Writers Tricks of the Trade ISSUE 1, VOLUME 9 - Page 42

 While your synopsis will reflect your ability to write, it’s not the place to get pretty with your prose. That means you should leave out any attempts to impress through poetic description. You can’t take the time to show everything in your synopsis. Often you have to tell, and some- times this is confusing to writers who’ve been told for years to “show don’t tell.” For example, it’s OK to just come out and say your main character is a “hopeless romantic” rather than trying to show it. Synopsis language has to be very stripped down. Here’s an example of what I mean. V ERY W ORDY At work, Elizabeth searches for Peter all over the office and finally finds him in the supply room, where she tells him she re- sents the remarks he made about her in the staff meeting. T IGHT At work, Elizabeth confronts Peter about his remarks at the staff meeting. H OW TO START YOUR NOVEL SYNOPSIS F OR SPECULATIVE FICTION WRITERS Science fiction and fantasy writers may need to open their synopsis with a para- graph or so that helps establish the world we’re entering and the rules of that world. This helps us better understand the charac- ters and their motivations once introduced. For example, a synopsis of Harry Potter might clarify upfront that the world is di- vided into Muggles and wizards, and that the Muggles have no idea that a magical world exists. Or, this fact could be relayed in the synopsis once Harry Potter learns about it himself. Usually it’s best to avoid using proper terms or nouns that have to be defined or explained unless such terms are central to your story (like “Muggles” above). Instead, try to get the point across in language that anyone can understand and gets the same point across. The goal here is to focus on telling the story rather than increasing the mental workload of the agent/editor, who has to decipher and remember the unfamil- iar vocabulary. S PRING 2019 H OW TO AVOID NOVEL SYNOPSIS WORDINESS Within the first 100-200 words, we should know your protagonist, the protag- onist’s conflict, and the setting. Then you’ll have to decide which major plot turns/conflicts must be conveyed for every- thing to make sense, and which characters must be mentioned. (You should not men- tion all of them.) Think about your genre’s “formula,” if there is one, and be sure to in- clude all major turning points associated with that formula. The ending paragraph must show how major conflicts are re- solved—yes, you have to reveal the ending! No exceptions. In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses, Jane has delivered keynotes and work- shops on the digital era of authorship at world- wide industry events, including the Writer’s Di- gest annual conference, San Miguel Writers Con- ference, The Muse & The Marketplace, Frankfurt Book Fair, BookExpo America, LitFlow Berlin, and Digital Book World. Find out more at janefriedman.com P AGE 37 W RITERS ’ T RICKS OF THE T RADE