The synopsis is a tricky excerpt to write. Unlike the query letter which picks the bones of your story, a synopsis should be exciting, gripping, and fun to read. But first, why are we writing a synopsis in the first place?
That is a very good question, and I’m glad you asked.
Synopsis: a brief summary or general survey of something; an outline of the plot of a book, movie, or television series.
Agents and editors want to know what the story is about before they take the job on. You can’t deny them this. You want them to be as interested and excited as you are, so give them something to chew on deliciously.
When you write your synopsis, there are two things to keep in mind, plot and emotion, because both are necessary. An agent, publisher, or editor will want to see both. Break your story down into an outline, following this formula:
2 Main character’s arc
A) Who is he/she?
B) Describe the forced change which propels your main character
C) Does he take a leap of faith or remain true to his nature?
D) Is he better off for his decision?
3 Impact character(s)
A) When do they appear?
B) How do they impact or pressure your main character?
C) Does your main character change the impact character or does your impact character change your main character?
D) Is the impact character better off?
4 Major relationship between your main character and the impact characters, for example, in my book Clockwork Dreams, this is the relationship between my main character Crissie and the impact character Eric. It is an emotional subplot that builds throughout the story
A) The beginning of the relationship
B) The development
C) The climax
D)The end result of the relationship
5 Struggles and morals – is there a specific conviction you want to portray your main character going through, one of a mental or emotional nature?
6 Now include the plot points. For a reference, here are the 8 basic plot points
7 Now, put all of your notes together. These are still just an outline, so rearrange them to fall into an orderly pattern, then edit accordingly. You will have notes for the plot and notes for the emotional plot in separate outlines, work them together carefully.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to test the story:
1. Is the story original? You can only rip off Beauty and the Beast so many times.
2. Do you have an interesting main character?
3. Is the subject matter intriguing?
A) Does the subject matter have a sound plot with satisfying conflict and conclusion?
B) Does it portray the tone and style you were going for?
Just because you finished your synopsis, does not mean you are done. By no means, now you will enter the editing phase. See lesson (11). What you have now is only an outline after all, so take some time to flesh it out. You will want to carefully edit, draft, and proofread just as you would a novel. Have a friend or a few friends read it for conciseness and flow. Preferably someone who hasn’t read the entire book. You don’t want any pesky unanswered questions popping up.
When you submit your synopsis, many submission forms will have a word count limit. Consider this when filling out your synopsis outline. This is your chance to catch the Big Fish hook, line, and sinker, so keep your synopsis interesting. Show them you are an amazing writer, both in novels and summaries. Don’t submit this synopsis until you are satisfied with it. And good luck. You can do this.
With notes from Glen C. Strathy
If you’d like a more in depth look into this lesson, see the blog post in the link above. I found Strathy to be very helpful in this area, and I modeled this lesson after his approach. It’s the most comprehensive take I’ve read to date.
Fanny T Crispin