Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Spotting Plot Problems: Write Your Dreaded Synopsis
When you write your synopsis, you include your main character, what she wants, and why whatever it is that she wants is a big deal. You write about who or what stands in her way and what she does to get around this road block. You address theme and setting. You do all of this in a way that shows how it all fits together unless, of course, it doesn’t.
Because a synopsis distills your book to its essence, sometimes it is easier to spot potential problems in the synopsis than in the book as a whole. The glorious best friend that rules chapters four through six and is oh so funny but somehow doesn’t fit into the synopsis might not really have a role to play in the story beyond lightening the mood. The hero you describe as a loner but never spends even five minutes alone isn’t going to convince anyone that that is his true nature even if that’s what is essential to the climax. Tension that doesn’t escalate, goals that are reached without any trials or tribulations, and a setting that is too vanilla to put into words all become obvious as you try to craft a synopsis.
The synopsis can help you spot these things so that you can fix them and the sooner you can fix problems with your book, the better. That said, I’m not going to try writing my synopsis before my first draft. I’m a bit of a pantser; although I create a sketchy outline before I write the emphasis is on sketchy. I need that first draft to firm things up and get a feel for my characters and my setting.
Writing the synopsis after my first draft will help me identify the weak spots and holes in my story. Once I’ve spotted them, I can set about fixing them in my rewrite. After that, the synopsis of my final story should be a snap. Right?
Sue Bradford Edwards teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next section starts on January 5th.