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Anatomy of a Synopsis
by Cynthea Liu
Here it is: the dreaded synopsis. A synopsis is a one-page, single-spaced, summary of your book (beginning, middle, end). Typically written in third person, present tense. This is the C LIU rule of thumb. You'll hear all different answers on this one. But when guidelines don't say anything more than "synopsis," this is my definition. Note: synopses should only apply to chaptered books/novels. Writing one for a PB is kind of silly.
Now let's deconstruct this horrible document.
Points to remember:
* The synopsis should give the reader a clear idea of what happens in the story (no cliffhangers)
* It should also be interesting to read.
* It focuses on the main characters and the driving plot. It touches on minor characters and subplots as they relate to the driving plot.
Parts of a synopsis
* Beginning - paragraph one
* Middle - paragraphs two-three-four
* End - paragraph five.
That wasn't so hard was it? If you keep a guideline like this in your head, you won't find yourself writing eight paragraphs to describe what happens at the beginning. You'll know what you're shooting for even if the final synopsis doesn't completely follow this structure. The idea is: Write some for the beginning, some more for the middle, and less for the end. This is exactly correlated to your book, too. Isn't it? (hopefully).
Let's break it down.
sets up the context. The reader should have some idea of who the main character(s) is, how old he/she might be, the setting (if it's important), and the 'event' or 'circumstances' that led you to start the book there.
Note: pardon the ridiculous example. This is totally off the cuff. I need coffee now.
- Paragraph 1: Ten-year-old Cynthea Liu wonders what's behind a mysterious door in her house. Her mother warns her not to go inside. Then she couples the admonishment with a strange statement: "a bad bunny loves sports cars. Remember that, Cynthea." Despite mom's odd words, Cynthea can't resist. She steals the sacred key from her mother's purse and opens the door.
describes chain of events leading to the climax. You will be writing around three paragraphs. You might organize the paragraphs according to character's obstaclessay, if you've put your MC through a set of three terrible things. Or by season, if your book happens over summer, winter, and fall. Or progression of the struggle, like my example. Find a way to divide the middle of your book into workable parts to summarize.
- Paragraph 2 (the start of her problems): Cynthea is greeted with darkness, a tunnel that winds down, down, down to a series of caverns. She discovers she has found the Bun-derworld, a kingdom whose rabbit inhabitants are elated by Cynthea's arrival. Cynthea is astounded by their graciousness. She loves bunniesblah blah blah.more things that lead to this.
- Paragraph 3 (problems grow): When Cynthea is crowned Princess of the Bun-derworld, she realizes Snoop, the King, won't let her return home. He swipes the sacred key from her and swallows it. Then Cynthea learns he has a bad-bunny agendablah blah blah.
- Paragraph 4 (problems at their height): Cynthea tries X. Y. And Z to find a way home. But everything fails. It isn't until D, that she realizes the key is still retrievable. It's in Snoop's litter bin!
describes the climax and then the resolution. How it ends. If possible, show the story comes full circle.
- Paragraph 5. But Snoop is on to Cynthea. He won't let her have it back unless she solves an ancient riddlea riddle Cynthea's mother had solved before. Cynthea recalls her mom's warnings: "A bad bunny loves sports cars." Cynthea is right! She is given the key and returns home. She finds her mother in the kitchen, going through her purse. ''Have you seen my sacred key?" Cynthea returns it. She'll never open that door again.
I'm now going to refer you to a place where you'll see REAL examples of synopses. After you read a thousand of them, you'll understand what's a good synopsis and what's a bad one.
Articles by Cynthea Liu.
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