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Synopsis Workshop

Synopsis Workshop Update (It WORKS!)

I just wanted to let you know that if you follow the rules I posted on here, you will get a GOOD synopsis! If you apply yourself a little, you will get a GREAT synopsis! Nearly all of the synopses have come in and, let me tell you, this has been the EASIEST synopsis workshop I’ve ever put on. We had almost 50% of the synopses pass on the first try and the ones that failed were very close and just needed to throw out an added plot line or trim down their characters.There are a few things I need to add to the original posts.


Keep Your Characters to a Minimum!

This is tough! When I originally came up with my CP’s and my PP’s and the TA’s that went in between them, I had a lot of characters. I had a lot of names to keep straight. You can have a few characters as long as they’re doing something. However, there should only be roughly 3-4 named characters to keep straight. You’ve got to remember that a lot of stuff happens in 1,000 words or less. If you have a lot of characters in there as well, the story is confusing.

Plus, each character comes with their own subplot. We had one gal in there who had a character who’s subplot made the end of her synopsis rather confusing. If you boiled it down and really read, the story was interesting and the character’s subplot added some intrigue.

But it was hard to understand because there just wasn’t enough space to properly tell the story.


Format Your Synopsis Properly

Chances are, as the times progress, you’ll be emailing your synopsis in the original email query; query letter, the first ____ pages or chapters, and your synopsis.

However, when they ask for a partial, they generally ask for you to attach it in a Word file. That’s when you’ll either look like a moron or like someone who’s done their homework. You want to be one who isn’t the moron.

On the second page, you’ll also want a header so that just in case your potential agent/editor prints your synopsis and the pages get jumbled, she can put page two to page one without having to re-print. It’s simple and easy and should read like this:

Last name (pen name)/Book Title/page #

All right, guys! That’s it! Trust me! Read the instructions, follow them, and you WILL have a GREAT synopsis that’s painless! Painless!

Lessons Learned: Cut the CRAP Out of Your Synopsis!

I’ve actually been teaching writers how to craft successful synopses for awhile now. So we’re going to start off with a vocabulary lesson because I speak Frankie…which is a little bit French, a little Latin and totally gibberish.

Synopsis(ses): synopses is the plural form of synopsis. Synopsis is a shortened version of your book, kind of like a blurb, but longer and you give the ending away.

Plot Point (PP): A plot point, later referred to as PP, is a major climatic event in the structural plot line.

Structural Plot (SP): The structural plot, later referred to as the SP, is the story line that pushes the characters into action. It’s the murder that needs to be solved, or the prophecy that needs fulfilled.

Character Plot (CP): The character plot, later referred to as the CP, is the story line that makes the character grow. It’s the female mc and the male mc getting together, or the mc overcoming all odds to fulfill the prophecy, or the mc facing her fears in order to solve the murders.

Transitional Actions (TA): The transitional actions is the action or the road that takes the characters from PP 1 to PP 2. Example: PP1: Beth is on a ship for the Americas to marry a man she’s never met. PP2: She stranded on an island with Dread Pirate Bill. What’s the transitional action that got Beth from a boat in relative safety to being stranded on an island with a pirate? TA1: The storm that crashed Beth’s ship and Bill’s ship together, smashed them on the rocks, and left her and him stranded along with Bill’s crew, which is now holding Beth’s crew hostage. 

I think that’s all of the vocabulary lessons we need.

What makes most synopses fail? Well, a number of things.

1. Too many plot points.

2. It’s confusing. We don’t know how or why we’re going from one PP to the next.

3. It’s jarring to read.

4. It’s boring.

5. There are too many characters.

What makes a good synopsis successful?

Synopsis – Part 2 (Keeping the Crap OUT)

 

The thing that absolutely kills most synopses is too much information. The author cannot keep the entire book out of his/her head. So how do you fix that?

You scrub your brain of the crap…after you find your direction.

When people ask you what your book is about, do you stutter and stammer and then attempt to tell the entire novel in the span of two hours? *clucks tongue* The light of “that’s interesting” dims after about the second sentence. When the average person asks you what you’re writing, they’re looking for something short and sweet so they can go, “Wow, you’re so cool and exciting. When I grow up, I want to be you.”

So far, I haven’t gotten that yet.

So you want to give them your Bullet, the one sentence that describes the book.

For Fall of Sky City, the bullet is this:

Nix thinks she’s captured the ultimate prize, Synn. But is she strong enough to control him?

Now, find (3) Plot Points using your Bullet as your compass. Ignore the minutia. Pay attention to what that line of thought hit.

PP1. Getting captured by Nix and tortured.

PP2. Escaping Nix and trying to survive on the outside.

PP3. Striking Sky City.

Now, let’s try to do the same thing with the character plot. Find the character plot Bullet.

After being captured, beaten and broken by Nix, Synn discovers there’s more to life than surviving.

Find (3) Character Plot Points using your Character Bullet as your compass.

CP1. He sees his father murdered in front of him as Synn is Marked.

CP2. He discovers that he’s been compulsed by Nix, so that after he leaves, there’s something inside of him pulling him back.

CP3. He sees her Knight destroy an entire city and kill their lethara trying to get to him.

All right! These sound pretty strong…and they don’t make a lot of sense. Right? How in the world did we go from escaping from Nix to attacking Sky City?

The Synopsis – Part 1 (What the FRELL is This?!)

I will post my synopsis workshop here in two parts. If you need help with any of these points, please let me know in the comments or you can email me. smblooding at yahoo dot com.

First off, there needs to be a vocabulary lesson because not everyone has been through seven years of workshops with me.

Synopsis(ses): synopses is the plural form of synopsis. Synopsis is a shortened version of your book.

Plot Point (PP): A plot point, later referred to as PP, is a major climatic event in the structural plot line.

Structural Plot (SP): The structural plot, later referred to as the SP, is the story line that pushes the characters into action. It’s the murder that needs to be solved, or the prophecy that needs fulfilled.

Character Plot (CP): The character plot, later referred to as the CP, is the story line that makes the character grow. It’s the female mc and the male mc getting together, or the mc overcoming all odds to fulfill the prophecy, or the mc facing her fears in order to solve the murders.

Transitional Actions (TA): The transitional actions is the action or the road that takes the characters from PP 1 to PP 2. Example: PP1: Beth is on a ship for the Americas to marry a man she’s never met. PP2: She stranded on an island with Dread Pirate Bill. What’s the transitional action that got Beth from a boat in relative safety to being stranded on an island with a pirate? TA1: The storm that crashed Beth’s ship and Bill’s ship together, smashed them on the rocks, and left her and him stranded along with Bill’s crew, which is now holding Beth’s crew hostage. 

I think that’s all of the vocabulary lessons we need.

What makes most synopses fail? Well, a number of things.

  1. Too many plot points.
  2. It’s confusing. We don’t know how or why we’re going from one PP to the next.
  3. It’s jarring to read.
  4. It’s boring.
  5. There are too many characters.

What makes a good synopsis successful?

  1. It has a handful of great characters that we get to know in the short synopsis.
  2. It has a great plot that’s easy to understand without being bogged down by subplots I don’t understand.
  3. It has a great character plot that’s easy to understand and engaging.
  4. It has a great voice.

So, now we know what makes a bad synopsis and what makes a good synopsis. Here are a few tricks that we’ll discuss more in depth tomorrow and Thursday.

  1. Stop CRAMMING all the CRAP you possibly CAN into your 1,000 word synopsis.
  2. Stop throwing ALL of your characters into your 1,000 word synopsis.
  3. Stop throwing ALL the subplots in there with one sentence of description and just ASSUME that I’ll get it.
  4. Stop with the play-by-play analysis. This isn’t an outline. This is a STORY!
  5. Repeat #1 over and over until you get it through your head. STOP CRAMMING CRAP INTO 1,000 words! There’s just not enough space.

We’ll continue on tomorrow.

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