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Chapter 2: Considering Structure

The Synopsis

Melissa Ford Lucken

Writing a novel synopsis is an essential step in capturing the essence of your story and conveying it to potential readers, agents, or publishers. Here are some key points:

Understand the Purpose

A novel synopsis serves as a summary of your entire story, including the main plot, major characters, and important developments. Its purpose is to provide an overview that entices readers or agents to engage with your book.

Focus on the Main Plot

Identify the central conflict, the main characters, and the major events that drive the story forward. Establish the story’s one guiding question in the first paragraph. Highlight the key turning points and the most significant moments that shape the story.

Introduce the Main Characters

Briefly introduce your main characters, including their goals, motivations, and conflicts. Highlight how they contribute to the plot and any significant character development that occurs throughout the story.

Keep It Concise

A novel synopsis should be relatively brief, typically ranging from one to three pages. Use concise and clear language to convey the essential elements of your story without going into excessive detail or subplots.

Highlight the Setting

Provide a sense of the story’s setting, whether it’s a specific time period, a unique location, or a combination of both. Convey the atmosphere and any relevant details that help readers envision the world you’ve created.

Emphasize Conflict and Stakes

Outline the central conflict and the stakes involved. What is at risk for the characters? What are the consequences of success or failure? Make sure to include the emotional or psychological challenges the characters face.

Follow the Narrative Structure

While condensing your novel into a synopsis, maintain a clear narrative structure. Start with the exposition and set-up, move through rising action, highlight the major plot points, and conclude with the resolution or climax.

Avoid Unnecessary Detail

While you may have intricate subplots or secondary characters, focus on the main storyline in your synopsis. Skip minor details and subplots unless they directly impact the central narrative or character arcs.

Show the Ending

Unlike a book blurb, a synopsis should include the ending. Describe how the main conflict is resolved, the character’s growth, and any significant revelations or twists. However, avoid excessive detail—provide enough to pique interest without spoiling the entire story.

After writing your synopsis, review and revise it for clarity, coherence, and impact. Ensure that it accurately represents the heart of your novel and makes readers eager to delve into the full story.

Remember, writing a novel synopsis requires distilling your story down to its core elements. Practice condensing your narrative into a concise, engaging summary that captures the essence of your novel and entices readers to explore further.


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The Synopsis by Melissa Ford Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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