Writing Books/synopsis


Hi again Susan,

I am writing a synopsis of my novel but the plot is complex with many characters being underhand. I feel the synopsis cannot portray the story well - and without knowing the full story the synopsis makes it sound 'silly'. Any ideas to improve this?

Hi Lyn!

I understand what you're facing here. It would help if I knew whether you have taken this on as your own idea or if an agent or publisher has asked you to do this. But never mind, we'll do it anyway:

A synopsis is quite like a "treatment" which will in time be expanded to a movie script. It sets out a description of the action in such a way that the reader comes away with a good grasp of what happens in the book.

If you have not made an outline, this is a good time to do so. It might look like this:

I. Event One: Participating Event (the event that starts the action - puts the plot in motion - describes the problem).

II. The 3-5 main events wherein the hero(ine) meets obstacles that threaten to overwhelm them, in order of occurrence.

III. The end or resolution of the problem: the hero(ine) succeeds or fails, and how.

I like to take a journalistic approach here. Under each numeral list these things: when, where, who, what and why. Briefly expand on these, especially what, and why: one or two paragraphs of those, perhaps more. Just put in the important stuff, not the weather or the character's stomach-ache. This is a plot outline.

The beauty of the journalistic approach is that if you end up with too much material, you can easily lop it off by shaving the ends. When, where and who can be dealt with in a few lines. If you will closely examine a longish newspaper article you will notice that the information gets thinner down the length of the column. All the important stuff is at the top. That's so the editor, if s/he feels the piece is too long, can cut from the bottom until it achieves proper length. And so can you.

Now all you have to do is go through and instead of listing things, write them. If you have a complex plot with many characters, your synop should be 5-10 pages, double-spaced. The neat part is that you can cut or expand as is called for.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 245+ questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at http://pygmypress.com, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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