My husband has been querying agents for his detective series. He is now the proud owner of enough rejections to make a full sized shower curtain. Both sides. Despite all that, he has also gotten a lot of positives and some real constructive revisions, suggestions, and encouragement that he has a good idea and to continue on.
Yesterday, he told me that he has a request from an agent for a couple of chapters and…drumroll…the dreaded synopsis.
“Is this like an outline of the story?”
“Um…no. The synopsis isn’t as stark as an outline. It should give the flavor of your story enhanced by your voice to hook them.”
“Think of it like telling a friend what the story is about and you’re hitting the high points or the arc of the story (plot) and filling them on the main characters and how they fit into the plot of the story. You touch on the goal, motivations, and conflicts of the main character(s). You also want to give the black moment—when all seems lost and then the how the hero wins the day.”
“Goals, motivations, and conflicts? That sounds too complicated. I don’t think you really need that.”
“Sure do. Every good story has that. Let me put it another way. Goal - what your Hero wants (both internally which gives the character arc; and externally—plot). Motivation—Why they want it (both internal and external). Conflict —why they CAN'T HAVE IT (both internal and external)”
“In two pages? Isn't there just a formula or something?”
Are we having fun yet?
Once I stopped laughing over that last plaintive question and wiped my eyes, we sat down and discussed whys and hows. Yeah, I tried to give him a formula.
- What is the hook? Another way to look at it is what’s the story in a sentence? A friend of mine, Nancy Parra, demonstrated this well with her book, Mr. Charming:
A single mom with a secret past finds herself embroiled in a playboy’s murder.
It shows the story and hints at the external and internal conflict and it gets your attention. This is a very short first paragraph.
- What is your hero/protagonist’s Internal Goal Motivation Conflict and External GMC? What does he want, why does he want it, and why he can’t have it? Internal shows the character arc, external defines the plot. Keep it brief. For romance, of course, we give both hero and heroine's and for other genres it would be protagonist A and B, or main characters. And you'd set this as two paragraphs. If you include the GMC for the villain then there would be a third paragraph.
- What is the Plot? What happens in the story? Get the plot down in a clear concise manner. You want to include enough important plot points to convey the story. Once the plot path is clear in your mind then weave in why the unfolding events in the story are important. You can mention the secondary plot—as it impacts the primary—but the story is your main plot. That's what you need to focus on. This will be your biggest section of your synopsis.
- What is the Black Moment? This is the moment when, despite the best effort (or maybe because of his efforts) of the protagonist/hero, all seems lost.
- What is the Resolution? The protagonist/hero usually has to pull something from him/herself (character arc) to accomplish the resolution and win against the odds. Goals motivation and conflict are usually tied into the resolution. He's changed from what he/she was when the story began. The events of the story have taught him/her something.
You want to write the synopsis in PRESENT tense and be sure to give the ending. Be a professional. Make every word count. Putting your voice into the synopsis, you're giving them a taste of the story while they're reading for content. Your voice can also act as a hook.
Hubs will be working on this today. Hopefully, it will go smoothly. Once he writes it we have two guinea pigs to read it and give their feedback. We figure if it makes sense to someone unfamiliar with the story and they "get it" then we can declare it a success.
- How do you handle writing synopsis? Any suggestions?