I’ve been trying to condense my college memoir story into two double-spaced pages for a synopsis. Not an easy thing to do, as many of you realize. How could you condense all the tension, the action, the angst, the characters of a 200 page story into two pages? Many writers have longer works of fiction or memoir. The key is you don’t include everything.
Writer’sDigest defines synopsis like this:
“A synopsis conveys the narrative arc, an explanation of the problem or plot, the characters, and how the book or novel ends. It summarizes what happens and who changes from beginning to end of the story.”
I’d like to add that a synopsis should still read like a story and showcase your voice. But how does a writer do this in a short document? The information I’m sharing here is a combination of what I’ve learned in books and online about synopses.
Just like in your full-length book, the reader of a synopsis needs to know where we are in space and time and who the main players are in the story. Please notice the words “main players.” You can’t possibly include every character in a synopsis. My suggestion is to include the protagonist, any antagonist, and any character who guides or changes the protagonist in his story journey. Think about the characters who take up the most space in your story, the pivotal characters who help to change your protagonist the most.
If we use Harry Potter as an example, for a synopsis, you would include Harry Potter, Voldemort, Dumbledore, Ron, his first real friend, and Hermione. Many other characters have helped or hurt Potter through his journey to adulthood, but I feel these are the main players. And where are we in the Potter books? Mainly in the wizarding world at Hogwarts, a school for wizardry. As for time, it deals with each school year.
In a synopsis, we also need to include why the story begins where it begins. If we turn again to Harry Potter, the real story begins when Harry reaches the age to begin wizarding school, his 11th birthday.
An important point to include in the synopsis is the protagonist’s internal struggle. What is the internal angst the protagonist is dealing with throughout the story? We need to include emotion and feeling in our synopses. I think the internal angst Harry deals with at the beginning of this series is finding people to love him, to help guide him to find his place in this new wizarding world.
Don’t forget to give the whole ending of the story in your synopsis, whether it is fiction or memoir. Write the entire synopsis in present tense and third person regardless of how you wrote the story, according to Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator.
In the synopsis I’m writing for my college memoir, I include myself, my special needs daughter and her situation as the impetus for my beginning college at this time, my father and his powerful words that lock me in feelings of inferiority and my other children and husband in general. By way of emotion I talk about Victoria’s struggles to be a role model for her children and her failures at college, her journey through community college and its awards making the Ivy League on scholarship a possibility. By way of an ending, I include that in Victoria’s ten-year academic journey, she learns that determination and hard work help her overcome her father’s powerful words and graduate cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2009.
*Please feel free to offer any insight or ask any questions regarding the details of my synopsis for my college memoir. It would be truly appreciated.*
Has anyone prepared a synopsis for their story? I’m interested in how you set it up and what you included from your story. Please share any tips you may have in the comments section of Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much!
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