The Dark Side of Writing – The Synopsis

There is a great evil among us.

This force of darkness fell upon the Earth long ago, the exact origin is shrouded in legends of mystery and fear. It seeks out the weak and the vulnerable, waiting for the moment to strike down its prey with a crushing blow. The victim often survives, but is never the same again, left to wallow in a stew of pain and regret. Many give up entirely. A few, a blistered resilient few, fight back and face the greatest evil know to writers – The Synopsis.

The ancient texts speak of The Synopsis as a creation of simple malignancy, spreading crushing self-doubt until the will to write leaves the afflicted. Derived from the original Aramaic language, Synopsis, translates roughly to the “Spawn of Satan.” Its power is hidden in it’s simplicity. Boil down your last two years labor and 100,000 words into a single page.

The first mention of The Synopsis image by ken & neyetta via flickr creative commons

The first mention of The Synopsis
image by ken & neyetta via flickr creative commons

Madness. You’ve toiled and crafted these words with absolute precision and this Literary Gargoyle blocks your path to the publishing kingdom. The Synopsis has no emotion and does not care. Yet, it calls out a challenge – “Tell me a story.”

“But you won’t let me! Let me use ALL the words.”

The Synopsis has no patience for the flowery stuff, the fluff and the filler. And in its silence, it commands for your bones. The bare bones. Many hear the word Synopsis and spit on the ground three times, cursing the evil it carries.

spitminion

The Synopsis knows agents, publishers and authors are not “normal people.” People of sound mind don’t get into this pursuit. I admit struggling with condensing a novel length manuscript into a synopsis that represented the book I’d written. We all know agents and publishers can’t sift through piles of unwashed manuscripts for the one next bestseller. The Synopsis is so much more than a one way device. Sure the people to whom you submit will use it as a roadmap, but, it is more valuable to you, as the writer.

What? Have I sold my soul to the dark side? Well, yeah, but that’s a post for another day. The Synopsis, even the dreaded one pager, forces the writer to lay out the bare bones story elements and make a complete picture. That really cool scene in the hospital where you get to show off your medical knowledge? Where does that little gem fit in the synopsis? Or, what about that secondary character with the cool background? Maybe – just maybe they don’t really belong in the manuscript because they do nothing to move the story along the lines of that synopsis.

The Synopsis can filter what’s needed in the story and what isn’t. A bunch of disconnected scenes will show on an honest synopsis. When you’re in the heady times of finishing a manuscript, the synopsis is a tool to get your mind right and double check that you haven’t gone off on some wild snipe hunt for a dozen chapters. If you’re honest with yourself. Connect all the dots and see if you have a pony or a steaming pile…

connect all the story dots image by jim bloget via flickr creative commons

connect all the story dots
image by jim bloget via flickr creative commons

I’ve used the synopsis to revise and rewrite the story I wanted to tell, taking the draft and pulling the unnecessary scenes out and filling in the gaps with new scenes that move the story in the right direction. Don’t fret over the deleted stuff, chances are you’ll use them in a future work, where they fit.

The Evil Synopsis may present a challenge, but embrace it and the gatekeeper may say, “You shall pass.”

image by wake up mr freeman via flickr creative commons

image by wake up mr freeman via flickr creative commons

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10 comments

  1. HAHAHA! Too funny. However the Synopsis is just a minor evil whereas the Soul Sucking Bio will bleed you dry while Hideous One Eyed Blurb and Barf-Inducing Elevator Pitch stand on the sidelines and laugh their heads off!

    1. The Bio, Blurb and the Pitch are the unholy trinity. *sprinkles holy water on WordPress*

    2. Ah! The Bio, Blurb and the Pitch are the unholy trinity. *sprinkles holy water on WordPress*.

    3. Ah! The Bio, Blurb and Pitch are the unholy trinity. *sprinkles holy water on WordPress*.

  2. Brill post!

    1. Thanks very much!

  3. Sad but true. When your synopsis works, magic happens. 🙂 Good luck with your new story, Jim. I’m sure it rocks!

    1. From your lips to a publisher’s ear…

      1. Already happened. My synopsis scored me a publishing deal. Yay!

  4. Very funny and all too true . . . Evangeline

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