Sunday, August 22, 2010

Making a Synopsis Exciting to Read--and Write

I need to finish my WIP before I tackle the synopsis. So I went searching for advice.
Marg Gills says to start with the main character and his or her crisis. In her article at, she says to include snippets of dialogue or quote briefly from the novel itself. Don't neglect to reveal the character's emotions and motivations, those points that explain why a character does something, but keep it brief. If the setting is exotic, inject a taste of it into the synopsis with a brief paragraph. This includes any background information that is absolutely necessary for the reader to understand the story. Build excitement as you near the conclusion of the story summary by using shorter sentences and paragraphs. The synopsis is a sample of your writing; it is a taste of what reading the actual novel will be like, so give it your all.
She adds, don't forget that one- or two-sentence story line, or the theme of the story. It should go in your synopsis, or in your cover letter. Editors and agents like having this distillation; not only will it pique their interest, but it's something they can use when presenting the novel to the buying board. It's also something you can use, the next time someone politely asks you, "What's your novel about?"
This sounds like good advice.


  1. I never read any 'advice' before doing my synopsis for His Leading Lady. and defintely didn't include any snippets or quotes! Some secondary characters were named, although I've been told since you shouldn't do this. But the book was still accepted LOL.

    I think the 'blurb' or two or three sentence summary is all-important. I've just learnt one thing - write your initial blurb in your query letter or cover letter as if it was the blurb you want to appear on the back-cover (or wherever) of your book. That way, you don't have to agonise over it again when the publisher asks for it!

  2. The "elevator pitch" (as we call it) really is an important part of your synopsis. That all important brief sentence which summarizes your entire book. This I can usually come up with even before I begin writing a new book. However, I usually cheat and write my longer synopsis after the book is completed. Which means if I ever have to sell on a synopsis, I'm in big trouble.

  3. This made me laugh, Debra, because I am just in the middle of writing the synopsis of my recently completed 'Fragrance of Violets'. If I'd written it beforehand, I'd have had to change it completely anyway, because many aspects of the story changed as I went along.

  4. I wouldn't add dialogue or secondary characters in a synopsis.

  5. Sometimes you have to include secondary characters if they are an integral part of the story. Though I suppose it depends what you mean by secondary characters. If you only name H/h, then you run the risk of creating a confusing synopsis if other characters have a direct influence on the H
    I named several seondary characters in my 'His Leading Lady' synopsis. Easier to use the actual names rather than writing 'his friend', 'her friend', 'his sister' etc etc.
    If the secondary characters don't play any large role in the development of the plot, then fair enough. But actually, all the characters you introduce should have some role to play in the plot, whether it's large or small.