Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Sample Synopsis

Note: The synopsis this post refers to is at the bottom. The book it refers to is available at

The other day Richard Mabry wrote about some knowledge he gained about writing a synopsis in ACFW Report: Writing the Dreaded Synopsis. For me to say anything about writing a synopsis at all is for me to write from a position of ignorance. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know enough about writing a synopsis to understand why it is “dreaded” by authors.

There are obvious reasons why an author or a publisher would choose not to put a synopsis on the Internet. A synopsis summarizes the story from beginning to end. It’s that “to end” part that gets them. It may not be wise to give away the end of the story because the reader won’t have to read the book to find out how it ends. Now me, I am the type of person who sees the “based on the novel by” statement on a movie and orders the book from Amazon. I love a story that I want to experience over and over, so I may not fear the dangers of revealing the end too soon as much as others. I am therefore providing a link to the synopsis of my current work in progress, below.

Please not that I ignored the formatting issue on my synopsis. Some publishers consider that to be a big issue. Personally, I think all the major publishers should adopt a common XML schema and require various documents to be submitted in that format. Then the publisher can format it how they want. I was more concerned about the words the synopsis contains. If every author is using the same format, that is the only place we have to make our synopsis stand out above the rest.

One of the things that surprised me when I finished was how much of the story isn’t in the synopsis. This synopsis is only 1% of the length of the manuscript, so a lot had to be left out. I looked at my outline and I left out everything that wasn’t part of the A Plot and I only included the barest essentials of it. There are several characters in the book that aren’t mentioned in the synopsis. Even Sara, who is the primary character of the B Plot and a required character in every book of the series, almost didn’t make. The only reason she did is because the A Plot and the B Plot come together when she makes the decision to give up on the dream of buying a car so that Geoff will have the money to buy his wife.

My basic approach was that I worked from my outline (if you don’t have an outline, I think you need one for this) and then wrote about the opening image, the inciting incident, the beginning of the second act, the midpoint, the event that shows us it is all over, the beginning of the third act and the final image. The reason the outline is so important is because my outline tells me what each one of those is. I also included small pieces of other sections of the outline. This is to smooth the transition from one to the other.

You will notice an abrupt point of view change in the last paragraph. This is intentional and is exactly as it is in the book. The book has other point of view changes, but this is the first time we see anything purely from Heather’s point of view. Throughout the book, we don’t know what Heather is thinking. Geoff makes a few guesses, other people make guesses, some people flat out lie about what is going on. At this point I was pretty sure the reader would understand where Geoff stood, but the reader has to see the world through Heather’s eyes to understand that she’s glad to be home and this time she really does mean it.

Now, without further ado, here is my synopsis of For the Love of a Devil.

Be sure to check out

Mother Not Wanted Book Cover

Mother Not Wanted