After playing around on the interwebz this week I discovered a theme emerge among my writerly buds…lots of angst over the dreaded synopsis. Now, I’m not saying writing a synopsis is a piece of cake – far from it. But, there is a way to do it that s a little less painful.
The editors, agents and published authors I’ve spoken with have all said that shorter is better when it comes to the synopsis.
WHAT? SHORTER…It’s hard enough cramming the storyline of a 70 – 80K novel into a few pages single spaced. Now I need to cram it into 500 words or so. CRAZY!
True…but totally doable too.
That is, once you really KNOW the arc of your story.
That’s right, a synopsis can be an easy endeavor, relatively speaking, if you have taken the time to plot out your story arc.
For me, the easy way to do this is to “borrow” a little structure advice from our friends – the screenwriters.
All dramatic movies and TV shows follow a similar structure – 5 or 6 stages that lead the viewer from the opening scenes to the final climax and resolution. Nail down these stages with your own novel, including the turning points that transition one stage to the next, and you will have the structure of your story.
Here’s a quick list of each of the stages and plot turns in a typical story:
- Opening set up – The MC is introduced in the “normal world”.
- Initial challenge – The problem the MC needs to solve.
- Reaction or new scenario – A new scenario occurs for the MC as a direct result of the choice the MC makes regarding that opportunity
- Mini Crisis – An event occurs that changes everything and a new goal is made
- Edge of Adventure – The MC works towards his new goal
- Point of no return – The MC fully commits to achieving the goal – to his journey
- Complications – The MC is tested and the stakes are raised as new complications arise
- Despair – The MC in despair as he hits a major set back in his plans
- Transformation – The MC pulls himself together to face the final obstacles to his goal
- Climax – The MC faces the final obstacle standing between him and his goal
- Resolution – The outcome of the final confrontation.
Now that the stages are clear, go through your story and write a sentence or two for each of these sections of your story.
In the next post, we’ll take our sentences and write the synopsis! And yes, I’ll use a popular movie as an example.
See, not so bad…right?
37 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a SHORT Synopsis”
You make it sound so simple!
Wow! I’m impressed with how you’ve broken this down. I wrote a synopsis awhile ago, and it was so, so difficult. I never did come up with a sure-fire way of doing it. It was just messy. 😦
Anyway, thanks for this! I’ll definitely use your list next time. I’m bookmarking this post. 🙂
This is such an awesome list! Thanks so much for the insight 🙂
Hey Kat – when I finish up the post with the examples you’llsee…so much easier!
Glams – Thanks!!!
Meredith – I hope it helps.
Oh, excellent! Nothing like fitting the entire contents of your book onto the head of a pin. But you’ve got some beautiful advice here for how to do it! 😀
I’ve found that for me the easiest time to write a synopsis is after I’ve revised. At that point, the story’s fresh on my mind and I have an easier time summarizing it. I love your structure! Will have to try. 😀
gave you a blog award today 🙂
This is a really helpful breakdown! I wonder how much deviation from this sort of setup the plot of a book can actually have. I imagine some, but not much.
Wow, this is a great post! I love the way you broke it down so simply. This is a keeper 🙂
I hadn’t thought of using the screenwriters’ template approach before, what a useful post! I totally agree that you need to know your arc with clarity before you embark on the synopsis – and in fact I often use synopses to sharpen up my storytelling mid-rewrites. I’m tweeting this!
I loved this post so much and looked all over your blog for pt. 2 but couldn’t find it. Did you do another one where you give some examples using movies? Please help.
Where, oh where is the second post with examples?
Sorry – I will have to find that one. I am rewriting the post, so…yea
So I have a question for everyone. Can your “Main Character” be the villan of the book?
I would say, yes – you can. My novel Transcend features a main character that serves as both protag and antag
Can’t find part two…help!
My bad – the post was inadvertently deleted. I will be reposting it on my writer’s blog – christinefonseca.blogspot.com – within the next month though. Sorry!
Reblogged this on jbiggarblog.
Man, this one can save your mind (from frustration). Thank you so much 🙂
Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
Reblogging on Archer’s Aim
This is a big help although I didn’t know what MC stood for since I’m not a texter much. As a predominantly short story writer and journalist the synopsis is easier for me although I dislike the summary. I keep book synopsis to as little as 150 words if it goes on the book jacket and I never tell the actual ending as i would in the summary. Reblogging this on email@example.com
MC is main character. 😀
Reblogged this on mallie1025 and commented:
Good info to have when writing a synopsis!!
Thanks soooooo much. I’m now writing my first synopsis for my first book and I must admit it seem so hard until I read your steps… Thanks you for giving me the steps to complete my synopsis… 😘😘😁😁
I am thrilled that you liked this post. I plan on updating it and including new information in the future! All my best…
Reblogged this on Write On! and commented:
A great post on how to write a BRIEF synopsis! Excellent way to go about it!
Reblogged this on Banister's Mind.
Perfect. Thank you! Short is good.
Reblogged this on Donetta's World and commented:
I never really knew there was so much in a synopsis. NaWriMo is getting close so I am learning as I go for my first novel. This post was extremely helpful.
Reblogged this on litaenterprise.
Reblogged this on KaylaAnn and commented:
Just what I was looking for! Check it out!