I’m thrilled to be back at Writers in the Storm to share a few more tidbits about building a successful synopsis. In fact, you can build a Sizzling and Scintillating Synopsis.
I know the mere mention of a synopsis sends many writers to tears. And I’ve found the perfect antidote: Writers' Tears.
Alas, only available in the UK and Canada. 🙁
So instead of leaving the country and slurping gallons of whiskey, you can use all your writerly expertise and build a synopsis that matches your extraordinary book.
Last time I was here, I provided a few helpful synopsis checklists, some info about adding voice, and ideas showing how to keep your synopsis tight and trim. You can check it out here.
Today, we’ll delve into getting your interesting, intriguing, unique characters into the synopsis with as few words as possible. Because don’t those darn synopses often demand a low word count?
Most of the time, a sizzling synopsis will begin with an introduction to your absolutely phenomenal main character. After all, the characters are the interesting vehicles that tell your story. And they’re the piece of your story that agents, editors, and contest judges usually want to hear about first.
The simplest way is to provide your character's name (which in itself can be intriguing and interesting) and then add 1, 2 or 3 descriptive words or phrases that differentiates your character from any other girl, boy, woman, man, alien, dog, etc.
And hopefully with these descriptors you can show why this character is the perfect character to tell your story.
For instance, from the movies. . .
Rocky Balboa, a down-on-his luck, small time boxer
A unique name, (Rocky Balboa)
an interesting occupation (small time boxer)
and a hint of conflict (down-on-his luck)
Here are a few examples of character introductions from students in my class. . .
From Lauri Corkum's WIP The Prism Protocol.
DANNI WALTERS, a disgraced and discarded CIA operative. . .
Lauri sets up the conflict with just a few words, and she used great alliteration with disgraced and discarded.
From Becky Rawsley's WIP Merlin's Children.
TESS BOWDEN, a seventeen-year-old student is a self-confessed science-nerd and magic-sceptic who has the unwelcome ability to see demons.
Becky’s WIP is YA, and often I recommend adding in the main character’s age or grade to show the genre.
Look at the conflict for this character.
She’s a science nerd, magic skeptic, but can see demons. Wow.
And look at the title Merlin’s Children.
Tess is going to be wrapped up with magic and Merlin; yet, she’s skeptical of magic and believes in the facts of science.
Seems like the perfect character to go on this journey.
We’re not yet looking at what the character wants or why.
That comes next.
For now, all you want to do is get that irresistible character(s) on the page.
According to Donald Maass in Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook . . .
". . . a multidimensional character will keep us guessing . . . we are more likely to identify with them .. . because there is more of them to see."
With your descriptive adjectives, you can add that multidimensionality in just a few words. It’s not impossible. 🙂
So, in your synopsis, you’ve introduced your main character, then you’ll share your setting, your plot points and of course, your ending. But along with your fabulous character, you’ll want to make sure you show your character’s arc. Don’t worry it’s not as daunting as it sounds.
If you cover these next stages in your synopsis, you’ll show your character’s arc.
At the start of your story, WHO is your main character? What kind of person is he/she?
What is his/her approach to life?
And you’ll show this with your interesting character introduction.
Describe how your main character is thrust into a situation where he/she is pressured to change.
This is usually shown with your inciting incident.
Does your main character decide to take a leap of faith and change? Of course they do. Show the how and when.
Does he/she adopt a new approach or take some uncharacteristic action? Or does she hold true to who she is and become more entrenched in her attitude or approach?
At the end of the novel, is the main character better off because of the choices he/she has made? Does the reader feel he/she has done the right thing? Or in the case of a tragedy, the main character could be far worse off.
If you include these four stages in your synopsis, you can’t help but show your character’s arc.
Hopefully, these suggestions will make it easier for you to write a synopsis without tears.
And if you’re looking for more help, check out my September class at Lawson Academy -- The Sizzling, Scintillating Synopsis
Feel free to share your intriguing character intro in the comments or ask any questions regarding writing a sizzling synopsis.
Suzanne Purvis is a transplanted Canadian living in the Deep South, where she traded “eh” for “y’all.” An author of long, short, flash fiction for both children and adults, she has won several awards including those sponsored by the University of Toronto, RWA, Bethlehem Writer’s Roundtable, and Women Who Write. You can find her work in print anthologies, magazines, ezines, and ebooks. www.suzannepurvis.com