Saturday 4 May 2019

How to write a great synopsis

Note, a synopsis is not a blurb. You must tell the full story in a business-like language.
What to do:
         Describe the plot in two lines - include the premise.
         Say a little about each character.
         Develop the plot through six stages: -
     3 or more incidents
         Conclusion - include "moral"? 

Here are some examples:

Describe the plot in two lines:

(From The House on Schellberg Street) 
Renate Edler finds out only a few days before she comes to England on the Kindertransport that she has Jewish blood and is officially a Mischling, a mixed-race child. She has to become English.

(Okay – two and a bit. That’s within your normal 10%)     


Say a little about each main character

This may be about just your protagonist or all or some of your main archetypes.   

(From Clara’s Story. Here I only describe the protagonist.)
Clara really existed and was according to the German race laws Jewish although she had converted to Christianity several years earlier. She sees her Jewishness as a religious rather than a racial matter.

Her children managed to escape the Nazi regime. Ironically she did not because she was helping Karl Schubert to protect and foster a special class of children with learning difficulties. This class continued to meet at her home in Stuttgart after the Waldorf School was closed.


Develop the plot through six stages

You will see that here I’ve pinned it to McKee’s theory. You could use any of the others, in fact. Keeping to this shape prevents your synopsis from just being a list of events. 

(From A Gallery for Nick) 

Just before this I have described the characters, the relationships and the tensions between them. 

Barney returns from his first date with Sophie – a girl it has taken him a lot of time and courage to ask out – to receive a phone call from Mrs Fletcher telling him that Nick has been taken into hospital. Barney rushes to the hospital, but Nick dies minutes before he arrives.
Barney now becomes depressed himself and his school work suffers. He still cares for Sophie, but cannot express this. He stops being the easy-going character who was everybody’s friend. He is dropped from the swimming team. Sophie tries to support him, but finishes with him because he doesn't seem to want her. He is, however, devastated. He takes to skipping school and hanging about the harbour where he and Nick used to take the photos.
An old friend of the family, Jack Mitchell, befriends Barney and invites him to take part in one of the courses at his sailing school. Jack understands that Barney is missing Nick. Those who wept at his funeral seem to have forgotten him now and others think it is a relief that he has died.

The crisis point comes as Barney is so self-absorbed that he loses control of the boat almost drowning everyone on board. He realises that he has to handle his grief better.  Barney goes out in a boat with Jack and he is able to cry at last, as he remembers his friend and enjoys the sea for him. He feels as if Nick - a strong, healthy Nick - is with them as they sail back to the shore.   

Nick's mum phones Barney. She wonders whether he would be able to help her clear up Nick’s room. Barney agrees. They find the paintings in the drawer. Mrs Fletcher says she would like to keep some, but agrees with Barney that the rest should be displayed. Barney thinks of asking Jack to let him display the pictures in the odd-shaped room at the sailing club. Sophie agrees to be the hostess at the opening of the gallery. Jack decides to start a sailing school for the disabled and use the gallery as a way of helping to raise funds. Barney learns to celebrate his friend's life. The reader is left to guess whether a romance begins again between Barney and Sophie. 

Note: I haven’t named the six parts here, apart from the crisis, but they are clearly visible. You can name them if you wish.  



(From A Gallery for Nick)
We see Barney go through all the stages of grief:  denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance and finally celebration of life. There is hope at the end.  

I also recommend Nicola Morgan’s book: Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide


Now have a go at writing a synopsis. If you haven’t got a finished novel try writing one for a novel you have enjoyed.

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