How do you sum up your whole novel, the one that’s taken you months (and maybe years) to write, and include it in a ONE PAGE or TWO PAGE SYNOPSIS? How do you know which facts to include that won’t confuse editors, but make them care enough about your characters to request your full manuscript?
WHY DO YOU NEED A SYNOPSIS anyway? If you self-publish your novel you might not need one, but if you want to go the traditional route and snag an agent and a publisher then you’ll need to write a GOOD synopsis. This is what helps sell the book. It’s your “ticket” in the door and OFF the slush pile.
Many writers, including me, find the synopsis part of writing UGLY, unmanageable, hair-pulling, and more difficult than writing the novel. But guess what? According to Randy Ingermanson, editors hate synopses, too. They’re boring, they focus on plot, they’re confusing because they’re a blob of characters with no explanation as to who they are on the inside, so editors can’t empathize with them. They don’t connect.
Last month Randy Ingermanson, being the creative guy he is, posted an innovative way to write a CHARACTER SYNOPSIS. I LOVED the idea and thought you would, too. I’ve never heard it done this way before, but being the rebel I am and one to always look for NEW ways of doing things that makes sense, I was impressed.
What is a CHARACTER SYNOPSIS? A CHARACTER SYNOPSIS is the story inside of each of your characters–what their stakes are, their goals, their dreams, their fears. It’s telling the story from THEIR POINT OF VIEW.
Randy says to include this BEFORE the short synopsis in your submission, and it’ll mean more to the editor. They’ll know the inner journey of what makes your characters tick and feel more invested in THEIR story. By submitting it BEFORE the main PLOT synopsis the editor will only have to skim the more boring plot synopsis to grasp the entire story.
By writing character synopses you will be able to reveal EMPATHY for your hero. This will only deepen the reader’s feelings, and the editors, too!
Here’s HOW TO write it:
- Make a list of the 3 to 5 most important characters in your novel.
- Give each character a half of page to tell their story imagining only HIS side of the story.
- Explain what drives that character.
- Tell their part of the story as if they were the LEADING character.
- Empathize with him even if he’s the villain.
- Each character should focus on a different part of the story–in sequential order. For instance, character #ONE will tell the ACT ONE story, Character #2 will tell the story of ACT TWO and so on. The final character MUST REVEAL HOW YOUR NOVEL ENDS.
Doesn’t this sound like FUN? You could use this as an outlining tool BEFORE you write your novel, too. It’ll help give you a road map to where you’re going.
Want to see examples?
Below are Randy’s examples using three of the Hunger Games characters–KATNISS, PEETA, and CATO. Dissecting the HG is totally my thing, too. (Check out my other posts on BOOK BIOLOGY and dissecting the HG here: Dissecting HG, Dissecting HG Scenes, Dissecting HG Character Analysis, Dissecting HG, Act ONE, Dissecting HG, Act TWO, Dissecting HG, ACT THREE.
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old girl in a dystopic future America. She scratches out a bare living by hunting illegally with her best friend Gale. She only loves one person in the world, her little sister Prim. When Prim’s name is drawn for the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place, which she knows will be a death sentence.
Katniss is unhappy that the other tribute from her district is Peeta Mellark, a boy she hardly knows, except that he saved her life a few years ago when she was starving and desperate.
During the last interview before the Hunger Games begin, Peeta reveals on national TV that he has a terrible crush on Katniss, and therefore he can’t win even if he survives. Katniss is furious, thinking this is a scam to make her look weak.
When the Games begin, Katniss grabs a few supplies and heads for the hills to evade the Career tributes. Late that night, she discovers that Peeta has joined forces with the Careers, and has promised to deliver her to them.
Katniss is now completely convinces that Peeta is doing his best to survive at her expense. Can she outfox the Careers–and punish Peeta?
Peeta Mellark has been desperately in love with Katniss since the first day of school when he was five years old. His nightmare begins when Katniss volunteers to replace her sister Prim in the Hunger Games. Miraculously, Peeta’s name is drawn for the Games also. He knows he can’t survive because he has no killer instinct, but he vows to keep Katniss alive at any cost–even if he must lie, cheat, and kill.
Peeta’s strategy hits a huge obstacle when he must admit his crush on national TV. Now Katniss knows he loves her, and she’s furious at him for making her look “weak.”
Peeta must rethink. He decides to join forces with the Career Tributes by telling them he can deliver Katniss, the girl who mysteriously scored highest in the training.
Peeta’s resolve is to put to the test wehn he and the Careers discover a girl alone in the woods and attack her. Leaving her for dead, the Careers get impatient when she takes too long to die and send Peeta back to finish her off. Can he violate his own values and kill a helpless girl?
The next day, Peet and the Careers corner Katniss in a tree at dusk. They guard the tree overnight, but at dawn, Katniss attacks them and drives them off, killing two and wounding everyone else.
When they finally regroup, Peeta must at last double-cross the Careers to defend Katniss, but in doing so, he’s wounded so badly that he can’t hope to survive. Katniss is alive, but so is the most powerful of the Careers, a brute named Cato. What more can Peeta do for the girl he loves?
Cato comes from a district where it’s common to train children as killing machines so as to achieve wealth and honor in the Hunger Games. Cato is powerfully built and superbly trained. He volunteers for the games, expecting to win.
He is shocked and humiliated when he is outscored by Katniss Everdeen in the final week of training just before the Games begin. Katniss must die!
When Peeta Mellark offers to deliver Katniss, Cato agrees to take him in as an ally with the other Career tributes. But Cato is suspicious of Peeta, who seems soft, and keeps an eye on him.
When Cato and the other Careers drive Katniss up a tree at dusk, Cato is elated. They’ve got her! But at dawn, Katniss fights back with a nest of deadly tracker jacker wasps which can cause death or insanity. Cato survives the tracker jack stings. When he recovers and tracks down Katniss, Peeta turns traitor and fights him off. Cato attacks savagely and wounds him, but Katniss has escaped — with a bow and a dozen arrows.
Within days, Katniss has attacked the base camp of the Careers, destroying their supplies. Cato goes into a blind fury. The little witch is an excellent archer and might actually win! She can’t do that. The Hunger Games belong to Cato, and he will win at any cost.
When the Gamemakers announce that new supplies will be dropped at dawn, Cato lays his plans to trap Katniss. Can he destroy her — before she kills him?
Please let me know if you’d like to see the rest of the character’s analyses, or ask Randy for a copy of his newsletter. (See below). Try writing a CHARACTER SYNOPSIS and let me know how it works for you.
NOTE: Parts of the above article were reprinted by permission of the author, Randy Ingermanson. The award-winning novelist and “the Snowflake Guy,” he publishes a FREE monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 31,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
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