author, creative writing, writing

Things You Need to Know to Write Your Synopsis

Writing a synopsis is often dreaded by writers. While some love it, others loath the process of condensing down their story into a page (or less). I use a step by step process to write a synopsis, and I still find it difficult. I’ve been working on my synopsis for novel 2, Vanishing Act, this week. These are some of the things I’ve realised you need to know to write your synopsis. Of course, you already know these, but I found it helpful to jot them down before I started writing it.

The key players
Main characters are easy. Protagonist, antagonist etc…but the synopsis is all about the key players of the story. The people who need to be mentioned in order for your summary of the plot to make sense. You could have regularly present supporting characters, who add to the main character but not the plot directly. Likewise, you can have a minor role that proves vital to the direction of the story. Take some to think about those you really need to mention, and those you could leave out. Your synopsis shouldn’t include your whole cast.
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The main conflicts
The synopsis is an outline of your story, but it still needs to be packed with tension and intrigue. You still want the agent/publisher to be drawn in enough to read your first three chapters. All stories have conflicts, in some way or another. And these conflicts are what drives your readability, and keep people eager to press on and see what happens next.
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The motivations
Why do your characters do the things they do? Even if you’ve never thought about it directly, your characters are surely motivated to behave the way they do in your story. Maybe they want to save somebody’s life, or discover a hidden treasure, or find someone who is lost. They may want to avenge someone they love, or steal a sum of money or catch a criminal. Motives are vital to characters and their arcs, and so these need to be clear in your synopsis.
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The ending
Yep, most agents/publishers want to see how your story ends. This can be hard to accept when you want your big twist or final reveal to be a surprise. But often, those you’re reaching out to want a sense of the story as a whole. And that means divulging your secret and spilling your spoilers. Make sure you have a clear ending laid out here.

Side note: Some agents do specifically ask for no spoilers in the synopsis, so make sure you’ve done your research before you send it out.


What have I missed? What else is key to a good synopsis? Like I said above, I do find this process tricky, so advice is always welcome. Pop your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Until then,
Keep writing,
M
x

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24 thoughts on “Things You Need to Know to Write Your Synopsis”

  1. Excellent tips, Meelie! My fave tip (which you’ve mentioned here), is definitely only mentioning the key characters. As the writer, all characters mean something special, and it’s hard to cut someone from the synopsis. In order for it to be a good synopsis, though, you need to. Not everyone and every event can be included.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kate! 🙂 I remember being really impressed by your synopsis, and how you’d cut one of my favourite characters, but it had to be done. You had a great scope on what really needed to be said and what didn’t, and that’s really helped me with mine. ❤ xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That scope came from plenty of help and synopsis research. It hurt to cut those characters because they are a big part of the story, there just wasn’t room for them in a one page synopsis that needed to sell the MC and plot.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great tips. Seems to me that agents are really fixated on the protagonist. More than anything else, they want to know about your lead character. Which made it very hard to pitch “In the Valley of Magic”–no single lead character.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Unlike your other commentators, I tend to focus on the MC and forget the rest. Because of that, I found your first point the most important. I shall not forget about those that shape my MC.

    I’m really green in all this, so I was surprised to see that a synopsis should contain a spoiler. *Gasp!*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your method. I mean ‘should’ depends entirely on the agent. Most of the ones I’ve researched ask for it to include spoilers, with a few exceptions. But this could depend on the genre a particular agent likes I suppose! x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Also check if an agent wants a synopsis that is an ‘overview’ or a ‘chapter main points’ one.
    I find an ‘overview’ easier because you can ignore what is less important.
    ‘Chapter main points’ can be difficult if some chapters are carried by a few minor but vital characters never to be seen again. This type of synopsis can also run to more than a couple of pages if your book is average length (say 80,000 words) but consists of say 60 very short chapters giving the book the impression it is overlong when it isn’t.
    If an agent prefers CMP and you have a lot of chapters clump some of them together – so you might list: Chap 1, chap 2, chap 3-6, chap 7, chap 8-9 etc

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A few times, I wondered if the tips for writing a synopsis might have any use to someone who’s aiming for the self-published route. And, surprisingly, I found one: in case a relative or a friend (whether real or virtual) asked me the typical “what’s it about” and I knew they want a plot summary either because they’re not readers at all or just can’t speak (let alone read books) in English.

    Liked by 1 person

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