Last month (January 10th), I wrote about the Agent Query, that which is designed to pique interest in your novel; this week, the Synopsis. Both, along with sample chapters, are normally items an agent will request during the “first meeting.”
The Synopsis, especially, terrifies new writers and experienced writers alike–why?
To answer that question, we have to determine what the Synopsis is, and perhaps, what it is not.
What it is: one or two double-spaced pages (seldom longer) explaining the entire plot of your novel. That alone causes writers to spiral into the white abyss known as “Stunned Writer’s Block” where a war wages–how do I explain 60, 80, even a 100,000 words or more into 250-500 words and still keep the integrity of the story? (I am now in the throes of that war as I attempt to explain my 125,000 fantasy novel, The Returning, in 250 words).
The Synopsis, in its simplest form, comprises the plot of your novel. Within the Synopsis, you will offer a taste of your character’s motivation, their obstacles, and the end. Yes, you must include the end, that bit you have saved during the whole book, building the tension, the part meant to surprise or bring the reader to tears. “Oh, how can I tell the end so soon, before the reader has a chance to enjoy my wonderful prose, the sub-plots, and all the little hints I drop along the way?” Those items are what the Synopsis is not.
The purpose of the Synopsis is to show the agent that you know how to plot, beginning to conclusion, and nothing more. Before we get much further, let’s answer the question, What is the Plot?
The plot is the series of events within the Story-Line that moves the characters from one scene to another, through obstacles and hardships, beginning to end. Within the plot, the reader will become emotionally attached to the characters and their reactions to the difficulties you, the creator, impose, but the plot are not those things: the plot includes the “things” that happen in the over-all story, the road blocks the characters face in their quest to reach their goals.
Example: Man (a lawyer) searches for his birth mother; finds she abandoned him because she was a drug addict; mother now imprisoned for murder; as a lawyer, man sets out to prove his mother’s innocence; someone tries to kill man; man uncovers plot that framed mother; bad people caught, go on trial; man and mother reunited and set out to get acquainted.
With the simple plot above, you can see there will be a number of emotional twists and turns (depending on the character viewpoint), but the “feelings” are best left out–the goal of the Synopsis is the Plot Outline or Story-Arc. Simple as that. The example plot is only a list, a good place to start, but the Synopsis must include sentences, cohesive prose moving the agent through the plot to the end.
This week’s Links have several fine examples of writing a Synopsis–please take a look at them for a deeper, more in-depth view (especially the first link, Writing the Tight Synopsis, which encourages writers to pen the Synopsis before writing the novel and use it as an outline). As always, feel free to comment: problems you may face, how you have overcome those problems, or any other items you might feel readers will benefit from your particular insight.
Best Wishes and keep plotting along,
This Week’s Links: The Synopsis
This Weeks Writer Quote:
“Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.” – Lev Grossman