The Dreaded Synopsis – Part 2

In this second part we’ll look at how to structure the synopsis.  It’s important to stress that there is no absolutes here, no “right” way of doing things, simply because all agents are different and they’re looking for different things. But what they do look for is a wells structured, cohesive synopsis that tells them what they need to know, which is presented in exactly the way they ask.
The formatting should be perfect. That means it’s correctly presented, with no spelling mistakes or typos. The margins, line spacing and font should also be correct.  This is where you have to pay particular attention to what agents require. Some are happy with 1.5 spacing, others like 2 point. Ensure a 1” margin all round. If the agent asks for Arial font, then follow the instruction. Others might want TNR. Always follow what they require.

Make sure you have the title of the book and your name at the top of the synopsis. Don’t just write ‘Synopsis’. Write something like: ‘Synopsis: The Hidden Cartel by (your name).
As for the structure, aim for something like this:
  • The initial incident – in other words, the event that sparks the story; the set-up, with main character.
  • Developing story – layers of the story added.
  • Critical moments/plot points
  • Ending/resolution.
Synopsis Example:
The initial incident – Ex cop JOHN KING is the first to discover ZAK THOMPSON’S bullet riddled body. They had been friends for 20 years. But John knew that Zak had links to Eastern European drug runners and was about to tell the authorities everything. John believes they murdered Zak to keep him quiet.
From the example we can see that John is the main character, and the main plot point is the murder of his friend, Zak. The tone is set, and it introduces the main character. It also presents the reason why the story is happening – John will want to find out the truth about Zak.
Developing story – The detective in charge of the case, STELLA BROOKS, believes John’s friendship with Zak could mean his life is in danger – the drugs cartel could come after him and his teenage daughter, LISA, but John dismisses the threat. He needs to find the truth. They discover that Zak had links with a drug cartel in Russia, and had plans to tell government agents about it, hoping for a place in witness protection and start a new life.  SIR GEOFFREY PRICE, the Home Secretary, is keen to help the investigation, especially where Russia is concerned.
Here, without the need to go into intricate detail, the layers of information and situation create the developing story. This will then lead to a critical plot point, which again, does not need to go into detail.
Critical moments/plot points – As their investigation deepens, Stella and John come under threat from unknown assailants, keen to stop them. John discovers Zak had supplied drugs to some high profile people; judges, politicians, celebrities. Things escalate when Lisa is snatched off the street by a masked gang. John is faced with a dilemma – if he quits, they’ll release Lisa, but if he doesn’t, they’ll send her back in several pieces. Undaunted, he and Stella take a huge risk and find one of the gang members in a hideout. After some persuasion, he tells them the people behind Lisa’s kidnap and Zak’s murder are not the Russians. It’s the government, headed by Sir Geoffrey.
So this part concisely shows one of the major plots. It also shows the escalation within the story and some of the many conflicts, which will lead to the ending.
Ending/resolution – John and Stella set up Sir Geoffrey. They persuade a fellow politician TOM MASON, to confront him, threatening to go to the police and the media about everything unless he gives himself up. Sir Geoffrey gloats to Tom how powerful he is, but tiny hidden cameras in Tom’s clothes capture everything, and Sir Geoffrey is arrested by Stella and her team, leading to Lisa’s release. With the truth out and Lisa unharmed, John can get on with his life, with the help of Stella.
This is just a simple one page example of the kind of structure to use. It’s concise, it doesn’t ramble and it sums up the main points of the story and includes the main characters. Always put the character name in capitals the first time you introduce them – it makes it easier for agents to distinguish who is who in your story.
Remember, don’t go into detail. You don’t have to describe every plot point or every subplot, the backgrounds, settings or every character. The synopsis is just that – a concise summary, which includes why the story is happening, who the main characters are, the major plot point, and how the story ends. Agents don’t like it when you don’t tell them how it ends. So don’t leave it out!
Practice writing your synopsis. The more you do it, the less difficult and daunting it becomes. Remember, no agent is the same, so there is no right way to do it.
There is only a right way to present it.

AllWrite would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas/happy holidays, and will return in the New Year.


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