How to Create a Novel Synopsis

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Author: Kelly Higgins

How to Write a Remarkable Novel Synopsis

A novel synopsis is a type of material with a very specific field of use, in most cases, it is required by publishers or agents who want to take a close look at the story from the very beginning to the end. The novel synopsis format is something more complicated than a punchy marketing text for readers on a back cover. In other words, the synopsis reflects the entire narrative strategy of the novel; it deals with the main characters and key changes that take place.

As stated above, editors and agents use the synopsis in order to make sure that the motivation and character actions of the novel are realistic enough. At this stage, they can reveal how unique and fresh the novel is and determine various problems in it – shortcomings in the plot or structure, flaws of character motivation and some other points.

It is worth mentioning that there are no specific requirements for how synopsis should look like. Moreover, you may read even conflicting pieces of advice. The most controversial issue is the length of the synopsis. One group of authors prefers writing long texts while the others, on the contrary, are trying to be short. In any case, you need to be guided by the requirements of the publishers (of course, if they exist). Otherwise, you are free to choose; keep in your mind one thing – agents and publishers probably will not read manuscripts longer than a few pages. Usually, the synopsis is written in the third person by means of present tense and active voice.

Steps to Create a Powerful Novel Synopsis

1. Start it well. In the first paragraph, you have to clearly identify a protagonist, the conflict and the settings where the action takes place.

2. Depict the core conflict. The next step is to decide what key issues, plot turns, characters and symbols you should present in order to make sense. The main attention should be focused on how the protagonist finds a solution to the conflict.

There is no need to mention every character that appears in the novel, and you won’t be able to do this as your time is limited. You can’t describe everyone or summarize every scene, for that reason, you should be ready to make broad generalizations and omit details that don’t play a crucial role. The skill the author really needs is to define the place of this or that character in generating the conflict.

There is one good way to determine what points deserve to be included in your synopsis. If some plot point or character constantly appears through the story, helps to keep tension and the ending does not make any sense without this character or plot point, then it must be included to the synopsis.

3. Outline the ending. Readers need to see the final result, so show them how the protagonist coped with the conflict and who assisted him/her.

The Common Novel Synopsis Mistakes

1. Don’t consider the synopsis as the paper that details the plot. If you think in this way, there is a risk that your synopsis will become a mechanical retelling without any depth or emotions.

2. Avoid backstories. Even if the novel includes a lot of flashbacks, you should not fill your synopsis with them. One or two phrases are pretty enough to depict the background of the character. You may add some flashbacks only on condition that they really relate to what is happening in the book.

3. Forget about rhetorical or unanswered questions. Remember one thing – you are not a marketer who wants to lure customers, or in our particular case, readers.

4. Avoid the division of the synopsis into sections. In this way, your narrative strategy will be coherent and lucid.

5. Don’t boast of your prose. It means that your long poetic and lyrical descriptions should recede into the background. You don’t have enough time to show thing, your task is to tell.

6. Don’t offer the interpretations. Don’t waste your energy on explaining the themes the novel raises, your work is just to tell the story.

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