Monday, April 1, 2013

Writing the Synopsis: Part 3

Before you start writing your synopsis, you should write a quick one-sentence summary of your book. This will make sure that you know your main character and that character's goal, motivation and conflict. It can be something as simple as:

(Main Character) wants (Goal) because (Motivation) but (Conflict).

Just fill in the blanks and you have a quick one-sentence summary.  

The beginning of your synopsis has to accomplish a lot, and the first few paragraphs are so important because they're setting up the entire story. In the beginning of your synopsis, you need to convey the:

1. Hook
2. Main Character, Setting, Set Up, Goal, Motivation
3. Character #2, Set up, Goal, Motivation
4. Conflict

I'm going to talk about this in terms of writing a romance because that's what I write and because romances usually establish these things in a pretty clear cut way. 

Let's start with the hookDon’t over think this. The hook doesn’t necessarily have to be high concept. Think of it this way: What genre are you writing in? What sells well in that genre? What do editors of that genre say they’re looking for? Does your book have that?  

For example, a multi-published Love Inspired author emailed me her synopsis as an example. Her hooks were a cop, a widow, and a small town because she knows those things all work well for the Love Inspired line. Study your genre and the line you're targeting and make sure your hooks make it into the first few lines of the synopsis. 

In your first paragraph you need to establish the main character (which is the character who has the most to lose), the setting (this can also be part of the hook), the set up (it's okay to include a line or two of backstory here), the main character's goal (what she wants), and the main character's motivation (why she wants it and what is at stake). 

In the second paragraph, you're going to want to establish the same things (character, set up, goal, and motivation) for a second character. In a romance, this will probably be your hero. In some other genres, this could be your antagonist.  

Right after you establish the goals and motivations in these two paragraphs, you want to show how those two characters' goals are directly in conflict. If something established in paragraph one is directly in opposition to something established in paragraph two, the editor and agent are going to want to read more. 

Next time we'll talk about the inciting incident and the middle of the synopsis. 

I'd love for you to share your simple one-sentence summary with us in the comments. 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5 
The Ten Step Synopsis


  1. Thanks for breaking it down, Julie! Most helpful :-)

  2. Thanks Julie, I am not very good at this yet. I'm going to work through your ideas and see what I come up with :)

  3. I don't have mine. I get hives thinking about it. LOL But great post. This is exactly right!!

  4. I shall be bookmarking all of these! Great, great tips!