Synopsis? What Fresh Hell is This?



You can douse it with Holy water, drive a stake through its heart, or shoot it with a silver bullet, but it’s not going to fade away quietly. Like the dreaded query letter https://www.wordytips.com/post/lesson-writing-a-fiction-query-letter it’s a necessary drudgery foisted upon those seeking representation by some literary agents and publishers. Buckle-up cupcake, I’m about to walk you through the fires of synopsis hell. Okay, that was overly dramatic, sorry, it’s not that bad. Some agents will never even ask for a synopsis, but you should have one at the ready.



So, what exactly is a synopsis you ask? Here’s the skinny. It’s more than a summary of your book, it’s the meat and bones of what happens in your story from starter’s block to finish line. What’s in your book, doesn’t stay in your book. The synopsis reveals your protagonist, plot, characters, and story structure. It must include how your protagonist and other characters change. The synopsis alerts an agent to problems like plot holes, lack of character development, and chaotic narrative. Spoiler alert, agents and publishers want to know how your story ends too.



Agents don’t have time to go on a treasure hunt. Your words must be fresh, appealing, and powerful. They must accurately portray your writing style and voice. This is a condensed version of your story that highlights all the important elements and events. Begin with the introduction of your protagonist. What makes her tick? What is she after? What events help or hinder her in achieving her goals? Unveil the inciting incident - who or what moves her toward change?


Subsequent paragraphs serve to move your story forward. It may help to create an outline of significant points because every paragraph of your synopsis should parallel key events in your story and how they are revealed. The agent wants to see cause and effect. What crucial things happen to or around your main character, pivotal scene by pivotal scene, and what effect does that have?



Is conflict and resolution driving your character? Include the battles with the most impact.


Is love involved? If there’s a love interest, present the meet and greet as it unfolds in your story. The same goes for a villain. Introduce your villain when your protagonist encounters them.


Does your protagonist have any significant sidekicks who are constant companions and who are vital to his/her development? Usher them into your synopsis when your protagonist becomes familiar with them. Include key scenes with the sidekicks where they help your main character grow.


What’s at stake for your protagonist? How do they deal with the struggles or joy of the essential scenes you’ve included? How does that propel them forward? Be specific. Obviously when writing a synopsis, one can’t include every scene, every detail, and every character, so choose those that directly effect the protagonist and will best help the agent understand the story.



Now wrap it all up in a nice red bow. It’s time for the big-ending reveal! How are the major conflicts resolved? How did your protagonist grow? What did they accomplish? What secrets are revealed? How did the stakes change? What did your main character achieve?



These are suggestions only. You should always abide by the submission instructions set forth by the agent or publisher on their website.





Hi. I'm Liz Ambrico, freelance proofreader and aspiring author. I too am querying agents, editors, and publishers in hopes of becoming a published author.

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I co-founded and managed a successful author and writer group on Long Island for five years. During events with publishers and authors I learned what matters, what agents are looking for, and the benefits and pitfalls of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

I've gained a lot of tips and tidings on my writing journey and want to share what I know.

Besides my passion for writing, I'm a fitness enthusiast, and I love coffee, chocolate, and animals. I'm mom to two amazing young men, and I live on Long Island with my husband, four zany cats, and the sweetest dog ever.

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