Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Synopsis

The synopsis.  The thing feared by writers almost as much as a query.  Or maybe that's just me.  A friend over at Compuserve had a great guideline for writing a synopsis.  This woman knows writing, and not only that but she can articulate it in a way that's easy to understand.  Here's what she said about writing a synopsis.








Open the synopsis with the main character, whoever that is. Give some clue as to the setting. Introduce the main external conflict and the main internal conflict. 
Follow both arcs, external and internal, from beginning to end. Include two or three major turning points, then the climax and resolution. Leave out any character or event that is not directly relevant to the synopsis story. That includes sub-plots. Use as few characters as possible and only name those who play a role in this version of the story.

In other words, simplify, simplify, simplify. No one reading it should have any trouble following the story or understanding what is at stake. Synopses are not just about what happens. They're about why things happen. The emotional core. Make sure you include that.




I may even be able to do that.  The idea of simplifying and just picking the main arc for the synopsis echos the guidelines for writing your pitch or query.  Find the core conflict, the catalyst that starts the story and use that arc.  I guess after writing 80K plus words it's hard to simplify but it's gotta be done.  Hope this helps anyone else that's working on a synopsis.  And if you are, good luck. 

23 comments:

  1. Sara, I found it easier to write my synopsis in my MC's voice and in first-person, since that's how the story is told. And I did get a request for a partial based on that synopsis, so I guess it wasn't too poorly done. :)

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    1. I'm sure it was well done! And I'm glad you found a way that worked for you. I've been putting it off. Getting all these suggestions is making it not so scary.

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  2. Simplifying like that seems to effectively get to the heart of the book, which is what really matters. Best wishes with yours!

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  3. I just finished my synopsis last week! Oh the joys... I find it best to just vomit the story out and then cut, cut, cut! Great post & great advice! ;)

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    1. That's my usual approach to writing in general. :) Congrats on finishing yours!

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  4. This is awesome advice. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  5. Simplifying the story is a must for agents and editors who read so many pitches. Once I was told to just introduce the MC, describe what s/he wants, why it's important for them to have it, show the obstacle getting in their way, and how they manage to overcome this.

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    1. That's a great way to simplify it. Thanks!

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  6. I kinda like writing synopses, funnily enough. It's fun to write a few thousand words and then chip away at it.
    Queries, log lines, pitches - those are torturous!

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    1. Well, you like copy editing too. :) Probably when I get down to it it won't be as bad as I've been imagining.

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  7. Wow, sounds easy:) I may have to try it, lol. Thanks for this!

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    1. Application is never quite as easy as the concept but hopefully we at least won't make it more confusing.

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  8. Sara,
    This is good, isn't it? I'm going to have to give it a try soon.

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    1. You and me both. Though I think I'm going to wait until after this rewrite to make sure I know how the story will change.

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  9. Ah, the dreaded synopsis. It sounds so simple here until you are actually looking at the screen going DOH! Like most authors I would rather write a WHOLE book rather than ONE synopsis. Now keep in mind I have written over two dozen books, not counting those which have not been published yet. It honestly does not get any easier even when you know what's needed.

    Linda's idea is a good one. Synopses are always in first person anyhow. It's an angle I hadn't thought of.

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    1. I hadn't heard they need to be in first person, in fact I've seen some that aren't. Guess I need to research that a little more.

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  10. Awesome advice! I'm not quite there yet, but soon, and I could use this tidbit. Thanks for posting it:)

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  11. Good information. I wrote a long synopsis for my online critique group but then used a system based upon the movie Star Wars and answering basic questions. It was great. Though, personally, mine reads pretty flat. lol

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    1. Star Wars can help with anything! Hubby will love hearing this, he's a star wars fan.

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  12. I've written two synopses. The first one was super difficult. I had to condence 68K to all of 2-3 pages. After a ton of editing, I got it there. My second one I wrote before I even finished the book. Now that was a bit easier. But all the same, they aren't easy little beasts to conquer. However, the more you write em the easier it becomes. They need not be feared. Just simply what you've written. Don't go overboard on getting all the details in. That's not the point. hehe

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