Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bare-Bones Synopsis Template

Every writer hates writing a synopsis. It's one of the most dreaded parts of the writing process (after the evil query letter). But it is a necessary evil. Every submission needs a query letter, which includes a short 1-2 paragraph synopsis and of course, the manuscript edited & polished within an inch of its life. Eventually, you’ll need a synopsis in varying lengths, i.e. 1-page, 2-page, 3-5-page or longer because each agent/editor has her own guidelines.

Regardless of the length of your synopsis, it should encapsulate your story’s hook, the background of your main characters, the major plot points, and a resolution. It's a bit more convoluted than that, but that's a nutshell description. To get you started, I’ve drafted a synopsis “template.” In the coming weeks, I’ll include more detail of each item that goes into a good synopsis.

Synopsis Template

1. Start with a Hook: One or two paragraphs similar to the blurb on the back of a book. Mood and tone are important.

2. Introduce Main Characters: Introduce the main characters in your book—one paragraph for each. Tell their MOTIVATION, CONFLICT and GOALS. Tell the story problem. Why is she doing what she’s doing? What does she want? What keeps her from getting what she wants? How does she plan to go about solving her problem? Don’t include detailed physical descriptions unless the information is pertinent to your story.

3. Construct the Body of Your Synopsis: Write the high points of your story in chronological order. Include major plot points and turning points. Keep these paragraphs tight and don’t give every detail. Each scene should include ACTION, REACTION, and DECISION.

Example: Teryn kisses Lucas for the first time (ACTION). She makes him forget the guilt and grief he feels over his sister’s death (REACTION). Trouble follows Lucas and he won’t allow anything to happen to Teryn by getting involved with her (DECISION). The synopsis body should include:

a. First meeting/setup scene;
b. Each key plot development and relationship complication (2 main turning points and 2 main complications);
c. Build tension, summarizing the plot complications that move the story toward the black moment;
d. Black moment. Delve into the big emotional issues that must be overcome and show the emotional triumph of the hero and/or heroine.

4. CRISIS and RESOLUTION: In 3 or 4 paragraphs, show the main characters reactions. Keep this simple. Show your agent/editor the ending. Don’t keep them guessing! Resolve the plot (and romance, if applicable).