A Basic Guide to Writing Synopses
By Theresa Rizzo 2007
A synopsis is a brief summary of the novel that provides key information about the characters, plot and conflict.
· It is almost always written in third person, present tense.
· Do not justify the right margin.
· Use 1" margins on all sides.
· It is common to type a character's name in all caps—or to bold it, the first time he or she is introduced.
· In the synopsis tell the whole story, hitting the essential plot points—including the ending.
· Most agents and editors prefer a fiction synopsis about 2-3 pages double-spaced these days.
· The greatest challenge is to write as cleanly and as tightly as possible, using powerful verbs and few adverb and adjectives.
· Contrary to novel writing, in a synopsis you tell rather than show.
· It’s written as one long unified narrative.
· Use no dialogue.
· Do not include subplots in a very short synopsis.
· Move smoothly from one event to another.
· Weave characterization into the action.
· Be sure to include characters' motivations.
· The tone/style of writing in the synopsis should reflect the tone/style of the book.
I typically start with a premise—or log line. A two sentence little blurb to hook the agent/editor, introduce the main plot, key conflict, and characters, then progress by introducing the main character, what her goal is and why she can’t immediately attain it (conflict). Then we move into the action of the story, but while hitting the highlights of the plot, it’s important to remember to tell the motivation and how the protagonist feels about and is affected by the things that happen in the story.
Do you have any synopsis nightmares or helpful stories to share?