In order to effectively sell your novel, you will need to know how to write a synopsis. Agents and publishers will often ask for a synopsis and even if you are self-publishing, it is worthwhile learning what makes a successful synopsis.
Before we concentrate on what you need to include, it‚Äôs important to be aware of what not to do. The biggest mistake many people make is to create a ‚Äúbare bones‚ÄĚ plot summary; basically listing the plot in a boring and predictable manner. A synopsis is meant to engage the reader and make them want to read more – not put them off before they have even picked up the book.
By following these simple steps, you will be one step further to a great synopsis:
For points one through to four, group the first points in the first part of your synopsis, the second points in the second part and so on. It can be useful to begin by writing each point on a separate piece of paper or index cards before sorting them into four piles representing the order in which they will appear in your synopsis.
1.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Start with the basics of the plot
Your plot is a sequence of events which advance through a number of basic stages. It is important to have these stages clear in your mind before writing the synopsis and can include:
- An initial event which gets things moving.
- Incidents that oppose the final goal of the story
- The climax
- The resolution or the aftermath of the climax
2.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Include the main character‚Äôs development
If you want to bring emotion into your book, this is usually achieved (in part) through the main character‚Äôs progression and development. Again, there are usually four stages to this progress and by answering the following questions, you will be able to fully explore the development in the synopsis:
- Who is your main character at the start of the story and what kind of person are they? What is their approach to life?
- Describe the main situation in which your main character is forced into and pressured to change.
- Does your main character take a leap of faith ¬†and does he/she adopt a new approach or does do they stay true to who they are?
- At the end of the novel, is the main character better off because of the choices he/she has made? Does the reader feel he/she has done the right thing?
3.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†Think about the role of the impact character ¬†
The impact character (or characters) is responsible for forcing the main character to change. He or she (or they) shows why and how the main character might need to change. Points to consider include:
- How is he/she different in their approach or attitude to the main character?
- How does the impact character influence the main character?
- If the main character changes at the climax, the impact character usually stays the same. ¬†However, if the main character remains unchanged, the impact character may change. How is this illustrated in your novel?
- Is the impact character better or worse off at the end?
4. ¬† ¬† ¬† The main relationship
A well-rounded story always needs a relationship to progress between the main and impact characters. For example, in a romance, the two characters are usually lovers or a hero and heroine. In adventure, they are often hero and villain. Regardless of who they are, the relationship between them needs to have an emotional arc and this needs to be described in the synopsis. Consider the following:
- How their relationship starts
- How their relationship is tested or how it develops
- The climax
- How their relationship ends – is it different?
5.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†Include themes and issues
Include the issues, themes and messages include in your novel. Place them in the appropriate section of your synopsis.
6.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Edit all of your points
When you have completed the previous five steps, you will have four piles of notes, each describing different elements of your novel. The final step before you write your synopsis is to arrange the cards/paper in order within each pile and write a cohesive section combining them all together to create a summary of your story. You should find that your synopsis not only covers the events central to the plot, but also the emotional side of your novel.
What else do readers/editors need to learn from your synopsis?
- The tone and style your novel will be written in
- Your story has an original idea ‚Äď something that hasn‚Äôt been written a million times
- You have an interesting main character
- Your subject matter and themes are either topical or intriguing
- You can create a consistent plot that makes sense. Your events should build tension and lead to a satisfactory conclusion.