Most fiction writers do. This makes sense if you think about it. A novel and a synopsis are at opposite ends of the writing spectrum. One is showing, the other telling. You’ve just spent months—maybe years—using words to show your story. Now you need to write a document that will tell agents and editors about it.
Try looking at the synopsis from a different perspective
Think of the synopsis as the flip side of an outline. They both tell what the story is about, one before it is written and one afterwards. One tell s you what you will write, the other tells you what you wrote. So why not write your synopsis the same way you write an outline—by asking questions.
So if you answer the basic story questions that help you outline a story, you will have the bare bones for a good synopsis as well.
- Who are your PROTAGONISTS, and what DESCRIPTION shows why they are special?
- Who is the ANTAGONIST, and what is his MOTIVATION to harm the protagonists?
- In what SETTINGS does the story take place?
- What are the main characters’ GOALS? Why are they important?
- What MOTIVATION propels the protagonists to accomplish their goals?
- What is at STAKE if the protagonists don’t accomplish their goals
- What CONFLICT hinders the protagonists from achieving their goals?
- What’s the WORST THING THAT HAPPENS to the protagonist in the FIRST PART of the book?
- What’s the WORST THING THAT HAPPENS to the protagonist in the MIDDLE PART of the book?
- What’s the WORST THING THAT HAPPENS to the protagonist in the LAST PART of the book?
- What GROWTH do the protagonists show throughout the story?
- How does the story END? (Remember you MUST tell the ending in a synopsis. The agent or editor you’re pitching to needs to know how you resolve the story.)
If you find that you can’t answer all of these questions, you may need to go back to your story and make some revisions. A frustrating setback, but one that will help you to polish your story sufficiently before you put it out there before agents and editors.
Put It All Together
The last step is to put flesh on the bare bones of the answers and meld them into a synopsis.
- In TITLE, PROTAGONIST, a DESCRIPTION, finds herself facing ANTAGONIST, and she must GOAL because MOTIVATION.
- Introduce additional main character in the same fashion. (may not have a different antagonist)
- They can’t accomplish GOALS because CONFLICT(S). List the WORST THING FIRST PART, followed by WORST THING MIDDLE PART, then WORST THING LAST PART.
- State HOW THE PROTAGONISTS GROW throughout the story.
- Tell THE ENDING.
Once all of the answers are in this order, tweak them until they flow together to tell the story of your novel.