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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Publishing: Writing the Fiction Synopsis Part One

The synopsis for the novelist is perhaps the most intimidating document to write as you prepare to submit your work. You need to boil your story down to a few well-thought-out paragraphs.

Again, I'm not an expert at this, although I've written synopses. For some writers these are even useful to write before you've started your story, to get a sense of where you might be going. If you haven't done one before, remember that this is a doable process: for example, my 3 page synopsis for Lever takes only 10 paragraphs and 1000 words.

An absolutely fabulous book for this topic, or even for general help in building a storyline, is Pam McCutcheon's Writing the Fiction Synopsis: A Step by Step Approach. This book is quite expensive on amazon, so I recommend if you get it to buy from the publisher HERE. The price is $18.95, a bit pricey, but well worth the investment. This book sits in my top writing books hall of fame along with five or so others.

OK, let's get started.

There is no way that you're going to be able to convey your entire complex novel in a few pages, so the first thing you have to do is pick out the MAIN OUTER story. This is what you'll be writing about.

McCutcheon identifies 5 important points of a story that you'll describe. They are:

A Ordinary World
B New Direction
C Change of Plans
D Black Moment
E Resolution and End

Star Wars as an example: (from McCutcheon's book)

Main Story: Luke's story

Ordinary World:

Luke is working on his uncle's boring farm on the "farthest planet from the center of the universe."

New Direction:

Luke's aunt and uncle are killed, Princess Leia calls for help, and Obi-Wan Kenobi urges Luke to follow in his father's footsteps and become a Jedi Knight.

A Change of Plans:

The good guys are captured by the Death Star.

The Black Moment:

Just as victory is imminent and Luke is about to make his pass to aim for the small two-meter target that will destroy the Death Star, he hears the warning bell as Darth Vader's missile locks onto his fighter.

The Resolution and End:

Han Solo shows up and sends Darth Vader's fighter spinning off into the void. Luke is then free to aim for the target and hits it. The Death Star explodes, the Rebel Alliance wins, and Luke and Han receive medals for their victory.


You may notice that McCutcheon's points line up quite nicely with the Story Posts of the Template:


A Ordinary World
B Inciting


(adaptation to new world)
(disintegration etc.)


(problem gets worse)
D Darkest Moment
E Help from Outside
E Climax
E Resolution


OK, that's enough for today.


Andra M. said...

You make it sound so simple . . .

Then again, that's the point, isn't it?

Thanks for the book suggestion, and examples.

gzusfreek said...

Nice, Amy. . I can really use this. Thank you.