Writer’s Corner: Writing a Story Synopsis


“I’m going to need you to boil your entire story down into a 1-page synopsis.”

Do those words feel you with absolute dread? Do you get all fidgety and want to pull out your hair at the thought of boiling your fantasy epic down into one…single…page? First, relax. It’s really not that hard to do with a bit of practice. Second, you’d better learn to do it if you want to get that book deal one day. Publishers don’t have time to read your entire story before they consider giving you your shot so you better damn well get ready for it. You want to make a bazillion dollars and this is a skill you WILL need and the one that Writer’s Corner will teach.

Ready to learn something new? Let’s do this thing.

You may be scratching your head right now and thinking that it’s simply impossible to boil down your magnificent¬†idea down to a 1-2 page synopsis. POPPYCOCK, I SAY! ALSO, WHAT IS A POPPYCOCK? ALSO, WHY AM I TEXT SCREAMING AT YOU ALL RIGHT NOW?

Ahem…

All it takes to write an awesome synopsis is a little bit of guidance and some practice. You want to introduce the main characters, set the mood and scene, and you’re going to want to do this in roughly 500 words. Yes, 500 words. Sounds like fun, right? I’m sure you’re shaking your head at this point and asking what kind of drugs I’m on. That’s okay. You’re scared. I’m here to help. Also, lots of drugs. The answer is always lots of drugs.

1. The Opener

Here’s where you’re going to introduce the setting and the concept that drives your story. This is your hook, the opening shot, where you grab the reader and you don’t let go. Here you will set the stage for everything that follows. You’re introducing the overall theme that drives your story.

2. Introduce the Protagonist

Main character time! Boil your main character down to their essence at the beginning of the story. Throw in a couple of descriptive words to describe the individual that should captivate our attention for the duration of your tale. Don’t forget to tell us what they want.

3. Dive into the Action!

Things should heat up at this point and we see the plot thicken. Your main character becomes aware of some bit of information that drives them to move forward in their journey.

4. The Protagonist’s First Turning Point

The information that your character finds should now lead them to the point that they must now take their destiny into their own hands. No more sitting on the hands. They’re about to cross a line and there will be no going back to their former life. This will ultimately change your books direction.

5. Conflict and New Characters: Bring on the Antagonist

Your character’s life has gotten a lot more interesting at this point and here is where we will meet important supporting characters. The protagonist will also have new situations they have to face, the best of which is the introduction of your antagonist.

6. The Middle Bits

Here’s where things really get meaty. Your protagonist will take a stand, learn some stuff, become a Super Saiyan, etc. This is also where they will make a decision to face the enemy at their gates. This is the middle turning point and, again, nothing will be the same after this.

7. The Good Side Wins…or not?

The protagonist meets the antagonist in battle or chess or video games or whatever. It seems as if the protagonist will win but…holy banana monkey lover! They are beaten down by the antagonist but they leave our protagonist to suffer, maybe even believing them completely defeated. Laughing and twisting their mustache they leave to unleash their evil plot onto the world.

8. The Low

Beaten and utterly destroyed, your protagonist must now find a way to fight through their defeat and rise again. They must reach deep inside and find the thing which will pull them from the pits of despair to find the strength for the final battle.

9. Climax

This is the final battle. The protagonist must face the enemy who beat them once again and finds a way to prevail.

10. Resolution

The protagonist has won. The dust has settled. What is left in the aftermath?

11. The Closer

How has your protagonist ultimately changed? Much like your opener you want to leave a vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Hmmm, this all seems very familiar, yeah?

That’s because it’s basically the Hero’s Journey. That’s right! Time and again when you’re writing your stories you will find that you continuously come back to this. It’s almost like that Joseph Campbell guy was on to something. This is a standard that will rarely change. From Lord of the Rings to Star Wars to Matrix to [insert story name here] you will find that the Hero’s Journey shows up all over popular media. It’s time tested and mother approved! As a bonus, if you suffer from writer’s block, this is a great way to overcome not only that but to help plot your story as well.

Pro-tips:

  • Name no more than three characters in your synopsis: protagonist, antagonist, and main supporting character. All others should be referred to by their defining trait or role in the story.
  • Don’t be mysterious with the ending. Tell how the story ends! Remember that you’re pitching this idea to someone that is looking to publish your story. They will not buy it/publish it without knowing the ending.
  • NO SUBPLOTS! Save those for the long form of the story. You still want to have a few surprises and anyone who buys/publishes your story wants to know that you’re going to produce a solid core.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it…

Write a 1 to 2-page synopsis of your current work in progress and share it here on the blog. Practice makes perfect and there is no better time to get started than right now. Until next week, fly safe out there. o7

Joe Forrest

Joe Forrest is an IT/Web Consultant by night, writer of fiction and/or helpful words which help you write words better by day. He uses naughty words and does not care if you like his sometimes harshly worded advice. He has many secret names and 7 souls. Writer, Tech, and Chaos Magician.

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