Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Boiling the Story Down for a Synopsis #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


            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.  
https://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


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!

And thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here

28 comments:

  1. It’s been years since I wrote a synopsis. I remember struggling. Next time I’ll remember to focus on a few main characters.

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    1. Synopses are difficult for sure, and I'm still learning the procedure myself, Natalie. The key seems to be to focus on the main plot points and the protagonist.

      It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for your note. Enjoy your weekend!

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  2. Until recently, I thought a synopsis was a summary of the book, which takes up about two paragraphs. How wrong I was, as I’m coming across more info about this recently and now read your blog about it.

    So much work has to go into a query, book proposal, and (now a better) synopsis. I’m getting tired of the whole thing, I have to be honest. I applaud you for still putting so much effort in figuring it all out and making progress towards improving your memoir and in the meantime, finding ways to start the querying/promotion steps with a synopsis. Good job, Victoria!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Liesbet. No one ever said this writing gig would be easy. And they're right! I understand that there are a few different versions or at least word count lengths to this synopsis thing. We need a longer version for the book proposal and a shorter one to get agents or editors interested in our book. Sheesh! This is quite difficult. I'm getting a little tired myself, Liesbet.

      It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for sharing your insight. Enjoy your weekend!

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  3. I find this difficult - but recommend keeping a lookout for great phrases that could be used for other purposes, such as your book description, as you do it.

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    1. Absolutely right, Tony! I'm always looking for little nuggets that might be used for taglines or loglines. I'll be talking about that on my next Toolbox post.

      Thank you so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your weekend!

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  4. Great post. Lots of wonderful information. TY for sharing!

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    1. Hello and welcome to Adventures in Writing, Maggie! Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a note. Thank you for your kind words. They are appreciated more than you realize. I'm glad you found the post helpful. Please stop by Adventures in Writing again.

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  5. Synopsis are tough. I deplore them. Funny enough, though, I love to write blurbs.

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    1. Synopses are really tough, Chrys. It's trying to figure out what to put in and what to leave out and make it sound smooth that's so tough, I think.

      I like blurbs, too, although sometimes I can't find the exact words without a lot of trial and error--heavy on the error part.

      It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for stopping by. Enjoy your weekend!

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  6. I'm deep in synopsis writing at the moment, although I'm working on a FULL synopsis, not a condensed two-pager. I'm dreading that part, but I hope that going through the exercise of writing this full synopsis might make my condensed version a little easier to tackle.

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    1. I think it would, Brigitte. Synopses are difficult because after all that time creating a full-length book, we now need to pull out only the main threads and make it sound like a complete story.

      Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a comment. All the luck with your synopsis writing!

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  7. Something I need to learn to do. Great post. Bookmarked.

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    1. Thank you so much, Juneta. Your kind words mean a lot. It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for stopping by. Enjoy your weekend!

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  8. Ah the dreaded synopsis. My best advice and the only way I've managed so far is to research heavily and read a few examples, then dive in and try to get it done in one big whack while the research is fresh.

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    1. Dreaded is right, S.E. Sound advice. Thank you so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your weekend!

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  9. A perennially useful skill! Thanks for the walkthrough :)

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    1. Hello and welcome to Adventures in Writing! Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a note.

      I'm glad you found the post helpful. Please stop by Adventures in Writing again.

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  10. The best one-page synopsis advice was at this link: https://pitchwars.org/pitch-wars-synopsis-simplified/

    It sure helped me.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Thank you so much for this, Anna! I'll hop on over there and study some more.

      Thank you so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your weekend!

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  11. I find the synopsis can be tricky sometimes, and I've read a lot of different things about how to write one well. I still have to write one for my current WIP, so we'll see how it goes. Thanks for sharing. :)

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    1. You are so right, Charity. Synopses are very tricky to get right. Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a comment. All the luck with your current WIP!

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  12. This definitely summarizes some really good advice. I write thrillers and mysteries, and I really struggle to get it into two double-spaced pages. Don't tell anyone, but I don't think the rules about synopsis length are fair to every genre. :)

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Raimey. They are greatly appreciated. If we can find the essence of our stories, that means it is truly there in the pages of our book. But man! Is it the most difficult thing to do. I still wonder how J.K. Rowling and others did it for their extremely complex books.

      It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for stopping by. Enjoy your weekend!

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  13. Wow, ten years since you graduated. I just love your journey, and its results. I copied the Writer's Digest quote in my journal to remind me for when I have to create a synopsis. Thank you for this. Good stuff.

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  14. Thank you so much, Dawn, for your kind words here at Adventures in Writing. I truly appreciate them. It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for your comment. Enjoy your week!

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  15. Hello and welcome to Adventures in Writing, R's Rue! Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a note.

    I'm glad you found the post helpful. Please stop by Adventures in Writing again.

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