant. Scott says they can’t talk for a while, but he’ll be in touch when things calm down. He tells Emma she needs to be strong for her brother and hangs up.
Emma somehow pulls it together and goes to police station. She demands to speak to one of the officers who was there after the attack. A female police officer, PC Kaye, takes Emma into an interview room. PC Kaye is unsympathetic and denies all knowledge of any mobile phone footage. As she shows Emma out, she stares hard at her, stating she believes Emma knows her husband, Scott.  Emma runs all the way home and bursts in, crying hysterically. Mum is lying on the floor, pissed. Emma calls Scott and leaves several messages. Does he know that Jackson is in prison because of his wife? She begs him to come over before she does something stupid. Then she necks some of Mum’s vodka and smashes the house up. The doorbell goes and Emma runs to answer it, thinking it might be Scott. It’s the social worker and her form tutor. Emma sinks to the floor, sobbing, still clutching the bottle of vodka. The social worker walks past her, seeing the smashed up house and her semi-conscious mum.
 Jackson is released, after mobile phone footage turns up proving the attack was committed by another boy. Scott’s wife must have had a change of heart.
 Emma and Jackson are in a cab on their way to their new foster home, out of London. They’ve met the family, who seem really nice. Emma is older and wiser, and after everything, the siblings are both looking forward to a new start. 

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

a.m.edge at 08:50 on 06 October 2014  Report this post
My god, this is hard-hitting, isn't it!
I think the plot hangs together really well. You've got the whole 'will anyone find out about Scott' thing running all the way through, which will keep readers reading. You also  build the role of the little brother (how old?) and whether he gets sent away.
I'm just wondering how Emma has changed by the end of the novel, and whether you have to make this clear in the synopsis. How has her character changed/grown? It seems like she's been let down yet again (her mother, school, the authorities and now Scott) so what state is she in by the end? What is the novel's message? That people will always let you down so get used to it? That what ever happens, you will overcome? Is 'older and wiser' enough? Maybe it is. Does anyone come through at the end as someone she can trust? You mention a best friend in the opening line but she's not mentioned again. Does Emma cut her off once she starts seeing Scott, and, when it all goes pear-shaped, could that best friend still be there for her? Just an idea.
Looking foward to the WIP materialising before our eyes.

andinadia at 09:03 on 06 October 2014  Report this post
Wow, Catherine. It works.

You start with a reference to the best friend. Do we get to meet the friend again? And why is it she only has the one friend? Do we get to see any reason during the story as to why Emma should have the reputation attributed to her at the beginning?

I hope you can give the mother depth, so that she's not only a reason for Emma's problems. And some hope for her at the end, in that para that starts "Jackson is released".

The way you've described the phone evidence for Jackson being charged didn't make complete sense to me: if he was charged with the actual attack, how would he have been filming it at the same time?

How will you present Scott's character? Will we feel almost from the beginning that he is not to be trusted?

The dramatic scene with the social worker and form tutor (could it be instead the same deputy head that we met at the start?) arriving and finding the mother and the daughter in such a state seems to be a low point in the poor mother's life. Will we get a hint as to what might have just happened to her? That scene will be hard to write.

The very end could be satisfying when it's written but at the moment it's a bit abrupt - though it might be authentically open-ended - and I feel it should contain something that suggests things might now get a bit better. After all, just removing them from the mother isn't a sure recipe for a bright new start?

My only other comment is that the plot includes several elements of the social service and young offender system, which could provide interesting detail that would probably help the story along rather than being an obstacle to the plot.

andinadia at 09:05 on 06 October 2014  Report this post
Just saw Annie's comment when I posted my own. It seems we had similar feelings about the ending. I think the device of bringing the friend back could be a good one!

Skippoo at 13:22 on 06 October 2014  Report this post
Hi both,

Your comments are really useful - thanks very much! It's good to hear the plot seems to work overall.

Yes, the best friend (who is Tash from Tash and Kev) does remain so throughout the book and will be a source of support. Emma has slept with a lot of boys out of a misguided desire to be loved, which has resulted in her being rejected by a lot of her peers - this will be clear. The brother is 12/13, which is mentioned in the synopsis. However, you've made me realise I haven't mentioned Emma's age! I'm going to make her just turned 16 - one of the oldest in year 11. It is another boy's phone who the video footage is on - I will think how I can make that clearer.

I do intend to show how Emma has learnt/grown from the experience, although of course it is complex and you're right, it seems I need to show this in the synopsis more, although that will make it longer (you two are not the only people to say that!). I think the novel's message is ultimately about Emma's self esteem and choices, particularly when it comes to boys/men.

Good point about making Mum more complex. I hadn't thought much about that yet, but yes, it needs to be thought about! Scott will come across as complex too - not a bad guy, but one who, ultimately, acts foolishly and weakly. 

Thank you again! :-)

Cath x

TassieDevil at 16:19 on 06 October 2014  Report this post
Powerful stuff Catherine,

I was going to ask about Emma's age as that could have raised even more complex issues had she been younger. You've answered that question. Even so the situation with Scott could be a book initself. You've certanly set Emma up as a very complex, damaged girl and I'm certain this would draw in many a young reader.

You asked about plot. In my opinion there's no problems there as the complexities of the relationships would drive the story along well.

That said, the ending doesn't work for me. It seems too simplistic as though all the problems will be solved by having a new family. Maybe you plan to expand on this. For Emma and her brother to have 'grown up' at the same time that they meet their new family is stretching it. Possibly  a few more minor traumas before it all works out. Having had some dealings with fostering, damaged kids don't change overnight.

Also the PC's change of heart needs a strong explanation. Can't see this happening without pressure from Scott or someone else, maybe even threats from Emma to disclose the affair and ruin Scott's job?

I look forward to seeing this progress as a novel. Shame about Gonna B. I thought that was a winner.

Did you explain the significance of the title? Possibly I missed that.


Skippoo at 17:06 on 06 October 2014  Report this post
Hi Alan,

You're not the first person to say this about the ending and I agree. It would be more complex in the book, but I can see I need to get some of that complexity across in the synopsis too.

As for the PC, well the way I see it, initially, she's just found out about the affair and she's angry and pregnant! But then later, she realises it's not fair to take this all out on the fate of a 13 year-old boy.

And the title: well, Scott is a school attendance officer and the reason he meets Emma is because she is absent from school too much (the terms 'absent' or 'absence' are used a lot in the world of school attendance - I worked in that field briefly). So it's partly a reference to that and partly a reference to other kinds of absence. Emma's mum is absent - emotionally and literally - because she's an addict. Her dad is absent too (I haven't decided what happened to him yet). And you could take it further... perhaps Emma is absent from her own body when she sleeps with boys who are using her. I'm sure I could come up with more, haha. :-)

Thanks for your comments - very useful!

Cath x

Bazz at 19:33 on 06 October 2014  Report this post
Hi, this is really strong material, it does absolutely feel like a fully fleshed out plot, but I find the amount of issues it tackles a bit over the top. Cruel rumours, bullying, nude photos, affair with teacher, social services, drunken mother, brother arrested... I think you could tackle half of these and still have a very compelling plot. I would worry that the reader might become numb to all the misery! The moral lesson to the end makes all this important, but it feels a bit weakened when you consider it's unlikely one person is going to go through all of these issues. Is it possible the happy ending might seem too little too late?
I think it would help if you lay out the ages of the characters as you go, how old is Emma throughout, how old is Scott. Why is Emma perceived by everyone to be a slag? Also what happens to the mother, is she just in the background througout, doesn't Emma try to get her any help?
I think this feels like an amazing synopsis, and Emma would be a very sympathatic narrator, but maybe there's a little too much packed in for a teen novel?

Skippoo at 20:19 on 06 October 2014  Report this post
Thanks, Bazz. You've also echoed things other people have said that confirm certain things to me! Obviously, I do need to explain why Emma is called a 'slag' and yes, the ages.

I have to say, though, I work with teenagers in inner city London and a lot of them do go through constant dramas (some of which are pretty 'normal' to them), so I honestly don't think this is over the top compared to what I witness all the time! However, when you list everything like that, I see your point. All I can say is that some of these issues are more at the forefront than others, so it shouldn't feel like too much of a bombardment, I hope! 

I am going to make it that the mother finally admits she has a problem and accepts help from social services at the end, so there is hope there (social services have been trying to engage her and get her help for a long time). 

Thanks again! :-)

Cath x

Issy at 11:05 on 08 October 2014  Report this post
I remember Tash and Kev! That was quite a while ago now, so I can't place Emma.

There is so much going on, and I can see how Scott would be so attractive to Emma, and how that would develop, without her seeing his flaws (and his neediness!) I also like the subplot of the brother and how that fits so well into the climax.

I didn't get the character of Emma quite so well to start with. She has so much on her plate that it is no wonder that she goes a little crazy from time to time - like going off with the boy and then Scott and then the crashing up of the house. I think the love story could be built up until it is all she is thinking about and then the devastation of that call from Scott and her brother. going off the rails. But what was she like at the beginning, that she attracted so much nastiness, and does her friend play a supportive role, as she does feel she is very supportive .

But it is all there, a strong contemporary story and this comes across well in this synopsis.Good luck with your agent.

Pen and Ink at 19:54 on 08 October 2014  Report this post
This is very strong, Catherine - the characters come across as believable and the story itself rolls along smoothly. I think it would be really gripping. My only gut feeling is that it seems to peter out a bit at the end. Everything seems to be completely dire - Mum unconscious, little brother arrested for assault, police officer wife in the know about Emma's relationship with her husband, Emma in despair - then suddenly all seems to be resolved quickly. Now it might be that you have it all planned out but it's not coming through in the synopsis. How does the police officer find out about her? How come her brother is released? How does it end up all fine when is all seems so black and full of despair? 
 Hope I'm not too late with my comments and good luck with your agent. :)

Skippoo at 13:57 on 12 October 2014  Report this post
Hi Issy, Emma wasn't a major character in T&K - she was a new friend of Tash's. Everyone's nasty to her as she has had sex with a lot of boys out of a misguided desire for love/approval - I'm going to make that clearer in my redrafted synopsis. Yes, I agree that Scott should be very important to her.

Julia, yes, you've pretty much echoed what others have said about the ending. It's stuff I have all worked out, but didn't put into the synopsis as I was trying to keep it brief, but I'm going to have to, it seems! 

Thanks, both! :-)

C x

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .