Friday, February 21, 2014

Southern Speak - The Dreaded 'S' Word: Synopsis

At our SARA meeting last night we had the Selling Synopsis finalist, Maggie Mundy, present a session on preparing a synopsis.

What is a synopsis I hear you ask? Well, a synopsis is your big wonderful novel in just a few pages! Publishers normally want a synopsis when you submit your book so they can get a brief overview of your story quickly before they decide to invest the time needed to read the whole thing. So, you see, it is quite vital to get this skill right.

Maggie did a wonderful job of explaining how she formulates her synopses and was kind enough to put together a work sheet, and because she's a gem, she's letting me share it with you all here!

The idea with this worksheet is, you answer each question with a line or two. Then when you're finished, you turn each answer into a paragraph and join them all together. This should give you a synopsis of about 750 words which is the industry standard (but always make sure you check with a publisher before you submit).

Let's get into the questions shall we? I'll put a couple examples in brackets after each point.

  1. Set the scene. Include here your genre (Paranormal, fantasy, rural, historical), the setting (Melbourne, New York, London), the length of your story (your word count) and the main characters (your leading lady and her hero).
  2. Who is your heroine and what does she want? This is referring to her at the beginning of your story. (She's a simple country girl who wants to find a rich husband and to live happily ever after; she's grown up totally sheltered and now she's grown wants to explore the big wide world.)
  3. Who is your hero and what does he want? Same as above, this is him at the start of the book. (He's a happy go lucky doctor who's been feeling lonely lately but isn't sure what to do about it; he's a career military man who likes his life as it is and does not want a woman, well, he doesn't think he wants one.)
  4. What brings them together? You know? The big twist of fate that slams your hero and heroine together for the first time. (She falls twisting her ankle and a gorgeous single doctor stops to help her; her plane crashes and a big muscular alpha male comes to her rescue...)
  5. (Now for the good stuff!) The first problem. Cause of conflict. Oh how I love conflict! This is where the couple get torn apart, it can be internal (she has doubts and runs scared back to the family farm) or external (the bad guy kidnaps the poor damsel in distress).
  6. Initial solution to problem. Aww, the make up part! (He runs after her to the farm and proposes and vow's he'll love and take care of her forever; he storms in and frees her from the kidnapper.)
  7. What happens to spoil initial success. Love is never so simple to be fixed with one little solution now is it? (She still doubts him and refuses to accept his marriage proposal; the kidnapper is not caught and comes after them again.)
  8. Where does the new problem lead? This is where you characters (hopefully) get some personal growth happening. (He keeps showing her how he's in it for the long haul, no matter how many times he has to do it;  living on the run from a madman makes falling in love a little tricky.)
  9. Dark moment(s). I write mainly suspense filled paranormal romance, I love my dark moments and often have more than one. Again these can be internal (they're caught up in their mind, can be depression or just a major decision) or externally based (somebody has a gun to their head).
  10. Happy ever after. The part where they both get their act together and realize they love each other :D (Do I really need to give you examples here?!)
I ran through this checklist in the session with my current WIP and it helped me push past a block I've had for a while. I've actually now got the rest of the book planned out! Considering I'm a pantser through and through... that's saying something!

So, I'll finish up with a massive thank you to Maggie for the great session she ran and to recommend any budding or published authors in South Australia to join us for a meeting. The third Wednesday of each month we meet at the SA Writers Centre and discuss all sorts of useful stuff!
I hope to see you there!
Khloe Wren


  1. Sounds like I missed a fab meeting!

  2. Yep, Maggie got us all to watch a movie so we could follow along as she created a synopsis for it step by step. We got to create our own in parallel. A very practical and useful session so hats off to Maggie for the time and trouble she took creating it. The only small reservation I had was that I personally would not conflate the climax and the resolution, but I think writers will fall naturally into separating these anyway.


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