As any author who wants to have their novel published knows, writing the story is just the beginning. Next is query writing, blurbs, loglines and the dreaded synopsis. It’s a challenge to shrink 300-400 pages worth of story down into 2.
It’s taken me a long time to find an approach to the synopsis that didn’t leave me feeling frustrated and the synopsis sounding clunky. But I think I’ve finally figured out an approach that works.
In a phrase – emotional journey.
The synopsis is about the emotional heart of the story. It’s about what makes this story engaging and the core thread that’s going to hold the story together and keep the reader reading. So, the synopsis is about finding that center and explaining that.
The synopsis begins where the character begins (emotionally and physically), then the catalyst that propels them on the journey, the ensuing incidents and challenges they must overcome, and lastly where the character ends (again emotionally and physically).
(Yes, the synopsis has to include the end. The blurb is the teaser that leaves things hanging. The synopsis is what proves to the agent or publisher you know what your story is about, including the ending.)
And as exciting as all the subplots are or as engaging as the minor characters might be, they need to be left out. Anyone reading the synopsis will know it isn’t the full story. It’s a synopsis, a minute encapsulation of your story showcasing the story’s core. Adding more will just confuse the reader and potentially cause them to think you don’t know your story. And that’s the last thing you want.
In the past when I’ve written a synopsis it always sounded like a sports announcement. A typed-out play by play of events, and without the excitement in the commentator’s voice, it was flat and clunky. Then I looked at it from the emotional side. Where does the character begin emotionally and how do they feel about the journey they are sent on, or forced on depending on the story.
Finding that emotional center and peppering the synopsis with emotional words has given my synopsis more spice and made it far more engaging. It’s also made it easier to discern the necessary from the unnecessary.
Distilling a multi-thousand-word novel down into a few hundred while including all the major plot points, conflicts, resolutions, and, ideally, being written in the same tone as the novel is not exactly an easy task. But finding the emotional center and using that to map the core story makes it infinitely easier.