Thursday, May 18, 2017

The art of the synopsis

This week, as I wrap up teaching, meetings, and an unanticipated hire, my agent emailed to say she needs a synopsis for each of the three Peyton Cote novels: “...just the retelling of each book as you would tell a friend on a leisurely evening. There is no rule about length.”

Damn, I wish I outlined, was my first thought. Having an outline kicking around my Google drive or gathering dust in a desk drawer would be helpful right about now.

Then, Relax, how difficult can it be? was my second.

Well, I can answer the second question here and now: Pretty damned difficult. It not as easy as you probably think. What details need to be in there? What events can I skip? Which characters stay? Who goes?

Perhaps I’m synopsis challenged, but it’s taking longer than I thought. I’m trying to write things in present tense as one would the narrative sections of a screenplay, without leaving out too much, and while keeping the pace moving. After all, it is to be shopped to potential TV writers. My goal is to show the commercial appeal and potential plotlines.

I usually thoroughly enjoy writing the teaser (catalogue copy) on the back of the book. So I thought this would be easy. Not so. The synopsis, while not a summary, should offer the scope and depth of the novel. It also has to be tense. I’ve written and revamped the description, for example, of the opening scene four times.

“. . . just the retelling of each book as you would tell a friend on a leisurely evening. . . “ Really? I’m not finding much to be leisurely about this process so far.

I would love suggestions and/or to hear what my Type M colleagues and our readers think about synopsis writing.

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