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How To Write A Book Synopsis For Success
Why Do You Need a Synopsis?
If you wrote a book just for your own enjoyment, or just for the enjoyment of family and friends, then stop right here; you don’t need a synopsis and you have no reason to read any further.
If, however, you have visions of enticing an agent or a publisher with your literary genius, then a synopsis just might be the deal-breaker.
A synopsis is a condensed outline, or summary, of your book. That is the definition you will find, but that definition is woefully lacking in truth. Taken literally, imagine how interesting an outline of any book might be. Reading an outline is like eating toast without butter: it will fill your stomach but it really won’t move you to eat anymore of it.
Agents and publishers, if smitten with your query letter, will often ask for a synopsis as well as a couple sample chapters. This is called “dipping their toes in the water,” and your future in the traditional publishing game depends on how good your synopsis is. If your synopsis is dry and boring then you can count on the agents or publishers tossing it into the junk pile.
To make your synopsis shine…to make it stand out….to make it so good it will shout “READ THIS BOOK” you must incorporate not only the sequence of events, but also the emotional elements that make your book worth reading.
Let’s take it step by step and walk you through the synopsis process.
Most novels follow a pretty basic sequence of events. The story begins with an incident that moves the main character along a path towards a goal. During the novel there are events that oppose the main character in achieving his goal. Finally the obstacles are overcome (or not) and there is a climax to the novel. And finally there is a resolution or an aftermath of the climax which lets the reader know whether the goals have been attained.
A treasure chest of information for writers
The Main Character and His Growth
This is where the emotional side of your synopsis comes in. Who is your main character? What kind of person is he? How does he view life?
Describe how the main character handles the situation he finds himself in. How does it affect him? How does he react to pressure? This is about a human being; how would a real human being react to being shot at, or losing loved ones, or facing a midlife crisis?
Does your main character change during the novel? How do his principles and philosophy of life help him to survive? How does his attitude change?
By the end of the novel, is the main character a better person because of the changes and conflicts? Has their life changed drastically and how will that change affect him the rest of his life?
Who is the antagonist? How does he/she enter the story and how does he/she affect the main character?
What kind of pressure does the antagonist bring upon the main character?
Does the antagonist change at the end of the story, or does he remain the same but force change in the main character?
And how have you illustrated this change in your novel?
The Main Relationship
Usually in a novel there is a major relationship between two characters. In a love story obviously, but also in mysteries, crime dramas, science fiction….I dare say all novels have some sort of relationship at the center of the story. Answer these questions in your synopsis:
- How is their relationship as the story begins?
- How is their relationship tested during the story?
- What changes occur to their relationship because of the major change?
- How is their relationship at the end of the story?
What would a novel be without themes? What themes are prominent in your book? Love conquers all? Crime does not pay? Does money corrupt?
What messages or morals are addressed in your book? Where in your book do you address these issues? What is the outcome of these issues when the book is finished?
Now Put It All Together
Still confused? Well here is a synopsis written by Lucinda Betts for her book “The Bet.”
The corporate Ice Queen, Zoe Lauterborn, has complete control of her life.
In funds management, she consistently outshines her colleagues. Phillip
Kingdom is fascinated with her—her skills impress him, and so do her
looks. He'd love to make their relationship more personal—much more
But he's watched her turn down date after date, and he understands she's
drawn a line in her mind. Phillip wants her to cross it—badly. He knows he
needs to offer more than a mere rendezvous to get her attention.
Phillip sees his chance one happy hour. The firm is buzzing with talk of
an upcoming promotion. Who will get it? Seeing Zoe high on her job and a
little tipsy, he proposes a bet. If she gets the promotion, she gets his
bonus. If she loses, she's his sex slave.
Even after too many martinis, Zoe knows she should walk away—or maybe slap
his gorgeous face—but she has a secret. A new client with a lot of money
is about to sign on her dotted line. She'll break all company records. She
knows the promotion is in her pocket. Besides… Zoe just watched Phillip
She shakes on it.
Zoe should have won. But the bosses didn't think an Ice Queen would make a
good team leader.
She's his for 17 hours.
Ignoring her horror, he leads a sizzling seduction, taking all choices—and
her underclothes—away from her. Dancing nearly naked at a nightclub gives
her an unexpected sense of power, and her first orgasm leaves her craving
more in Washington Square Park. The remote-controlled vibrator purchased
together at the Pink Pussy Cat does little to alleviate her growing
desire. He opens doors for her that she'd thought had no keys.
And he does it without bruising her spirit.
That night—and the culmination the following morning—change something for
her. Phillip has shown her how to embrace her feminine side. She finds
that it doesn't limit her—it expands her perspective. Her bosses and
employees respect her. And, when she lands the next promotion, her team
heads the highest-producing division in the firm. She likes who she sees
in the mirror.
When Phillip proposes, she hears 'happily ever after' in his voice.
Some Final Tips
Is your head spinning yet? Well, I only have a couple more things for you to consider.
Remember, the synopsis might be your one shot to win over an agent or publisher. Make it dynamic. Show them early on that you have an original idea, something they have not seen nine million times before. Show them that your main character is worth their time.
Show them that you are capable of building a solid plot, that events flow from one to the other.
And finally, show them that your tone and voice is something a reader would be captured by.
If you do all of that you just might…you just might….win them over and have yourself an agent or publisher…and wouldn’t that be cool?
Dedicated to my buddy Mel Carriere as per his request.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”