Breaking Down the Synopsis

Breaking Down the Synopsis
August 3, 2017 No Comments » For Authors, Writing Advice J.K. Allen

Congratulations, you’ve finished your novel. That’s quite a feat in itself. Now you’ve revised and edited it and are ready to query. But that means you need to have a synopsis ready to go, and these can be harder to write than your novel was. This is where you boil down your story plot to one single spaced page including the ending. So let’s look at how we do this.

  • This is where you detail your story. In other words your plot. This is not a summary of the themes of your book.
  • Focus on the main plot and maybe one or two major subplots. You don’t have space to write every little thing that happened, so focus on the main story. You should be telling the main story with a few sentences given for significant subplots.
  • Write the synopsis chronologically, even if your story jumps around in time. It’ll be easier to make sense of the plot.
  • Write it in third person, even if your story is in first person. And write it in present tense. There’s no negotiation on this.
  • Include the ending. Agents and editors request the synopsis because they want to know the full story to make an informed decision on whether or not they will read your manuscript. Don’t waste their time with an unfinished synopsis.
  • Start with a hook and be intriguing. You want this to be interesting, not just a laundry list of events. Make sure you write more than just then this happened. Then this happened. Then this.
  • Introduce characters using all caps the first time you type their name. Also make sure to introduce all characters from the perspective of your protagonist.
  • Cut the filler and be clear and concise.
  • Use your unique voice while writing the synopsis. Let them get a feel for how the story is written.
  • Use specific nouns and strong verbs. Keep your writing strong.
  • Show your characters reactions to events, not just the events.

Now let’s look at some things to include when you write your synopsis

  1. Start with a compelling hook and opening. What is the protagonist like at the beginning of the story? What is the story premise?
  2. The setting. This is especially important for fantasy with new story worlds and historical fiction to set the scene.
  3. The inciting incident that starts the chain of events that pulls the protagonist into the story.
  4. Your protagonist’s goal, the main conflict preventing that goal, and what’s at stake.
  5. Obstacles set in the way of the protagonist and your protagonist’s reaction to them.
  6. The major plot events of the story.
  7. Significant relationship changes, for example a love interest developing.
  8. Any plot twists. Explain the significance of these.
  9. The darkest point for the protagonist, when all hope seems lost.
  10. The climax where the protagonist and antagonist go head to head.
  11. Resolution and ending. Did she solve the story problem? Did she achieve her goal? How has she grown and changed as a character?

This isn’t something that you’ll get perfect the first time so just write it out and rewrite it until it flows. Just keep focused on what should go into it. It’s not easy to write but it can be done. What are your tips for writing the synopsis? Share below and happy writing.


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J.K. Allen Julia Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.

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