You spend months and even years writing your novel. You’ve polished it. It’s ready to go. Then, you are told to submit a one page synopsis on your 300 page baby. Ahhhh! You write frantically, cramming everything into one page. You want to tell every juicy detail. Maybe you even change your font to 7 to squeeze everything in. You stop typing, look at your document, and realize it’s a mess. You can’t read it because it’s too small, and secretly you are grateful you can’t because it’s ridiculous. Now what?
I LOVE formulas because if you plug numbers into a formula, you are bound to get an answer. I’m working on my synopsis right now. It seemed like a daunting task at first. I did not take the above approach, although I did picture myself doing that in my head. I did some research. There is no perfect formula or way to creating a synopsis, but I did find useful guides.
- Watch Dan Wells on Story Structure– He is funny and simply breaks down his way of creating a synopsis. I wish I knew about his approach prior to writing my book. Dan uses Harry Potter for his outline structure. Here are my notes on it:
Hook (Do this second. This is the start. Harry Potter: Harry has a sad, boring life. Poor little orphan who lives under the stairs.)
Plot turn 1 (Do this fourth. Just as the midpoint moves you from beginning to end, Plot Turn 1 moves you from beginning to midpoint. Introduce the conflict. The character’s world changes: Meet new people, discover new secrets, follow the White Rabbit. Harry Potter: Harry is informed he is a wizard. Harry becomes a wizard and learns magic.)
Pinch 1 ( Do this sixth. Apply pressure: something goes wrong, bad guys attack, peace is destroyed. Force the characters to action. Often used to introduce the villain. Harry Potter: no adults around, forcing the children to solve the problem on their own. Introduce danger into a fun environment. Pinch: A troll attacks.)
Midpoint (Do this third. The midpoint is the exact center between the two states. It is the point at which the characters begin moving from one state to the other. The characters move from reaction to action. Harry Potter: Harry learns the truth about the sorcerer’s stone, and swears to protect it from Voldemort.)
Pinch 2 [Do this seventh. Apply more pressure (worse than pinch 1), until the situation seems hopeless: A plan fails, a mentor dies (leaving the heroes alone), the bad guys seem to win. These are jaws of defeat from which your hero will be snatching victory. Make sure the teeth are sharp. Harry Potter: Ron and Hermione fall to the traps in the dungeon, and Harry is left alone.]
Plot turn 2 (Do this fifth. Move the story from midpoint to end. At the midpoint you determine to do something, and in the resolution you do it, so Plot Turn 2 is where you obtain the final thing you need to make it happen. “The power is in you!” Harry Potter: Harry discovers the stone is in his pocket because his motives are pure.)
Resolution (Do this first. Harry Potter: Harry defeats Voldemort. Pick opposite for the start. This will give a good character arc.)
- I found a synopsis template on PUB (lishing) Crawl.
This one is more specific on the website, but here is a quick summary.
Fill in the Blanks
1. Opening image
An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
2. Protagonist Intro
Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.
3. Inciting incident
What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.
4. Plot point 1
What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.
5. Conflicts & character encounters
Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.
What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 360 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.
7. Winning seems imminent, but…
What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.
8. Black moment
The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?
What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?
Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?
11. Final image
What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?
- Cynthea Liu gives great advice on writing a synopsis.
The reader should have some idea of who the main character(s) is, how old he/she might be, the setting (if it’s important), and the “event” or “circumstances” that led you to start the book there. (paragraph one)
Describes chain of events leading to the climax (3 paragraphs).
- Paragraph 2 (the start of her problems)
- Paragraph 3 (problems grow)
- Paragraph 4 (problems at their height)
Describes the climax and then the resolution. How it ends. Hopefully, the show the story comes full circle. (paragraph 5)
Ultimately, pick what route works best for you for writing a synopsis and run with it!