Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Short and Sweet Synopsis

I know what you’re thinking. No synopsis is short or sweet. But, they can be. I found that out when I completely plotted my next book in ten days. If I can do it, so can you.

As writers we are all storytellers first and foremost. If you don’t have a good story, I don’t care how clean or cleverly you write. No one will read it. So, being as storyteller gives you the ability to automatically write your synopsis, before you write the book or after. I wrote mine before.

I can hear the crying through cyber space already. I hate doing a synopsis. It’s the worst part of writing and it’s holding me hostage to a story I may want to change dramatically. I won’t do it. You can’t make me.

Okay, you’re right, I can’t make you, but I might be able to help you if you are trying to write a synopsis. I will even go so far as to say, it may layer and give your book more dimension before you write the first word.

First, let me explain why I decided to do a synopsis. If you have ten unfinished manuscripts lying around, ask yourself why. I do, and I did. I have all those unfinished novels because I don’t know where the story is going. I run into a blank wall and had to stop. I had no where to go.

It’s hard to be a hundred pages into a book then come up with the rest. Anyway, it is for me. So I decided I’m not ever starting a book until I know where it’s going and how it ends. This way I have a map. I don’t have to follow it exactly, but I need to know where I’m going.

I’ll admit I love people who can sit down and write a book with absolutely no idea where they are going. They figure it all out along the way and it comes out perfect. I don’t have that kind of luck. If you have unfinished books, the reason may be because you never knew where you were going in the first place.

Okay, to the bones of a synopsis. I start out by saying…”This is a story about Heroine who wants something (her goal) she wants it because (her motivation) and she’d have it if only (her conflict) that’s the first paragraph. Then do the same for the Hero.

Next, how do the Heroine and Hero meet (inciting incident). This is the beginning of your story. Chapter one. Once they meet, what keeps them together (Reluctance and Decision) what do they stand to do (Action they are going to take) This moves the story along and tells what action takes place in the story. What do they stand to lose (the Challenge)? What brings them intimately closer (Relationship builder) What keeps them from immediately riding off into the sunset (Relations barrier) What is the worst thing that can happen to H/H, (Climax gets closer). What do they fear most (Internal Conflict). What ruins the relationship and tears their goals away from them (black Moment) Who caves (who has to change the most in the book Character Growth) How do you want your story to end ( the Resolution).

While this is a very bare bones Synopsis, it’s all an editor or agent wants. And it can help you finish your story. I suggest a few other things that don’t have to go in the synopsis.

Ask your characters a few important questions before you sit down to write your synopsis.

What do your characters regret more than anything in the world – This can be something they did, or something someone did to them or something completely out of their control like the death of a loved one.

What’s their secret? Everyone in every story should have some kind of secret. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, but we all have them.

What is their biggest fear? What scares them every day? It can be simple, or it could be big. Your story, you choose.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions you can email me at .

Write on
Geri Foster


  1. Fabulous post, Geri, and so true! Especially the part about hating synopses. They are paralyzing and I have no idea why. Blech. These are all excellent suggestions, especially the questions at the end. Thanks!

  2. Great post, Geri. I guess you know we'll all be using this for a guideline! Thanks.

  3. Awesome how you boiled it down and made it make sense! Ella

  4. You know how I feel about synopsis... bleh! You sent me an article a while back that helped. The author said to write it up like a news story--pertinent facts and whatnot (it had more to it but off the top of my head, can't remember). The last synopsis I wrote, I did it like that and while I still don't like 'em, it made it go easier!