I have talked to a number of people want to enter the Frasier contest, but are daunted by the “500 word synopsis.”
So…I thought I’d try and help.
First, you’re among friends at My Book Therapy. We understand how difficult it is to condense your epic down to 500 words. Remember, the synopsis in the Frasier contest, like the synopsis for your agent or editor is entirely to tell your editor/agent/judge that you have put together a solid story. Yes, you want to woo them with words (and a well written synopsis can be a thing of joy and beauty. Not long ago, I actually teared up reading the amazing synopsis of one of my clients!) However, first you want to prove to them that you have all the pieces of the story in place.
But what are those pieces?
Before you start writing your synopsis you need to know some basic questions, (hopefully ones you’ve already thought through).
1. Hero and Heroine Identity: Who is your hero/heroine? What do they do? The A/E/J (Agent/Editor/Judge because I just can’t keep writing that out), needs to understand who the story is about – and so do you.
2. Goals: What do the H/H WANT from their life – what are they after? If you’ve been hanging around MBT for any length of time, or were with us last year when we created a proposal for our Blog-A-Book, you’ll know that I usually ask a question to determine this answer: What is your hero/heroine’s Greatest Dream. If you’re starting to panic, ask your character this: What was the happiest moment in your life? (usually something in their childhood) and Why? Usually your character will be trying to recreate the essence of that happy moment. Taking a good look at that will help you understand how to construct their tangible, specific and measurable goals.
3. Motivations: Why does the hero/heroine have the goal they do? Asking the above question helps you nail down the WHY of the synopsis. What propels them through the story after their goal?
4. What is your Character good at? (Also known as their competence) Your characters need to be GOOD at something – meaning, what are they going to do to accomplish their goals? You’ll also use this competence to try and hurt them…but that’s another class. J For now, we just need to know how they plan to go about accomplishing their goals.
5. What is the Trouble they’ll see? Or what disappointments and disasters will you work into the story to pull them away from their goals? You know the old adage – help us fall in love with your character, and then get him into the most trouble possible. So…what trouble is in the way of your hero/heroine and their goal?
6. What is their Black Moment? Every character will have a moment in the story when everything goes bad – worse than they can possibly imagine. At this moment, they usually have what is called an Epiphany (which we’ll get to next). But a Black Moment is built on asking your character what his Greatest Fear is – some event in the past that shaped them and that they would do anything to avoid. Anything. What is that great fear…and how will you use it to create the black moment?
7. The Lie and the Truth: Your character needs to have a spiritual or truth journey of some kind. This is embodied in asking: What is the lie your character believes, and what is the truth that sets him free? The lie is often embedded during that Greatest Fear event in their past….and it is where you find your character at the opening of the novel. The truth of course is some revelation they have that sets them free from the lie and allows them then to win the day.
8. What is the spiritual takeaway for the novel, and how does the title tie in with the takeaway?
Gather up those building blocks….And then it’s a matter of laying it out, weaving in all the story layers. Think of the synopsis like a braid…you’re starting at the source, then weaving the hero and heroine’s pov together until you get to the climatic ending and spiritual takeaway that ties it all up.
Or…for the Type A’s out there:
- Introduction of hero/heroine
- Statement of their goals/motivations
- What stands in their way
- Elements of the story (the disappointments) (this should comprise the bulk of your synopsis)
- The black moment
- The epiphany
- The resolution/happily ever after ending
- The spiritual takeaway/title tie-in.
- Do this for both of your character (omitting the subplots for now), and you’ll have laid down the backbone of your story.
- (Then you just need to add the color words — words that add texture and life to your synopsis and you’ll have a synopsis that woos you’re A/E/J into your book!)
- For more information about writing a synopsis, go to the MBT Archives [Look under Proposals}, and if you have further questions, post them at Club Book Therapy: Frasier Questions!
- And don’t forget – the deadline for entering the Frasier is March 31st! Find out more here!
Hope that helps! Happy…um….synopsis-ing?