If you’re like most writers, the words “write a synopsis” fill you with blood-curdling dread. If you’re like most writers, you’d be hard pressed to choose between writing a synopsis and chewing foil. And if you’re like most writers, you put it off until you absolutely have to write it, and struggle and lurch through it while blubbering the entire time. Am I right?
Same with writing blurbs, yes?
Sometimes you might even doubt calling yourself a writer at all. But instead of doing that, just remember my #1 Basic Writing Tool, and you should be fine.
Personally, I love writing blurbs and synopses, and it’s usually the first thing I write. It’s a breeze. (And no, I’m not a freak of nature.) How do I do it?
With a little discipline and forethought. Now, before all you pantsers start panicking or lamenting that you can’t do this, hear me out. This will work regardless of if you’re a plotter or a pantser.
First of all, you have to remember there are a few ways to write a synopsis. You’re not locked into one format, so you have a bit of leeway in how you approach it.
Unless, of course, your publisher really does have only one way to write it, in which case yeah, you’re stuck, but that doesn’t mean writing it has to be torturous.
Use the trends of your genre
Secondly one of the best things to remember is fiction, these days, is more character-driven than anything. Especially if you write romance.This makes it even easier to write a synopsis.
You could write a character synopsis. It's super easy, and shows how the characters are the major driving force of the story. Here's an example from my latest MS, Devil's Bitch:
Baruk (alpha rival):
Third son of the Lord of Banadar, Baruk made a name for himself as the newest Force General in the army. He is also Norelia's oldest friend. Since childhood, they were brought together once a year to learn and train together in hopes there might be a renewal of old familial alliances.
Two years ago, Baruk proposed to Norelia, and she has avoided him since. With both the Emperor and General Kallan dead, Norelia is both Empress and General in dire need of support. With the main Force of the Endless Army slain, Norelia's forces and political support are thin. He has to be there for her.
When he sees Reoth with her, his own desires turn into a simmering jealousy. Who is this nameless wanderer to think he can marry his Norelia by winning one measly tourney? He has to talk some sense into Norelia and remind her of their lifetime in common. If the Emperor is truly dead, any wager she made with him is forfeit. Nothing is stopping her from making her own choices!
When Reoth reveals to Norelia's war council he knows who is behind the slaughter of the main Force, Baruk offers to kill Reoth. Baruk's pedigree is perfect, and they were intended to marry practically since birth. What can he do to make her see that he is the logical choice for marriage and keep her safe from this invasion when she keeps avoiding the subject?
The formula is easy, and you can see it in my alpha rival's character synopsis: Who is the character? Why is the character important? What relationships or circumstances make this character vital to the story? What obstacles does the character face because of the presence/interactions of other main characters? What is the character's personal struggle, and why is it personal for them? What can the character do to achieve their personal goals, or what is their conundrum?
See? Easy peasy. Do this for each of your main characters. Ideally, each character's obstacle and goal would mesh or conflict naturally with other characters' obstacles and goals.
The Long Synopsis De-Mystified
If you're at all familiar with Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method, then you'll already know how to write the five sentence plot-points paragraph. If not, here's the basic format:
Your beginning: Sentence 1
Plot Disaster #1: Sentence 2
Characters making things worse, result in Disaster #2: Sentence 3
Character choice/action + some plot influence brings Disaster #3: Sentence 4
Resolution, falling action, ending: Sentence 5
From there, take each sentence and expand it into a full paragraph. Keep in mind each paragraph should end in another Disaster, except the final paragraph. Your final paragraph should wrap up the story and resolve plot holes. And please don't forget to write the ending of your story. No cliffhangers, no "read and find out!" no "maybes" or "surprises" or any of the other teasers some writers like to include for some reason.
Not only does it scream "amateur," but it really could be enough to land your query or submission in the circular file. Publishers want to see that you can write a solid story with a beginning, a tight middle, and a believable resolution. They also want to know what the story is in its entirety so they don't have to thumb through your entire ms to see if it's something they even like. Save the "read it and find out" for the blurb. That's what it's for.
Use the same structure of the five sentence plot-points paragraph for each of your paragraphs. In essence, have mini-Disasters or other complications--usually character-driven, but can also be other things-- giving you rising action, climax, and a little resolution within each section.
There! Follow these steps, and you will have successfully completed a synopsis with very little pain, and quite possibly no blubbering!
With a little practice, the character synopsis is a task easily conquered, and the long synopsis is no match for your literary awesomeness. The Three Act format is another of the writing basics that you want to keep in your back pocket. Having a solid structure for your story will keep you out of some of the worst writing jams.
Trying out these tips? Share your success! Leave me a comment and let me know how it worked for you. I love hearing from you!
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