What is it about a synopsis that makes most writers panic? Author Rachael Thomas outlines the basic elements of a synopsis and shares tips on her approach.
When I began my writing journey the word synopsis would send me running for cover –fast. Over time, I’ve met many other writers who feel the same. Actually I haven’t met a writer who likes writing a synopsis. Nothing strikes fear into a writer quicker than the word synopsis, but they are important and as such, must be mastered.
So just what is required in a synopsis and how do you put all the details about your characters, all those plot twists and events within your story into just a few pages? How do you show your voice and style to an agent or editor when you only have a synopsis to do it within?
What is a synopsis?
The most important thing to remember is that a synopsis is a summary of your book, an outline of your story. It should show the story of your book in a clear arc which reaches a satisfactory ending. In a romance, it will show how the hero and heroine meet, overcome their conflicts to finally arrive at the happy ever after ending.
What should a synopsis contain?
It should introduce your main characters and their conflict as the story opens and briefly state where and when the story is set. It should also show what has happened at the opening of the story and ensure your characters are likeable and their motivations are believable.
It should show the emotional journey your character goes on and how they react when they meet other characters in your book. Your characters goals and motivation should be made clear, as should how the story reaches it emotional climax before reaching the end. The end itself should be clearly stated and not left as a question. Cliff-hangers are not required. It should also show your writing voice or style and be written in third person.
I find it easier to look approach it in parts then blend it together to make a one or two page synopsis.
- Introduce the hero – here I would name him, give a brief outline of his backstory and how he has come to be in the situation he is in as the book opens.
- Introduce the heroine – just as I did for the hero, I will name my heroine and give a brief outline of her backstory and situation as the book opens.
- Show how the book opens. Show what happens when the hero and heroine meet and how this challenges their individual conflicts. Show the emotions which are involved.
- Give details of the emotional journey the characters go on and how they react to one another as they move through the story. This is where it’s important to show how the plot points you include impact on them and how it begins to change them from the person they are at the beginning of your book. Make it clear how they deal with and struggle with their inner conflicts and they react to the other character. This will show the tension building between them.
- Show how the characters come to the moment when all seems to be lost. The black moment. Make it clear what created that moment and then show how they overcome this moment, the emotions involved and then move onto the ending of the book. Here it’s not necessary to give away every plot twist, but and editor or agent will want to see how the ending promised is to be delivered.
How long should a synopsis be?
Some agents and publishers will state how long they require a synopsis to be. If a limit is not set, then aim for a page or two. Unless specified, this is usually in single spacing.
What shouldn’t be included in a synopsis?
You should not include lengthy details about your characters backstory. You don’t need to introduce every character that appears in your story – only the central characters. Detailed descriptions of settings are not required. Avoid including dialogue unless it’s a crucial line in the story.
My tips for writing a synopsis
* Ensure the writing reflects that of your book. The synopsis should be well-written and your voice should be evident.
* Make notes of the important events that happen in each chapter to be sure not to miss something important, and then present them within the synopsis in order.
* Focus on the emotional journey your characters go on. Show their conflict and what it is that is keeping them apart.
* Only include and name secondary characters if they are essential to the plot.
* Ensure your ending is clear. No cliff-hangers or questions.
* Read it through to ensure the emotional journey your characters go on is shown.
* Keep a copy on file which can be either condensed or enlarged upon depending on your submission requirements at the time.
* Finally remember that there aren’t any hard and fast rules regarding a synopsis, but you do need to make it your own, to showcase your voice and your story.
* If you have a critique partner or beta reader, get them to look over your synopsis, point out anything that isn’t clear or things that aren’t necessary.
I hope I’ve taken away some of the fear of writing a synopsis. Remember it is a tool to show an editor or agent what is happening in your story and the best way to perfect this skill and lose the fear, is practice.
Do you have any advice on writing a synopsis that you’d like to share?
TO BLACKMAIL A DI SIONE – Book 3 of The Billionaire’s Legacy
“When you’ve finished making offers for the bracelet, I have a proposition for you.”
Billionaire Liev Dragunov has spent a lifetime plotting revenge against those responsible for his family’s ruin. Finally he has the way: Bianca Di Sione.
She’s denied their obvious attraction and coolly rebuffs every request to work for him—until he finds her weakness: a diamond bracelet she desperately needs!
Bianca must become his fake fiancée if she wants her trinket! But the taste of revenge isn’t as sweet as desire, and Liev discovers that she is innocent in more ways than one…
Bio: I love escaping to distant shores with my characters, entering their glamorous world and feeling all the emotions they experience as they discover their love for one another. A love so strong it will overcome all obstacles eventually, leading to that promised happy ever after.
Connect with Rachael Thomas on the web:
- Emotional Depth – Putting the Spark in Your Story by Rachael Thomas
- The Art of Conflict by Rachael Thomas
- Shop Talk – Romance Writers Workshops Debriefed
- Your Writing Voice and Putting You on the Page with Rachael Thomas
- Creating Characters Readers Will Love with Rachael Thomas