Tuesday, November 13, 2018
The Five Core Parts Of A Good Synopsis
Synopsis Series: Part 2
I keep taking about ‘proper’ synopsises, but in truth there are many fantastic ways to do a synopsis and they can be quite different. What I am talking in this blog series is how I do synopises, so lets call it ‘The Jake Corvus Method’.
What Are The Parts Of A Synopsis Using The Jake Corvus Method?
1. Overview - Your overview gives you the basic details of your novel structure. It should contain information such as the target audience, the genre, the intended word count, the number of chapters and the goal word count per chapter based on those two numbers. EG: 80,000 words, divided by 25 chapters is 3200 words per chapter. This will help you balance your scenes later on in planning. You will not have to stick to this word or chapter count exactly, its just a guideline. It will help you produce a manuscript that is the right length and format for your target audience.
2. Character Profiles - Eye color, hair color, height, right? Nope. Character profiles are critical, but probably not in the way you think, or in the way you are used to writing them. By all means, you can jot down some notes about appearance so they don’t change half way through the book. However the real core of character profiles is motivations, goals and stakes. Your novel plot revolves around the conflicting goals and desires of your hero and your villain. So starting with these elements, weaving them into the character before you begin writing so they are central to their very being, will give you a stronger, more appealing story. Your villain (and sub villain!) profiles will be even more important than your main characters. No one being mentored by me is ever going to have the problem of getting half way through a book and realizing they have no proper antagonist!
3. World Building - Depending on the genre and locale of your novel’s setting, this could either be huge and complicated, or reasonably simple. If your novel takes place in a contemporary setting, particularly somewhere you are familiar with, this might only consist of some local maps, photos and a few details you need to keep straight in your head. If you are creating a setting from scratch, such as a fantasy or sci fi universe, it could be long and extensive. Any setting you create from scratch has to have the diversity and infrastructure in place to feel realistic. That means a realistic ecosystem (dragons are all well and good, but there has to be a reliable food source for them!) and fantasy cities need to deal with the realities of mundane life. How does a floating city provide enough food for all its people? If a city is underground, where does all the sewerage go? What happens when the surface floods? There can be a lot to think about!
4. Simple Synopsis - This is a bullet point list of scenes, largely used for brainstorming and putting things in order before you start your detailed synopsis. If you have written a synopsis before, it probably looked very similar to what I call a simple synopsis. In short, a simple synopsis is where you brainstorm all the scenes you want in the book, and give them a 1-2 line summary, and put them in roughly the order you want them to occur. The real work comes in the next part, the detailed synopsis.
5. Detailed Synopsis - This is the big meaty, sometimes scary part of the synopsis. You may look at the other four items on the list and think: ‘What is left? Surely I already have a synopsis now!’. Not even close. The detailed synopsis is where the real work starts. Its also where the MAGIC starts. In our detailed synopsis, we aren’t just going to cover what happens in scenes and why, we’re going to track our narrative traction, our emotional beats, the two purposes of each scene and the character arc of each character in the scene. But don’t worry, each of those elements will have its own dedicated blog post. When we are finished this blog series, you aren’t going to feel overwhelmed, you are going to feel like an expert. And you’re going to have the best damn novel synopsis you have ever written in your life.
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