Thursday, August 26, 2010

"The Practically Perfect" Synopsis

Ask any writer and I'll bet darn few of them list a synopsis as their favorite thing to write. A synopsis was always tricky for me. I still can't write one before I finish a book, but rather I go back and fill one in after my story is complete. If I ever need to sell a book on a synopsis, I'm in big trouble. (This really is something I need to learn to do at some point...the synopsis BEFORE the book.)

I have however, found a synopsis formula that works for me. Laurie Brown, fellow Chicago-North chapter mate and 2010 RITA Finalist for "What Would Jane Austen Do?", presented a mini workshop on synopsis for our group. She calls it "seven steps to a practically perfect two page synopsis", and I'm telling works.

Here are the basics in a nutshell:

1 - Opening paragraph should have a hook that leads into the bio of the hero and/or heroine. Use GMC. (CHARACTER NAME, a SHORT DESCRIPTION wants GOAL because MOTIVATION but WHY SHE CAN'T HAVE IT.)

2 - Second paragraph should be the GMC for the other main character.

3 - Third paragraph should be the meet or inciting incident that sets the conflict in motion. Use feelings. Tell, don't show.

4 - Fourth paragraph should show the deepening conflict. Pick two major plot turning points, one for each character.

5 - Fifth paragraph should show the birth of love. Again, pick two major plot turning points, one for each character.

6 - Sixth paragraph is the dark moment. Describe why each character feels there is no hope for the relationship.

7 - Seventh paragraph is the resolution. Describe what each character has learned about themselves and each other.

Laurie also reminded us that a synopsis should do three things: We get to know the characters, we understand what their conflicts (internal and external) are, and we know the conflict will be enough to last the length of book. In a romance synopsis, the focus should be on the relationship.

Following this format really has taken the agony out of writing a synopsis for me. Thanks, Laurie, for making my life easier in this regard!

And on that note, I really need to get a synopsis written for "Family Secrets".

Until next time,

Happy Reading (or writing)!



  1. This looks great, Debra. I'm thinking it would also work as the foundation for an outline while re-writing an old WIP. Like I'm doing. Thank you for sharing, and thanks to Laurie.

  2. Good info. Are you supposed to double space a synopsis if it is two pages?

  3. WCP want single spacing throughout - also they want the synopsis in the body of the email, not as a separate doc.
    I looked at the synopsis I've just written, and discovered it more or less follows the outline that Debra has given (even though I'd never see this outline before!).

  4. Spacing and length of a synopsis depends on where you are submitting. And, yes, some want it as the body of the e-mail, some want it separate. It's always important to research where you're submitting first to find out how they like things done!

  5. Just as an extra comment - writing a synopsis BEFORE you write the story? No way would that work for me, because although I may have a general outline in my mind, once I start writing, I find some things work and some things don't. For example I had the ending of 'Fragrance of Violets' planned out (in my head) but when I got to it, it simply didn't work. The whole ending changed completely from what I might have written in a pre-story synopsis.
    I prefer to let the characters lead rather than force them into a pre-planned course.