5-18 Powell's City of Books, World's Largest Indie Bookstore by Judith Ashley and Sarah Raplee

Saturday, December 23, 2017


The synopsis is one of the most essential tools for writers, yet it’s also one of the most dreaded.
Because how does one squeeze a 100,000+ word novel into a few thousand quality words? How do we decide what to leave in and what to leave out? And then how should we structure these necessary details in a way that is engaging and interesting to the reader? This is the clincher.
I’ve critiqued and judged many many synopses over the years, and few have really captured either my imagination or interest. 
Why? Again, that million dollar question. 
Because the writer has missed the point of the synopsis. 
Soooo, what is the point of a synopsis?
To showcase your skills as a story teller and as a writer. And in the case of a romance, it should also demonstrate your skills as a credible matchmaker.
Immediately, the above paragraph should tell you that a list of dry, matter-of-fact plot points won’t cut it. Your synopsis should tell a story in the same way your story does – with emotion and imagination. It should be fresh, engaging and unputdownable.
And it should sell your story and your talent to an agent, editor or screen director.  
But winning a publishing deal or contract is not the sole purpose of a synopsis. If structured properly, a well-crafted synopsis will pinpoint pacing problems, plot holes or characterization deficiencies. And more, it will help identify the high concept of your story, to ensure you stay true to your theme and characters.
There are several things to bear in mind when crafting your synopsis. Key words like ‘central plot’, ‘central characters’ and ‘concise’. With every word, every paragraph, make sure you stay true to these three vital points.
And how?
I’m glad you asked J 
By following my Simply Synopsis structure. 
There are four critical components of a synopsis:
1.    Orientation
2.    Major Plot Points
3.    Resolution
4.    Conclusion
Let’s take a look at these in a little more depth.

This comprises the opening paragraphs of a synopsis and is made up of four vital parts: 
a.    The Hook – The opening line that nabs your reader’s interest and builds their expectations. 
Lies never stay secret forever (Mr & Mrs Smith)
b.   World-building - If your story takes place in a world or time that’s not our own, or involves different rules or species, it’s important to set the scene immediately. Whatever the setting, include only enough information to orient the reader without bogging them down in a quagmire of detail. 
In a time where machines rule the world, the only hope for human survival lies in the past (Terminator)
c.    Central Theme - This is your premise. It's high concept, consolidating all the plotlines of your story into one simple idea that immediately attracts interest and can be quickly and easily communicated. Like a tagline or elevator pitch, it should be no more than ten words.
Men and women can never be friends (When Harry Met Sally)
d.   Central Characters - Your characters and what drives them through your plot is the lynchpin of your story, and therefore the lynchpin of your synopsis introduction. In a romance your central characters are your main love interests. 
Each and every character in your story MUST have a goal, motivation and conflict (GMC). What does your character want? Why do they want it? What’s stopping them from getting it? Without a rock-solid GMC, your characters will be nothing more than cardboard cut-outs who'll fail to grab your readers’ interest. 
And so, that completes the four elements of the orientation paragraphs. Just remember, they are not mutually exclusive. You can hook a reader with your world-building statement or your central theme. And your central theme will link very closely to one or both of your characters and their GMC. 
Just make sure when you’re done that your orientation paragraphs tick all four component boxes.
So, now we know what makes a killer synopsis orientation, let’s write one:
Example: Disney’s Aladdin
In the Arabian town of Agrabah, only a prince can marry a princess.
Street urchin ALADDIN wants the family he never had, the security of a home and to win the heart of a princess, if only he weren’t poor, penniless and as far from a prince as a boy can be.

Ninety-two words and we have a sense of the town of Agrabah - how it differs from other such towns - as well as the central characters and what's driving them through the story. Revisit that first sentence. How well does it act as a hook, a world-building statement and an indication of the central theme?

Now that we have our opening paragraphs, let's visit the body of the synopsis.

These are moments within your story that result in a fundamental change in direction or motion. When analyzing these plot points, choose the major points that showcase your characters’ GMC, move them forward in their journey and bring them closer to their goals. In a romance, look for the plot points that play a critical role in the development of your central characters’ relationship. This includes events such as the first moments of intimacy and first signs of trust.
Now you’ve identified the turning points to include in your synopsis, structure each paragraph taking into consideration six factors:
a.    Plot - what plot point led to this event taking place?
b.   Character - who is driving this plot point?
c.    Action - what action does this character take as a result of this plot point?
d.   Motivation - what motivated the action?
e.    Reaction – how do both central characters feel during and after the action? What are their thoughts and how do they react?
f.     Impact - what impact or change does this action have on them and/or their ongoing relationship?
By taking these six-steps into consideration, you won’t only give the reader a sense of your story, but you’ll also provide a sense of your characters’ growth and emotional state.
Just as no unresolved tensions or conflicts should remain at the end of your story, the same goes for your synopsis. 
Whilst the synopsis will not include ALL the conflicts in your book, it will contain the main ones. And those should all be resolved by this point.
Everything is resolved. There is no conflict. No tension. No reason for your central characters to be apart. They have their HEA. Now all we need is a line or short paragraph showing how the story leaves them in those critical, final pages. 
Sometimes this will form part of the resolution. Sometimes, especially in the case of an epilogue, it will require its own paragraph. This is particularly important with issues that require a time lapse to show that all is well in the world that is their romance. 
And there it is. Four simple steps to break down the components of a synopsis and then build them back up again using my method – the Simply Synopsis way.
Of course, there are so many other factors to consider when crafting a synopsis. Factors such as backstory, how to create tension and emotion, and how much of secondary plotlines and characters to include. 

If you’d like to find out more about these, more about crafting a synopsis or what makes a killer story, contact me via my website HERE or grab a copy of my book, Simply Synopsis by clicking HERE.

Michelle Somers is a bookworm from way back. An ex-Kiwi who now calls Australia home, she's a professional killer and matchmaker, a storyteller and a romantic. Words are her power and her passion. Her heroes and heroines always get their happy ever after, but she'll put them through one hell of a journey to get there. 

Michelle lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her real life hero and three little heroes in the making. And Emmie, a furry black feline who thinks she’s a dog. Her debut novel, Lethal in Love won the Romance Writers of Australia's 2016 Romantic Book of the Year (RuBY) and the 2013 Valerie Parv Award. The second in her Melbourne Murder series, Murder Most Unusual was released in February 2017.

Between books, she runs workshops – both face-to-face and online – for writers wanting to hone their craft and kick creative butt.
You can find out all about Michelle, her adventures and her books at

Please pop by and say 'hi' 😊

Wishing you all a wonderful festive season and all the best for the New Year. Even Emmie is joining in the fun 😊


Sarah Raplee said...

Emmie is one cute kitty!

I'm off to get your book! 'Nuff said!

Michelle Somers said...

Lol Sarah.
Yes, Emmie is cute, and she knows it!
Hope you enjoy Simply Synopsis.
Thanks for stopping by 😊
Michelle xx

Diana McCollum said...

Thanks for breaking down the Dreaded Synopsis! Great blog post!

Judith Ashley said...

Michelle, Thank you for sharing your "Simply Synopsis" process with us. A well-written synopsis is critical for any writer/author who wants to publish traditionally. Even indie authors can use a well-crafted synopsis or the process you describe to make their story better. And, Merry Christmas!!!

Michelle Somers said...

My pleasure Diana.
I hope I’ve demystified what for many is the mystical synopsis 😊
Thanks for stopping by.
Michelle xx

Michelle Somers said...

My pleasure Judith.
I agree. A synopsis is more than a tool toward publication. It’s a final check that all the vital elements are present in a story 😊
Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you had a fab Christmas too.
Michelle xx