7 steps to writing a synopsis

Step 1: Start With Plot Basics

You know that your plot is a sequence of events that proceed through several basic stages. These include… The inciting incident that gets things moving, sets the protagonist on course towards his goal, etc. Event(s) which illustrate opposition to the Story Goal. The climax: the decisive event that determines whether the goal will be achieved. The resolution or the aftermath of the climax, which illustrates whether or not the goal was achieved.

Step 2: Add the Main Character’s Arc

The emotional side of the story will be expressed in part by the main character’s progression through four stages as well. For instance, see if you can answer the following questions… Who is your main character at the start of the story? What kind of person is he/she? What is his/her approach to life? Describe how your main character is thrust into a situation where he/she is pressured to change. Does your main character decide to take a leap of faith and change? Does he adopt a new approach or take some uncharacteristic action? Or does she hold true to who she is and become more entrenched in her attitude or approach? At the end of the novel, is the main character better off because of the choice he/she has made? Does the reader feel he/she has done the right thing?

Step 3: Consider the Impact Character’s Role

images0MY8Q0E0The impact character (or sometimes characters) are responsible for pressuring the main character to change, generally by giving an example of a diametrically different approach or outlook. He or she shows why and how the main character might need to change. So consider … When the impact character enters the novel, how does he/she express a different approach or attitude to that of the main character? How does the impact character pressure or influence the main character to either abandon his old ways or learn a new way of doing things? If the main character changes at the climax of the story, the impact character typically remains fixed in his ways. On the other hand, if the main character stays the same, the impact character may be forced to change. How is this illustrated in your novel? Is the impact character better or worse off at the end of the novel?

Step 4: The Major Relationship

Another aspect to a well-rounded story is the progression of the relationship between the main and impact characters. For instance, in a romance these two are usually the romantic hero and heroine. In a comic book adventure, they could be the hero and villain, hero and mentor, etc. Regardless who these two characters are to each other, the relationship between them will also exhibit an emotional arc. You may need to consider… How their relationship stands at the beginning of the story. How their relationship develops or is tested in the course of the story. The climax of their relationship (a decisive change). Their relationship at the end of the story. How is it different? As you can probably guess, all of the “#1”s from each of the steps above will go into the first part of your synopsis. All the “#2”s will go into the second part, etc. You may find it useful to write each point on an index card or piece of paper. Then you can sort them into four piles representing the order they will appear in your synopsis.

Step 5: Include Thematic Considerations

What issues do your characters struggle with in your novel? What themes imagesOEJYZAJFwill be addressed and weighed in the story? What is the message or moral? If these points are a crucial part of your novel, write them on index cards and put them into the appropriate pile, depending on where they are illustrated in your story.

Step 6: Include the 8 Basic Plot Elements

Review the article, How to Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps. Write an index card for each of the 8 basic plot elements, describing how it is illustrated in your novel. Once again, put each card into the appropriate pile, according to where the illustration appears in the story.

Step 7: Edit All Your Points Together.

By now you have a set of over 24 index cards, each describing an element of your novel. The cards are in four piles, representing the four acts of your story. Your final step is to arrange the cards in order within each pile and write/edit them together to create a summary of your story. If you have included all of these elements, you should find that your synopsis covers not only the events that make up the plot but also the emotional side of your novel.

Last thoughts…

What else do editors want to learn from your synopsis? It also helps to show them in the first paragraph or so that… Your story has an original idea or premise – something they haven’t seen a million times. You have an interesting main character. Your subject matter and theme are either topical or intriguing. Finally, your synopsis as a whole should show… You can create a sound plot that makes sense. Your events should build tension and lead to a satisfactory conclusion. The tone and style your novel will be written in.


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