So, after last week, you know the most important thing about writing a synopsis is the conflict. Today, I’m going to give you an additional four tips for writing your synopsis based on the tricks I’ve learnt so far.
One: Write out everything.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, I anchor my synopsis by introducing the internal and external conflict, as well as my characters and the setting, in the first paragraph. Here’s the example from that post:
When Hero McHero discovers the Cape Town branch of his company is in trouble, he’s forced to turn to Heroine McHeroine to help him save it. And if Heroine wants to keep the job she loves, she has no choice but to help. But he’s exactly the kind of man she’s vowed to stay away from after a string of bad relationships: arrogant and sexy. And she’s exactly the kind of woman Hero despises: someone who tests his resolve not to trust women. As they work together, Hero and Heroine discover that not only are their jobs at risk, but also their hearts.
From here, I expand on the story by writing down everything. Everything. Because – surprise, surprise – this is only a first draft of the synopsis, I don’t worry too much about relevance (though I would suggest using common sense here). This helps me to get a linear structure of the story down in one document, which helps me to then weed out the relevant information in draft two.
Two: Highlight the relevant details.
You probably have a much longer draft than you need once you’ve written everything down. That’s good news; it means you’ll be able to be cut-throat in your next draft as you highlight the relevant details of the story. By relevant, I mean every detail or event that relates to the development of your characters’ conflicts. (I told you it was important.) And only the events that relate to the development of the characters’ conflicts. So, if my main characters are required to work together and do so on three separate occasions, which all result in the same conflict development, I’ll condense it into something simple like this:
As they work together, Hero and Heroine learn more about each other. Hero is drawn to Heroine’s honesty, and begins to trust her. Heroine realises her initial assumptions about Hero were wrong; his arrogance is merely a professional demeanour.
The main thing to remember is that these events are merely mechanisms for the conflict and the development of the romance between the characters. Which brings me to tip number three…
Three: Make sure all the included information supports the emotional climax.
The editor or agent shouldn’t be surprised when you outline the emotional climax (or black moment) of the book. And your emotional climax should also be linked to the internal conflict. Maybe your heroine does something that makes the hero believe he can’t trust her. His response is to slip back into that arrogant persona. Convinced they can’t be together, they break up. This links to both of their internal conflicts. It’s also believable even though I haven’t written more than a couple of hundred words to support it here. (Just imagine what you could do with more than that!)
Four: Include the happy ending.
Your synopsis is not a place to leave your reader guessing. You should outline how the black moment is resolved, too. This generally occurs after some decent stewing, where the main characters realise how their actions have resulted in their current unhappiness. Then they either have an honest conversation or some kind of grand gesture is made, which indicates their repentance. And viola – happiness forever! 🙂
It’s important to remember that the length of your synopsis will dictate how much detail you can include. You might have the space to add secondary conflicts – like a character resolving the root of their trust issues – or you might have to focus solely on your main characters. Either way, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around; you can fine-tune until you’re happy with it.